Painted Turtle Diet Guide (What They Eat & What They Can’t)

Painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) are the most common turtles in North America. Their range spreads from southern Canada all the way to northern Mexico.

Painted turtles hunt for their food in the wild.

But what is the best food for them?

In this article, we are going to dive deep into the painted turtle’s favorite menu and find out what they like to eat.

Key Takeaway:

Painted turtles eat a varied diet of aquatic vegetation and animals. While they are still young, they eat a more carnivorous diet. When they become adults, they consume a more herbivorous diet. They must eat food with enough calcium and avoid eating too much phosphorous. Never give them baked food.

How can you provide food that is nutritious for your pet turtle?

Check out the following article, where you will find more advice on what to feed and what not to feed your turtle.

What Do Painted Turtles Eat?

Painted turtles are reptiles that consume a varied diet.

painted turtle diet guide

What do painted turtles eat and drink?

Their diet includes aquatic vegetation like water lilies and duckweed. These animals drink the water they swim in.

Their diet also contains a good portion of aquatic animals. They especially like to eat crayfish and dragonfly larvae.

However, the specific diet of a painted turtle will depend on its subspecies, as each one has its own dietary preferences.

What do painted turtles eat in the wild?

Here is a list of the 4 painted turtle subspecies and their preferred food.

  • Midland painted turtles. The main diet of these turtles consists of aquatic insects. The midland painted turtle also consumes a lot of vascular and non-vascular plants. These include algae, yellow pond lily, and waterweed.
  • Western-painted turtles. These turtles consume a diet that changes depending on the season. In the early summer, the diet of the western painted turtle consists of 60% animal foods mainly insects. At the end of the summer, their diet changes again and consists of 55% plant matter.
  • Eastern painted turtles. These turtles have a more peculiar diet, as they prefer to eat injured or dead fish.
  • Southern painted turtles. In the wild, these turtles eat a mix of plants and aquatic animals.

The diet of a painted turtle will change as it gets older. It will consume slightly different food in captivity than it does in the wild.

How can you be sure what your painted turtle must eat?

Dive to the next section and let’s find out.

What Do Baby Painted Turtles Eat?

Baby painted turtles eat a different diet that changes as they grow and become adults.

What do newborn painted turtles eat?

Young turtles tend to consume more of a carnivorous diet and feed on lots of small fish, frogs, and crustaceans.

The diet of the baby painted turtle becomes more herbivorous as it gets older, and it will eat more and more plants.

Hatchling turtles may not eat anything for the first few days after emerging from their shells. This is because baby painted turtles emerge with their yolk sac intact.

The yolk sac is full of nutrients that the hatchling turtle will absorb over the first few days of its life. Once it has finished, it will move on to solid food.

What do small painted turtles eat?

When the hatchling is ready for solid food, it will enjoy eating small fish, worms, and insects.

How Often Do Painted Turtles Eat?

How often painted turtles consume food depends on the age of the turtle.

What is their feeding schedule?

Here are some of the main differences between their eating intervals:

  • Hatchling turtles. For the first few days after emerging from their eggs, the hatchlings will not eat while they absorb their yolk sac.
  • Baby turtles. Babies will eat two or three times a day.
  • Juvenile turtles. At this stage in their lives, juvenile turtles will eat just once a day. Turtles become juveniles at about 6 months old.
  • Adult painted turtles. The painted turtle becomes an adult at about 10 years of age. Depending on its subspecies, the adult will only eat 3 or 4 times a week.

What Insects Do Painted Turtles Eat?

Aside from aquatic plants, the painted turtle will consume aquatic insects. Their favorite part is the insect larvae.

What kind of insects and insect larvae do they eat?

Here is a list of their preferences.

  • Dragonflies
  • Beetles such as ground beetles, leaf beetles, diving beetles, and scarabs.
  • Flies such as mosquitos, soldier flies, mayflies, stoneflies, caddisflies, and non-biting midges.
  • Leafhoppers
  • Termites
  • Moths
  • Wasps and skimmers
  • Crickets

What Plants Do Painted Turtles Eat?

Painted turtles love to eat insects, but they also consume a lot of plants.

What kind of plants do they eat?

Here is a list of some of their favorites.

  • Moss
  • Waterweed
  • Water lettuce
  • Hornwort
  • Duckweed
  • Spatterdock
  • Green arrow arum

What Do Painted Turtles Eat In Ponds?

Some painted turtles live in swamps, marshes, ditches, rivers, small lakes, and other slow-moving bodies of water. But many painted turtles also live in ponds.

What does a painted turtle eat when it lives in a pond?

Wild painted turtles that live in ponds spend a large part of their day foraging about the bottom of the water looking for food. Here is what they are most likely to consume.

  • Aquatic plants such as moss
  • Algae
  • Sponges
  • Invertebrates such as mealworms, slugs, and snails.
  • Insects and insect larvae
  • Small fish and clams

What Do Painted Turtles Eat In Captivity?

Congratulations! You’ve just become the proud owner of an awesome painted turtle. Pet turtles are great reptiles and we are sure you will love looking after yours!

pond turtle

It is essential that you consider what food you will give your turtle.

What can it eat?

Coming up next, we are going to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about feeding these excellent pets.

Do Painted Turtles Eat Fish?

Both wild painted turtles and pets love good food.

But can painted turtles eat fish food?

Painted turtles cannot eat fish food, you must only give them turtle pellets. However, they will consume live and dead fish.

An adult painted turtle will consume less fish than a juvenile or a baby turtle. But even still, it will like to eat a small portion of live fish every time you feed it.

You will find the best feeder fish for your pet at good pet stores for exotic animals.

Painted turtles are omnivores and will consume the following seafood.

  • Guppies
  • Minnows
  • Small clams
  • Crayfish
  • Amphipods

What Vegetables Can Painted Turtles Eat?

If you’re not sure what food to give your painted turtle, you may question whether to give it vegetables or not.

Aside from eating live food, your aquatic turtle will enjoy eating vegetables. It needs variety in its diet in order to remain healthy.

It is best you give your painted turtle leafy greens to eat such as romaine, parsley, collards, spinach, and kale. You must give them these greens as part of a balanced diet alongside their turtle pellets and natural seafood.

These aquatic turtles must not consume vegetables that contain high levels of phosphorous as they can make a turtle’s shell soft.

Can painted turtles eat carrots?

A painted turtle can eat carrots as the calcium to phosphorous level in carrots is not too high. But there are other vegetables that would be better for your turtle such as collards, turnip greens, and dill weed.

Can Painted Turtles Eat Fruit?

Your painted turtle will love eating a diet that is varied. As well as its commercial food such as aquatic turtle pellets, it must eat fish and vegetables.

But what about fruit?

Fruit is not a common food for these reptiles to eat in the wild and should not be part of your turtle’s daily feeding routine. But the occasional small fruit treat is okay for baby and adult turtles.

The best fruits to give your turtles are small pieces of melon, shredded apples, and berries (without the seeds).

Can painted turtles eat bananas?

Yes, your painted turtle can have small pieces of banana. But you must only give it this as an occasional treat.

How to Increase Calcium Absorption

No one wants their turtle to suffer the consequences of eating a poor diet. To ensure your turtle stays healthy, it must consume enough calcium.

To ensure your turtle consumes enough of this mineral, you must sprinkle calcium powder on your pet’s meals.

Another way of helping your pet absorb more calcium is to put a calcium block into its water. It is also effective if you give your turtle pellet-sized pieces of cuttlebone to consume as this is high in calcium.

Making sure your pet’s UVB light is always on the right settings is also essential.

If Your Turtle Won’t Eat

how long turtles without eating

If you struggle to get your turtle to eat, this could indicate that it is bored of its food. Mix and match its meals a little and give it a combination of plant and animal matter to eat.

If your turtle is uninterested in its food, that could indicate it is too dry. Soften the dry texture of insect matter by soaking it in fruit juice or tuna water before giving it to your turtle.

Remember, painted turtles may carry salmonella bacteria, so you must wash your hands after handling them or their food.

If your turtle still refuses its food you must take it to the vet, as this could indicate that something more serious is wrong with your pet.

Feeding Your Turtle the Right Food

A painted turtle is not your run-of-the-mill pet, and that is why many people find it tricky to figure out what they must feed it. But thanks to the feeding tips in this article, we have seen that turtles must consume aquatic plants and animals to stay healthy.

The most common foods for this cold-blooded reptile species are waterlilies, duckweed, crayfish, and dragonfly larvae.

Did you find this article interesting?

At Oddly Cute Pets, we always strive to provide you with the best articles about painted turtles, musk turtles, map turtles, and other species of turtles and reptiles. For more information on how to set up or clean your pet’s enclosure, check out our website.

Thanks for reading!

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