Turtle Throwing Up

It can be alarming when you observe your turtle throwing up. You are probably wondering what caused it and how to bring your turtle back to full health. This article will explain why turtles throw up, and how to prevent it in the future.

Why is my turtle throwing up?

The most common reason why turtles throw up is because of their diet. However, it can also be caused by poor water conditions.


The main reason your turtle is throwing up is because they are unable to digest the food you give them. Below are some of the most common mistakes I see turtle owners make with their turtle’s diet.


Feeding your turtle too much or too frequently can cause strain on their digestive system, and eventually lead them to throw up. While it can be very tempting when they stare at you and beg for food, you should never feed your turtle more than twice a day.

turtle begging for food

Additionally, overfeeding your turtle can cause a build up in waste if too much food floats to the bottom of the tank.

Learn more on feeding in my guide how much to feed a pet turtle.

Not enough variety

Another mistake I commonly see is that people won’t feed their turtle a variety of food. They’ll just stick to the same pellets or vegetables, which usually results in vitamin deficiencies which can cause digestion issues. Below are some good options of turtle food to choose from.

Not feeding in the water

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is not putting their turtle’s food directly in the water. Almost all aquatic turtles (Red eared sliders, painted turtles, etc.) must eat their food while they are in the water.

The water helps break down the food when they swallow, and helps pass the food through their digestive system. If they don’t consume water when they eat, it can cause digestive problems and cause them to throw up.

Feeding your turtle outside of the water can also lead to dehydration, which will also cause your turtle to throw up.

If you like to interact with your turtle and take them out of the tank, you should wait at least 20 minutes after feeding to give them time to digest the food.

Too much protein

turtle pellets

Another mistake I commonly see is that people give their turtle too much protein. This can cause a blockage in their GI system which can cause them to throw up. It can also lead to other health problems.

This usually happens when you feed your turtle only pellets. While commercial pellets are great for turtles, most turtles are omnivores and require a combination of protein and vegetables.

If you have a hard time getting your turtle to eat leafy vegetables, there are some vegetable pellets that can help round out their diet.

Feeding too big of pieces

turtle eating pellets

Your turtle might also be throwing up because you are feeding them food that is too large. This is common especially among juvenile turtles, who have a harder time eating large pellets.

Since turtles don’t have teeth, large pieces of food can cause digestive problems. Make sure you cut up your turtle’s food to a reasonable size so that they can easily consume and digest it.

Human food

You should always do research before you feed your turtle food that is made for humans. You should never feed your turtle uncooked meat, or food that contains dairy products. You should also never feed your turtle spoiled food.

These can cause serious digestive issues which can cause a plethora of problems for your turtle including throwing up.

To learn more, check out my guide on what human food cat turtles eat.

Eating substrate

Another issue that can cause your turtle to throw up is when they consume the substrate in their tank. This usually occurs when your turtle swallows small rocks or pebbles.

This can cause a blockage in their throat which can cause vomiting and make it hard for them to breathe.

To prevent this from happening, you should use substrate that is too large for them to swallow. River rocks are a great option.

If you can’t change your substrate, I suggest you feed your turtle floating pellets that they can consume at the top of the water before it floats down to the bottom of the tank and gets mixed in with the substrate.

turtle eating floating pellets

Changes in food

Lastly, your turtle might throw up when you introduce them to new food. While it is perfectly fine to switch up your turtle’s diet, it is important that you do it slowly.

If you plan on switching their food, you should slowly integrate it in with their current food to give them time to adjust to the change.

Water parameters

Poor water conditions can also cause your turtle to throw up. Below are some of the most common water issues in turtle tanks.

Dirty water

dirty turtle tank

All aquatic turtle tanks must have a powerful water filter that can keep the water clean. Dirty water can cause immense stress for your turtle, which can result in vomiting.

You can test your water’s pH and chemical composition with test trips to ensure the water is healthy.

Aside from a filter, you should also perform regular water changes.


It is important that you research your turtle species to make sure the water in their tank is set at the right temperature.

You might need to invest in a turtle tank heater to maintain the proper temperature. You can learn more in my article on what temperature should a turtle tank be.

I suggest that you keep a thermometer in your tank to make sure you are maintaining the right temperature.

Water that is too hot or too cold can cause serious stress for your turtle. It can force your turtle to spend too much time out of the water, which can eventually cause them to throw up.


While this is not as common, there is a chance your turtle is throwing up because of parasites. This can be the case if you notice your turtle is throwing up a white stringy substance.

Parasites usually enter turtle tanks when foreign objects are put into their tanks. This usually happens when you add plants, but it can also be brought in from fish or decorations.

If you suspect parasites to be the cause of your turtle throwing up, you should look for other symptoms including changes in swimming behavior, runny noses, and foggy eyes.

To help reduce the chance of parasites entering your tank, make sure you thoroughly clean any object before you put it into your tank.

You can also check for other symptoms listed in my guide on how to tell if a turtle is sick.

What to do if your turtle keeps throwing up

If you are feeding your turtle a healthy diet and ensure their water is safe, they should stop throwing up. If the problem persists, you should take your turtle to a vet for a checkup. They might administer antibiotics or other forms of treatment.


I hope this article helped explain all of the reasons why turtles throw up. You should be aware that turtles might be very anxious when you move them to a new tank, so they might just need a couple days to get used to their new environment.

If you still can’t figure out the source of the problem, you should take them to a vet.