How Long Can a Red-Eared Slider Go Without Food?

Are you going for a vacation and planning to leave your red-eared slider turtle behind? Are you worried that the turtle will starve in your absence? Don’t worry about them anymore. I have explained in this article how long your young and adult red-eared sliders can go without food. However, their survival will depend on when you last fed the turtles.

How long a red-eared slider can go without eating also depends on the size of the turtle. For example, baby turtles are more likely to suffer from malnutrition much faster than adult red-eared sliders. On average, adult red-eared sliders will go for even 30 to 60 days without food. However, the younger turtles won’t last a week without eating.

Extreme starvation can even kill your baby or juvenile red-eared turtles. This guide will save your turtle if you are going for a holiday. You will learn when and how often to feed your turtles. I’ve also explained the signs of malnutrition in red-eared slider turtles to help you take action immediately you notice it on your turtles. 

How long can a red-eared slider turtle go without eating?

How Long Can a Red-Eared Slider Go Without Food

The adult red-eared turtles that are well-fed and are in good health can go without eating for about 1-2 months. The slow metabolic rate of turtles can help them to live this long without food. You can give your turtles aquatic plants and some feeder fish before vacationing. 

Here are some factors that determine how long your red-eared slider can live without eating: 

Size and age of the red-eared turtle

How long your red-eared slider should eat depends on their size and age. How old your turtle is, is an essential factor in determining how long it can survive without eating. Adult turtles can live for several months without food. 

However, baby turtles can live for less than one week without food. Therefore, do not leave your baby turtles without food for more than one week because they may become weak and eventually die from starvation. 

Additionally, smaller turtles get hungry much faster than adults. So install a fish feeder in your aquarium to provide food to your baby sliders when you are away. 

The health of the turtle

Check your turtle’s health before leaving them alone for a long time. Ensure your turtle is not suffering from respiratory diseases, shell fractures, or parasites. 

Red-eared sliders with poor health will require constant care since they may not survive for long without food. However, healthy red-eared sliders can live for long without eating. 

But still, you must feed and take care of the turtles correctly. You can bring someone over to care for your turtle when on holiday.

Clean water

Access to clean water is another crucial factor determining how your red-eared sliders can survive without eating. Your turtles use water for swimming, drinking, and digestion of food. Therefore, it can not survive without water.

Lack of water can cause dehydration in your turtle. The signs and symptoms of dehydration include sunken or closed eyes and dimpled corneas. Provide clean water to the red-eared slider to prevent dehydration.

Also, change 20-30% of the old aquarium water before leaving for a vacation.

How often should a red-eared slider eat?

Feed your baby red-eared slider (1-year-old) daily and feed the juveniles 1-2 times daily. Juvenile red-eared turtles are those aged between 1-5 years.

Adult turtles are five years old and above. At this stage, the turtles have a slow metabolic rate. Therefore, feed them 2 to 3 times a week. 

How often you feed your turtle will also depend on their activity level. Is your red-eared slider more active? If yes, then you will have to feed it more often. 

Also, observe your turtles’ weight keenly. You will need to feed it frequently if it is losing some weight. But, if your turtle is gaining some weight, reduce the feeding frequency.

Signs of Malnutrition

Malnutrition in red-eared sliders occurs due to a deficiency of essential vitamins and minerals in their body. Causes of malnutrition include; digestive problems, other diseases, and poor diet. When untreated, malnutrition can cause physical disability or even death to your turtles.

Weight loss, lack of appetite, swollen eyelids, slow growth rate, and soft shell indicate that your turtle suffers from malnutrition.

We will discuss the various signs of malnutrition in red-eared sliders in more detail:

Soft shell

The soft shell in your turtle is a result of metabolic bone diseases. Metabolic bone diseases prevent calcium absorption within your turtle’s blood, leading to soft, bumpy, or weak shell growth. 

Other reasons for soft shells in your turtle are inadequate lightning and a poor diet, like eating food high in proteins and fats. Seek your vet’s advice if you notice any signs of a soft shell on your red-eared slider.

Swollen eyelids

Swollen turtle eyelids may also mean that your turtle is malnourished. It is caused by vitamin A deficiency and bacterial infections.

Feed you turtle fruits that are rich in vitamin A such as apples and bananas. You can also feed the red-eared sliders dark leafy greens to save them from malnutrition. If their eyelids continue swelling, visit your veterinarian for further assessment and treatment. 

Stunted Growth

The deficiency of vitamins and minerals in a red-eared slider’s diet can result in stunt growth. Instead, feed your turtle foods rich in calcium and protein to facilitate healthy development. For example, give your red-eared slider meat, fish, insects, pellets, vegetables, and aquatic plants.

Loss of weight and appetite

Weight loss is the primary sign of malnutrition in red-eared slider turtles. Therefore, constantly monitor your turtle’s weight to notice any discrepancy. If the turtle is losing weight, it could be malnourished.

Lethargy and lack of appetite in turtles also contribute to turtle malnourishment. 

Give your turtle vitamin A supplements to restore their appetite loss. Follow your veterinarian’s prescriptions to know the right amount of vitamin A supplements to give your red-eared sliders.

How long can baby red-eared sliders go without food?

Baby red-eared sliders can go without eating for less than a week. Therefore, their food should contain more protein to fasten their growth. Starving your baby turtles for more than one week may result in respiratory problems and poor eye vision, and they may even die. Instead, feed them insects, vegetables, and pellets.

How to feed your turtle when on holiday

Are you worried about how to feed your turtle while you are away? 

Feed your turtles aquatic plants. Eelgrass, water hyacinth, lilies, and cattail roots are the best aquatic plants to feed your red-eared sliders. 

When leaving for the holiday, place some aquatic plants in the tank for your turtles to eat.

You can also buy feeder fish from pet shops for your turtle. Feeder fish such as bass, crappies, and killifish are usually kept as pets, but they are also a good source of fats and proteins for turtles. However, do not buy feeder fish with too many bones and fats.

Another solution to feeding your turtles when you are on holiday is having someone come over to your place. However, the person may not know when and how to feed the turtle. Therefore, you should instruct them on how to feed your red-eared slider turtles. 

Instruct the person to feed your baby turtles daily and the adult turtles once or twice a week when you are away. But if someone will not look after your turtles, I recommend a fish feeder like the Noodoky USB Charging Automatic Fish Feeder. It is an excellent automatic feeding machine that will ensure your turtles eat even when you are on holiday.  


  • Ramsay, N. F., Ng, P. K. A., O’Riordan, R. M., & Chou, L. M. (2007). The red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) in Asia: a review. Biological invaders in inland waters: Profiles, distribution, and threats, 161-174.

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