What Do Baby Turtles Eat In The Wild? (& As Pets)

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Maybe you’ve seen turtles roaming about the forest or by the pond and have wondered, what do baby turtles eat in the wild?

What turtles eat in the wild is similar to what they eat as pets. A turtle’s diet is the most important thing in its life, so it’s important to mimic its natural diet.

Below, I walk you through what do baby turtles eat and drink in the wild as well as answer what do baby turtles eat at home so you know what to feed your own baby turtle. I also let you know how much and how often to feed your turtle including how to get baby turtles to eat.

What Do Baby Turtles Eat In The Wild?

Just like adult turtles, most baby turtles in the wild find their food by scavenging for it. Although most turtles are omnivorous, most don’t hunt for their food. Instead, turtles are opportunistic. They will eat animal matter as it comes along.

Most turtles will eat similar foods, both meat-based and plant based. What do wild baby turtles eat? Here are some examples:

Aquatic Turtles

Aquatic turtles’ diets are a bit different than those of turtles living on land. They are usually more carnivorous. Terrestrial turtles on the other hand tend to go for more plant-based foods.

Aquatic turtle’s favorite foods:

  • Carrion
  • Fish
  • Worms
  • Snails
  • Insects

Terrestrial Turtles

Terrestrial turtles love to feed on leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables that they find in the wild. They love to eat meaty things, like insects, but not as much as their aquatic cousins.

Terrestrial turtle’s favorite foods:

  • Carrion
  • Earthworms
  • Grubs
  • Snails
  • Beetles
  • Caterpillars
  • Grass
  • Fruit
  • Mushrooms
  • Flowers
what does baby turtles eat

What To Feed Baby Turtles?

So, you’re thinking about buying a turtle. But, what can baby turtles eat?

What baby turtles eat in captivity depends largely on what kind of turtle you’re purchasing. Before buying a turtle, you should always perform research to find out what kind of care they need.

Here are some things to consider when buying baby turtle food…

Protein

Juvenile turtles are going to need more protein than adults. It’s okay for juvenile turtles to eat mostly meat because they need the protein.

As they grow, they’re going to need more nutrients and vitamins, so you should encourage them to begin eating fruits and veggies.

An adult turtle’s diet should be made up of about 60% animal products, 30% vegetables, and 10% fruits.

Pellets And Flakes

Pellets and flakes should not be your turtle’s main food source, especially as they become adults. However, they are great to mix in with their regular meal, and they are particularly helpful in getting your baby turtles to eat.

Baby turtles are known for being stubborn eaters. For whatever reason, baby turtles seem to gravitate towards pellets and flakes.

If your baby turtle is not interested in bugs and eggs the first few weeks of its life, try pellets or flakes. As they get older, they will be more interested in fresh foods and you can begin to wean them off.

Supplements

Turtles need to be given additional supplements throughout their lives. Baby turtles in particular need to be given additional supplements. Without them, they may not receive all the minerals and nutrients they need to grow.

Calcium is the most important supplement to provide your turtles, and you can sprinkle it on top of their food. It’s also important to make sure your turtles are getting enough Vitamin C and D.

What your turtle needs to be given in its daily diet largely depends on the type of turtle. Most pet turtles eat the same basic diet, but there are going to be exceptions. Some species prefer certain foods over others. Other species need different levels of nutrients.

Before purchasing a new turtle, make sure to do your research and find out what kinds of foods your turtle needs. For a general guide, check out our article on box turtles. While this article covers box turtles specifically, it is a good guide for what most pet turtles will eat.

How To Feed Baby Turtles

Of course, it’s not enough just to know what to feed your baby turtles. You’re going to need to know how to feed them. Although the feeding regimen of baby and adult turtles is quite similar, juveniles do require some extra care.

Having A Separate Feeding Tank

When you’re feeding your baby turtle, you’ll want to feed them in a separate tank. Feeding them in a separate tank from the one they live in prevents them from dirtying the tank. Baby turtles often poop while they’re in the middle of eating. If you feed them in their home tank, it just creates more work for you in the long run.

Cutting Up Food

You’ll also want to cut up small pieces of food. Most turtles have small mouths and struggle to eat larger pieces of food. Even adult turtles should have their food chopped into small bits.

To make sure your baby turtle can eat all its food, you should mince their fruit and veggies.

Feeding Struggles

As we mentioned above, baby turtles can be particularly hard to feed. Maybe they’ve been eating pellets or flakes for a while and you’re ready to transition them to fresh foods. Or maybe they’re not even interested in the pellets and you’re not sure what to do.

You’re probably wondering how to get a baby turtle to eat.

The easiest way to get baby turtles started on fresh foods is by purchasing live foods. Get live worms like wax worms, mealworms, bloodworms, or blackworms. When they’re alive, they’ll wiggle about and entice your baby turtle to eat them.

Read more about feeding your turtle mealworms here.

How Often Do Baby Turtles Eat?

Most adult turtles are happy to eat only a few times a week. Baby turtles need to be fed every day, however. They grow quickly and need lots of minerals. If they’re not fed every day, they may grow more slowly. They could also develop harmful diseases like metabolic bone disease.

Sometimes, it can be okay to feed your baby turtle just once a day. Usually you’ll want to feed them twice a day, however. Feeding twice a day ensures that your baby turtle is receiving all of the vitamins and nutrients they need to stay healthy.

Of course, you don’t want to overfeed your baby turtle, either. Overfeeding can lead to just as many problems as underfeeding. Believe it or not, baby turtles can outgrow their shell if they’re fed too much, and it’s not a good outcome.

How do you know how much you should feed?

How Much Do Baby Turtles Eat?

There are a couple ways to know how much to feed your baby turtles. The most common methods are the “15-minute” method and the “head” method.

The 15-Minute Method

This method is probably the easiest. You simply fill a dish with your turtle’s favorite foods and feed it to them. You leave them with the dish of food for 15 minutes so they can eat as much as they please. After the 15 minutes is up, you remove the food. You can even save it for the next day.

Using this method ensures that your turtle is not being overfed, while also ensuring they’re not being underfed.

The “Head” Method

Based on the name, this may sound like an odd method of choice, but it’s quite effective. All you need to do is look at the size of your turtle’s head.

Now, imagine that your turtle’s head was hollow and that you could stuff it full with pieces of food. However much food you think could fit inside your turtle’s head is how much you should feed it every day.

Frequently Asked Questions

When purchasing a new pet, there are always questions on how to care for them. Providing your new turtle with a healthy and varied diet is the most important thing you can do to keep your turtle healthy.

How Long Can Baby Turtles Go Without Food?

As adults, turtles can usually live a fairly long time without eating. Under regular conditions, they can usually last about a month without food as long as they still have access to water.

Turtles do have the ability to hibernate. Under conditions that induce hibernation, turtles can live up to 160 days without eating.

Baby turtles on the other hand have not appropriately developed the ability to hibernate. That coupled with the fact that they need extra nutrients means they can’t live long without food.

At most, a baby turtle will survive 1-2 weeks without some kind of food source.

Of course, we hope that these answers are never needed. Pet turtles should regularly be given food, and they should never be deprived of it.

However, for wild turtles who may go through periods where they can’t find food, these adaptations can be quite helpful.

Can Baby Turtles Eat Lettuce?

You can feed your baby turtles lettuce, but there are better things to feed them.

For starters, baby turtles prefer meaty foods over vegetables and fruits, so they’re likely to ignore the lettuce if you give it to them. Still, it’s a good idea to offer them fruits and vegetables to supplement their diet.

While baby and adult turtles need leafy greens in their diet, veggies like spinach and kale are better options than lettuce. Lettuce simply doesn’t have a lot of nutritional value. Spinach and kale contain lots of calcium, potassium, and vitamins.

Can Baby Turtles Eat Fish Food?

Technically, fish food is safe for turtles to eat, but that doesn’t mean you should feed it to them. Fish food is designed specifically for fish. It’s going to have the ingredients and nutrients in it that fish need to stay healthy, not turtles.

If you want to feed your turtle a commercially-made product, you should purchase one made specifically for turtles.

Even then, commercially-made turtle food should not make up the bulk of your turtle’s diet. While they can add supplemental nutrients, they need fresh foods to stay healthy. Commercially-made food shouldn’t make up more than 25% of your turtle’s total diet.

Conclusion

A baby turtle’s diet is fairly similar whether it lives in the wild or as a pet. Still, it’s incredibly important to know what they like to eat in the wild so that you can mimic their natural diet.

It’s also important to know how to feed your new baby turtle because they can be picky. Not to worry, though. After reading this article, you’re now an expert in knowing what and how to feed your turtle. You and your turtle are now ready to have a great life together!

Click here to learn what baby painted turtles eat and here for baby box turtles. You can find all our turtle guides here.

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By Jason Williamson

Jason is a huge animal lover with many pets of his own. He loves sharing all his knowledge of all creatures here and learning more whenever he can.