why is my painted turtle not eating

If your painted turtle is not eating, it’s important to find the cause as soon as possible. While there’s a chance they are totally fine, your painted turtle not eating could be a sign of illness or improper tank conditions.

Why is my painted turtle not eating?

The main reasons your painted turtle is not eating are stress, bad lighting, stale diet, and illness.

There is also a chance that your turtle is just getting old.  

If your painted turtle is not eating, I suggest you watch my video below to learn more about what could be causing it and how you can get them to start eating again.

Now let’s go into more detail on the main causes:


The number one reason why a painted turtle stops eating is because of stress. There are plenty of causes of stress for painted turtles, but I will call out the main drivers below:

New environment: If you just brought your turtle home from the pet store, there is a good chance they are just a little stressed out. It might take them a day or two before they get used to their new surrounds. This can also occur if you put your turtle into a new tank. It’s totally normal, and your painted turtle should start eating again in a day or two. If you have a new tank, you should read my guide on how to set up a painted turtle tank.

Poor water conditions: Another reason your painted turtle might be stressed out and not eating is because of poor water conditions. You should make sure that you have a proper turtle tank filter, and you should perform water changes at least every other week. Your turtle might also be stressed if you don’t have the right water temperature. You should make sure the water in your tank is between 72 and 80 degrees fahrenheight.

Small tank: Another common reason a painted turtle gets stressed out is because their tank is not big enough. You should have a tank that is at least 10 gallons for each inch of your turtle’s shell. This is especially true for painted turtles, since they need plenty of space to swim around.

If your turtle isn’t reading, you should read my article about how to get a turtle to eat.

Bad lighting

painted turtle stopped eating

Another common reason why a painted turtle will stop eating is because they don’t have the right lighting set up. Every painted turtle will need a basking platform (dry area outside of the water) that has both UVA and UVB light pointing at it. Your painted turtle needs this in order to maintain a proper metabolism.

The basking light should make the basking platform around 85 to 95 degrees fahrenheight. A common mistake that I see people make is that they don’t have both UVA and UVB light, or they don’t replace the basking light enough.

You should replace the basking light around every 6 to 8 months. If you don’t, the light will lose its power and not produce enough light and heat for your turtle. You should also make sure that your basking light is around 6-10 inches from the basing platform.

Stale diet

Another reason your painted turtle isn’t eating is because you are not providing enough variety in their diet. A common mistake I see is that people will only feed their painted turtle commercial pellets. While pellets are great and provide the majority of a painted turtle’s nutritional needs, you should still supplement pellets with other types of food. You can learn more in my article on why is my turtle not eating his pellets.

Younger painted turtles will require more protein in their diet to support their growth, so you should try feeding them insects. Older painted turtles will prefer to eat more vegetables, so you should provide them with leafy greens such as romaine lettuce or kale.

Adding variety to your painted turtle’s diet should help encourage them to eat. If they still refuse to eat, you should try feeding them live feeder fish or insects. In the wild, painted turtle’s are big hunters, so providing them with the stimulation of catch live food can help them start eating again.

You can learn more in my article on painted turtle diets.


Unfortunately, there is also a chance that your painted turtle isn’t eating because they have an illness. Some of the most common illnesses among painted turtles are respiratory infections, diarrhea, and vitamin A deficiencies. Depending on the illness, you might be able to treat it at home by yourself.  

For a respiratory infection, you should get your turtle some antibiotics to help fight off the infection. You should also ensure that their tank water is clean, and that they have a proper basking platform. You can watch my video below to learn more about respiratory infections.

Diarrhea will likely pass on its own, but you might want to reconsider what type of food you give your turtle if diarrhea continues to happen.

Lastly, you can help your turtle require from a vitamin A deficiency by feeding them foods with a lot of vitamin A. These include kale, collard greens, and spinach. You can also buy vitamin A supplements on amazon.

If your turtle’s condition doesn’t improve or gets worse over a couple days, you should take them to a reptile vet. They should be able to diagnose the illness and provide guidance and or medication to help your painted turtle recover.

Old age

Lastly, your turtle might stop eating as it nears the end of its life. Painted turtles typically live to around 20-25 years in captivity if they are kept in good conditions. Even if your turtle is healthy, they might just stop eating toward the end of their life. You can try to introduce them to new types of food, but it might be difficult if your turtle is already 20.


I hope this article gave you some insight into the possible reasons why your painted turtle is not eating. The most important thing is to provide your painted turtle with a balanced diet and a clean, healthy habitat. If you do this, your painted turtle should start eating again in no time.