Turtle Diet: Important Points to Know

small turtle eating lettuceA turtle’s diet is very important, as it effect the growth and development of your pet. A healthy adult turtle should have a balanced diet that includes fresh greens, vegetables, fruits, pellets and aquatic plants. Here are some foods to include into your turtles’ diet:

Common greens to feed your turtles include lettuce or green leafy vegetables such as collard greens and turnip tops. Watercress is another good choice for hungry turtles; however you can only give them watercress occasionally because their high sodium content may cause problems with your turtle’s health over time. Always remove any stems from these types of leaves before serving them to your little reptile friends. Feeding too many stalks could also lead to blockages in the intestinal tract. Turtles will also enjoy a variety of fresh vegetables in their diet. Some examples are bell peppers, cucumbers and zucchini. These foods should be washed thoroughly before they are served to your turtles because you want to keep them free from germs and bacteria that can cause health problems for your pets.

It is important that you do not feed turtles iceberg lettuce, because it does not have much nutritional value. Turtles also should never eat potatoes or tomatoes. These foods contain solanine which is a toxin that can be very harmful to a turtle’s health. Feeding your pet vegetables and fruits too often will cause them to ingest too many carbohydrates which may lead to obesity issues for your turtles over time. You should only serve these types of food every few days or so to limit the amount of sugar that your turtle receives from their diet.

Another great way to feed you turtles would be by giving them pellets designed specifically for aquatic turtles as part of their daily diet. There are many different brands on the market today, but Petco carries own brand turtle food that has been created specifically with the nutrition needs of aquatic turtles in mind. These pellets are designed to feed any variety of fresh water turtles and they include a wide array of essential vitamins and minerals.

Pellets have been proven to be a healthy snack for turtles because they will relieve your reptile’s hunger pangs while also giving them all the nutrients that they need for proper health maintenance. This makes them very appealing to most types of pet turtles, including box turtles, red eared sliders and other varieties. Always make sure you purchase these pellets from an online store like Amazon or Petco where you know you can get the best deals on these products.

Although it may be tempting to feed your turtle meat based foods such as worms and insects, you should not do this because they are full of high cholesterol that is bad for your turtle’s health. They also may contain pesticides or dangerous bacteria that can make your pet sick over time. It is also important to remember that turtles should never eat grapes, raisins, cranberries or other types of wild berries which are harmful to their digestive systems.

It is very easy to feed your turtles a wide variety of healthy foods every day so long as you stick with the ones mentioned in this article. These delicious treats will provide them with the energy they need to survive while also keeping their appetites from getting out of control. Make sure that you stock these foods in large amounts so they will always be available when your little pets are hungry.

Key points about turtle diets and nutrition:

  1. A variety of foods are required to ensure that the nutritional needs of turtles will be met. Some species naturally consume a wide range of foods in their natural habitat, while others have more specialized dietary requirements because they eat only certain types of prey or plants. In captivity, we attempt to fulfill the turtle’s requirement for a varied diet by offering several different kinds and sources of foods. By using this method, we can offer as close an approximation to the natural diet as possible.
  2. For many aquatic species (fresh and marine water turtles), live foods are an important part of the natural diet. In captivity, most aquatic species will readily accept dead food items, but may at times eat only live foods. Some herbivores (Land and Freshwater turtles) require a steady supply of fresh vegetation such as grasses or aquatic plants.
  3. The primary nutrients in turtle diets are protein (for growth and tissue repair), minerals (which maintain normal body functions), vitamins (vital in metabolic reactions), and certain fats and carbohydrates which provide energy for day-to-day activities. Turtles obtain these nutrients by consuming both plant (‘herbivorous’) foods containing carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals and fats; as well as animal (‘carnivorous’) foods containing proteins, vitamins and minerals.
  4. Turtles are opportunistic feeders, which means they will eat anything that looks or smells good to them. Food may be of animal origin (insects, fish, other aquatic animals), vegetable origin (plants, fruits), or a combination of both types. Some turtles have more specialized dietary requirements (i.e., certain plants only).
  5. The diet must be varied and balanced regularly in order to ensure that the nutritional needs of turtles are met. Special feeding methods such as gut-loading prey items prior to feeding carnivores with them must also be utilized when appropriate.
  6. It is not uncommon for captive turtles to go through short periods of not eating or to lose their appetites for one reason or another. A variety of factors can cause a turtle to stop eating, including stress and/or illnesses. Therefore, it is important to understand the signs associated with non-feeding turtles (i.e., thinning body condition, change in appearance and alertness; lethargic behavior) so that appropriate action can be taken if indicated.

Positive reinforcement training methods are often used in conditioning turtles to take food voluntarily from an offered feeding dish (dish presentation). They involve procedures such as repeatedly presenting live prey items directly into the open mouth of turtles until they begin accepting them readily; using desired foods as rewards in an operant conditioning program where the animal learns to perform a specific behavior (such as sitting on the bottom of a tank) in order to be rewarded; or using special additives (Gut-Loading) so that prey items are more nutritious when fed to turtles..

Land and Freshwater Turtles:

  1. turtle reaching for leaf with mouthIn general, herbivorous turtles should receive ample quantities of greens daily, including Romaine lettuce, collard greens, turnip greens, dandelion leaves and other dark green leafy vegetables such as kale. Other suitable vegetation may include aquatic plants like Elodea canadensis or Limnobium spongia. Herbivore species often benefit from feeding grasses such as oat hay, timothy hay or dried grass clippings. It is important to note that turtle feces may contain undigested pieces of plant material (indicating that not all food was consumed).
  2. Some herbivorous species benefit from an occasional small animal food item such as a feeder fish or worms, but most do not require live prey items. As with other species of reptiles and amphibians, terrestrial turtles also often consume carrion (dead animals).
  3. Turtles housed outdoors in warmer climates will usually obtain sufficient quantities of the required nutrients by foraging through leaf-litter and aquatic vegetation. Herbivorous species housed indoors are often provided with some greens on a daily basis regardless of the season because indoor environments typically lack the variety of plants available outside Some species (i.e., sliders) readily take lettuce, but often toss the larger leaves before consuming them. This behavior can be eliminated by offering Romaine or iceberg lettuce, which are more palatable to them and are easier for them to consume.
  4. Land carnivorous turtles should receive a variety of animal prey items in addition to greens. Some suitable foods include earthworms, feeder fish, crickets and roaches (insects), as well as commercial diets such as Mazuri Aquatic Turtle Diet or ReptoMin. Carnivorous species will also occasionally consume carrion found outdoors (dead animals). Depending on what is locally available, some may benefit from being provided with insects that have been gut-loaded prior to feeding.

Water Turtles:

  1. water turtle eatingWater turtles are generally carnivorous and should receive a variety of animal prey items. Some suitable foods include feeder fish, crickets and roaches (insects), as well as commercial diets such as Mazuri Aquatic Turtle Diet or ReptoMin . Special care must be taken to ensure that food is free of excessive foreign debris (such as dirt or sand), which can cause impaction in aquatic species. If possible, animals should be fed outdoors in an area where the water is clean and debris-free, or feeders containing prepared food items may be filled with clean tap water. In addition to meaty foods, some suitable aquatic plants include Elodea canadensis (Anacharis) or Limnobium spongia.
  2. Young turtles that have not yet developed a good feeding response should be encouraged to eat at each meal by providing live feeder insects, which are typically more nutritious than commercial diets. Gut-loading feeders is also beneficial as it increases the nutritional value of the prey item and may encourage reluctant animals to feed. A variety of appropriate live food items should be offered until the animal begins eating on its own. Water turtles housed outdoors will usually obtain sufficient quantities of the required nutrients through natural foraging behavior and consumption of invertebrates such as snails, worms and crustaceans.
  3. Large water turtles living in indoor habitats may benefit from an occasional small animal food item (such as a feeder fish), but most do not require live prey items. As with other species of reptiles and amphibians, terrestrial turtles also often consume carrion (dead animals).
  4. Some aquatic turtle species are known to be cannibalistic. This behavior is usually reduced or eliminated if the turtles can forage on their own outside the tank or be removed from sight when being fed indoors. In outdoor environments, water turtles are often provided with some greens on a daily basis regardless of season because such environments typically lack variety of plants available outside. I recommend that you try offering your pet some leafy greens once in awhile – they may just surprise you! If not, you shouldn’t worry about it too much.
  5. Water turtles housed indoors are generally not provided with greens because they are often fed commercially prepared diets. However, if an adult or juvenile water turtle is not eating its usual diet because of illness or some other issue, a few pieces of Romaine lettuce can be offered to encourage feeding behavior until the animal recovers.

General Rules:

  1. Offer foods in small quantities so that the turtle will always have access to fresh food items rather than leftovers from previous meals. This also reduces the risk of over-feeding and obesity. If you are using frozen or freeze-dried diets, be sure to provide appropriate thawed food alongside so that your pets will always have fresh food available.
  2. Use a variety of prey items (preferably high protein animal items such as insects and fish) rather than relying on one type of live or commercial diet. If turtles are fed only commercial diets, they may suffer from nutritional deficiencies if adequate variation is not provided in the diet. Supplemental oral vitamin & calcium supplements should be used if necessary to correct nutritional imbalances that may result from feeding only prepared foods.
  3. Avoid feeding turtles scraps with excessive amounts of salt, sugar and other spices.
  4. Be alert to the possibility that turtles may harbor internal parasites such as flatworms (flukes). If you suspect this problem in your pet water turtle, please consult a veterinarian for appropriate treatment.
  5. In general, feeding rates should be tailored to an individual animal’s appetite. Once an animal no longer eats at each mealtime, food items should be left out until they become rancid before replacing with fresh food. How often you need to feed your pet depends on its size, activity level, and species. Each of these factors may vary depending on the turtle’s age and environment.
  6. Water turtles housed outdoors are often provided with some greens on a regular basis regardless of season because such environments typically lack variety of plants available. If not, you shouldn’t worry about it too much.
  7. Avoid over-feeding your pets! This is especially important in water turtles – many will gorge themselves if food items are available and then become sick from intestinal blockage or other health complications that can result from overeating. Feeding them smaller portions several times per day is usually better than one large meal a day.
  8. Be alert to changes in the quality of your pet’s feces. Changes may suggest intestinal blockage. If you suspect this problem, please consult a veterinarian for appropriate treatment.
  9. Be alert to changes in activity level and appetite that can indicate illness or other health-related issues. If you notice these problems, please consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. There are many excellent aquatic turtle veterinarians whom I trust based on my experience with cases that were successfully treated by them over the years.
  10. Avoid feeding turtles large amounts of food items high in carbohydrates such as fruits or vegetables without providing some protein. Over time these diets can lead to obesity which will cause health problems later in life. The addition of natural protein (e.g., insects) in the diet may also help reduce obesity.
  11. If you are feeding your turtles live food, beware of predators that may be lurking nearby waiting to snatch food items away before they reach their intended target. Some people have had success keeping feeder fish in a separate tank and then transferring them into the main turtle tank just before feeding time.
  12. Always clean up after each mealtime to prevent foul odors from developing. Be sure to wash any bowls or containers used for feeding. This will help keep your pets healthy by preventing microbes from growing on dirty dishes or other surfaces with relatively low water turnover rates such as land shells made out of cement or ceramic materials which cannot be disinfected and thus should never be used. Use a saltwater solution to clean the dishes if needed.
  13. Some aquatic turtles mistakenly believe floating plants are food items. If you notice this behavior, remove plants from the tank for a few days or consider using artificial plants made out of nylon or some other synthetic material which can be cleaned easily.
  14. Be alert to possible problems with land turtles. Since they have far less predictable feeding patterns than most water species, they may become obese because you are overfeeding them during winter months when they reduce their activity levels. Spring and summer however can bring renewed activity that results in weight loss and occasionally malnutrition when greens aren’t available due to cold temperatures outside. In warm weather, try adding more greens to keep them healthy.