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Variety of food


Non-Vegetarian Food

Animal protein also forms a regular part of your turtles' diet. Meat, chicken, fish, prawns, shrimp and boiled egg whites are all rich in animal proteins and trace elements. Your turtle will absolutely adore most of them, and it will be hard not giving him these as a dominant food in its diet.

But, non-vegetarian foods should not form more than 25-35% of mature turtles' diet.

This amount might be as high as 60-70% in young turtles, but should be decreased to the recommended levels over a period of time.

Never feed any raw non-vegetarian foods to your turtles - the risks are too great! All non-vegetarian food should always be served cooked (boiled without any salt and spices). While red meats (goat, beef, etc.) can be given once in a while as a treat these have a very high fat content, and should be avoided.

The best choice therefore is cooked chicken. Cooked fish can also be given, but it is preferable to restrict it to fresh-water fish and avoid ocean fish. Frozen fish is to be strictly avoided. (Hard) Boiled egg whites can also be given, but again as an occasional treat because they have an extremely high protein content.

Fresh liver is an excellent source of vitamin A, and should be given frequently as part of the non-vegetarian diet. For convenience, fresh liver can be chopped it into small pieces and frozen with a little bit of water in an ice-tray. This keeps it fresh, and all you need to do is drop a cube into the water when feeding.

Dog & Cat food can also be occasionally given, but these tend to have extremely high protein/ fat levels and should not form the staple non-vegetarian component of the diet.

Vegetarian Food

Turtles need veggies & fruits, but the young ones (just like kids) will be brats! And refuse to eat them, preferring non-vegetarian treats. However, tantrums aside… turtles of all ages MUST be provided vegetables & fruits as a staple food item, because they contain fiber, essential vitamins, nutrients and trace elements that your turtle requires.

Vegetables & fruits should form between 50 - 70% of mature turtles' diet.

But, don't get worried if the diet of your young turtle (due to its choice - not yours!) turns out to be 70% non-vegetarian! Just try to shift to a more vegetarian diet over the next 4-6 weeks.

Most pet shops will tell you that Red-Eared Sliders are carnivorous animals. Yes, they prefer to eat insects than plants, but that doesn't mean that they don't need to eat some veggies! They don't get enough Vitamin A from just insects or commercial foods. You need to give it veggies with high Vitamin A content, like carrots. Some turtles will also accept: lettuce, tomatoes, papaya, cantaloupe or bananas. Do not give them spinach since they might cause him/her some digestive complications. If your turtle totally refuses to touch fruits and vegetables, then you have two options:
1. You have to absolutely give him/her vitamin supplements with high Vitamin A content.
2. Force your turtle to eat vegetables.

While most vegetables & fruits that you consume will be fine for your turtles too, based on the vitamin (important ones are A, B types, D) and nutrient content the following are recommended:


  • Spinach - not to be used as a regular green leafy vegetable
  • Mustard leaves
  • Leaves of Radish - Spring Onion, Turnip
  • Lettuce
  • Cabbage
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrot
  • Beetroot
  • Turnip
  • Sweet Potato [cooked - boiled/ steamed/baked]
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Pumpkin
  • Squashes

  • Papaya
  • Mango
  • Water Melon
  • Cantaloupe/Common Melon
  • Grapes
  • Apple
  • Banana
  • Pear
  • Strawberry
  • Figs

Vegetables & fruits should be shredded or cut into small sized chunks (less than your turtles' mouth) and given. Where possible serve with skins. Make sure your vegetables have been washed properly. We recommend that you boil some water, add turmeric (hindi : haldi) and dip the uncut vegetable or fruit in this boiling water for 10-30 seconds, and rinse with clean cool water. This helps in removing any sort of pests, insecticides, etc. on the skin of the vegetable or fruit.

If your turtle refuses to eat vegetables & fruits, cheat it! Mix some minced chicken or chicken broth with the shredded/cut vegetables & fruits. Mix well so that the smell and taste of chicken smears on to the fruit & vegetables. Start with a mix of 50% chicken & 50% vegetables & fruits, slowly increasing the vegetables & fruits share over a few weeks.

What you should avoid feeding

"Empty" food like lettuce and celery. They provide very little useful nutrition or fiber. Only use it to entertain a turtle that is already well fed.
Food high in oxalic acid like spinach, chard and rhubarb. Oxalic acid blocks the absorption of calcium. These foods cause the turtle to become calcium deficient even if a good source of calcium is provided.
High purine foods which include peas, beans, mushrooms should be used sparingly because they can contribute to gout if overused.
Also avoid cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, bok-choi, and kohlrabi (brassica family). In excessive amounts of these plants contribute to kidney disease and goiter. Turnips, soybeans, radishes, rapeseed, and mustard also contain goitrogens. These should be used rarely. However, the addition of kelp to the diet may reverse the goitrogenic effect of the brassicas.

Live Prey

In this section we will discuss basically about live creatures that can serve as food for your turtle. This includes - feeder fish (goldfish & guppies), earthworms, mealworms, mosquito larvae, crickets, cockroaches, snails. You can either keep these along with your turtle in its habitat or culture them separately to give during feeding times.

The primary source is 'feeder fish'. Feeder fish are generally 'guppies' or  'small goldfish'. Like we said earlier, they can either be introduced into the tank or reared separately.

The benefits of providing live food are immense:
  • The bones/shells provide extra calcium. In case you are culturing your own you can boost their
     calcium and vitamin content by dosing the food you give them with calcium powder and some
  • Another key benefit of providing live food - especially fishes is exercise! Your turtle WILL chase
     these fishes and burn some calories… thus reducing chances of obesity
  • And last but not the least, you and the turtle will both get some entertainment!

When keeping fish make sure you don't introduce too many. 4-8 fishes in a medium sized tank at any point of time are more than enough. Make sure you provide enough vegetation cover or 'turtle-proof' corners… or they will be eaten too soon!

In case you are introducing live feed into the habitat, keep a careful check on their number, and reduce the turtles' regular diet if it has consumed more of the live food.

Other live food that is popularly given includes - snails, earthworms, mosquito larvae, crickets & cockroaches. While these can be cultured, we don't know too many who are culturing crickets and cockroaches. On the other hand snails and earthworms like fishes are relatively easy to culture. In fact you can buy snails and introduce them into you habitat just like 'feeder fish'.

Mosquito Larvae and Earthworms should be given a quick rinse before they are given as food. For younger turtles you might need to chop up the earthworms into small pieces.

What you can feed

Aquatic snails/slugs
Mosquito larvea
Small fish like guppies
(Brine) Shrimp
All kinds of worms
Live insect food

Wild Prey

Quite often one is tempted to catch some live prey and feed to the turtle. This is a strict NO, because:
  • Not all prey is safe to eat
  • Live prey might harbor parasites that are alien to your turtle, and it might get infected
  • Live feed might be contaminated with toxins, herbicides, etc.

So avoid feeding, wild prey to your turtles. You can do so only if you disinfect them, but that would again take care of only the surface parasites/chemicals.

Aquatic Plant Food

Some turtles will eat aquatic plants, then if you want to decorate your tank with them, make sure that those plants are not poisonous! Among the plants that the turtles will eat we find: water hyacinth, water lilies, elodia, duckweed. Feeding your turtles with aquatic plants is an excellent idea because they have a high content of Vitamin A, and also provide cover to your turtle.

Aquatic plants serve as excellent decorations and also mid-meal snacks for your turtles. There are many more benefits of having plants in your tank, which we will not elaborate here. The best part of keeping aquatic plants is that your turtles can feed on them at their own discretion. (which is also quite unfortunate as they tend to eat them more often than not - and you will end up replacing your plants quite frequently!)

We personally recommend that you float some
water lettuce on top of the water - it looks extremely dainty, and is available with most nurseries. Some other water plants that are safe for the turtle, and you can float in the habitat are - Water Lily, Duckweed, and Water Hyacinth.

Most aquarium plants are safe for your turtles.

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.

Feed a combination of the following foods

Commercial diets (No more than 25% of the total diet)
Animal Protein (No more than 25% of the total diet)
Plant matter (50% or more of the total diet)

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.You should feed as much food as fits in his head and neck. The turtle should be able to eat this in about 5 to 10 minutes. Juveniles must be fed every day, while adults can be fed once every two or three days. If your turtle(s) is fat, when the skin overlaps on its legs when he/she tucks them in.
Overfeeding will cause the turtle to grow too fast and die when he is 10 till 15 years old because of kidney failure. You might want to examine what your are feeding it, for instance the fat content or might start feeding it less often.
Give vitamin supplements twice a week.

Commercial foods

There is a wide variety of commercial foods for turtles. You can feed her with commercial foods but you must vary the diet. Do not feed her ONLY commercial foods. Check the nutritional contents of the food. It should have less than 35% protein and the best commercial foods for the turtle are those that have both calcium and vitamin A. I personally like Wardleys Reptile TEN, but there are other good ones like Tropical Magic. I don't like the Reptomin, but when it is all I can get I'll buy it.

Should have

Less than 35% protein
Vitamin A


Crickets are an excellent food for turtles. They are a complete meal, and it is also fun to watch the chase! Most reptile stores carry crickets, and they are relatively inexpensive. They can also be bought at bate shops. You can try to raise the crickets yourself.


These are also very good for the turtles, and very easy to raise. The only problem is. If your turtle is a baby, you might have to chop them up before feeding them to the turtle!

Aquatic snail

Nice natural meal that functions both as a meal, and as filter helper. The snails will eat some of the food your turtles doesn't eat. You don't need a big filtered tank to raise them. You can raise them in a plastic bottle. Remember to feed them.

Raw meat, fish or chicken

Turtles adores them, but they are not good for the turtle. Raw meat has too much fat, and will cause obesity in the turtle. Besides, it doesn't provide the turtle with the nutrients it needs so much. Raw chicken, beware of salmonella! You can give your turtle occasionally a piece of COOKED chicken, with no spices at all. About fish, I would suggest feeding it with mosquito fish or guppies. You can occasionally give the turtle other types of fish, but try to avoid sea fish. You should totally avoid giving your turtle fish that has been previously frozen. This fish will inhabit and might cause the turtle long term problems.

What you can NOT feed

No raw meat
No raw chicken
No sea fish or fish that been previously frozen

Avoid fatty red meats

Cuttle bone

They are a good source of calcium to the turtle, and at the same time it helps it sharpen its beak. Cuttle bones can be left floating to let the turtle chase them. You can buy them at most pet shops since they are the same used by birds. More in VITAMINS AND MINERALS

Cat feed

Dry cat feed is can also be used as meal for a turtle. You might want to soak them for given them, which makes eating them easier. It has all the nutrients your turtle need but can be fat, salty and high in protein and should not be used as the main source of protein.

Your turtle refuses to eat

If your turtle refuses to eaten item that he/she previously enjoyed eating, don't worry.The Red-Eared Sliders are finicky eaters and sometimes they just want something different, and sometimes the problems is that you gave the turtle something that he/she liked better, and then he/she holds on until you give him/her different items. As far as he/she is eating something, there is nothing to worry about. Suspect sickness only when he/she refuses to eat at all no matter what you offer your turtle.

If your turtle don't eat

- Is the turtle kept warm enough? If turtles get too cool, they will stop eating.
- Does the turtle like the food you offer?? Try out different foods. Some turtles can be very finicky eaters, especially in the beginning. And they have definite likes and dislikes. Most turtles will eventually take small earthworms that are wiggling in front of their nose. Start feeding favorite foods, then slowly introduce other items.
- Is your turtle exposed to too much stresses? This is often a cause in new animals. Stress can be caused by handling, traveling, tank mates. New turtles will often not eat properly for several weeks. Be patient and keep trying.
- Is your turtle healthy? Not eating can be a symptom of other problems. If your turtle has been eating well and suddenly stops, a health problem is a likely reason. Take a fecal sample to your veterinarian. Fecal samples need to be no older than 4 hours, and you need to store them in water in the refrigerator.
- Don't panic! A turtle can go without food for weeks, even months, and when it feels well again, it will eat again. See a veterinarian, if you thing you are doing everything right, and the animal does not eat for more than 2 weeks.
- Offer him different foods.
- It's still winter, and your turtle may just be taking a break. If he has no other symptoms, this is a possibility.
- Is your turtle still producing poop? If not, he may be severely constipated. He'll need a laxative, and only a vet can calculate the right dosage. If you want to try something on your own, dip a few of his food pellets into mineral oil and feed it to him. Don't overdo it, that can be bad, too.
- If you are ONLY feeding food sticks, what brand?, your turtle may not be getting all he needs from food. Offer some wiggly worms and change his diet as suggested on the web site.
- Your turtle may be too cold. Check the web site on heating. Also, it is always a good idea to keep a turtle that is not eating very warm. Heat the water to 30C (85F), and make sure the basking site is at 32C (90F). This will often help. Being warm also helps the immune system.
- If the turtle has a distinct nasal discharge or is swimming lopsided or gaping, it is likely he has a respiratory infection.
In summary: Keep him warm if it is mild, if it does not get better within a few days, you must see a vet, because he'll need antibiotics. More in MEDICAL .




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