Is Your Turtle Getting Too Fat? [Do These]

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

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 signs of turtle obesity. If your turtle is getting fat, you must change its diet chart. Avoid all processed and carb items and fill the meal with organic foods.

Obesity can cause many complications in turtles. So, how do you fight it? Or how do you prevent it? This article has 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 a turtle’s food quantity. If you are not sure about how much to feed your turtle, check my guide here.

However, you still have to stick to those techniques. This is because these are the bare minimum the turtles need to survive.

But here is the deal.

Sometimes, we go easy on the turtle’s feeding quantity 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 treats 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.

This means you have to stop offering any additional meals to your turtle out of pity. This is the very first step in getting 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, so 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 preferences. Then, review the nutritional value and decide whether to include it in the meal.

I suggest eliminating any high-fat protein source from the diet.

Instead, choose feeder fish, protein-rich insects, shrimp, and other safe options. Also, when selecting veggies, avoid those with oxalate and high potassium.

You have to be careful about 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, it is always recommended to offer them meals during those hours.

Besides, you have to strictly follow the feeding schedule.

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 and stays in that shape forever. But if you force the turtle to move, the pet will soon develop 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.

Exercise can definitely help your turtle lose weight. The workout effects are slow, but you will see results 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, fat turtles can not even retract their necks and limbs inside the shell.

A captive turtle with obesity does not struggle as much as a 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, and as a result, the fat turtle becomes the target of 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. However, 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 only blame your food selection for your turtle’s obesity. Sometimes, it is just space. For example, if you put the turtle in a congested habitat, the pet will have less room for movement. In addition, the lack of exercise can lead to fat accumulation in this reptile.

If your turtle has puffy skin, swelling, and patches, it may have septicemia. Septicemia is a blood condition in turtles. In this illness, bacteria spread to the turtle’s whole system via blood. Septicemia is dangerous for turtles, damaging their organs and even leading to death.

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

What Happens If A Turtle Gets Too Fat?

A turtle with obesity suffers from several health hazards, including internal organ failures. Additionally, the struggle to retract into the shell due to fat accumulation leads to mental frustration besides the high health risk.

Health Impacts of Obesity in Turtles

Researchers claim that obesity impacts the food digestion process, resulting in a bad stomach for the turtle. Vets also warn that excessive weight can cause renal and liver diseases.

Movement and Mobility Issues

Obese turtles cannot move as freely as healthy ones. Fat accumulation affects their swimming speed, making them tire quickly and unable to swim properly.

Difficulty in Retracting into the Shell

When a turtle gains weight, fat accumulates on its limbs and neck, preventing it from hiding in its shell.

While captive turtles don’t face predators, the instinct to retract remains. Failure to do so causes frustration and persistent attempts to fit inside, leading to rubbing against the shell, which can cause bacterial infections.

Social and Environmental Challenges

If you house a fat and a healthy turtle together, the fat one might struggle to lead a regular life. Healthy turtles can be bullies, and a fat turtle unable to defend itself will suffer. It’s better to house the fat turtle in a separate, large enclosure and take immediate action to improve its condition.

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

Fat accumulation around the neck and limbs is the first sign of overfeeding a turtle. 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 their actual health. But still, if you look closely enough, you can pick up the signs 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?

Yes, turtles can get too fat for their shells. Obesity in turtles leads to several issues, including the inability to retract fully into their shells. This problem arises from fat accumulation around their limbs and neck, which prevents them from fitting into their protective covering.

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

Turtles rub their necks and legs against the shell to get inside. This causes swelling on the skin and can lead to bacterial infection.

How To Make My Turtle Lose Weight

To help 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 overfed or placed in a small enclosure. Therefore, changing 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. Once they start eating, they have no limits. They can eat all day. So, overfeeding turtles leads to obesity and fatness.

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

Follow the head method or the 15-minute rule to determine the quantity. 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 crucial when your turtle is obese. It is advisable to feed the turtle natural and organic items like vegetables, plants, leaves, fruits, fish, insects, etc. You must avoid processed items or unhealthy treats.

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, when selecting food, ensure it 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

No matter how much you try, the meal lacks minerals and vitamins. To compensate for any deficiencies, experts advise feeding the turtles pellets.

Though pellets are a commercial item, 25 – 30% of pellets in the diet are 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.

Turtles also require calcium and vitamin supplements in addition to pellets. So, ask an experienced keeper before buying any supplements 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 conditions, you can always prevent obesity. 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 those with a high fatty content. Similarly, for vegetables, I prefer those with low carbohydrates and oxalate.

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

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 more than that. For the latter, 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 perform more physical movements. For example, a large pond and water area let the pets swim more contently. When your turtles are more active, they reduce the risk of obesity.


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

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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