Red Eared Slider Not Eating

Red-eared sliders are usually happy to eat just about anything. In fact, they can show they are hungry most of the time, which is why you are probably very worried your pet has stopped eating or is refusing to eat.

We have listed some of the most common reasons why your red-eared slider is not eating.

Change of Environment

If you have recently just brought your red-eared slider home or you have moved it to a new tank, then it may stop eating for a while. This is due to the stress of being in a completely new environment. This is nothing to worry about and completely normal.

Once your red-eared slider has become used to its new home, it will start eating. This should take a few days, sometimes it can take slightly longer.

Avoid handling your red-eared slider too soon after bringing it home. Always allow it to settle into its new surroundings before you start trying to handle it. This is only going to cause more stress and result in your red-eared slider not eating for longer.

Temperature Of The Habitat 

Red-eared sliders are what are known as ectotherms. Their body temperature is determined by the temperature in the room.

If the temperatures are not correct inside the tank, then your turtle’s body will slow with the cooler temperatures, which can result in a lack of appetite. Cold temperatures slow the metabolism.

It’s not advisable to keep your pet in cold temperatures for too long, as this can cause other health issues, including respiratory infections.

Ideal temperatures for adult red-eared sliders include:

  • Water temperature – 74ºF to 78ºF
  • Daytime air temperature – 75ºF to 80ºF
  • Basking temperature – 90ºF to 95ºF

Use a digital thermometer with waterproof remote probe to accurately monitor and maintain tank temperatures.

Lighting in the Tank

Lighting is as imperative as temperature when it comes to your red-eared slider environment.

Using a digital timer to make it easier for yourself, you want your lights to stay on for 12 hours a day and off for 12 hours to create a day and night cycle to help your pet function normally.

Without a regular day and night cycle, your pet can stop eating.

Respiratory Infection

Respiratory infections can be a result of a number of factors, often a secondary result of a Vitamin A deficiency, but it can also be caused by bacteria in the tank or your pet is left in cold temperatures for too long.

If your pet has a respiratory infection, it will lose its appetite and become lethargic. It will have excess mucus in its mouth, nasal discharge, and may be wheezing and breathing with its mouth open.

Female Gravid or Egg Bound

If you are a new red-eared slider owner, you may not realize that a female will still produce eggs, even without a male.

While the eggs are infertile and will never hatch, an adult female will lay them anyway. When she is carrying her eggs, she is known as gravid.

It’s important to note that your pet cannot reabsorb her eggs, which other reptiles and amphibians are able to do.

If your female has eggs, she must lay them. If she doesn’t lay them, she becomes egg bound, which is egg retention, which can be exceptionally painful for your pet and fatal. It’s not uncommon for gravid or egg-bound females to have a lack in appetite.

Causes of egg binding include not having the ideal place for your pet to lay her eggs. She doesn’t know they won’t hatch, so she will only lay where she is comfortable.

If she is in an overcrowded or small tank, without correct lighting and temperatures, your pet may refuse to lay her eggs. This has also been noted where there are other pets in the home that the red-eared slider considers a threat to her eggs.

Constipation Or Impaction

Constipation in red-eared sliders is the same as in humans and other animals. Your pet is struggling to get rid of its poop.

This can often be solved with a warm water bath with the water slightly warmer than what the turtle is used to. This can encourage the body to expel the poop.

Impaction, on the other hand, is a serious condition and can be fatal. Impaction usually occurs when your pet eats some sand or debris when eating, which causes a blockage.

Impaction usually requires urgent veterinary care to treat your pet and get it back to health.

Related – What does red-eared slider healthy poop look like?

Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A deficiencies are common in red-eared sliders when they don’t have enough Vitamin A in their diets. This can cause disruption to their normal functions and result in a lack of appetite. This often occurs in captive red-eared sliders.

Good sources of Vitamin A rich foods for your pet include winter squash, red peppers, parsnips, and sweet potato. You can add this to their dark leafy greens to create a good balance.

Lack of Calcium

If your red-eared slider has lost its appetite, it is possible it is lacking in calcium.

Using calcium supplements in its diet, adding calcium blocks to the water are just some of the ways you can increase your pet’s calcium levels to help increase health and appetite.

Change in Diet

While your red-eared slider is probably not a picky eater, a change in diet or adding new food to the diet can result in your pet refusing to eat.

If it is the food it has never eaten before, start slow, adding small portions to the food, so your pet can eat it if it likes it.

Offer a variety of foods, identifying those which your pet enjoys.

Loss of Interest in Food

Your red-eared slider’s lack of appetite can have a lot to do with its diet.

Imagine eating the same meal every time food is put in front of you, it could get boring. The same happens to your pet. Feeding the same food repetitively can have your pet losing interest in the food. 

You need to add variety to their diet to get them interested in food again. This can be done by providing a variety of foods in different colors, add vegetables, leafy greens, and some fruits to encourage your pet to eat again.

Other Illness

Irregular red-eared slider behavior, such as lack of appetite, can show that there is another problem, possibly a health issue.

It’s always worthwhile when your pet refuses to eat and you have tried everything to help them, then a visit to the vet may be necessary to identify the cause of the problem.

The sooner you have your pet treated, the sooner it will start eating again and get back to optimum health.

Related – Signs of a sick red-eared slider.


There are so many reasons why your red-eared slider may not be eating. Ensure you provide a well-balanced diet, you keep the tank clean, and you offer optimum heating and lighting to help your pet stay healthy and strong.

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