How Long Can Tortoises Go Without Food? Vacation Tips

How long can tortoises go without food? In general, a healthy adult tortoise is able to survive 3 months (90 days) without food, some up to 6 months to 3 years without food, provided that they have access to drinking water and their other needs are met. The amount of time can increase or decrease based on factors like age, size, species, environment, and prior diet.

how long can tortoises go without food

How Long Can Tortoises Live Without Food?

Answer for the question how long tortoises can live without food? The perfect answer is: The length of time a tortoise can go without nourishment is determined by a variety of factors. The tortoise’s species, size, customary food, overall health, and age all play a role in how long they can go without being fed. Furthermore, some tortoise species can hibernate or brumate, which can greatly reduce their feeding requirements.

On average, a healthy adult tortoise can go for 6 to 3 years without eating if they have access to drinking water and all other basic needs are satisfied.

You may leave your tortoise alone at home for the weekend with no worries. If you’re going away for more than a weekend, keep in mind that while tortoises can survive for lengthy periods of time without feeding, this isn’t usually a healthy thing for them.

Let’s have a look at what happens if you don’t feed your tortoise for a weekend, a week, two weeks, or a month. Then we’ll look at how you may make sure your tortoise has adequate food while you’re gone on vacation.

What Happens If a Tortoise Doesn’t Eat

1. For 1 week

Most common amount of time that tortoises are left alone at home without providing food is 1 week. And, thankfully for them and their owners, if a tortoise does not eat for one weekend, nothing horrible will happen to it.

So if you are planning a weekend trip, taking care of your tortoise isn’t necessary, it will be definitely fine.

In terms of drinking, If the environment is low in humidity, a healthy tortoise can normally live without water for up to one week. Tortoises should not go more than two days without water, as they require fresh drinking water on a regular basis. Tortoises that go without water for more than 48 hours are at danger of major health problems.

2. For 2 weeks

While the difference between one and two weeks without food is considerable for people, it is not for tortoises. Leaving your tortoise without food for two weeks will have no effect if it happens only once or twice, exactly like in the previous case. However, if this happens more frequently, the tortoise’s health would suffer greatly.

3. For 1 month and more

If a tortoise goes without food for a month or longer, the first thing it does is move less to preserve energy. As a result, the immune system will cease to function, and infections will begin to occur.

If a pet tortoise hasn’t eaten in a month, it will either try to flee the cage in search of food or hide from potential predators because it will be frail and unable to defend itself.

The tortoise will also cease growing as a result of these events. The body will reroute vitamins, minerals, and energy that would have been utilized for development in normal circumstances to keep important systems working.

Factors That Determine How Long A Tortoise Can Go Without Food

1. Accessible Sources of Water

Although tortoises can go for extended periods of time without eating, their need for drinking is totally different. If a tortoise can drink clean water and soak without being harmed in any way, they will be able to survive for much longer, even if they are not eating. The worst that can happen to tortoises who don’t have food but have plenty of water is that they will gain weight, which happens all the time in the wild.

If your tortoise is unable to drink or bathe while you are away, they may develop a variety of health problems that may result in permanent damage. Kidney failure, articular gout, and renal system backlog are just a few of the consequences of depriving your tortoise of water for an extended period of time.

If you’re going on vacation and won’t be able to find someone to feed your tortoise, at the very least utilize an automated water dispenser. Fortunately, they’re readily available in pet stores. Furthermore, there are ways to manufacture water dispensers out of inexpensive materials and modify them properly.

2. Accessible Heating and UV

Access to sufficient heating and UV is another item that will help your turtle survive in times when running out of food. If your tortoise is allowed to sunbathe freely and has access to both UVA and UVB, they will be able to survive lean periods with little health difficulties and even develop properly.

Another thing to keep in mind regarding heating is that as the temperature rises, your turtle will become more active. This implies they will exhaust their energy considerably more quickly, necessitating the consumption of food to replenish it. Of course, you wouldn’t want to keep them too cold, since that’s a completely different problem.

Tortoises will certainly lose weight regardless of whether they eat or not, as we’ve previously stated, but the health risks are minimal.

3. Age and Species Depend

Another element to think about is the tortoise’s age. Hatchlings and juveniles are less hardy than adults and may require daily feeding, or at least once every two days. Tortoises under the age of six months will be rapidly developing and will require a lot of food.

Hatchlings and juveniles, on the other hand, can only survive for a few weeks to a month without sustenance. Furthermore, juvenile tortoises that have been denied nourishment for an extended period of time during their formative years may have health problems later in life, such as metabolic bone disease and severe pyramiding.

Tortoises that are older may last longer periods of time without being fed. If you can create a safe environment for your tortoises outside, they can eat the weeds if you are unable to offer them with fresh food from the grocery store.

Some tortoise species enter countries that require them to consume far less food than usual, allowing them to endure for substantially longer periods of time without nourishment. Spur-thighed Tortoises, Russian Tortoises, Hermann’s Tortoises, and Marginated Tortoises are among the species that hibernate in the Mediterranean and Middle East. Tortoises that are native to the United States also hibernate.

Leaving Your Tortoise Home Alone for Long Periods of Time

Let’s look at what you can do to ensure that your tortoise is well-fed while you’re gone on a well-deserved holiday. Depending on how long you want to leave your tortoise alone, you may wish to employ all or some of these techniques.

1. Edible Plants

Adding food plants to the enclosure is one of the easiest things you can do. Because most tortoises are vegetarians, they eat mostly fruits, vegetables, and plants.

There are many options for plants to utilize, and there are very few plants that are harmful to tortoises. The following is a list of common plants that may be found in most stores:

  • Dandelion (Taraxacum officianale)
  • Hawkbits (Leontodon spp.)
  • Sow Thistles (Sonchus spp.)
  • Hawkweeds (Pictis spp.)
  • Hawk Beards (Crepis spp.)
  • Plantains (Plantago spp.)
  • Clovers (Trifolium spp.)
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum)
  • Vetches (Vicina spp.)
  • Trefoils (Lotus spp.)
  • Mallows (Malva spp.)
  • Bindweeds (Calystegia spp.)
  • Ivy-leaved Toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis)
  • Wild clematis
  • Acanthus
  • Nettles
  • Hellebores
  • Hypericum
  • Euphorbias
  • Digitalis
  • Rhododendrons
  • Azaleas
  • Crocus
  • Aloe vera
  • Antirrhinum – flowers & leaves
  • Aubretia – flowers & leaves
  • Bramble – Leaves only.
  • Cactus, opuntia (Prickly pear/Indian fig)
  • Campanula
  • Chickweed
  • Hebe – flowers and occasional leaves
  • Mulberry – leaves
  • Pelargonium – flowers & leaves
  • Petunia – flowers & leaves
  • Rose – petals only
  • Sow thistle – flowers & leaves
  • Strawberry (wild and cultivated) – leaves & flowers
  • Viola/Violet – flowers & leaves

2. Have Somebody Come Over

When most individuals have to leave their tortoise home alone for extended periods of time, this is generally the first option that comes to mind.

The main issue with this strategy is that individuals who do not own a tortoise are unaware of how critical it is to provide the right amount of food rather than merely throwing a handful of pellets into the tank.

When I have someone come over to care for my tortoise, I like to write down exact proportions on a piece of paper, or if I have time, separate the food into little receivers. They will know just how much food to provide this way.


Tortoises may go for days or weeks without eating. In the wild, it’s not uncommon for a tortoise to go for a week or two without eating. While this is bad for their health and will shorten their lives, there will be no immediate consequences.

However, if you leave them without food for more than two weeks on repeated occasions during the year, their health will deteriorate.

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