Known for their distinct shell pattern, spotted turtles are becoming a popular pet of choice. If you plan on getting a spotted turtle as a pet, it’s crucial to understand their dietary needs. In today’s article, we will review what spotted turtles eat in the wild, as well as what you should feed a spotted turtle in captivity.
Spotted turtle diet
Spotted turtles are omnivores and feed on a wide range of insects, worms, aquatic plants, snails, and occasionally small fish.
What do spotted turtles eat in the wild?
Spotted turtles are found in freshwater across North America, living primarily in marshes, wetlands, and bogs. While they are omnivores, they do tend to eat more of a carnivorous diet in the wild. They feed on a wide range of insects including crickets, grasshoppers, and caterpillars.
They will also occasionally eat bigger critters such as worms, or even small fish or minnows if they can catch them. In terms of plants, they usually eat aquatic plants such as duckweed and water lettuce.
What to feed a spotted turtle
If you have a spotted turtle as a pet, the majority of their diet should consist of commercial pellets. Aside from pellets, you can also occasionally feed them insects which will provide a lot of protein.
You should also add in the occasional vegetable to your spotted turtle. The best vegetables for a spotted turtle are leafy greens. These will include collard greens, mustard greens, kale, turnip greens, and romaine lettuce. While you can also try to grow some aquatic plants in your tank for your turtle to eat, it can be a challenge to keep the plants alive.
Some other vegetables you can feed your spotted turtle include carrots, squash, and arugula.
How often should you feed your spotted turtle?
The portion and frequency of feeding your spotted turtle will depend on their age.
0-2 years old
For baby spotted turtles, you should feed them twice a day. Ideally, you should feed them once in the morning and once at night. In terms of portions, you should feed them as much as they can eat in 1-2 minutes. You should make sure that there aren’t any food pieces left over, as this can cause your water to get dirty.
Since baby turtles grow a lot at a young age, they will require a lot of protein. I suggest you feed them a hatchling pellet that is high in protein. It is best if you have at least 2-3 different types of pellets to ensure that your turtle is getting a variety of nutrients.
On average, pellets should make up around 75% of their diet. For the remaining 25% of their diet, you can mix in insects and vegetables.
3-6 years old
While your turtle is a juvenile, you can either feed them every day or every other day. Since they are still growing, it is important to still have a pellet as the staple of their diet to provide enough protein to support their growth.
I’d suggest making pellets around 50% of their diet. For the other 50%, you can mix in insects and vegetables. It’s important at this stage in your turtle’s life that they start getting used to vegetables, since this will become the staple of their diet later on.
6 years and older
As your spotted turtle reaches adulthood, you will want the majority of their diet to become vegetables. They might not be happy about this at first, but once your turtle reaches full size, they will not require a lot of protein, which means pellets and insects will be less important.
I suggest making around 75% of your spotted turtle’s diet vegetables, and then using pellets for the remaining 25%. Pellets do have a wide range of vitamins and other nutrients, which is why it’s still important to keep them in your turtle’s diet.
While your shouldn’t feed your turtle insects regularly at this stage in their life, it is okay to feed them to your turtle as a treat every so often. It will definitely make them happy.
Don’t overfeed your turtle
It is extremely important that you don’t overfeed your turtle. If you feed your turtle too much, it can lead to a condition called pyramiding, which causes your turtle’s shell to mount up into pyramid shapes. This condition can be very difficult to treat.
While it can be difficult to when your turtle is constantly begging you for food, you need to stick with their regular feeding schedule.
What else do spotted turtles need?
If you follow the above feeding schedule, your spotted turtle will likely be happy and healthy. However, just like humans, there is a chance you will need to supplement your turtle’s diet with vitamins or other nutrients.
Most of the time, you will only need to do this if you notice something wrong with your turtle or if a veterinarian recommends it.
One of the most common diet supplements for spotted turtles is cuttlebone. It is packed with calcium which helps keep your turtle’s shell and bones healthy.
Another common vitamin for spotted turtles is vitamin A. This should be fed to your turtle if they are suffering from an eye infection.
Provide proper lighting
Along with providing your spotted turtle with a balanced diet, it is equally important have a proper lighting system in their tank. You should have a light that emits both UVA and UVB light that directly hits their basking area.
Light will help fuel your turtle’s metabolism, and it will also provide your turtle with vitamin D3 which helps them synthesize calcium and keep their shells healthy. If your turtle isn’t basking, it can lead to a range of health issues.