How Long Can Turtles Go Without Eating (w. Chart)

Turtles are animals that can be aquatic, semi-aquatic, and terrestrial. However, one thing all turtles have in common is they have to eat. 

While they can sometimes go long periods without eating, they still need a regular water supply to survive.

How Long Can Turtles Live Without Food? 

Turtles can live between 90 to 150 days without food. Turtles that are well-fed can go longer, however, the size of the turtle can also be a factor. Even though they can go without food for many days, they still need a regular water source and a source of light.

In the wild, it is much harder for animals like turtles to survive, because they have to deal with predators, scarce food supplies, and health problems that can severely affect their lifespan.

Most turtles are omnivores, so they need a mix of meat, vegetables, and fruit to survive. Even if they are pet turtles, they need to have a balanced diet. 

How Much Does a Turtle Need to Eat Per Day

The average adult pet turtle should be fed every other day. However, a baby or juvenile turtle should be fed daily until they are old enough and large enough, that they can be put onto an adult feeding schedule. 

In the wild, how much a turtle eats per day will depend on what food sources are available. A wild terrestrial turtle feeds on grubs, snails, grass, fruit, earthworms, and whatever else it can catch. There have even been reports of turtles eating baby alligators! Which is a rare and risky move.

Aquatic turtles in the wild have a diet of mostly fish and how much they eat per day will have more to do with how much of the food source (fish) is available to them in their local area.

How Long Can Turtles Go Without Water

Like most animals, turtles need water to survive. Even terrestrial turtles still need water. A turtle should only be taken out of the water for no more than 30 minutes at a time. They need water to hydrate their bodies. 

Do turtles drink water? Yes, they do. Turtles drink water just like other animals. Because turtles are omnivores, they get some water from the vegetation that they eat. This is why it is important to feed pet turtles leafy greens. 

Some people suggest “feeding” turtles in the water because they drink water as they are eating! Turtles that eat more vegetation can go longer without drinking water than turtles that have a dry diet. Aquatic turtles only eat inside of the water.

feeding-pet-turtle

What Should I Do With My Pet Turtle When I go on Out of Town?

If you plan to go on vacation or out of town for more than 1-2 days, then should arrange for someone to feed your turtle and tend to the water. Turtles should be fed on a regular schedule.

It is not the best idea to leave extra food out while you are gone for a long period of time, because it is bad for some turtles to overeat and overeating can cause health problems. 

The best scenario is to have someone you know come over to take care of them for you while you are out drinking mai tais on the beach!

What is a Turtle’s Favorite Food (w. List)

A turtle’s favorite food will depend on what food sources are available to them. In the wild, they will eat from local food sources. These will be different types of worms, grubs, and vegetation.

In captivity, turtles will get a mixture of leafy greens, and processed foods. It is good for them to get a variety of foods that fits an omnivore diet. Trying out different foods will be the best way to find out what your turtle’s favorite food will be.

Here is a list of favorite foods for turtles:

  • Trout chow
  • Kale 
  • Collard greens
  • Leafy greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Drained sardines
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Turtle pellets
  • Beetles
  • Caterpillars 
  • Mushrooms
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Feeder fish

Turtles need meat and vegetables, so they need to have a good source of food. They are most likely going to like the food sources that are the freshest, such as fruits, greens, and high-quality turtle pellets. Aquatic turtles eat mostly fish products or feeder fish. 

In the wild, they also eat spiders, frogs, snakes, and birds. 

when-to-feed-turtles-chart

Do Turtles Need to Eat Every Single Day?

Juveniles and baby turtles need to eat every day. An adult turtle can go a couple of days without eating, however, they should be fed at least every other day. Some turtle varieties need to be fed differently.

Here is a list of turtle breeds and much they need to be fed:

(Babies are fed 1-2 times per day)Feeding Times for Adults
Snapping turtleEvery other day
Painted turtleOnce every 2-3 days
Red-eared sliderOnce every 2-3 days
Spotted turtleEvery 2-3 days
Eastern box turtleEvery 1-2 days
African sideneck turtle2 times a week
Yellow-bellied sliderEvery 2-3 days
Western painted turtleOnce every 2-3 days
Common musk turtleEvery 1-2 days
Mississippi map turtle4-5 times per week

There are other factors that go into how often you should feed your turtles, such as age and size. Sometimes older turtles need more food and water to sustain themselves than a healthy average-age turtle. 

Other turtles could have specific dietary needs, so always make sure you are following the right diet and feeding schedule.

How Long Can a Painted Turtle Go Without Eating

Some turtle species eat more often than others. Painted turtles can go longer without eating. They should be fed at least once every two to three days. They can go around 1-2 weeks without eating, however, it’s better to feed them regularly. 

Technically turtles can go long periods without eating anything, as long as they have water. However, if you have a pet turtle, it should have a regular feeding schedule and access to water at all times. 

Want to learn more about turtles? Check out What Eats a Turtle

What Can I Feed my Turtle if I Run Out of Turtle Food?

Since turtles are omnivores, there are a number of human foods that they can also eat if they run out of turtle food.

No turtle food? No problem!

Assorted Animals

List of human foods to feed turtles:

Melons, carrots, peas, lettuce, kale, bananas, apples, blueberries, corn, drained sardines, boiled fish (no bones), squash, and other items from your home.

Since turtles have diets similar to humans, you will be able to feed them most fruits and vegetables, as well as small amounts of cooked meats. There are also a few things that you should not feed them

What not to feed your turtle: no dairy, no candy or sweets, no salty foods, and no prepared human foods such as pizza, bbq, hamburgers, hotdogs, and other human-prepared foods with spices and other ingredients that are not good for turtles.

How Long Can a Snapping Turtle Go Without Eating

Snapping turtles, much like most other turtles, can go around 90-150 days without eating. However, like other turtles, they must have a good water source, and cannot go long periods of time without water. 

Snapping turtles should be fed every other day. If you cannot feed them for a couple of days, they will be fine as long as they have access to clean water. 

Found this interesting? Check out How Do Turtles Survive in Winter

How Long Can Baby Turtles Go Without Eating

Baby turtles need to be fed more often than adult turtles. Baby turtles and young turtles are still growing, so they need to eat twice as much as adult turtles.

The going rule is that baby turtles should eat once per day, and some species need to eat 2-3 times per day. A baby turtle can go longer periods without eating, but this would no doubt stunt their growth, and would not be healthy for a young growing turtle.

Love animals as much as we do? Check out some of our favorites.

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Final Thoughts

It’s true that most turtles can go long periods without eating. But this is never a great scenario. Turtles need to be fed quality food, on a regular schedule, for them to remain happy and healthy.

Like most animals, turtles require food and water. If you have trouble keeping plants alive, then a pet turtle may not be for you! However, if you have what it takes to care for an animal, turtles are one of the easiest to pets maintain.

Chad Fox
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