How Long Can a Turtle Go Without Eating?

Every pet owner knows and understands all too well the pain and worry associated with leaving your beloved pet behind when Christmas time rolls in and you and the family need to go on vacation. Finding a sitter or guardian for your pet can be very difficult especially at this time. You find yourself asking, how long can my pet turtle go without eating food?

Turtles are amazing reptilians that love to overeat as much as they can when they are in the wild because they know the seasons. They eat a lot in the fair-weathered seasons and use this stored food in the form of fat to survive the winter months where they go into hibernation like most animals at that time of the year.

So, how long can a turtle go without food?

Knowing that turtles hibernate gives you a relief because it means that turtles can generally live for months without any food. This, of course, will be largely based on their health and level of nutrition at the time of your departure.

Another point to consider is the fact that a pet turtle lives in a different and artificial habitat that does not send the normal triggers as expected to trigger certain behavior patterns like hibernation. This means that the UV light it uses for sunbathing, the constant supply of food and the regulated temperatures of the terrarium block any instincts to hibernate.

What dictates the length of time the turtle can survive without eating?

  • Access to clean water

With the fat deposits within its shell, a turtle with clean drinking water and a tub to swim in for exercises when its bored will keep the turtle happy enough to forget about and not need food for months. In the end, it may lose a few fat deposits but its nothing that is abnormal or that’s irreversible.

  • Basking area

Any turtle lover knows that they love to sunbathe more than anything else and can spend many hours under the sun soaking in that good vitamin D for their bone structure. When you are planning to leave your turtle home alone, be sure to set up its terrarium with the right temperature for the UVB light which is as great as the sun.

The general temperature of the entire terrarium should be regulated and this will have to be well thought out before-hand. Turtles thrive in warmth. If left out in cold water, they get edgy and very aggressive.

With this arrangement, the turtle will live for several months with no problem. Only be assured that it will lose some weight due to all that malnutrition.

  • Age

Young turtles are extremely vulnerable in their first 6 months. They need constant and close care to ensure they get the right nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to start its long life with a strong foundation. A turtle this young, could not survive beyond a few weeks and if you are away for months, you are likely to find your turtle dead. Have a neighbor or friend check up on it regularly or have it over at their house. The worst thing you could do as s pet owner is to leave your pet alone with inadequate resources for survival.

What is the proper feeding program for a healthy turtle

If you’re planning a vacation a few months from now and you are concerned about your pet’s state of health. You may start ensuring you feed it these suggested foods to boost its immunity and strength.

Due to their cold-blooded nature, reptiles don’t eat that much. For turtles, however, they tend to overeat based on their idea that the food is limited and that it needs to store up energy for hibernation.

As expressed earlier, hibernation is not possible for pet turtles because of their living conditions and habitat characteristics and availability of resources.

The most common turtles among pet owners are the red-eared slider, box turtles and painted turtle. Using this suggested feeding program will start off your little turtle in the best way and secure a long life for both of you to enjoy together.

Turtles less than 6 months old

These guys need a higher supply of protein in comparison to their older mates. This is to facilitate good bodybuilding agents that will help the turtle build up necessary muscle for shell carrying. You could throw in a few steamed and chopped vegetables like the leafy greens and the zucchini. Fruits are not friendly for these young turtles.

6 to 12 months old turtle

This age group relies on heavy vegetation and goes light on the protein. So, vegetables every day and protein 2 to three times a week. This group can partake of a fruit or two and it is at this stage where a few options are introduced to the turtle. Be keen to note down any behavioral changes with the introduction of any new fruit.

Turtles older than 12 months

Diet gets easier with even more vegetables and fewer proteins. Fruits are also good for this group but in small portions to avoid excess weight gain.

Protein options: anything from crickets, earthworms, shrimp, skrill, feeder fish, snails, crickets and wax worms are good sources for turtles.

Vegetable options: Collard greens, mustard greens, kale, lettuce, zucchini, hyacinth, bok choy among other possible veggies are a god selection for turtle’s nutrients and mineral source.


Though a turtle is one of the hardiest pet animals in the market, it does not mean that it is okay to leave it for months on end without food and nutrition. Remember that this turtle has been accustomed to new parameters and is no longer living in the wild. Far beyond the physical weight implications, there is no telling what your turtle could get up to that could cause substantial harm to it.

Ultimately your turtle is built to handle such hard times and if you make the effort to keep its favorite things like the clean water, UVB lights and a warm tub, your turtle will be just fine without you around to feed it for a few months.

Kerry Blake

Since I was young, I have always had a thing for sea creatures. Being raised along the beach gave me the chance to interact with all kinds of reptiles, including turtles. I have always found this creature quite fascinating, and at a young age, I asked my parents to get me one as a pet. My love for turtles is what inspired me to pursue marine science when I got to college. Specializing in this field made learning so much about such reptiles. If you would like to get a pet turtle at your home, this guide will be of great help.

Leave a Comment