Can Turtles Get Fat? How To Help Your Turtle Lose Weight?

Dec 19, 2020

Can Turtles Get Fat

Obesity has never done well to anyone. Be it humans or animals. Turtles too get fat, and often this extra layer of fat can cause fatal health issues. A fat turtle can be cute to look at, just like an overweight dog or cat, but there are several underlying dangers to their health due to obesity.

Obesity in turtles can be prevented if you are well informed on what you feed and when you provide it. Today, we will discuss on can turtles get fat and how you can prevent and help your turtle lose weight.

Can Turtles Get Fat?

Yes, Turtles get fat, and it can be seen in their limbs and necks. A turtle getting fat is quite dangerous as this leads to several adverse health impacts. Your turtle will have uneasiness while getting in and out of their shell because of excessive body fat.

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How To Tell If Your Turtle Is Getting Fat?

Foremost, you will notice his limbs and head are getting bigger. It could mean that your turtle is growing bigger. So to tell the difference, check below his limbs and head further. If you see drooping of an extra layer of skin, your turtle is getting fat.

Also, note how hard he is trying to go inside the shell. A fat turtle will have a tough time entering his shell chamber because his chubby limbs and the head have outgrown his body’s outlet.

Whenever a turtle is getting fat, you will notice him slowing down his activities, which he displayed actively while he was normal. Turtles are already slow mover, but they slow down their actions when they get fat.

Turtles will lay for hours and will only get active during the feeding time. He will eat more than usual because a fat turtle will have more appetite than a regular turtle.

Even after feeding him, he will stare at you with his cherubic eyes and ask you for more treats. This trait is expected in a fat turtle.

What Are Health Risks For A Fat Turtle?

A fat turtle is a sign of danger to their health. When a turtle gets fat, there’s extra stress on his vitals, i.e., kidney and heart. 

A fat turtle directly relates to overfeeding. Overfeeding means consuming more food than necessary. And eating more than essential causes the infestation of parasites in a turtle’s digestive system.

An obese turtle will have a hard time in respiration. Only after a short walk, you will find your turtle panting and gasping for air due to obesity.

Obesity in turtles also causes deformity in their shell, and even if they lose their weight, the deformity remains the same.

Whenever a turtle gets fat, it will be difficult to go in and out of its shell, and this will cause bruises and scratches on its body. These bruises, if not treated, can cause infection and ultimately lead to their death.

In the wild, a fat turtle will be unable to go inside his shell and hide. And if a predator is near then, he can be prey for the predators only because of his obesity.

Obesity means more weight on the muscles. An obese turtle will have weak limb muscles and will feel pain during movement. You will find these turtles beaching anywhere.

What Causes Turtles To Be Fat?

There are several reasons behind a turtle getting fat. An unhealthy diet and overfeeding are the main reasons which cause a turtle to be fat.

Let me explain it further.

Overfeeding

Turtles are reptiles, which means unlike mammals, they require less energy to maintain their body temperature. That is the reason turtles eat less than mammals.

Many of us turtle owners feed pet turtles the same as for dogs and cats. This causes obesity in turtles.

Most turtle owners do not know the right amount of food their turtle needs. We may feel that feeding a turtle daily is the right thing to do, but it’s not. A juvenile turtle’s diet is not the same as an adult turtle. Feeding daily to an adult turtle is one of the common causes of obesity in turtles.

Turtles of age up to seven are categorized as juvenile turtles. In these early years, your turtle needs to be fed regularly or daily because they are full of energy and show movement more than an adult turtle. However, if you provide him with more calories than he burns through his activities, even juvenile turtles can get fat.

Feeding Unhealthy Diet

The unhealthy diet that we humans consume contains lots of fat and sugar. Sugar is terrible for turtles as they disrupt their digestion process. Turtles have different bacteria, which helps them digest fiber that isn’t suitable for sugar. These sugars aren’t then absorbed into their body and cause obesity in turtles.

Ideally, turtles’ main diet needs to contain fiber, but turtle owners are found giving junk food to their turtles, which is one of the primary reasons for obesity in a turtle. Bread and bakery items might fill their appetite but have no nutritional value.

How To Feed A Turtle So It Doesn’t Get Fat?

As for how much you should feed them, you need to know what breed your turtle is. A larger breed turtle will require more food than a small breed turtle. If you are unsure about how much to feed, you can place him food that he can eat within 15 minutes. Next time, provide him only the amount he consumes.

As they get older and cross their seventh year, you shouldn’t feed them daily. An adult turtle in the wild will go days without eating because it’s their innate nature to do so. In winter, they will lie and rest for a more extended period than rest of the year.

Most of us use our hands as measuring scale while feeding pellets to our turtles. And this is also one of the unseen reasons that cause obesity in a turtle. Use a medicine cup or a shot glass to feed him the same amount every day.

What Types Of Food Should Your Turtle Eat Not To Get Fat?

Fibre-rich foods should comprise at least 80% of a turtle’s diet. These fibre-rich foods are easy to digest and will keep your turtle full for a couple of days. Fibre-rich foods will not cause your turtle to be fat. Along with fibre, include meat and fishes to supply enough protein to your turtle.

Veggies And Fruits

Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables

Leafy vegetables and fruits are high in fiber. Cabbage, kale, parsley, green beans, and bell peppers are some fiber rich food that you should feed to your turtle.

Fruits too contain fiber and other necessary vitamins, which keeps your turtle healthy. You can feed your turtle apples, bananas, grapes, kiwi, and several additional. Make sure fruits only comprise a small portion of their diet.

There are some fruits that you should avoid giving to your turtle. Citrus fruits have a high amount of citric acid in them. These fruits, when fed to a turtle, will cause your turtle to have an upset stomach.

Meat

Meat is another vital supplier of protein to your turtle’s diet. Protein-rich foods have a lesser amount of fat. Instead of feeding him chicken and beef, feed him live insects or dried insects. Chicken and beef aren’t the diets that a turtle eats in the wild. Also, these meats are processed and aren’t healthy for your turtle.

So you need to feed  worms and insects to your turtle while mimicking his lifestyle in the wild. Furthermore, insects are high in protein and low in fat than regular meat that you buy in meat shops. You can get insects both live and dried in your local pet store.

While giving meat to a turtle helps him retain more protein, it could also result in pyramiding. Pyramiding is the excessive growth of scutes in a turtle shell and will only add more weight to his shell. So be mindful while giving meat to your turtle.

Fish

Fish are also a substantial source of protein, which strengthens the turtle shell.

While feeding fish to your turtle, you need to make sure you shouldn’t feed big fish to your turtle. Turtles in the wild aren’t familiar with eating fishes because they are hard to catch.

So, instead of larger fishes, you can feed feeder fishes like guppies and several other fast-growing fish to your turtle.

You can keep these feeder fish in a separate tank and harvest food for your turtle in your room.

The foods mentioned above are healthy and won’t make your turtle fat.

How To Prevent Obesity In Turtles?

Preventing obesity depends upon the food you feed and the exercise your turtle is getting. Here are some things that you can do to prevent obesity in a turtle.

Feeding Proper Food On Time

As mentioned before, foods that are rich in fiber and protein keep your turtle in shape. Protein is a much-needed macronutrient that makes a turtle shell sturdy and healthy. And fiber diets are nutritious and keep your turtle full.

The correct feeding schedule too helps in preventing obesity in turtles. You can feed your juvenile turtle daily. But you shouldn’t feed an adult turtle daily. You can feed an adult turtle three times a week. When turtles become adults, their movement frequency decreases; thus, they require less energy and food to live.

Get A Bigger Tank

Even a baby turtle needs at least a 20-gallon tank to thrive. A bigger tank means more space to swim. Swimming is essential in a turtle’s life as it gives them to exercise for a sound body. The more they swim, the more they burn the calories they intake.

For a tank and a turtle’s size ratio, you can require a 20-gallon tank for a two-inch turtle. So, if your turtle is four inches, then you need a 40-gallon tank for him to thrive. So, instead of buying a new tank every year, getting a large one from the start is better.

Put Your Turtle In A Backyard Pond

If your turtle has outgrown the tank, then it could be the reason for your turtle getting fat. So, if you do not want to invest in a larger tank, then it is better to build a small pond for your turtle in the backyard. Keeping in a homemade pond will give him space to swim and exercise along with an area for basking in the sun.

Please do not take a captive turtle to an outside pond because it will be hard for him to survive in a new place. He has lived his entire life in your house, and he has adapted to it. But if you take him outside in a natural pond, he won’t be able to find food and ultimately die from many causes. For a fat turtle, surviving in the wild is even more challenging.

Exercise Drills

You can add a few exercise drills for your turtle to lose weight. Add a slightly climbing elevation in front of his tank or places where he usually basks. Create new hides, plants that he can climb or place food to cover the distance to eat. These fun drills will help him use the stored energy and burn the fats of his body.

Finals Words On Can Turtles Get Fat

Yes, turtles get fat and often easily. They get fat due to unhealthy consumption of human junk foods and overeating. You need to feed what he needs and know the routine on when to feed him. Feed daily for infant turtles who are below seven years. For adult turtles, provide him twice or thrice in a week.

Indulge your turtle in physical exercises that require him to do some movement, and you will have a muscular and healthy turtle in your care.

Relevant Readings:

How to Bury a Turtle? A Proper Ritual

Can Box Turtles Swim? – Or Do They Drown?

Do Turtles Get Lonely? 6 Tips To Keep Your Turtle Happy

rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.