What to do if Your Tortoise Isn't Eating or Drinking Properly

What to do if Your Tortoise Isn’t Eating or Drinking Properly

Tortoises are such great pets to own; they all have their own little characteristics. But one thing there not is great communicators when there is a problem. Getting to know our pets is vital to spot when they are not eating or drinking properly. When a dog has a problem, it will whimper at us to indicate a problem, and it’s easy to investigate. With pet tortoises, we have to be a little more on the ball to know when they are not feeling great.

Getting to know your tortoise will allow you to spot when they are not eating or drinking properly. If you spot a change in your tortoise behavior, it’s time to make changes. There environment and food are usually the required changes that will be needed.

As a tortoise owner, that’s the quick and basic answer to the question of what to do when your tortoise’s behavior is off. If you are new or old to a tortoise, there are things you may not have seen; below, I offer some of the more common problems and their solutions.

What is Normal When it Comes to Eating and Drinking?

To find your tortoise normal for eating and drinking habits, I recommend following what I like to call the greedy test. It is a tried and tested method that I was told about when I first purchased my tortoise. There is no official name for it, but the greedy test is my name for it.

Provide your tortoise with a large amount of food too much for him/her to entirely eat. After around 20 to 30 minutes, estimate how much they have eaten. You will now have a better idea of how much food your tortoise requires. Allowing you to perfectly tailor the amount of food your tortoise requires each day.

With this knowledge, you will better understand when your tortoise is feeling off when they struggle to eat their daily food.

Drinking is a whole different food issue and much harder to tell when your tortoise is not drinking correctly. Spraying your tortoise’s food with a little water each day or leafy greens full of water light iceberg lettuce should keep their water intake correct.

Also, bathing your tortoise at least once weekly in a shallow pool of water will allow your tortoise to take on water. Your tortoise will take water in through the cloaca, and the mouth, so don’t be overly worried if you don’t see when drinking.

Tortoise poop will give you more clues on their water intake problems. We have a full guide on what your tortoise poop is telling you about your tortoise’s health.

You Know Your Own Tortoise Best

If you have a veterinarian like mine, she will say, “you know your tortoise best.” this can be a little frustrating for some, but your veterinarian is correct. Every tortoise breed is a bit different, and every tortoise has there own habits that make them a little different from the next.

Getting advice from someone else can throw you off the scent and stop you from quickly finding the real problem. Your tortoise could be a different species to your tortoise and a different age. These are significant factors with tortoises and need to be considered.

So, get to know your tortoise early on, and you will have a much better idea when things are off with them. The greedy feeding method is an excellent method to dial down on your tortoise eating habits, which can also be carried out with older tortoises.

Why is my Tortoise Not Eating or Not Eating Enough?

So the above should have helped you put in practices to discover when your tortoise actually off their food. So, once you know you have a problem with your tortoise, it is time to start to take some action. We need to discover why they are off their food and take action to put them right. If we cant get our tortoise back on their food, you will need to visit a veterinarian. A tortoise who is not eating will die of malnutrition and discover the real problem behind the lack of eating.

Your tortoise being off their food normal commonly stems from one of the following:


If your tortoise is just coming out of hibernation, they can often be of their food and have little interest in eating. Tortoise will slowly start eating once they have had a drink and become hydrated.

It is usual for a tortoise to be dehydrated after hibernation and a little of their food. But we don’t want our tortoises not to be eating for too long. Giving your tortoise a soak should help rekindle its appetite. Offering them some treats like a strawberry should encourage them to start eating much sooner but don’t overdo the treats.


Something you may not have heard of is stomatitis that is a condition related to hibernation. It is one primary reason tortoises fail to eat after hibernation. The infection happens in the mouth. You will see pale yellow deposits in the mouth if your tortoise has Stomatitis.

If you spot the pale yellow deposits in your tortoise’s mouth, quickly visit your veterinarian as it can spread into the throat and become much more severe.

Incorrect lighting

If you have just got your tortoise, you could have set up their enclosure wrong. Learning how to arrange the lighting in your tortoise table or vivarium will help you keep your tortoise much happier.

If your tortoise lighting is not set up correctly, tortoises may not be getting all their vitamins and nutrients. Leading to fatigue and being off their food.


A low temperature is going to make tortoise feel slow and sluggish and off their food. Temperature is a common reason many tortoises are put off their food. There is a trend to keep tortoise on open tortoise tables, which are much harder to regulate over an enclosed vivarium temperature.

What can happen more often in the winter is open tortoise tables are just not warm enough, and your tortoise will not want to eat. If you have a cold home during the day when you are not around, this is the first thing to check.

A thermometer in the enclosure’s basking area will let you know if the enclosure is getting too cold. A good clue that your tortoise is cold is he/she spends most of their time in the basking area. Neglecting all other parts of the enclosure will be a sure sign he/she is cold.

Incorrect food

Getting your tortoise’s diet right is one of the most important aspects of caring for your tortoise. A tortoises diet is not the most challenging diet to supply over other reptiles. Feeding them leafy greens and occasional fruits will keep most tortoises happy.

However, feeding your tortoise incorrect dietary products can lead to ill health and sometimes much worse consequences.

Fruit should be given sparingly as too much can lead to gout and kidney problems. These problems will need fixing by a vet, and home remedies will be inadequate.

It is always wise to make sure you are following your tortoise’s dietary needs. Diet can change slightly between tortoise species. So it well worth checking you are following the correct diet for your species.

Respiratory infection

A respiratory infection is something that can put your tortoise off their food. The best way to spot a respiratory infection is by inspecting the nose for bubbling. Again a visit to the vets will be a must in this case.

Intestinal parasites

Intestinal parasite infection will be nearly impossible to spot, but worms could be spotted. You will need to get your tortoise poop inspected to rule most things out.

It’s recommended that you have your tortoise’s poop examined a few times per year. Intestinal parasite infections are slow to affect your tortoise appetite. So having their poop checked once or twice a year will allow you to fix a problem before it is apparent.

Cleaning of their enclosures is highly recommended if you have a tortoise with an infection, due to the microscopic eggs being in their bedding, possible to cause reinfection.

How many days can a tortoise go without eating?

It is best to offer tortoise food for five days to pick and choose if they eat. The Manuela’s red-footed is known to go for up to one year without food. However, it is best practice to offer pet tortoise food every day.

For some tortoises, it is normal for them not to eat every day. The only time to worry is when your tortoise eating habits dramatically change. Each tortoise will have its own “normal” eating habits.

Should a tortoise eat every day?

No, it is best practice to offer food to your tortoise for five days with two days with no food on offer. Tortoises have a slow-working digestive system, and the two days without food allow their digestive system to catch up.

The two days without food can accrue on any day of the week and don’t have to run concurrently. The two days without food will stop your tortoise from needing a self-starvation period that happens over the summer.

Why is my Tortoise Not Drinking Enough?

It is hard to tell if your tortoises are drinking enough water. However, if your tortoise is eating well, then your tortoise is likely to take on plenty of water.

Leafy green vegetables have plenty of water inside that your tortoise can take onboard. If you are overly worried, spray them with a little water or feed some iceberg lettuce that is mostly water.

If you have a dish of water in their enclosure that your tortoise can access, this is ideal.

How can you tell if a tortoise is dehydrated?

Your tortoise poop is going to give you the most clues whether or not your tortoise is dehydrated. There are also other clues like Dry skin, Sunken eyes, Weakness, and lethargy.

Tortoise naturally doesn’t take on much water in their natural habitat. Spraying the tortoise’s food with water and a bath should have them set up correctly once a week.

Why is my Tortoise Not Moving Enough?

Lethargic and sluggish tortoises can be a sign of concern and could be down to many of the factors we have already discussed. Your lighting setup should be checked, and your enclosure is staying warm enough to keep them active.

In most instances, a lethargic and sluggish tortoise will be down to temperature. With tortoises being cold bloody, a drop in temperature will make them move a lot less than usual. You will need to fix the heating issue to get your tortoise moving more and happier.

Tortoise Not Opening Eyes Properly

Your tortoise not opening their eyes usually is down to their own choice than anything sinister. However, there could be an issue if they don’t open their eyes for a prolonged time.

Heat again could be the issue with your tortoise unwilling to open its eyes. Check your enclosure’s heat, and if it’s too cold, you will need to fix the problem.

Eye infections or a lack of vitamin A can cause your tortoise from opening its eyes. If you suspect your tortoise is not just lazy, a visit to the vet would be advisable.


There are many reasons that your tortoise is activating differently; knowing what to do if your tortoise isn’t eating or drinking properly is critical for caring for them. In most cases, the fix will be something as simple as fixing their lighting setup or heating.

Getting to know your tortoise will help you pick out any behavioral changes quickly so you can right them before they turn into a more significant issue. Understanding the differences will help you better explain to the vet for a better diagnosis.

Little changes shouldn’t be too much to worry about if they soon return to their everyday habits. Significant changes should be more of a concern and need you to take action a lot sooner.

Most importantly is to enjoy your shelly little friend and get to know all their little habits and you will have no problems.