EBT not eating

Gibby18

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Hi everyone.
I'm new here so I'll give a little background to help fill you in. On July 16th I was given an Eastern Box Turtle that had been living at a nature center I worked at one summer. They think they've had him for at least 10 years, and he was in a 20-30 gallon aquarium without a UV light all that time, and a heat light only sometimes. They claimed this was due to lack of money... His name is Tri-pod because he is missing a foot.
He is now in a large kiddie pool with a combo light, and an eco-earth/forest floor/moss mix for substrate that he loves to dig in.
The problem is he has barely eaten since I brought him home. They fed him the day I got him, egg and watermelon, and he ate all of it. But he's barely touched anything since. I've only gotten him to eat a couple bites of watermelon a couple weeks ago, and nothing since.
He has always been a picky eater. He likes boiled eggs, tomatoes, and fruit. He won't eat crickets, mealworms or any other kind of meat. I tried introducing him to other foods when I worked there a couple years ago because they didn't give him much variety, but he refused to eat most of it.
I don't know what to do. I've even tried using his old aquarium as a feeding tank since that is what he was used to for so long. He's drinking fine, is still really active, and is not showing any sign of respiratory problems.
How long can he go without eating? Is it likely due to the drastic change in enclosures? Should I keep him in his old aquarium despite it being so small?
 

Gillian M

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Welcome to the forum!

To begin with, please read the "Beginners Mistakes" Thread. Please give him a daily a soak in warm water so as to avoid dehydration and pyramiding.

Torts do not like change therefore it takes time for them to get adapted to it.

Any pics of your tort and his enclosure?
 

Gibby18

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Thanks! I looked over the thread you mentioned, and appreciated the tips it gives.
He does get soaking time each day. I'm thinking of getting a second heat lamp to use at night because it can get cold when his day light shuts off, but the temp stays within the low to mid 80s near his lamp when it's on. It's on a 12 hour cycle. I have a big plant saucer for a water dish, and he has a hide on the cool side, and one on the warm side. He never uses the warm side one though. He prefers his rock cave to the flower pot I guess.

Here are a couple pictures. I try to take him outside for a little while a couple times a week. I have a pet play pen I put him in so he doesn't disappear when I'm not looking. Sorry for the blurriness of the enclosure. Right now I have cardboard around it to keep him from climbing out, but I intend to replace that with coroplast. I also want to put some plants in with him.
 

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Pastel Tortie

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Looking forward to clearer pictures of such a handsome turtle with a lovely pattern!

For what it's worth... I don't often catch my Gulf Coast box turtle basking under her light, except for those times I spot her head showing through the sphagnum moss she likes to dig down into. Yes, she will sometimes bask with nothing but her head showing.

Also, my GCBT was never big on red wigglers straight out of the container from the store. Once they were transferred to her enclosure, apparently they tasted better. I still dig them out of her "pantry" under the large plant saucer during her soaks and rinse them off before I give them to her. She prefers to eat them in the water.

I don't feel too bad if she has to wait for a meal, because if she's hungry, she can rustle up something from her pantry. :)
 

Gibby18

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Thank you for the suggestions! Hopefully something will stick. Yesterday I even tried putting his favorite foods out in different places in the enclosure, but they were all still untouched today. It really worries me because judging from the pictures in the link, he is underweight. Not severely at least, but still not ideal.
He often sleeps under his basking light, and is most active in the evening and at night.
I'm thinking about making him a vet appointment just to rule some things out. I was also wondering if it might be better for me to switch him to a large (75 gal) aquarium since it would be more similar to what he spent the past 10+ years in. I won't have the money for the aquarium for at least a couple more weeks though, and I really hope he is eating by then.

As a side note, he also doesn't have the best beak. He was constantly biting the rocks in his enclosure at the nature center, so his beak has pretty much been worn down to nothing. :(
 
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PJay

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Box turtles moved to a new habitat can go off food for some time. For turtles that wont eat I like to establish a regular routine where the turtle is placed in a container with water up to the bottom of its carapace and offered food once every day or two. Use the same container in the same place in the same room so it becomes routine. Box turtles don't like new things, they're scary. You can offer different foods each time but keep everything else the same. Put the food in the container with the turtles and leave the room. Placing a top on the container can help with the more shy individuals. I have found doing this for days or weeks eventually brings them around to eat. Once they are eating in the container try leaving food for them in their habitat. Be consistent and persistent.
 

Yvonne G

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Have you seen this article:

Box Turtles Not Eating Well



Most new turtle keepers try too hard to make their new turtle happy. It is best to look at how wild turtles live for the best information. There are NO box turtles living in the wild eating only wax worms or meal worms. These are fine foods, used in moderation, as part of a highly varied diet. Heavy emphasis on live foods has hurt a lot of captive turtles, and doesn’t make sense in view of what we know from wild turtles.

Each turtle has a different personality and that’s just fine. All turtles benefit from a wide variety of foods being offered. Try putting a hunk of cantaloupe in the habitat and walk away. Your box turtle isn’t likely to look at it until about 4:30 to 5:30 in the morning, when no one is around. Or he might dive right in. Or not. Just leave it. A couple days later, make a nice omelet in a pan prepared with olive oil. Put some grated carrots in it too, with maybe a bit of cuttlebone scraped in. After it’s thoroughly cooled, put it on a flat rock and go away. Leave it overnight in case the turtle isn’t interested in eating until the early morning. Try some red lettuce. Many turtles that have resisted plant matter will happily eat red lettuce. Just put it in and walk away. Leave it a couple days.

Use a different food at each feeding, and completely stop using wax worms and mealworms until the picky eating habits have cleared up. Overuse of live foods has done a lot of damage to captive turtles, and may be implicated in the deformities that are developing in captive turtles. Live foods are highly enticing to many box turtles, leading to picky eating habits and vitamin deficiencies. When a turtle can expect to be fed “candy,” it won’t go looking for healthier foods. In the wild, finding live food isn’t guaranteed, so turtles automatically learn to eat whatever is available. The turtle hobby swings wildly in its opinions on care and we are currently in the extreme swing of “live food.” If people would remember to look at the wild turtles, they could avoid some of the silliness. All things in moderation. Wild box turtles naturally eat about half plants and half animal matter. They go looking for calcium in a separate form when they feel the need.

Another fact of nature is often ignored by even excellent, experienced keepers: turtles cycle through daily temperature changes. They don’t need to be warm all the time. In fact, that will interfere with these natural rhythms. There is an optimum body temperature range – 82 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit – which will allow the turtle to digest food most efficiently. They will want to reach that temperature for a couple hours each day. Then they will want to cool down. And by the way, they can reach those optimum digestion temperatures at much lower ambient air temperatures if there is a bright light. Constantly overheating a turtle will lead to a variety of health problems, including kidney failure. It is best avoided. Have a temperature gradient in the habitat from a cool end about 70-76 degrees to the warmer area about 80-86 degrees. Never let it get above 90. Many people, including many vets, do not realize that constant high temperatures are harmful.

UVB lights can be helpful, especially with juveniles who are growing their bones and need to do it right. With the cuttlebone always available, a highly varied diet, and UV for part of the day, turtles should be able to put all the ingredients together. Humidity and hydration are also important for this. Using UVB lights that aren’t too bright or hot can be very helpful with shy turtles. Tube fluorescents are ideal for this type of turtle. There isn’t one right light for all settings and all turtles.

Regarding “light therapy”: Put the turtle in a plain tub or box – no substrate or hiding place – with a bright, warm light over him for about 2 hours a day. Then give the turtle a 15-20 minute soak in tepid water. Then put him back in his habitat and place a hunk of cantaloupe in front of him and move quickly out of his sight.. Do not try to shove it down his throat. This will lead to stress and resistance. It will make him even more reluctant to eat. Don’t offer foods he has recently rejected. And don’t bother with carrot by itself. Cantaloupe is bright-colored and puts out an enticing aroma, so it is often accepted by reluctant feeders. A big hunk is better than cut up pieces. The most natural time for box turtles to eat is at dawn.

The next day after the light and the soak, put some smelly cat food in front of it and move quickly out of sight. The cat food can be prepared with some cuttlebone scrapings, minced greens, and grated carrot.

On the third day after the light and soak, put an egg omelet in front of her and walk away. The omelet can be prepared with chopped bell pepper and cuttlebone scrapings.

Turtles can live a very long time without eating. It’s much less important than water and humidity. You need to break the torpor with lights. Don’t feed the same food items over and over, but offer something novel each day. Look for smelly and bright colored foods. Many different fruits fill the bill. You can also try leaving red lettuce in the habitat all the time. The turtle might discover it at the most natural feeding time, that is, very early morning when you aren’t around.

Box turtles are crepuscular in nature. That means they are naturally inclined to be active and foraging very early in the morning, then later at dusk, not when it is convenient for us. This is the natural way they avoid the damaging effects of UV radiation from the sun, which is at its peak in mid-day. They also utilize the natural dew that forms then for higher humidity. So having foods in the habitat when it is relatively dark and when no one is around can lead to improved appetite. Make sure your turtle gets the natural temperature cycling – cooler at night – because this aids in creating a desire to forage at daybreak.

If you cannot break the dormancy with light therapy and novel food stimuli, it is possible that your turtle is fighting an infection. In that case, veterinary care would be required. But try doing light therapy and novel foods for a couple weeks first. Make sure the light doesn’t overheat the turtle or damage the skin and eyes with excess UV radiation. Jus a 40 watt Reveal bulb over the box can do the trick. A tube UVB fluorescent isn’t likely to hurt the turtle either. But those super-hot, ultra-bright UV/heat combo lights are often avoided by shy or sensitive turtles.




(Researched and compiled from information from Mary Hopson. http://www.turtlepuddle.org/ )
 
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