Can You Overfeed a Turtle?

Can You Overfeed a Turtle?

Turtles fight for food in the wild. There is not always plenty of food available to them, which makes them hungry all the time. Turtles are intelligent pets, and their survival instincts help them survive even during the most challenging weather conditions. They can live for months without eating anything.

On the other hand, pet turtles are provided with plenty of food. Think about overfeeding your turtle. Is it possible? Can you overfeed a turtle? If yes, then will it cause any harm to them?

Like every other living animal on earth, turtles also need a proper diet plan for their growth. It is essential to fulfil their nutrition requirements for turtles to lead happy life. In this article, we will discuss how often they should be fed. We will also find out if they can overeat or not.

Related Article: How To Know If Your Turtle Is Happy?

Can you overfeed a turtle?

Yes, it is possible for you to overfeed a turtle. These animals are super greedy, and all they want is food. There are very limited resources in the wild, so they have developed a survival instinct of gorging on as much food as possible. This ensures that they can survive weeks or even months if they don’t get anything to eat.

Turtles always want to eat even if their mouths are full of food. They always beg you for the food, and if you don’t stop, it will lead your turtle to eat more than what is required for their body. 

In captivity, turtles are fed with various foods like pellets, snails, shrimp, fish or worms. Even after getting food regularly, their survival instinct makes them beg you for food even if they are already full.

You should understand that turtles don’t eat all of the food you give them. Instead, they take a bite and drop everything else here and there, making the water dirty. 

Overeating for turtles has a slightly different meaning than what you think. For turtles, anything more than what they need for their body is overeating. They have evolved so that they can eat a tremendous amount of food and still be begging for more. Don’t let them overeat, as it can be life-threatening for them. 

How often to feed a turtle?

Turtles are cold-blooded animals and have a slower metabolism. It takes longer for them to digest food, so you need not worry about feeding your turtle all the time. You should make a schedule for feeding them so they won’t be underfed. For a baby or juvenile turtles, you can give them food every day in small portions. For large size adults, you can feed every alternate day. 

Turtles can stay healthy without eating for days, so feeding them should not be a thing to worry about. To be healthy, their tank enclosure is most important and should be your priority over food. 

For a healthy turtle, you should give them pellets. It has a balanced amount of calcium, protein, and other nutrients essential for turtles. If interested, you can read our detailed guide on how many pellets I should feed my turtle.

How many times a day should I feed my turtle?

Turtles need not be fed every day. The whole calculation of how many times a day a turtle should be fed depends on the number of turtles in the enclosure and their sizes. While feeding baby or juvenile turtles every day is perfect. You can also give them smaller portions 2-3 times a day. Both are perfect as long as your turtles are not fighting and food is being equally distributed among them. Adult turtles can be given food every other day as they have already reached their full size, so their bodies do not require too much nutrition.

Remember, less food is not deadly for turtles, but overeating could be. We will discuss the side effects of overeating for turtles later in this article. 

Will a turtle stop eating when it’s full?

Turtles will stop eating eventually, but after stuffing their stomach a lot more than their capacity. These animals are opportunistic feeders, and they keep on eating unless you stop the supply. You should avoid overfeeding a turtle as it can be dangerous for them on many grounds. 

For a turtle, survival is what matters the most. Their survival instinct makes them eat all the time, and they won’t stop eating even if they are full. Turtles in captivity relate their owner with food, and whenever you come close to them, they will start begging for food. 

It is important for a pet owner to don’t get emotional with their I AM STARVING look. Make a schedule for giving them food. It would help provide them with food in a separate container so they don’t spill leftovers in the tank. This method also ensures that your turtle eats maximum of the food given to them and wastes a lot less than what they do in their tank. 

How to know if your turtle is hungry?

If you are feeding them nutritious food, it is very unlikely for your turtle to be hungry. They have a slow metabolism, so they don’t require too much food. Turtles always beg for food, but it does not signify hunger. 

Some instances that should not be considered as turtle being hungry are as follow:

  1. Turtle approaching glass when you come close to the tank.
  2. Eating too quickly when given food.
  3. Coming to the feeding station even when no food is there.
  4. Fighting with other turtles when food is given.
  5. Eating even when they should be full already.
  6. Eating what they have disgorged or vomited.

The turtle could be considered hungry if:

  1. Turtles have not eaten food for a long time.
  2. Turtle denies food.
  3. Turtle is suffering from nutrition deficiency due to a poor quality diet.

There is no way to tell if your turtle is hungry or not. Turtles don’t have any specific food requirements. As long as you are feeding them nutritious food every day or every alternate day, it would be enough for them not to feel hungry.

What happens if you overfeed a turtle?

Overfeeding a turtle for a long time could result in several fatal diseases, such as

  1. Obesity 
  2. Pyramiding
  3. Kidney/Liver damage
  4. Organ failure
  5. Premature death


Turtles, when kept on eating too much over a long period will lead them to obesity. It makes them slow and less active. It also impacts their internal organs badly.

Obesity could be detected by inspecting your turtle’s leg. Watch them when they retract their legs into their shell. If you notice muscles around their legs rather than wrinkles, then it is evident enough that your turtle is eating too much.

When two or more turtles of the same gender are grown together, it becomes much easier to tell if they are obese. To find out the obese turtle, look at them and check if any of them is bulkier and muscular; this one is the obese turtle.

While this method works fine for same-gender turtles, it is difficult to differentiate when turtles are of the opposite gender. In this case, analysing leg muscle is more promising and reliable for detecting obese turtles.


When turtles eat a lot, they eventually consume more protein than they need. Excess protein causes a metabolic bone disease called shell pyramiding. In this disease, turtles suffer from excessive shell growth, and you can observe shells popping out from some places abnormally.

This uneven shell growth on certain spots puts extreme pressure on the turtle’s internal organ, leading to organ failure or the death of the turtle. Consult a veterinary doctor if your turtle has any such symptoms.

Kidney/Liver Damage

Kidney or liver damage is another common side effect of overeating in turtles. When turtles eat a lot, that means they are consuming more fat.

Turtle’s are not very good at processing fats as their liver can’t handle this much fat. If not treated soon, this condition will lead to hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver disease linked to kidney and liver failure.

Organ failure

Overeating turtles have a higher chance of getting pyramiding. In this condition, the turtle’s abnormal shell growth exerts extreme pressure on internal organs, leading to organ failure.

Premature death

Excess eating is extremely bad for the turtle’s health. The excess fat buildup is associated with kidney and liver damage. Similarly, excess protein intake is linked with shell pyramiding, leading to organ failure or even the turtle’s death.


Turtles are opportunistic feeders. They keep on eating even if their stomachs are full. Food scarcity in the wild evolved them in such a way that they keep on eating so they can be full for months. There are numerous side effects of overfeeding a turtle, such as pyramiding, kidney/liver damage or even death of the turtle.