Why Is My Red-Eared Slider Not Eating?

People who have red-eared slider turtles frequently ask, why is my red-eared slider not eating? When turtles don’t eat, it is a serious concern for their owners. When you bring a red-eared slider home, you feel happy and excited and try to do everything to help your little turtle live a long and healthy life.

But when you notice that your red-eared slider isn’t eating, it can cause a lot of panic. The first course of action should be to find the reason why your red-eared slider isn’t eating. Today we will cover all the possible reasons that could be causing this to happen.

Why Is My Red-Eared Slider Not Eating

Your red-eared slider is not eating because of an environment change, temperature, infection, diet, loss of interest, lighting, health, and overfeeding.

If you are more of a visual learner, you can watch my video below where I explain the main reasons why a red-eared slider stops eating and what you can do to get them to start eating again.

Environment Change

When there is a change in the turtle’s normal environment, they might stop eating. However, you don’t need to worry much when you just bring a red-eared slider home for the first time. Turtles take time to get accustomed to a new home. Once they do that, they’ll start eating again.

You also want to make sure you have the right sized red-eared slider tank.

I also suggest feeding them a variety of different foods to see what they like. Below are the best types of food that I feed my red-eared slider.

Tetra Tetrafauna Pro Turtle Food

    Price: ~$10 Nutrition: High Protein and Vitamin D3

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Aquatic Turtle Medley Food - Freeze Dried Shrimp & Mealworms for Aquatic Turtle

    Price: ~$15 Nutrition: High Protein and Fiber

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Fluker’s Buffet Blend Turtle Food

    Price: ~$8 Nutrition: High Protein and Vitamin A

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If it doesn’t do this, there can be many other factors resulting in a lack of appetite. Lots of other reasons can make red-eared turtles stressed out.

When turtles refuse to eat, stress is the major reason. Below are some more things that could stress out your turtle and result in them not eating.

The Temperature of Their Habitat

Turtles are unable to regulate their body temperature on their own. In order to keep their temperature stable, it is important to have heat lamps that can help warm up your turtle’s body.

If your turtle tank is too cold, it could be very uncomfortable for your turtle and cause them a lot of stress. This is one of the main reasons why turtles will stop eating pellets.

Additionally, metabolism slows down in colder temperatures. Moreover, keeping red-eared sliders in colder temperatures for a prolonged time can stunt their growth.

To learn more, check out my article on what temperature should a turtle tank be.

Respiratory Infection

A respiratory infection can be caused by many reasons. For example, Vitamin A deficiency and the presence of bacteria in the tank can result in respiratory infections. Due to these infections, your turtle will become lethargic and lose appetite. Moreover, you’ll also notice nasal discharge, excess mucus in the mouth, and breathing with an open mouth.

If your turtle is acting strange, you should view my guide on how to tell if a red-eared slider is sick.


Like environment change, red-eared sliders stop eating when they get a different food then what they are used to. So, you’ll have to do experiments to see which food your baby turtle likes the most. If possible, ask the previous owner about the food they fed the red-eared slider. If you got your turtle from the store, I’m sure one of the workers will know the proper diet to give your turtle.

You can try to stimulate their diet by feeding them live feeder fish.

If you have a red-eared slider, you should know how often to feed red eared slider.

Loss of Interest in Food

When you feed the same food each day, they get bored and stop eating. Moreover, they start to lose interest in food. Therefore, you need to provide different foods to keep their interest alive in food. For example, you can provide them with vegetables and fruits in different colors and textures to encourage them to eat again.


Like temperature, lighting in a turtle tank is also crucial. These baby pals almost require 12 hours of a day-night cycle so that they can function normally. When you don’t provide the normal biorhythm, the turtle loses appetite. This can also result in red-eared slider shell rot.

Overall Health

Your turtle might just stop eating because their overall health is declining. If it’s the case, take your baby pal to the vet. When red-eared sliders get sick, keep an eye on the following symptoms:

  • Constipation
  • Loud noises when they breath
  • Shell becomes brittle or changes color
  • Swollen, irritated, and puffy eyes with discharge

There can be many other health issues like Vitamin A and calcium deficiency. A great way to administer Vitamin A and calcium to your turtle is with a turtle carrot soak.


Overfeeding can also be the reason why your red-eared slider stops eating. Remember, the best practice is to feed your turtle only once a day. Then, you can feed the same quantity next time when you’re sure about the eating quantity.

This can also be the reason why your yellow bellied slider is not eating.

What to Do When Red-Eared Slider Refuses to Eat?

Now, you understand almost all the possible reasons why your baby turtle refuses to eat. But when a baby turtle refuses to eat for a long time, it means you need to perform the following actions:

  • When you feed the same food each day, your turtle might refuse to eat. Bring variation in their food and mix their food with live food. You can attract them with the movement. For example, leave live creatures like flies, crickets, and some bugs in their tank.
  • You can feed small live feeder fish as well, but ensure that your turtle is big enough to consume them.
  • Mix their food with commercial food to entice them.
  • When you do feed your red-eared slider, make sure you put the food directly in the water. Turtles need to eat their food in water to help with digestion.

You can get some more ideas in my guide on how do I get my turtle to eat.

If you still can’t encourage your turtle to eat after trying all these changes, it means you need to take your pet to the vet. The vet will check for medical conditions and suggest the treatment and food accordingly.

Final Words

Why is my red-eared slider not eating is a frequently asked question, especially by new pet owners. We have mentioned some of the most important and possible reasons. When you own a turtle for the first time, you might not understand that turtles don’t eat a day or two. But when turtles don’t eat for a few days, it means something is wrong, and you need to look for possible issues.

You can provide a balanced diet, keep variations in diet, and offer optimum temperature and lighting to help encourage your red-eared slider to eat.