How Long Can Turtles Go Without Eating (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 160 Days

Turtles will survive without food, but not without clean water. It’s the most important factor that determines how long can a turtle live without eating food. Turtles need water for drinking and for swimming. They also use the water for better digestion of the food.

How old is one turtle is another important factor that may influence the time turtles can go without eating. If people have an adult turtle that’s well-fed throughout the year, it can live without a problem for several months. However, it’s not advisable to leave it without food for that long. 

How Long Can Turtles Go Without Eating?

Hibernation is a very low active state of turtles. Turtles generally go into hibernation during the cold months of the year especially if the temperature falls below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. During hibernation, the body of the turtle goes into a low active state with a very slow metabolism rate. As a result, turtles can go months without eating anything.

The turtle owners, typically do not see our pet turtles hibernating. It is because Pet turtles have a constant supply of food all time of the year. So, they don’t need to go into hibernation. The indoor turtle tank setup doesn’t go through a radical temperature change throughout the year. The constant temperature range discourages turtles to go into hibernation and a constant supply of UVB is another reason for pet turtles not going into hibernation.

So, it is true that turtles can live for months without any food. However, that doesn’t mean people can leave your pet turtle unattended without any reason. The pet turtle should always have decent foods constantly for healthy growth. A turtle can live for months without any food. But, when it comes to without any food and water, then it is not that long.

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TurtlesTime
Aquatic60-70 days
Tortoise70-80 days

Why Can Turtles Go Without Eating So Long?

Aquatic turtles, as ectotherms, mainly depend on the temperature in the environment to regulate and control their body temperature. They use external sources of heat to achieve optimal body temperature. Some of the ectotherms live in environments that have fairly constant temperatures, however, most of the aquatic turtles live in environments with lots of temperature fluctuations.

In late autumn, wild turtles begin brumation, a period of time when their physical activities are stopped. In this period, all metabolic activities are minimized in order to preserve energy. 

Like humans, turtles need water for digestion, hydration, metabolism along with several other physiological processes. Without water, a turtle can die within a few months. A turtle enclosure should always have a water feature inside, even if it is a land turtle-like box turtle. Even tortoises need water for their day-to-day life.

As turtles are reptiles, aka cold-blooded animals, they don’t need to use much energy to regulate their internal body temperature as warm-blooded animals, like humans. As a result, turtles don’t need that much energy as we do. Consequently, turtles do not need to eat as frequently as a human does.

In late autumn, wild turtles begin brumation, a period of time when their physical activities are stopped. In this period, all metabolic activities are minimized in order to preserve energy. 

Conclusion

Sometimes people buy turtles without much thinking. Sometimes people forget that at some point they might leave their homes for a short period of time. And when the time comes, they start to get worried about their pet turtles. They want to be sure that everything will be alright, they want their turtle to survive, and most importantly they want their turtle to not have any health issues afterward. 

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They wake up only for water and then return back to sleep. Aquatic turtles can go without eating for several months, until the temperature rises. The reason for getting in brumation is the lack of heat. In controlled environments, such as our homes, turtles rarely get in brumation. Their metabolism is faster, therefore they won’t survive without eating as long as the turtles in the wild. 

References

  1. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0236888
  2. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1447430
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