Why Isn’t My Turtle Eating Pellets? (Tips and Solutions)

Has your pet turtle stopped eating their pellets? I’ll help figure out why! Read on to learn more about the possible cause of your turtle’s hunger strike.

There are several reasons why your turtle may have stopped eating their pellets. If they don’t show outward signs of illness, low water and basking spot temperatures may be the culprit. Your turtle may also be stressed or scared. A dirty enclosure may also cause a turtle to stop eating. 

Turtles should be fed a balanced diet consisting of commercial pellets and fresh vegetation. Pellets should be supplemented with fruits, vegetables, and live prey to create nutrient-dense meals. Overall, pellets should make up approximately 25% of your turtle’s diet. 

It’s expected that your turtle will eat almost every day or every few days. However, if your pet has refused to eat its pellets for a couple of weeks, it may be on a hunger strike. No need to start panicking! Read on to figure out some possible causes along with solutions to get your turtle comfortably eating again. 

“Turtles thrive on a varied diet made up of 25% pellets.”

The first thing you should do is take note of your turtle’s overall health. If they are showing signs of illness, take them for a vet visit, as their hunger strike may be health-related. If they seem to be acting normally, their food refusal may be due to suboptimal husbandry or stress. 

Use a thermometer to check the temperature of the water in the enclosure, is it within the optimal range? This varies from species to species but most enjoy a balmy bath of about 72-85 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water temperature dips below this range, your turtle may not be able to properly digest their food. Instinctually, they will stop eating. Raising the temperature of the water will resolve this issue. 

Now that you’ve checked the temperature of the water, it’s time to check the temperature of the basking spot. Is it within range as well? This varies depending on the species of turtle, but it’s usually around 10 degrees warmer than the water. If the temperature is out of range, your turtle may not feel like eating. Add a higher wattage bulb to increase the temperature, if needed. In addition, ensure that a UVB bulb is being used, as they help with digestion. If they do not have access to this valuable source of light, your underwater friend may not want to eat. 

“Don’t panic if your turtle doesn’t eat for a few days- that’s completely normal.”

Turtles are clean creatures who thrive in a pristine enclosure. These neat freaks will refuse to eat if their enclosure is dirty. You must clean their water every week to prevent the buildup of algae and waste products. This can also lead to disease in your turtle, which can further decrease their appetite. Make sure that you are using a strong water filter that can keep up with the waste your turtle produces. 

Some owners feed their turtles in a separate enclosure to provide a pristine dining experience. To do so, fill a separate container with warm water and place the turtle in the enclosure with food and a ledge to rest on. Allow them to digest comfortably for at least 10 minutes in that container to prevent regurgitation. 

When turtles are stressed or scared, they will refrain from eating. Stress causes a turtle to become overwhelmed and forgo eating until they feel safe again. This can happen when turtles are in a loud area with high foot traffic. When a turtle is introduced to a new enclosure or brought home for the first time, an adjustment period occurs where they may need time to explore their environment and feel safe enough to eat. This is due to their fight or flight reflex. When your aquatic pet is heightened because they fear they will be prey, they do not make eating a priority. Eliminating the stressors will help abate this issue. 

Final thoughts

Turtles can be finicky eaters when they are not happy with their homes. Always do a wellness check on your turtle to ensure they are thriving and healthy. Maintain an ideal enclosure by providing water and basking temperatures that stimulate healthy digestion. Ensure a UVB light is used to promote proper digestion. Regularly clean the tank to provide a clean dining opportunity. Finally, keeping your turtle stress-free in a low-traffic area of the home will foster eating. Continue offering your turtle food daily while trying several different interventions to promote eating.