What Do Red-Eared Slider Turtles Eat?

Red-eared slider turtles are some of the most popular pets in the world. They’re small, cute, and easy to care for—but one question that many pet owners have is “What do red-eared slider turtles eat?” It turns out that red-eared sliders are omnivores, so they can enjoy a balanced diet of both plant and animal matter. In this article, we’ll explore what red-eared slider turtles eat and how to feed them properly.

Table Of Contents

What Do Red-Eared Slider Turtles Eat in The Wild?

Red-eared sliders have a varied diet, depending on their age – adults choosing to feast mostly upon aquatic plants and smaller specimens favoring the protein from meaty offerings. Adults will supplement their plant intake with small fish, insects, earthworms, and other invertebrates if there is no greenery nearby. On top of this vegetarian fare, they may also indulge in snails or frogs if available!

Young turtles on the other hand are particularly partial to more carnivorous snacks such as feeder fish and worms for an extra boost in developing energy levels during growth periods within their shell development cycle.

Red-eared sliders in the wild also eat a lot more, either they sit motionlessly waiting for their prey to come by and snap them up, or they venture out multiple times a day to feed on bugs that they can find.

At home, they need only be fed every two or three days as their foraging does not require high levels of protein that can cause “shell pyramiding”. It is a common diet problem where the shell becomes increasingly triangular with age due to heavy layers of keratin from having too much protein. Pet owners should ensure plants and bugs form part of an adult turtle’s diet alongside aquatic vegetation like algae so it stays healthy and happy!

Types of Food Red-Eared Slider Turtles Enjoy as pets

Red-eared slider turtles are omnivorous animals, which means they will eat both plants and animals. Generally speaking, an adult red-eared slider turtle’s diet should be made up of roughly 50% plant matter and 50% animal matter. And a baby red-eared slider turtle’s diet should be at least 30% plant-based and 70% protein.

Red-eared sliders are known to have an appetite for a variety of sustenance! They can easily become bored with their meals, so keep things fresh by providing a variety of foods in their diet. Diversity is essential for encouraging good appetite and overall health!

So with that in mind, here are some common foods that you can feed your red-eared slider turtle:

Plant Matter and vegetables

Red-eared sliders love veggies like dark leafy greens (spinach, kale), squash, carrots, zucchini, cucumber, bell peppers, and tomatoes. They also enjoy fruits such as apples (without seeds), melons (without seeds), and grapes (without seeds). You should avoid giving your turtle any citrus fruits as they can be too acidic for them to digest properly.

To ensure your pet is receiving the correct nutrition, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of their preferred greens:

  • Bell pepper
  • Cactus
  • Carrot tops
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Cucumber
  • Duckweed
  • Elodea
  • Green beans
  • Kale
  • Mustard greens
  • Okra
  • Romaine lettuce (in small amounts)
  • Squash
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnip greens
  • Water ferns
  • Zucchini

As a caution, consuming broccoli, peas, cabbage, and brussels sprouts may induce gout – hence it is best to avoid these specific vegetables for your turtles.

Protein and meat

Red-eared sliders also love protein and will happily munch on earthworms, crickets, mealworms, waxworms, or aquatic snails. You can also give them cooked eggs or cooked chicken if you prefer not to buy live insects.

Here is a list of proteins suitable for your pet red-eared slider turtle:

  • Aquatic snails
  • Bloodworms
  • Commercial fish food
  • Commercial turtle food
  • Crickets
  • Daphnia
  • Earthworms
  • Feeder goldfish
  • Frogs
  • Mealworms
  • Minnows
  • Redworms
  • Shrimp
  • Tadpoles
  • Waxworms

What about fruits? What fruits can turtles eat?

Red-eared sliders should enjoy a balanced diet, without relying too heavily on fruit. Despite wild varieties not naturally consuming much of it in the wild, an occasional juicy treat is perfectly fine for your pet slider – just keep one or two pieces per week to be safe! Fruits have a high sugar content which could lead to digestive issues like diarrhea if consumed excessively by these shelled friends.

Vitamins and supplements

In addition to their regular food sources listed above, you can also supplement their diet with additional vitamins and supplements. But understand that the majority of the vitamins your red-eared slider needs should be sourced from a balanced, varied diet.

Nevertheless, Vitamins A and D are two major supplements that you should not overlook when caring for this type of turtle. Additionally, other supplementary vitamins may need to be incorporated into their nutrition plan according to veterinary guidance. For example, there are calcium powders or pellets specifically designed for turtles. Calcium helps keep their shells healthy and prevents any potential shell deformities from developing over time. Doing so will ensure optimal health and well-being for your reptilian friend!

Here are the specific vitamins that are essential for your pet turtle’s well-being:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D3
  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus

Vitamin A

Nutritional deficiencies can be a looming threat for pet red-eared slider turtles, as certain vitamins and minerals may not always appear in their diets. The most notorious of these is vitamin A – its absence from turtle food could result in vision problems, hypovitaminosis A (an imbalance between calcium & phosphorous), upper respiratory disease, ear abscesses or even squamous metaplasia which thickens the duct lining of significant organs such as the pancreas and kidney! Whether it’s through supplements or other means to ensure your beloved reptile friend keeps healthy with enough Vitamin A intake – regular checkups are recommended so any health issues related to this deficiency can be identified early on.

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3, or simply vitamin D, plays an important role in the health of your red-eared slider. The turtle naturally produces this nutrient from pigment cells located on its skin and shell when exposed to UV light – both natural and artificial. This vital vitamin supports healthy bones, shells as well as skins for these turtles! However, it’s not necessary to supplement with Vitamin D every day; instead providing access to unfiltered sunlight will ensure that they get plenty of this invaluable nutrient which helps them metabolize calcium efficiently. Failure to do so may lead them down a path toward bone diseases due to poor digestion of nutrients.

Take care of your pet red-eared slider by providing it with sunbathing sessions twice to thrice a week for up to 40 minutes. Make sure the area around is secure and free from predators. Although, if you’re unable to offer regular sun exposure during winter days then some occasional D3 vitamin supplements are okay too!


Keeping your red-eared slider healthy requires more than just providing proper food. Did you know that calcium deficiency is one of the most common issues plaguing captive sliders? Without an adequate amount of this important mineral, turtles can experience wobbly walking or swimming and lack appetite. Additionally, a turtle’s shell may become rubbery from softening and in some cases develop into pyramidal scutes resembling pyramid shapes! If any lumps are visible on their head or body contact your vet immediately for help with restoring healthful balance to their diet

Red-eared sliders may also develop anorexia if their diet isn’t balanced. Calcium is essential for more than strong shells and bones — it has a major impact on digestive muscles as well. If your turtle’s intake of calcium remains low or cannot be metabolized effectively due to a lack of Vitamin D3 in combination with the incorrect ratio of calcium to phosphorus, then serious health complications can arise from poor appetite. Make sure you give your red-eared slider what they need to stay healthy!


Calcium, phosphorus, and Vitamin D3 all play essential roles in helping your turtle build its bones, muscles, and shell – so maintaining an ideal Ca:P (Calcium to Phosphorus) ratio is of utmost importance! Aim for at least 1:1 up to 2:1 calcium to phosphorus levels when considering meals. The good news? Most items you feed your slider are naturally rich in phosphorous, so be sure that their dietary intake focuses mainly on additional sources of calcium!

How To Feed Your Pet Red-eared Slider Turtles

There are 2 common ways to measure the amount of food for your pet turtles. Some will advocate providing pet turtles with as much food to eat within 15mins. Others will tell you to measure the quantity of food roughly around the size of their head. Lets review both methods below:

15 mins method

For those looking for the best method to feed their pet turtle, it’s important to remember that these little creatures are hardwired by nature as opportunistic eaters. With this in mind, something like the 15-minute feeding plan is not ideal – even if you provide regular meals your turtles won’t stop cramming food into every available moment they can get! To ensure a balanced diet and healthy habits try breaking up larger portions so each snack session doesn’t become too much of an all-you-can-eat buffet. This method can also risk overfeeding in the long run.

Measuring based on the size of its head

This method is just as easy and fast as the 15-minute option, but a bit different. Instead of measuring out food based on time spent eating, measure it by filling their heads with enough to satisfy them!

You can measure just the right amount of food by using a small container. Simply select one that’s roughly head-sized and fill it up – no need for measuring! Variations in portions are totally fine, so you don’t have to worry if they get slightly too much or less than needed on different days. This easy approach ensures your pet always has an ideal meal waiting – all while taking its size into account!

Out of both methods, measuring the ‘size of the head’ method is an excellent choice for a surefire way to avoid overfeeding. Its convenience and speed make it the ideal solution for happy and healthy turtles.

Feeding Schedules for Adult Turtles

For adult turtles, it’s recommended to provide them with nutritious meals every other day or once every 3 days – including plenty of leafy greens, turtle pellets, and small insects or worms. Also, make sure to include food sources high in protein such as fish and invertebrates into their diet once per week for variety!

Vegetables should first be boiled until they are soft enough before offering; you may choose to grate these vegetables prior so that pieces will not become stuck in their shell crevices.

Lastly, don’t forget about removing any uneaten food after 15 minutes – this helps maintain tank cleanliness while keeping your pet happy & contented!

Feeding Schedules for Baby Turtles

Baby red-eared sliders need to eat regularly and protein should be a key component of their diet for proper growth. To keep them healthy, offer them daily meals made up of 30% plant-based items like boiled vegetables chopped into pieces small enough to fit in the turtle’s mouth, along with 70% meat. As for juvenile turtles, feeding them once every other day is ideal. Regardless of age, consider giving your little friend 15 minutes per feeding session – when they’re done eating make sure you remove any leftovers from the water!

Hand feeding

For turtles that are not eating or are overweight, consider hand-feeding. This allows you to closely monitor the amount of food they are eating, as well as make sure that it is a balanced diet. When hand-feeding, place pieces of food directly into the turtle’s mouth with tweezers or forceps, one piece at a time. For larger turtles, you can chop up larger pieces of food into smaller bites that are easier for them to eat. Be careful not to overfeed your turtle, and always remove any uneaten food from their tank afterward as it could contaminate the water and cause illness.

How To Feed Them Properly

When it comes to feeding your red-eared slider turtle it’s important to remember that these reptiles are used to eating a variety of different foods in the wild so it’s important to provide a balanced diet when feeding them at home as well.

This means offering a mix of both plant and animal matter at each mealtime rather than relying on just one type of food source all the time. When feeding your turtle it’s important to avoid overfeeding as this can lead to obesity which can cause health problems in turtles later on in life.

As a rule of thumb, you should only offer food once daily and only enough food that your turtle will consume within five minutes or less—this way you know they’re getting enough but not too much!            

Final Thoughts

No matter what type of pet you own—from cats and dogs to fish or reptiles—it’s always important to feed them properly so they stay happy and healthy. If you own a red-eared slider turtle then you know it’s essential that they get a balance between veggies as well as proteins like worms and insects every day in order for them to stay at their best! Just remember not to overfeed them as this can cause obesity which is detrimental to the long-term health of your reptile friend! With proper nutrition and plenty of love, your pet turtle will be around for many years ahead!


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