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Food time… is fun time for both you & the turtles, and they eat as much as they throw around!
To top it all they HAVE to be fed in water!
Bottomline: your turtles are extremely messy (and fussy) eaters!

Suggested Feeding Process

To avoid the mess they create I recommend that you feed your animals in a separate plastic tub. Feeding the turtles in a separate tub, half filled with water does not create any undue stress (unless they are NOT held properly). Seperate feeding will prevent roken up food particles from remaining in the tank and fouling up the water. Generally turtles also excrete within 30-40 minutes of feeding. So it is ideal if you feed your turtle in the separate tub, and let it stay there for 30-40 minutes, till it excretes. However, when using separate feeding container, make sure that the temperature of the water is not below that of the tank. We suggest that it may be kept 1-2°C (2-4°F) higher than the tank water.

Like people, every turtle is unique, and will have its own food quirks. In their natural habitats turtles are omnivorous and eat a variety of foods thereby giving them a well-balanced diet. In captivity though they don't have access to natures varied menu! And are dependant on you to meet their requirements totally!

A common mistake (originating due to a higher familiarity with fish food habits) a lot of people commit is - feeding the turtle some commercial turtle food or the same kind of leafy scraps daily. This diet is severely limiting, and does not provide the turtle with the required amount of proteins, vitamins and other nutrients. As in humans this can lead to malnutrition and associated diseases.

The diet of a mature turtle should consist of the following:
1. Vegetarian foods: 50-70%
2. Non-vegetarian foods: 25-35%
3. Commercial reptile foods: 15-25%

Turtle Obesity

You might feel that we should have discussed this after covering the food details, but obesity is one of the most common problems facing pet turtles. Remember, overfed turtles can become obese as easily as people, and face similar problems too!

Quite obviously, obesity is caused by too much (and too fatty) food, and too little exercise. In a few weeks, your turtle should have learnt to trust you and recognize food. Once this happens, we recommend making your turtles run around a little for their food! Dangle it right in front of their mouths using forceps/or ur fingers (but be careful!), and make them run after it before giving it to them.

Frequency n Quantities

Generally speaking, smaller turtles need to eat more frequently than larger reptiles. Hatchlings can be fed daily till about 8-10 months, but adult turtles are best fed every alternate day.

A rule of thumb is to feed the turtle as much food as would fit in its head and neck. Another way is to feed them as much as they will eat in a few minutes. REMEMBER: Do not overfeed your turtles.

Types of food

Omnivorous by nature, turtles eat both vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals. Though younger turtles are distinctly more carnivorous, they tend to become more herbivorous as they grow older. Turtles need to be fed a mix of flesh, vegetables, fruits, commercial turtle feed, calcium, vitamins and live food! While that seems a lot, it is actually quite simple, once you understand their dietary requirements and create a schedule.

Variety of diet:

It is important to vary the diet of the turtle to assure its overall health. Do not feed it just one sort of food! You can feed them a variety of life food like crickets, earthworms, aquatic snail, mosquito fish, fruits and vegetables, one commercial food, and Vitamin supplements.

How often to feed:

Your turtle(s) will always be begging for food, the Red-Eared Sliders have a voracious appetite.
So how much is a good meal? Well, until your turtle(s) stops eating. Some keepers feed them twice a week, I feed them 3 times a week or more. If your turtle(s) is fat, when the skin overlaps on its legs when he/she tucks them in. Then you might want to examine what you are feeding your turtles, if it has too much of a fat content, you might start feeding your turtles less often or change what you are feeding.

Your turtle will always be begging for food.  Red- Eared sliders have a voracious appetite.  Most turtle keepers feed their turtles one good size meal every two days.  How much is a good size meal?  until your turtle stops eating.  Other keepers feed them twice a week.  I personally prefer to feed them one small meal every day.  If your turtle is fat (skin overlaps on its legs when she tucks them in), you might want to examine what you are feeding it (if it has too much of a fat content) or you might start feeding it less often.


Useful Hints

  • DO NOT FEED HAMBURGER. It is much to fatty!
  • Water turtles need to be in the water to feed. If they find food on a land area, they will run to the closest water source, so they can swallow.
  • Most water turtles are predominantly carnivores, but often like to get some fruit and greens. Experiment with a good mix of food items and find out, what your turtle likes best. Don't just feed one kind of food. In the wild, turtles eat a very varied diet.
  • It is difficult, to supply the right mix of food in captivity, so it is recommended that some extra vitamins are added to the food. (See vitamins).
  • Good food: earthworms, nightcrawlers (make sure they are not raised on manure), redworms, mealworms (treat only, fatty), whole feeder goldfish (occasionally), snails, butter lettuce (wash well) or melon and other fruit (find out what your turtle likes), tofu, banana, strawberries, peas, kibbles, Reptomin, Tender Vittels. Blueberries, dandelion flowers and leaves, vegetable scraps from your kitchen, tomato, cooked sweet potatoes, mulberry leaves ...
  • Do not feed Tubifex worms. Do not feed raw chicken, because of salmonella in the chicken. Cooked (boiled, well-done) chicken is OK. (Freezing will not destroy salmonella.) Feed organ meat sparingly, if at all. Shrimp, ocean fish, squid, can be fed occasionally. Feed any commercial food as a side, not a staple. Commercial foods are too rich to be fed all the time.
  • More and more people consider feeder fish a low-quality food. Also, feeder fish are usually not very healthy. Better to feed frozen and thawed freshwater fish. A colleague recommends what's called 'Silversides'
  • As a nutritional staple, you can use a commercial turtle food. Tender Vittels (cat treats) work well, too, but not all turtles like them. However, these foods are relatively fatty and high in protein and should not be fed daily.
  • We used to feed canned cat/dog food to turtles. With the availability of decent dry foods, I can't recommend this anymore, except as a last resort for an animal that won't eat, even after it has been declared healthy by a veterinarian.
  • Lettuce (to most people, 'lettuce' still means 'iceberg' which is a NO_NO. Use dandelion greens--very high in calcium and vitamin A--and escarole & endive & ok, romaine--all good sources of calcium, and none carrying iodine-binding substances like the cruciferous veggies or calcium-binding substances like spinach.
  • Feed your turtle every 2-3 days, but make greens available daily. If it gets too skinny, feed more, if it gets fat, feed less. Most likely your turtle will end up on the fat side, because it will learn to beg on no-feed days, and you will give in. I tend to feed my turtles daily in summer, feeding them veggies one day and dry food or worms the other day. In winter I only feed twice a week and mostly dry food, because it is cooler, and the population density in my tank is up.
  • All non-dry non-concentrated foods can be fed until the turtle is full. Full is, when the turtle slows down eating. Stuffed is, when the turtle cannot get any more food down, even if it tries. It is funny to feed a turtle worms until the worms hang out of its mouth. But don't do this often.
  • Read up on the species of turtle you have to find out what ratio of meat-to-veggies to feed. Captive turtles tend to be fed too much meat. Young turtles need more meat than adults. For example, adult sliders should be fed a diet of 60% veggies and 40% meat.
  • Meryl

    It looks like Toby has over grown his feeding dish..


Site Created: 1/8/2002, Last modified: 12/7/2003 by Petra Grujic