Ask a Vet

What To Feed A Snapping Turtle?

By Kerry
Updated on

What do you feed a snapping Turtle? Snapping turtles are large reptiles native to North America. They eat mostly insects and other invertebrates.

Snapping turtles are omnivorous animals. This means they can eat both plants and meat. The diet of a snapping turtle also depends on its age and size.

Snapping turtle on the ground

In this article, we look at what snapping turtles eat in closer detail and how to keep your snapping turtle happy when it comes to feeding time. Let’s jump in.

What Are Snapping Turtles?

The name “snapping turtle” is given because these reptiles use their powerful jaws to snap up their prey. Snapping turtles have long necks with no head or neck muscles.

Instead, the jaw muscles are attached directly to the skull. These reptiles also have strong legs that allow them to run quickly.

A typical adult snapping turtle measures between 4-6 feet (1.2-1.8 m) in length and weighs about 100 pounds (45 kg). Most species of snapping turtles live for around 30 years. However, some species may live longer than 50 years.

Most snapping turtles live in freshwater habitats. Some species live near rivers, lakes, ponds, streams, swamps, marshes, and springs.

Others prefer slow-moving water like bays, estuaries, and coastal areas. They generally prefer to live in much shallower streams and ponds, but certain snapping turtles like to live in swamps and brackish waters.

Feeding Snapping Turtles

Here are some tips on how to keep your snapping turtles fed:

Keep Them Healthy

It’s important to make sure your snapping turtles stay healthy. If you want to ensure that your pets are getting all the nutrients they need, you should provide them with a variety of foods.

For example, if you give your pet a mixture of fresh vegetables and fruits, it will be able to absorb more vitamins. When it comes to vegetables, some popular types include lettuce, collard greens, spinach, or kale.

When you feed your snapping turtle, you also need to ensure you are giving them some feeder fish or live bait. This includes snails, crickets, and worms.

You can also use snapping turtle pellets. Live bait, however is natural and keeps them healthy and active throughout their life.

Snapping turtles love eating almost anything. Although they do not require a lot of calories, they still need to consume a balanced diet.

Make sure that you provide your pet with a wide range of foods so that it doesn’t feel hungry throughout the day.

Make Sure There Is Enough Water

If you don’t provide enough water for your pet, it won’t be able to drink properly. Therefore, you shouldn’t let your pet out in an area where it could become dehydrated.

Additionally, you should never force your pet to drink from a bowl. Instead, you should always leave a dish full of fresh water for your pet.

Only Feed Turtles When In Water

This is important as the animal needs to be in the water to be able to swallow the food. If you feed them on land, they can choke or struggle to digest their food.

How Much Should You Be Feeding Your Snapping Turtle?

The amount you need to feed your snapping turtle will depend on their age and size. When they reach 5 months, and up until they are full-grown, you should only feed them every other day.

However, once a snapping turtle is at full maturity and is full size, you should only be feeding them around 2-3 times per week.

Food For Baby Snapping Turtles

Snapping turtle with white background

Snapping turtles are omnivores. That means that they eat both plant and animal matter even when they are babies.

When they are younger than 5 months, you should be feeding them once or twice every day as they tend to eat a lot more than older turtles. This is because they are growing every day.

If you are feeding your snapping turtle insects or pellets, you need to be feeding the snapping turtle an amount that is about the size of their head. When it comes to vegetables, you need to provide them with 5 leaves at each feeding.

When your turtle reaches adulthood, ensure you never feed them over 3 times a week, as snapping turtles can become victims of obesity. Ignore them when they seem to be begging for food- it’s the kindest thing you can do!

Snapping turtles beg for food as they are opportunistic eaters. This means they will eat whatever is put in front of them, even if you have already fed them that day or they are full.

This behavior was developed in the wild, where food is more scarce, so they ate whatever they could find whenever they found it.

Snapping Turtle Food In The Wild

In the wild, snapping turtles have a unique way of eating and getting food for themselves. A snapping turtle head can reach out of its shell, and this allows them to reach far and catch its prey extremely fast.

A snapping turtle’s head is flexible for its species and resembles a snake’s head as it reaches out and grabs its prey.

Snapping turtles have strong and sturdy jaws and these can help with catching prey fast too. Snapping turtles hide in the bottom of sediment and wait for their prey to come along.

Some species like to stick out their tongue to attract insects and small fish.

This type of prey will then sit on their tongue, and the snapping turtle will eat them up. Snapping turtle’s also eat vegetation ferns, algae, and lilies when they are in the wild, but instead of being fed, they source their food.

Do Other Animals Eat Snapping Turtles?

Yes, other animals will eat snapping turtles, and dogs and cats will often kill them by accident while trying to play with them. Raccoons will eat them if they get into garbage cans. Rats and mice will eat them if they are left in ponds.

Birds will sometimes take them off of the ground. That being said, they are very hardy animals and can survive in many different environments.

They can also flex their neck quite far to the side, giving their powerful jaws some impressive range.

In most cases, it is larger animals that often eat snapping turtles, such as bears, coyotes, and crocodiles. Larger adult snapping turtles are less likely to be eaten because of their size and their significant strength.

Snapping turtles cannot hide their head in their shell, and their aggressive behavior and strong jaw often warn off predators.

There is a range of different smaller animals that eat snapping turtle eggs and babies. These animals include foxes, raccoons, as we have mentioned, birds, certain types of fish, snakes, and even other turtles at times.

Tank Size For Snapping Turtles

Since snapping turtles are so large, growing up to 15 inches, when you are buying a tank, you need to ensure you get a tank that is 120 gallons or bigger.

Younger turtles that are still growing and are smaller than 9 inches can live in a much smaller tank of 55-80 gallons. You could also consider putting the snapping turtle in a pond, so they have plenty of room to swim around.

You should have a filter fitted in your tank because although snapping turtles can survive in dirty environments, they produce a lot of waste, and a filter is key to ensuring the water is kept clean.

A filter suited for a snapping turtle tank needs to have a high wattage and should be able to filter the water out of a large tank. It is important to keep your tank clean and remove any dead plants or leaves that may fall into the water.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Keep My Snapping Turtle Happy In A Tank?

Snapping turtles are very active animals and will require lots of exercise and stimulation. They love swimming and climbing so you should provide this for them. Make sure you give them enough space to move around freely.

You can add some rocks to the tank to create hiding places for the turtles. You can also buy an underwater heater to keep the temperature nice and warm. This way, they won’t feel cold during the winter months.

What Is The Lifespan Of A Snapping Turtle?

The lifespan of a snapping turtle depends on the environment they live in. They can live up to 50 years in captivity. However, in nature, they can live up to 100 years. The reason they live so long is a result of their size.

Since snapping turtles are so large, they are at the top of the food chain, and as we have outlined in the above section, few animals can kill the species.

Snapping turtles, therefore, in the wild, often die as a result of environmental changes and interference from humans.

Final Thoughts

We hope after reading this article, you have learned everything there is to know about snapping turtles and, most importantly, what they eat as a species.

To keep your snapping turtle healthy, ensure you feed them both meat and plant sources with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and live bait.

Keep them in a large tank and care for them properly. Before long, they’ll be your new best friend!

Photo of author
About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.