How Long Can Turtles Live Without Food? All U Need To Know!

Copyright: gasparij

Turtles are excellent pets since they don’t need too much to survive. They are low maintenance and their hardiness is known to many. But even if turtles are easy to care for, what if you need to leave them for a vacation? This question may be asked more than once by turtle keepers.

Having a pet makes it hard to leave them behind. Especially if there is no one who can take care of them while you’re away. Even if you have a turtle as a pet, it needs to eat regularly. That way, it will stay on its top health and avoid sickness. But what if you have to be away for a few days?

Turtles can survive harsh conditions in the wild. It’s because they can always hunt for their food. They can also bask under the sun on their own. But with pet turtles, it’s a different story. They only depend on their keepers and dont have the same freedom as the turtles in the wild.

However, there are times that you have to leave your home for a few days. As much as you love your pet so much, it’s not possible to bring them everywhere. That’s why you have to ask yourself, how long can turtles survive without food? The answer is all in this article so keep on reading.

How Long Can Turtles Live Without Food?

If you have a healthy adult turtle that you fed properly all the time, survival will not be too hard for it. The turtle will survive without eating anything even for months. Although it’s hard to imagine, turtles can do that and they will still be alive when you come home. Although it’s not the same for all.

However, juvenile or baby turtles will not survive that long without food. They need to eat regularly and have enough protein. Younger turtles need to be fed more frequently than adult turtles. If your pet turtle is still young, it’s not a good idea to leave them without someone to feed them.

In the wild, adult turtles can go for a long time without eating. That’s because they can hibernate when the food supply is scarce. It typically happens in the winter when the temperature is too cold for them. During their brumation, their metabolism will slow down and cease all activities.

Pet turtles don’t go through brumation anymore. It’s because they don’t have to deal with the harsh conditions anymore like in the wild. Their owners provide everything they need so there’s no need for them to hibernate. But if they don’t have a choice, it can happen even in captivity.

Why Do Turtles Hibernate/Brumate?

Turtles hibernate like other animals in the wild. The hibernation of turtles is called brumation. It’s when they become inactive that they can save their energy. This will help them to survive for a long time even without food. Their metabolism will slow down during this period and sleep.

During the brumation, turtles will be inactive and don’t eat for a few months. If the turtle is healthy and properly fed, it can last as long as six months without food. They can survive without eating for such a long time and wake up to continue where they left off before brumation.

Turtles hibernate when the temperature starts to drop. In the wild, it will be hard for them to find food sources. That’s why they hibernate to slow down their energy consumption. It will help them to survive until spring arrives. That’s when they can easily find food around their environment.

However, the exception to this is young turtles. The hatchlings or juveniles did not develop their brumation abilities right away. They are still going through their developmental stage and need to consume more proteins to grow. Juvenile turtles can only survive two weeks at maximum without eating food.

Reasons Why Pet Turtles Do Not Brumate

Even if you have had your pet turtle for a long time now, you may have not seen it brumate or hibernate. There are different reasons why pet turtles don’t do that anymore. It’s not because of the cat but it’s because they don’t have to do that anymore. Here are those reasons below.

1. Constant Food Supply

As a turtle keeper, you always make sure that your turtle will have food regularly. Turtles in captivity don’t need to worry about food supply anymore. They get food constantly from their owners. There’s no reason for them to hibernate since they don’t have to worry about food shortages like when they are in the wild.

2. Temperature Doesn’t Change

The turtle tank’s temperature will not drastically change like in the wild. They will have the right temperature all year round. Even during the colder months, their owners will not let them suffer. Most turtle tanks even have heaters to avoid the water temperature from getting too cold. It will discourage turtles to go on brumation

3. Continuous Heat and UV Source

Having a continuous source of heat and UV lights will make the turtle comfortable. If they have these elements all year round, they don’t need to hibernate anymore. Having a constant supply of UVA and UVB will keep them active. They also have a heat source even during the winter.

How Long A Turtle Can Survive Without Food and Water?

Some instances may happen when a turtle doesn’t have access to food. It may still manage to survive for months and even years. Some turtle owners experience this before. They thought that they already lost their turtle. Only to find it again after a few months or years surviving from insects and other sources.

It often happens in the wild since nature can be unpredictable. Turtles may be unable to find food yet they still survived after a long time. If they have to go through months or years without food, it will trigger them to hibernate. They are also opportunistic predators so they will eat any prey if given a chance.

One story about a pet tortoise goes that it was sealed under the home’s foundation. It happened during a renovation without its owner realizing it. The tortoise managed to survive for two years without a food source before it was found. It’s possible that the tortoise was able to eat bugs and insects that happened to pass by.

Another story is that a pet turtle was forgotten in a pile of laundry. It takes the owner several months to find the turtle. Unfortunately, it was dehydrated and lost weight when it was found. Like other animals, turtles need water to survive. It’s essential for hydration, metabolism, and other processes.

Without water, even turtles can die within a few months or less. In captivity, turtles need to be fed regularly. They also need to have a clean water source to stay healthy. Make sure to also keep the turtle on its tank to avoid it from roaming around your house. Predators may be waiting to eat them if they happened to escape.

How Long Can a Turtle Survive Without Water?

While food is important for survival, water is essential. Turtles can manage a lack of food sources for several months. It can even take years without food but they can still survive. But without water, they will not last that long. Like other animals, turtles need water to keep themselves healthy.

It also depends on what turtle species you have as a pet. But in general, water is essential for the turtle’s survival. Most pet turtles are aquatic which means they need to have water. Not just to swim in but also to hydrate themselves.

Turtles can only manage to last from 12 hours to a few days without water. It also depends on the temperature and humidity outside the water. If their surroundings have a high temperature, they will need to soak in the water to cool themselves. If they can’t do that, they can fall ill.

Water is essential for all living beings. That includes turtles since most of them are aquatic. They need to have clean drinking water. At the same time, they need water where they can soak themselves when it gets too hot. The water temperature should also be consistent.

How Often Do Turtles Need to Eat?

Turtles are cold-blooded since they are reptiles. They don’t need to use much energy like other warm-blooded animals. Turtles can regulate their body temperature so they don’t consume much food like other animals. They don’t expend a lot of energy so they only eat a few times a week instead of eating multiple times daily.

The frequency of feeding your turtle will depend on its age and size. For hatchlings for juveniles, they need to be fed every day. When they get older, they should be fed a good portion of food every two to three days. Adult turtles don’t have to be fed daily since they don’t need that much.

Do Turtles Need Vitamins and Minerals?

Most aquatic turtles need to have a variety of food to provide them with proper nutrition. It should contain vegetables and animal protein since they are omnivores. Vets also recommend giving your turtle multivitamin once a week. Add some calcium source like calcium block or cuttlebone two times a week too.

Aquatic turtles usually eat and swallow while their head is underwater. They don’t eat out of the water which makes the tank filthy. To keep the turtle tank clean, you should feed the turtle in a separate aquarium with warm water. That way, the large turtle tank will stay clean. Make sure to feed them a variety of food. It will encourage the turtle to eat and have balanced nutrition.

Recommended Protein for Turtles

Turtles need protein to stay healthy since they are omnivores. They have a carnivorous part of their diet and they need to have animal-based protein. It may consist of turtle pellets, invertebrates, and vertebrates. Turtle pellets come in different sizes. The large pellets seem to float better to attract large turtles.

While the smaller pellets sink easily which will be eaten by hatchlings and juveniles. It’s important to get the turtle pellets based on your turtle’s age and size. That way, you can provide them with the protein they need. It will help them to stay active and healthy. Younger turtles need more protein sources so make sure to provide them enough.

Recommended Plant-Based Food for Turtles

Turtles also need to eat plant-based food to have a balanced diet. They should also eat different vegetables that float in water. The turtles can nibble it all day so they can get their nutrition. Scooped out their leftovers every day to keep the tank clean for the turtles to swim.

The desirable vegetables for turtles are dark greens. That includes romaine lettuce, mustard greens, collard greens, endive, carrot tops, kale, Swiss chard, green beans, parsley, turnip greens, dandelion greens, and clover. Avoid feeding the turtles’ iceberg lettuce since it’s mostly water. It doesn’t contain a lot of nutritional value for them.

How Often Should Turtles Get Fed?

For turtles younger than six months, they need to have a daily protein source. Turtle pellets, cooked meat, dried shrimp, or fish are good for them. Make sure to include vegetables although they may not eat them at this stage. Juveniles are often carnivores and become omnivores later in their life.

If you have turtles older than six months, it’s alright not to give them protein daily. You can instead do it every other day if they are less than two years old. This will avoid the turtle from growing too fast and outgrowing their tanks. Offer vegetables and leafy greens until they eat them.

For turtles that are a year or two old, it’s best to give them protein two to three times a week only. They should be eating vegetables by this time as well. As pet turtles grow, they will need fewer protein sources. They also need to eat leafy greens every day to stay healthy.

When the turtle is still young, it needs a good amount of protein to fully develop. Protein will help them grow but when they are older, they will no longer need to have a regular source of protein. Avoid providing them too much protein once they reach a year or two.

The Right Amount of Feeding for Pet Turtles

When it comes to the right amount of food, turtles don’t need a lot. They are reptiles which means they are cold-blooded. They don’t need a lot of energy to regulate their body temperature. Turtles can’t do that, unlike warm-blooded animals. They don’t have to eat daily as other animals do.

The right amount of feeding your pet turtle is important. Proving them too much will cause them more harm than good. It applies to the common aquatic turtles. That includes the red-eared slider, painted turtle, and even box turtles.

  • Turtles Less than 6 Months Old

During this stage, feed them protein and vegetables every day. There should be more protein sources.

  • Turtles Between 6 to 12 Months Old 

Feed the turtle vegetables daily and give them protein every other day. It will avoid them from going too fast.

  • Turtles Older than 12 Months 

Feed the turtle vegetables daily during this stage. Provide protein three times a week.

Vegetables for Pet Turtles

  • dandelion leaves
  • mustard greens
  • collard greens
  • bok choy
  • kale
  • romaine lettuce

Avoid feeding the turtle iceberg lettuce since it does not contain noticeable nutrition.

Protein Sources for Pet Turtles

  • waxworms
  • crickets
  • earthworms
  • snails
  • silkworms
  • daphnia
  • krill
  • shrimp
  • bloodworms
  • mealworms
  • feeder fish
  • cooked meat

Why Do Adult Turtles Don’t Need Protein As Much?

Turtles need to eat more vegetables daily the older they get. It means less protein as well when they reach maturity. There are reasons why they transitioned from being carnivores to being omnivores. Juveniles need a lot of protein during this stage to grow and develop. The more they mature, the less protein they need to stay healthy.

Turtles don’t have access to protein daily when they are in the wild. They usually have protein a few times a week. You have to simulate their natural habitat and diet. That means, you also need to give them less protein as the turtle matures. It will help them survive better.

Aside from giving them vegetables and protein, you also need to add turtle feeds. It will provide the turtle with the nutrients they need. Turtle feeds are a reliable source of nutrients for their growth and development. Don’t forget to add this to their diet to ensure that they will stay healthy.

What Determines How Long Turtles Can Live Without Food?

1. Access to Clean Water

The most important variable for your turtle’s survival is its access to clean water. It has to be clean enough for it to drink and swim. If it does, the turtle can survive even without food even for many weeks. The turtle may lose some of its fat storage but it will survive easily.

2. Basking Area With Heat and UV Lamp

If a turtle has access to a basking area, the chance of its survival will be better. Of course, the basking area should have a heat and UV lamp. If the turtle also has clean water, it can last for several months even without food. The turtle will not have serious health issues as well.

3. Turtle’s Age

The age of the turtle is one of the most important factors to determine how long it can live without food. For a six-month-old turtle, it will be hard to last for several weeks without food. Even it has access to clean water and a basking area.

Different factors play an important role when deciding if the turtle can survive long without eating. If it’s an adult healthy turtle, it can live for several months without food. But you wouldn’t want to leave your turtle for that long without food.

If you’re planning to leave for a vacation, don’t leave the turtle on its own for more than a week. Make sure to ask someone to check your turtle for you if you can’t be home soon. Ask them to feed your turtle and check their tank to ensure they’re in good condition.

How to Keep the Turtle Fed While On Vacation?

Before you pack your bags and leave for a vacation, prepare enough food for your turtle. Make sure that the turtle can access the food while you’re away. You can get an automatic turtle feeder for your turtle for this event. The water should be clean so it can survive even if it runs out of food.

Turtles need to have their basking area dry and come with a heat and UV lamp. They need it to support their health and growth. You can add an automatic basking lamp that turns on and off automatically. Make sure to also have a tank filter to ensure that the water condition stays good.

Once everything is ready, your turtle should be able to survive on its own while you’re away. The turtles will be fine without any issues even for a few months. Turtles may also not eat as much when their surroundings have changed. Make sure to feed the turtle before leaving.

If you have automatic feeders and basking lights, the turtle should be fine. Although it’s still recommended to have someone check on the turtle just to be sure. Don’t worry if they run out of food while you’re still away. Turtles can survive up to 160 days without food as long as they have clean water and basking lights.

What If the Turtle Won’t Eat?

Now you know that turtles can survive without food even for months. But what if the turtle won’t eat? If this is the case, try to be patient and wait for a little. You can soak some turtle pellets in tuna water to entice them to eat. Try live food as well so the turtle will find it more appealing.

Catch live food for turtles from your backyard or buy pre-caught options from the pet supply store. Find out why your turtle suddenly dont like to eat. Maybe it’s cold and you need a heater for the tank. Check the water temperature and make it warmer for the turtle to eat again.

Turtles may not feel like eating because of constant feeding. It can last for weeks without any food since it doesn’t need too much energy. Although they can eat a lot when they want to, it might be the case they don’t want to eat in the meantime.

If your turtle seems to go into hibernation, don’t worry. It’s a natural process for them in the wild. Although it’s not common for pet turtles to do that. Make sure to make the water temperature high to avoid it from triggering brumation. Adult turtles need to be fed more vegetables as well. Choose the best food for their age.


1. How Long Can a Red-Eared Slider Turtle Survive Without Eating?

The adult red-eared slider turtle can manage for months without food. But they need to have access to clean water. Their basking area should also have a heat lamp and UV lights. If the turtle is healthy, it can survive for a long time without eating. But if the red-eared slider is less than six months old, it can only survive for weeks.

3. How Long Can a Box Turtle Survive Without Eating?

Box turtles can also survive without eating for weeks. Like the red-eared slider turtle, it also needs access to clean drinking water to live. If the enclosure is warm enough, it will be good for the box turtle. However, if their habitat goes cold, they will hibernate to help them survive longer than while they are active.

3. What if the turtle has access to clean water to swim and drink?

Turtles need to have access to clean water for them to drink and swim. It will help them manage without food even for several weeks. During this time, their fat storage will be used. Although there will be no negative effect on their health. They can survive for months as long as there is clean water for them.

4. What if the turtle has access to the basking area and the tank water is properly heated and lit?

If the turtle dont have food but has access to the basking area, it will help them to survive longer. Provided that the tank water is also properly heated and that it has UV lights as well. That means that the turtle can live for several months even without eating. The turtle will still be healthy without any serious effects.


Turtles are amazing creatures since they can survive even the harsh conditions of nature. They can even survive for weeks without food as long as they have access to clean water. Not only that but if their tank is kit and heated properly, they can survive as long as months without food.

But it doesn’t mean that you should allow this to happen to your turtle. Pet turtles don’t hibernate because they don’t need to do that anymore. Now that you know how tough turtles are, you should continue to care for them. That way, it will be healthy enough in case they have to go through this situation.

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