Many items marketed for tropical fish are of great value to reptile and amphibian enthusiasts. Please see: Caring for Reptiles and Amphibians: Useful Foods, Medications and other Products from the Aquarium Trade – Introduction and Feeding Accessories for background information and notes on other products.
Frozen Foods for Turtles
Frozen silversides, krill, beef heart, sand eels, mussels and similar foods provide a convenient means of increasing dietary variety for many reptile and amphibian pets. They are readily accepted by nearly all aquatic turtles, including soft-shells, sliders, cooters, map turtles, snake-necks and musk turtles.
Diamondback Terrapins – Estuarine Specialists
Marine foods, such as sand eels, should not be used as a dietary staple for freshwater turtles, but rather as a supplement each 7-14 days. However, diamondback terrapins, which inhabit estuaries and other brackish environments, should be offered mussels, krill and other such foods at most meals.
These gorgeous, variably-patterned turtles have an undeserved reputation as difficult captives. Indeed, when kept in what is the proper manner for, let’s say, a painted turtle, a diamondback will usually fail to thrive. However, when kept in brackish water and fed shellfish, krill, marine fishes and other natural food items, they make active, long-lived pets.
Other Salt Marsh Turtles
Snapping turtles often enter brackish environments…indeed some populations are specifically adapted to such. I have had good success in raising snapper hatchlings on diets composed of approximately 50% marine-based organisms.
The eastern mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum) is another “freshwater” turtle that is often associated with estuarine environments. In New York State, it occurs only on Long Island and Staten Island, where it is almost always found in salt marshes. Mud turtles also fare well on a diet high in marine foods such as mussels and krill.
A Note Concerning Krill
Krill are shrimp-like creatures native to marine environments. As such, I would normally recommend they be used in the diets of fresh water turtles on an occasional basis only (except for the estuarine species mentioned above). However, some years ago a colleague raised a group of Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) hatchlings on a diet composed entirely of freeze dried krill and Reptomin Food Sticks. The turtles grew quickly, matured into adults with perfectly-formed shells, and have, I believe, reproduced.
Since then, I have used frozen and freeze dried krill as a substantial part of the diet of spiny soft-shelled turtles, a number of Australian snake-necked turtle species, red-headed side-necked turtles, midland painted turtles, axolotls, tiger salamander larvae, red-spotted newts, sharp-ribbed newts, African clawed frogs and many others…with fine results in each case. I heartily recommend that you include krill as part of the diets of your aquatic reptile and amphibian pets.
Frozen Foods for Large and Small Aquatic Salamanders
Amphiumas, mudpuppies and sirens will accept most of the aforementioned items, and newts of all types relish krill.
Beef heart was long used as a staple diet for laboratory colonies of Mexican axolotls and African clawed frogs, and countless generations were raised and bred on this food item alone. Although I favor a more varied diet for these creatures, certainly frozen beef heart is a very useful food that should be offered regularly.
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