Understanding Why Is My Softshell Turtle Not Eating?

Are you worried about your softshell turtle’s lack of appetite? Don’t worry, and you are not alone! It can be frustrating and concerning when our pets refuse to eat, especially when we don’t understand why.

Why Is My Softshell Turtle Not Eating
Why Is My Softshell Turtle Not Eating

Your softshell turtle may not eat due to stress, illness, poor water quality, incorrect temperature, or an unsuitable diet. Observe its behavior, review husbandry practices, and consult a veterinarian specializing in reptiles for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

In this blog post, we will delve into the possible reasons behind your softshell turtle’s reluctance to eat and provide solutions to help stimulate its appetite. So please sit back, relax, and let’s dive into the world of softshell turtles and their eating habits!

Common Reasons for Why Is My Softshell Turtle Not Eating?

There are many reasons your softshell turtle may not be eating. Some common reasons include:

  1. Stress or illness
  2. Incorrect temperature
  3. Not being comfortable in its environment
  4. Poor water quality
  5. Filthy water
  6. Congested tank space
  7. Absence of UV light in the tank
  8. Too much or too little food
  9. Unhealthy feeding schedule
  10. A change in diet
  11. An underlying medical condition
  12. Mental stress

Stress or illness

If your softshell turtle isn’t eating, it could be because of stress or illness. Stress can be caused by a change in environment, such as a new tank mate or a move to a new home.

Several things, including infection, injury, or disease, can cause illness. If you suspect your turtle is stressed or ill, take them to the vet for an examination.

Incorrect temperature

If your softshell turtle is not eating, a few possible explanations exist. The most common explanation is that the temperature in their enclosure is incorrect. Softshell turtles are cold-blooded animals, relying on their environment to regulate their body temperature.

If the temperature in their enclosure is too low, they will become lethargic and may stop eating. Turtles sometimes stop eating altogether if the temperature drops below 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you suspect the temperature in your turtle’s enclosure is too low, check the thermometer to confirm. Then, adjust the temperature accordingly using a heater or reptile lamp. If your turtle does not start eating within 24 hours of adjusting the temperature, consult a veterinarian.

Not being comfortable in its environment

If your softshell turtle isn’t eating, it could be because it’s uncomfortable in its environment. Ensure the tank’s temperature is warm enough and that there are plenty of hiding places. Turtles feel safe and secure when they can hide, so a tank with many plants and rocks is ideal. 

Check that the water is well-filtered and no chemicals are present, as these will make your turtle sick. Feeding time should be slow and calm—turn off aquarium lights, music, or other distractions so your pet can focus on eating.

You may need to try different food options before you find one your softshell turtle enjoys. Offer a variety of commercial pellets and live or frozen foods like worms, insect larvae, and shrimp.

Poor water quality

The water in their habitat must be kept clean and debris-free. Otherwise, they will not want to eat. If you have not been keeping up with the maintenance of their habitat, now is the time to start.

Make sure to clean the water daily and remove any accumulated food or waste. You should also change the water completely every week to ensure your turtle gets fresh, clean water.

Filthy water

Turtles are very sensitive to changes in water quality, and even a small amount of dirt or debris can make them sick. A dirty tank can also cause stress, leading to a loss of appetite.

If you think dirty water may be why your turtle isn’t eating, you should first clean its tank. Start by removing all the water and scrubbing the entire inside of the tank with mild soap and warm water.

Be sure to rinse away all traces of soap before adding fresh, clean water. You may also want to consider adding a filter to your turtle’s tank to help keep the water clean and fresh.

Congested tank space

One common reason your softshell turtle may not be eating is that it doesn’t have enough space to move around and stretch its legs. If its tank is too small or crowded, your turtle will become stressed and may stop eating.

There are five ways to tell if your turtle’s tank is too small or congested.

  1. Look at how much space your turtle has to swim and move around. The tank is probably too small if there’s barely any room for it to turn around or stretch its legs.
  2. Check the number of decorations or other items inside the tank. If there are too many items crowded together, it can make it difficult for your turtle to get around comfortably.
  3. Observe your turtle’s behavior. The tank could be too small and congested if it appears anxious or stressed.
  4. Monitor the water quality in the tank. Poor water quality can cause stress, leading to decreased appetite.
  5. Make sure your turtle has enough space for basking. Turtles need room to climb onto something dry and warm to rest out of the water. If there’s no basking area, this could be another reason your turtle isn’t eating.

Absence of UV light in the tank

Without UV light, turtles can become sick, and their appetite can diminish. If you suspect this is the case, try adding a UV light to the tank and see if your turtle’s appetite improves. 

Ideally, you should use a UV light specifically designed for turtles and set it up in the tank for at least 8 hours daily. A timer can help ensure the light goes on/off as needed.

Too much or too little food

One of the most common problems softshell turtle owners face is getting their turtles to eat. A common misconception is that turtles are like other reptiles and will only eat when hungry. The truth is turtles are opportunistic feeders and will eat whenever they can. This can lead to problems if they’re not given enough food or if they’re given too much.

For your ( What Do Softshell Turtles Eat As A Pet? ), read this article, where I explain better.

ALSO READ:  Can You Eat A Softshell Turtle?

Unhealthy feeding schedule

If you’re not careful, it’s easy to overfeed your turtle or give them the wrong types of food. This can lead to obesity, malnutrition, and other health problems.

An unhealthy feeding schedule usually includes one or more of the following:

  • Overfeeding: This is the most common mistake people make when feeding their softshell turtle. It’s important to remember that these turtles are designed to eat small meals throughout the day, not one large meal every few days. Overfeeding your turtle can lead to obesity, which can shorten their lifespan and lead to other health problems.
  • Underfeeding: They can become malnourished if you’re not feeding your turtle enough. Ensure you give them a balanced diet that includes all the nutrients they need.
  • Feeding them the wrong types of food: Softshell turtles are carnivores, so they need a diet high in protein. Avoid giving them fruits and vegetables, as these won’t provide the necessary nutrients. Instead, focus on feeds that contain fish, worms, and other insects.
  • Inconsistent feeding schedule: Make sure you stick to a regular feeding schedule—it’s important for your turtle’s health. Feed them the same types of food and amounts at roughly the same times every day so they can get used to it and their body can adjust accordingly.
  • Feeding too often: While giving your turtle enough food is important, you should also be careful not to feed them too often. Even if they seem hungry, try not to overindulge them, as this can lead to obesity and other health problems.

A change in diet

Perhaps your turtle is bored with its food, or maybe it’s not getting the right nutrients. Either way, a change in diet could be just what your turtle needs.

There are a few things to remember when changing your turtle’s diet.

  • First, turtles are omnivores, so they need plants and animals in their diet.
  • Second, softshell turtles are bottom-feeders, so they prefer foods that sink to the bottom of their tank. Variety is essential to keep your turtle healthy and happy, so don’t be afraid to mix things up occasionally.

With all that in mind, here are a few ideas for changing up your turtle’s diet:

  • Add some new vegetables to the mix, like broccoli or kale.
  • Try giving your turtle live food, like crickets or worms.
  • Switch to a different type of pellet food.
  • Give your turtle occasional treats, like frozen shrimp or freeze-dried insects.

Of course, you should consult a veterinarian before major changes to your turtle’s diet. They can help you determine what kind of food is best for your turtle and ensure you’re providing all the nutrients they need.

An underlying medical condition

If your softshell turtle isn’t eating, it could be due to an underlying medical condition. While there are some potential causes, some of the more common ones include:

Infections: Turtles can develop respiratory, digestive, or urinary infections. Bacteria, viruses, or fungi can cause these. Symptoms can include lethargy, reduced appetite, and weight loss.

Metabolic disorders: Disorders of the Turtle’s metabolism can cause problems with energy production and utilization. This can lead to symptoms such as weight loss and lethargy.

Impaction: Impaction is a common problem in turtles, especially softshells. It occurs when the turtle ingests something it cannot digest or excrete. This can lead to blockages in the intestines and digestive discomfort. Symptoms can include decreased appetite, weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Suppose you suspect that your turtle’s lack of appetite is due to an underlying medical condition. In that case, it’s important to take them to see a veterinarian as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment.

Mental stress

Just like humans, turtles can get stressed out from time to time. When turtles are stressed, they usually won’t have an appetite and will stop eating.

Many things can cause a turtle to become stressed. One of the most common reasons is if they feel threatened or scared. This can happen if they’re in a new environment or if other animals are in their tank that they don’t get along with.

How to Encourage Your Softshell Turtle to Eat?

If you have a softshell turtle that isn’t eating, you can do a few things to encourage it to eat.

  • First, ensure the food you’re offering is appropriate for your turtle. Softshell turtles are carnivorous, so they need a diet high in protein. You can offer them live food, like earthworms or crickets, or frozen food, like krill or shrimp. You can also provide them with commercial turtle pellets.
  • Second, make sure the food is properly sized for your turtle. Carnivorous turtles need food that they can easily catch and eat. If the food is too big, your turtle won’t be able to eat it and may become frustrated.
  • Third, provide hiding places for your turtle in its enclosure. Softshell turtles are shy and reclusive animals, so they feel safer when they have places to hide. Provide rocks, logs, or plants your turtle can use for shelter.
  • Fourth, make sure the water in your turtle’s enclosure is clean and warm enough. Softshell turtles like to bask in the sun, so the water should be around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. A basking spot should also be provided so your turtle can soak up some heat if it gets too cold.

 Following these tips should help get your softshell turtle eating again in no time!

When to Seek Professional Help?

A few critical indicators tell you when to seek professional help for your turtle. If your turtle is not eating and has lost a significant amount of weight, if it is lethargic or has trouble moving, if there is mucus or blood in its stool, or if it has any unusual lumps or swellings, these are all signs that something could be wrong and professional help should be sought.

Remember, turtles are good at hiding illness, so even if your turtle appears healthy on the outside, it’s always best to avoid caution and take them to the vet if you have any concerns.


Softshell turtles are amazing creatures that deserve the best of care. If you’re having trouble understanding why your pet turtle isn’t eating, look at its environment to ensure everything is in order.

Monitor water temperature, check for signs of illness or parasites, and provide a variety of healthy foods to encourage natural feeding behaviors. Keep an eye out for any changes, and remember to consult with a vet if necessary!

With the right care, you can ensure your softshell turtle remains happy and healthy for years!

I hope this article provided you with the information you need and an understanding of why your softshell turtle isn’t eating. If you would like more advice or tips on properly caring for and promoting healthy feeding behavior in your softshell turtle, be sure to consult with a veterinarian or animal specialist.

Taking good care of your pet turtle is essential and rewarding. You now have the knowledge and skills to understand your softshell turtle’s needs better and help them thrive!

My name is Shayan Mondal, and I am a passionate turtle owner and enthusiast who enjoys sharing my knowledge and experience with fellow turtle lovers. As a proud owner of several turtle species, I understand the importance of proper care, habitat setup, and nutrition for these delightful creatures. This website regularly updates the latest insights into turtle health, diet, and conservation efforts.

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