What Do Painted Turtles Eat- Guide To Safe Turtle Foods

Posted by: Pet Blogger in Small Pets Add comments

Painted turtles are popular house pets. Most people recognize these turtles from their red and yellow markings, but when asked what do painted turtles eat most people aren’t sure. Turtles are not as widely understood as dogs and cats and this can lead to confusion about feeding.

Turtles are versatile animals for the most part. They can eat a wide variety of foods. There are on certain foods that must be avoided, but more on that later. The first thing to know is that what turtles eat changes as it grows.

Baby Turtles

When the painted turtles are juveniles they tend to be more carnivorous. This is logical as protein is essential for development of strong muscles and early brain development. Packing in excess protein when young is a turtles way of bulking up for their maturity to be more formidable animals.

As the painted turtle reaches full maturity about 60% of its diet consists of vegetation and leafy greens. They will still eat protein as a regular part of their diet, but not nearly as much as when they were younger. As the muscles have become developed, it is now more important to store vitamins and nutrients from vegetation.


When captive as house pets turtles will need calcium supplements. Calcium is also an important part of what painted turtles eat as this is what gives them their strong durable shell. Once a turtles shell has weakened to the point of cracking open, its only a matter of time before infection kicks in. This usually leads to premature fatality.

You can buy calcium supplements at the pet store. The best supplement for painted turtles is a powder supplement that you “dust” their food with. Being a house pet your turtle will not have access to deposits, natural vegetation and other calcium sources in the wild. Calcium must be supplemented for the health of the turtle.

There’s the broad overview. What do painted turtles eat? There’s a lot of room for personal preferences. Here’s a list of the most common foods to feed the painted turtle:


-Earth worms
-Blood worms
-Cooked Beef and Chicken
(small bits)

Fruits and Vegetables:

-Leafy Greens (Mustard, Collard, Dandelion)
-Green Beans
-Sweet Potato

Turtle Food

Pet stores sell pellet turtle and reptile foods. Most of these are fine to use as a staple for your turtles diet. It doesn’t have to be the largest portion of food they get, just what they are fed in between the vegetables, fruit and protein. You may not have a constant supply of live proteins such as insects. When you run out, these foods will be there to fill in the gaps.

You do not need to feed your turtle all of these different foods in a month! As time goes on, try new things so your turtle has some variety in tastes, textures and for nutrition as well. The above list just gives examples of all the different types of foods that owners feed their painted turtles.

Hard foods, such as carrots should be cooked until soft and easier to digest. It is recommended that baby painted turtles be fed everyday while adults can feed every other day. Do not over feed your turtle as this leads to poor health and a weak immune system.


A good rule of thumb on how much to feed your painted turtle is as much as it will eat in fifteen minutes. After a fifteen minute period, if your turtle continues to eat, take away the food (unless it is sick). By that point they have had enough for one meal. Another way to look at this is to feed them a hunk of food that is the roughly the size of its neck and head.


There are a few things to watch out for to avoid feeding your turtle something that will give it health problems. Not everything is alright for a turtle to eat.

Try to avoid feeding your painted turtle spinach. The pesticides and the nutrients in spinach is suspected for a string of intestinal track problems. This led to several turtle fatalities that went unnoticed by the owners. Leafy greens are great turtle snacks, just make sure there is no spinach. Turtles will eat spinach if you put it in front of them.

Also avoid ice berg lettuce. There is very little nutritional value in iceberg lettuce. If you feed this to your turtle it won’t hurt them, but it won’t do them any good. fill their diet with foods that serve a purpose and make their health and condition better. Ice berg lettuce is a waste of tummy space and money.

Finally, a bit of a disclaimer on the above statement about feeding your turtle cooked chicken and beef. This is not an all the time meal. Once in a while this can be done with no side effects and makes a tasty turtle treat. If you constantly feed these things to your turtle it could have adverse effects on their health and their organs. A little dab will do, so offer supermarket meats no more than once a week if at all.

So to answer the question of what do painted turtles eat… a little bit of every thing. Some leafy greens and veggies, some proteins in the form of turtle pellets and/or insects and most fruits. The average adult is fed every other day, and for some every three days depending on the turtles size and age. Mix and match all these foods, but try to provide a balanced diet. Make sure in a week your painted turtle has had some protein, some vegetables and some fruit.

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9 Responses to “What Do Painted Turtles Eat- Guide To Safe Turtle Foods”

  1. Erin Says:

    This was really helpful. When you add another thing or too add if you can put them in water from your sink and to change it every 2 days. GREAT JOB!!!!

  2. Danielle Says:

    What exacly do (teen)painted turtles eat because mines not a baby he is from the swamp and cralled in th emiddle of the road so we went to save this guy weve had him for a day and gave him letess.

  3. Kayla Kane Says:

    I found a Painted Turtle at my grandma’s house by her pond. It bit one of her gold fish’s head and killed it. My grandma was going to get rid of it but I asked my mom if I could keep it as a pet. She said yes, so I’ve been looking at what exactly they eat.

  4. Patricia Says:

    My baby painted turtle I got out of a pond a few days ago,he’s reall active and looks really healthy,but I have been told they carry alot of diseases how would I know if it hAD A DISEASE?

  5. new owner Says:

    my husband brought home a painted turtle today, boy was i surprised! glad i found your site because i had no idea they ate so many different things, i thought they just ate lettuce. thank you for posting such helpful information

  6. tae Says:

    As the painted turtle reaches full maturity about 60% of its diet consists of vegetation and leafy greens. They will still eat protein as a regular part of their diet, but not nearly as much as when they were younger. As the muscles have become developed, it is now more important to store vitamins and nutrients from vegetation.


  7. tom. wery bob wery Says:

    minnows guppies snails earth worms crickets
    blood worms shrimp daphnid kril snails tadpoles
    cooked beef and chicken
    small bits/leafy greens mustard collard dandeliom
    carrots green beans squash sweet potato
    apples bananas kiwi berries/turtle food.

  8. codi Says:

    hi my name is codi and i have a wild painted baby turtle her name is izzy and her favorit food is small carrot pieces and her choclote is letus and raw hamberger meat she has a friend and that friend is a crayfish there are mine and izzy’s favorites

  9. valerie Says:

    We found a painted turtle and I need help????? On feeding. And housing it….what. kind of environent

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