Why Is My Baby Turtle Not Eating

Over the past few years, I have seen many pet owners asking, “Why is my baby turtle is not eating?” Almost every turtle owner has to deal with a similar situation at some point.

For new owners, a two-week baby turtle refusing to eat can be very stressful. But, how do turtles survive so long without food? Should you visit a veterinarian? Is this something you must be worried about?

In this article, we have covered all your queries related to baby turtles not eating. In fact, there can be multiple reasons for your baby turtle denying food.

Reasons why my baby turtle isn’t eating

There are a long list of reasons that could explain why your baby turtle isn’t eating. The most common reasons are change in the environment/stress, temperature, illness, lighting, and diet. Let’s start discussing them one by one!

In the video below, I go into more details on why baby turtles stop eating:

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#1- Stress

If you have just adopted a baby turtle, the new environmental settings might be unsettling for him/her. Baby turtles are not accustomed to changing homes, being handled frequently or living in poor quality aquarium water. Poor lighting can also cause stress in baby turtles, resulting in less or no appetite. Turtles do not like being touched every now and then. When shifted to a new place, aquatic turtles naturally slow down the intake of food.

Stress is one of the main reasons why turtles stop eating pellets.

#2- Temperature

The temperature requirements for baby turtles are slightly different from other marine animals. Too cold or too hot water can reduce the appetite. Baby turtles require several temperature areas within the tank so that they can swim happily. This temperature differs with the different turtle species:

  • 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit is a perfect temperature for red-eared slider adult turtles, but for baby turtles, 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit is good.
  • 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit for box turtles during the daytime and not below 60 degrees at night.

#3- Illness

If your baby turtle is refusing to eat, the first thing to do is check the following symptoms:

  • Discharge from the nasal cavity, sneezing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing. Swollen eyes backed by laziness are a sign of a breathing issue.
  • Look for his feces at the bottom of the tank, no excretion means constipation
  • Worms attached to the feces indicate a parasitic infection
  • Discoloration on the shell – refers to a deficiency of Vitamin A
  • Female turtles often deal with dystocia, a condition in which it is difficult to pass eggs.

A turtle with a respiratory illness might also stop eating, as seen in the video below:

#4- Inappropriate Lighting

Marine animals require adequate lightning for their bodies to work properly. 12-14 hour lightning during the day and 10-12 hour darkness create an ideal and healthy environment. Moreover, some species also require UVB lighting for optimal performance, like swimming, moving, respiring and even eating.

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#5- Diet

what to feed baby turtle

Experts say if commercial turtle pellets are not working, try something else. You can try live animals, bright-colored fruits and vegetables or anything your baby turtle likes. You can add earthworms, mealworms, small fish or snails to the feeding areas. Shuffling the diet plan can also do the trick. You can check out this article to see how much should I feed my turtle?

Foods you can try include small pieces of tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, spinach and other leafy vegetables. Fresh fruits including watermelon, papaya, raspberries, strawberries, bananas also serve as good options.

Tip: If live animals are unavailable, go for canned worms, insects, or egg whites.

#6- Time of Day

Baby turtles are most active in the first half of the day. If you have been offering foods in the evening, try changing the feeding schedule, and you will see a spark in your turtle’s appetite. In the morning, turtles tend to eat faster, with more energy and craving. The later part of the day is spent in sluggishness. So, this could be another reason why your baby turtle is not eating!

If you have a red eared slider, you should check out my article on why is my red-eared slider not eating.

Tips for making your baby turtle eat!

It is important to understand the real cause behind this “No To Food” behavior. Only then can you try to convince the baby turtle to eat. Here are few useful tips!

  • Both young and adult turtles like freshwater. Make sure the water in the tank is cleaned every week. This act will not provoke them to eat, but it is necessary for keeping them healthy and happy, which is directly connected with the intake of food.
  • The lamp should not be too high or too low. Maintain the tank temperature using a thermometer.
  • Two different turtles of the same species can quit eating because of fear of each other. Try to separate them and see if they feel comfortable. 
  • Shuffle the feeding routine and even the diet. Some turtles hate their own food. Introducing new items might stimulate the appetite. If you have a red-eared slider or painted turtle, you should try feeding them feeder fish or live insects.

If you’re looking for more tips, check out my guide on how to get your turtle to eat.

Aside from diet, there other habitat recommendations you should know. Check out my article on how to take care of a baby turtle to learn more.

If you have a yellow bellied slider, you should check out my article on why yellow bellied turtles stop eating.


If your baby turtle is not eating, investigate the reason and apply the tips mentioned above. If there is no change in the eating habits, take him/her to the vet.

Happy Eating!

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