Help! I’ve overfed my turtles! What should I do?

Why do people overfeed their red-eared sliders?

Red-Eared Sliders are opportunistic creatures and they will keep eating whatever is offered to them. Unlike humans, most animals are programmed for survival, regardless of whether they live in captivity or in the wild. They are not used to the idea of fixed feeding schedules and will not know when is their next meal. Hence. they will eat whatever is given to them and eat their fill until the next one.

Theses Red-eared sliders don’t know when they are full and they are so cute when they claw at the side of the tank when you walk by begging you for food. You will just give in to them as they are so cute and asking for your attention. One more pellet stick won’t hurt right?

Your friends might pop by to visit and seeing you having Red-eared sliders and the sight of them begging for food might think that you might not have fed these cute shelled ones and there goes another pellet for these cute little ones.

Also, If you have more than one Red-Eared slider, one might be the dominant bully and snatches the food away and that, of course, you might have one underfed Red-eared slider at the end of the day. A hungry man is an angry man, same goes for turtles when it comes to food. What makes you think they will be civic minded and take turns?

At the end of the day, there can be so many reasons people overfeed their red-eared sliders; what we listed are just some of the reasons why.


How do I know if I am overfeeding my turtle?

Pyramid shell

Shell that is shaped like a pyramid. It is quite common for newborn Red-eared sliders to slightly have a pyramid shape, but do look out if it continues to have the same shape as it grows up.

Pyramiding is caused by excessive proteins in the Red-eared Slider diet (most probably from the pellets). A normal shell should be smooth and evenly spread out.

Folds of extra skin at the legs

If folds of skin are developing around the legs when the turtle pulls its legs in when they hide in the shell, it is getting too fat and you should reduce the frequency of feeding (or provide food with a lower fat content).

Is your Red-eared slider is larger than others of similar age?

If your pet Red-eared slider appears to be larger than the other turtle of similar age and gender (because females usually will grow to be bigger than a male Red-eared slider), it might be the dominant one that is eating the food. You might want to monitor and separate this greedy one from the rest of them.


What are the consequences of overfeeding my red-eared slider?

Excessive amount of protein will cause accelerated growth, obesity, premature sexuality, shell disfigurements (pyramiding), and even organ failure such as hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease)

Accelerated growth

Are you getting a bigger tank as your Red-eared slider is getting too big within a few months? It might be the high protein diet that you have been giving him and you might want to check the pellets that you have been giving it.

Metabolic bone disease

We have discussed on how spot pyramid shells in your red-eared slider. It is a form of metabolic bone disease (MBD). The effects of it are that if the body grows faster than the shell and squeezing the internal organs.

Extreme cases might be reducing the reproduction ability of a male red eared slider as it might have difficulty to mount the female one, well that is if you are looking at breeding.

Hepatic Lipidosis

When the obese turtle becomes anorexic (somehow), parasite infection or other sicknesses, the body will send fats to the liver to be changed into energy. However, as the liver is unable to metabolize this amount of fats it will then store it in the liver cells. After a period of time, it will cause fatty liver. It will make your turtle more prone to viral, fungal and bacterial infections.

Symptoms of fatty liver disease

Lethargy, anorexia and having a yellow tinge in the eyes are some of the symptoms. Your turtle might also be bloated or the limbs might be swollen with retained liquid.

Premature death

Red-eared slider are known to be very hardy pets, it should be able to live to a ripe long age. Turtles are associated with long age, right? A premature death is not something any red-eared slider owner looks forward to but it will happen if nothing is being done to stop it. We are here to help!


How can I let my red-eared slider lose weight?

Change the diet & feeding schedule

A normal feeding schedule might be for Young Red-eared slider (Below one year old) to be fed pellets daily, red-eared slider (above one) to be fed every two days with live feeds and greens

But as you are helping your red-eared slider to lose weight you should reduce the amount of protein which means NO live feeds. Best to limit protein intake only to low protein pellets, you can look for those that say low proteins.

A few recommendations of pellets that are suitable pellets are as below

Zoomed Maintenance (Lower protein content)

25% Protein which is so much lower than other brands of 40% Protein, this will help your red-eared sliders reduce their protein intake.

HBH Pisces Pros Aquatic Turtle Bites Food (More fruits and vegetable contents)

My mother always tell me to eat more fruits for digestion and for red eared sliders with dietary fibre, it helps them digest better. Turtle bites are made with real fruits and vegetables, Red-eared sliders eating it will have more dietary fibre and vitamins.

Wardley Reptile Sticks (Balanced and fortified with calcium)

Not only balancing the diet, calcium helps the shell development. Wardley reptile premium sticks are recommended by a lot of red-eared sliders owners

Fresh fruits and vegetable

You can try to increase vegetables and plants intake as which are calcium rich to the red-eared sliders, these extra fibre will aid digestions. Do remember to wash your vegetables and fruits as there might be pesticides on them.

Your turtle might make you feel guilty and keep crawling at the tank when you are near as if they are begging for food but please do not give in to them. As cruel as can be, these turtles will just eat whatever comes to them even if they are not hungry.

Auto feeder

If you cannot resist feeding the turtle, try using auto feeder, you can adjust the frequency of feeding and also how much to give to your red-eared slider.

Reptiles Lover Turtle, Gecko, Lizard Automatic Feed Dispenser

You are able to adjust the auto feeder every 24 hours or every 48 hours.

Some other suggestions

One suggestion is not to allow visitors to freely feed your pets so that you know how much they are eating. Your guest might not consider how much intake your turtle should be eating.

If the particular RES is overeating because they are stealing other turtle’s food, feed them in a separate feeding tank.