What Do Softshell Turtles Eat As A Pet? A Pet Owner’s Guide

Are you considering getting a softshell turtle as a new pet? Undoubtedly one of your essential questions is What Do Softshell Turtles Eat As A Pet?

What Do Softshell Turtles Eat As A Pet
What Do Softshell Turtles Eat As A Pet

Softshell turtles primarily eat a carnivorous diet consisting of live and frozen prey such as insects, worms, fish, and crustaceans. Providing a varied and balanced diet that includes vegetables and aquatic plants is essential.

The blog post about unique turtles has specific dietary needs, and we’re here to break it down for you. From insects to aquatic plants, we’ll uncover what your softshell turtle needs to stay healthy and happy. So let’s dive right into the world of softshell turtle nutrition!

Table of Contents

What Should You Feed Your Softshell Turtle?

To ensure a balanced diet for your softshell turtle, you should feed them a variety of food items, including:

1. Live and frozen prey:

  • Insects – such as crickets, earthworms, mealworms, and waxworms.
  • Fish – small feeder fish like guppies or goldfish.
  • Crustaceans – shrimp, krill, and other small aquatic invertebrates.

2. Vegetables and aquatic plants:

  • Leafy greens – kale, dandelion greens, collard greens, and romaine lettuce
  • Aquatic plants – anacharis, water hyacinth, or duckweed

3.  Commercial Turtle Food

Formulated specifically for turtles, with a balanced diet of proteins, fatty acids, and minerals.

4. Calcium Supplement:

A crushed cuttlebone or powdered calcium supplements should be regularly added to your softshell turtle’s diet.

5. Commercial turtle food pellets:

  • High-quality, reputable brands with appropriate nutritional content for softshell turtles
  • Supplements – calcium and vitamin D3 supplements, as needed, to ensure optimal nutrition

6.  Fruits:

 Such as apples, melons, and berries. (In moderation)

What Do Softshell Turtles Eat in the Wild?

One of the great things about softshell turtles is that they are not picky eaters. In the wild, they will eat almost anything they can sink their teeth into, including fish, frogs, insects, and small mammals.

As a pet owner, you have more control over what your turtle eats, but you should still provide them with a varied diet to keep them healthy and happy.

A good diet for a pet softshell turtle includes both meat and vegetation. For beef, you can feed them live or frozen/thawed fish, chicken, beef heart, or shrimp.

For vegetation, you can offer them dark leafy greens like collards or kale and other vegetables like carrots, peas, and squash. You can also give them commercial turtle food pellets to supplement their diet.

What Do Softshell Turtles Eat As Pets?

As pets, softshell turtles generally eat a diet of pellets, vegetables, and live food. For example, a popular diet for pet softshell turtles is Zoo Med’s Aquatic Turtle, a pellet food.

In addition to their regular diet, it is also important to offer softshell turtles occasional live prey such as earthworms, crickets, and minnows for enrichment and variety.

To ensure your pet turtle gets the proper nutrition, it is important to consult with a reptile veterinarian or experienced reptile keeper when choosing their diet.

Pet Turtle Diet & Feeding Table:

This feeding table provides an overview of a balanced diet for a pet turtle, including food items and their recommended frequency.

Food CategoryFood ItemsFrequency of Feeding
Live and Frozen PreyCrickets, mealworms, earthworms, feeder fish, shrimp, krill2-3 times a week
VegetablesLeafy greens (kale, dandelion greens, collard greens), bell peppers, squash, carrots2-3 times a week, mixed with other items
Aquatic PlantsAnacharis, water lettuce, duckweed, hornwort, frogbitAs a part of their habitat, they are replaced when consumed
Commercial Food PelletsHigh-quality turtle pellets formulated explicitly for softshell turtles1-2 times a week, supplementing live and frozen prey
Treats and Occasional Food ItemsWaxworms, snails, strawberries, blueberries, and other fruits (sparingly)Once every 1-2 weeks
Calcium SupplementsA cuttlebone or calcium blocksAs a part of their habitat, they are replaced when consumed

Remember that the feeding frequency will depend on your turtle’s age, size, and needs. Monitor their health, growth, and appetite, and adjust the feeding schedule. Consult with a reptile veterinarian for personalized guidance on your turtle’s diet.

How To Feed Your Softshell Turtle?

Feeding your softshell turtle properly involves providing a balanced diet, establishing a suitable feeding schedule, and monitoring its health. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to feed your softshell turtle:

1. Provide a balanced diet:

Offer a mix of live and frozen prey (insects, worms, fish, and crustaceans), vegetables (leafy greens, bell peppers, squash, carrots), and aquatic plants. Include high-quality commercial turtle food pellets as a supplement to ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients.

 2. Water Requirements:

Keep the turtle’s habitat moist, as softshell turtles require access to clean water. Maintain the water temperature between 72-82°F and change 20-30% of the water at least once a week.

3. Establish a suitable feeding schedule:

Feed your softshell turtle every other day (if not more). To ensure your turtle receives all their nutrients, provide a variety of food items that are small enough for them to consume quickly. Provide 1/4 cup of food per 10 gallons of living space daily, removing any remaining food after 8 hours.

4. Monitor their health:

Keep a close eye on your turtle’s behavior and overall health. Monitor for any changes in appetite, weight, coloration, or activity level, as these can indicate underlying health issues. Regularly check for signs of parasitic infection or fungus, and take your pet to the vet if needed.

5. Feeding live prey:

Offer live prey, such as insects and worms, occasionally to give your softshell turtle some additional nutrients. Monitor their feeding behavior to ensure they consume everything they need and remove any uneaten food after two hours.

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6. Feeding frozen or processed food:

 Feed your softshell turtle small amounts of freeze-dried or canned food to supplement its diet. If your turtle isn’t responding to live or frozen foods, offer high-quality commercial pellets that can be easily digested and provide all the essential nutrients.

7. Feeding vegetables:

Provide a variety of vegetables as they are an essential source of fiber and vitamins necessary for a healthy diet. Offer leafy greens (such as lettuce, kale, and mustard greens) and other vegetables such as squash, bell peppers, and carrots in small pieces so the turtle can consume them easily.

8. Provide calcium supplements:

Ensure your softshell turtle can access calcium supplements to prevent any potential health issues. These can be mineral blocks (such as cuttlebone), liquid supplements, or a dab of yogurt with live cultures for added nutrients.

9. Offer occasional treats:

Provide occasional treats such as boiled eggs, fish, and shrimp to add variety to your turtle’s diet. However, these should not form the bulk of their meals as they lack essential vitamins and minerals.

10. Observe your turtle’s health:

 Monitor your pet’s behavior and health regularly to ensure they feed properly. Look for signs of distress or illness and take them to the vet if needed.

11. Maintain a clean habitat:

Keep the turtle’s habitat clean and provide fresh food and water daily. Change out the water once a week and remove any uneaten food after 8 hours to prevent contamination.

How Often Should You Feed Your Softshell Turtle?

Turtles are generally slow-moving creatures, so they don’t require a lot of food. A good rule of thumb is to feed your softshell turtle once a day or every other day. If you notice your turtle is becoming overweight, you can cut back on the food you’re giving them.

Offer your turtle a variety of foods, such as pellets, vegetables, and occasional live insects. You can also offer them commercial turtle food, widely available at pet stores. Be sure to provide fresh, clean water for your turtle to drink and bathe.

Feed My Pet Friday: Softshell, Painted, Map, and Musk Turtles!

A Feeding Schedule Of A Softshell Turtle Hatchling

A feeding schedule for a softshell turtle hatchling should provide a balanced diet with adequate nutrients to support their rapid growth during the early stages of their life.

The exact feeding frequency and food amounts may vary depending on the individual turtle’s needs, but here’s a general feeding schedule to use as a starting point:

MondayLive prey (e.g., crickets, worms)Vegetables (e.g., leafy greens)
TuesdayCommercial turtle pelletsLive prey (e.g., small fish)
WednesdayLive prey (e.g., crickets, worms)Vegetables (e.g., leafy greens)
ThursdayCommercial turtle pelletsLive prey (e.g., small shrimp)
FridayLive prey (e.g., crickets, worms)Vegetables (e.g., leafy greens)
SaturdayCommercial turtle pelletsLive prey (e.g., small fish)
SundayLive prey (e.g., crickets, worms)Vegetables (e.g., leafy greens)

Remember to provide a cuttlebone or calcium block in the tank for additional calcium supplementation. Also, closely monitor your turtle’s appetite, growth, and health during this stage and adjust the feeding schedule as needed. Consult a reptile veterinarian for personalized advice on your softshell turtle hatchling’s diet and feeding schedule.

Guidelines for Healthy Feeding Habits:

If you’re considering welcoming a softshell turtle into your home, knowing what kinds of foods these turtles enjoy and how to best provide for their dietary needs is important. Here are some tips for ensuring your softshell turtle stays healthy and well-fed:

1. Feed them a variety of foods:

Softshell turtles are omnivorous, so they’ll eat plant and animal matter. Offer them a mix of pellets, vegetables, fruits, insects, and small pieces of meat.

2. Keep their food clean and fresh:

Turtles can be susceptible to bacterial infections, so keeping their food clean and free from contaminants is important. Please wash your hands thoroughly before handling their food, and avoid feeding them anything that looks moldy or rotten.

3. Don’t overfeed them:

While providing enough food to meet their nutritional needs is important, overfeeding can lead to health problems like obesity or shell deformities.

Stick to the recommended portion sizes on the pet food packaging, and offer only as much food as they can eat in one sitting (usually about 1-2 inches of pellets or other food).

4. Provide access to clean water at all times:

Softshell turtles need access to fresh water for drinking and a shallow dish for bathing. Change the water daily and scrub the dish regularly to keep it clean.

5. Portion control:

Avoid overfeeding your turtle by offering appropriate portion sizes. Overfeeding can lead to obesity and other health issues. Monitor your turtle’s growth and body condition to determine if portion sizes need to be adjusted.

6. Calcium supplementation:

Provide a cuttlebone or calcium block in the tank to ensure your turtle receives adequate calcium for strong shell development and overall health.

7. Clean environment:

Maintain a clean habitat with proper water quality, filtration, and substrate. Remove uneaten food after about 15-30 minutes to prevent water contamination.

8. Feeding tools:

Use tongs or long tweezers to feed live prey and prevent injury or accidental bites. This also helps maintain a hygienic feeding environment.

9. Monitor health:

Keep an eye on your turtle’s health, appetite, and behavior. If you notice any unusual signs, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or shell deformities, consult a reptile veterinarian.

10. Regular veterinary check-ups:

Schedule regular check-ups with a reptile veterinarian to ensure your turtle’s overall health and to address any dietary concerns.

These simple tips will help your softshell turtle get the nutrition it needs for a long and healthy life.

What Happens If You Overfed Or Underfed A Softshell Turtle?

An overfed softshell turtle will become obese, leading to health problems, including heart disease, respiratory problems, and diabetes. An underfed softshell turtle will be underweight and may have a weakened immune system.

Recommended Foods for Optimal Health

With those things in mind, here are some specific food recommendations for optimal health in your softshell turtle:

1. Turtle pellets:

A good quality turtle pellet is an excellent base diet for your softshell turtle. Look for a brand that contains calcium and vitamin D3 to ensure your turtle gets enough of these essential nutrients.

2. Crickets:

Crickets are a good source of protein for your turtle. They should be offered as part of a varied diet and can be dusted with calcium powder to help meet your turtle’s needs.

3. Worms:

Worms are another good source of protein for your turtle. Offer them live or frozen/thawed; if offering life, ensure the worms are not too large for your turtle to eat safely.

4. Fish:

Offer small pieces of cooked fish as an occasional treat. Avoid giving raw fish, as it may contain harmful bacteria.

5. Vegetables:

Provide fresh, chopped vegetables such as kale, collard greens, squash, and carrots as part of your turtle’s diet to ensure they get the necessary vitamins and minerals.

6. Fruits:

Offer fresh fruits such as apples, strawberries, blueberries, and melon in small amounts as part of your turtle’s diet. Do not feed cooked, frozen, or canned fruit.

7. Aquatic plants:

Softshell turtles are omnivores, so they should be offered aquatic plants such as Anacharis, Hornwort, and Water Lettuce for vitamins and minerals. These can be purchased at local pet stores or online.

Your softshell turtle can enjoy optimal health and nutrition by providing a varied diet of the above foods.


There are a variety of things that you can feed your softshell turtle, but it’s important to do your research to make sure that you are giving them a nutritious diet that will meet all of their needs. While they are generally not picky eaters, they have preferences and some foods that should be avoided.

Softshell turtles can be great pets for those willing to do the research and put in the effort to care for them properly. They are fascinating creatures with unique dietary needs that require some planning to ensure they stay healthy and happy.

I hope this article has given you a better understanding of what foods your softshell turtle will enjoy and some tips for feeding them. Owning a softshell turtle with the right nutrition and care can be a rewarding experience!


What vegetables can I feed my softshell turtle?

Offer a variety of vegetables such as leafy greens (kale, dandelion greens, collard greens), bell peppers, squash, and carrots. Always wash the vegetables thoroughly before feeding.

How can I ensure a varied diet for my softshell turtle?

Offer different types of live and frozen prey, vegetables, and aquatic plants. Rotate the food items and maintain a feeding schedule incorporating various foods to ensure a well-rounded diet.

Can I feed my softshell turtle fruits?

Fruits can be offered as occasional treats but should not be a staple in your turtle’s diet. Feed them fruits sparingly due to their high sugar content.

How can I tell if my softshell turtle is getting the proper nutrition?

Monitor your turtle’s growth, appetite, and overall health. Signs of poor nutrition may include slow growth, loss of appetite, lethargy, or shell deformities. If you notice any unusual signs, consult a reptile veterinarian.

Should I provide live prey or frozen prey for my softshell turtle?

Both live and frozen prey can be included in your turtle’s diet. A mix of live and frozen prey items ensures variety and proper nutrition. Always thaw frozen food before feeding.

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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