Family vacations are a great time to get away and have fun, but wait…what about your pet turtle? You can’t take him on a plane, and a long car ride is probably not good for him either. How long can turtles go without food and water if you leave them home?
Turtles aren’t like dogs that have to be boarded while you’re away. They’re not like cats who are perfectly content with a giant bowl of water and a massive bowl of food and clean litterboxes. No, a pet turtle requires more conscientious care than bigger pets.
So, How Long Can Turtles Go Without Eating?
Turtles are reptiles, which means they are cold-blooded creatures that need to sit under warm lights or in the sun when the weather allows. They come from the same classification as snakes, but that doesn’t mean that turtles can go several days to weeks without eating.
It might surprise you to know that turtles could, essentially, go three months without eating. Wild turtles don’t eat for three months while in a state of hibernation. However, you don’t have a wild turtle for a pet. Pet turtles should be fed a little more often than three months.
If your family vacation is only a week-long, you could probably put a few crickets in the cage with your turtle, a lettuce leaf, and a piece of your turtle’s favorite soft fruit.
This amount of food addresses the adult turtle’s need for protein three times a week and fresh fruit and vegetables. Because the fruit and lettuce won’t last long, it’s best to put them in the turtle cage before you leave.
If you are concerned about your turtle, you can have a trusted friend or relative check up on your turtle while you are gone. If you can’t stand the thought of leaving your turtle alone for a week, you could hire a pet sitter to check up on the turtle one to three times a week.
The pet sitter (or house sitter) could put fresh veggies and pieces of fruit in the turtle’s cage when it looks like the turtle has eaten everything else.
Choose the Foods Your Turtle Likes Best
Making sure your turtle gets plenty to eat in your absence starts with knowing what foods your turtle likes best. If he avoids eating crickets, don’t put the crickets in the cage.
If you know that your turtle will chow down on meal and wax worms like he’s eating at an all-you-can-eat buffet, make sure those worms are in the cage with him.
Because you can’t be present to monitor his food intake, you have to ensure he’s going to eat what you leave in his cage.
Assuming you have had your turtle for a while before leaving on vacation, you already know what he seems to like and prefers. To maintain a good food intake in your absence, put his favorites in the tank before you go.
If your turtle happens to gobble up everything you leave in the tank before you come home, it’s okay. He’ll be a little bit hungrier when you return. Just leave him plenty of water, as no living thing can survive without an adequate water supply.
How Long Can Turtles Go Without Water?
Turtles can survive much longer without food if they have enough water. Since turtles need water for swimming, keeping their skin smooth, and maintaining a balance within their shells, water in the turtle habitat is an absolute must.
If you find that your heat lamp in the enclosure causes water to evaporate faster, you might want to put a little extra water in the tank before you go.
As for consuming water, turtles do not have salivary glands. Imagine having a very dry mouth all the time and trying to swallow dry, chewed-up balls of food. The food would stick in your throat, and you would probably choke.
Ergo, there should be plenty of water for your turtle to drink. If your turtle drinks from a feeder bottle, fill that bottle to the top before your departure and place the tip almost at ground level in the tank.
If your turtle is fussy (and some turtles are!) and insists on getting water from a dish in the dry areas of his habitat, you can rig a feeder bottle to slowly drip into a receptacle underneath or create a shallow drinking pond in the rock.
Most pet turtles cannot go without water for a couple of weeks. Baby turtles will die without water after a week. If you are leaving after acquiring a baby turtle, leave the baby turtle in someone else’s care with specific instructions on feeding and watering.
How Long Would a Turtle Survive Without Food AND Water?
Pet turtles are accustomed to eating and drinking when the mood strikes them. Suddenly finding themselves without food or water for several days negatively impacts their metabolism.
For some breeds of pet turtles, they might go into a state of light hibernation. For other species of turtles, it could spell death.
It helps to research your particular breed of pet turtle before you decide to leave him with no food or water. It’s also important to understand that tap water is lethal to turtles.
Knowing what kind of water to use in your turtle’s habitat for drinking and swimming is key to your survival in your absence.
Keep in mind that turtles can go a lot longer without food as long as their source of drinking water is good.
They can’t eat or swallow without water, so leaving a lot of food with no or no water isn’t good. Your turtle would probably choke.
No food and water are just as bad as no water and plenty of food because your turtle can’t survive or eat without water.
It’s better to leave your turtle with a lot of water and the bare minimum of food. He will survive on the water when the food runs out.
The Right Kind of Water Is Necessary for Survival
As previously mentioned, tap water kills turtles. It contains chlorine and microscopic bacteria that harm your turtle’s digestive system.
The chlorine directly results from water treatment facilities treating wastewater and sewage and sending it back to homes for consumption.
If your turtle is to survive a week with less food, he needs good water to drink. For you, tap water is fine. For your turtle, he needs dechlorinated water or mineral water. Mineral water can get expensive.
For that reason, find a turtle-safe de-chlorination tablet or liquid to put in your turtle’s bowl or feeder bottle if you give him tap water instead of mineral water.
If you want to mix up a large batch of de-chlorinated water using tap water, put the tap water in a gallon jug with the recommended number of tablets or drops of de-chlorination solution.
What About the Water in the Tank That the Turtle Swims In?
Like kids in a lake, the turtle will gulp water while swimming or right before it comes out of the water.
Considering that this is typically where your turtle “relieves” himself, it’s gross. That is why the tank should be thoroughly cleaned before you leave on vacation.
It is also why the replacement water in the swimming area of the tank is filled with de-chlorinated water.
Not only will the water in your turtle’s bowl be clean and drinkable, but the water he’s likely to gulp while swimming will be clean and safe for drinking.
If the turtle’s swimming and drinking water are cleaned and filled, your turtle should do just fine with the water you leave him.
Another Odd Turtle Question: What About a Tub?
Nothing makes kids laugh harder than putting a turtle in a tub and leaving him with lots of rocks, food, and water. At the same time, it’s tempting to do this just for the length of your vacation because it’s probably more significant than the turtle cage, don’t.
For one, the steady drip of the chlorinated tap water will poison your turtle.
The turtle’s protein sources, namely bugs, can and will escape into other parts of the bathroom and your home.
If your turtle tips onto his back to scale the slippery walls of the bathtub while chasing his food, there’s no one there to flip him back over and prevent his death.
Leaving Your Turtle for Longer Than a Week?
If leaving your turtle buddy for longer than a week, prep the entire tank for cleanliness. Then ask a friend or neighbor to watch over the turtle because anything longer than a week without water and food is too long in a turtle’s life.