How Long Can Turtles Live Without Food?

how long can turtles live without food

Food is essential for both plants and animals to survive. We, as humans, also cannot survive long without food. But do you know turtles can live for days and months without food? Astonishing right? You must wonder how they survive for such a long period without food? Do they have any other alternative to live?

Sometimes, when you go on a holiday trip or go out for work, and you cannot pay attention to your turtle, you must be getting worried about your turtle. Who will give food to my turtle? How would it survive for so long? My turtle must be hungry. These are the random set of questions that must be coming to your mind.

Keep reading the article to know all about how long a turtle can live without food and how to keep your turtle alive and safe even if you are not around to take care of them.

Related Article: Can Turtles Eat Fish Food?

How long can a turtle live without food?

There is no simple answer to this question. If Previously well-fed, the turtles can survive for approximately 160 days without food. They can even live without food for months depending on the factors such as species, availability of water, basking area, availability of proper lights and many more.

The wild turtles usually hibernate during the winter months. While hibernating, their heart rate, body temperature, breathing and metabolic activities slow down. They do this to conserve energy. During this instance, they go without eating. Turtles experience a hibernation-like state of dormancy called brumation to escape the cold. As per scientists, during hibernation, turtles can stay underwater for weeks and months without oxygen and food.

There is no need for the turtles kept as pets to hibernate because they get enough food, lights, water and other nutrients for their body provided by the turtle owner. They only hibernate when the situation is not in their favour, and they do not have an alternative to survive, that is, if they do not get food and other resources.

How long can a box turtle live without food?

An adult box turtle fed well at an early age can go for months without eating food. Adult turtles are sensitive reptiles and require the right temperature, diet and good conditions to keep them active.

The adult box turtles don’t need to be fed every day. You can feed your box turtle three times a week in the morning and afternoon when you find it most proactive.

If your box turtle is healthy and you don’t have enough time to feed it even for a week, it wouldn’t affect them much.

Eastern box turtles require a daytime temperature of around 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees C) with a basking area between 85-88 degrees Fahrenheit. (31 degrees C).

Related Article: Can I Use A Regular Light Bulb For My Turtle?

How long can a red-eared slider turtle live without food?

The red-eared slider can go up to 3 months without food while hibernating. Like most turtles, red-eared slider also requires a basking area, UVB light, heat lamp and water to live for a long time and stay healthy.

The wild red-eared slider can starve itself for 3-4 weeks. However, most of the time, they do not get enough food, due to which they conserve energy by undergoing hibernation.

How long can a turtle live without water?

Water is a crucial factor for turtles. The turtle can survive without food for days and months, but when it comes to water, they can survive without water only for a few days or a week. If the turtle doesn’t get water for an extended period, it gets dehydrated and eventually dies. 

Red-eared sliders are turtles that can survive longer in less than–optimal conditions, including going for a longer period of time without water. It can also survive for a month if there is enough humidity and the turtle is not in brumation. A painted turtle can stay alive for up to a week without water, considering other facts such as humidity and temperature. In hotter climates, their life span without water is even shorter than the above mentioned.

Non Aquatic turtles like box turtles can survive longer without water during brumation. Although they live on land, they require some amount of water to survive. They can live up to a week without water, just like aquatic turtles. Read out our detailed article about: How Long Can Turtles Stay Out Of Water?

Can baby turtles live without food?

Baby turtles less than six months of age require enough proteins, calcium, and other nutrients to grow. Hence, the baby turtle cannot survive longer as compared to adult turtles without food. The baby turtles require better nutrition that they can only get through the food you provide them.

In its early months, the baby turtle doesn’t have hibernating abilities. So extra supervision and care is required for the baby turtle during that time. You need to keep checking your baby turtle’s plate and refill it as the baby turtle requires food regularly.

Water is equally essential for the baby turtle to survive. Even if you provide them with enough food and doesn’t provide them water, the chances of a baby turtle’s survival are less. Like adult turtles, baby turtles also require ample water to survive.

How to make sure your turtle is healthy when you are away?

Now that we have covered everything about how long the turtles can live without food and water, here are the things you should take care of when you are on a holiday trip/ vacation or out of town for your office work and so on.

This certainly depends on how long you are going out. If you are going out for one or two days, then you don’t have to worry much, but if you are planning to go out for a week or so, check for the below steps.

The first thing you have to check is water. You can change the water before leaving and refill the tank with clean water. If the tank is open, there is a possibility of water evaporation, especially in a hot climate. If there is excess water evaporation, the turtle won’t be able to reach the basking area.

If you leave for more than a week, you can ask your neighbour to come over and change or refill the water.

The second thing is food, as we learnt that the turtle could survive without food for days and months, but as a turtle owner, you do not wish your turtle to starve in your absence. You can request your neighbour to give food to your turtle after every two days.

Suppose your neighbour is not available or you are hesitant to ask your neighbour. In that case, you can use an automatic turtle feeder like Turtlematic automatic daily turtle feeder or Eheim turtle feeder readily available on amazon. You can have it release food for your turtle four times per day. But if you are going out for months, you do not have any alternative other than telling your neighbour to refill the turtle feeder every month.

The third thing you have to check is the lights and basking area. Make sure your turtle gets enough UVB light. You can set the light timer for the safety of the turtle.


Although you can leave your turtle alone for a week or so, there is a need to make sure that they are safe and healthy in your absence. Turtles can live without food, but you shouldn’t let them starve. Please make sure they get the food on time. If it’s a baby turtle, it’s not advised to leave them alone without food as they cannot survive long without food. They require proteins regularly and hence need extra care.