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What do painted turtles eat? This is the only feeding guide you’ll need

You bring home a little turtle to a beautiful habitat and realize you forgot one big thing: What do baby painted turtles eat? Because these turtles are an aquatic species, they spend most of their time in the water — both in the wild and in your house. This greatly impacts their diet, especially as they mostly need to consume meals in water because turtle mouths must swallow under the surface. Painted turtles are also omnivores and like a wide variety of foods. While many of these can be included in her housing, you also should have a separate feeding tank, which will massively cut down on the mess. All food from the main tank will have to be scooped out daily; otherwise, it starts to rot. Nevertheless, feeding your turtle can be fun, and occasionally she can even eat what you do.

Painted turtle sits on a log

What do painted turtles eat?

When she’s a baby, you should give her food every day, but an adult eats only every two to three days. Also, females get bigger than males and may require slightly more food to accommodate their bigger size. Large meals will hopefully take place in a separate tank, but you can include some snacks, like leafy greens, for her to nibble on in her main home. You can even clip these to the side of the tank so that she can access her food anytime. As mentioned, the most important thing is variety. Even if she likes a certain morsel the best, you need to give her various food items. These things should be the staple of her diet:

  • Aquatic turtle pellets from the pet store
  • Proteins such as hard-boiled egg, chicken, and beef
  • Leafy greens like romaine, parsley, and kale
  • Veggies such as peppers, green beans, peas, and corn
  • Flowers, including roses and dandelions
Human holds a small painted turtle

What don’t painted turtles eat?

Even though you want to mix things up for her, there are still some foods that should always be avoided. Many things will fill her up but lack enough nutrients, and others will provide too much of a bad thing. Specifically, you can never give certain types of human foods that, while great for our bellies, will not be good for hers. Keep these out of your turtle tank:

  • Veggies that don’t include calories, like celery and iceberg lettuce
  • Pet food such as dog and cat kibble, because it’s too salty
  • Dessert, including chocolate and sugary snacks
  • Dairy, since turtles can’t break it down in their digestive system
Painted turtle eats a mealworm

What foods make good occasional treats?

You should stick with about 45% greens, 45% pellets and proteins, and 10% treats. That means delivering a special snack only once a week or so. Lots of delicacies contain too much fat or salt to serve as staples but will allow your turtle an extra-delicious dinner. (Think of it as a night out for your pet and pamper her accordingly.)

Put together a calendar system, like a whiteboard, to track how often you put an extra into her meal. Alternatively, pick a “treat day” and stay consistent. This reptile enjoys hunting, so live fish and insects will keep her stimulated and full (this will make a mess, though). As part of her food rotation, you should stick with:

  • Feeder fish like guppies and goldfish
  • Dried brine shrimp made for turtles
  • Fruit such as blueberries, apples, and strawberries
  • Bugs, including crickets and worms

We can’t stress this enough: Your little pet needs a variety of textures, nutrients, and flavors to stay healthy and happy. Keep other parts of the schedule consistent, though, as that will help her stick to a good routine. Even with the perfect diet, you’ll probably want to add supplements — mainly calcium powder or a little calcium block. Dusting food with vitamins and nutrients makes it easy to incorporate them into her meal. Work closely with a reptile vet to establish a really solid feeding plan and update it as your turtle ages. Remember, these little guys live for decades, so you want to ensure you have not just a good meal plan but a solid life plan as well.

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