Why won’t my red eared slider eat? Understand common reasons and find solutions

Red eared slider not eating

1. Environmental factors: The environment in which your red-eared slider lives plays a crucial role in its appetite. Turtles require a proper temperature, UVB lighting, and clean water to thrive. Ensure that the tank temperature is optimal, providing a basking spot for your slider to warm up. Additionally, a lack of proper lighting can affect their appetite and overall health.

2. Illness or disease: Just like any other living creature, red-eared sliders can become ill. Respiratory infections, shell infections, parasites, or other health issues can result in loss of appetite. If your turtle’s refusal to eat persists for an extended period, consult a reptile veterinarian to rule out any underlying health problems.

3. Stress or adjustment period: A new environment or significant changes in the turtle’s habitat can cause stress and result in a loss of appetite. Give your red-eared slider some time to adjust to its new surroundings. Avoid handling it excessively and provide a calm and secure environment to minimize stress levels.

4. Inappropriate diet: Red-eared sliders have specific dietary requirements. A diet lacking in variety or not meeting their nutritional needs can lead to a lack of interest in food. It is crucial to offer a balanced diet consisting of commercial turtle pellets, fresh vegetables, and occasional protein sources like fish or insects. Consult a reptile specialist to ensure you are feeding your red-eared slider a suitable diet.

Remember, if your red-eared slider refuses to eat, it is essential to identify the underlying cause and take appropriate measures to resolve the issue. Providing a suitable environment, monitoring their health, minimizing stress, and offering a proper diet are key factors in encouraging your red-eared slider to eat and thrive.

Common Reasons Why Red Eared Sliders Refuse to Eat

Inadequate Water Temperature

One possible reason for a red-eared slider’s loss of appetite is an inadequate water temperature. These turtles are cold-blooded and rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature. If the water is too cold or too hot, it can lead to a decrease in appetite.

Poor Diet and Nutrition

Another common reason for a red-eared slider’s refusal to eat is a poor diet. These turtles require a balanced and varied diet to stay healthy. Feeding them the same food over and over can lead to boredom and loss of appetite.

Ensure that you are providing your red-eared slider with a combination of commercial turtle pellets, fresh vegetables (such as dark leafy greens, carrots, and squash), and occasional protein sources (such as live or frozen insects, fish, or shrimp). Consult a reptile veterinarian or an expert to create a suitable feeding plan for your turtle.

Stress and Change in Environment

Red-eared sliders can also experience stress, which can cause them to lose their appetite. They are sensitive creatures and changes in their environment, such as a new tank setup, relocation, or the presence of other pets, can stress them out.

Try to minimize stress by providing a comfortable and secure habitat. Create hiding spots and provide appropriate lighting and basking areas. Give your turtle time to adjust to any changes and avoid sudden disruptions in their routine.

Health Issues and Infections

Health issues and infections can also lead to a loss of appetite in red-eared sliders. If your turtle is refusing to eat for an extended period or showing other signs of illness (such as lethargy, labored breathing, or shell abnormalities), it is crucial to seek veterinary attention.

Only a reptile veterinarian can properly diagnose and treat any underlying health problems that may be affecting your red-eared slider’s appetite. Providing proper medical care, along with a suitable diet and environment, can help them regain their appetite.

Feeding Schedule and Frequency

The feeding schedule and frequency of your red-eared slider can also impact their appetite. Some turtles may prefer to eat at specific times or have a particular feeding routine. Experiment with different feeding times and frequencies to find what works best for your turtle.

Behavioral and Natural Factors

Monitor your turtle’s behavior and take note of any seasonal or behavioral patterns. If your turtle is otherwise healthy and active, a temporary decrease in appetite may not be a cause for concern. However, if you notice prolonged or severe appetite loss, it is best to consult a veterinarian.

Common Reasons Why Red Eared Sliders Refuse to Eat:
Inadequate water temperature
Poor diet and nutrition
Stress and change in environment
Health issues and infections
Feeding schedule and frequency
Behavioral and natural factors

Inadequate Water Temperature: A Common Reason Why Red-Eared Slider Refuse to Eat

One of the common reasons why red-eared sliders may refuse to eat is inadequate water temperature in their habitat. Red-eared sliders are ectothermic animals, which means that their body temperature is dependent on the temperature of their environment.

Red-eared sliders require a specific range of water temperatures to properly digest their food and maintain their overall health. The ideal water temperature for red-eared sliders is around 75-85°F (24-29°C). If the water temperature falls below or exceeds this range, it can negatively affect their appetite and digestion.

Effects of Low Water Temperature:

Effects of Low Water Temperature:

When the water temperature is too low, red-eared sliders may become lethargic and lose their appetite. Their metabolism slows down, making it difficult for them to digest food properly. Additionally, the cold water may decrease their overall activity level, leading to a decrease in their natural feeding behavior.

Effects of High Water Temperature:

If the water temperature is too high, red-eared sliders may also refuse to eat. High temperatures can stress the turtles and make them feel uncomfortable. They may become sluggish and spend more time basking out of the water, avoiding food. High water temperatures can also increase the risk of bacterial and fungal infections, further affecting their appetite.

It is crucial to monitor the water temperature regularly and ensure it remains within the recommended range. Using a reliable aquarium thermometer can help you maintain the appropriate temperature for your red-eared slider.

By providing your red-eared slider with an adequate and stable water temperature, you can help ensure its overall health and encourage a healthy appetite.

Common Diet and Nutrition Issues in Red Eared Slider Eating Habits

Inadequate Diet

Lack of Calcium and Vitamin D3

Calcium and vitamin D3 are essential for the proper development of a red eared slider’s shell and overall health. Without adequate calcium and vitamin D3, these turtles may develop shell deformities and metabolic bone disease. Ensure your red eared slider’s diet includes calcium-rich foods, such as dark leafy greens, calcium supplements, and exposure to natural sunlight or UVB lamps to promote proper calcium absorption.

Overfeeding or Underfeeding

Another common mistake in red eared slider feeding is overfeeding or underfeeding. Overfeeding can lead to obesity and various health problems, such as fatty liver disease, while underfeeding can result in malnutrition and stunted growth. It is essential to follow a feeding schedule and provide an appropriate amount of food based on your turtle’s age and size. Observe their eating behavior and adjust the amount of food accordingly.

Improper Food Preparation

Improper food preparation can also contribute to a red eared slider’s refusal to eat. Ensure that the food is cut into small, bite-sized pieces that are easy for them to consume. Some turtles may be reluctant to eat if the food is too large or not presented in an appetizing manner. Experiment with different food presentations and sizes to find what your red eared slider prefers.

Stress and Change in Environment: Common Reasons Why Red Eared Sliders Refuse to Eat

There are several factors that can contribute to stress and change in environment for red eared sliders:

1. Tank Location and Set-up

The location of the tank plays a crucial role in the well-being of red eared sliders. If the tank is placed in an area that experiences frequent loud noises or vibrations, such as near a television or washing machine, it can disrupt their eating patterns. Additionally, a poorly set-up tank lacking proper basking spots and hiding places can also cause stress.

2. Water Quality

Red eared sliders are aquatic turtles and require clean and properly maintained water in order to thrive. Water that is dirty or contains high levels of ammonia, nitrites, or nitrates can lead to stress and health issues, which can impact their appetite.

3. Tank Mates

4. Temperature and Lighting

Red eared sliders are ectothermic, which means they rely on the environment to regulate their body temperature. Inadequate temperature and lighting conditions, such as a lack of proper basking spot or incorrect water temperature, can disrupt their metabolism and digestion, resulting in a loss of appetite.

5. Handling and Interaction

Health issues and infections

One of the common reasons why red-eared sliders may not eat is due to health issues and infections. It is essential to monitor the overall health of your turtle to ensure its well-being.

If your red-eared slider is not eating, it could be an indication of an underlying health problem. There are several health issues that may affect their appetite, such as respiratory infections, shell rot, and parasites.

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections are common in red-eared sliders and can cause a loss of appetite. Symptoms of a respiratory infection include lethargy, wheezing, gasping for air, and nasal discharge. If you suspect your turtle has a respiratory infection, it is crucial to seek veterinary care to determine the proper treatment.

Shell Rot

Shell rot is a condition where the turtle’s shell becomes infected and starts to deteriorate. It can be caused by poor water quality, improper diet, or insufficient basking areas. If your red-eared slider has shell rot, it may refuse to eat due to the discomfort or pain it experiences. Treatment for shell rot usually involves improving water quality, providing proper basking areas, and applying topical medications as prescribed by a veterinarian.


Parasites such as worms and protozoa can also affect a red-eared slider’s appetite. These parasites can cause digestive issues and lead to a loss of appetite. If you suspect your turtle has parasites, a fecal examination performed by a veterinarian can help identify and treat the specific parasite causing the problem.

Feeding Schedule and Frequency

Establishing a Feeding Schedule: Red eared sliders should be fed at the same time every day. This helps to create a sense of regularity and consistency for the turtle, making it more likely to eat. Choose a time that works best for your schedule and stick to it.

Signs of Hunger:

  • Increased activity, such as swimming around their enclosure
  • Approaching the food eagerly or showing interest in the food
  • Biting or nibbling at the food, even if they don’t consume it

If your red eared slider is displaying these signs of hunger but still not eating, it is recommended to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any health issues or infections that may be causing the loss of appetite.

Behavioral and Natural Factors

One of the reasons why red-eared sliders may not be eating is due to behavioral and natural factors. These turtles have specific behaviors and instincts that can affect their appetite.


Red-eared sliders have a natural instinct to hibernate during the winter months. During this period, their metabolic rate slows down, and they tend to eat less or not at all. If your red-eared slider is not eating during the winter, it may be because it is preparing to hibernate.

It is essential to provide a suitable hibernation environment for your turtle, including a cozy spot with a lower temperature and reduced lighting. Consult with a reptile veterinarian to ensure you are providing the right conditions for hibernation.

Mating Season

Red-eared sliders have a specific breeding season, during which their behavior can change. Male sliders may lose their appetite and become more focused on finding a mate. Female sliders may also show a decreased appetite during this time.

If your red-eared slider has a decreased appetite during the mating season, it is likely due to its natural instincts. As long as your turtle is otherwise healthy, it should resume its regular eating habits after the mating season is over.