Is Your Turtle Getting Too Fat? [Do These]

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Do you weigh your turtle every week? Have you noticed any abnormality in its weight and size ratio? If yes, your turtle is likely to suffer from malnutrition or obesity. In this article, I will solely focus on obesity in turtles and how to fix them.

Fat accumulation on the neck and limbs are the signs of turtle obesity. You have to make changes to the diet chart of the turtle if it is getting fat. Avoid all the processed and carb items and fill the meal with organic foods.

Obesity can cause many complications in turtles. So how do you fight them? Or how to prevent obesity in your turtles? Give this article a read for the answers.

Is Your Turtle Getting Too Fat? Do These

Look at your turtle. Do you see a fatty chin or bulging skin? Does your turtle struggle to get into the shell fully? If yes, your turtle is then suffering from obesity. In simple words, your turtle is getting fat.

Like us humans, turtles can also get fat. A wrong diet plan or other diseases can lead these creatures to this condition.

As we all know, being overweight is never healthy. In fact, it instigates other health complications, making the victim suffer even more.

So, do not look at your fat turtle thinking it is healthy and leading a happy life. Instead, take steps to fix this issue. Otherwise, your pet will soon be diagnosed with a kidney stone, liver failure, or other complex illness.

But what can you do when your turtle is getting fat? Of course, you can not make them jog or squat to lose weight. So here is the ideal way of fixing obesity in turtles,

1. Trip To A Vet

Obesity can be a health hazard for turtles. Hence, I recommend not taking any action on your own. Instead, consult a vet first.

The expert will examine and determine the condition of the turtle. If the pet is in a critical state and overweight, the vet will suggest meal plans and exercise. Then, you need to start rolling as per his advice.

2. Bring Changes In Meal Quantity

If your turtle is getting fat, chances are you have messed up its diet. So, the first thing you should do is to change the meal plan. Of course, you need a green signal from the vet for this. The expert will tell you how much food you can cut off from the meal.

Generally, a 15-minute rule or head method works to determine the food quantity for a turtle. Well, you still have to stick to those techniques. It is because these are the bare minimum the turtles need to survive.

But here is the deal.

Sometimes we go easy on the feeding quantity of the turtle and let the pet eat more. But when your turtle is suffering from obesity, you can not offer this freedom to the creature. So, again, stop offering any extra treat to the creature.

Turtles are opportunistic eaters. So, they will keep eating even after they are full. In fact, these creatures beg for treats right after having a full course meal.

It means you have to cut off any additional meals you offer your turtle out of pity. This is the very first step of bringing the pet back into shape.

3. Add Healthy Foods

Sometimes the owners do not understand what to add to the meal and what to avoid. As a result, they end up feeding the turtles an unhealthy meal.

Turtles are barely picky eaters. So, they will eat whatever you offer them. To avoid such cases, you must first research the species’ diet preference. Then go through the nutritional value and decide whether to include it in the meal or not.

I suggest cutting off any high-fat protein source from the diet. Instead, go for feeder fish, protein-rich insects, shrimps, and other safe options. Also, while selecting veggies, avoid the ones with oxalate and high potassium.

You have to be careful about the commercial diets too. Make sure the pellets have protein and other minerals in the right proportion. Feeding the turtles unhealthy and cheap pellets will delay the weight loss process.

4. Follow A Strict Feeding Schedule

Of course, you can feed the turtle anytime you want. But it does not mean that it is healthy.

Turtles are most hungry in the early morning and evening. Therefore, offering them meals during those hours is always recommended.

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Besides, you have to maintain the feeding schedule strictly. For example, feed your baby turtle every day and the juvenile or young one every other day. If you have an adult turtle, offer it food thrice a week.

Do not toss food to the turtle if it is not on the schedule. Following the routine will speed up the weight loss of the turtle.

5. Make Your Turtle Exercise

I know it sounds funny to make your turtle work out. But do not worry. I am not talking about making the little guy run on a treadmill. Instead, you need to offer the creature more space to move.

Once your turtle is fat, it loses interest in any other physical movement. As a result, it stays in that shape forever. But if you force the turtle to move, the pet will soon get into a healthy physique.

For this purpose, you have to transfer the turtle to a bigger habitat. Make the pet swim for more hours and take it out in the yard for a walk. The turtle will be slow, but these things work.

Another trick is to place obstacles in the enclosure. For example, put more rocks in the turtle’s way and make the pet climb those. Also, make the turtle walk further to reach for its food.

Exercises can definitely help fix the obesity in your turtle. The workout effects are slow, but you will get the result within a month.

Obese Turtle Meaning?

Well, apart from those political references, obese turtle means fat turtle. Sometimes your turtle gets too fat that it starts hampering the regular life movements. Such a health condition is referred to as obesity.

Turtles do not get fat easily. But if you continue feeding the turtle wrong and make it live an unhealthy life, it surely will gain weight.

Each turtle species has its own growth rate. Therefore, there must be a balance between the size and weight of this creature. If the pet grows faster than its size, overweight complications start.

Obesity can lead to kidney and liver failure in turtles. Besides, the lack of physical movements can make these reptiles stressed and mentally unstable. For example, the fat turtles can not even retract their necks and limbs inside the shell.

A captive turtle with obesity does not struggle as much as the wild one. Of course, I am not saying getting fat is healthy for pet turtles. But as they are always under the observation of their owners, they can easily avoid the darker sides of obesity.

But think about a wild turtle with obesity. It can not move or swim as fast as a healthy one. As a result, the fat turtle becomes the target of the predators.

Again, if the turtle gets on its back by mistake, it will die in that pose. For fat turtles, rolling or flipping back to the usual position is not easy.

Why Is My Turtle’s Skin Puffy?

By puffy, if you mean chubby, then your turtle is suffering from obesity. It can be because of overfeeding or feeding the turtle an unhealthy diet. However, if you indicate swelling on the skin with red patches, chances are the pet has septicemia.

Let’s talk about obesity first.

A turtle can gain weight because of the following factors,

1. Improper Meal Plan:

Turtles in captivity are totally dependent on their owners. These creatures eat anything you offer. So, if you provide the turtles with an abundance of food and let them feast daily, they will surely gain weight.

Turtles are opportunistic feeders. In the wild, these creatures have to manage their own meals, and some days they just go without eating. So, they nurture an instinct to keep eating when the food is available.

You will wonder to see that a turtle begs for food right after having a meal. If you pity the creature and toss more items, the pet will overeat. It causes obesity in them.

2. Wrong Food Selection:

Each turtle species has its own food preferences. Some turtles are herbivores or carnivores, while others are omnivorous. You must make the diet chart per the species’ food habits.

It is always advisable to add natural and organic foods to the meal. But the experts also recommend including commercial items like pellets to back up the nutritional values. Though you can add pellets to the diet, ensure the percentage does not exceed 25 – 30%.

If you include too much fatty protein or processed items in the meals, the turtle will develop fat in its body.

3. Congested Space:

Do not blame your food selection for the obesity of your turtle. Sometimes, it is just space. For example, if you put the turtle in a congested habitat, the pet will get less room for movement. In addition, the lack of exercise can lead to fat accumulation in this reptile.

If your turtle has puffy skin along with swelling and patches, the turtle may have septicemia. It is a blood condition for the turtles. In this illness, the bacteria spread to the whole system of the turtle via blood. Septicemia is dangerous for turtles and can damage their organs and even lead to death.

Both obesity and septicemia can be life-threatening for the turtles. So, if you notice any sign of fat accumulation, puffy skin under the armpits, or red swelling in turtles, take it to a vet immediately. The expert will examine and prescribe you the primary treatments.

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What Happens If A Turtle gets Too Fat?

A turtle with obesity suffers from several health hazards like internal organ failures. Not to mention the struggle to retract into the shell due to the fat accumulation. Such situations lead to mental frustration in the turtles besides the high health risk.

Several researchers have claimed that obesity impacts the food digestion process in one way and another. As a result, the turtles can suffer from a bad stomach. Not only that. According to vets, heavy weights can also cause renal and liver diseases in turtles.

Again, turtles with obesity can not move as freely as healthy turtles. Even the fat accumulation messes up their swimming speed too. So the pets get tired soon and can not swim properly.

Moreover, when a turtle starts gaining weight, all the fats accumulate on its limbs and neck. As a result, the creatures can not hide in their shells.

Of course, for a captive turtle, there is no need to retract in the shell as there is no predator nearby. But it is an instinct for most turtles. They hide in the shell to shield against whatever’s going outside.

When the turtles can not totally fold their limbs and necks into the shell, they get frustrated. However, pets do not give up and keep trying to fit inside.

All those rubbing against the shell shore the limb and neck areas, which can cause bacterial infection.

Furthermore, if you house a fat and a healthy turtle together, the fat one might struggle to lead a regular life. Why?

Well, you know turtles can be a bully. If the healthy turtle picks up on the sick one, it can do nothing to save itself. So, it is better to house the fat turtle in a separate and large enclosure. Also, take immediate actions to fix the condition of the pet.

How Do I Know If I’m Overfeeding My Turtle?

The first sign of overfeeding a turtle is the fat accumulation around the neck and limbs. In simple terms, your turtle will look chubby. The pet will soon struggle to walk and even swim.

Turtles carry a big shell on their back, covering most of their bodies. As a result, it is difficult to guess the actual health of these creatures. But still, if you look closely enough, you can pick up the sign of any abnormalities in your turtle.

Generally, overfeeding can cause severe health hazards like kidney stones or liver failure. However, the guaranteed consequence of overfeeding a turtle is obesity. It means the pet will gain unhealthy weight. So, consider changing the meal plan if you notice your turtle getting fat.

For your convenience, I am adding the sign of obesity in turtles below,

  • There are soft tissues around the turtle’s neck, limb, and armpit.
  • The pet can not withdraw its body from the shell.
  • The fat issues can billow outwards.
  • The turtle struggles to swim and walk due to being overweight.

If your turtle exhibits any of these signs, it is time to make some lifestyle changes.

Can Turtles Get Too Fat For Their Shells?

Turtles can gain weight when you overfeed them. However, getting too fat raises many issues for the turtles. For example, they get locked out of their shells. It means the obese turtles can not retract inside their shells completely.

See, when you overfeed your turtles, the extra fat starts accumulating in their body. Unlike humans and most other animals, turtles have a limited portion exposed outside. So, the fats start building up under their chins, armpits, and on their limbs.

These puffy and bulging skin might appear cute, but they are a curse to the turtles. The necks and limbs of these creatures do not work like elastics. So, when retracting the legs or head inside, they get stuck because of the fat.

Getting inside the shell is an instinct for turtles. They do it every time they feel threatened or stressed. But unfortunately, because of the bulging fat, turtles can not withdraw inside their shell home.

Turtles keep rubbing their neck and legs against the shell to get inside. It causes swelling on the skin and leads to bacterial infection.

How To Make My Turtle Lose Weight

To make your turtle lose weight, stop overfeeding it first. Next, modify the existing meal plans and strict the ideal diet schedule. Finally, make the turtle do some physical movements to speed up the weight loss.

Turtles generally suffer from obesity when you overfeed them or place them in a small enclosure. So, bringing changes in the pet’s lifestyle can fix its condition. Here is the proper and healthy way of making a turtle lose weight,

1. Select A Proper Diet Plan

Turtles eat whatever you offer them. Also, these creatures have no limits once they start eating. They can eat all day. So overfeeding the turtles leads to obesity and makes them fat.

So, the first thing you should do is to make changes to the meal plan. Remove anything that is unhealthy and processed. Move to organic and natural items. If you add pellets, ensure the amount is not more than 25%.

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Follow the head method or the 15 minutes rule to determine the quantity. The fat turtles usually have more hunger and want to eat more. In any situation, do not take pity on their innocent eyes and feed them more than they deserve.

Finally, stick to the ideal turtle feeding schedule. Feed the babies every day and juveniles every other day. The adults have less appetite. So thrice-a-week feeding is perfect for them.

2. Focus On The Enclosure

Next, you have to make your turtle do some workouts. For this, you can motivate the pet to forage in your backyard under your supervision. Also, place the pet in a large enclosure where it can do more movements.

Turtles also burn fat with more physical exercise. So, apply tricks so that the pets need to climb or walk to get their meals. Such small obstacles will help the turtles fix obesity faster.

Obese Turtle Diet: What Should You Feed A Fat Turtle?

Food choice is very crucial when your turtle has obese. It is advisable to feed the turtle natural and organic items like vegetables, plants, leaves, fruits, fish, insects, etc. You have to avoid processed items or unhealthy treats by all means.

Even an obese turtle requires all the essential minerals and vitamins. So, you can not make any compromise there. The safe items to feed a fat turtle are listed below,


You can add any vegetable to the meal as long as they are low in carbohydrates and sugar and high in vitamins and minerals.

  • Collard greens
  • Squash
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Parsley
  • Turnip greens
  • Mustard green
  • Carrot
  • Dandelion
  • Escarole
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Zucchini
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Arrowhead
  • Spike rush
  • Duckweed
  • Waterweed
  • Water hyacinths
  • Hornwort
  • Pondweed
  • Frog bits
  • Water lilies

Animal Matter

Carnivorous turtles require enough protein to function properly. Therefore, while selecting the items, make sure the food has moderate amounts of fat.

  • Feeder fish
  • Crayfish
  • Amphibian
  • Crustaceans
  • Shrimp
  • Tadpole
  • Mudpuppies
  • Guppies
  • Bloodworm
  • Earthworm
  • Silkworm
  • Superworm
  • Waxworm
  • Mealworm
  • Caterpillars
  • Grubs
  • Snail


Turtles can have fruits as a treat. But make sure they do not get a full tummy on these sweet items. The safe fruits for turtles are,

  • Apple
  • Berries
  • Watermelon
  • Peach
  • Kiwi
  • Cantaloupe
  • Banana

Commercial Items

The meal lacks minerals and vitamins, no matter how much you try. To back up any deficiencies, experts advise feeding the turtles pellets. Though pellet is a commercial item, 25 – 30% pellet in the diet is considered healthy.

Pellets are available in many grades. Remember to select high-quality pellets as they include moderate carbs and fats. High carbohydrates are dangerous for turtles with obesity.

Other than pellets, turtles also require calcium and vitamin supplements. So, ask an experienced keeper before buying any supplement from the market.

How To Prevent Obesity In Turtles?

Prevention is always better than cure. So instead of letting your turtles get fat and suffer from health complexions, you can always prevent this condition. In fact, preventing obesity is not tough at all. You just have to maintain a strict diet routine.

Here is the technique I follow to avoid obesity in my pet turtles,

1. I Select The Right Food

There are a variety of food options available for my turtles. However, I select each item carefully instead of trying out all of them blindly.

When it comes to insects or worms, I avoid the ones with high fatty content. Similarly, for vegetables, I prefer the ones with low carbohydrates and oxalate.

Like most other owners, I also feed my turtles pellets. Though expensive, I buy good pellets with moderate amounts of fat.

2. I Maintain The Ideal Food Quality

You can overfeed your turtle if you do not know how much to feed it. To avoid such a scenario, I follow two rules to determine the meal quantity,

  1. The 15-minute rule
  2. The head method

As per the first one, I let my turtle enjoy its meal for 15 minutes, not a minute more than that. For the later, I use a container just the size of my turtle’s head. Next, I feed the pet just the amount of food that fits in that bowl.

These methods are a great help in avoiding overfeeding.

3. I Stick To The Ideal Feeding Schedule

You know turtles lose their appetite with growing age. While a baby turtle requires more food to build its body, the adult ones have no interest in devouring meals. The experts have developed a feeding routine considering the appetite of turtles with age. Here is the pattern,

  • The babies and hatchings require meals every day.
  • The juveniles and young turtles need feeding every other day.
  • Thrice a week feeding routine is okay for adult turtles.

Offer your turtle food according to this schedule to avoid overfeeding.

4. My Turtles Have Large Space

A spacious enclosure helps the turtles to do more physical movements. For example, a large pond and water area let the pets swim more contently. When your turtles are more active, it reduces the risk of obesity.


Turtles get fat when they are not fed right. Also, this obesity can pose health hazards for turtles. So, it is advisable to be more careful with the diet of these pets. However, if your turtle gets fat by any chance, take it to a vet for proper diet suggestions.

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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