The painted turtle is the most common turtle in North America and can be found nearly everywhere from Canada to Mexico. They live in still or slow-moving fresh water, such as ponds and lakes. The painted turtle is a readily available and common pet in the United States. While they breed in the warmer seasons (spring and summer), they are so plentiful that you can readily find them at pet stores all year round. They tend to make pretty good pets because they’re small, fairly low-maintenance, and long-lived. A typical, painted turtle will grow between a total of six and eight inches in length; females are slightly larger than males, but not by much. If you take good care of them, they should live between 25 and 30 years, and some have been known to live as long as 50 years in captivity.
Painted turtles can be kept legally as pets in all states except Oregon. In Indiana, they may be kept as pets, but their sale is prohibited. In some Midwestern states, turtle racing is a popular hobby during the warmer months.
If you’ve recently purchased one of these creatures as a pet, you will need to know what to feed them. Read on for more information on what to feed your painted turtle.
Painted Turtles Are Omnivorous
The first thing you need to know is that painted turtles are omnivorous. If you weren’t paying attention in your high school biology class, omnivorous means that they eat both plant-based and animal-based foods. In the wild, painted turtles eat algae, aquatic vegetation, and small fish, insects, and crustaceans. In captivity, painted turtles should be fed a diet that resembles what they eat in the wild, although you can also feed them other foods.
Make sure to feed your turtle a balance of plant, and animal-based, foods to ensure optimal health. On the plant side, the following fruits and vegetables make good feed: watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, banana, peas, almost all berries, sliced up apples and pears, and leafy greens such as kale, collard, arugula, parsley, and watercress. Aquatic plants such as water lettuce and lily leaves are also good options.
On the meat side, you can feed your turtle meat-based, lean canned dog food, raw lean beef, and cooked turkey or chicken. Avoid raw poultry (chicken, turkey, etc.), as it may carry salmonella or other bacteria. Also avoid pig products, as they contain too much fat and can make your turtle ill. Also, remember that meats must be complemented with plant-based foods.
Some pet owners like giving their turtles live insects such as grasshoppers, roaches, mollusks, and worms. Make sure to remove any insect from their cage that isn’t eaten right away.
Painted Turtle Commercial Food Options
You should be able to find desiccated insects at pet stores to feed your turtles (just make sure to complement them with fruits and vegetables!). There are also dry and moist packaged-food options at pet stores, although these may not be as ideal as feeding your pets a combination of natural, unprocessed foods.
How to Feed Your Painted Turtles
Turtles need to eat their food underwater in order to be able to swallow it. If they find food above water, they will likely haul it into the water to eat it. Baby turtles should eat every day, but adults only need to be fed three or four times a week. That said, many pet owners would rather feed their turtles once each day, no matter their age, and this is also acceptable. You should put food in their tank, watch and wait for five to ten minutes. If the turtle still has not eaten it, remove the food and try again later.
One exception to the watch-and-wait advice is with newly purchased turtles. A new turtle may be too shy to eat. If your new turtle is not eating while you watch, try living it alone with its food for a little while. Then, after a while, remove any uneaten food.
Some owners also prefer to feed their turtles in a separate tank in order to keep their main tank clean. Fill a tank or tub with a shallow warm water. Place food in the tank and leave the turtles in the tank with the food for about an hour, during which time they will probably eat and go to the bathroom (the combination of food and the shallow warm water tends to make them want to defecate). Once the turtle has eaten, place it back into its main tank.