My Red Eared Slider Turtle Won't Eat

My Red Eared Slider Turtle Won’t Eat-Possible Reasons & What to Do

Why my red-eared slider turtle won’t eat?

This question is well known among people that keep or that have kept red-eared slider turtles. 

And it is one of the biggest concerns that new turtle owners have. Consider this scenario. 

You’ve bought a baby red-eared slider. The excitement is real. You are happy and you will do everything it is in your power to make sure that your little pal will live a healthy and long life. But the excitement slowly fades away when you notice that your turtle is refusing to eat. You are starting to worry about your turtle health. 

You start to wonder what’s wrong and what you can do to solve the problem. You are even afraid that the worst might happen. 

Don’t worry! 

I can tell you one thing for sure. If you act fast enough, and if you find out what’s the reason causing your red-eared slider refusing to eat, you won’t have a problem finding a solution. In most cases, it’s something that you can act on. 

In this article, we’ll cover all the possible reasons that may cause your baby turtle to lose appetite. In addition, we’ll talk about what you, as responsible turtle owners, can do to solve this situation. 

Let’s get started. 

Why My Baby Red Eared Slider Turtle Won’t Eat 

There are many reasons why baby turtles may refuse to eat. Some of them are pretty normal, some demand further investigation. For example, many first-time turtle owners don’t realize that it’s pretty normal for turtles to not eat a day or two. 

However, if you notice that your turtle is not eating for more than a few days, you need to look for possible problems. Let’s look at some of the reasons why you red-eared slider turtle stopped eating. 

Change Of Environment 

It’s pretty normal for baby red-eared slider turtles to stop eating if they changed their usual environment. If you just bought your turtle, there is nothing you need to worry about. It’s probably stressed out. Once it gets accustomed to its new home, it will start to eat again. It usually takes just a few days. If that’s not the case, and it takes a longer time, consider other factors causing its lack of appetite. 

Baby red-eared slider turtles can be stressed out because of other reasons, as well. One thing that I’ve noticed is that many people like handling their turtles a lot. Don’t do this! 

I know that you are careful and you think it’s harmless, however, believe me when I say that turtles don’t enjoy it. Especially baby turtles, which will definitely end up being stressed out. 

And stress is one of the main reasons turtles refuse to eat. If you have kids, and they are in charge of taking care of the turtle, educate them on the subject. 

Temperature Of Their Habitat 

Turtles are ectotherms, and their body temperature will depend on the temperature in the room. If you keep your turtle in a colder environment, it may start to lose appetite. 

Colder temperatures slow down turtles metabolism, therefore losing their appetite. It’s not advisable for baby red-eared slider turtles to stay in colder temperatures for a prolonged time. It will stunt their growth. 


Turtles are not picky animals, however, it can be hard sometimes to accustom a baby red-eared slider to a new type of food that’s different from the food it was eating before. If that’s the case, start to experiment. Give them different types of food until they start to like some of them. Later in this article, I’ll explain some strategies to convince your turtle to eat, as well. 

Lighting in the Tank

The lighting in your turtle tank is just as important as the temperature in it. Red-eared slider turtles require approximately 12 hours of a day-night cycle to function normally as they do in their natural habitats. If your turtle doesn’t have a normal biorhythm, it may show signs of losing appetite. 

Overall Health of the Turtle 

If all of the factors that I’ve mentioned in this article are on point, and the baby red-eared slider turtle is still refusing to eat, then it might have some kind of health problems. If that problem occurs, the best advice I can give you is to take it to the vet. 

Some of the symptoms red-eared slider turtles have when they get sick are:

  • Discoloration of their shells 
  • Difficulty of breathing 
  • Swollen, Irritated and infected eyes 
  • Constipation 

Actions To Take If Your Turtle Refuses To Eat 

Now, you know what are the reasons that may cause your baby to refuse to eat. And if your turtle is refusing to eat, it’s time to take action. 

Different types of causes require different forms of action. 

For example, if your turtle is refusing to eat the same food you give it every day, try to entice it with live food. Red-eared slider turtles are attracted to movement and will love to see some live creatures in their tank. Insects such as crickets, flies and some bugs are good choices for a start. 

Smaller live feeder fish are also a great choice if your turtle is big enough to consume them. 

However, you never depend on one source of food. Mix it with regular commercial prepared food. 

What about red-eared slider turtles that refuse to eat pellets?

One trick that I’ve learned and read about, it’s to soak the pellets in canned tuna water. The smell from the tuna will attract your turtle, resulting in eating the pellets. Pretty awesome, isn’t it? 

As we mentioned earlier, the temperature and the lighting in the turtle tank are very important.

Never leave your baby red eared sliders in a cold environment for a prolonged period. For adult turtles, that are fully developed, it won’t cause any significant problems. 

On the contrary, baby turtles will stop eating and will postpone their growth. Frequent feedings in their early stages are crucial for them to grow up and become a healthy and fully functional adult red-eared slider. Always keep the temperature between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Final Thoughts 

As you have seen, there are lots of reasons that may cause your baby red-eared slider to not eat. However, the good part is that you can prevent many of them. 

You should provide your turtle with the best possible conditions for living. If everything is done as it should be, the baby turtle will start to eat sooner than later. If that’s not happening, if it still refuses to eat after all you’ve done, and it shows some early signs of illness, take it to a veterinarian. 

I hope you enjoy reading this article. Turtles can survive without food for a surprising period of time, however, we are not going to test it out. 

Because we are responsible turtle owners. 

Until next time, see you!

18 thoughts on “My Red Eared Slider Turtle Won’t Eat-Possible Reasons & What to Do”

  1. Ricardo Lizarraga

    Hi I have recently just got a new baby red eared slider turtle for like 5 days now. He’s refusing to eat. He has a heater and a lamp and most of the time he just hides under his rock where he gets his sunlight. I would drop the food right in front of him and he wouldn’t even touch it. I tried pellets and worms and a sort of fruit.

    1. Did the turtle was active in the place you’ve bought it? Unfortunately, baby turtles are fragile, and not every turtle survives the first year. Monitor the turtle every few hours. Make sure that the temperature in the tank is stable and warm enough ( 80 F, 27 C). Make sure that the water is always clean. Live food is great if you want to increase your turtle appetite. I hope your turtle start eating, and everything will be ok

  2. My ( adult? ) red eared slider turtle hasn’t been eating for over a month now. I tried live fish, meat, some vegetables and fruits, and turtle food pellets. She only ate some of the fish that died and that’s it. She also doesn’t seem to like to stay in that tank, so I usually have her stay in an area to play in, but constantly tries to escape. The area is pretty big for her.

    1. Change the water in the tank, make sure it is warm enough, and try to feed your turtle with different type of food. I hope everything is ok and your turtle will start to eat again.

    2. Hi , im having the same issue with my turtle . I was wondering what you did to resolve it . It’s really stressing me out , i just want her to go back to normal.

  3. My baby red-eared sliders aren’t eating the pellets I’ve been giving them and so far one of them only ate one and went away. The other one has a swollen eye but I don’t have access to other foods or the required medicine! Help!

    1. The reason why your turtles have swollen eyes and refusing to eat is probably because of poor water quality. Make sure that the water is always pristine, and warm enough if you want to raise healthy turtles

  4. I’ve have 6 sliders. 4 are 16 years old (well I’ve had them 16 years) the other 2 I’ve had for 8 months. One for the last 4 weeks will not eat. I’ve tried everything. It’s sibling is fine,eating,growing. Just the little one won’t. He seems to get frightened when swimming some times and then gasps for air. They have lighting,heating,everything you can think of. I’m trying my best for this little man,but nothing seems to be working. I have never had this problem and as you can see,I’m not a new owner! I just wish I could get this little fellow to eat again 🙁

    1. Clearly, you have the experience, and you’ve done everything it needs to be done. Unfortunately, some things are out of our control and we can’t help our turtles no matter what we do. I hope your turtle will start to eat and everything will be ok

    2. I m new owner of 2 little baby red sliders, it’s been 13 days they haven’t eat anything, i bought everything they need lights, heat different type turtle food . All the time they are sleeping. I m really worried about them now

      1. How old are they? Mine were very young,you could still see the mark under their shell that had been attached to the egg. They don’t eat a lot when they are very young. My post is old now. Sadly my small one died 🙁 I tried everything,but nothing I did helped her (I called her a girl) she got worse,was like she couldn’t swim,breathing problems,infections in her eyes. Her brother (I call him the lad) is still absolutely fine,growing fantastic. Maybe try other food. Make sure that is small enough for them.

  5. My turtle has RI & we brought him to vet. He was given 7 days of antibiotics (injections) and starts to eat on Day 8. But then it stop eating again & always resting. We bought him back to the vet & this time he was given another jab of multivitamin. Still refusing to eat & move. I tried everything I can – change the water every 2 days, keep the temperature at around 85-86 F, put a drop of vitamin in the water whenever I change the water & make him exercise by removing the basking dock.

  6. Hello, I have a baby red ear slider for 2 month, my turtle is very active but I noticed it does not eat. Unfortunately so, my parent won’t allow live animals to try to feed the turtle nor a heater (we live in a area where it stays a moderate temperature or my turtle will go to sleep) so I’ve mainly made a diet comprised of pellets and vegetables? It looks healthy to me and is very active while I take it out to bask in the sun. What’s the problem and what can I do?

  7. Hello
    I got my baby turtle a week ago, and she doesn’t eat nothing, and she becomes more sleepy than a couple days ago, and always basking… I tried a different food, 2 types of pellets, dried shrimps, feeder fishes, live mealworms, vegetables, and nothing didn’t works…the only thing I saw, that sometimes she go to drink water and swim a little, but since I put a fish in tank she stop swimming too…the water temperature is always around 77-78 , backing area around 85, water clean and using filtered water…please help me…I started to worry about her health…because I also noticed that she started to touch her eyes, but they doesn’t seems like inflamed, but I got a drops and use it daily, but after that she right away going to water and starting to wash her eyes 🤷🏻‍♀️

  8. Ijaaza EL-Nuwaubun

    My two baby red eared turtles I had for 6 months. Male & female. Both are very active. Except last week the male was inactive and unresponsive. I put him in a different Tank For 2 days But he did not survive. I believe he may have choked on his dried food. I could not recognize the problem.

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