If you’re thinking about purchasing a baby snapping turtle, you’re going to want to know how to feed it. Baby snappers don’t stay small for long, and there are certain vitamins and nutrients they need to grow big and healthy. Raising a snapping turtle can be very rewarding, but it can also be difficult.
They need extra care and nutrition when they are young, and their dietary needs change as they age. If you are thinking of purchasing a baby snapper, keep reading to know what to feed your new pet. Feeding baby snapping turtles plenty of vitamins and nutrients is essential to promote healthy growth and prevent disease.
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What Is A Baby Snapping Turtle?
Snapping turtles are the largest freshwater turtles in North America. Just because they are small when you first adopt them does not mean they’ll stay that way. Many snappers can reach up to 60 pounds when they’re full grown. Read more here about how big they get.
When snapping turtles are just babies, they will likely be about 2 inches in length, but they will grow quite quickly, and can reach a size of about 12-18 inches. Snapping turtles need special care to begin with, but their care is especially important when they’re young. The kind of care they receive as babies will determine how healthy and big they will be when they reach maturity.
What Do Baby Snapping Turtles Eat In The Wild?
Snapping turtles are omnivores, so they will eat both meat and plant matter. However, when they are young, they are pickier and will stick to meaty foods. Likely due to the extra protein they need to grow, baby snapping turtles will usually refuse any fruits or vegetables you try to feed them, and they will avoid them in the wild as well.
So, what does a baby snapping turtle eat in the wild?
Here are some of the things wild baby snapping turtles like to eat:
Watch this video:
Best Baby Snapping Turtle Food: What To Feed Baby Snapping Turtles
While you should take some direction from what they feed on in the wild, it is not always feasible or desirable to feed them natural options. Fortunately, snapping turtles aren’t very picky about their food, and there are plenty of options to choose from.
So, how do you know what to feed a baby snapping turtle?
Here is some of the best food for baby snapping turtles:
- Commercially-made food
- Shredded chicken or beef
- Worms like bloodworms, mealworms, & earthworms
- Live food such as frogs, shrimp, spiders, snails, & fish
- Always get live food from a reliable source and don’t catch anything yourself
- Vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, collard greens, leafy greens, & dandelions
- Fruits like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, melons, apples, & grapes
- Aquatic plants like duckweed, waterweed, & water hyacinths
Although baby snapping turtles love fruit, you shouldn’t include them in their everyday diet. Unfortunately, too many fruits can cause stomach upset and malnutrition, so they should be saved as an occasional treat.
How are you to know which commercially-made foods are best for your turtles? Here are some things to look for:
- Balanced nutrition
- Rich in protein
- Rich in calcium
- Has a scent that is enticing to turtles
- Contains real ingredients
- fish, insects, fruit, vegetables, etc.
- Avoid anything with artificial additives (color or flavoring)
Although commercially-made foods are a great source of nutrients for your turtles, it should only make up about 25% of their total diet. The rest of their diet should consist of fresh fruits and veggies, and live food.
So, which commercial foods are the best for your snapping turtles? Here is some of the best baby snapping turtle food:
Fluker’s Buffet Blend
This food is one of the best because it was designed specifically for turtles. Here are some of its best qualities:
- Contains a blend of quality foods including freeze dried river shrimp
- Balanced diet rich in proteins, nutrients, and vitamins
- Promotes activity and growth
- Enhances color
- Affordable price
- Enticing scent
- Will not cloud water
Here is why we like these:
- Nutritious and contains calcium and vitamin C
- Easy formula to metabolize
- Supports vitality
Zoo Med Sun Dried Large Red Shrimp
This blend is another great option:
- Rich in protein
- Large, cost-effective container
- Promotes growth & activity
- Strong scent
Fluker Labs Turtle Medley Treats
Here are some of it’s best qualities:
- Designed specifically for baby turtles (it contains too much protein for adult turtles)
- Reputable company
- Contains a blend of quality foods – freeze-dried river shrimp, mealworms, & crickets
- Rich in protein
Wardley Reptile Sticks
Here is why turtles like this food:
- Contains essential vitamins and nutrients
- All natural ingredients
This food is only suitable as a treat and should not be used as the main source of your turtle’s diet.
Should Your Baby Snapping Turtle Have Supplements?
Nutrients are vital for snapping turtles in general, but they are even more important while the animal is still growing. If they don’t receive the nutrients they need, they can develop harmful diseases such as metabolic bone disease or softshell.
Turtles in the wild are pretty adept at finding natural nutrients they need to keep them healthy. This isn’t so easy when kept in captivity, and owners need to be extra careful to supply their young turtles with the supplements they need.
To stay healthy, snapping turtles need a wide range of vitamins and nutrients. Most importantly, they need to receive plenty of calcium and protein.
Live foods are a wonderful option for providing your turtle with protein, and vegetables are great sources of calcium. However, these foods usually are not enough, and you will need to add supplements to their diet.
What Vitamins Do They Need?
Here are some vitamins that with support your turtle’s continued health:
- Vitamin D
- This helps the body to better absorb calcium, so it aids in proper shell development
- Calcium Powder
- This helps with shell and bone strength
- While vitamin D helps turtles to absorb calcium, there needs to be calcium for them to absorb
- This can be sprinkled on top and mixed in with their daily food
- This supplement is not essential to your turtle’s diet like calcium and vitamin D are, but they are helpful in making sure your turtle is receiving enough nutrients
- These include all the necessary vitamins a turtle needs that they may not be receiving from their diet
- UVB Light
- Although this is not technically a supplement, it is extremely important to your turtle’s health
- A heating lamp equipped with a UVB bulb will not only keep your turtle warm, but it will also ensure that they’re getting essential nutrients
What Should You Not Feed A Baby Snapping Turtle?
Here are some things that you shouldn’t feed your baby snapping turtle:
- Anything that you catch outside
- It could contain dangerous parasites or pathogens
- Its fat content is too high
- Feeder goldfish
- Their fat content is also too high — stick to minnows or guppies
How To Feed A Baby Snapping Turtle
Unfortunately, baby snapping turtles can be a bit tricky to feed. Usually, snappers will use the bathroom at the same time as they eat, so feeding them in their home is a bad idea and will dirty up the tank.
Feed Them In A Container
Instead, you should try feeding them in a small container. Most people use a separete aquarium that is smaller than their normal one.
Place your turtle in this aquarium or container along with its food for about 30 minutes. This is plenty of time for the turtle to feed without being rushed.
Eventually, the turtles will even begin to recognize that they are about to be fed when you produce the aquarium and may become excited.
Even though you want to feed your turtles in a separate container from the one they live in, you will always want to make sure they have enough fresh water in their live-in tank. They should never be deprived of water and need enough to swim in and to drink.
Bearing this in mind, for a baby snapper, you shouldn’t have water that is more than 3 inches deep because it’s possible for them to drown. You should also make sure that there is a ramp that they can crawl out of the water.
How Often Should You Feed A Baby Snapping Turtle?
Like many animals, snapping turtles love to eat. If you place food in front of it, it is going to eat it regardless of whether it’s actually hungry.
Because of this, it is possible to overfeed your turtles, and that can lead to dangerous health problems like obesity or kidney and liver failure.
We said above that you shouldn’t feed your turtles in their tank because it will make the tank dirty, but you also shouldn’t do it because they will overeat. By feeding them in a separate container, you can control how much food they are getting.
Generally, feeding your turtles 1-2 times a day will be sufficient. They will usually be hungriest in the early mornings and evenings, so these are the best times to try and feed them.
After they’ve reached about 6 months in age, you can decrease their feeding to once every other day.
How Much Should You Feed A Baby Snapping Turtle?
There are a few ways you can tell how much food to feed your turtles:
You can keep an eye on your turtle’s skin to see if you are feeding them too much or not enough.
If the skin looks tight and the legs are bulging from the shell, then the turtle is overeating and you should cut back on their food.
Alternatively, if the skin looks like it’s sagging, the turtle is underweight and you should feed more.
This is the easiest method for ensuring that your turtle is not being overfed or underfed. Simply give them a plate of food and let them eat as much as they want for 15 minutes. After that time is up, remove the food.
You can always reuse any leftover food to reduce waste.
The Head Rule
This method is pretty simple as well. You just look at your turtle’s head and imagine how much food would fit inside of the turtle’s head if it was a hollow mold. That is the amount of food you’ll give your turtle.
Baby snapping turtles can be a bit difficult to care for, but it can be very rewarding. If you’re successful, you will find yourself with a great pet for many years to come.
If you want your baby snapping turtle to grow strong and stay healthy, make sure that it has a balanced diet full of nutrients and vitamins. The most important of these are protein and calcium because they help with bone and shell strength.
To encourage their health, it’s also important to know how much and how often to feed your turtles. Feeding too much or too little can lead to disease just as a nutrient deficency would.
Learning how to feed a baby snapping turtle can take some work, but it’s well worth it. After going on this journey with us, you are now well-equipped to take care of your new turtle.
Click here to read how snapping turtles develop in eggs and hatch or here for how fast snapping turtles can grow. You can also find all our turtle related guides here.As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.