How Do I Get My Turtle to Eat?

It can be a cause for concern if your pet turtle suddenly stops eating. While turtles can certainly survive long periods of time without eating, even for a couple months, it can be very bad for their health and development. Also, a turtle will become more vulnerable to diseases if they are not eating. Therefore, in today’s article I will share a couple strategies of how you can get your turtle to start eating again.

How do I get my turtle to eat?

The key to getting your turtle to eat again is to feed them a variety of different foods, check the tank temperature, introduce live food, or try tuna water.

Also, before we get into strategies to get your turtle to eat, it’s worth noting that it’s perfectly normal for baby turtles not to eat when you first bring them home. This could also be true for older turtles if you put them into a new tank environment. Your turtle is most likely a little nervous and still getting used to their surroundings. It can take a couple days or even a week or two for them to feel comfortable enough to start eating.

Variety of different foods

different types of turtle food

Just like human, turtle’s can be picky eaters. You might have fed them the same food their entire life, and then one day they might just decide that they don’t want to eat that anymore. To help combat this, you should try offering them at least 2-3 different types of pellets to see if they’ll eat one.

You should also try to mix in some fruit or vegetables as well. Just make sure that you chop them up into small pieces so your turtle can easily digest them.

If your turtle starts eating again, I suggest sticking with at least 2-3 different types of food to make sure they are getting access to a range of nutrients. It will also prevent them from becoming reliant on just one type of food.

Tank temperature

measuring temperature of turtle tank

An often overlooked aspect of a turtle not eating is tank temperature. Turtles need warm water (ideally between 75 and 85 degrees fahrenheight) to be comfortable. If the water is too warm or too hot, it can stress them out and cause them to lose their appetite. Therefore, you will likely need a turtle tank heater to achieve the right temperature.

You also need to make sure their basking platform is about 10 degrees warmer than the water (so between 85-95 degrees fahrenheight). Their basking light should also be emitting both UVA and UVB light. This will help promote metabolism as well as sleep.

Make sure you have a thermometer to check both the water and basking platform to ensure they are the proper temperatures.   

Live food

feeding cricket to a turtle

In the wild, a good portion of a turtles diet will consist of small, live insects or fish. Therefore, they might be lacking stimulation or get bored of pellets. A great way to combat this is to try feeding live food to your turtle. You have a bunch of different options, including crickets, worms, and feeder fish.

There is a chance that this could help them go back to their natural instinct and ultimately help stimulate their appetite.

If you want to feed your turtle live food, make sure you buy it from a reliable vendor. If you get insects or bugs from outside, they might carry harmful bacteria and disease into your tank which can cause a multitude of problems for your turtle down the road.

Tuna water

tuna water to get turtle to eat again

While I have never personally tried this, a lot of people have been able to get their turtle to start eating again by dipping their food in tuna water. This is pretty simple to do. All you need to do is take the tuna out of a tuna can, and then put your turtle’s pellets into the can to soak with the water.

After they have soaked for a couple minutes, you should put the pellets into your turtle tank. You can also try this with vegetables.

Different container

how to get your turtle to eat

Another method that has worked well for me in the past is to feed my turtle in a separate container. You want to make sure there is still enough room for them to be comfortable, but you also want it small enough so they can’t really ignore the food in front of them. This is a good option if you have multiple turtles in your tank, because your turtle might be intimidated to eat food in front of the other turtles.

You should leave your turtle in the container with some pellets for a couple hours. When you come back hopefully some of the food will be gone. If your turtle doesn’t eat anything for a couple hours, you should just put them back into the tank.

Other options

If you still can’t get your turtle to eat, there are a few other things you can try.

Treats: While this isn’t sustainable, you may be able to rejuvenate your turtle’s appetite by feeding them some treats. A good option is freeze dried shrimp. If your turtle starts eating the treats, you should slowly start to mix in regular pellets with the treat, so they don’t get too reliant on the treats themselves.

Improve tank conditions: If your tank water is cloudy or dirty, there is a good chance it will stress out your turtle. It is common for stressed turtles to stop eating. Therefore, I suggest you do a full water change and do a thorough cleaning of your tank. Hopefully your turtle will feel more comfortable in the clean tank and start to eat again. You might also want to look into getting a strong filter to help keep your water clean and to prevent your turtle from getting stressed in the future.

You can learn more in my guide on how to clean your turtle tank.

When should you panic?

If your turtle hasn’t eaten for over two weeks, it’s probably time to take it to the vet. They will likely run some tests to see if your turtle is suffering from any illnesses. They will then likely provide you with medication that can help heal your turtle and get them to start eating again.


I hope this article gave you some good insight on how you can get your turtle to start eating again. The key is to be patient and try a bunch of different strategies. However, if you are not able to find a solution, it is best to take your turtle to the vet for a checkup.

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