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Why Is My Red-Eared Slider Not Eating? Causes & Solutions

Red-eared sliders are popular pets, but sometimes they stop eating for no apparent reason. 

There can be several reasons why a red-eared slider might not be eating. It is important to determine the cause to correct the problem. 

This post will discuss some of the most common reasons why a red-eared slider might not be eating and how you can fix the issue.

Why Is My Red-Eared Slider Not Eating?

A red-eared slider may refuse to eat for a range of reasons:

  • The temperature is too low
  • They’ve gone into brumation
  • They are being overfed
  • They don’t like their diet
  • The water is too low or too dirty
  • They are sick
  • They’re stressed

To get your red-eared slider eating again, you need to figure out the reason why they have stopped eating in the first place. 

Once you have determined the cause, you can take steps to correct the problem and get your red-eared slider back to eating normally.

Related: Red-Eared Slider: Care, Diet, Habitat & More

Red-Eared Slider Not Eating

6 Reasons Why Your Red-Eared Slider Is Not Eating

Healthy red-eared sliders have a good appetite and will eat every one to three days. If your red-eared slider is not eating, it may be due to

  1. Temperature
  2. Brumation
  3. Overfeeding
  4. Diet
  5. Water
  6. Sickness
  7. Stress

A red-eared slider that is not eating can cause a great deal of worry and stress. Use the process of elimination to work through possible causes to locate the problem. 

If you are unsure, do not hesitate to contact a vet who can help you in this process.

Temperature

If the temperature in the tank is too low, your red-eared slider will not want to eat. This is because they are ectotherms (cold-blooded) and rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature.

Without thermoregulation, an ectotherm’s metabolism cannot function correctly making your turtle physically incapable of digesting any food.

The ideal temperature for a red-eared slider tank is between 75 and 85°F. If the temperature in your turtle’s tank is below 75°F, you need to raise it using a basking lamp or heat source. 

You can also use a reptile thermostat to help you maintain the correct temperature in your turtle’s tank.[1]

Basking temperature 85-90°F
Water temperature 75 to 80°F
Night-time temperature 65-70°F
Hours of light 8–10

Brumation

If the temperature is or has recently been below 50°F, your red-eared slider may have gone into brumation. This is a state of semi-hibernation that red-eared sliders (and other reptiles) enter during the winter months.

Your turtle’s metabolism slows down during brumation, and they stop eating altogether. This is perfectly natural and there is no need to worry. Your turtle will begin to eat again once the temperature rises and they come out of brumation.

When Do Red-Eared Sliders Brumate

Overfeeding

If you are overfeeding your red-eared slider, they may stop eating. This is because they become too full to eat any more food.

It is essential to feed your turtle the correct amount of food based on its size and age. A good rule of thumb is to provide them with enough food that they can eat in ten minutes or less. 

If you are unsure how much to feed your turtle, you can consult a vet or reptile specialist. [2]

Related: How Often Should I Feed My Red-Eared Slider?

Diet

The diet of a red-eared slider is mostly omnivores, which means they need to eat meat to stay healthy. They do also eat some vegetables and fruits.

If your turtle’s diet is not varied enough, they can become bored with their food and stop eating altogether. To keep your turtle’s diet interesting, you can offer them various meats, vegetables, and fruits. 

You can also offer them live food, such as 

  • Waxworms
  • Bloodworms
  • Crickets
  • Krill

If your red-eared slider has been on the same diet for a long time, they can be reluctant to try new foods. In this case, you can mix their old food with the new food to encourage them to eat it.

Related:  What Do Red-Eared Sliders Eat?

Red-Eared Slider Diet & Feeding

Water

Another reason your red-eared slider may not be eating is that the water in their tank is too low or too dirty. Red-eared sliders need clean water to stay healthy. If the water in their tank is dirty, they may stop eating to avoid getting sick.[3]

Red-eared sliders (and other aquatic turtles) do not produce saliva to assist in eating. When they eat, they consume water to help swallow food. 

Without enough water in the tank, a red-eared slider won’t be able to eat comfortably and safely.

Related: How Long Can A Red-Eared Slider Be Out Of Water?

How Often Does a Red-Eared Slider Eat

Sickness

If your red-eared slider is sick, it can stop eating altogether. This is because their appetite decreases, and they may not have the energy to eat.

Various illnesses can affect red-eared sliders, so if you think your turtle is sick, it is vital to contact a vet as soon as possible.

Some common illnesses that can cause a red-eared slider to stop eating include respiratory infections, shell rot, and viral infections.

Stress

If your turtle is stressed, it may stop eating. This is because their immune system will be weaker, causing a loss of appetite.

Many things cause stress in red-eared sliders, such as a change in environment, being around other turtles, and not having enough hiding places.

If you think your turtle is stressed, you can try to reduce the amount of stress in their environment. Provide them with more hiding places and ensure that the temperature in their tank is stable.

Red-Eared Slider

What To Do If Your Red-Eared Slider Won’t Eat?

To help your red-eared slider regain its appetite, ensure its environment is correct, and the temperature is appropriate. Keep their diet varied and stress minimal. See a veterinarian if they do not begin eating again.

If your red-eared slider won’t eat, the first thing you should do is check their environment

Make sure that the water in their tank is clean and that the temperature is stable. If the temperature in their tank is too low, raise it to between 75 and 85°F using a basking lamp.

You should also check their diet to make sure that it is varied and interesting. If your turtle is on the same diet for a long time, try mixing their old food with the new food to encourage them to eat. 

If your turtle is not eating enough food, you can try feeding them live food, such as crickets or worms.[4]

If you think your turtle is sick, it is important to contact a vet as soon as possible. As prey species, turtles (and other reptiles) are experts at hiding their illnesses.

Expressing weakness in the wild makes them more vulnerable to being targeted by predators. By the time a red-eared slider shows symptoms of illness, the disease may already be advanced. Seeing a vet as soon as possible is essential.

Why Is My Baby Red-Eared Slider Not Eating?

Healthy baby red-eared sliders have a healthy appetite and eat daily. A baby slider may stop eating if its environment is not appropriate, the temperatures are too low, or they are unwell.

If you have a baby red-eared slider that is not eating, the most likely reason is that the temperature is too low. 

Baby red-eared sliders need a warm environment to digest their food properly. If the temperature is too low, they will stop eating and may even become lethargic. To fix this problem, you will need to raise the temperature of their enclosure.

Another possible reason your baby red-eared slider is not eating is that they are unwell. 

If your baby slider has stopped eating and shows other signs of illness, such as lethargy, runny eyes, or a swollen abdomen. In that case, you should take them to see a reptile veterinarian as soon as possible.

If your baby red-eared slider is healthy but still not eating, it is most likely due to the environment or diet. 

Baby sliders are very sensitive to changes in their environment, and even small changes can cause them stress. If you have recently changed anything in their enclosure, such as the type of substrate or decor, this may be the reason why they have stopped eating. 

Try returning their enclosure to the way it was before and see if this helps.

Similarities Between Painted Turtles and Red-Eared Sliders

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

A healthy adult red-eared slider can go for weeks or months without food. If a pet red-eared slider stops eating for more than a few days without an environmental change, it is usually a sign that something is wrong.

Red-eared sliders can fast for long periods if necessary. 

In the wild, they may not have access to food for months at a time during the winter. This does not mean that it is healthy for them to go without food for a long time.

How Long Can  A Baby Red-Eared Slider Go Without Food?

Baby red-eared sliders can go a few days to a week without food. In captivity, feed them daily to ensure they have the energy for a high metabolism and growth rate.

How Often Should A Red-Eared Slider Eat?

The frequency of feeding for a red-eared slider depends on age. An adult is fed every one to three days. A baby red-eared slider should eat daily for healthy growth and development.

Baby red-eared sliders should be on a diet high in protein to support their rapid growth. A diet of 50% protein and 50% vegetables is ideal. As they get older, reduce protein levels to 30%. 

Final Thoughts

If your red-eared slider is not eating, it is crucial to determine the cause so that you can correct the problem. The most common reasons a red-eared slider might not be eating are temperature, brumation, overfeeding, diet, water, and sickness. 

If you suspect that one of these is the issue, take action to correct the problem. If you are still having trouble, consult a veterinarian for help. With a bit of care and attention, you can get your red-eared slider eating again in no time

About Sophie Herlihy (Zoologist)

Sophie Herlihy, a trained zoologist, is a lover of true misfit animals. With a specialty in insects, birds, and rodents, she helps the Misfit Animals craft factual and valuable informational pieces on various animals.