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Turtles/Red Ear Slider Turtle Won't Eat


I have a 1-2 year old 3 inch diameter red ear slider turtle that I rescued as a baby.  He/she didn't eat very well at first, then, for a few months, grabbed every bite given him/her.  The past few months (after I changed his/her habitat to a larger plastic pail of water), I have not seen him/her eat at all.  His/her growing from the original 1 inch to the 3 inch diameter has stopped, but the turtle has not gotten smaller, however.  Is it normal for this turtle to hibernate and not eat, or should I change food, or what?  I started with a packaged baby turtle food, went to an adult food, then, when wouldn't eat, went back to the baby food he/she ate so well before.  I have the turtle in about 1 inch of water in a 1x2 foot pail, with rocks and a toy turtle for him to get on to dry off.  Is this habitat OK?  Thanks!

Hi Kenneth,

No, the habitat isn't OK; in fact, it's completely inadequate, so it's no surprise that your turtle isn't doing well.  RES require quite a lot of room, along with excellent filtration (it doesn't sound like you have a filter at all), a basking light AND a source of UVB, and a varied diet.  At 3", your turtle should be in a tank that's *at least* 30 gallons--50 would be better.  As an adult, it'll need about a 100 gallon tank (with filter sized for at least twice the capacity of the tank).  An inch of water isn't nearly enough swimming room, either.

The lack of growth is likely due to poor housing conditions and inadequate diet.  They need a variety of fresh foods (animal protein as well as greens) along with a good pelleted diet.  

Here are links that will give you very detailed information on how to set up a tank for your turtle, as well as complete diet.  Pay special attention to the importance of adequate room and water quality.  At this point, you need to make significant changes or your turtle is not likely to survive.


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Questions regarding husbandry of Russian tortoises and other Mediterranean species, sulcata, and redfoot tortoises; general tortoise and turtle care; box turtle care. If I can't answer a specific question, I can provide sources for further research. Disclaimer: My advice is not a substitute for vet care. If I think your tortoise/turtle has a specific medical condition or injury that warrants a vet visit, I'll tell you so, and if possible I'll help you locate a vet. It is neither legal nor ethical for me to provide veterinary advice.


I have kept and bred Russian tortoises for over ten years and have other Mediterranean species plus redfoots and box turtles. I've worked with other tortoise and turtle species while doing volunteer rescue work; mostly sulcata but some leopards, California desert tortoises, yellowfoots, all box turtle species, red-eared sliders, etc. I don't personally keep aquatic species, but have access to a wealth of information and research to help you with any questions you might have.

My knowledge is based on hands-on experience keeping, breeding, and working with tortoises and turtles.

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