What Do Painted Turtles Like to Eat the Most? (Foods Avoid)

Painted turtles have become one of the most popular species of turtles to keep as a pet. For one, they’re docile by nature, making them easy to care for.

Secondly, as their name implies, they’re beautiful and have unique streaks of color on their heads. So, while they’re great pets, you will still need to know how to take care of painted turtles, including understanding what they eat.

Painted Turtle Habits and Biology

Native to North America, painted turtles are about a foot long once they’re fully grown, which makes them a great size to keep as a pet. They also don’t have teeth, which makes them safe to pick up and hold as long as you make sure to wash your hands.

There are four different types of Painted Turtles, all of whom are from North America. The Eastern, Southern, Midland, and Western Painted Turtles differ in size and color. For instance, the bottom of the Western Painted Turtle’s shell is red with splotches, while the Eastern Painted Turtle’s shell is yellow on the bottom.

Painted turtles also love the sun and warmth, which is something they will spend most of their taking in when they’re given that opportunity.

So, make sure that they have access to a place where they can bask in the warmth. This is because like all reptiles painted turtles are cold-blooded and need to warm themselves using external factors.

Outside of making sure to keep your painted turtle’s habitat warm, there are a couple important things that you need to be aware of before you get one as a pet. The first is that they have a long lifespan. This makes them a long-term commitment that can last up to twenty-five years.

However, it’s not unheard of for the painted turtle to live up to fifty-five years in the wild. You also have to be aware of their diet and nutritional needs, to make sure you’re feeding them a healthy diet.

Do Painted Turtles Eat Dirt?

Do Painted Turtles Eat Dirt

While some turtles do eat dirt, oftentimes on accident as they graze from the bottom of a lake, it’s not part of their regular diet. Even turtles and tortoises who do eat dirt or sand don’t eat a lot of dirt or sand.

It’s mostly a byproduct of that grazing that they do. In the case of painted turtles, they actually eat other animals and vegetation. However, it should be noted that they don’t add vegetation into their diet until they have matured. So, if not dirt, what do Painted Turtles eat?

What Do Painted Turtles Like to Eat the Most

What Do Painted Turtles Like to Eat the Most

In the wild, painted turtles are actually born strictly as carnivores who eat small fish, tadpoles, and insects that they can easily find in a pond. As they mature, painted turtles’ bodies are able to handle vegetation and add that to their diet. It’s also worth pointing out that there is some variance between the four types of Painted Turtles.

Depending on what region of North America a Painted Turtle lives, their diet will have some variance. However, along with fish they commonly eat larva, crawfish, worms, and carrion. Once they add vegetation to their diet, Painted Turtles will eat duckweed and other plants that commonly grow in and around ponds.

This isn’t a realistic diet for a Painted Turtle in captivity, however. Instead, Paint Turtles that live in captivity are best off being fed by commercial foods that can be purchased in store or online. In some cases, you may also want to supplement that commercial food with worms or insects as well. You may also give them small bits of other food, like leafy vegetables.

1. Mazuri Aquatic Turtle Diet

Mazuri prides itself on being completely nutritional, or in other words you won’t need to supplement Mazuir with a vitamin or anything like that for you Painted Turtle.

It also floats in the water, which allows your Painted Turtle to eat its food as it would naturally, by skimming the top of the water for food. This is also a protein rich food that is designed to replicate the mainly carnivorous base of a Painted Turtles diet.

As a company, Mazuri is well respected and known for making food that is great for less common pets.

2. Zoo Med Natural Aquatic Turtle Food Maintenance Formula

Zoo Med is a vitamin and mineral rich food that contains no artificial preservatives. It is worth noting that the pellets on Zoo Med are a little bit larger than many other forms of turtle food, but that doesn’t make Painted Turtles go any less crazy over it.

3. Tetra ReptoMin Floating Food Sticks

This is a great option for providing Calcium and vitamin C to your Painted Turtle. As the name implies. Tetra ReptoMin Floating Food Sticks float on top of water, which allows your Painted Turtle to eat as they normally would in the wild.

Food to Avoid Feeding Painted Turtles

Food to Avoid Feeding Painted Turtles

While it may seem like Painted Turtles will eat anything, after all they are omnivores, it’s important to remember that there are some foods that they can’t eat. Take a look, and make sure that your Painted Turtle doesn’t have access to any of these foods:

  • Iceberg Lettuce – There is nothing nutritional about iceberg lettuce, so there really is no reason to feed it to your Painted Turtle. If you do want to feed your turtle lettuce, there are more beneficial types of lettuce that they can eat.
  • Fruit – Fruit is not immediately harmful to Painted Turtles. However, they don’t eat it in the wild, so it’s not something that they need to be eating in captivity either. Fruit can also sink and easily dissolve in water, which means that you’ll be forced to clean their tank more often if you feed them fruit.
  • Avocado – Avocado is actually toxic to Painted Turtles, so make sure that it’s kept out of reach of your pets.
  • Rhubarb and Tomato Leaves – Just like avocados, leaves from plants like tomatoes and rhubarb are also poisonous to Painted Turtles, and should never be fed to them.

Tips to Feed Painted Turtles

The first thing to remember when it comes to feeding your pet Painted Turtle is that it’s important to observe your turtle as they eat. If they eat their food quickly, you may want to consider giving them more food so that they aren’t underfed.

If they’re not finishing their food, scoop out the leftovers and give them a smaller portion next time you feed them. It’s also important to feed your Painted Turtle daily as a newborn, but it doesn’t need to be fed daily as an adult.

If you don’t want to have to deal with frequently cleaning your Painted Turtle’s tank, you may not want to feed it directly in the water. Rather, by putting their food into a small bowl or container that they can eat out of, you won’t have to deal with difficult clean up.

After all, when you need to clean the tank, especially when there are issues with your Painted Turtle’s food in the tank, there can be a bad smell that occurs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can my turtle’s food affect their tank?

Yes, your turtle’s tank can become dirty because of their diet. Some foods that you feed them are liable to dissolve and make the tank dirty. This means you’ll have to clean the tank more frequently. It also means that the tank may start to smell when you feed them certain foods.

There are ways to avoid this entirely, however. For one, plenty of foods aren’t going to make the tank as others might. The best way to tell if a brand of turtle food is good in this regard before you buy it is to read online reviews.

Natural foods, such as fruits, can also cause the tank to become dirty. Generally, this is something that is more likely to happen if your turtle doesn’t eat immediately.

2. Do I need to supplement my turtle’s diet?

This depends entirely on what you’re feeding your turtle to begin with. Some diets that you could be feeding them may not require any additional food.

However, you can still give them treats in this case. If your Painted Turtle’s Diet isn’t giving them all the nutrients that you need, you will need to find a supplement to their diet.

This comes in the form of small foods they may eat in the wild, like worms, or it can be another treat that fills the gaps in their diet.

3. How do I know when I can introduce vegetation into their diets?

Painted turtles are born carnivores, but as they reach maturity they become omnivores. So, how do you know when your baby Painted Turtles can transition their diets?

For one, you can tell their age by counting the rings on their scutes, the same way you would count the rings of a tree. It’s also worth pointing out that Painted Turtles in the wild don’t eat vegetation before they’re able to. They shouldn’t in captivity either.


Painted Turtles make a great, beautiful pet. Just make sure that you know how to feed them properly. That’s the only way to keep them healthy and help them live the long life that they’re able to if cared for the way they deserve to be.

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