How Long Can a Yellow Belly Turtle Go Without Eating?

The time has finally arrived. Your tickets are booked, your bags are packed and there’s only 1 more sleep until you head off on a much-needed vacation. As you revel in your excitement, your eyes wander over to the turtle tank and there’s your yellow-bellied turtle sitting on a rock and staring at you intently.

Oh no, you think. How will your little buddy survive without you? Now, I know that as a responsible and loving turtle owner, you will have considered the needs of your little mate long before now but, after all, you’re only going away for a weekend.

At this point, you don’t have to worry because your turtle will survive perfectly well without you feeding it for just a couple of days. But, what about if you’re planning a longer trip? After all, you don’t typically hear of anyone taking their turtle on holiday.

You’ll be happy to know that a yellow-bellied turtle can survive without food for up to 3 months. However, leaving your turtle for anything longer than 1 week without food is not really good for its overall health. And, because these turtles can live for up to 30 or more years, you want to ensure that it’s as healthy as can be.

So, how does going without food affect your turtle? In this article we’ll go over how different lengths of time without food will affect your yellow bellied turtle.

How Long Can Your Yellow-Bellied Turtle Go Without Food?

Just like Red Eared Sliders, Yellow-bellied turtles can survive without food for extended periods of time but the longer your turtle goes without food, the more effect this will have on its health. To understand this better, here’s how going without food will affect your turtle.

A Few Days

If you leave your turtle alone for a weekend every now and then, it’s no great concern. Your little buddy will be absolutely fine and will be happy to see you when you get home.

A Week

If you spend a week away and leave your turtle with no food a couple of times a year, then nothing bad will happen to it. It will be just fine and wait for you to come home again.

However, if your weekly trips away happen quite often, then you should consider providing some alternative food sources for the turtle so that it stays nice and healthy.

This can include adding some aquatic plants or feeder fish to the tank or having a friend or neighbor come and feed your turtle at least once a week while you’re away.

Two Weeks

Once again, if you leave your turtle alone for two weeks without food on only rare occasions, this shouldn’t have any detrimental affects. However, you shouldn’t make a habit of this because it could cause some health concerns for your little mate.

A Month Or More

Although turtles can survive without food for up to 3 months, if your turtle doesn’t have enough sustenance for more than a week, certain problems will start to happen.

Firstly, your turtle will stop moving around so that it can conserve its energy. This will result in a reduced immune system and could expose your turtle to various types of infections.

Secondly, because your turtle is hungry, it will try to escape from the tank in an effort to try and find some food. Or, it might just simply hide because it will feel vulnerable and not able to defend itself.

When it doesn’t receive enough food, your turtle will stop growing. Instead, it will put all its energy into simply maintaining its normal bodily organs.

Therefore, if you’re planning a trip and want to keep your turtle happy and healthy, you should consider some alternatives to ensure that it’s still getting all the food that it needs.

yellow bellied turtle

How Often Should You Feed Yellow-Belly Turtles?

Now that you know how long your turtle can actually survive without food, you might be wondering exactly how often you should feed it to keep it nice and healthy. Actually, this depends entirely on the age of the turtle.

  • Hatchlings. Baby turtles need to be fed twice a day and most of this should consist of protein or meat-type products. Just like baby birds, baby turtles need plenty of protein in their diet so that they can grow quickly.
  • Juveniles. Once your turtle has reached a size of around 4 inches, it can be fed once a day. However, twice a day is still better to keep it growing.
  • Adult turtles. A turtle has reached the adult stage once it’s around 2 years old and measures around 8 inches across the shell. Once your turtle reaches adulthood, you can reduce the feeding to once a day or a few times a week and you should also incorporate plenty of plant matter into its diet.

Can You Overfeed Turtles?

It’s interesting to note that turtles are actually opportunistic feeders. This means that they’ll continue eating as long as there’s food available. So, it’s definitely possible to overfeed your turtle and this should be avoided.

Overfeeding can lead to obesity and fatty liver disease in turtles. Therefore, you should remove any food that remains in the tank after around 15 minutes.

How To Keep Your Yellow-Bellied Turtle Fed If You’re Going Away

Luckily, there are plenty of things that you can do to keep your turtle well-fed if you’re going away on vacation. Depending on how long you’re going to be away, you can consider implementing just some or all of these measures.

After all, you can’t just book your turtle into a kennel or pet resort.

Put Some Aquatic Plants In The Tank

Since about one half of your adult turtle’s diet consists of plant material, adding a couple of aquatic plants to the tank will ensure that your turtle has plenty of greenery to munch on while you’re away.

This is ideal if you’re going to be away for just 1 week or less. Unfortunately, plants will dirty the water of the tank much faster. Therefore, it’s not the best solution if you’re going to be away from home for a longer period.

Add Some Feeder Fish To The Tank

Feeder fish include guppies, bass, killifish, platies and mosquitofish. These are what your turtle would normally eat if it was living in the wild. They’re easy for the turtle to catch and don’t have a lot of bones.

When you purchase your feeder fish from the pet store, make sure that you let the staff know that you’re buying them to feed your turtle. The staff should be able to tell you which fish are best for this.

Unfortunately, like aquatic plant, feeder fish will dirty the water. Therefore, this is also not the best solution if you’re going to be away for a month.

Install An Automatic Food Dispenser

An automatic food dispenser is an excellent solution because it can dispense food to your turtle at a set time and in set amounts. In fact, these dispensers are even useful when you’re not away because it means you don’t have to worry about forgetting to feed your turtle when you’re really busy.

Generally, these food dispensers should be able to hold enough food for around a month before they need to be refilled. Of course, if you’re going to be away for any longer, you’ll need to get someone to come and refill it for you.

Leave Your Turtle With A Friend

If you have a neighbor or a friend who adores your turtle as much as you do or who you can bribe to help you out, then this is the ideal solution. If the tank is small enough, you can simply take it to your friend’s place and have your friend look after your turtle.

However, if you have a large tank, a friend or neighbor might be willing to come and feed your turtle a couple of times a week if you give them a key. This is also a good solution if you have indoor plants that need to be watered as well.

Just be aware that people who don’t own turtles themselves may not know how much food to give it. Therefore, it’s best if you give them exact instructions. Or, better still, write out the quantity and frequency of feeding and leave these instructions in plain sight next to the tank.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should ensure that you’ve purchased enough food to last the entire time that you’re going to be away.