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

What Do Painted Turtles Eat In The Wild

Painted Turtles make a great pet, but plenty of them still live in the wild. They have a diet that includes many different types of food to help them grow and develop. So, what exactly do Painted Turtles eat in the wild? In this article, we’ll share a brief overview of what a Painted Turtle is. Then, we’ll discuss what Painted Turtles eat in the wild as adults and as babies.

What Do Painted Turtles Eat In The Wild

In addition, we’ll talk about foods you can feed your pet Painted Turtle. Finally, we’ll answer some commonly asked questions about Painted Turtles and their diet. 

What Are Painted Turtles?

Painted Turtles are one of the many types of aquatic turtles. They are known for their black, oval-shaped shells with yellow or red marks along their legs, tail, neck, and head. Also, these turtles have webbed feet to help them swim in ponds, lakes, rivers, or streams.

This particular turtle is native to North America, and there are different types of Painted Turtles. For example, there’s the Western, Eastern, Southern, and Midland Painted Turtle.

Painted Turtles are friendly creatures, and they enjoy the company of other turtles. They can grow to be about three to ten inches long. Believe it or not, females are often bigger than males. Males don’t usually grow to be half the size of females.

When in captivity, Painted Turtles have an average lifespan of about 20 to 30 years. However, some turtles, especially in the wild, have been known to live for up to 50 years.

Painted Turtles are fun to have as a pet, but they are common in the wild. These turtles are diurnal and will hibernate during the colder months of the year. In addition, Painted Turtles are known as predators in the wild. This is because they’re omnivores and eat various food, from live animals to vegetation.

What Do Painted Turtles Eat In The Wild?

In the wild, what does a Painted Turtle eat? Painted Turtles are considered to be predators and will eat a wide variety of food. However, at a young age, they’re more carnivores and will hunt other small animals around them.

For example, they’ll eat live food such as dead fish, tadpoles, insects, snails, and more. As the Painted Turtle is considered an adult at five years old, they’ll become omnivores. Including live food, they’ll also add plants to their diet.

What Do Painted Turtles Eat In Ponds?

So, what does the Painted Turtle eat? For live food, Painted Turtles can eat a variety of insects and small fish. For instance, they’ll consume larvae, small beetles, and even bees. You can read more about painted turtles and fish here.

What Plants Do Painted Turtles Eat In Ponds?

When Painted Turtles live near ponds, there are also various plants they can consume. For instance, they can have leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, kale, or red-leaf lettuce. Also, they can have aquatic plants such as duckweed, water hyacinth, and algae.

What Do Eastern Painted Turtles Eat?

Eastern Painted Turtles are omnivores and eat a mixture of live food, vegetation, and aquatic plants.

For example, Eastern Painted Turtle food can include algae and other aquatic vegetation they can find. In addition, they’ll go after small fish that they can catch, insects, and other live food for protein.

What Do Southern Painted Turtles Eat?

Southern Painted Turtles are the same as other Painted Turtles. They’re omnivores and are predators in their area. So, they’ll eat anything they can find, from live food such as fish and insects to vegetation.

What Do Western Painted Turtles Eat?

Western Painted Turtles are omnivores. For instance, they’ll eat various live food, vegetation, and aquatic plants. In addition, they’ll eat whatever they can find.

So, if you have a Western Painted Turtle as a pet, then you can feed them a varied plate with darky leafy greens, water hyacinth, water lettuce, duckweed, and live food such as insects or worms.

What Do Baby Painted Turtles Eat In The Wild?

A Painted Turtle isn’t considered an adult until they are at least five years old. So, they are carnivores for the first five years of their life, eating only live food.

For instance, baby Painted Turtles eat the following in the wild:

  • Snails
  • Slugs
  • Tadpoles
  • Crayfish
  • Small Fish
  • Dead Fish
  • Carrion
  • Insects
  • Worms (such as mealworms)

The reason for baby Painted Turtles not adding plants to their diet until they’re much older is because babies need the protein from the live food. It’s essential for their growth and development.

Read our full guide to what baby Painted Turtles should eat here.

Watch the video:

What Do Painted Turtles Eat As Pets?

What can Painted Turtles eat under your care? What do Painted Turtles like to eat?

You can feed your Painted Turtle a wide variety of food. Luckily, this type of turtle isn’t a picky eater. So, as long as they get the nutrients they need to grow and thrive, you can provide them with many options.

Let’s discuss some of the best food for Painted Turtles.

For example, Painted Turtles enjoy various vegetation from both land and the water. Some veggies you can provide for your turtle might be spinach, kale, red-leaf lettuce, carrots, celery, or beets.

Grass is another option you can feed your Painted Turtle. However, they’ll eat aquatic plants such as duckweed, anacharis, water lettuce, lilies, or hyacinths.

In addition, they’ll love algae, microalgae, and leaves.

You’ll want to keep their fruit intake limited. Fruit isn’t the healthiest for Painted Turtles, but it will add extra flavor to their meals. Also, it can be a nice treat once in a while.

So, some fruit you can give to your turtle in moderation could be bananas, apples, melon, or berries.

Finally, Painted Turtles will eat live food. They’ll enjoy it more as a baby but will still eat them as an adult.

Some live food you can give to your turtle might be small fish, crustaceans, aquatic insects, worms, snails, small lizards, frogs, or snakes.

Remember, Painted Turtles need a diet high in calcium, just like other species of turtles. So, when it comes to what do you feed painted turtles, you might also need to add supplements to its diet.

You can buy commercial food from a reliable pet store and give your Painted Turtle floating food sticks, aquatic turtle pellets, or supplements such as calcium and vitamin D.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Do Painted Turtles Eat?

How often Painted Turtles eat will depend on their age. For instance, a baby Painted Turtle under five years old will need to eat every day.

Eating every day will help them grow and develop, getting all the nutrients they need to thrive.

However, once they grow into adulthood, Painted Turtles will only eat when they need to. For instance, they’ll only look for food about once every two or three days.

How Long Can Painted Turtles Go Without Food?

Painted Turtles can go a few days without eating food. Young Painted Turtles should eat every day, but adult Painted Turtles shouldn’t.

Adults should eat only once every two to three days. Otherwise, as a pet, they can become obese, thus getting certain health issues.

In the wild, they exercise more since they can explore. However, they could still become obese over time if they eat every day.

Can Painted Turtles Eat Lettuce?

Yes, Painted Turtles can eat lettuce.

When it comes to feeding them, Painted Turtles enjoy dark leafy greens. So, you can feed them romaine lettuce, red-leaf lettuce, and even water lettuce.

However, you’ll want to stay away from Iceberg lettuce. It doesn’t have much nutritional value for your turtle, and it could make them sick.

Can Painted Turtles Eat Strawberries?

Yes, Painted Turtles can eat strawberries. They can eat the berry but also eat the tops of the strawberries. It’s a fun dark leafy green for them to munch on.

However, most fruits aren’t nutritious for turtles. So, if you give them strawberries at a young age, you’ll only want to provide them with one small strawberry once in a while. It can be a great snack or extra flavor to their meal, but it shouldn’t be given to them all the time.

Also, if you feed them strawberries, be sure to cut them up into smaller pieces so that your Painted Turtle can eat them easily. 

Do Painted Turtles Eat Frogs?

Believe it or not, yes. Painted Turtles do eat frogs. Baby Painted Turtles, in particular, have a carnivorous diet. So if they see a frog that’s smaller than them, the Painted Turtle will chase the frog and eat it.

As adults, Painted Turtles become omnivores. However, they’ll still eat live food, such as frogs. Frogs might not be their first choice, but if the frog is slow enough for the Painted Turtle to catch, they will undoubtedly give chase and eat it.

Read more about turtles and frogs here.

Do Painted Turtles Need Water?

Yes, Painted Turtles need water. This type of turtle is an aquatic turtle, which means their natural habitat is near a body of water. For example, Painted Turtles live near lakes, ponds, rivers, or streams.

They can stay out of the water for certain periods and walk around on land. However, a Painted Turtle should not be outside of the water for more than eight hours.

If you have a Painted Turtle as a pet, then you’ll want to add double the water to the length of their tank. For example, if their tank is five inches long, you want to have at least ten inches of water inside. 


So, what do wild Painted Turtles eat? Overall, Painted Turtles will eat most things they find in the wild. When they’re under five years old, they’ll eat more live food for the animal protein. They know what they need to grow big and strong.

Painted Turtles will explore a bit more and add vegetation to their diet at five years old and up, becoming omnivores.

Learn more about Painted Turtles here or click here to read about whether they can eat broccoli or here for mealworms. You can also find out what eats painted turtles here.

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