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Home > Turtles > What Do Painted Turtles Eat? Diet & Health Facts

What Do Painted Turtles Eat? Diet & Health Facts

painted turtle on a log

Painted turtles are omnivores and tend to be opportunistic eaters. They will accept both animals and plants as food sources. In the wild, they typically eat things like fish, worms, and insects. Their diets will be rounded out by whatever plant materials they can find, like leafy veggies. They tend to prey mostly on animals, with veggies taking a secondary role.

As pets, their diet must have a similar makeup. These turtles will thrive off of things like fish, crickets, minnows, crayfish, and cockroaches. They can also be offered various veggies, though protein sources should make up the bulk of their diet. There are commercial turtle foods available. It is usually recommended to keep your turtle’s diet as broad as possible for complete and balanced nutrition.

Turtles need to eat a varied and suitable diet. They are prone to a few diet-related diseases, like metabolic bone disease. A lack of certain nutrients causes these, so your turtle must receive all the nutrition they need.

divider-turtle What Do Wild Baby Painted Turtles Eat?

western painted turtle
Image Credit: Danita Delimont, Shutterstock

Usually, baby turtles in the wild eat smaller versions of what adults eat. They may feed on small fish, worms, insects, and tadpoles. Anything that is found in the water around their home, they will eat. Like adults, they will supplement their diet with plant materials, but most of their food will come from an animal source.

The number of plants in their diet increases as they age. Younger turtles are growing faster and need more protein, which is why they focus on meat.

These turtles have also been known to feed on carrion and dead fish they find as well.

Do Painted Turtles Eat Fish?

These turtles are primarily opportunistic. This means that they will usually eat whatever is available to them that is edible. If there are small fish in the body of water they live in, they will eat them if given a chance.

They will also eat crayfish if they live nearby. Dead fish are not off the table either, even if they are larger.

As pets, painted turtles can be fed feeder fish as long as they are smaller than the turtle’s head. It becomes easier to feed these turtles the appropriate fish as they become older. When they are smaller, most fish will be too large.

How Often Do You Need to Feed Painted Turtles?

western painted turtle
Image Credit: John Krampl, Shutterstock

In the wild, these turtles will often eat as much as they can. This usually means that they will eat every couple of days. They may eat daily for a time and then go a bit without eating. Younger turtles need to eat more often, as they are growing and have smaller stomachs.

As pets, things are a bit different. Typically, you will need to feed growing turtles about once a day or every other day. Larger turtles only need to be fed every 2 to 3 days. If you feed them every day, they will likely become overweight. Like all animals, this often leads to all sorts of health problems.divider-turtle

Is It OK to Feed Wild Painted Turtles?

Typically, you should be able to feed a wild painted turtle without much of a problem. These turtles do not threaten people, so you don’t have to worry that the food will start attracting them to people. Usually, they live in pretty close proximity to humans.

However, you need to ensure that the food you choose to feed them is safe and high-quality. Mealworms and crickets are often suitable options. Veggies can be provided as well, but these are generally less useful than meat and insects.

western painted turtle
Image Credit: ELAMARAN ELAA PHOTOGRAPHY, Shutterstock

What Bugs Do Painted Turtles Eat?

Anything. These turtles are not very particular about their prey items. They will eat whatever bugs are available in their area and happen to show up when they are hungry. They commonly ingest larvae, dragonflies, and beetles. Anything that lives near the water is often fair game.

As pets, mealworms and crickets are commonly offered, as they are the most available commercially. You can find these bugs at nearly any pet store, as they are the primary food source for many different species.

Can Painted Turtles Eat Cucumbers?

western painted turtle
Image Credit: Edgar Lee Espe, Shutterstock

Painted turtles will occasionally eat plant matter in the wild. Usually, this is not a large part of their diet. Baby turtles will hardly eat any plants, and some turtles may never prefer them at all.

In the wild, they will eat whatever plant matter they can find. This usually involves water plants and similar items. When domesticated, they can eat nearly any vegetable. However, veggies that are high in phosphorus and of little nutritional value should be avoided.

Some veggies that you should avoid include cucumbers, eggplants, mushrooms, and iceberg lettuce. They don’t do much for the turtle’s health and are primarily empty calories. There are better options out there.

Turtles can also eat a variety of fruits, though many people focus on veggies. For turtles, fruits are not necessarily less nutritious than vegetables.

divider-turtle Final Thoughts

Painted turtles are omnivores, but much of their diet is meat-based. They will eat insects, fish, and other animals. They are opportunistic and not very picky about their food items. If it is an animal and makes itself available when the turtle is hungry, it will eat it.

As you might imagine, their diet can vary depending on their location. The fish and insects native to the pond they’re living in will make up the majority of their diet.

Adult painted turtles may also eat plant matter, making up a relatively small portion of their diet. Baby turtles need more protein due to their rapid growth, so they usually only eat meat.

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Featured Image Credit by: Jonathan Novack, Shutterstock

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