How Long Can a Pet Turtle Live Without Food?

Turtles are one of the most adorable reptiles out there, and they make for great pets. Low maintenance and not demanding at all, they make being a pet owner seem so easy. They’ll be your companion for years and will not require your fussing around and nor are they clingy for constant companionship.

However, turtles are also rare pets to have, and so when it comes to finding them from other owners, there isn’t a strong pet turtle support group you can refer to when you have questions to ask about your turtle.

Turtles live long lives; some go on to live 80 years at a stretch. But in order to live a long healthy life, they also need to have a healthy, well-balanced diet. Out in the wild, turtles don’t get the chance to feed often, and so they’re keen to gobble up the food you give them and seem to want more.

One problem all pet owners face, regardless of which pet they own, is what to do with your pet when you have to travel and don’t have anyone to watch over them in your absence. If you’re someone in that position, that’s probably led you to the question, how long can turtles go on without eating food? 

There are a lot of factors to weigh in while answering this question, so we can’t give you a general definitive answer. You’ll be most surprised to find out as you read that wild turtles and your pet turtles have so much in common yet are very different. This sounds like a very confusing statement, so read on to find out what we mean by it.

What do turtles eat?

Perhaps one major requirement your pet turtle has from you is that you take care of their diet. Turtles, both wild and pets, can live over 50 years, but your pet turtle night requires some extra care. This is mainly because they have been domesticated, and their survival instinct might not be as sharp as their wild counterparts.

Diet also plays a very important role when it comes to how long they can survive without eating, and we’ll explain that in a bit. First, you need to make sure you know what you just want constitutes a healthy balanced diet for your turtle.

To start off, commercially available turtle pellets are perhaps the safest food you can offer them; they have all the nutritional requirements that a turtle needs and won’t disintegrate too easily when given to your turtle to eat. These constitute 25% of their diet.

Fruits and vegetables are a part of your turtle’s diet as filler food, but they do hold a great deal of nutritional importance. Make sure you feed them to your turtle properly washed and are fresh. Dark leafy greens are the preferred option in vegetables, and all kinds of melons and berries are safe fruits (to name a few).

Feeder insects and fish are an important part of your turtles’ diet as well. They make up the other 25% of their diet and are an important source of the essential nutrient protein. They also have a well-balanced amount of minerals such as phosphorus and calcium and vitamins such as vitamin A.

Wild Turtles vs. Pet Turtles

Now, this is where the major difference comes into play. Wild turtles have the capability to go for long stretches of time without having had a proper meal. This coping mechanism is known as hibernation and is also called brumation. This is when turtles enter into this state where they use very little of their energy, and their metabolism slows down a great deal, and this happens especially during the long cold winters. Whatever they had eaten prior to their hibernation lasts them throughout the winters. Depending on where they live, winters can stretch up to 6 months at a time. So technically, wild turtles can go 6 months without having eaten food!

However, pet turtles don’t go by that same standard. In fact, they don’t even hibernate! This is because of a few reasons that include:

  • Domesticated turtles don’t need to store up energy or food, considering that their owners constantly feed them. They don’t have to worry about the possibility of not having a food source.
  • The temperature of their environment indoors doesn’t change as drastically as it does outside.
  • Pet turtles are exposed to healthy, UV light rays all the time.

So, in essence, a wild turtle can go up to 6 months without eating, but that formula doesn’t apply to pet turtles because their lifestyle varies differently. Though we hope if you do have to go away for 6 months, you take your turtle with you or leave it in someone’s care!

Pet Turtles:

In order to determine how long your pet turtle can survive without food, the first thing that needs to be considered is how old your turtle is. A healthy adult turtle, who has been well for the duration of his life, will be able to go months without eating and will survive. 

Younger turtles, and to be more specific, baby turtles will not be able to survive that long in comparison. This is because they need food and their protein intake, in particular, more frequently than grownups do in order to develop and grow. Not eating at such a young age will only result in unfortunate results.

Another factor to consider when you plan to leave your turtle alone is their access to clean water. While turtles can do for a long duration without food, they will not be able to survive that long without water. At most, they will manage 12 hours to 24 hours. 


If you plan to leave your turtle for a long time, you can install an automatic food dispenser for your turtle. You will have to make sure to provide easy access to clean water. Good luck!

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