How Long Can Turtles Go Without Eating? (By Size & Type)

Turtles are reptiles that you will find on most continents around the world. With the right equipment, it is possible to house a turtle at home, and this makes them popular pets in many countries.

Like all animals, turtles like to tuck into a good meal.

But how long can a turtle survive without food?

In this article, we are going to discuss how long turtles live without food and the effect a lack of food can have on these reptiles.

Key Takeaway:

In the wild, turtles go for very long periods without food while they hibernate. But a pet turtle’s ability to survive without food is not as long. Adult turtles need food every 2 to 3 days to stay healthy and juveniles need food every day. While on vacation, use an automatic turtle feeder.

Can different types of turtles go for longer without a constant supply of food?

To find the answers to this frequently asked question and more, check out the extended guide up next in this article.

How Long Can a Turtle Go Without Eating

All turtles will have different eating schedules depending on their sizes and ages. The way you feed hatchlings, juveniles, and adults all differ.

how long turtles without eating

How often must you feed your pet turtles?

Let’s find out.

Hatchling and Baby Turtles

When a baby turtle emerges from its shell and still has its yolk sac attached to it. This sac is full of nutrients that the hatchling will absorb for the first few days of its life.

While the baby turtle is absorbing its yolk sac you will not need to give it food. So hatchling turtles go without eating for the first few days of their lives.

When the hatchling finishes absorbing its yolk sac it will be ready for its first proper meal. Depending on its species, your turtle will need to eat 2 or 3 times a day.

Your young turtles should not go for more than half a day without eating as this would be detrimental to their growth and survival. Although your young turtles will likely survive without food for about a week, they will become very weak in the process.


Hatchlings become juveniles when they reach about 6 months old. These turtles are now a little bit bigger and are starting to show their true personalities.

Juveniles, just like healthy adult turtles, love to eat. Most turtles of this size need to eat once a day.

A juvenile can go for a couple of weeks without eating but this would be dangerous for it and would inhibit the turtle’s growth.

Most juveniles will prefer a more carnivorous diet while they are at this stage of their lives. When they become adults, these turtles often have a change in their appetite and nutritional needs and eat a more herbivorous diet.

Adult Turtles

A juvenile becomes an adult turtle when it reaches about 10 years of age. The exact age your turtle becomes an adult will depend on what kind of turtle it is.

A healthy adult turtle does not eat as often as it would when it was a juvenile but it still needs regular meals. Depending on what kind of turtle it is, it might need feeding 3 or 4 times a week.

Some adults need feeding every other day.

In its natural habitat, the adult turtle will survive without food for months on end while it hibernates in the winter. But in its regular day-to-day routine, it should not go more than a few days without eating.

How Long Box Turtles Go Without Eating

Box turtles are common pet turtles that are really nice to look after. But as with every pet, these turtles have a feeding schedule that you must stick to.

How long can turtles go without eating?

You must give an adult box turtle food every other day. You must feed baby turtles and juveniles every day.

For these turtles to remain healthy and avoid problems, you must stick to this feeding schedule. If you do not, your turtle may suffer from dry skin, overgrown toenails, and a deformed shell.

Wild turtles of this kind only stop eating in their natural habitat while they hibernate. During hibernation, they will not eat for many months.

But your pet turtle should not hibernate while it is in your care as it must always be in a climatized environment that suits its needs. So you never need to prepare your pet turtle for hibernation or stop feeding it.

How Long Aquatic Turtles Survive Without Food

Aquatic turtles are beautiful pets that love spending time in the water. Just like any other turtles, they also have an eating schedule that you must adhere to.

How often must you feed aquatic turtles?

It all depends on the turtle’s aquatic species. Let’s get to know some of the most common pets and how long these turtles go without food.

Red-Eared Sliders

The red-eared slider is a semi-aquatic turtle that is native to the US and parts of Mexico. This is the most popular pet turtle in the US and is also well sought after in other countries around the world.

How long can turtles of this species go without food?

You must give an adult red-eared slider food every 2 to 3 days. Juvenile turtles need feeding once a day.

In their natural habitat, these turtles will brumate for about 3 months every year and during this time, they will not eat. So, this animal can theoretically survive without food for 3 months but this is only when it has properly prepared itself for brumation.

Map Turtles

Map turtles are more carnivorous than the other turtles in this category. They are endemic to the US and love a good, meaty, meal.

How long can turtles of this kind go without food?

You must give the adult turtles food every 2 to 3 days and the juveniles once a day.

A healthy turtle is one that regularly eats a balanced diet. If your aquatic turtle goes for long periods without eating it will begin to suffer from health problems.

Problems related to nutrition include bladder stones and irregular shell growth.

Painted Turtles

The painted turtle is a freshwater turtle that likes to live in slow-moving water. This turtle is very common in parts of Canada, the US, and even Mexico.

How long can a painted turtle go without eating?

You must feed adult painted turtles every 2 to 3 days and the juveniles once a day.

A wild painted turtle will stop eating for a couple of months a year while it hibernates from October to March. But your pet turtle must live in an acclimatized environment all year round.

Because of the special environment your pet turtle is in, it should never need to hibernate and should, thus, eat normally all year round.

A well-fed turtle of this species eats every 2 to 3 days. If your painted turtle won’t eat and it has been longer than a few days, you must take it to the vet as there is likely something wrong with it.

Musk Turtles

Musk turtles are endemic to the US. These turtles can excrete a foul-smelling odor when they feel threatened.

The healthy adult turtle of this species has quite an appetite.

How long will the turtle survive without food?

You must feed musk turtles twice a day while they are less than 6 months old and then feed them once every other day when they become adults.

In the wild, these turtles survive at the bottom of ponds and lakes for months while they hibernate. But this is while the body temperature of these reptiles has dropped significantly, and they are not using nearly as much energy as they would in their active months.

How Long Pond Turtles Can Survive Without Food

pond turtle

Pond turtles, which like to live in wetlands, are usually called semi-aquatic turtles. There are many different species in this turtle category, and a number of them are popular pets.

Just like any pet turtle, a pond turtle needs regular feeding.

How often must you feed pond turtles?

Adult turtles of this kind need feeding every 2 to 3 days. Juvenile turtles, however, need feeding once a day.

If you fail to feed your pond turtle on the right schedule, it will be at risk of developing a nutritional metabolic bone disease. If it is not fed properly, it could also risk developing hypovitaminosis.

Why Is My Painted Turtle Not Eating?

painted turtle not eating

Painted turtles can go for extended periods without food in the wild while they hibernate during the winter. But this is not normal behavior for a pet turtle.

Why isn’t my painted turtle eating?

If you find your pet painted turtle not eating, something is definitely wrong with it. Here are some of the most common reasons why it has lost its appetite:


The stress of a new environment. Pet turtles need time to get used to new living conditions.

Until they adapt, they may not feel very hungry.

Boring Food

Some turtles don’t like it when you always feed them the same food.

My painted turtle is not eating; what should I do?

New turtle pellets or a change in the type of live fish or other live food might give the turtle the drive it needs to keep eating. Adding leafy greens to its diet promotes healthy growth and also provides variety.

Water Temperature

Your turtle is a cold-blooded reptile, so its living conditions must be just right.

If the temperature drops in the tank, your turtle might lose its appetite. The same will happen if the temperature rises suddenly in the water.


If your turtle seems disinterested in its food, it might be because it is ill. Diahrrea, respiratory infections, and metabolic bone disease all cause reduced appetites in turtles.

Turtles live long and happy lives when they get the medical attention they need. If you are still wondering, “What should I do when my painted turtle won’t eat?” then you must take it to a vet for a checkup.

Pet Turtles and Food

In their natural habitat, turtles live for extended periods underwater without food. So, generally speaking, these reptiles have the potential to survive weeks without food.

But this article has helped us to see that although they can do this in their natural habitat when the temperatures outside are right, pet turtles are very different and cannot live without food and water. Most adults need feeding every couple of days, and juveniles must be fed daily.

Did you find this article interesting?

At Oddly Cute Pets, we always strive to provide you with up-to-date articles and vet-reviewed facts about how to look after turtles, lizards, snakes, and other reptiles. For more of the latest veterinarian research on how best to house your reptile, check out our website.

Thanks for reading!

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