New aquatic turtle owners often become panicked when their pet refuses to eat, worrying that something is wrong. However, it is not uncommon for these reptiles to go without food for a few days. In fact, upon reaching adulthood, these creatures typically eat every other day. That being said, a juvenile aquatic turtle will require feeding every day. If your pet is not eating as regularly as it should for its age, there could be a number of causes.
Stress can often cause an aquatic turtle to stop eating. And there is no bigger stress than a new environment. If you have just brought your pet home than it is likely to be feeling stressed, which may be causing it to not eat.
It is also important to note that aquatic turtles do not like to be handled too often. This type of pet is one that should be observed and only handled when absolutely necessary, such as when it is being moved from its tank for cleaning.
An aquatic turtle requires a specific type of environment, one that mimics its natural habitat. You will need to ensure then that the temperature of the aquarium is stable at between 70F and 80F. The turtle will also require a basking area underneath a heat lamp, where temperatures can be as high as 90F. In the evening, a temperature drop is absolutely fine, but you should ensure that the temperature does not drop lower than 60F.
Your aquatic turtle’s water temperature should be between 75F and 85F, but if yours is a juvenile then the recommendation is that the water temperature should not be lower than 80F.
In addition to heat, the aquatic turtle will require UV lighting for between 10 and 12 hours a day. Without proper UVA and UVB light, the turtle will be unable to synthesize vitamins and minerals properly, which could then lead to problems with its shell and make it sick.
If your aquatic turtle is too cold or too hot, it might stop eating. When too cold, an aquatic turtle will try to conserve energy and may become inactive and stop eating as a consequence. If the temperature is too warm, the animal may suffer lethargy, which will also contribute to a loss of appetite.
Some aquatic turtle owners do not fully research the needs of these reptiles before buying them. As such they are ill-informed about what these creatures do and do not eat. Some people are of the opinion that aquatic turtles will only eat live food and will offer nothing but mealworms or crickets. The reality is that aquatic turtles enjoy a varied diet, and it may be the case that your pet has simply gone off the food you have been providing.
For example, did you know that aquatic turtles enjoy eating fresh vegetables and fruit? In addition to live food, your aquatic turtle can be fed chopped or grated fruit and vegetables. You can also offer up raw meat such as chicken and pork or seafood such as prawns. However, any food that you do provide should be chopped into small, bite-sized pieces.
If you have been feeding your aquatic turtle the same food day in, day out, it could be that the creature is the turtle equivalent of being fed up with the same thing every day. Try offering a varied diet to see if you can entice it to eat. You also need to ensure that your turtle is getting sufficient vitamins and minerals. You can buy supplements designed for aquatic turtles from your local pet store or online. Amazon has a good selection here, if you are interested (the link opens in a new tab).
If your aquatic turtle has stopped eating and you can find no obvious reason for it, there is a chance that it has become ill. A loss of appetite is often the first sign of illness in aquatic turtles, but it is likely to be accompanied by other symptoms too. Look for signs of illness around the nose and mouth, such as discharge and bubbling. You might also notice that your turtle appears to have difficulty breathing or has been ‘sneezing’ or wheezing. These signs might indicate a respiratory illness and would require an examination by a vet.
Other illness can also result in a loss of appetite. If your pet has a parasite infection, for example, then it may stop eating. Likewise, constipation could be an issue; if you have not seen any evidence of feces in the tank, there is a risk that your pet is suffering with this.
If you are worried that your aquatic turtle might be ill and has stopped eating, the best course of action is to contact a vet for advice as soon as possible.
Here are a few videos I found that are related to our topic. I hope they prove useful:
- Featured Image (Chinese Pond Turtle): Mark O’Shea – CC BY 3.0
- Spotted Turtle: John J. Mosesso, NBII – public domain
- Stinkpot Turtle: Ontley – CC BY 3.0
- Wood Turtle: Wilfried Berns – CC BY-SA 2.0 DE
- Mississippi Map Turtle: A. Lange – CC BY 3.0
- Western Painted Turtle: Gary M. Stolz/U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – CC BY 3.0
- Eastern Box Turtle: Stephen Friedt – CC BY 3.0