Aquatic turtles raised as pets are generally more difficult to care for than most pet parents realize. Turtles should eat a variety of commercially available turtle pellets (which include protein needed for their health) in addition to live food and a variety of vegetables. Turtles may even enjoy the occasional fruit or treat!
The diet of each individual turtle should be carefully considered and studied based on the natural diet of the species and in coordination with a reptile veterinarian.
Most semi-aquatic and aquatic turtles, such as red sliders, painted turtles, and pond turtles, are omnivores, which means they eat a combination of animal protein and vegetables. Some species, such as the soft-shelled spiny turtle, are considered carnivorous and eat mainly animal protein. In general, aquatic turtles eat more animal protein when they are young and more vegetables as they age. It is important to continue to evolve your turtle's diet as they age.
Carnivorous turtles should eat a mixture of more commercially produced turtle pellets in addition to live animal protein. Omnivorous turtles should also receive the pellet mixture in addition to approved vegetables and plant material. The typical food ratio for an adult omnivorous turtle includes:
-More than 50 percent plant material
-About 25% pellets
-About 25% live animal protein
What do turtles eat?
Adult turtles should be offered food every two or three days, while juveniles generally eat every day. Many companies offer commercially available pellets for aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles. It is essential to rotate different brands of pellets, so your turtle is exposed to multiple varieties. By switching brands or combining 4-5 different brands at once, pet owners are more likely to meet the turtle's nutritional needs for vitamins, minerals and macronutrients. This will ensure a strong, healthy and long-lived turtle!
Adult turtles should also receive a vitamin and calcium supplement sprinkled on their diet two or three times a week. Many brands of supplements are available; be sure to use one labeled for turtles or reptiles. Talk to your veterinarian to determine which brand most appropriately meets your turtle's needs. Turtles may also enjoy chewing calcium blocks or cuttlefish bone to increase calcium intake and to help keep their beaks tidy. Remove any uneaten food from the water, as waste can contaminate it.
What vegetables can turtles eat?
Nutrition plays a crucial role in keeping aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles healthy. Vegetables are often underutilized, but they should make up the majority of the diet of the adult omnivorous aquatic turtle. Just as with turtle pellets, it is critical to offer a wide variety of dark leafy greens in addition to other vegetables. A turtle should never eat the same vegetables throughout its life. Instead, offer 2-3 types of vegetables per feeding and 1-2 types of other vegetables. Every week or two, rotate between the following options to keep your turtle healthy and happy. Highly nutritious vegetable sources for turtles include:
-Crushed carrots and carrot tops
What live food can turtles eat?
Live food is important for providing protein to carnivorous and omnivorous aquatic turtles. Carnivorous turtles will eat a higher percentage of live protein in addition to a variety of pellets. Dead fish should be removed from the aquarium immediately, as they can spread disease. Feeding fish should be the main live food offered, but others may be used occasionally, including:
-Feeding fish, such as goldfish, guppies, baitfish and smelt
-Insects, such as earthworms, wax worms, mealworms, and moth larvae
What fruits can turtles eat?
Some turtles may also enjoy fruits occasionally. Fruit should be offered raw. Cut or chop the fruit to facilitate swallowing and prevent choking. To help keep a turtle's beak trimmed, you can offer pieces of melon with the rind on. Other fruits favored by turtles are:
-Fruits of the forest
What can't turtles eat?
There are a variety of items and foods that should never be placed in an aquarium with an aquatic turtle:
-Frozen vegetables can be used occasionally, but not as a staple vegetable. They are deficient in essential vitamins and frequent feeding can cause long-term illness in your turtle.
-Frozen or freeze-dried fish are often deficient in essential vitamins and should not be fed.
-Earthworms and other insects from your garden should not be offered, as they may introduce bacteria, pesticides or parasites to your turtle.
-Dog or cat food may be fine as an occasional treat, but should never be used as a dietary staple.
-Raw chicken or beef should not be offered as they commonly contain foodborne illnesses.
-Toxic plants, such as amaryllis and some ferns
-Fake plants, which can confuse the turtle and cause accidental ingestion
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