Animal Information

What KINDS of Live FOOD do Aquatic Turtles EAT?!

Feeding live fish will provide your turtle with the mental stimulation and exercise. Plants, such as water hyacinth, water lilies, elodia, are another excellent source of live food

What turtles can eat largely depends on their age and nutritional requirements? 

Dr. Simon Starkey, BVSc, Ph.D., D.ABVP (Avian), Education Veterinarian and Technical Services Manager for PetSmart advises, “Keep in mind that younger sliders will eat relatively more protein than older animals”.

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“All animals need protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals”, says Dr. Starkey. Calcium is an especially crucial part of your turtle’s diet due to the extra needs in its shell, which is mostly bone. “That’s why it’s important to supplement with calcium and mineral powders,” he says. 

What you feed your pet turtle will largely depend on what kind of turtle you have. If it’s omnivorous, your pet turtle will eat commercial turtle food pellets, feeder fish and insects, and fruits and vegetables. If it’s herbivorous, your pet turtle can eat only fruits and vegetables.

Check out this video inside of the greenhouse, feeding lots of turtle species!

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Baby turtles need to eat higher amounts of pellets and/or feeder fish relative to fruits and veggies. 

You likely have a red-eared slider, which is the most common pet turtle in the U.S. “These animals are omnivorous, meaning they eat both animals and plants,” says Starkey.

In the wild, turtles eat a variety of things including worms, small insects, snails, and fish. Wild turtles are mainly carnivorous when they are young because their bodies require protein in order to grow. Plus, growing turtles need the vitamins and nutrients that can be found in feeder fish livers.

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As turtles age, their diets vary and they begin to eat plants and other vegetation.

Most pet turtles are omnivorous, meaning they enjoy both plants and meat, so treating your pet turtle to live food each week is a good idea. Pet turtles, depending on their size and age, enjoy small fish like minnows and goldfish.


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Knowing the species and age of your pet turtle will help you decide whether or not to feed it fish, as well as how often.

Other great sources of live food are silkworms, aquatic snails, bloodworms, daphnia, shrimp, krill, and mealworms.

Commercial pelleted food: It’s best to buy food made just for turtles, as this food will float and typically not fall apart as easily as pelleted food designed for other reptiles,

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Dr. Starkey says. Pellets should make up 25 percent of your turtle’s diet. We use Mazuri and Repcal at Crazy Critters.

Feeder invertebrates and/or insects: Feeders like shrimp and roaches are a great source of protein, as do provide correctly balanced minerals like calcium and phosphorous.

Good levels of certain vitamins, like vitamin A, are also important. “As with pellets, these should make up 25 percent of a turtle’s diet,” says Dr. Starkey.

Tadpoles are a great foood source!

We have a constant supply that proprogate inside the greenhouse.
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Fruits and vegetables: Fill up the remainder of your turtle’s daily diet with fresh produce. The best veggies are chopped dark leafy greens such as kale, collard, and mustard greens. Shredded carrots, squash, and zucchini are great foods that turtles can eat, too.

“For fruits, consider shredded apples and melons, as well as chopped berries,” recommends Dr. Starkey. “Supplement fruits and vegetables with reptile calcium and vitamin powders.”

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You can also go with edible aquatic vegetation such as water lettuce, water hyacinth, and duckweed. Adding any live plants to a turtle’s aquarium will also improve the water quality.

Plants naturally filter the water and add oxygen, both of which are good for your turtles. It is as if you planted a garden of veggies.

Turtles are fairly messy as well as make a lot of waste. Therefore, you will need a proper water filtration system, as well as a regular tank cleaning schedule.

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