Understanding The Diet of a Painted Turtle in Captivity

Providing the proper diet is crucial for keeping painted turtles healthy in captivity. In the wild, painted turtles are omnivores that feed on various plant and animal matter. When keeping these turtles as pets, it’s important to recreate their natural diet as closely as possible.

This article will discuss the dietary needs of painted turtles in captivity and provide tips on the best foods to offer them. We’ll cover what types of vegetables, fruits, proteins, and supplements you should include to give your turtle a balanced, nutritious diet.

 Proper nutrition helps support a turtle’s growth, metabolism, shell development, and overall health. By understanding the natural feeding behaviors of painted turtles, you can help ensure your pet stays active and thrives. Read on to learn more about perfecting the diet of your painted turtle in captivity.

How Often Do Painted Turtles Eat?

In the wild, painted turtles are opportunistic eaters, meaning they will eat whenever they find food. They don’t follow a strict feeding schedule.

It’s best to develop a routine for feeding your painted turtle in captivity. Hatchlings and juveniles must be fed daily, while adults can be fed every other day.

Here are some general guidelines for feeding frequency based on age:

  • Hatchlings (under 1 year): Feed daily. They have high metabolisms and need extra nutrition.
  • Juveniles (1-3 years): Feed daily or every other day. Their metabolism is still elevated at this stage.
  • Adults (3+ years): Feed every other day. Their metabolism has slowed, so they don’t need to eat as frequently.

Keep in mind that these are just general guidelines. Pay attention to your turtle – if it’s hungry between scheduled feedings, offer more food. A healthy turtle is active and alert with a good appetite.

What To Feed Your Painted Turtle?

Painted turtles are omnivores, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter. In the wild, if given the chance, painted turtles eat insects, small fish, tadpoles, aquatic vegetation, algae, and even small mammals and birds.

When feeding a painted turtle in captivity, it’s important to try and replicate their diverse diet as much as possible.

Here are some suitable dietary options:

Protein Sources

  • Crickets
  • Mealworms
  • Waxworms
  • Earthworms
  • Frozen or freeze-dried fish (like smelt or shrimp)
  • High-quality turtle pellets


  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Dandelion greens
  • Turnip greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Squash
  • Bell peppers
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Tomatoes
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries


  • Calcium powder
  • Vitamin D3

Offer your painted turtle a variety of protein sources 2-3 times per week. Vegetables and fruits can be given daily. Dust food with calcium powder 2 times per week and vitamin D3 once a week. This will provide a balanced diet.

Pet Turtle Diet & Feeding Chart

Here is an expanded pet turtle diet and feeding chart:

Pet Turtle Diet & Feeding Chart

Life StageFrequencyFoodsPortion SizeSupplements
Hatchling (under 1 year)2-3 small meals per dayChopped mealworms, crickets, high-quality turtle pellets made into powder, romaine, kale, zucchini1-2 bites per feedingDust all food with calcium daily; use liquid vitamin D3 1-2 times per week
Small Juvenile (1-2 years)DailyMealworms, earthworms, shrimp, chopped fish, turtle pellets, dark leafy greens, chopped red/yellow bell pepper, carrot, appleAs much as a turtle will eat in 10-15 minutesDust food with calcium 2-3 times per week; use vitamin D3 once a week
Large Juvenile (2-3 years)Every other dayIt has the same foods as small juveniles but with an expanded variety. Can introduce small frozen fish.As much as a turtle will eat in 15-20 minutesDust with calcium 1-2 times per week, vitamin D3 once a week
Adult (3+ years)Every other dayHigh-quality pellets, a variety of worms, thawed frozen fish/shrimp, greens, veggies, and some fruitsEnough to maintain ideal body weight; adjust as neededDust with calcium 1-2 times per week, vitamin D3 once every other week


  • Chop food to avoid choking hazard
  • Remove uneaten food within 30 minutes
  • Observe the turtle’s weight and adjust portions accordingly
  • Occasional fasting days are acceptable
  • Seek vet advice if appetite decreases or any health concerns arise
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Foods That Are Not Recommended for the Painted Turtle

While painted turtles are omnivores, some foods should be avoided or limited in their diet:

  • Meat: Can contain too much protein and fat. Keep to a minimum.
  • Dry fish: Lacking in nutrients. Offer freeze-dried or frozen fish instead.
  • Insects from outside: They may contain parasites or pesticides. Purchase from a pet store instead.
  • Iceberg lettuce: Has little nutritional value. Opt for dark, leafy greens.
  • Spinach: Contains oxalates that can prevent calcium absorption. Feed in moderation.
  • Foods high in oxalates: Rhubarb, beet greens, sweet potato greens.
  • Sugary fruit: Bananas, mangos, grapes. Too much sugar is unhealthy.

By avoiding these foods, you can prevent your painted turtle’s nutrition deficiencies and health problems. Check with an exotic vet if you’re unsure about any particular food item.

Diet for a Baby Painted Turtle

Baby-painted turtles have some unique dietary requirements since they are still developing. Here are some tips for feeding a hatchling painted turtle:

  • Feed 2-3 small meals per day. They have tiny stomachs, so they can’t eat much at once.
  • Offer a high-quality turtle pellet crushed into powder to make it easy to eat. Coat food in calcium powder daily.
  • Mealworms and crickets make great protein sources but chop them up.
  • Blanch vegetables to soften them. Try chopped romaine, kale, zucchini, etc.
  • Use powdered supplements until they are one year old. Liquid supplements can drip off small food items.
  • Avoid large food pieces they may choke on.
  • Don’t feed dry fish, mammalian meats, or insects from outside.

With frequent feedings of nutrient-rich foods, baby painted turtles will grow healthy! Monitor their growth and adjust their diet as needed.

Diet for Adult Painted Turtle

Adult painted turtles can eat most of the same foods as juveniles, but their feeding frequency and portion sizes may need to be adjusted.

Here are some tips:

  • Feed every other day. Overfeeding can cause obesity.
  • Portion sizes can increase since they have larger stomachs. But don’t let food go to waste.
  • Continue offering veggies, commercial pellets, worms, shrimp, and thawed frozen fish.
  • Fruits can be given as treats 2-3 times per week.
  • Use powdered supplements 1-2 times weekly.
  • Variety is essential to prevent boredom! Rotate food items.
  • Adjust diet based on turtle’s weight. Obese turtles may need reduced feeding.
  • Limit high-fat protein sources like mammals and dry fish.

Adult turtles may also need occasional fast days to allow their digestive system to rest. An exotic vet can advise you on your adult painted turtle’s ideal diet and feeding schedule based on their health and needs.

Why Won’t My Painted Turtle Eat?

If your painted turtle suddenly stops eating, don’t panic. You can take some steps to determine the reason and get their appetite back to normal. Here are some common reasons a painted turtle may go off food:

Check temperature and light

Painted turtles are cold-blooded, relying on ambient temperatures to regulate their metabolism. Make sure the basking area in the enclosure reaches 85-90°F. The water temperature should be around 75-80°F. Proper lighting with UVB rays is also critical for their health. Fix any issues with the heat lamps or UVB bulbs.

Check if the painted turtle is keeping well.

Look for signs of illness or distress. Turtles can get respiratory infections, shell infections, parasites, or other health issues that will cause loss of appetite. Look for wheezing, discharge, swollen eyes, unusual basking, etc. A vet exam may be required.

Environmental stress

Sudden changes to their enclosure, tank mates, or household environment can cause stress, leading to poor appetite. Make gradual changes and allow time for adjustment.

Tips for Making Your Painted Turtle Eat

If everything checks out with the habitat and the turtle seems healthy, here are some tips to encourage eating:

  • Try different food items to stimulate their interest. Novelty can help.
  • Make sure food is chopped small enough for them to eat.
  • Hold food with feeding tongs near their face so they see and smell it.
  • Move food around to trigger prey drive.
  • Hand-feed their favorite treats to “jump-start” their appetite.
  • Increase water temperature slightly within the safe range.
  • Let them bask under the heat lamp for a while before feeding.

You can usually get a painted turtle to eat again with some patience and experimentation. But if appetite loss persists, consult an exotic vet for an evaluation.

List of Fruits and Vegetables: Good or Bad for turtles

Here is a chart listing fruits and vegetables, noting which are good or bad to feed to pet turtles:

List of Fruits and Vegetables: Good or Bad for Turtles

FoodGood or Bad for Turtles?Notes
Romaine LettuceGoodHigh in nutrients
KaleGoodCalcium-rich, leafy green
Collard GreensGoodLeafy green with vitamin A
Dandelion GreensGoodSource of vitamins and calcium
Turnip GreensGoodLeafy green high in calcium
Mustard GreensGoodLeafy green with vitamin C
Bok ChoyGoodLeafy green with calcium
BroccoliGoodProvides nutrients and enrichment
ZucchiniGoodIt provides moisture and nutrients
Bell PeppersGoodRed/yellow have vitamin A
CarrotsGoodGood source of vitamin A
ApplesGoodRemove seeds first
BananasGood in moderationHigh in potassium and sugar
TomatoesGoodProvide nutrients
BlueberriesGood in moderationAntioxidants contain some sugar
StrawberriesGood in moderationProvide vitamin C
RhubarbBadContains oxalates
SpinachBad in large amountsHigh in oxalates
Iceberg LettuceBadLow nutrient value
Beet GreensBadHigh in oxalates
MangoesBadHigh sugar content
GrapesBadIt can cause digestive upset

This covers some common fruits and veggies, noting which are suitable for turtles and which should be limited or avoided. Consult an exotic vet if unsure about any particular food item. Variety and moderation are key.

What to Feed Painted Turtles


Providing proper nutrition is one of the most important aspects of caring for a painted turtle in captivity. Know what foods make up a healthy, balanced diet and establish a feeding routine appropriate for your turtle’s age.

Feed a variety of proteins, leafy greens, veggies, and some fruits while avoiding unhealthy options. Adjust the diet to maintain good health and weight, and consult an exotic vet if appetite or health declines. With the right diet, your painted turtle can thrive for decades under your care!

My name is Shayan Mondal, and I am a passionate turtle owner and enthusiast who enjoys sharing my knowledge and experience with fellow turtle lovers. As a proud owner of several turtle species, I understand the importance of proper care, habitat setup, and nutrition for these delightful creatures. This website regularly updates the latest insights into turtle health, diet, and conservation efforts.

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