Although the tortoise is still difficult to fully classify as pets, this situation will probably change soon: more and more often lovers of our smaller (especially exotic) brothers bring in their homes these representatives of one of the oldest species of the animal world of the Earth, whose remains are traced for 220 million years. However, a turtle in the house is not the same as a dog or cat familiar to us all. Although it is believed that it is unpretentious in its contents, it has some specific features, the knowledge of which can significantly facilitate the tortoise’s living in your house and at the same time protect your nerves from additional excitement and stress. One of these features is the sudden and seemingly unreasonable refusal of food from the reptile.
By the way, at a normal temperature for themselves – up to 28 – adult turtles may not want to eat for quite a long period of time – up to three months, while losing up to 40% of body weight and completely resorbing their fat body without any negative consequences for themselves consequences.
The reasons for the turtle’s refusal to eat
Roughly speaking, the first and most probable reason why the tortoise does not eat anything lies in the fact that you simply overfed it. However, there are several other equally important reasons that must be excluded. These include:
- seasonality and related wintering consequences
- change of environment or place of residence, etc. maltaptation syndrome.
- improper maintenance or feeding.
- various diseases.
Separately, it is worth highlighting the group content of turtles as a cause that does not fall within our classification. The fact is that if two or even more turtles live in your aquarium (or terrarium), among them there will always be one that is stronger, and one that is weaker than the rest. And then the well-known Darwinian law of natural selection in the style of “let the strongest survive” comes into play – that is, strong turtles may well not allow their weaker relatives to eat. Even their belonging to the same species in this case does not matter, and even more so it is inherent in varietal reptiles: it is known that they often conflict with each other both for territory and for food. Therefore, if you have several turtles who are forced to share one place of residence among themselves, the stronger ones need to be planted and fed separately. And in general, ideally, it would not hurt to keep them separate: turtles are creatures that prefer to lead a solitary lifestyle, and their isolation from each other will only benefit both them and you. Well, when the time comes for mating, they can always be settled together.
Features of a turtle wintering
The first of the reasons we listed – the dependence of the tortoise’s nutrition on the time of the year – is directly related to its behavior in the wild. Starting in October, turtles begin to eat worse and less often. So they react not only to a shrinking day, but also prepare themselves for hibernation. Naturally, they demonstrate the same behavior in captivity, so if the turtle’s refusal of food coincides in time with the “Indian summer” period (and there are no signs of illness), most likely your reptile is preparing for bed. However, herpetologists do not advise encouraging the tortoise’s desire for such a long sleep, explaining this by the fact that at home there is only a slight decrease in its activity, in which there is no need for hibernation. Therefore, if the turtle, obeying the dictates of nature, makes attempts to fall asleep for a long time, it is necessary to increase the temperature of its environment and increase the brightness of the lighting in its aquarium. With this increase, the turtle will begin to eat on its own since January, when the length of daylight increases.
If you missed the moment and the turtle fell asleep, then you need to move it to the drawer, put it in a damp and cool place and follow the calendar: by mid-March, the reptile should wake up. If this does not happen, be sure to wake her, otherwise the turtle will die from prolonged dehydration and starvation. You can wake the turtle by gradually moving its temporary home to a lighter and warmer place.
For a turtle that woke up in spring, especially one that hibernated without moisture and at a relatively high temperature, natural anorexia (depletion of the body) is characteristic. However, a healthy reptile, no matter how severely depleted, will begin to eat about a day or two after waking up and turning on the heating. If she did not start eating in the spring for five weeks and, moreover, is in a state of lethargy, she must be shown to her veterinarian: prolonged wintering of turtles is associated not only with starvation, but also with dehydration, the consequences of which can be gout and liver or kidney failure.
Change of seats and its consequences
An equally common cause of the turtle’s refusal to eat is a change (especially abrupt) in the place of residence, long transportation, and the associated malaptation syndrome. Most often, red-eared turtles are susceptible to it, but similar conditions can also be recorded in other species. This syndrome is classified as a disease, because starvation is accompanied by a violation of the digestive tract, dehydration and severe weight loss. It is treated with the following actions:
- the introduction of an anthelmintic.
- daily warm baths and rinsing of cesspools.
- the introduction of a subcutaneous or oral solution of glucose and electrolyte.
- increasing the temperature of the content to 29 and increasing humidity.
- on the recommendation of a veterinarian, administer serum to the turtle using a probe or catheter.
In the diagnosed maltapaptation syndrome, the red-eared turtle refuses to eat because its body may be clogged with slag or contain too much uric acid. To remove toxins, it is recommended to give the turtle a diuretic furosemide at the rate of 10 mg. per 1 kg. weight, and allopurinol in a dosage of 25 mg will help to cope with uric acid. per 1 kg. weight. However, all these procedures should be carried out only after examination by a herpetologist and confirmation of precisely those problems that we have mentioned.
Often, the turtle’s refusal to eat is associated with such a trifle as changing the water in the aquarium. There is nothing terrible in this: the reptile is just getting used to its new environment. It’s enough not to scare her and not try to feed her by force, and in a few days the turtle will get used to the water and everything will return to normal. The same can be said about the first appearance of the turtle in your house: if it does not eat within one to two weeks after you purchased it, this is evidence of its stress and adaptation to a new place of residence. Do not be confused by such a long time: the slowness of the turtle and its reactions to external events are not in vain included in the saying and in the jokes. But if all the conditions for proper maintenance are met, and the adaptation of the turtle, in your opinion, is too delayed, a visit to a specialist cannot be avoided, and you should not hesitate.
"Wrong you, Uncle Fedor, are holding a sandwich …"
Common reasons why a tortoise may refuse to eat include its improper maintenance. No matter how unpretentious your reptile may be, but, as we have already said, its various species have their own characteristics, the observance of which often depends not only on their general well-being, but also on the comfort of living in captivity. For example, a water turtle is contraindicated living in cold water, and a land turtle is contraindicated in a box without a lamp or on the floor, and if they live like that, then their refusal to eat is natural: if they feel bad or uncomfortable, then the turtles do not eat, and you cannot even feed her by force.
That is, if the turtle does not eat, pay attention to how it lives. If there are any violations, it is enough to fix them, and everything will be in order. Sometimes it’s enough to correct a single trifle so that the turtle perked up and again began to behave actively and cheerfully – for example, timely replace the ultraviolet lamp. Few people know that after three months of daily use the UV lamp ceases to produce ultraviolet, and its rays become ordinary light. And since many of the necessary trace elements are absorbed by her only with the help of UV rays, her refusal to eat (in the absence of other signs) can be dictated by their lack.
Another nuance is associated with the temperature of the water. The turtle is very dependent on the high ambient temperature, because due to its cold-blooded nature it cannot maintain its body temperature in the same way as warm-blooded and mammals do. Therefore, if, for example, the red-eared turtle does not eat, and in addition to this is sluggish and inactive, pay attention to the readings of the water thermometer. If they are lower than 26, just increase the temperature of the water: the normal values for the turtle are in the range from 26 to 35. A few hours after turning on the heating or bathing in the reptile’s warm bath, you can again offer food.
An equally important factor for reptiles is the right food. At first glance, this seems simple – it would seem that it is simpler: copy everything that the turtle eats in the wild and transfer it to its home contents – however, the nutrition of turtles is very nuanced and to some extent even unpredictable. Terrestrial species feed on plant foods, freshwater turtles are predominantly predators (although the marsh turtle is an omnivore), however, both of them often include in their diet unusual food, and some freshwater turtles, being predators in their youth, change dramatically over time your way of eating and become herbivorous. Among sea turtles, there are predatory, and herbivorous, and even omnivorous species.
It’s quite difficult to understand the turtle’s tastes and the peculiarities of their nutrition, but you can still catch some of the differences. For example, the red-eared turtle, with all its omnivorousness, is best fed so that there is a place in the diet for both plant and meat (but non-greasy) food. In the feed of an adult, this combination should be approximately 50 to 50. That is, the ideal, according to experts, food for a red-eared turtle should consist of the following:
- low-fat, preferably river unassembled fish.
- once a week or two (depending on feeding) raw beef liver.
- aquarium and terrestrial (except amber) snails, achatines and woods.
- crickets, feed cockroaches, beetles, grasshoppers, earthworms.
- aquarium fish.
- aquarium plants, lettuce, dandelion and plantain leaves.
- sepia and ground bone meal.
Of the feeds, Reptomin is the most suitable for rubella, in the form of weekly top dressing and feed, in which there is no gammarus. Of vegetables, only carrots are allowed, and then – once a month. The frequency of feeding the red-eared turtle is as follows: up to a year – once every day, after a year – 1 time in 2-3 days.
Approximately the same pattern is suitable for other types of turtles, taking into account their preferences in nature: for example, the share of plant foods and fish in the diet of bogs is not very significant, and this must be taken into account. It mainly eats invertebrates (mollusks, worms, crustaceans), arthropods (beetles, mosquitoes, dragonfly larvae, swimmers), and small vertebrates (for example, amphibians). From plants, she prefers algae and soft and juicy parts of aquatic and near-water plants.
Often the appetite of most animals – and the tortoise is no exception – disappears during the breeding season and during reproduction. However, at home, this happens only if two heterosexual turtles live in the aquarium. If they are mature and exhibit appropriate behavior (the male swims forward in front of the female, tickles her cheeks and neck with claws or tries to intimidate her by hitting her with a shell or biting her front paws; the female freezes in place and, extending the hind legs, raises the back of the body) , then you should not worry about refusing food. When the turtles mate, the appetite will return. If the turtle lives alone, then it all depends on who lives with you. The male tortoise can thus exhibit sexual behavior, indicating that the “client has matured” to continue procreation. If you have a female turtle, then … see above.
Conclusion, or "If I Get Sick …"
Finally, diseases are the fifth common reason a reptile refuses to eat. Some exotic species of turtles – for example, red-eared or painted – do not adapt well to the climate of the post-Soviet space, and their adaptation is often associated with the occurrence of various diseases. One of their first symptoms is loss of appetite. Not all diseases can be detected independently, so if none of the above happens with your turtle and no other obvious signs of the disease are visible, you should definitely contact a veterinarian to a specialist. It is possible that in order to identify the true cause of the turtle’s reluctance to eat, it is necessary to conduct a thorough examination of it. Further action should be taken after consultation with a specialist.
If you don’t have the opportunity to go to the vet clinic – well, the Internet will help you. There are many online forums and specialized resources where tortoise owners can be consulted by both their experienced owners and herpetologist-veterinarians, but be prepared to carefully and thoroughly describe all the features of your turtle’s life before it suddenly refused food. It is also possible that this article and some of our other materials devoted to the peculiarities of keeping turtles at home will help you in solving the problem.