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

Red-eared slider turtles are fascinating creatures with their beautiful striped markings and that little red stripe on either side of their head. It’s no wonder so many people like to keep them as pets.

But, you might be wondering how long your red-eared slider can actually live without food. Maybe you’re planning your next vacation and you’re uncertain whether you can leave your turtle alone on its own. After all, it’s not realistic to take a turtle on a road trip and pet resorts generally don’t cater for turtles.

Well, here’s some good news. Generally, an adult red-eared slider can survive several months without food (up to 3 months or so). It all depends on its environment. This includes whether the turtle has enough water and whether it has access to a basking area or a heat lamp. Let’s look at these factors in more detail.

Availability Of Clean Water

As red-eared sliders are aquatic animals, water is very important. These turtles require water both for drinking and for swimming in. Plus, it needs to be clean. Therefore, if you have your turtle in a tank or aquarium, you need to ensure that you also have a filtration system that keeps it as clean as possible.

In this case, if your red-eared slider has access to plenty of fresh, clean water, it can survive for a few months without food. However, this does not mean that you should leave it alone for all that time if you want it to remain healthy.

Read More: How long can a Red Eared Slider survive with no water?

Access To A Basking Area, Heat Lamp, And UVB

Red-eared sliders are cold-blooded animals. Therefore, these little guys will usually regulate their body temperature by basking in the sun.

So, if your turtle tank or aquarium has a nice rock for the turtle to bask on and this is heated by a heat lamp and fitted with a UVB lamp to simulate the sun, it has all the necessary tools to help regulate its body temperature. You see, these turtles are poikilothermic which means that they cannot regulate their own body temperature. Set your heat lamp to heat the basking dock to between 90 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

In addition, the water temperature should be just right too. Red-eared sliders prefer a temperature between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

This allows the turtle to swim to cool off and then, come out, sit on the rock under the heat lamp and warm up. If all of this is just right for the health of the turtle, your red-eared slider can go without food for quite some time.

Related: Do turtles need a heat lamp?

Understanding Your Red-Eared Sliders Metabolic Rate

To help you understand this better, let’s delve into your turtle’s metabolic rate. Red-eared sliders are poikilothermic animals. This means that they regulate their body temperature through certain behaviors and environmental conditions.

This is contrary to warm-blooded animals that regulate their body temperatures by using the energy that they derive from the food that they eat.

Therefore, your turtle does not need food to regulate its body temperature. It uses the basking under the heat lamp for this purpose. In addition, red-eared sliders will move slowly when it’s cold but they’ll move faster when it’s warm.

When the turtle moves faster, it uses more oxygen and this then requires more food.

In fact, if your red-eared slider was living in the wild, it would go into hibernation during the winter months. During this time, the turtle wouldn’t eat at all because it doesn’t need to.

What Happens During Hibernation?

When a red-eared slider lives in the wild, it will go into hibernation if the weather and water temperature starts to drop. In turtle speak, this is referred to as brumation.

During this time, the turtle will not move at all and will just hide in a safe spot. This reduces the need for oxygen and lowers the turtle’s pulse rate. You might or might not be surprised to learn that the turtle will not eat while it’s in this state.

Primarily, it’s how these animals have adapted to living in different environments over many centuries.

Related: How long does a Red Eared Slider live?

Age Really Does Matter

Remember that I mentioned in the beginning that adult turtles can go for several months without food. Well, there’s a reason for that. Once a red-eared slider has reached maturity, it relies less on protein-rich food and will prefer a diet of both plant food and a little protein.

Just like Yellow Belly Turtles, baby or juvenile red-eared sliders need a lot more protein to enable them to grow and reach maturity. Turtles younger than 12 months need to be fed every few days and cannot go for an extended period of time without food.

Related: Why is my turtle not growing very much?

Therefore, if you have a young turtle, you can’t leave it unattended for longer than a couple of days.

How Long Can Your Red-Eared Slider Go Without Eating?

Under normal circumstances, when you’re at home, you should observe the following:

  • If your turtle is under 6 months of age, it should be fed every day.
  • If your turtle is under 12 months but over 6 months of age, it should still be fed every day but at minimum, every two days.
  • For adult turtles, you should feed it every 2 to 3 days but include plenty of greens.

Related: Why is my baby turtle not eating anything?

However, if you’ve given your red-eared slider a good feed and then go away for a few days, it will be perfectly fine until you get back.

So, even though red-eared sliders can survive several months without food, it doesn’t mean that you should neglect your responsibilities and leave your pet to fend for itself over an extended period of time. Being a responsible pet owner means making sure that your pet is well looked after even while you’re not there.

Related: Is it safe for my turtle to eat watermelon?