4 Causes of Alligator Snapping Turtle Not Eating – Treatment & Prevention

It is certainly a matter of concern if your precious alligator snapping turtle is not eating. Questions may come to your mind regarding why it is refusing to eat and what will be the consequences if they remain starved for a long time!

Well, it is true that turtles are difficult to feed. Many owners fall into trouble while feeding them. When they are not hibernating, it’s okay if they don’t eat for up to one week. But if it’s longer than that you need to start investigating the reason behind it. 

However, there could be several reasons why your alligator snapping turtle is not eating. The most crucial reason is adverse environmental conditions.

Moreover, the turtle may also go through an illness that you are not aware of. It can also be a reason for not eating anything from your snapping turtle. Whatever the reasons or consequences, the main purpose is to get your turtle pet to eat in the end.

I had the same issue with my alligator snapping turtle a couple of times and I did a lot of research and finally got him to eat like normal. In this article, I am going to share what I learn along with what I experienced with my alligator snapping turtle.

Keep reading through the article till the end to save your alligator snapping turtle before it’s too late.

Why Your Alligator Snapping Turtle is Not Eating

Alligator Snapping Turtle is Not Eating

Well, we have already mentioned what could be the possible reasons. Since environmental issues could be the main reason, it is important to maintain them.

Moreover, just like any other pet, the alligator snapping turtle can also undergo several health issues. The issues can remarkably reduce the energy of eating or moving your pet. And if the situation remains the same for a couple of days, then the turtle may start suffering from other illnesses as well.

Consequently, the pet turtle might have to suffer from diet deficiencies, respiratory illness, parasites, or similar issues.

Furthermore, most pet turtles tend to hide the symptoms when they become sick. Thus, the owner hardly can determine what has happened to his or her pet. Thus, inspecting the symptoms is the first and foremost thing to do.

Inspecting Why Your Alligator Snapping Turtle is Not Eating

Since symptoms are more likely to be hidden, inspecting is necessary to know exactly why your turtle pet is refusing to eat anything. As environmental conditions might be the first reason check out the following points.

1. Determine the Temperature

As an owner, you must be aware of the fact that your alligator snapping turtle is a reptile with cold blood.This means they need an external source of heat to keep their metabolic functions active. If the temperature around it is too cold, then there are chances that the pet will stop eating.

This is pretty normal as the cold temperature reduces their ability to process food and as a result they prevent themselves from eating. Since alligator snapping turtles are mostly aquatic, maintaining the water temperatures is also important.

When they’ve stopped eating the first thing you need to check is the temperature of the tank where your turtle is settled using a thermometer which should be around 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

During the day the temperatures in a cool area should range from 68 to 72 degrees while in a warm area, the temperatures should be around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Moreover, in the basking area it’s better if the temperature is between 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Besides, if the temperature is incorrect for too long it can impair their immune system and cause them to be more susceptible to fatal diseases. In addition, keeping them in the wrong temperature can lead to respiratory issues such as lung problems.

So always, keep a lookout on the temperature and whenever it’s not suitable adjust it right away. (Our pick- AQUANEAT Aquarium Thermometer)

2. Determine Light Intensity

For your information, any turtle needs immense lighting for its thriving and healthy appetite. If your pet turtle is in a water tank, then it will need both UVB and UVA light for about 12 to 14 hours at least.

Providing light for less than 12 hours will force thfe turtle to not eat. Again, if your alligator snapping turtle is outside the box then you might have to arrange artificial lighting during winter or fall.

Also, to ensure proper lighting throughout the year, you have to change the UV bulbs after six months. It is because UV lights are likely to reduce their effectiveness or light intensity over time.

3. Is It in Hibernation?

Did you know that, Alligator snapping turtles do not undergo true hibernation like other reptiles. But they reduce their metabolic activity and appetite for eating during the cold seasons. So, when they go through hibernation they can stop eating during that time.

Most European, American, or even Asian turtles choose to hibernate during the winter season. If you cannot detect what’s wrong with them it’s best if you take your turtle to a veterinarian.

Hibernating depends on the environment and other issues to some extent. However, even after getting proper environmental conditions and adequate food, turtles can still go into hibernation.

Nonetheless, you can also determine by observing their physical health and their habitat. Again, if your turtle is unhealthy then hibernating might become stressful for it. While healthy turtles do not face any problems during their hibernation period.

Furthermore, if it seems okay for a turtle to go for a hibernation period then you have to ensure the proper temperatures as well. To let your turtle adapt to the lower temperatures, keep reducing the temperatures to 2 to 3 degrees every day to simulate the cooler season.

Also, try to adjust the lighting to simulate shorter daylight hours of winter.This process helps slow down the metabolism of the turtle. However, make sure that you do not let the temperatures come below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Then again, keep increasing the temperatures after every ten weeks.

4. Detect Symptoms of Sickness

If everything is okay including the environmental conditions but still the baby snapping turtle is not eating then it’s a sickness alert! Your pet turtle can go through many illnesses and stresses like constipation, vitamin deficiency, eye problems, respiratory infections, or even pregnancy.

If you notice any signs of illness, such as lethargy, abnormal behavior, or any kind of physical abnormalities, seek the help of a professional reptile expert as soon as possible. Here are some symptoms to make you aware of the fact that your turtle might have the sickness.


You might discover that the shell of the alligator turtle is becoming white and it has patchy discoloration on it. This symptom takes place when there is vitamin A deficiency in your turtle. This deficiency leads to respiratory infection in the turtle as well.

No Excretion

If you notice that the snapping turtle is not eating and pooping properly, then there are chances that it is suffering from constipation.


There could be several infections. However, turtle suffers most from respiratory infection. If they have this problem then you might notice they are having trouble breathing. Moreover, runny nose, wheezing, swollen eyes, weakness, and sneezing are also symptoms.

Not Seeing

If you realize that the alligator snapping turtle cannot see, then it surely has an eye problem. However, the consequence is it will not eat. It happens if its eyes remain uncleaned or have debris on them.

How You Will Feed Your Alligator Snapping Turtle

Feeding Alligator Snapping Turtle

It’s important to remember that every alligator snapping turtle is different so their behaviors and feeding preferences will also be different. Both of my snapping alligators are of the same age but they have different eating habits. So it’s really crucial that you find out what your turtle prefers.

In situations like this, you might apply some enticing methods to feed your turtle that has stopped eating recently. A good thing is that, alligator snapping turtles eat food from both plant and animal source.

when it’s time for them to hibernate, providing them with the right food in their diet is a part of regular care for you as a pet keeper. So, if you are wondering what to feed your snapping turtles, here are some ideas for you-

Offer Live Food

Live foods attract turtles more than anything else. Most turtles live on preying several worms, crickets, snails, mice, or slugs fish, and mollusks. Basically, these organisms possess a strong odor that can attract the turtle very well.

  • You might want to serve earthworms to your alligator snapping turtle. But in this case, you have to ensure that you do not collect them from a place where it was treated with chemicals before.
  • Some bait stores offer earthworms that are suitable for the consumption of turtles.
  • You can also try feeding with different grubs, flies, beetles, spiders, bugs, grasshoppers, and all.
  • Never try to force feed them when they are hibernating as it can be stressful for them and also can lead to other health issues.

Offer Colorful Food

It is another way to make your turtle attracted to food. Bright and vibrant color food will catch its eye and may feel the urge to eat. There are many colorful foods available that you can offer including tomatoes, strawberries, watermelon, papaya, mango, and other bright fruit and veggies.


  • Remember that you cannot provide fruits as a staple food to your alligator turtle. Fruits may play as a catalyst to begin feeding the turtle again after it loses appetite.
  • Try to add colorful vegetables more than fruits. It will be more helpful. Again, for better results, soak the selected vegetables in tuna water to make the food more attractive.
  • Also, you can mix bright-colored food with some live food to make a proper meal for your turtle.

Try Out Food Combinations

Trying out food combinations can also bring your appetite back to your turtle. We have already given you an idea of mixing colorful fruits and vegetables with live food. However, you can also combine other foods with pellets for experimenting.

For your information, pellets are considered the staple food of turtles. Hence, feeding pellets mixed with other foods can bring your desired result.


  • You can soak pellets in tuna water as well. It makes the smell stronger enough to entice the turtle to eat.
  • For your aquatic snapping turtle, you can leave the food in the water. Turtles are comfortable in the water while eating.

Make Changes in the Diet

A monotonous diet might not attract the alligator snapping turtle anymore. Hence, switching or changing diet becomes necessary. Moreover, offering the same food over and over again that your turtle does not like obviously would make it stop eating.


  • Bring variations while preparing food for your snapping turtle.
  • Keep writing in a diary that how the turtle reacts to several diets. It will help you to pick the right combination of food for them.
  • How it will respond to any food depends on the environment as well. Thus, you need to see whether the turtle responds better in water or on land when it is time to feed them.
  • Also, the diet must include changes and combinations of different live foods and veggies or fruits or pellets.

Make Changes in the Schedule

It happens that sometimes your pet turtle stops eating because the time does not seem convenient to them. However, often it has been found beneficial to feed the turtle early in the morning. This is because many turtles prefer eating early in the morning and seem to be more active at that particular time.


  • Try feeding the turtles close to dawn or between 4:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m.
  • Again, you can adapt your pet to eat during the daytime when it is the winter season.
  • If you do not know, many box turtles prefer eating in the morning when it is raining. It is simply because many slugs and earthworms can be found at that time.

Take the Turtle to the Veterinarian

Lastly, if you are doing everything that I’ve said about and your pet snapping turtles are still losing weight and nothing is working out then take your alligator snapping turtle to a veterinarian to help it eat again. Going to the veterinarian is important since starving for a long time might lead the turtle to sudden death.

Moreover, seeking professional analysis of your turtle is also important once in a while. It will enable discovering what problems the turtle is going through and coming up with a quick solution.


  • First, you should go to a herp veterinarian. But if there isn’t any around your location then contact the local zoo.
  • Again, there must be a veterinary department at your nearest university. Take your turtle there for better treatment.

How to Prevent Your Alligator Snapping Turtle from Not Eating

Well, prevention is better than cure. If you realize at a certain point that your turtle might stop eating, you better prevent it from happening at the first place. So, what should you do to prevent it?  On the basis of my experience, let me help you with that too.

Know What the Turtle Does Not Like

Yes, it is the first and foremost thing to do. There must be some foods that your turtle truly does not like to eat. Hence, serving them the same foods will obviously make them stop eating.

This is not a fixed thing because some turtles may be less inclined to consume specific vegetables. You’ll never know unless you try it so it’s always a good idea to offer a variety of fruits and vegetables and observe which ones your turtle prefers.

Also, there are some foods that you must avoid when it comes to feeding your snapping turtle.

  1. Any dairy products like chocolate, yogurt, or cheese.
  2. Refined flour, bread, sugar
  3. Excessive salty food
  4. Process or canned foods or preservatives
  5. Fruit seeds
  6. Avocado
  7. Rhubarb

Ensure a Balanced Diet

It is the second most important thing to do if you do not want your turtle to stop eating. A balanced diet must include a proper portion of meat, fruits, and vegetables. Since alligator snapping turtles are mostly aquatic, their diet should be comprised of 60% to 90% meat and 10% to 40% vegetables.

Again, if your turtle is young then it will require more meat compared to a mature turtle. Also, make sure that you are feeding a healthy and fresh diet to your baby alligator snapping turtle.

Add Supplement Diet

In severe cases, you might have to add a supplement diet as well to feed your turtle. A supplement diet includes all the essential nutrients and vitamins a turtle might need. Hence, they are considered a well-rounded diet.

Nonetheless, anything, calcium supplements are beneficial. Calcium will make the shell of the turtle stronger and more resistant to diseases. To ensure calcium you can add cuttlefish powder or bone, calcium blocks, and all.

However, make sure to offer the supplement diet to your turtle once a week. Again, some also give multivitamins to their turtles to resist vitamin deficiencies.

Final Words

Now that you have some idea why your alligator snapping turtle is not eating and you know how to make them eat again, life got easier, right?

Well, pets are always precious. Hence, you become worried if they stop eating or moving. So, always keep an eye on your turtle’s body condition while they are active and also when they are in hibernation. And try to figure out what is the issue with them with the help of this article.

The detailed food requirement of their diet mentioned in this article will also help you to avoid such kind of situation where the alligator snapping turtle stops eating.

Therefore, if our article has helped you enough then share it with others and let us know if you have any queries as well! If your alligator snapping turtle are still not eating even after taking all the measures it’s best to consult with a veterinarian for more advice and guidance.


Howard Parker

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