Why Is My Turtle Not Growing?

Dr. Joe Alcorn, M.S., D.V.M.

Dr. Joe Alcorn is founder of Care Animal Hospital in Temecula, California. He has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and his advice has been featured in large publications like Bustle and Martha Stewart.

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As a pet owner, there may be times when you’re wondering if there’s something wrong with your pet, like why is my turtle not growing? For this article, I’m explaining possible reasons why your turtle has stunted growth, along with tips on how to help your pet grow healthily. 

Why Is My Turtle Not Growing?

If your turtle is not growing or appears to be growing slower than expected, it may be due to health problems or poor living conditions. While age can be a factor, inadequate nutrition, brumation, lack of activity, and its tank’s environment may also be the culprit.

Your turtle can grow a lot during the first year and continue to do so within 5 to 8 years. However, natural causes and external factors can still hamper growth. This is why it’s essential that you understand a turtle’s growth pattern and what can affect it.

Hand holding a turtle

What Are the Reasons a Turtle Doesn’t Grow?

There are a number of reasons why a turtle is not growing properly, including diet, age, diseases, brumation, activity levels, and environmental factors. The good thing is that most of these are within your control.

Diet and Nutrition

Diet, especially calcium and protein, is the primary factor influencing your turtle’s growth. Stunted growth happens if your pet doesn’t receive enough nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

Lack of a balanced, nutritious diet can prevent your turtle from growing to the right size. While a turtle’s diet may vary depending on its species, turtles should generally consume meat and plants.

  • Protein: Meat, snails, worms, crickets, boiled eggs
  • Greens: Lettuce, spinach, kale
  • Vegetables: Corn, peas, squash
  • Fruits: Strawberries, grapes, kiwi
  • Flowers: Lilies, geraniums, dandelions, or aquatic plants


Turtles stop growing at a certain age. Depending on the species, your turtle may reach full maturity between 5 and 8 years. Hence, it’s crucial that hatchlings and juveniles consume more protein to grow.

If your turtle is relatively young or younger than 5 years and doesn’t seem to be growing in size, there may be something wrong with your pet’s body. In such cases, bring your pet to my clinic so I can examine your turtle’s wellbeing.


If you observe that your turtle is not growing at its supposed rate, a disease might also be the reason. These are among the illnesses that can hamper growth functions in your turtle.

  • Cystic calculi: Also known as bladder stones, cystic calculi occur in turtles when minerals from food form crystals in the urine and become stones. This typically happens when a turtle suffers from improper nutrition or dehydration.
  • Malnutrition: Malnutrition can directly affect and hamper your turtle’s growth. It may even result in shell trauma, causing your pet’s shell to become asymmetrical, bumpy, or too soft.
  • Parasites: Tapeworms, roundworms, and flukes are common in turtles. These parasites can cause diarrhea and weight loss, which is why it’s vital your pet undergoes a fecal examination and treatment.

Monitor your pet for signs of illness, including cloudy eyes, open-mouth breathing, swollen face, lack of appetite, listlessness, and runny stools. If you notice these symptoms, take your turtle to our clinic right away so I can perform a physical examination, blood tests, and X-rays to determine the best treatment.


Brumation refers to the period of dormancy in turtles during the colder months. At this stage, your turtle may stop eating, bury itself, or not intermittently wake to drink.

Since your turtle won’t be eating much to conserve energy, its metabolism may slow down while the immune system suppresses. In effect, your pet may not get all the nutrients it needs to grow quickly.

Lack of Activity

Turtles are active animals, so your pet would love to walk around or swim throughout the day. If you have a particularly energetic pet, you might need to keep up with its dietary requirements. Otherwise, it won’t have enough calories to encourage growth.

Environmental Factors

This can be unconscious, yet sometimes, the environment you provide may stop your turtle’s growth. When your turtle experiences an increase in glucocorticoids, its locomotor activity, feeding behavior, and metabolism may change. Such factors can hamper your pet’s growth rate.

For instance, a small tank size may result in a lack of swimming space, preventing your turtle from exercising. The tank may also end up collecting an excessive amount of waste that can be harmful to your pet’s health.

Person caressing a turtle

How Can I Help My Turtle Grow?

Diet, nutrition, age, brumation, illnesses, and even a lack of activity can stop your turtle from growing correctly. Fortunately, there are several ways to help your pet grow and live a long life.

  • Keep the tank’s temperature around 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Setting the ideal temperature is essential to ensuring your pet’s body functions well. Without these body functions, your turtle’s growth may slow down.
  • Make your turtle’s diet consist of 25% protein, 50% plant matter, and 25% turtle pellets.
  • Add high-quality vitamin supplements to your pet’s diet, especially if you need to increase calcium.
  • Allow your turtle to bask. Turtles can survive without water for a while. The sun’s UV rays help produce vitamin D, which activates calcium in the body to ensure growth.

Exotic pets like turtles require a specific kind of care. Thus, it’s best practice to schedule routine examinations for your pet, so I can conduct complete wellness examinations and recommend the appropriate diet and supplements.

Related Questions

How Long Do Pet Turtles Live?

Depending on the species, domestic turtles can live anywhere between 10 and 80 years. With proper care and feeding, some can even live longer.

Why Is My Turtle Hiding in Its Shell Most of the Time?

Turtles hide in their shells to protect themselves from the elements or predators. It’s possible that your turtle doesn’t feel safe about something, like tank decorations. Your turtle would rely on its shell for cover if there are no suitable hiding places in its tank or if the turtle wants to sleep longer.


If you notice that your turtle is not growing, it’s most likely due to age, improper diet, poor living conditions, illnesses, brumation, or lack of activity. Take time to bring your turtle to our clinic so I can run the appropriate tests and recommend the best diet, medication, and care.