The Turtle Lover's Utopia

Advice Column: Red-Eared Slider is not eating…why?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I said I would be starting an advice column on the first and third Friday of every month. Now, I know your thinking I’m stupid, because here it is a Monday and I’m getting ready to post my first advice question.

Well, as it goes, I decided that Friday’s were just too busy for me and have changed the date to Monday’s. I have an irregular work week and Monday’s happen to be a day off for me, so this works quite well.

After my announcement, two girls logged into the Georgia Public Library System thought they would be funny by sending me questions regarding how to make turtle soup and how to get rid of turtles with suggestions of shoving them up one’s butt. Don’t hold your breathe on my answering those questions, ladies. 😉

That aside, here is the first question of the first column. Woohoo!

From Geannine

I have a red eared slider, approx. 10 years old.  She has stopped eating.  No matter what we try, pelletes for aquatic turtles or lean meat, even small fish. she refuses to eat.  I’ve also noticed some small soft brown spots on her shell.  Can you help?


If you still have your turtle and she hasn’t improved, I would recommend you take her to a veterinarian who is trained in reptiles immediately. While the lack of eating can be due to many things, the brown spots sound like the onset of shell rot. Shell rot is caused by organisms that penetrate the shell through scratches or abrasions. Once in, they start to eat away at the shell and eventually at the body of the turtle, leading to serious infections and potentially death.

As for the lack of eating, that maybe be related to the potential shell rot. Again, here it would also be good for you to get a fecal sample and have a veterinarian analyze it.

The easiest way to get a fecal sample is to put your turtle in a plastic container with breathing holes and a centimeter of water over night. If your turtle likes to roam, make sure you put a lid on the container otherwise you might be in for a game of turtle hide and seek in the morning. In the morning, you should have a fresh fecal sample to take to your veterinarian. (Fecal samples should not be older than 4 hours. You will want to keep them refrigerated as well.)

Now, to answer the actual question, here are several reasons your turtle might not be eating:

  • Need a change in food (shrimp is always good for getting them out of their rut)
  • What season is it? Turtles will generally get more lethargic when it’s time to hibernate. (Think winter for your region, just like all other creatures that hibernate.)
  • Is the water warm enough? If it’s too cold, their body might get confused and think it’s time for hibernation. They can stop eating if they’re too cold.
  • Is your turtle stressed? They experience stress just like humans, so if they’ve been traveling recently, get handled a lot, or have just gotten a new friend in their tank, they might be stressed. Give them some time and peace…they should be back to normal soon enough.
  • Is your turtle sick? Lop-sided swimming, nasal discharge or raspy breathing could mean you need to take a visit to a veterinarian for some antibiotics.

If eating doesn’t happen in two weeks and you think you’ve done everything right, definitely take them to a veterinarian. Something else might be going on that you can’t see.

2 Responses to “Advice Column: Red-Eared Slider is not eating…why?”

  1. vatsal said on July 2nd, 2008 at 9:48 pm:

    thank you i dint know about turtel’s hybernation this site is awsom wow

  2. Greg said on July 24th, 2010 at 8:03 pm:

    My red eared slider (4 years old) is not eating right now, it is active as usual, only thing is that it has stopped eating since last week; i still keep feeding it but it doesn’t touch the food :(
    i was giving it meat before, but now it won’t even look at it.
    even though it is winter, it does have a heater close by and a uvb lamp; so the water temperature is ok.
    It’s shedding it’s scutes, might that have an impact?
    is there anything i can do? thanks in advance!