Can Pet Turtles Get Obese? How to Prevent It?

A turtle can get fat just like any other pet.

If a turtle is fed more food than it needs, it will gain weight.

A fixed feeding routine can also help if your pet has become obese.

If a turtle has already gained too much weight, a fixed feeding routine can help you cut down on the overall amount of food consumed by the turtle and help it lose weight if necessary.

In the wild, turtles do not have unlimited food, and they can’t always find something to eat.

However, in captivity, turtles will eat until the food runs out.

So if you feed your turtle too much, it is only natural that a turtle will get fat.

Common Causes of Turtle Obesity

The two most common causes of obesity in turtles are overfeeding and under-exercising.

Overfeeding is by far the most common cause of turtles obesity.

Excess food is stored as fat in the turtle, thereby leading to weight gain.

Contrary to what many people think, turtles don’t need a lot of food to survive.

They can live for weeks without eating, so it’s easy for them to overeat.

If you feed your pet turtle or other foods high in fat or protein, it could lead to obesity.

It’s super important to keep track of what they have eaten.

Therefore saving you from overfeeding them.

If you notice that your turtle is gaining weight, cut back on how much it eats each day until its weight returns to normal.

The second biggest reason for obesity in turtles is lack of exercise.

This won’t be an issue if you have a large enclosure with plenty of room for your turtle to move around and explore its environment.

However, if you have a small tank with little room for your turtle to swim around and exercise, it may become obese due to lack of activity.

How to Identify Obesity in Turtles?

Musk Turtle Obesity
Musk Turtle Obesity

The most common behavioral symptom of obesity in pet turtles is lethargy.

A healthy turtle should be active and curious about its surroundings.

An obese turtle will be less likely than its peers to explore its environment or bask in the sun for extended periods.

This increased lethargy can lead to depression and other health issues if left unchecked.

Also, a bloated abdomen is an easy sign that your turtle has been overeating food or not moving around enough to burn off stored calories.

It can also indicate internal parasites such as nematodes, which can be treated with a deworming regimen prescribed by your veterinarian.

Note changes in your turtle’s activity level and swimming ability.

For example, overweight turtles will not have the ability to swim as vigorously as they usually do, which can increase their risk of drowning if they are left unattended in deep water and cannot reach the surface for air easily.

What is the best way of feeding a turtle?

There are several ways you can feed your turtle.

One way is to save the water from your wash and pour it into a small bowl and let the turtle drink from that.

Another way is to use a smaller dish that will fit in your hand and put about 10 drops of water in the container.

This would be the simplest way.

You can also use a glass jar with just water in it or if you have one, an aquarium with water or even a small plastic bowl with water.

You may not have an aquarium, but there is still something that you can use instead of buying one. You can use this method as well.

Another method would be to use food that you have made yourself.

For example, if you have cooked rice, you could use some of that and some oyster sauce or any other condiment that has no meat in it because the meat is terrible for your turtle’s health.

Make sure that the food you put in the dish does not contain meat because this will cause problems for your turtle when it eats this food later on down the road.

How to Prevent Obesity In Pet Turtles?

Turtle Obesity
Turtle Obesity

The best way to prevent obesity in turtles is by avoiding overfeeding and providing adequate exercise opportunities.

When feeding your turtle, stay on the side of caution; give them only as much food as they eat within five minutes once per day.

Also, make sure that your turtle has a good swimming area with plenty of water toys for stimulation.

Similarly, land-dwelling turtles should have access to free space for running around and climbing objects.

Upgrade Turtle Tank to Burn up Calories

Turtles need exercise to burn up calories.

If they do not get enough exercise, they will become obese.

This can be a problem when they live in a too-small enclosure such as a 10-gallon tank.

To prevent this, you should upgrade to a larger tank or buy an outdoor pond, as these provide lots of horizontal and vertical space for your turtle to roam around in.

For general guidance, check out the care guide for including Snapping Turtle inside your turtle tank.

Feed The Turtle The Right Amount Of Food

Now that you’ve upgraded the tank according to your pet turtle, the next thing you need to do is decide the right amount for them.

Even though you’re looking out for your pet turtle, you do not want to feed less food in the name of diet.

So, you can experiment with different food cycles and evaluate your decision based on the outcome.

For instance, you can start by feeding them food every other day and then slowly switch it to every 3 days.

Note: You can continue to weigh your turtle to determine the right amount of food for them.

Follow A Strict Feeding Schedule

Feeding food on a strict schedule not only helps you make time for your pet turtle but also helps prevent obesity in turtles.

Here are some rules you can follow when feeding on a strict schedule:

  • Feed food once a day to hatchlings and younglings.
  • Feed food to adult and young adult turtles every 2 days.
  • Feed food to older adults every 3 days.

You also need to take into account the seasons because, during different seasons, the turtle will eat more or less depending on hibernation and other factors.

Vitamin And Calcium Supplementation

Another great way to keep your turtle healthy is to ensure that it gets the right balance of food and vitamins.

This is especially important for captive-born turtles because they can easily suffer from vitamin D and calcium deficiencies.

Therefore causing some serious metabolic bone disease.

You can prevent this by dusting the turtle’s food with calcium and vitamin supplements in every 2 weeks.

How to Weigh a Turtle?

Obtain a scale or digital gram scale that can measure up to 50 pounds (22 kg) in 0.5-pounds (0.23 kg) increments for small to medium turtles or 100 pounds (45 kilograms) in 2-pound (0.91 kg) increments for large to extra-large turtles.

In addition, many pet stores sell scales explicitly designed for weighing reptiles and amphibians.

Secure the scale on a flat surface such as a table or floor and place the turtle gently on the surface of the scale so that its feet remain in contact with the surface while its carapace is suspended above it.

An inexpensive kitchen scale will suffice if it has a zeroing function and can measure up to 50 pounds (22 kg).

Record your turtle’s weight in your journal.

If possible, use this same scale each time you weigh your pet to ensure consistency in the measurements.

While turtles can survive on a standard diet, they will thrive if given a varied diet.

By giving them different foods, you ensure you give them all the nutrients they need to live a healthy life.

There are a lot of turtle food options out there to choose from. Some of these include:

  • Raw eggs
  • Raw chicken or beef heart
  • Crickets and mealworms
  • Carrots and other vegetables
  • Fish flakes for aquatic species
  • Dry shrimp pellets for aquatic species

It’s important to keep in mind that similar to people, turtles also have their own personal preferences. While some might love certain fruits, others may not like them at all.


Yes, obesity in turtles exists!

And it’s a lot more common than you would think.

At first glance, you might assume they’ve just gained some weight since they were last checked or something like that.

However, fat turtles can be pretty unhealthy and could die if ignored.

Hopefully, this article has given you insight into some of the causes of obesity in turtles and how to combat it.

Even if you don’t have a fat turtle, knowing how to avoid health concerns is always helpful.

In the end, take care of your turtle by feeding the right foods and ensuring that your turtle exercises regularly.

Further Reading

How to Manage Mbuna Cichlids in a Fish Tank?

Pistol Shrimps Facts: Are They Suitable for Home Aquariums?

15 Oscar Tank Mates Suitable for Your Fish Tank

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