Why is My Red-Eared Slider not Eating?

Having a turtle as a pet is truly awesome. They’re great companions and, as a matter of fact, don’t necessarily need much attention. However, there are cases when a red-eared slider needs all the attention in the world. Why is my Red-Eared slider not eating? The answer to this question isn’t as simple as you might think. 

There are tens and hundreds of reasons a turtle might stop eating. From bad food to various health conditions, all these factors have an impact on your turtle’s appetite. Now, you need to know all of them in order to improve your turtle’s life. Find out more about the reasons your turtle isn’t eating in the article below. Enjoy! 

Tank Water Temperature

two red eared sliders in a tank

Water temperature is a very important parameter for your turtle’s health. Red-eared Sliders love their water temperature at 60-65 degrees. If the water drops below those numbers, your turtle will not only lose its appetite but also will get some small health issues and won’t be as active as previously. 

The appetite loss is happening below a certain temperature because, as it drops to 50 degrees, your turtle’s metabolism starts to slow down minute by minute. This is why it is important to constantly check your turtle’s environment, especially the temperature. In order to do that, just simply put a floating thermometer in the aquarium and let it there. Just make sure to choose one without mercury, you don’t want your water to be contaminated if your turtle will decide to bite the thermometer down. 

Also remember the fact that, if you live in a country where the temperature is much lower in wintertime, you should be cautious with your turtle. Red-eared sliders really love warm and comfortable environments and, if your room temperature won’t be high enough for them, they will lose their appetite. Make sure you keep the room temperature stable all year around. 

Quality of the Water

The quality of water for turtles, as the quality of air for humans, is essential. A turtle cannot survive in bad water, especially if it’s filled with different kinds of parabens, chemicals, and chlorine. Not only does your turtle permanently drink this water, but it is also in contact with it every single day. Remember about that the next time you try to fill the aquarium with tap water. 

Second of all, turtles are messy beings. If you don’t have a special filter that will get all the impurities away, it is a matter of time for your turtle to get an infection and, as a consequence of that, lose its appetite or even life. 

To avoid such problems, the best thing you can do is to constantly clean your turtle’s tank. Also, it is a good idea to fill your turtle’s tank with spring water. Yes, if you want your turtle to live a happy and long life, buy some high-quality water from your local store. It doesn’t need to be expensive, just clean, fresh water. If you can find water that contains some minerals, it’s perfect.

Last but not least,  get a filter. It won’t cost too much but will drastically improve your turtle’s life. To be honest, it will also improve your life, because, if you have a filter, you won’t be required to change the water every two or three days. 

Also Read: Red Eared Slider Turtle Tank Setup

Tank Lighting

turtle lighting bulb

The absence of full-spectrum lightning can be the reason your turtle isn’t eating. How is that you might ask? It’s actually very simple from a biological point of view. First of all, you need to understand the fact that your red-eared slider is covered by its shell and has a lot of bones. Every single bone needs calcium, especially the shell. Now that you know this, we can begin. 

Full-spectrum lighting is the most important factor that enhances the absorption and further utilization of calcium in your turtle’s body. Without good lighting, the turtle won’t receive any amount of vitamin D3, a component that is vital for the utilization of calcium in the turtle’s body. 

Now, what if a turtle won’t receive the needed amount of calcium? First of all, its muscles, including the heart, won’t be able to work properly. Yes, calcium is not beneficial only for the bones. Calcium is a vital mineral that contributes to all the processes in your turtle’s body. After the muscles, the nerves won’t be the same. You’ll see how the turtle cannot move or swim. The bones will be the last(they have the highest amount of calcium stored) and, if by then you won’t give your turtle a full-spectrum bulb of lightning, it will die. 

Lack of Space

Yes, you heard me right. Lack of space is one of the most common reasons a turtle, especially a red-eared slider, loses its appetite. The lack of space insinuates the inability of your turtle to move and swim freely. That is, with no doubt, a very big problem for you. 

With no space to exercise and burn calories, your turtle will lose its love and interest in food. It won’t be a necessity anymore, as the space doesn’t let the muscles and the body of your turtle properly use all the energy. While it can seem like nothing important, it is very dangerous.

With time, if the space won’t be getting bigger, the turtle will go into starvation and death. The problem is that, while your turtle won’t exercise enough, it will still eat something and will get bigger. However, with a bigger body, it will eat the same amount of calories and, will starve in no time. 

In order to get away from such a problem you just need to buy a big aquarium for your turtle. Especially if you wrote a good diet that includes all the nutrients for a healthy life. It’s obvious that the turtle will want to move around after some delicious shrimp or fruits. Why not give the turtle this opportunity. 

Potential Illnesses

Illnesses are also an important factor that can cause loss of appetite for your turtle. Here are some of the most common illnesses that are encountered in a red-eared slider lifetime. 

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections are very common for home turtles. They are so usually encountered that probably 90% of all the red-eared sliders kept at home had or have this health issue. Respiratory infections are caused by the lack of vitamin A, some infections are that got into the water with other turtles or with food. Even cold water can cause some problems related to the respiratory system. 

If your pet has such an infection, it will most surely lose its appetite and become lethargic. Its nose and mouth will have excess mucus and you may hear some wheezing while the turtle will breathe. Also, it will breathe with an open mouth much more often. 

These kinds of problems can be avoided by giving your turtle enough vitamin A and calcium. Also, remember to keep the water warm enough for your turtle not to catch such an infection. However, there are no precautions if your turtle will get an infection through the water. 

Impaction or Constipation

Constipation is a light problem that can be solved easily. As for humans and other pets, constipation is a health condition that, basically, means your turtle can’t get rid of its own poop. In order to get your turtle to go to the bathroom, you can either get a warm bath and some relaxing herbs or some laxatives. Usually, it is healthier to start with a bath and, if it doesn’t help, go for the medicine. 

Impaction, on the other hand, is a very serious illness that needs immediate veterinarian help. Long story short, impaction occurs when your turtle ate some sand or debris and this material is causing a massive blockage. In order to get rid of such a problem, veterinarians usually operate or give some strong medication to your turtle. If you saw your turtle eating some sand or other hard material, it is better not to take your chances and go to a veterinarian as soon as possible. The faster you get there, the bigger chances are that your turtle will live after that. 

Lack of Vitamin A

Vitamin A is probably, alongside calcium, the most important component in a turtle’s body. Without vitamin A, turtles cannot be as healthy as they should be. Vitamin A is essential for their immune system, respiratory system, eyes and nerves. 

The lack of vitamin A can lead to serious health issues and problems that cannot be solved without medication or even operations. Yes, vitamin A is that important. Usually, turtles get vitamin A from vegetables and fruits. A balanced diet should exclude the possibility of vitamin A deficiency and can lead to the disappearance of the health problems listed above. Here is a list of products that have the highest amount of vitamin A:

If you’ll use these fruits, veggies, and other products in your turtle’s diet, it won’t have any issues with vitamin A deficiency. However, don’t overfeed your turtle with these products, some of them are too nutritious and highly toxic in big amounts. 

Calcium Deficiency 

The best way to get your turtle to eat some calcium is to give it some supplements. Yes, it is possible for your turtle to get the right amount of calcium naturally. However, the products that contain high amounts of calcium are toxic in high amounts. Therefore, in order to get your turtle the right dose of daily calcium, you’ll need to be very careful and cautious. 

Calcium deficiency is a very big problem for your turtle. Starting with its bones and muscles and ending with the heart and nerves, all these systems will simply be destroyed by the lack of calcium in the organism. Therefore, a balanced diet that contains the right supplements and foods can reduce the risk of dying in half. Here is the list of calcium-containing foods: 

  • Soybeans 
  • Leafy vegetables 
  • Spinach 
  • Canned salmon
  • Fish
  • Meat

Remember the fact that spinach, leafy vegetables, meat, and other such products aren’t good for your turtle in high amounts. As a part of a balanced diet, of course, these products will only bring benefits and nothing more. It isn’t, however, a good idea to use these products daily. 

Also read: What Can Turtles Eat From Human Food?

Diet Issues

a turtle eating

The food is very important. The constant lack of variety and nutrients can lead to serious health issues. An unbalanced diet is worse than you can possibly imagine. Here are the things you must avoid when you feed your turtle. 


This is a constant problem for red-eared sliders. Overfeeding leads to obesity and ill health. Also, don’t think that by overfeeding your turtle you provide all the nutrients that it needs. No, there are cases when obese turtles lack calcium, potassium, zinc, and vitamins. It is a common problem because beneficial nutrients are often encountered in low-calorie foods. However, high-calorie foods such as meat, bread, and fruits don’t contain the needed nutrients. 

Also, overfeeding can lead to digestive tract issues. Your turtle’s stomach cannot resist all the food you give your turtle. Don’t believe that your turtle is smart enough to refuse an extra treat just because it has already eaten something. Your turtle is, after all, a wild animal. Its only thought is to survive, your turtle doesn’t understand that you have food for it to eat daily. So, be cautious about how much food you give it. 


The underfeeding problem is often related to the fact that many turtle owners don’t know what foods are good for the diet and what foods simply aren’t. It’s not that the owners don’t feed their turtles, they respect the graph and give the turtle enough calories. The problem is the nutrients. With no vitamins and minerals, your turtle is automatically underfed. 

In order to avoid such problems, you need to calculate the nutrients you give it and if you cannot afford or can’t understand how to build a healthy and well-balanced diet, it is better to compensate for the missing nutrients with supplements. That way you can give your turtle the needed nutrients without getting much into the dieting and all this information. 

You may also like: How Often Should You Feed a Red-Eared Slider?

Bad Diet

A bad diet is basically a diet that doesn’t include the needed nutrients. Vitamins and minerals are essential things that you need to include in your turtle’s diet. You don’t need to count calories, you need to count microelements. Yes, it’s that simple. However, many people cannot build a healthy diet for their turtles due to various reasons. 

The biggest mistake you can make is to forget about the turtle’s diet for a long period of time. Yes, it is true that, if your turtle won’t follow the diet for a day or two, nothing bad will happen. However, if you’ll feed your turtle poor-quality food for a month or two, it will develop some serious health issues that you’ll have to solve by medicating it. 


Most turtles tend to hibernate in the winter season. It is a natural thing for them and, naturally, they don’t eat as much when they are hibernating. However, you need to be cautious during this period of time. Before the winter season, consult your veterinarian and make bloodwork for your turtle. You need to know if there are any issues with its diet or health before hibernation. 

If your turtle’s health is strong and well, there is no problem with it hibernating. Just follow the instruction your veterinarian gave, keep the diet healthy and balanced, and, after a month or so, the hibernation should be over. 


Now you know all the possible things that can cause a lack of appetite for your red-eared slider. The best thing you can do when you observe a loss of appetite is to keep calm and call the veterinarian. The loss of appetite is usually an early symptom that indicates that the health issue can be solved easily. 

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Dorothy Razo

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