How Long Can a Tortoise Survive Without Food and Water?

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Tortoises are such incredible creatures, but they’re difficult to maintain while you’re away on vacation. How long can they go without food and water?

When it comes to food, tortoises can survive for a long time. But when it comes to water, they require a lot more attention because they need water to live.

How Long Can A Tortoise Survive Without Food And Water?

Adult tortoises can go for about half a year to three years without food or water. That’s why it can be hard to know how long they can go with no food or water.

However, hatchlings and juveniles can only go for up to a week when deprived of food and drinks.

The different types of tortoises have varying lifespans without food or water. So being knowledgeable about this can help mold your decisions.

Russian tortoise:

The Russian tortoise is a popular pet choice because it can live up to 100 years!

Russian tortoises usually do not require to be fed in the winter when they hibernate. If a Russian tortoise does not eat for three months, it will stop reproducing and its growth will slow down.

These turtles have the strange ability to hibernate underwater for the majority of the year. In these intervals, you can feed them appropriately.

Galapagos tortoise:

The Galapagos tortoise, though endangered, is the largest living species of tortoise.

It’s been documented that Galapagos tortoises can live for more than one year with no food or water because they retain both water and nutrients in their body.

The amount of food they consume will depend on their metabolism which is lower than normal, so it’s fine to feed them every 6 months or so.

Sulcata tortoise:

Sulcata tortoises are native to the Sahara and Sahel in Africa.

Sulcata tortoises seem to go without food or water for three months; however, the precise amount varies greatly with the weather, age, and availability of a water source.

Make sure you feed them twice per week, which is ideal.

Desert tortoise:

While Desert Tortoises spend most of their time hibernating, they can live up to three years without eating or drinking as their activity slows and metabolism slows.

This means you don’t have to feed them as much during these periods.

Red foot tortoise:

For a healthy red foot tortoise to survive without food or water, they need plenty of water available.

Though red foot tortoises only need to eat every other day, it’s best to feed them at least twice per week. It’s especially important to feed the baby tortoises.

Horsefield’s tortoise:

Healthy horsefield tortoises can live for 6 months to 3 years without food or water. However, the best thing to do is feed them every single day so they can stay healthy.

Hermann tortoise:

A Hermann tortoise can survive for about 9 days without water or food. After this time, you need to provide them with water.

These types of tortoises actually have a bladder to help them keep hydrated.

Gopher tortoise:

It seems like gopher tortoises can survive for almost three years with no food and one year without water.

One of the most amazing things about Gopher tortoises is that they want to prolong the time before they eventually pass away.

This is because Gopher tortoises are able to slow down the process in which they eat when they come in contact with water sources.

Baby/small tortoise:

Baby tortoises need to be fed at least twice a day, while older ones typically only require feeding once or twice a week.

If they go without food and water, then they can only survive for one month, on average.

There are many things that hatchlings and juveniles require to eat in order to be healthy. If they are not given these, they will have a high chance of getting certain diseases.

Tortoises Have Been Known To Live As Long As 150 Years. Do They Need To Eat Every Day?

One of the variables is if tortoises need to eat every day, or not. This really depends on the age of the tortoise and if they are living in a friendly environment.

Adult tortoises, unlike their young counterparts, can eat less often. This means they can go without food from six months to three years.

You need to make sure that freshwater is still available near freshwater source for it to last any length of time.

Baby tortoises are fussy eaters, so you must feed them regularly. Otherwise, their bone structure won’t form properly and they will not get the nutrients they need.

How Frequently Should A Tortoise Drink Water?

A tortoise can survive without water for a few weeks if it is hibernating or in the wild. Alternatively, you can provide them with water about every other day.

A tortoise won’t drink any water if they think it needs it, but when they feel like they need a drink, they’ll hunker down and get their sip on.

Tufted and Leopard tortoises need to drink water once or twice a week. This doesn’t create any severe health consequences for them.

Furthermore, even when they do not drink water regularly, they are certain to soak in water to hydrate themselves. They must therefore always have access to freshwater sources.

What Happens When Tortoises Don’t Eat Food And Drink Water?

One of the main ways that tortoises manage to live for such a long time is because they can go for weeks without food or water. 

However, this doesn’t mean that lack of eating/drinking has no consequences; it can lead to serious health issues.

Health Problems:

Though there are many health benefits of exercise, not everyone can handle exercise in various ways.

When a tortoise misses food and water, it will develop severe health problems.

As a result of this, it can experience a variety of issues, including infections and parasite growth.

When it comes to young tortoises, pyramiding, which is where the ribcage appears unable to stretch any further, and metabolic bone diseases, which are caused by an individual’s deficient diet and lack of sustenance for an extended period, can be a concern.


It’s important to know the signs of dehydration when taking care of a tortoise. Symptoms include sunken eyes, always looking away, and a dry shell.

Even though they might survive without food for a long time, if they don’t have enough water then their skin will dry out, and the skin will start to peel or flake.

Less Moving:

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When tortoises aren’t eating, they’ll use less energy, making them more likely to become inactive and move around less.

Animals that hibernate have a low metabolism, so they can survive on little food.

3 Factors Determine How Long Can A Tortoise Go Without Food

Three factors that determine the amount of time a tortoise can go without food are body fat, activity level and metabolism.

Factors like what species of tortoise, how old it is, and the current living conditions play a role in determining life expectancy.

These factors can also vary greatly depending on what you know about the animal.

Understanding what’s important can help you make better, wiser decisions.


The age of a tortoise has a great impact on how long the tortoise can go without food.

Young tortoises need to be fed every day for their first six months of growth. Furthermore, hatchlings and juveniles especially should be feed daily or they may not grow properly.

Furthermore, if these birds aren’t getting enough food and nutrition in their formative years, they will definitely develop serious illnesses. They have not been known to survive more than a few days without eating anything.

Tortoises that are older, however, can survive without the abundance of food for a longer period of time.


Temperature, along with other factors, can determine how long a tortoise will be able to live without eating. They need the proper heat and warmth in order to thrive for an extended period of time.

Slow and steady wins the race, especially for reptiles like tortoises. A cold winter is also a big problem for these animals but they can actually go a long time without eating – an advantage during the freezing-cold season.

Tortoises can live a long and healthy life without food because the small amount of heat or available UVB in their habitat, combined with what natural sunlight they get while they’re outside, allow them to grow at a normal pace.

UVB rays are an important factor in determining how long a butterfly can survive without food.

When the weather is warm, tortoises like to be active and may waste a lot of energy. This can lead to them needing to eat more food in order to refill their energy.

Water Source:

It is possible for tortoises to survive without food for a long time, but they require water to survive.

When tortoises are dehydrated for extended periods of time, they will no longer consume water or soak themselves in any sources. As a result, they will lose energy and easily store fat.

Eventually low blood sugar levels will cause animals to become too weak or sick for any food, and if they have been deprived of water, they can develop serious health problems.

Final Thoughts

To sum this up, tortoises are able to survive without food for around three years but they only last a week without water. 

However, this practice should not be done regularly as it can cause severe health problems like kidney failure, dehydration, and bone diseases.


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