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How Long Can Turtles Go Without Eating?

Nicole Cosgrove

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.

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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!

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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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

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.