Why is My Baby Turtle Not Eating? [5 Possible Reasons]

Mother and baby turtle

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

Recently, I noticed that the baby red sliders in my tank seemed overly uninterested in their food. Usually, they eat pretty voraciously, so this was concerning for me as a turtle owner. So, why’s my baby turtle not eating like before?

Weak metabolism, sickness, stress, wrong tank temperature, and the environment – baby turtles can refuse to eat for various reasons. If the water is too cold, they might go into shock and reject food. Again, if they’re moved from tank to tank often, they can get too stressed to eat.

If the baby turtles in your tanks aren’t eating like before, keep them under observation to determine the right cause. Hopefully, this article will help you help the little babies, too.

read all our guides on baby turtle feeding!

Why Won’t Baby Turtles Eat?

Baby turtles are generally very hungry. In the wild, baby turtles immediately go into the nearest water source to look for food. So, if your baby turtles aren’t eating, it could be due to one of the following reasons –

1.     You’ve Been Offering The Wrong Type Of Food

In my experience, omnivorous or carnivorous turtles like red-eared sliders like to eat live food as it nurtures their innate hunting instincts.

So, if the baby turtles refuse to eat vegetables, pellets, or freeze-dried foods, you can keep live bait inside the tank. For instance – brine shrimp, small crickets, earthworms, mealworms, etc.

Ensure that the live food is more miniature than the baby turtles, i.e., they can’t overpower the hatchlings. Please refrain from using crabs or similar crustaceans, as they can use their claws to scratch and injure the soft and juvenile turtles.

[Read More: What Fruits Can Baby Turtles Eat?]

2.     You’ve Been Placing The Food On Dry Places

Baby turtles typically like to take their food near or in water. This allows them to swallow the food easily as they have not developed advanced masticating instincts. So, you’ve been placing the food on the basking places, i.e., on dry land, try keeping the items near water or under the water instead.

3.     The Turtles Haven’t Settled In Yet

Baby turtles can take some time to get used to the nearby environment. Unless they feel safe enough, they will only explore a little to find the food around. So, with baby turtles, try to switch tanks sparingly.

Keep them in a 20-gallon tank at least, and then you can switch to bigger ones as the babies grow.

But for the first few months of their life, try to keep them in the same tank so they’re used to the tank environment. And if you have to switch urgently, replicate the water temperature, water quality, & light criteria in advance.

4.     Low Metabolism Rate In Baby Turtles

If your baby turtles don’t have much appetite, it could mean they have a low metabolism rate. Having a low metabolism rate is only sometimes a cause for caution.

For instance – turtles on a protein-rich diet can go without food for 2-3 days after a hefty meal. Again, when it’s too cold, turtles prefer to store energy by lowering their metabolism rate.

It’s a good idea to check how often they poop if this happens. If they’re pooping regularly, keep supplying the food timely to replenish the lost energy.

[Check Out: How Often Do Baby Turtles Eat?]

5.     The Baby Turtles Are Stressed

If the tank temperature suddenly drops or there’s insufficient UV light, baby turtles can become stressed. Again, if other species are in the tank, they can make the baby turtles feel unsafe and become stressed.

This is also why keeping baby turtles with fish or other pets in the same tank is not recommended. If the hatchlings are too afraid to explore, they can also refuse to eat.

What Can You Do To Improve The Situation?

If your baby turtles aren’t eating like the voracious little cold-blooded reptiles they are, try adopting these methods –

Fix Or Raise The Tank Temperature

Don’t let the tank temperature drop below 60°F. Bring up the water temperature to at least 78-80°F and the basking area temperature to at least 80-85°F.

Keep the UV lights on for at least 12-14 hours daily, and make sure the baby turtles bask under the lights regularly. This will strengthen their immunity system and help regulate their metabolism rate.

Offer Pellets

If turtles refuse to eat vegetables or live food, try offering pellets. Pellets can offer all-round nutrition to turtles but they can refuse to eat pellets as they’re too dry. Under these circumstances, I suggest soaking the pellets in chicken stock or fruit juice and feeding them to the baby turtles.

[Check Out: What Do Newborn Turtles Eat?]

Clean The Tank Regularly

Baby turtles can fall sick in an unclean environment. Change the water regularly to avoid the growth of parasites and bacteria in the tank. Don’t let the water get murky.

Clean the leftover food from the tank so they don’t rot and spread a bad smell.

Separate The Babies

In the wild, baby turtles don’t grow up under the care of their mother. They have to live independently and stay safe from predators on their own. Again, sometimes, when you keep adult and baby turtles together, the adult ones can injure the babies by biting or stomping on them.

[Read More: How Do Mother Turtles Feed Their Babies?]

So, to avoid stressing the babies out, it’s a good idea to separate baby turtles and keep them in a separate tank. Additionally, avoid keeping crabs, goldfish, salamanders, etc., in the same tank as baby turtles.

Avoid Spices Or Condiments

Turtles need entirely fresh food. Don’t give them anything with preservatives. They can’t also digest dairy-based products like milk, cheese, chocolate, etc.

Don’t use salt, pepper, or other condiments to flavor their food, as it’ll likely give them stomach aches instead.

Before You Go

Unfortunately, if the baby turtles still refuse to eat, you must contact a vet immediately. Baby turtles eat a lot of food daily to nourish their growing body. Hence, if they go without food for too long, the underlying diseases will affect their metabolism and organs even more.

Read More: Can You Overfeed A Baby Turtle?

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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