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10 Reasons Why Your Turtle Is Not Eating (& Solutions)

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

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It’s no surprise that your beloved pet turtle stops eating at some point. The leafy greens and worms that the turtle would otherwise gobble up all lie abandoned in the tank. This is something of concern to many turtle owners, but there’s actually nothing to worry about.

There are several reasons why your turtle is showing little interest in its meal. Luckily, this guide is here to help you pinpoint the 10 common reasons and find solutions.  

Now, let’s get started!

Why My Turtle Is Not Eating: 10 Reasons

1. Inappropriate Water Temperature

Turtles are cold-blooded and unable to control their body temperature. Instead, they depend on the temperature of their surrounding environment.

However, that doesn’t mean that turtles can withstand a wide range of water temperatures. If the water is too warm or too cold, they will fall sick and refuse to eat.

The ideal water temperature for turtles is between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. As long as you maintain the water temperature in this range, your turtles might start eating again.

2. Unfamiliar Environment

Another reason why your turtle stopped eating is that it isn’t used to its new environment. Introducing the turtle to a new tank will cause the turtle to hide in places. It will act like that for some time before it becomes familiar with its new home.

Turtles can stop eating when there’s a change in habitat, temperature, and the location of the basking area. Even if the turtle is fed in a different area in the tank, it will refuse to eat. As long as making a change isn’t necessary, it is a good idea to stick to the usual environment.

If a change is a must, you should wait some time until they adjust to the new environment.

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3. Poor Water Quality

Although turtles aren’t as sensitive to water quality as fish, it is still important to monitor the water quality of their tank. If the turtle is constantly exposed to dirty water, it can suffer from inflammation and other illnesses, and as a result, it will lose its appetite.  

A turtle’s immune system is weak, so a slight intake of polluted water can affect its respiratory system. If you find your turtle coughing or showing other symptoms, the first thing you should do is check the nitrate and ammonia levels. These substances are usually produced from waste, and higher levels can be dangerous to your turtle.

To ensure the water parameters always remain safe for your turtle, it is a good idea to invest in a filtration system. If you haven’t bought a filter yet, you should change the tank water at least once every four days.

4. Chemical Exposure

Turtles will also stop eating if they are exposed to chemicals or pesticides. If the tank water contains a trace of chlorine, it can affect their eyes. Also, if household cleaning products, like soap and detergent, are used in cleaning turtle tanks, they can easily fall sick.

Instead of using cleaning products, it is recommended that you use a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar to clean the turtle tank. Also, make sure the plants that you feed your turtle are free from pesticides.

It is important to note that if you think your turtle has come into contact with any chemical, make sure to contact a vet immediately.

5. Illness

Often, your turtle will stop eating because of sickness. If you find your turtle showing a lack of appetite, it is important to note the symptoms of particular sicknesses.

  • Sneezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, and swollen eyes and nose can be a sign of respiratory infection.
  • Shell discoloration, slime formation over the shell, a bad smell, and flaking scutes can be signs of shell rot.
  • If the turtle refuses to defecate, it can be a sign of constipation.
  • The presence of worms in the turtle’s feces can signify parasitic infection.
  • Diarrhea or weight loss can be a sign of gastrointestinal parasites.
  • Abscesses formed in different areas of a turtle’s body can be a sign of vitamin A deficiency.
  • If the turtle’s shell starts to become soft and its color lightens, it can be a sign of calcium deficiency.
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If you still are unsure of the exact cause of the turtle’s loss of appetite, it is recommended that you take your turtle to a vet.

6. Stress

Turtles become stressed when they are subjected to loud noises, moving or shaking of the tank, the presence of pets, and other factors. As long as they are stressed, they will become lethargic and won’t even nibble on anything.

Apart from that, introducing the turtle to a new environment, such as another tank with decorations and basking areas placed differently, can also lead to stress. In this case, the turtle’s stress will be transient before it gets itself acquainted with the new environment.

If you find your turtle suddenly becomes inactive, it is important to identify what is bothering it and then take the appropriate action.

7. Lack Of Appropriate Lighting

Turtles can stop eating if the lighting of their environment isn’t appropriate. They need UVB light in order to absorb calcium and other nutrients properly. Otherwise, they will be at a greater risk of developing metabolic bone disease.

If you expose your turtle to light for 12 hours a day, it might start consuming food again.  

8. Diet

Sometimes, turtles find it boring to be offered the same food, and as a result, they start losing their appetite.

It is recommended you introduce your turtle to a variety of foods listed below.

  • Fresh vegetables, such as mushrooms, carrots, collard greens, zucchini, squash, bell peppers, kale, corn, beet, lettuce, and peas.
  • Fresh fruits, such as mangoes, kiwi, strawberries, raspberries, bananas, papaya, melon, grapes, apples, and cantaloupe.
  • Proteins, such as mealworms, earthworms, crickets, snails, and slugs. Some turtles can also eat beef, boiled eggs, and boiled chicken.
  • Some turtles will munch on flowers like carnations, roses, geraniums, pansies, dandelions, petunias, lilies, and hibiscus.
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9. Hibernation

Some turtles like to hibernate or brumate during the winter. Because of this, they might eat less than usual and also stay less active.

While most turtles brumate for a maximum of eight months a year, others brumate even less than that. If you’re worried about whether your turtle has gone brumation, you can always talk to your veterinarian. 

If your turtle suddenly stopped eating during the winter, check out our detailed blog post on why turtles refuse to eat in winter.

10. Pregnancy

If your turtle is a female, she might stop eating during pregnancy. Alongside, she might refrain from basking. The only thing she will do is keep digging in different areas of the substrate until she finds the perfect spot for laying eggs.

A female turtle can carry eggs even without the presence of a male turtle. She will lay the eggs when the time comes, but there will be no hatchling because the eggs aren’t fertilized.

If your female isn’t eating during pregnancy, you should still keep her offered some food. Although she might not eat it instantly, she can eat it later when she feels hungry.

To check whether your turtle is really pregnant, all you need to do is feel for the eggs. Lift your turtle gently and slide your fingers from the front of the hind legs up to the stomach. Make sure to use your index fingers and not press the stomach too hard.

Otherwise, the eggs will crack and then put risk in their mother’s life. If you feel bumps on the stomach, it is most likely that the turtle is pregnant.

Conclusion

As you have seen, these are the common reasons why turtles refuse to eat. However, if you notice that your turtle hasn’t been eating for a week, it might be feeling unwell. In that case, we recommend you take it to a vet without any further delay.

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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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