The Red-Eared Slider is a semi aquatic turtle, and requires a diet that is high in protein. The food we recommend for red eared slider turtles is the ReptoMin floating food. The ReptoMin floating pellet food contains no artificial colorants or preservatives and complete balanced nutrition for the proper growth of your pet turtles.
Food For Red Eared Slider
Red-eared slider turtles are aquatic turtles that have been popular as pets for a long time. In fact, at one time they were even sold in dime stores. Red-eared sliders are resilient creatures and tolerate a range of conditions (such as various water temperatures, pH, and hardness). They are also comfortable with people and love to voraciously beg for food. So, what do red-eared slider turtles eat? Living in the wild, red-eared slider turtles feed on aquatic vegetation, little fish, and material that is decaying such as frogs and dead fish. The young turtles are mainly carnivorous and become more omnivorous as they grow into adults. As pets, red-eared sliders and other aquatic turtles can be fed daily as hatchlings and juveniles, reducing the feedings to every other day as adult turtles.
Food for Red-Eared Slider Turtles
Red-eared slider turtles eat a variety of items in the wild and while we can’t exactly mimic these foods exactly for our pets, we can provide them with some options.
Aquatic turtle pellets are a staple for your pet turtle but they shouldn’t make up the bulk of their diet. Always feed your turtle in water, limit the pellets to make up about 25% of the diet, and then make up the rest of the diet with the following items:
- Prey Items: Earthworms, crickets, waxworms, silkworms, aquatic snails, bloodworms, daphnia, shrimp, krill, and mealworms. For very small red-eared slider turtles, prey may have to be cut into smaller pieces. Larger and adult turtles can be offered larger items like tadpoles or feeder fish, though some experts warn that feeder fish may be carrying parasites, etc. and some fish (like goldfish) are too fatty to be fed regularly.1
- Leafy Greens: Collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, kale, and bok choy. Head (iceberg) lettuce should never be fed as it contains very little nutrition but dark green leaf lettuces (e.g. romaine) can be fed sparingly. Make sure you only feed items with appropriate calcium to phosphorous levels.
- Aquatic Plants: In both an aquarium and pond you can add aquatic plants on which turtles usually love to snack. Submerged plants like anacharis are often eaten by turtles, as are water hyacinth, water lettuce, duckweed, azolla (fairy moss), and frog-bit.
- Other Vegetables: Carrots (tops are fine too), squash, and green beans.
Red-Eared Slider Turtle Feeding Schedule
Some people choose to feed adult turtles once only every three days while others prefer to stick to smaller meals and continue feeding them daily. No matter which feeding schedule you choose, the important thing is not to overfeed your turtle, especially with items high in protein and fat since red-eared sliders and other aquatic turtles often have voracious appetites and will beg for food. Some owners describe their pet turtles doing a frantic swim as if trying to fly straight out of the water or staring at them like a dog begging for food.
However often you feed your turtle, be sure to monitor their body condition. If folds of skin are developing around a turtle’s legs, especially when they pull their legs into their shell, they are getting too fat and need to be fed smaller amounts, eat less often, or offer food with lower fat content. Remember that adult red-eared sliders are quite herbivorous so if your turtle seems overly hungry, try feeding more leafy greens and plant material rather than aquatic turtle pellets or prey food items.
The amount of food you feed depends a bit on your individual turtle. A good rule of thumb is to feed as much as your turtle will consume in 15 minutes. If you feed your turtle in a separate container, it is easier to monitor how much and how fast your turtle eats.
What Do Red-Eared Sliders Eat
Red-eared slider turtles are omnivores, so they eat both plants and animals.
Adults mostly eat aquatic plants such as elodea, duckweed, water lettuce and water ferns. Adults eat so many plants they are considered herbivorous. They will only eat meat if it is readily available and there are no plants nearby. Sometimes adults will eat small fish, earthworms, redworms, insects, snails, slugs, tadpoles and frogs.
Baby red-eared sliders eat much more meat than adults. Meat gives younger species the extra protein that is needed to help them grow and develop their shell. Babies enjoy invertebrates, very small feeder fish (e.g. minnows) and worms.
As they age this species does not need as much protein.
Too much protein in adults can cause an issue known as shell pyramiding, which is when the shell becomes more triangular in shape.
Red-eared sliders hunt by either sitting motionless, waiting for a fish to swim by and then snatching it, or by chasing and snapping up any bugs that land in the water. Adults will also swim along the bottom of ponds or lakes and eat aquatic plants or algae.
Hunting and foraging for food uses up a lot of energy, so they normally eat multiple times a day.
Turtles in the wild will eat whenever they can. However, pet sliders should only be fed every two to three days because they do not have to hunt.
Red-Eared Slider Diet
Feeding red-eared sliders a balanced diet is vital for their health.
Many turtles will stop eating out of boredom if they are fed the same diet. Providing a variety of foods in their diet is key to keeping a healthy appetite.
Adult red-eared sliders can be fed:
- Dark leafy greens: romaine lettuce, kale, dandelion greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, or swiss chard.
- Vegetables: bell pepper or carrots.
- Feeder fish: goldfish, guppies or minnows.
- Insects, earthworms, slugs, snails or tadpoles.
Feeder fish are good enrichment for turtles as they will have to chase it down to catch it, but they can also contain parasites. If you decide to feed feeder fish then buy them from a local pet store. You should never feed wild-caught prey.
In addition to a healthy diet, your turtle will also need a calcium supplement.
A powdered calcium supplement that also contains vitamin D3 is the best. This calcium supplement will help prevent diseases and shell deformities. Another option is to throw in a cuttlebone once or twice a week.
It is important to know that a red-eared slider’s diet changes as they age. Baby red-eared sliders need a diet that is higher in meat and protein. Babies should be offered some vegetables, but the majority of their diet should be carnivorous.
As your red-eared slider ages you can begin offering less feeder fish or insects and replace it with a variety of vegetables or aquatic plants.
Baby Red-Eared Feeding Schedule
Baby red-ears need to be fed much more frequently than adults. They also need a diet high in protein. Babies should be fed every day as they need a tremendous amount of energy to grow at the proper rate.
Make sure you offer a red-eared slider diet that consists of:
- Dark Leafy Greens
- Aquatic Plants
- Feeder Fish
- Feeder Insects
- Commercial Turtle Pellets
An equal mix of protein-rich food items, dark leafy greens, and vegetables is ideal for a baby red-eared slider.
Their diet should be 30% plant based and 70% meat.
Any vegetables you feed should first be boiled and chopped into pieces small enough to fit into the turtle’s mouth. Let your turtle have a 15 minute feeding session. After the feeding session, just remove anything that hasn’t been eaten to keep the water clean.