How Long Can a Turtle Go Without Eating Food?

From elementary science classes, you already know that turtles and other reptiles as well are cold-blooded. That means that their body temperature changes with the environment. Due to this natural trait, a turtle can go without eating for an extended period.

Actually, since the animals’ body temperature adjusts with the environment, turtles don’t need as much food as warm-blooded animals. Homoeothermic animals like human beings require a lot of food to maintain their internal body temperatures. Notably, this is not the case with turtles.

Turtles can lower their metabolic rates and comfortably without any dire consequences. This helps them to stay for long without eating anything. 

Actually, turtles are known to hibernate from fall to spring. 

During this time, they bare feed on any food. But for how long can a turtle hold without eating is the question today.

How Long would a Turtle Survive without Food?

How Long Can a Turtle Go Without Eating Food

Like mentioned earlier, a turtle can survive from fall to spring without eating anything. That translates to about four to six months.

During this time, these reptiles reduce their oxygen requirement and thereby also cut their need for energy. This way, turtles can survive for weeks to months without eating.

It is on record that a turtle was forgotten under a pile of laundry for months without food and water. Unfortunately, it was dehydrated and had lost weight. Also, a tortoise was once sealed under a house foundation during renovation, and it survived for over two years.

All the same, there are variations on how long the animals can hold depending on age, species, body size, and health of the animal.

First, for young turtles, they need the energy to grow. This energy can only come from food. Therefore, for more immature turtles, they can only stay for a few days without food.

Notably, any turtle that is less than 7 years is considered to be a baby still.

On average days, a young turtle less than a year old will feed every day. Those that are between 6 months and 2 years, you will feed then every other day with proteins. 

For adults, they usually feed at least once a week. The difference is because baby turtles need the energy to grow.

So, are you planning to be away from home for some time? Please ask a friend to help look after your turtle pets. If your pets are so young, they may not survive for the whole time you will be away without eating.

For adults, they may hold on with clean water without food until you come back.

How to Feed Your Turtles While Away

First, it is advisable to ensure that you replace the water in your turtle tank before you leave. Make sure it is full to enable the animals to climb out.

Like mentioned earlier, it would be better if you asked someone to come over and look after your pet while you are away. If you happen to get one, write down detailed instructions on how they should feed and take care of the turtles. Also, don’t forget to instruct on what to do if anything goes wrong. 

In case you don’t get someone to leave behind, don’t worry. You can still hack it, and go on your vacation.

Before you leave, try and experiment by putting some live goldfish in the tan and observe how fast your turtle will eat them. If they only eat one or two, you may leave about 10 tiny goldfish in the aquarium to take then for a week.

For small turtles, you need to verify that they can eat tiny goldfish. If they can’t, then you need to get an alternative.  

If all these tricks don’t work for you, you may decide to let someone else take care of your pets temporarily. This would be better for the young turtle that requires regular feeding and care.

If possible, you can still take your pets along with you on your trip.

Factors that Determine How Long a Turtle Can Survive Without Food

Though all turtle may survive for some time without food, the length of their fasting period depends on several factors. Here are some of them.

Availability of Clean Water

Like any other animal, water is essential for the survival of turtles. These animals need clean water to drink and to swimming. Even when food supply isn’t enough, turtles can live for several weeks so long as they have water. 

This would make the animals use their fat reserves and lose weight without any awful consequences.

In fact, this often happens in the wild, where climatic conditions keep changing. 

Unfortunately, without water, turtles would dehydrate to death within a few days.

Age of the Turtle

Mature turtles can live longer than young ones without food. Notably, young turtles need the energy to grow while adults need little to carry on. Therefore, for pet owners, leaving fully grown turtle-pets for a few days without would not do any harm.

On the contrary, leaving juvenile turtles would not live more than a few days without food. They would definitely die.

The health of the Turtle

An adult that has fed well and strong will, without doubt, withstand about 5 to 6 months without food. So long as water and basking area is available, a healthy adult turtle will comfortably survive on body fat reserves for a significant number of weeks.

On the contrary, a sick animal is already weak from the illness and may not live long without food. Instead of leaving the animal without food as you travel, get someone to take care of your pet when you are away.

Species of Your Turtle

Notably, there are over 356 species of turtles around the world. Surprisingly, these species respond differently to food shortages. If you are thinking of keeping one for a pet, you should consider their species first.

When fully grown, a box turtle can live for an extremely long period. This might not be the case for all the other species. 

Also, the red-eared slider turtle can live for a long time.

In essence, the bigger the animal, the longer it can survive without eating.

Environmental temperatures also affect how long a turtle can stay without eating. The higher the temperature, the higher the body’s metabolism. This makes the turtle require more energy. 

During periods of low temperatures, their metabolism rates are low, and I return, the animals need little energy to survive. 


Finally, you should note that healthy adult turtle pets can live for months without food. All the same, they should get plenty of clean water at all times.

Just like human beings, these reptiles need water for physiological processes to continue as usual. Since the animal is not hibernating, then it would be impossible for it to live for long without water.

The age of your turtle is a critical factor in how long it can withstand starvation.

Pets can spread diseases to humans. Therefore, wash your hands in soapy water every time you come into contact with the turtles, food leftovers, or their water tanks. Also, to avoid passing germs to the pets, it is advisable to wash your hands too before handling the animals.

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