Why is My Turtle Not Eating | What Should I do in This Situation?

why is my turtle not eating

I own a painted turtle for the last three years. Initially, it was a honeymoon period with him. He was eating regularly and moving around the enclosure, and I would be amazed at everything the turtle did. Suddenly, everything changed, and I noticed my painter had stopped eating.

I was terrified and started taking suggestions from my turtle mates. Somehow I recovered the turtle from the condition. Now I know that many people look for the same question, “Why is my turtle not eating?”

Since I have been through scary moments, I would want to help my fellow mates. At times, it is normal for turtles not to eat for several days. If it happens, check for the water parameters, turtle health, diet chart, etc., to determine the turtle’s exact cause of stopping or refusing to eat.

Then, you might deal with the starvation period of your favorite pet at ease.

Why Is My Turtle Not Eating?

When I saw my painted turtle had stopped eating, I didn’t only find a temporary solution to it. I talked with several experienced turtle owners and read multiple blogs on it to solve the issues correctly if it ever happens.

So, I am putting all of them for you.

Stress and Anxiety

It is the main reason for turtles not eating when you bring them home for the first time. It will be a little awe-struck with the changing conditions of the surroundings. So, it will feel stressed. Also, turtles dislike touches.

Hence, if you mishandle the slow-mover frequently, it will still feel stressed.  And a stressed turtle will most likely lose its appetite until it feels relaxed in the new environment.

Temperature Changes

Turtles are sensitive to the slightest changes in the water temperature.  If the aquarium’s water temperature is too high or too low, the turtle will behave notoriously. Especially if the temperature falls below its optimal condition, the turtle might see it as winter coming.

So, it will prepare for the hibernation period. Also, at low temperatures, metabolism slows down for turtles. So, it will eat less or stop eating in the worst conditions. Remember that the optimal temperature for turtles varies depending on the species. Also, the temperature will change in the water and basking spot differently.

  • A red-eared slider will thrive in 75-80°F water. And for basking, it needs 80-90°F for a comfortable living.
  • Box turtles love water temperatures around 70-78°F, and their basking spot temperature should be around 85°F all the time.
  • Painted turtles will need 75-78°F for water and 80-85°F temperature around their basking area.

When the temperature shrinks, the turtle won’t eat as much as it consumes in normal conditions.

Inappropriate Lighting

Likewise, the right temperature, and providing the right amount of light for fixed hours are also vital for pet turtles. On average, a turtle needs lighting for 10 to 14 hours a day. The rest of the time should be nighttime for them.

Also, UVB lighting is essential for turtles to meet their nutritional requirements. Lack of UVB lighting might cause vitamin D3 deficiency. The turtle will lose its appetite if it happens.

Improper Diet

Sometimes, the turtle might stop eating if it finds the diet inappropriate. I have seen most turtle owners depending on a fixed diet chart with commercial pellets mostly in the chart. It is not recommendable since feeding the turtle with the same items repeatedly will make the turtle furious. It would then stop eating or at least refuse to eat.


The most concerning cause of turtles not eating is an illness. So, whenever turtles stop eating, check it to find the sign of disease, if any.

  • Breathing difficulty, sneezing, and swollen discharges are the primary signs of a diseased turtle. Also, respiratory infection can be a major concern if the turtle becomes lethargic.
  • If the shell looks discolored, it might have been caused due to the lack of Vitamin A.
  • A constipated turtle will not eat regularly. If you don’t see faces or food waste inside the tank, it is a sign of constipation for the turtle.
  • Female turtles will stop eating mostly because of dystocia. It refers to the inability of the female turtle to pass the eggs through its body. It will soon develop lethargy and might start losing weight if actions are not taken soon.

What to Do When Turtles Stop Eating?

When your turtle stops eating or eats less than its usual diet, it can be concerning for you. But I would suggest you observe the turtle carefully for the next two days at least. Remember that turtles are hardy animals, and going without food for three to five days won’t affect them at all.

If it doesn’t start eating within this stipulated period, you will have to observe it. Firstly, check for any sign of sickness. If you think it has stopped eating for illness, it is better to consult the vet ASAP. Also, breathing difficulty can be lethal if not treated timely.

Check the water temperature and make changes if need be. You might have to add extra light for it. Also, the UVB light will lose its heating capacity due to debris and dust on it. Clean the lighting fixtures to maintain the right temperature.

Also, check the water’s cleanliness. It is advised that you change 50% of the tank water once every 3 weeks to keep it clean and tidy.

Lastly, include a wide variety of food in the turtle diet chart. You might supply it with fresh foods such as lettuce, spinach, carrots, cucumbers, etc. At times entertain it with live food such as worms, crickets, and small shrimps to keep its hunting attitude continued.

I have even seen my painted turtle eating cooked and boiled chicken and fish. So, you can try this too.


There’re many reasons for turtles not eating. Luckily, most of these reasons for turtles not eating are solvable at home with any vet’s help.  So, I hope this article on why my turtle is not eating would benefit you in such difficult conditions. When a turtle stops eating, check its health first. Then, examine the water and surroundings properly. Also, ensure that your turtle is relaxed and happy, so it eats regularly.

Why is My Turtle Not Eating | What Should I do in This Situation?

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