Home | Reptile and Amphibian Health | Slider and other Semi-Aquatic Turtle Diets – Vegetables and Greens – Part 2

Slider and other Semi-Aquatic Turtle Diets – Vegetables and Greens – Part 2

In Part I of this article, we discussed the role played by plants in the diets of popular North American “basking” turtles such as Red-Eared and Yellow-Bellied Sliders, Map, Red-Bellied and Chicken Turtles, and Cooters.

Useful Plants and Vegetables

As your turtles grow out of the hatchling stage, I suggest offering dandelion, bok choy, kale, mustard and collared greens, romaine, endive and vegetables such as shredded yams, carrots, and squash.

Prolific aquatic plants such as Elodea, Anachris, Watersprite, Duckweed, Water Hyacinth and various underwater grasses (i.e. Vallisneria), easily reared in outdoor tubs or ponds, are also eagerly accepted by many turtles. Keep a few guppies or minnows in your water garden to consume mosquito larvae, or net the larvae as food for fishes, newts and other aquatic pets. 

Spinach, beet leaves and other vegetables that are high in oxalic acid should be avoided, as they have been implicated in the formation of stones and other problems.

Persuading Reluctant Feeders

Turtles that have been fed a meat or fish-based diet are often reluctant to try vegetables. Persist in your efforts, however (fasting periods help), as their digestive systems have evolved over eons to process plants – it follows that they are important to good health!  You can give comparatively more greens than other foods to your turtles – a plus for those who enjoy feeding their pets on a daily basis.

One useful trick I use is to mix live blackworms in with greens – the worms, a universal favorite, become entangled in the vegetation, some of which may be consumed by over-eager turtles.

Carnivorous Turtles and a Surprise

Many aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles include little if any vegetation in their diets.  Chief among these are most of the Musk and Mud Turtles, Spotted Turtles, Diamondbacks and the various Softshells.

Surprisingly, the Common Snapping Turtle, a voracious predator of animals ranging from tadpoles to ducks, also has distinct vegetarian leanings.  Their preferences seem to be very individualistic, but some specimens include many aquatic plants in their diets.

Further Reading

Please see my article Reptile Gardens to read about growing your own food for your pets.


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About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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