Do Turtles Eat Less In The Winter?

Turtles eating less in winter could be disturbing for a new pet owner. Turtles are cold-blooded animals, and they lose their appetite when it’s cold outside. In the wild, turtles struggle to find food in winter, making them slow down their metabolism for survival.

If your turtle eats less in winter, it could be a sign that they are not feeling comfortable in their habitat. It could be too cold for them to maintain their appetite.

There could be some other reasons as well that we will cover in the latter part of this article. We will also give some suggestions on how you can help your turtle feed in winter. So let’s get started.

Related Article: Why Is My Turtle Not Basking?

Do turtles eat less in the winter?

Being cold-blooded animals, turtles can not regulate their body temperature. They rely on their surroundings to warm up their body and maintain their metabolism. Less availability of sunlight and cold water causes them to lose their appetite in winter. It gets difficult for them to digest food, so they eat less during winter.

Do turtles stop eating in winter?

Yes, it is very common for turtles to stop eating in winter. This process of hibernation is called brumation. Due to scarcity of food and cold, turtles hibernate for months in winter. During this time, turtles slow down their metabolism, cardiac, and heart rate by up to 80%.

Brumation is a normal process for turtles found in the wild. However, there is no reason for a turtle to hibernate in captivity. If your turtle was in the wild previously, it might choose to hibernate in captivity even if you give them plenty of food. Turtles have to be healthy in order to go into hibernation. This process puts too much stress on them, and they have to be in good health to survive without eating for months. Make sure to consult a veterinarian if you want them to allow for hibernation. 

Possible reasons why your turtle is not eating food in winter

As we know, turtles slow down their metabolism in winter, so they eat less. But sometimes there could be other reasons too. If your pet turtle is not eating in winter, then don’t get scared. A turtle can behave this way if:

  1. Turtle is feeling sick
  2. Poor enclosure hygiene
  3. The water temperature is too low
  4. Low quality UV lights
  5. Stress/Scared
  6. Poor diet
  7. Pregnant
  8. Basking Area

Turtle is feeling sick

Turtles are very sensitive animals. They often get affected by sudden changes in temperature. It is more likely for your pet turtle to get sick during winter. Turtles avoid eating and start living alone to defend their sickness. It is quite a normal phenomenon seen in all species of turtles. Their immunity goes to an all-time low during winter, making them more vulnerable to bacterial infections. 

If your turtle suffers from any such disease, they start behaving strangely. Few symptoms of the turtle being infected with any such disease are:

  • Turtle not eating food
  • It sits in one place for very long
  • Turtle is not coming to the basking area
  • Turtle sits too long under the basking light
  • Rotten shell
  • Worms in faeces

These are some signs that your turtle might be sick. In any such situation, consult a veterinary doctor to help your pet.

Poor enclosure hygiene

Turtles are pooping machines. They poop a lot and make their enclosure dirty frequently. However, they don’t like dirty water at all. If you have a tank filled with dirty or cloudy water, it is more likely for your turtle to avoid eating. 

You can maintain tank hygiene by changing the water every week or so. Feeding your turtle in a separate container would also help reduce leftovers in the tank. 

If you don’t want to invest too much time in cleaning turtle tanks every week, then use a powerful water filter suitable for double the capacity of your tank. Most water filters are designed for fish aquariums. Howeber, fishes create much less mess than turtles. Installing more capacity water filters in turtle tanks ensures better cleaning of water. The filter keeps water clean for much longer.

Below are some of the best water filters available in the market:

Image Product Price Purchase Link
ReptoFilter TetraFauna ReptoFilter (50 Gallons) $37.79 Buy on Amazon
Turtle-Filter-Waterfall Aquarium Turtle Filter Waterfall Bio-Filtration for Reptiles (600L/H or 40 Gallons) $23.99 Buy on Amazon
Tetra-filter Tetra Whisper Internal Filter For Aquariums (4/10/30/40 Gallons) $13.59 Buy on Amazon

The water temperature is too low

Turtles are cold-blooded animals, and they can not produce body heat. They rely on external factors like water temperature and sunlight to maintain body temperature. If the tank water temperature is too low, it is more likely for your turtle to stop eating. In the wild, turtles hibernate in winter. They stop eating, and their metabolism goes down. The reason behind turtles behaving like this is less availability of sunlight and food.

They can also choose to hibernate in captivity even if they have plenty of food. You should maintain warmth in their enclosure and provide plenty of food, so they don’t go into hibernation. Tank water temperature anything between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for turtles. This may vary slightly for some species, but overall this would be a decent temperature for turtles to get activated. Maintaining this temperature with plenty of food would help your turtle start eating again.

Low quality UV lights

Turtles need UVA and UVB lights to warm up their bodies and process calcium. Without proper UV lights, the turtle will lose its appetite and eventually fall sick or opt for hibernation during winter. 

Poor quality UV lights should be avoided as they don’t work well. With time, they lose their efficiency to provide UVB, so chances are very high that your turtle will lack the vitamin D3 in its body. 

Vitamin D3 deficiency means less calcium in their body, leading to various diseases, including shell rot. It is crucial to use high-quality UV light in turtle tanks to provide warmth and vitamin D3 to them. To know more about turtle lighting requirements, you can read our article about which light to use for the turtle tank.


Turtles are very sensitive, and touching them too much could result in them being stressed or scared. Another reason turtles can feel unsafe is when they are newly introduced in the tank. They need some time to adjust to the new environment in such a situation. It is very normal for turtles to avoid eating for a few days during this time. However, if they don’t eat even after 3-4 days, you should consider visiting a vet.

Make sure to provide them with sufficiently large tanks to swim and explore. Too many turtles in small tanks also lead them to engage in fights and feel scared. Set up your tank in a peaceful and less noisy place. Turtles are often scared due to loud music and noises. By making these points, your turtle will feel much more comfortable and start eating the food soon.

Poor diet

Even if your turtle is avoiding food after proper water temperature and UV lights, then you should check their diet. Like humans, turtles also get bored with eating the same food. Try including some worms and insects in their diet. Don’t give too many worms, or they will start ignoring pellets. Give them worms or insects as treats. Once they start eating again, switch them to their regular diet. For more information, read our article Do turtles eat worms?


Turtles stop eating or basking when they are pregnant. Winter is a perfect time for them to lay eggs, and so if you see a sudden change in their behavior, it might be pregnant. Find out if your turtle is male or female. If it’s female, then there might be a chance that she is pregnant.

Unfortunately, you can not do anything to start her eating in their pregnancy. Female turtles can get pregnant even if no male turtle is around them. But in that case, their eggs will not get fertilized. Provide your turtle with a proper enclosure with plenty of food, and she will eat if she wants to eat.

Basking area

Basking area is essential for turtles to survive. You should provide your turtle with a basking spot where they can dry up their shell and warm up their body. Basking areas have even more important during winter. If the basking area temperature is too low or too high, turtles won’t come up there, making it hard for them to maintain their metabolism.

During winter, make sure to have a proper basking area set up with a temperature around 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit. This would be fine for most of the turtle species. With good basking, your turtle will start eating within hours.

How to help the turtle get food for winter?

If your turtle is not eating in the winter, you must figure out the problem first. Keep an eye on your pet to notice any behavioral changes. Caring for your turtle in winter is very important; otherwise, they might get ill. 

Below are some steps to help your turtle with eating food in winter:

  1. Check if the water temperature is too low. Make sure to adjust the water temperature as per your turtle species. 
  2. Inspect your turtle if it has some physical illness such as shell rot or fungal infection. 
  3. Set up a proper basking area for your turtle. Make sure it has a balanced temperature of around 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Check your UV bulb if they are working fine. 
  5. Try giving your turtle variety in the diet. You can try live worms as turtles love to hunt them. 
  6. Keep your turtle tank in a quiet space where nobody disturbs them. Turtles get scared by loud music or too much noise, and in that case, they will stop eating.
  7. Check the gender of your turtle. If it is a female, then she might be pregnant. Consult a veterinary doctor to help her. 

Even after doing all these steps, if your turtle is not eating, it could be a sign of underlying health issues. Consult a veterinary doctor, and they might help address the problem.


It is usual for the turtle to eat less in winter. However, if your turtle has stopped eating altogether, then there could be several reasons for it. In the wild, turtles opt for hibernation in winter. They do so to survive the scarcity of food and sunlight. Adjusting water temperature and giving them live food with a good basking area would help them eat in winter.