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What You Need To Know About Painted Turtle Diets: The Ultimate Guide

By Kerry
Updated on

Painted turtles are native to North America. They live in freshwater habitats and feed primarily on aquatic plants and insects.

The species is often confused with snapping turtles because they share similar characteristics.

However, snapping turtles are larger and have long tails whereas painted turtles have distinctive patterns on their shells and stomachs.

4 painted turtles on a log

Painted turtles are omnivorous and consume both plant and animal matter. They feed on algae, aquatic plants, invertebrates, and insects.

So what should you feed your painted turtle? In the article below, we will take a look at the painted turtle and everything you need to know about their diets.

Best Food For Painted Turtles

In the section below, we have compiled a list of the best food for painted turtles. We have also included some important information about each brand and product:

  • Tetra Reptomin Turtle Food – This turtle food has been specially formulated for turtles, fish, and more. It contains high-quality protein and essential vitamins, as well as minerals that help to promote growth. This food is easy to distribute and is perfect for anyone who wants to feed their painted turtle.
  • Fluker’s Buffet Blend Turtle Food – This food is made from natural ingredients such as dried mealworms, cornmeal, and other vegetables. It is available in various sizes and is ideal for painted turtles.
  • Aquatic Turtle Medley Food – Made from shrimp and mealworms, this turtle food is suitable for all types of reptiles including painted turtles. The product can be easily distributed and should be fed to your turtles daily.
  • Zoo Med Natural Aquatic Food – Bursting with vitamins and minerals, this food is great for all kinds of reptiles. The product comes in small pellets and can be easily distributed among your aquatic pets. It is safe for pregnant or nursing females.

Now that you understand the best brands to purchase for your turtle. Let’s take a look at what else these reptiles can eat.

What Do Painted Turtles Eat?

Painted turtles have an extremely varied diet. In the wild, they are known to eat aquatic plants and insects. They are also omnivores and will eat almost anything they discover. Some of the items they eat may include:

  • Dragonflies – These insects contain many nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. They also provide painted turtles with energy and protein.
  • Crayfish – Crayfish are a popular snack for painted turtles. They are also considered one of the most nutritious foods for aquatic reptiles. Crayfish are known for their firm white meat, which is low in fat and high in protein.
  • Beetles – Beetles are another favorite item for painted turtles. They provide the reptiles with protein and carbohydrates.
  • Larvae – Larvae are the offspring of certain insects. They are very nutritious and are usually found in shallow streams and ponds.
  • Fish – Fish is also a common treat for painted turtles. Although they will only seek out fish when it is dead or injured. They contain proteins and fats that are vital for reptile health.

Like most aquatic species, painted turtles will search for food in slow-moving water, where they will feed on insects, plants, and organic matter.

However, the same cannot be said of painted turtles in captivity. When kept in aquariums, they often consume dry food and live plants.

Let’s take a closer look at what you should feed your pet turtle to keep them happy.

What Do Painted Turtles Eat In Captivity?

Painted turtle on a log

As we mentioned above, painted turtles have a very different diet when kept in captivity. They tend to prefer foods that are higher in calories and protein than those offered by nature.

However, there are some things that you can still offer your turtle to make sure they stay healthy.

A balanced diet should include plants and vegetables, as well as animal products. However, you should only feed your turtle protein 2 – 3 times a week.

When it comes to plants and vegetables, the following foods remain a popular staple among turtle owners:

  • Water Lilies – Water lilies are a good source of vitamin B12. They are also rich in iron and potassium. They are easy to grow in aquariums and are a great addition to any enclosure.
  • Duckweed – Duckweed is a plant that grows naturally in ponds and lakes. It contains nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, and nitrogen. This means it can be grown in your turtle’s tank as a nutritious food source.
  • Anacharis – Anacharis is a type of aquatic weed that has been used as a food source for aquatic animals for thousands of years. It provides your turtle with vitamins A, E, and K2. It also contains minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium.
  • Red-Leaf Lettuce – Red-leaf lettuce is a leafy vegetable that is commonly available at local grocery stores. It contains important nutrients like vitamins A and C. It is also high in fiber.
  • Kale – Kale is a dark green leafy vegetable that is full of antioxidants and other nutrients. It is an excellent source of folate, manganese, and vitamin K1.

In terms of protein, you will need to feed your painted turtle a branded turtle food, such as Reptomin or Mazuri. However, we would recommend using the products we have listed below:

  • Omega One – This is one of the best turtle foods on the market, as it contains salmon and whole herring. Because of this, the pellets are bursting with delicious protein and make a wonderful addition to your turtle’s diet.
  • Mazuri – This turtle food is commonly used in zoos and is known for its high-quality protein. The meat is sourced from wild-caught fish, which makes it perfect for reptiles.

If you want to treat your painted turtle from time to time, we recommend crickets, mealworms, or feeder fish. These treats should only be given on certain occasions, as too much could upset your turtle’s diet.

How Much Should Painted Turtles Eat?

Apart from feeding your painted turtle the correct food, you will also need to consider how much to feed them throughout the week.

In most cases, we would recommend feeding your painted turtle plants and vegetables every day. If you do not want to feed your turtle these types of foods, then you should feed them twice per week.

However, if you want to keep your turtle happy and healthy, then you should try to feed them once per day.

We also advise feeding your turtle protein 2 – 3 times a week, whether that be through animal matter or turtle pellets.

When it comes to using pellets, you will need to provide your turtle with at least 2 heaping tablespoons to maintain their balanced diet. If this doesn’t seem enough, then there’s nothing to worry about.

In the wild, turtles will get their protein from insects, which means they will get plenty of nutrition from their pellets or turtle food.

It is also important not to overindulge your painted turtle, as this could have a negative impact on their diet.

For example, treats and extras should only be provided once a week, or once every other week depending on the size of the portion.

What Should You Feed Baby Painted Turtles?

Baby painted turtle walking on the ground

Baby painted turtles eat a lot of different things, but they should mainly be fed a diet of vegetables and turtle pellets.

As they grow older, they can start eating more meat. This is why it is so important to monitor what they are eating.

As mentioned above, baby painted turtles should be fed a range of vegetables and supplements.

When it comes to feeding your baby turtle, you should feed them around 1/3 cup of vegetables each day. They will also need to be fed pellets 5 – 6 days a week.

When the turtle reaches 6 months of age, you can start to reduce the number of pellets and introduce them to more plants and vegetables.

This is a slow process and takes time, but we promise it will benefit your turtle babies in the long haul.

Can Painted Turtles Eat Fruit?

Yes! It is perfectly fine for your painted turtle to eat fruit. However, you should ensure that you cut up any fruits before giving them to your turtle. It is also important to avoid fruits that have been covered with pesticides and other chemicals.

While painted turtles are capable of eating fruit, we would actually advise against it. The reason is, that you don’t know exactly what has been put into the fruit. Some fruit may contain harmful substances such as lead, arsenic, and mercury.

It is also important to remember that painted turtles do not eat the fruit in the wild. So it will not benefit their diet in any way. While turtle pellets have been designed to provide nutrition to turtles, fruit is not included in those diets.

Beyond this, fruit also comes with the drawback of breaking apart in water, which could leave your aquarium dirty and unsuitable for your painted turtles. However, there are some certain fruits that are seen as acceptable.

What Can Painted Turtles Eat?

In the following list, we have outlined the various foods that are suitable for painted turtles. These foods include:

Vegetables & Plants

  • Red-leaf lettuce
  • Kale
  • Anacharis
  • Water lettuce
  • Water lilies
  • Escarole


  • Turtle pellets (Omega One or Mazuri)

Treats & Extras

  • Feeder fish
  • Mealworms
  • Ghost shrimp
  • Crickets


  • Shredded apple
  • Melon
  • Berries


We hope that our article has helped you understand how to care for your pet painted turtle. Just remember to provide them with a balanced diet of vegetables and protein, and you will have everything you need to keep your turtles happy.



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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.