How long can a baby turtle go without food

How Long Can Turtles Go Without Eating?

Turtles have become a trendy pet, thanks to the fact that it does not require complicated care. It is also a perfect animal to teach children about responsibilities.

However, when it comes to feeding your pet turtle, doubts can arise, and sometimes mistakes can be made, out of ignorance and lack of knowledge.

So, how long exactly can turtles go without eating? This is usually one of the most common doubts among the keepers of this cute little reptile. Turtles need to eat every day, although 3 or 4 days of fasting is not catastrophic. Another factor to consider is the age of your turtle.

Keep reading and find out all there is to know about feeding your turtle so that your millennial reptile has the best possible quality of life.

How Long Can Your Turtle Go Without Eating?

To answer this question that many turtle keepers ask themselves, it is essential to observe how often turtles should be fed, depending on their age:

  • A young turtle (less than six months old) can’t go a day without eating.
  • A so-called “sub-adult” turtle (six months to one year old) can’t go more than a day without eating.
  • An adult turtle should eat, on average, every 2-3 days.

However, turtles can fast for a few days after a heavy meal so that you can take a leisurely weekend away. Beyond that, someone will need to feed them and monitor that the filtration or heating equipment is working since these devices tend to break down in your absence!

Image Credit: dodo71, Pixabay

Leaving Your Turtle Alone for a Few Days

Your turtle, placed in an enclosure or a garden pond, does not need to be “maintained” if you have to go away for a while. However, if the food naturally present in its enclosure is insufficient, you will have to add more and ask a neighbor or friend to replenish it with foliage.

What to Do if You Need to Leave for More Than Three Days

If you decide to go on vacation and leave your turtles alone for more than three days, you must ask a friend and come and take care of your pet turtles in your absence.

Although they can theoretically survive without eating for several days or even weeks (when they enter, for example, into hibernation mode), it would not be responsible of you to leave them alone for so long. You never know what can happen in your absence.

Another critical parameter is that, usually, turtles are animals with a lot of appetites and can, at times, eat like real voracious people. On the contrary, if your turtle has no appetite and if it rejects food, you will have to bring it quickly to the vet. Sometimes this loss of appetite is due to an inadequate temperature or a dirty aquarium; you will have to be very careful with these two parameters.

Image Credit: Winai29, Shutterstock

Feeding a Domestic Turtle

The adequate amount of daily food for water turtles is a fundamental topic because, as we said, they are animals that have an infinite appetite, which can lead us to make the mistake of thinking that they have hunger, which is not much the same. The staple food is generally tortoise kibble since it is a product that you can find everywhere. To feed your turtle, you must follow the doses indicated on the package. But, in general, you will need to feed it daily.

If you want to give it live food, it could be a little complicated to manage. Indeed, some turtles’ keepers refuse to provide this type of food since it can be a bit dirty to handle. Anyway, it would be best if you remembered which species you have as a pet and its needs for a happy and healthy life.

Tips and Precautions During Your Absence

Going out and leaving just one turtle in its terrarium is always a significant risk. It can turn on itself and will not be able to get back on its feet; death is then guaranteed.

Under no circumstances should you hibernate a turtle if this is not the “right moment” under the pretext that you are going on vacation. The turtle hibernation season begins in November and ends in March.

Image Credit: Manuel Manteiga, Pixabay

Turtle Feeding in the Wild

Connoisseurs of this species will not be surprised when we say that water turtles are omnivorous reptiles, which means that they feed on meat, fish, and plants as well.

Some water turtles are more carnivorous in the wild, and others more vegetarian, depending on the species. You must pay attention to this parameter and ask your veterinarian what species your turtle belongs to so that you can feed it correctly.

Bottom Line

If you are unwilling to take on these responsibilities, you should not adopt a turtle as a pet. Although turtles do not have the same specific needs as dogs or cats, you should never leave them without food for more than three or four days. Indeed, even if they can survive for a while without their human parent, the fact remains that these little reptiles still depend on you, and you need to make sure they have an optimal quality of life.

Featured Image Credit: Capri23auto, Pixabay

How Long Can Turtles Live Without Food?

Copyright: vrabelpeter1 / 123RF Stock Photo

Do you have a trip or vacation coming up and are curious about how long can turtles live without food and water? This is what I’d tell you.

Here’s the short and quick answer.

A healthy, adult turtle that has been fed properly during its life should be able to survive for months without eating anything. Juvenile turtles, in particular, baby turtles, will not be able to survive for quite as long as they need food (especially protein) a lot more frequently than adult turtles do. 

Believe it or not, turtles do go long stretches of time without eating in the wild, when they hibernate. 

During turtle hibernation, which is known as brumation, turtles enter into a state of very low activity and have a very low metabolism. This typically occurs during the colder, winter months of the year.

Pet turtles, however, usually do not brumate, because:

  • Pet turtles are around a constant supply of food by their owners.
  • The temperature environment does not radically change, like how it does outside.
  • Pet turtles are around healthy UV light all year round.

They also may not eat as much as they want due to a change in their surroundings, such as from a drought. If you are going on vacation longer than 7 days, I still recommend feeding your turtle. If you can’t find someone to feed them for you, you should check out some automatic feeders.

My Favorite Automatic Turtle Feeders

My Top Pick

Turtlematic Automatic Daily Turtle Feeder

    Price: ~$30

Check Price On Amazon
Zacro Automatic Feeder

    Price: ~$30

Check Price On Amazon
Aquarium Tank Timer Feeder

    Price: ~$20

Check Price On Amazon

How Do I Feed My Turtle On Vacation?

I suspect that the real reason many of you are reading this article is because you may have a vacation coming up (whether you’re considering a hotel or deciding between airbnb vs vrbro), and you can’t find someone to stop by and feed your turtle while you are away.

So, here is what I’d tell you.

If your trip is going to last less than a week and you have an adult turtle, it will have no problem going without food.

This goes for both aquatic and box turtles.

If you are looking for a cheap way to feed your turtles, check out this Buffet Blend Turtle Food.

That being said, I would strongly recommend the following:

  1. Try your best to ask someone to come over, check-up and feed your turtle. If they can do this just once while you are away, it will give you a lot of peace of mind. Write very detailed instructions on how they should feed your turtle, as well as what they should do if they see that something is wrong.
  2. Do a water change and make sure your tank is full right before you leave. In open-air aquariums, the water will evaporate, so if water isn’t eventually added, it could affect your turtle’s ability to climb onto its basking spot, or even damage your filter. Likewise, for box turtles, make sure it has a bowl of freshwater.
  3. Get a light timer. At least with this, your turtle will continue to have daily UV light.

If you can’t find anyone to come over, I would recommend getting an automatic turtle feeder.

When I go on long vacations, I use the Turtlematic Automatic Daily Turtle Feeder. You can click the picture below for more details.

Get some turtle feeder fish, or put something live in your tank. If you have a hiding spot or two in your aquarium, even better, as this increases the chances of the fish surviving at least for a few days.

On the other hand, if you cannot find someone to check-up and feed your turtles while away on a longer vacation, I would recommend simply letting someone else temporarily care for them, or bringing them with you.

How many days can turtle survive without food?

In terms of days, a turtle can survive around 160 days without food. However, they must also have access to water during this time period as well as a healthy amount of light.

How Long Can A Turtle Survive Without Food and Water?

There have been a few instances of turtles that have been unable to get to food and have managed to survive for months and even years.

  • A pet tortoise was once sealed off under a home’s foundation during a renovation. Without a source of food, it managed to live for over two years until it was found. However, it’s likely that the turtle still managed to catch passing bugs and insects that had managed to make their way into its hiding spot.
  • Another pet turtle managed to survive for several months after being forgotten under a pile of laundry. After it was found, it was severely dehydrated and had lost quite a bit of its size.

This does not mean that your pet turtle can remain at home unattended and without food for weeks and months at a time.

If instead, you asked how long can turtles live without food and water, the answer would be not nearly as long.

Just like humans, water is essential for an animal’s hydration, metabolism, digestion and lots of other regulatory processes. Without this, a turtle would likely die within a few months, at the very most.

In a healthy captive environment, most pet turtle species will need to be fed at least a few times a week. They will also need to have a source of clean water.

How Often Do I Need To Feed My Turtle? Copyright: gorilli / 123RF Stock Photo

Turtles are reptiles, and as such are cold-blooded.

This means that turtles do not need to expend as much energy to maintain their internal body temperature as do warm-blooded creatures, like humans.

As such, this also means that because they don’t need to expend as much energy, they don’t need to consume as much energy as often as we do.

Here are good general rules of thumbs to adhere to when it comes to feeding your pet turtle. This pertains to most common pet turtle species (such as sliders, painted turtles and box turtles).

How Often Should I Feed My Turtle?

If your turtle is younger than 6 months. Give a daily protein source, such as turtle pellets, dried shrimp or fish, or cooked meat. Offer vegetables (they most likely won’t eat them).

If you have a turtle that is older than 6 months but less than a year or two old, you can stop giving it a daily protein. Instead, give it a protein every other day. This will prevent your turtle from growing too fast. Keep offering vegetables or leafy greens.

When your turtle is a year or two old, you will only need to give it a protein source 2 or 3 times a week. At this point, your turtle should be eating vegetables regularly.

Pet turtles need to eat leafy green vegetables daily. Secondly, as turtles grow older they need fewer and fewer sources of protein.

A turtle needs a decent amount of protein when young in order to fully develop and grow. As it grows older, this need diminishes the closer it gets to adulthood.

Also, turtles in the wild do not have daily, consistent access to protein.

A turtle needs a decent amount of protein when young in order to fully develop and grow. As it grows older, this need diminishes.

When given a choice between a live fish and a few leafy-green vegetables, the turtle is going to choose the fish simply because it has a (rare) opportunity to do so. The vegetables aren’t going to run away. They will always be there.

Speaking of food, you may want to check out this article on the Best Turtle Food. It will inform you of the best, highest quality types of food for your pet turtle.

Now that we know this, let’s address the last part of this article.

How Long Can a Turtle Go Without Eating

Of course,  there are a few variables that will affect how long a turtle can go without eating.

Does the turtle have access to clean, pure, filtered water to swim, lay in and drink?

If your pet turtle does not have access to any food, but it has access to clean, pure, filtered water, it can easily go several weeks without food. In all likelihood, it would lose a few its fat stores but suffer no serious health consequences. This happens frequently in the wild.

Does the turtle have access to a basking area, and is the tank water properly heated and lit?

If your pet turtle doesn’t have access to food but has access to pure, clean, filtered water, a basking area to dry out its shell and receive healthy UVA and UVB rays, as well as a properly heated habitat, then it would likely survive for several months without any serious consequences.

Note: This doesn’t mean that this would be healthy. It would obviously lose quite a bit of fat stores, but the other factors would keep it alive for a lot longer than otherwise.

This is all assuming your pet turtle’s health is your biggest concern.

Thus, the answer to the original question (how long can pet turtles live without food), is, a pet turtle can probably survive for months quite safely.

However, if your pet turtle is under 6 months old, and even if you have the first two variables covered, the chance for survival without food is probably going to be less long.

This is all assuming your pet turtle’s health is your biggest concern.


For the sake of being a good owner however, it is always a good idea to have someone check up on the turtles at least once every week. Preferably, every few days if possible. Anything can go wrong if a tank is left alone.

As best you can, it’s never a good idea to leave your turtle without any food for more than a few weeks. Especially if it has become accustomed to this, and more so when it is still young and growing.

Hopefully, this article answered your question regarding how long can turtles live without food.

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How long can a tortoise (red-eared and terrestrial) not eat, how long can they live without food at home

Turtles are sometimes called "reptile camels" because of their extraordinary endurance. Rumor has it that they can starve and not drink for months and even years. Whether this is true or fiction - now we'll figure it out.


  • 1 Amazing case in Brazil
  • 2 Central Asian tortoise
  • 3 Amphibian turtles

Amazing case in Brazil

Manuela, a turtle, went missing in 1982 while the house was being renovated. The owners decided that the animal had escaped through the open doors while the builders were doing their business.

And only in 2012, after 30 years, they found their pet in a closet, among a pile of rubbish. The owners claim that the door to the closet is constantly tightly closed, that nothing edible is stored inside. Moreover, there is absolutely no access to water. How a reptile could survive without water and food for so long is unclear. nine0003

And many simply do not believe in this fantastic story. However, scientists were not so categorical. They identified the species of the animal and assigned it to the family of red-footed tortoises, which in nature can live without food for up to 3 years. And its diet can consist not only of dishes familiar to turtles - fruits, grass, leaves - but also of carrion, insects and even excrement.

Therefore, the scientists suggested that Manuela could eat termites, which were found in the floor. From them, the reptile received the moisture necessary for life. Well, partly the reptile had to absorb excrement. And what: if you want to live, you won’t decide on such a thing. nine0003

Central Asian tortoise

This species is the most common among owners in Russia. These reptiles are also distinguished by their vitality and endurance. Thanks to the fatty layer, the Central Asian land tortoise can live without food and water for quite a long time - several months. Cases of their fasting up to a year or more are described.

Important! Prolonged abstinence from food depletes the body of the reptile, leads to irreversible changes in organs.

Too much feeding is also harmful to the pet. Give a turtle a day to eat as much food as will fit in half of its shell. It’s not worth checking this advice practically - it’s enough to visually try on the volume.

At home, during a forced hunger strike, certain conditions should be created:

  • the ambient temperature should be about 28°C;
  • air humidity must be at least 80%;
  • the period of abstinence from food should not exceed 90 days;
  • the reptile must have access to water.

During the hunger strike, the pet will lose 40% of its weight. This is the maximum allowable option - if the losses are higher, then this means that the health of the animal has been significantly damaged.

In nature, this reptile gets water from food and absorbs moisture through its shell while swimming. If they live in a human dwelling, water becomes essential. Without it, the pet will be able to stay no more than a week.

The situation is different if the animal goes into hibernation. Then all life processes slow down. In this state, it goes without food or drink for up to 14 weeks without any harm to itself.

Amphibian tortoises

Many animal lovers are concerned with the question: how long can a red-eared turtle go without eating. Aquatic reptiles are less hardy than land reptiles. The red-eared turtle can live without food for no more than 3 weeks. But this is also a decent amount of time.

But the red-eared turtle cannot live without water for a long time. A reptile can not drink for 4 to 5 days, although such abstinence is unlikely to leave its mark on the health of the pet. Therefore, you should not conduct experiments and test the endurance of a reptile. nine0003

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How long can turtles go without food (and why)?

Last updated: December 2, 2022 / author Sandeep Bhandari / Fact verified / 4 minutes

Exact answer: 160 days

Turtles will survive without food, but not without clean water. This is the most important factor in determining how long a turtle can live without food. Turtles need water to drink and swim. They also use water to better digest food. nine0003



The age of one turtle is another important factor that can affect how long turtles can go without food. If people have an adult tortoise that is well fed throughout the year, it can live for several months without problems. However, it is not recommended to leave him without food for so long.

How long can turtles go without food?

Hibernation is a very inactive state of turtles. Turtles usually hibernate during the colder months of the year, especially if temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. During hibernation, the turtle's body goes into an inactive state with a very slow metabolism. As a result, turtles can go months without eating anything. nine0003

Turtle owners usually don't see our pet turtles hibernating. This is because pet turtles have a constant supply of food at any time of the year. Thus, they do not need to go to sleep. The indoor turtle tank is not subject to drastic temperature changes throughout the year. A constant temperature range prevents turtles from hibernating, and a constant supply of UV-B rays is another reason why pet turtles do not hibernate. nine0003

So it's true that turtles can live for months without food. However, this does not mean that people can leave your pet turtle unattended for no reason. A pet turtle should always have decent food for healthy growth. A turtle can live for months without food. But, when it comes to being without food and water, it's not that long.

Turtles Duration
aquatic 60-70 days
Turtle 70-80 days

Why can turtles go so long without food?

Aquatic turtles, as ectotherms, mainly depend on the ambient temperature to regulate and control their body temperature. They use external heat sources to achieve optimal body temperature. Some of the ectotherms live in environments with fairly constant temperatures, but most aquatic tortoises live in environments with large temperature fluctuations. nine0003

In late autumn, wild tortoises begin brumation, a period of time when their physical activity ceases. During this period, all metabolic activities are minimized in order to conserve energy.

Like humans, turtles need water for digestion, dehydration, metabolism, and a number of other physiological processes. Without water, a turtle can die within a few months. There should always be a body of water in a turtle enclosure, even if it looks like a land turtle. turtle box. Even turtles need water for daily life. nine0003

Since tortoises are reptiles, that is, cold-blooded animals, they do not require much energy to regulate their internal body temperature as do warm-blooded animals such as humans. As a result, turtles don't need as much energy as we do. Therefore, turtles do not need to eat as often as humans.

In late autumn, wild turtles begin brumation, a period of time when their physical activity ceases. During this period, all metabolic activities are minimized in order to conserve energy. nine0003


Sometimes people buy turtles without thinking. Sometimes people forget that at some point they may leave their home for a while. And when the time comes, they start to worry about their pet turtles. They want to be sure that everything will be fine, they want their turtle to survive, and most importantly, they want their turtles to have no health problems after that.

They wake up only for water and then go back to sleep. Aquatic turtles can go without food for several months until the temperature rises. The reason for getting into brumation is the lack of heat. In controlled environments, such as our homes, turtles rarely brumentate. Their metabolism is faster, so they won't survive as long without food as turtles in the wild.

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