What do baby turtles eat?
Usually, each baby turtle’s diet is similar, if not identical, to that of the adult species.
The main potential differences are that higher amounts of animal protein and calcium are often required for omnivorous species. This supports their rapid growth, healthy bones, and tough shell.
All turtle foods usually need to be cut into much smaller pieces to encourage a healthy appetite and digestion. Each species has its own particular needs of course, so let’s explore them!
What To Feed Baby Turtles
We’ll be taking a look at the diet of 4 popular baby turtle species:
- Red Eared Sliders
- Box Turtles
- Painted Turtles
- Snapping Turtles
1. What Do Baby Red-Eared Sliders Eat?
Red-eared sliders are probably the most popular aquatic turtles kept as pets.
It is easy to understand seeing how adorable they are as hatchlings!
In their natural environment, red-eared sliders are opportunistic omnivores. They eat a large variety of vegetation, small fish, and insects.
It’s best to provide as much variety as possible in your baby turtles’ diet. This will ensure that they will be accepting of a healthy assortment of foods throughout their lives.
Another important and more practical aspect of their popularity as pets is just how well they do on a majority-commercial diet.
A balanced, commercially available turtle pellet (such as this one) is an optimum staple of the turtles’ diet, even as a hatchling.
These pellets have a very long shelf life, making them extremely convenient, they’re readily accepted and are a well-balanced combination of proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
Live crickets or mealworms provide a nutritious, and much appreciated treat whenever convenient, as well as environmental enrichment.
Keeping some small feeder fish in the baby turtle’s tank is a great way to provide consistently available enrichment and exercise, and are a much-appreciated snack.
The best leafy vegetables for a baby red-eared slider include:
- green leaf lettuce
- red leaf lettuce
- dandelion leaves
- aquatic turtle plants
But it is best to avoid leaves such as kale, cabbage, and spinach.
2. What Do Baby Box Turtles Eat?
Box turtles are also an extremely popular small turtle breed.
Their mostly land-based life, and easy-to-maintain diet, make them probably the most easily species of turtle to keep.
Like most turtles, box turtles are omnivores. The baby box turtle’s diet should be about half animal protein and 25% fruits and 25% greens.
When babies, a diet that’s comprised of as many live foods as possible is ideal.
Earthworms, nightcrawlers, crickets, and super worms are perfect.
Many box turtle enthusiasts swear by the moist zoo-med box turtle diet specifically, which is available on Amazon.
This product is readily accepted by most box turtles, stimulates appetite, and provides most nutritional needs, including plenty of vitally important vitamins and minerals.
Supplement any commercial diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and greens:
- apples & berries
- dandelion greens & lettuce
- peas & green beans
- collard greens
Dried fruit mixes are readily available whenever fresh fruits are inconvenient. Offer a variety and see which foods your turtle likes best!
Box turtles appreciate privacy when eating.
A great way to promote their appetite is placing a shallow feed bowl in a secluded area of their tank using rocks. Then surround it with fake plants suctioned to the glass. Real foliage can even be used and can double as a snack (as long as it’s safe to eat!).
Whenever a baby box turtle seems to be eating less than is healthy, make sure to add food in the late morning or early afternoon when they’ve had a bit of time to warm up and forage about.
Cut all foods into smaller pieces, then add a bit more seclusion to their feeding area.
Eating takes focus away from potential predation so privacy can provide seclusion and decrease any anxieties that your baby may have, particularly while adjusting to a new environment.
3. What Do Baby Painted Turtles Eat?
Painted turtles eat a lot of aquatic life in the wild, and their diet consists mostly of scavenged carrion, small fish, tadpoles, and worms.
Commercial diets should only comprise about a quarter of the painted turtle’s diet, making them a little more high maintenance than other species.
These purchased foods can only be fed in the water since painted turtles require gulps of water to swallow and digest their food.
Baby-painted turtles, specifically, are exclusively carnivorous.
Live food is an absolute necessity and should be the majority of their diet, but a commercial pellet or food mix is an acceptable replacement for some protein.
Freeze-dried brine shrimp is also a good alternative to live food, but hatching brine shrimp from eggs available on Amazon is quite simple and will be much appreciated by your baby-painted turtle.
Small guppies or feeder fish should be kept along with your pet baby turtle as a major part of their diet; these will stimulate sufficient exercise and keep your baby turtle mentally occupied.
A happy turtle is a healthy turtle!
As your turtle gets larger, greens like spinach or romaine should slowly be added over time.
4. What Do Baby Snapping Turtles Eat?
In short, snapping turtles will eat anything!
As babies, it’s important to provide a varied diet and ensure that enough calcium is available.
Snapping turtles are one of the largest freshwater turtle varieties and can live almost as long as humans.
So while that tiny baby may be adorable, it’s important to know what a huge commitment a snapping turtle really is when taking one into your home.
Keep an ongoing supply of feeder fish in the water with your baby snapping turtle at all times.
Unlike many baby turtles, size is not a critical issue. As long as the fish is small enough to get its mouth around, the baby snapping turtle will happily eat it.
Mealworms and frozen bloodworms or shrimp are also readily available.
Commercial foods are happily eaten by baby snapping turtles as well, freeze-dried mixes are affordable, easy to store, and quite healthy.
Lightly cooked meats like chicken, pork or ground beef can be offered every few days. Greens should also be offered a few times a week and are excellent for healthy digestion and to supplement calcium intake.
What Do Baby Turtles Eat?
Whatever type of baby turtle you’ve chosen, a healthy diet is important.
One that’s appropriate for their species as a hatchling is vital to their growth and health.
So in order to have a happy, long-lived pet turtle, feed them well from the start.
Make sure you have a good turtle tank filter to clean away any uneaten food and ensure they have successful shell sheds.