Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Turtles > Why Is My Red-Eared Slider Not Eating? 5 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Why Is My Red-Eared Slider Not Eating? 5 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

red eared slider in water

Vet approved

Dr. Luqman Javed Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Luqman Javed

Veterinarian, DVM

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

Learn more »

The red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) is a pet that is popular with experienced reptile lovers. These turtles are opportunistic foragers, and much to the surprise of first-time owners, they tend to always appear hungry!

However, at times, a pet slider can occasionally stop eating regular meals, which can be extremely concerning to any pet owner. It can be challenging to figure out why your pet has suddenly stopped eating.

We’ve created a list of several different reasons that could be behind your pet’s inappetence, and we are going to list them here so you can see if any of them fits with your turtle’s behavior.


About Inappetence In Red-Eared Sliders

Unless your pet turtle is about to undergo a planned brumation, their refusal to eat should never be considered normal and always requires veterinary attention. Though these tips might help you get a better understanding of your pet’s refusal to eat, it is not a substitute for a veterinarian’s examination of your pet.

The 6 Reasons Your Red-Eared Slider Is Not Eating

1. Temperature

Your red-eared slider turtle is a cold-blooded animal, so temperature affects their metabolism. As the temperature drops, their metabolism drops, and they will slowly stop eating if temperatures continue to drop. You will also notice the turtle slowing down and becoming less active. As the temperature goes back up, the turtle’s appetite usually returns, and they will become more active.

No matter where you keep your turtles, it’s important to maintain a close eye on the temperature in their habitat. Even indoors, the tank can be in the path of a draft that puts cold air in the tank and slows your red-eared slider’s metabolism. Checking the temperature frequently or purchasing one with an alarm is the best way to make sure temperatures never drop below acceptable levels.

Your red-ear slider’s enclosure should be maintained between 22–27 °C (72–81 °F).1 The temperature of their basking spot should be approximately 32 °C (around 90 °F), whereas nighttime temperatures should not fall below 17 °C (63 °F).

2. Underlying Health Issues

One of the expected signs of health issues in sliders is a sudden lack of appetite. This can be from a number of possible illnesses, ranging from a bacterial infection of the respiratory tract to parasites, which are irritating your pet, to an internal organ issue, which you cannot see or appreciate by simply looking at your pet. As a general rule, if your pet is in an environment with the correct temperature and stops eating, they require prompt veterinary care.

veterinarian keeps a turtle
Image Credit: ALIAKSANDR PALCHEUSKI, Shutterstock

3. Mating Season

During the spring, healthy adult sliders have their reproductive cycles triggered and may attempt to mate. If you house multiple turtles together, you might notice the males spending less time eating and more time chasing females. Likewise, females interested in laying eggs will initially eat more but will slowly reduce the time they spend eating as they find suitable places to lay their eggs.

Please be mindful of the fact that a female turtle can lay eggs in the absence of a male (though they will not be fertile and therefore won’t hatch). Therefore, your female pet may exhibit this behavior even in the absence of a male.

4. Impaction

When placed in an aquarium with substrate, your turtle may at times pick the substrate up, and if it’s small enough, they may ingest it. Fine substrate in small amounts, such as sand, isn’t usually a cause for concern and often passes naturally. However, large amounts of coarse substrate, such as gravel or pebbles, can at times lead to a “block” along their digestive tract, also known as impaction. An impacted pet turtle may refuse to eat and requires veterinary care.

red-eared slider turtle
Image Credit: Flyri, Pixabay

5. Brumation

While your red-eared slider turtle is less likely to brumate in a temperature-controlled environment, it can happen. To promote a regular hormonal cycle, many owners even opt for inducing brumation for their pets if they are healthy enough to undergo this period of relative dormancy and inactivity.

Many turtles have a built-in mechanism to sleep through the winter, which they will do. One of the first signs of a turtle going into brumation (similar to hibernation) is a lack of eating, and if you think this could be the case with your pet, we recommend carefully taking it to the vet to have it looked over. The vet should tell you if it is starting to brumate and what to expect during this period.

It is not wise to allow a pet turtle to brumate at their own discretion, as pet turtles do undergo weight loss during this period. Only healthy adult turtles that get proper nutrition during the summer and a clean bill of health from your vet (at around autumn) should be allowed to brumate.


Final Thoughts

Generally speaking, healthy, non-brumating sliders should have a voracious appetite. Often, a pet that stops eating is either in an environment that’s not conducive to their digestive health, or is suffering from an ailment that requires veterinary care.

It is natural for a turtle in brumation (similar to hibernation) to not eat for several weeks or months, depending on how long they brumate. However, all pet turtles require a veterinarian to check them several weeks prior to commencing brumation to ensure that they are fit enough to withstand this process.

Featuerd Image Credit: Piqsels

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets