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How Long Can a Tortoise Go Without Food and Water?

Are you thinking of going on a vacation but do not know how to maintain the proper care of your tortoises while away? Therefore, are you wondering how long can tortoises go without food and water? 

Nevertheless, you will be surprised to know that most of the tortoises can survive a long time with food however when it comes to water, things are a bit different. 

How long can a tortoise go without food and water?

Tortoises can live a long time without food and water. Therefore, in general, when it comes to adult healthy tortoises, they seem to go for 6 months to 3 years without food and one week without water. However, the hatchlings and juveniles can only go for one week when devoid of food and water. 

There can be variations in the longevity of survival without food and water of different types of species of tortoises. Therefore, being knowledgeable about this can help you to mold your decisions accordingly. 

Russian tortoise: 

Russian tortoises usually do not need to be fed frequently and they can go without food and water for almost three years.

This highly unique feature of them is possible due to the hibernation process and in the intervals of the hibernation process, you can feed them accordingly. 

Galapagos tortoise: 

Galapagos tortoises seem to live without food and water for more than one year and this is possible because they can retain water and nutrients in their body.

Moreover, they also seem to have low metabolism that means they burn fewer calories which means they retain more fat, and therefore, it is fine to feed them every 6 months or so.

Sulcata tortoise: 

Sulcata tortoises seem to go without food and water for three months however, this can vary a lot depending on the weather, the age of the tortoise, and the availability of water source. However, you need to feed them twice a week which is ideal.

Desert tortoise: 

Desert tortoises can live as long as three years without food and water as they hibernate which lessens their activity and causes them to have low metabolism which means they do not need to be fed as much. 

Red foot tortoise: 

A healthy red foot tortoise can go without food and water for more than six months only if they have enough water supply available to them.

However, the ideal situation is to feed these red foot tortoises every other day, especially the baby ones.

Horsefield tortoise: 

Horsefield tortoises when healthy can live for six months to three years without any food and water however, the ideal option is to feed them every single day. 

Hermann tortoise: 

Hermann tortoises can live for almost 90 days without water and food and after this period, you need to provide them with water. 

These types of tortoises can actually hold water in their bladder which helps to hydrate them accordingly.

Gopher tortoise: 

Gopher tortoises seem to need water and food only when they are not satisfied otherwise they are good to go for almost three years without food and one year without water.

In addition, Gopher tortoises can also prolong their longevity of the time of starvation especially when water sources are around them to soak their full body. 

Baby/small tortoise: 

Baby tortoises need to be fed every day or every other day meaning more frequently than older tortoises. But if they have to go without food and water, they can only survive for less than one month. 

However, hatchlings and juveniles must be fed properly in their growing years otherwise they will be prone to severe health diseases.

Do tortoises need to eat everyday? Do baby tortoises eat every day to survive? 

Whether tortoises need to eat everyday or not depends a lot on the age of the tortoises and on the environment where they are living.

In addition, when it comes to adult tortoises, they do not need to eat regularly meaning they can go without food from 6 months to 3 years. 

However, you need to make sure that they have active freshwater sources around to prolong the longevity. 

But when it comes to baby tortoises, they while in their forming years must be fed regularly so that their bone structure grows strong and they get proper nutrients. 

How often should a tortoise drink water?

A tortoise can go without water for a long time especially when it is hibernating or when it is in the wild. However, the ideal option is to give them water every other day.

In addition, when it comes to the tortoises themselves, they like to drink water when they feel the need for it otherwise, they will not drink water.

Moreover, if a tortoise drinks water once or twice a week, it does not create any severe health diseases for them.

However, when they are devoid of water for a vast period, they will show signs of various diseases including renal system malfunctions and kidney failure. 

Moreover, even when they do not drink water regularly, it is very certain that they try to hydrate themselves by soaking their bodies into water therefore, freshwater sources must be available to them all the time. 

What happens if tortoises don’t eat food and drink water? 

When it comes to tortoises, they are very well equipped to live a long time without food and water. However, there can still be some serious consequences if tortoises don’t eat or drink. 

Health Problems: 

When a tortoise does not eat or drink for a long time, it will develop a series of severe health diseases. 

Accordingly, this situation can cause different issues like infections, the growth of parasites, and stress.  

In addition, when it comes to young tortoises, they can develop diseases like pyramiding and metabolic bone diseases especially when they are devoid of food and water for a long time. 


When tortoises don’t eat food and drink water as recommended, they will be prone to dehydration. 

Even though they can survive a long time without food, they cannot survive a long time without water and thus their skin can become very dry which can flake very easily. 

Less Moving: 

When tortoises don’t eat or drink, they will waste fewer energy which means that they will be more prone to inactivity and will tend to move less to save energy.

In addition, they also tend to go into hibernation which lets them have a low metabolism, and thus they tend to survive accordingly. 

3 factors that determine how long can a tortoise go without food 

Several factors determine how long a tortoise can go without food and the attributes that determine the longevity also seem to vary a lot based on different species of tortoise.

Therefore, being knowledgeable about the determining factors can help you in making proper judgments. 


The age of the tortoise is a very important determining factor that determines how long a tortoise can go without food. 

Furthermore, when it comes to young tortoises like hatchlings and juveniles, they must need to be fed every single day for the first six months of their growth.

Moreover, if these hatchlings and juveniles will not get enough food and nutrition in the forming years, they will definitely develop serious illnesses and thus they will not survive long without eating food. 

However, when it comes to aged tortoises, their age lets them live longer without the abundance of food. 


Temperature can also determine how long a tortoise can live without food. Tortoises need proper heating and warmth for them to live longer without food. 

Adult tortoises can actually go for a long period without food but this longevity can be marred by the cold weather.

This is because sometimes when food is not available for the tortoises, the abundance of heating and proper UVB can actually help them to grow without any serious health issues. 

Therefore, the availability of UVA and UVB also determines how long they are able to survive without food. 

However, when it comes to warm weather, tortoises like to be active in that weather and which may cause them to waste a lot of energy which can again lead to the refilling of energy through food more quickly. 

Water Source:

Although tortoises can live without food for a long period but the need for water is much more required for tortoises. 

Additionally, when they will not be able to drink water or soak themselves in any water source, this will result in the loss of energy and fat.

Eventually, this will cause them to survive for less time without food and they may also develop some serious health diseases when being devoid of water.

Final Thoughts

To sum up, tortoises can live a long time without food which is up to three years but they survive only one week without water. But it should not be a regular practice as this practice can cause severe health diseases like kidney failure, dehydration, and bone diseases.