How Long Can Turtles Go Without Eating Food?

To answer a question of how long a turtle can go without eating, we must understand several things. First, the answer here would depend on which type of turtle is in question- is it a wild or a pet. Again, it would be crucial to ask yourself how much and how often the reptiles characteristically need to feed.

How long can a turtle go without eating

How long can a turtle go without eating?

Turtles don’t require too much energy to maintain their internal body temperature as in the cause of homoeothermic animals.  This would thus mean they do not need to consume much energy when homoeothermic animals.

That said, these reptiles might go for a longer time without food. Turtles, more so the wild ones do hibernate especially during cold winter months. This is the typical instance when they go without eating. Although when kept as pets, they do not usually hibernate, situations can force it to go without food.

For instance, you went for a holiday trip, and you were forced to spend several months away are during a house renovation, you forgot your turtle that got trapped under debris are classic examples when it can without food.

How long can turtle go without eating?

According to turtleholic.com, “a healthy, adult turtle (at least most species) that has been fed properly during its life should be able to survive for months without eating anything,”

Suppose you asked a question such as how long can turtle go without eating or drinking water? In this case, our answer would be, not so long. Water is a very critical factor than food in this case.

However, it is not easy to accurately tell how long this reptile can go without eating but our estimation will depend on the behavior and species at the specific habitat and the condition of that habitat at a particular time.

Factors influencing duration a turtle takes without eating


The first factor that can affect how long it can go without food is the availability of water. If it has access to clean and pure water for drinking and swimming, even when food is not available, it can stay for several weeks though; it may lose little fat storage. However, this cannot be something serious as this always happen even to wild turtles during adverse environmental conditions.


Turtles are known to be cold-blooded animals. They thus regulate their body temperature by behavioral means such as warming their bodies through external sources of energy like sunlight and warm water.

Their metabolic rate does not fluctuate with temperature changes despite being slower than in homoeotherms, or the warm-blooded animals.

An increase in metabolic rate increases the oxygen requirement of the turtle since this would increase the amount of oxygen needed and vise vasa, thus it may not require frequent feeding.

Access to basking area, heat lamp, and UVB

For the good health of any other type of pet turtle, a dry area for basking, appropriate temperature provided by a heat lamp as well as UVB lamp must be availed.

These reptiles can live comfortably with no serious health issue for several months, without food, if they have access to pure water for swimming and drinking as well as a proper basking place with UVB and heat lamp. Buying the Zoo Med Aquatic Turtle UVB Heat Lighting Kit can work as a source of heat and UVB.

For aquatic or water turtle, the temperature of the aquatic environment should be maintained at the range of between 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit (°F).

In addition to the optimum temperature provided, the turtle owner should also offer a warmer basking area of a temperature range between 80°F and 85°F or more, depending on the specific species you own as a pet. If all these are available, then this pet can take a more extended period without food.

According to Dr. Mitchel, researcher and professor of zoological medicine at the University of Illinois “make sure the turtles have an appropriate temperature gradient.” He recommends “providing that temperature controls their metabolic activities.”

Note that even though they can go for several months without food, it does not mean that they will be healthier, it can lose a lot of body fats.


We should ask ourselves that, why do turtles have shells? These reptiles are cold-blooded animal also known as ectothermic animals. When we take a close look at them well, you will realize that their metabolic rate is usually low, changes with temperature increase.

Being ectothermic, they control their body temperature by behavioral adaptation. For instance, they warm their bodies with the help of outside sources like warm water and temperature increase. Therefore, when the temperatures increase, they tend to move very fast while on cold temperature, they move slowly.

When turtles move faster, more oxygen is needed. Therefore, in this case, it would require more food. In summary, as it may need food depending on the condition of their habitat regarding temperature, this applies to small turtle aquariums as well.

Hibernation underwater

Because they are cold-blooded animals, they can be extremely active in high-temperature conditions and less active or even inactive when the temperatures drop. The lower the temperature, the lower the activity level.

At the point of the extreme drop in temperatures, turtles tend to enter hibernation. Some hibernate without any signs of breathing inside the pond or in the mud. During hibernation, they do not move as they rich a point where they only use basal metabolic rate. The pulse rate also reduces as they respire anaerobically.

At this time, they either need little amount or no food at all, and this can go for several weeks or months.

Age of the turtle

Age is another important variable when determining how long a turtle can go without food. Even if water and basking requirements are available for younger ones (6 months and below), they would still not go longer without food.

Younger turtle is still in need of growth required to, for instance, cater for cell division and multiplication. In this regard, they should thus be fed frequently. Get someone to check on them if you plan to go away or for an extended period. This one should be done every few days or once a week.

Lower metabolic rate

The reason as to why they can live for long without food also is like a mystery. Among the factors or variables that play an essential role here, a lower metabolic rate makes them capable of staying longer without feeding.

To add on the lower metabolic rate, when they get into a state of hibernation also known as brumation, during hot and cold temperatures. Scientists believe that during such conditions, water turtles can stay underwater for weeks and months without oxygen and food.

Dr. Mitchel, notes that “everything is relatively slower for turtles,” Mitchell says. “They can undergo anaerobic respiration, which allows them to process things at different rates.”

How long can a red-eared slider turtle go without eating?

On a red-eared slider turtle, it depends on the various factors we have looked at such as age, availability of clean water, basking area, heat lamp, and UVB are made available. An adult red-eared slider can go for several months without food.

You should ensure that it is healthy and free from any prior health issues, but if the red-eared slider turtle is six months old and below, then all these conditions together with food are mandatory, otherwise, it may not live for a month.

What about a box turtle

Just as red-eared sliders, the box turtles are also able to live for several weeks or months without food. However, they must be provided with clean water for drinking and swimming. The water will reduce its temperature to cope with the condition of starvation.

This is because lower the temperature lowers the rate of respiration hence, less or no food is required. To prevent it from hibernating, the box enclosure should be adequately heated. This also answers a question on how long can a sea turtle lives.


Please note this, a turtle can live for several months without eating any food, but water should be availed of it. In the absence of both food and water, then it is almost impossible for it to live longer than even weeks given that it is not hibernating.

Like human beings and other animals, these reptiles should be given water which is essential for hydration, digestion, respiration among other physiology processes taking place in their bodies.

In the absence of water, a turtle can die within a few weeks or months. Any type whether a land turtle e.g., box or water ones, water should be made available in their habitat for their everyday life.

  1. https://www.reference.com/pets-animals/long-can-turtle-live-food-72005d4bce7c77e0