The best food for aquatic turtles should have some protein but be low in carbs and phosphorus, have good ingredients and of course, not get soggy in water.
The Best Food For Aquatic Turtles
In my opinion, it is one protein and one vegetable source, specifically two of the following:
- Omega One Adult Turtle Food Sticks (click here for the current price on Amazon) – If you want your turtle to have the best, most natural ingredients, then look no further than this.
- Mazuri Aquatic Turtle Diet (click here for the current price on Amazon) – This is what many zoos feed their aquatic turtles. It also tends to get just soggy enough, without breaking apart, to be easily eaten.
- Reptomin Floating Food Sticks (click here for the current price on Amazon) – If you are looking for a budget protein but you still want something reliable for your aquatic turtle, get this.
- Anacharis (click here for the current price on Amazon) – Also known as waterweed, this aquatic plant is able to grow quite easily in your tank and be used as a perpetual source of food.
- Red-leaf or romaine lettuce – This is one of the most popular choices to use for the bulk of your aquatic turtle’s vegetable needs.
I’ll explain a little bit more.
What Do Water Turtles Eat?
If you have an aquatic turtle, you will need two mainstay foods in order to keep them healthy:
- A protein source.
- A vegetable source.
Aquatic turtles are primarily meat-eaters (most often insects in the wild) while they are young. This is because they are still young and need protein and other nutrients in order to grow and fully develop.
During this period of time in their lives, aquatic turtles need food that is:
- Moderate in protein. Too little is not enough and too much can cause shell pyramiding and abnormal growth.
- High in calcium. This is needed for strong bones and a strong shell.
- Low in phosphorus. Too much phosphorus cancels out the calcium they consume and leads to weak bones and shells.
- Low in carbohydrates and fat. Too much of either can lead to obesity and other health problems. Yep, turtles do get fat!
As they mature and get older, they need less protein and they become much more herbivorous (plant-eaters). When older, this is what they will eat most often.
Thus, aquatic turtles also need food that:
- Has calcium and other vitamins, but is low in phosphorus, carbohydrates, and fats.
- Easily eaten and readily available.
On top of this, it’s a good idea to occasionally give your aquatic turtle a variety of treats to round out their diet. This can be things such as:
- Feeder fish
- Feeder crickets
- Ghost shrimp
- Collard greens
Aquatic Turtle Pellets
Regardless of your aquatic turtle’s age, turtle pellets should be used as a staple food throughout its life.
When your turtle is young, this will probably be the most common food you feed it. As it matures and develops, this will be replaced more and more by lettuce, Anacharis or some other vegetable or plant.
Why turtle pellets and not something more natural, such as crickets?
The reason so many pet owners use commercially-made turtle pellets is because they are healthy. They have a proven track record that literally spans decades.
Now, there are dozens of companies and types of turtle pellets, but I recommend these three as the best food for aquatic turtles.
Omega One Adult Turtle Food Sticks
There is one reason and really one reason only why these are my absolute favorite food for my aquatic turtles; the ingredients. The top 3 ingredients are whole salmon, whole herring and halibut. This food also contains Vitamin A, B12, C, and D3.
The downside is the cost. It’s easily one of the most expensive aquatic turtle foods out there.
Mazuri Aquatic Turtle Diet
Many zoos use Mazuri as their turtle feed and for good reason. It’s nutritious but also gets just the right amount of soggy in the water. It can float a long time but still not leave your water oily.
Some owners don’t like Mazuri because the primary ingredient is ground corn and turtles don’t typically eat this in the wild. That is technically true, however, the ground corn here includes the entire stalk, greens and all. It’s just not all mashed up corn kernels.
Reptomin Floating Food Sticks
The Reptomin line of turtle pellets are quite common among pet owners due to 2 reasons.
The first reason is that they are inexpensive but can still be used as a staple food for your turtle. The second reason is that there are so many different varieties of pellets: food sticks, smaller pellets, pellets for babies, pellets for juveniles and adults, etc.
This used to be my preferred staple food for my turtles until I started using Omega One and Mazuri. In my experience, the ingredients are just a step-down. For instance, the 3 most common ingredients in the aquatic pellets are wheat starch, dried yeast, and corn flour.
Vegetables And Plants For Aquatic Turtles
As your aquatic turtle matures and develops, vegetables and plants will make up a larger and larger portion of its diet.
The two best vegetables and plants to give to your aquatic turtle are, in my opinion, the following:
Red-leaf or Romaine Lettuce
Can aquatic turtles eat lettuce? Not only can they, but they should! Lettuce is cheap, nutritious (especially for the fiber) and best of all, I have rarely come across a red-eared slider or painted turtle that doesn’t love eating the stuff!
It’s also incredibly easy to feed. Grab about a handful and drop it into the tank. Talk about easy!
Just avoid iceberg lettuce because although your turtles will eat it, it isn’t very nutritious.
This is also known as waterweed and is perhaps the most common water plant given to pet aquatic turtles. It can be grown in cold and warm climates, will attach itself to the sides of your tank naturally, and much like lettuce, just about every aquatic turtle I have come across loves to eat it.
It’s also a great way to give your turtles a constant source of food. In my opinion, waterweed really gives your habitat a much more natural feel.
What Should You Not Feed Aquatic Turtles?
Just as there are healthy and unhealthy food choices for humans, there are also healthy and unhealthy foods for turtles.
The only difference is that if you feed the wrong type of food to your turtle, you could (quickly) kill it.
Avoid these foods, at all costs:
- Any type of processed or cured meats. This means no deli meats, no fried or smoked chicken. In fact, avoid meat altogether just to be safe. Some pet owners like to give small pieces of cooked chicken as treats, but in my opinion, there are just better alternatives.
- Fruits. Like meats, some pet owners like to give a bit of mashed up banana as a treat. The reality is that aquatic turtles do not eat fruits, in particular, any type of citrus fruit, in the wild. Fruits, in general, are too sugary and acidic for turtles’ stomachs.
- Any type of processed or dairy foods, such as cakes or cookies. Just take my advice here. Don’t do it. 🙂
- Any type of wild animal that may hurt, injure or kill your turtle. The occasional feeder fish or ghost shrimp is okay, but nothing like an aggressive fish or lobster.
Basically, just stick to the basics. Rely on a turtle pellet and either Red-leaf or Romaine lettuce or a water plant such as Anacharis, and use ghost shrimp, krill, feeder fish and a different vegetable here and there as treats.
- The best aquatic turtle food is Mazuri, Omega One or Reptomin as your protein source.
- Use Red-leaf or Romaine lettuce or Anacharis as your vegetable or plant source.
- Feed ghost shrimp, feeder fish, crickets and other vegetables sparingly.