How Often and How Much Should You Feed Turtles? (Beginner’s Guide)

One of the most crucial things you should find out before getting a new pet is everything relating to its feeding habits. Most people are quick to research what their pets should eat. However, they forget to look up essential information, such as how much the pet should eat and how often you should feed it.

When it comes to turtles, the amount, frequency, and type of food they consume depend on size, species, and age. In the wild, turtles are free to scavenge for food whenever they get hungry. However, when in captivity, they can’t wander around and savor a snack whenever they feel like it. 

For this reason, domesticated turtles tend to overeat to compensate for the lack of snacking in between meals. Therefore, you need to monitor your turtle to know when it’s hungry, how much it consumes, how often it should be fed, and what to feed it. This will ensure that it gets all the nourishment it needs for sustenance.

If you want to learn how to feed your turtle correctly so that it stays strong, happy, and healthy in its lifetime, please keep reading.

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How Much Food Should You Give Your Pet Turtle?

Pets like cats and dogs walk usually walk away when they have eaten enough. In contrast, turtles can keep eating until you start to wonder how much food is enough. Since turtles don’t have access to food all the time, like in the wild, they compensate by eating nonstop when you feed them. Therefore, you must know how much to feed your turtle to ensure it doesn’t overfeed.

Essentially, the portion of food that your turtle should eat daily will depend on its size, age, and species. The more enormous the turtle, the more food it will need to sustain its bodily activities. Conversely, the amount you give your pet turtle will also depend on the type of food. 

There are two interesting methodologies on how much you should give your turtle. The first one argues that you should let your turtle consume all it can in 15 minutes. You’ll need to put a particular amount of food in a turtle tank and set your timer to 15 minutes. Once you do this, you’ll have a rough estimate of how much you should give your turtle in the subsequent turns.

The second option argues that you should feed your pet turtle as much food as the size of its head. Therefore, if you’re dishing out pellets, you’ll need to scoop a portion of the pellets in your hand and keep adding or reducing the amount until it compares to the size of the turtle’s head.

Although neither of the methods is superior to the other, setting a timer and seeing how much food your turtle would have eaten in 15 minutes seems more practical. It helps you understand your turtle’s appetite comprehensively. 

 While different species have a defined amount of food they should eat, this doesn’t mean that all turtles have the same eating habits and appetites. You know how much your turtle is supposed to consume by trial and error. However, it would be best to figure out the right portion to avoid overfeeding or starving your cute reptile.

How Often Should You Feed Your Turtle?

Once you work out how much your pet turtle should eat, you now need to figure out how often the shell-carrying reptile should be fed. A feeding routine ensures that you give a turtle the rightful supply of nutrients when it needs them most.

Although turtles don’t necessarily need to be fed daily, their nutritional requirement may vary depending on various factors, including age and season. Here are some fun facts about feeding your turtle. 


Since young turtles are still undergoing growth and development, they require lots of nutrients hence frequent feeding. Juveniles need calcium and vitamin supplements approximately three times per week. For this reason, they should be fed every day to ensure that they get enough vitamins, calcium, and proteins for sustainable growth.

Since young turtles are active in the mornings and evenings, these are the best times to feed them. All turtles under seven years are considered to be juveniles. However, if your three-year-old pet turtle starts to show a decline in appetite, this may signal that it has become mature enough to stop eating daily.

 However, you should consult a vet before cutting back a turtle’s ration. You need to know whether the sudden loss of appetite is normal or due to illness.


Mature turtles don’t need to be fed daily. The turtles are less active at this stage, and their metabolism is slower. This means they don’t need too much food and should be fed every other day or every third day. More importantly, turtle owners should eliminate uneaten food from a turtle’s enclosure after 15-20 minutes, unless it’s live earthworms, crickets, or fish.

When you leave other types of foods such as fruits, vegetables, and dead fish, they’ll decay and make the turtle tank have a terrible odor creating an unpleasant environment for your pet turtle.

When in Hibernation

Some turtles, such as box turtles, instinctively become less active during winter through hibernation. If you own a box turtle, it might sleep throughout the cold season and hence won’t need any feeding. However, you should still offer clean drinking water to replenish its oxygen supply and help eliminate wastes from the food they ate before going into hibernation.

You don’t have to let your turtle go through hibernation during the winter; ensure that it gets 10 to 12 hours of natural sunlight or artificial full-spectrum light. Since it will still be active, you’ll need to feed it at least after one or two days.  

What Food Do Turtle Pets Eat?

The food your turtle eats will be based on whether it’s a herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore. Luckily, most aquatic turtles are omnivores and will munch on both plant-and animal-based foods.

Typically an adult turtle’s diet should include animal products, vegetables, fruits, and pellets. Young turtles below seven years should be fed a large share of animal products to provide adequate protein for growth and development.

Animal-Based Food You Should Give Your Turtle?

Turtles don’t necessarily consume all animal-based products. Regardless, there are plenty of processed pet foods such as turtle pellets, sardines, and trout chow. They can also be fed dead fish or mice. Turtles also enjoy catching and savoring live prey as it makes them feel like they are in the wild.

Some live prey includes feeder fish, shrimp, worms, crickets, moths, and krill. You should source your insects from a reliable pet store, an underdeveloped field or raise them at your home for quality control.

Plant-Based Food Sources

Since turtles get plenty of plant-based foods in the wild, you should also nourish them with enough plants in captivity. You should provide plenty of leafy greens such as dandelions, broccoli, mustard greens, and collards. Avoid vegetables such as spinach, chives, and parsley since they have high levels of chemicals known as oxalates which can be harmful to your pet turtle.

Ensure that your turtle devours fresh or dried fruits such as berries, apples, bananas, mangoes, and cantaloupe. You should also include non-toxic plants in the turtle diet, including water lettuce, water hyacinth, and duckweed. 

Your pet turtle must eat a balanced diet to avoid malnutrition or defects caused by consuming too much of one type of food. Therefore, you should let your omnivore turtle savor a perfect combo of pellets, vegetables, and fruits.

Here are some basic turtle feeding rules to keep in mind when deciding how much of each type of food should be in a turtle’s diet:

  • A turtle’s diet shouldn’t have more than 25%  turtle pellets
  • Fruits, leafy greens, and vegetables should make up at least 50% of the diet.
  • The remaining 25% should be filled with other food sources such as fish, mealworms, shrimp, and water insects.

Is There a Specific Way to Feed Your Turtle?

Aquatic turtles and terrestrial turtles differ in how they prefer their food served. Sea turtles like to eat their food underwater; hence food should be placed inside their water tank. If you’re not feeding them live prey such as small fish and worms, ensure that the food you choose can float on the surface. This is because it can be highly challenging for turtles to find food that has settled at the bottom of the tank.

 On the other hand, terrestrial turtles love to eat from a flat, hard surface like on a rock, floor, or grass. They can eat on any flat surface.

Many people chop and mix different types of food to ensure that their turtles don’t eat selectively and avoid those they don’t love. When food is mixed up, these shell-carrying creatures will eat indiscriminately.

You mustn’t leave food in a turtle’s enclosure, especially if you are still figuring out how much your turtle will eat. When in the wild, turtles have the freedom to hunt for prey or eat plants whenever they want. However, they don’t have that luxury in captivity.

So, when you leave a heap of food in their tank, they will eat until they can’t walk or breathe properly to compensate. Therefore, ensure that you give your turtle balanced food in one meal. Otherwise, they will devour food meant for a week in a day.

The best way to feed your aquatic turtle is to have a separate feeding aquarium. When you feed a turtle in a separate container, you can regulate how much it eats. Essentially, you should let it feed for 20 minutes and return it to its original tank.

Additionally, using a different tank for feeding ensures that leftovers don’t decant to the bottom, rot and cause a foul odor, making the water unsafe for your turtle. It also helps keep your tank cleaner for an extended period.

 If it’s impossible to feed your turtle in a different aquarium, you should ensure that leftover food is removed from the tank after every meal.

Common Concerns When Feeding Turtles

When it comes to feeding your pet turtle, there are a few things that you should keep an eye on to avoid taking a toll on your turtle’s overall well-being.


When feeding your pet turtle, you should ensure that you don’t overfeed it. As stated severally in the guide, turtles are opportunistic eaters that can devour any amount of food you leave in their tank without stopping. And just like human beings, turtles too can become obese when they overeat.

And since these creatures live in water, having excess fat can make it challenging for them to pull their flippers, legs, and neck into the shell. Overeating can also lead to pyramiding, a condition where turtle scutes start to protrude outwards.

Simple ways to tell if your turtle is overeating

Although pyramiding may not be visible for the first few months or years, here are some signs that your turtle is overfeeding:

  • More comprehensive lines around the scutes
  • Legs form folds of fats, especially when they’re retracted
  • The edges of the shell start to lift due to an increase in fat beneath the shell

Ensure that you get rid of excess food from the tank and don’t let your turtle eat one type of food too much. Conversely, increase the size of the tank so that your turtle has ample space to exercise.

Vitamin Deficiency

Pet turtles are also highly prone to vitamin deficiencies. Vitamin A is the most common type of deficiency that turtles suffer from. When your turtle isn’t receiving adequate amounts of Vitamin A, it starts to show symptoms such as ear and eyelid swelling, loss of appetite, lung infection, and kidney failure.

While turtles aren’t the biggest fans of vegetables and fruits, you should ensure that they eat foods rich in Vitamin A, such as bell pepper, carrots, oranges, squash, and yellow vegetables. You can consult a vet about vitamin deficiency and get the condition treated through injection or oral dosage.


One of the most significant ways to ensure that your turtles stay happy and fulfilled is to ensure that they are well fed. However, you need to remember that these shell-carrying creatures are opportunistic feeders. Therefore you must regulate how much they eat if you don’t want them to be obese.

More importantly, you need to ensure that your turtle eats a balanced diet and gets all the essential nutrients it needs. The diet should include turtle pellets, animal-based products such as worms and shrimp, and leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits.

Although turtles don’t eat every day, you must understand how much they should eat per meal. If you have a question about turtle feeding, we hope you’ll find an answer in this guide.

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