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how long can a turtle live without food

How Long Can a Turtle Live Without Food | Beginners Info

Today we will discuss How Long Can a Turtle Live Without Food. Owning a turtle is a lot of responsibility. You need to take care of its health, ensure proper nourishment and food as well as a nicely built turtle-friendly environment. However, none of the factors is more confusing than the turtle’s food habits.

Whenever we plan for a trip, the first thing as a turtle owner hits hard our head is how many days will my turtle survive without food. Should I leave it as it is or assign my neighbor to feed it from time to time?

This big question creates a dilemma during our trip plans. Hence, we decided to look for some authentic answers on how long can a turtle live without food. This piece of information will be a great benefit for beginners as they’re the most unaware of the fact.

So, let’s a deep dig into the matter.

How Long Can A Turtle Live Without Food?

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Turtles are homothermic animals. It means a turtle can regulate its internal body temperature without any external influence. So, they require less energy. On top of it, wild turtles and even some domesticated ones would go into brumation or hibernation during the winter season, when the species will go months without food.

This being said, the question arises how long these turtles can survive without food?

Turtleholic.com put up a helpful answer, “A well-fed turtle in its normal life can survive for months without any food.” This being said, the experts also comment that turtles may not need to eat a lot of food for survival, but, certain species need to drink water. It’s hard, even for the turtles to live long without any drinking water.

In this regard, the owner of Turtle Hub shared one of his personal experiences, where he said that he had seen a turtle surviving under the laundry pile for several months. Hence, as a standard and also from a safer side, it is estimated that turtles can live without proper food for at least a few months.

But then again, don’t expect your turtle to live for decades in an underfed state. Also, the water source is essential because turtles, likewise, humans do need regular drinking water to remain hydrated.

Turtles Food Menu

We now know how long a turtle may live without eating. But does that mean you will keep your loving baby without food? Of course not.

Therefore, we understand that you may be eager to know the proper menu for your turtle. Look, there’s no special menu suitable for all turtles. This will vary from one species to another. Nonetheless, we have talked with veterinarians and veteran turtle owners to come up with this rough menu.

Turtle AgePreferred menu
0-6 months oldVegetables and protein where the amount of protein should be sufficient. It helps the initial growth
6-12 months oldFrom this time, you need to alternate the menu. While you need to feed vegetables regularly, give protein items every other day.
Above one year (12 months+)You need to serve the turtle with proteins only 3 times a week. Vegetables should be on the daily menu with the occasional turtle treat.

We now know what we need to feed our turtles to help them grow better and remain healthy also. But then again, what should we include in the vegetable and protein list?

For vegetables, you may prefer any seasonal veggies found at your nearby shops, but the same can’t be said for protein items. However, turtles prefer the following protein, vegetables, and fruits-

Vegetables: Beans, corn, carrots, beets, peas, and squash.

Protein: Snails, crickets, mealworms, and earthworms. (Boiled egg is also a good alternative).

Greens: Lettuce, carrot tops, collard greens, and spinach.

Besides, you can serve your turtle with commercial and specialized turtle food to help them get all the essential vitamins for a healthy life.

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Factors Affecting Turtle’s Living Without Food

We already know the maximum survival chance of a turtle without food and even sometimes, without water. But there’re some factors which, to no small extent, determine this survival chance without food. This might interest you too.

Accessibility to Water Sources

Although turtles live long without any or no food at all, the scenario is different from water. For survival, turtles need access to water sources where they can drink the water or can soak it without being attacked or impeded.

Lack of proper and adequate drinking water may lead to kidney failure, failure of the renal system, and articulate gout, which may permanently damage the turtle’s health.

UV and Heat Access

I have already told you that turtles are homothermic animals and, therefore, require to retain heat within the body. Turtles maintain body temperature through basking. It applies that turtles need regular exposure to UVA and UVB to improve their chance of survival without food.

If a turtle fails to warm up its body and senses any shrinking in the surrounding temperature, it may well start a hibernation or brumation to survive.

The Species

Survival chance even without food also varies widely from species to species. For instance, an Asian box turtle may live weeks without proper food. But this may seem insufficient when you will get to know that Red Eared Slider turtles can go months without any sort of food. However, both species need to drink water regularly.

Age Factor

Likewise, the human age of a turtle will determine how long it can live without food. Hatchlings, as well as juveniles, require more food since these babies grow faster and need a higher amount of protein. But the adult turtles need less food since they are already grown up and have better resilience against external affairs.

Knowing this may help you to set the meal spacing for your turtles.

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Meal Spacing

You may follow this chart for the turtle to keep them healthy and well-fed.

Less than 6 months: Feed daily with 3-4 meals per day.

Over 6 months but less than 2 years: Feed once a day.

Adults aged over 2 years: Once in 3-4 days.


Turtles are famous for their tough characters and so can survive even in the hardest conditions. If fed well, a turtle will live for months without any reliable food source during tough times. It is because, throughout its evolutionary period in the past million years, it had gone through droughts, floods, storms, and forest fires when it had to live without food. However, recent breeds for petting may not be as resilient as the wild ones. Hence, I recommend you develop a proper food chart for your pet turtle and follow it strictly. Also, you should provide easy access to a water source so that it doesn’t get dehydrated.

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