Vacation feeders and “toys” for turtles…reptile care supplies certainly have come a long way since I started on my pet care and zoo-keeping career! Today I’d like to highlight two new automatic feeders designed especially for turtles (I believe both will be useful for African Clawed Frogs, Mexican Axolotls, newts and larger fishes as well). Exo Terra’s Automatic Feeder represents a great step forward in turtle care, allowing for 4 daily feedings of different foods over an extended period of time. The Zoo Med Floating Turtle Feeder, while not technically a “toy”, will keep you and your turtles entertained. Similar to behavioral enrichment tools and activities I employed at the Bronx Zoo, this feeder forces turtles to “work” for their meals, thereby encouraging activity and foraging behaviors. Read More »
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In Part 1 of this article we discussed vitamin/mineral supplements for aquatic animals that accept prepared/non-living foods; included among these are African Clawed Frogs, Sharp-Ribbed and many other newts, and most water-dwelling turtles.
Live Prey Specialists
Animals that take live prey only are especially troublesome when it comes to supplementation, as one cannot coat live aquatic food animals with powders. Popular live food specialists include Dwarf African Clawed Frogs, Mata Mata Turtles, Surinam Toads, Mudpuppies and the larvae of most salamanders. Read More »
Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Powdered vitamin and mineral supplements for reptiles and amphibians have been a great boon to herp keepers. However, African Clawed Frogs, Red-Eared Sliders, Axolotls and other creatures that feed only in water present special challenges, as the supplements wash away before being consumed. Today we’ll look at some ways around this problem. Read More »
Some of the most popular semi-aquatic (or “basking”) pet turtles, such as Red-Eared and Yellow-Bellied Sliders, Map Turtles, Cooters and Chicken Turtles, eagerly accept fish and other animal-based foods – so eagerly, in fact, that it is easy to forget that most are omnivorous, and not carnivorous, by nature.
Natural Dietary Shifts
In the wild, the world’s most popular pet turtle, the Red-Eared Slider, starts life as a meat-eater but consumes ever more aquatic plants as it matures. By adulthood, vegetation forms the bulk of the diet, although this varies a bit among populations (Red-Eared Sliders are, after all, the most adaptable of all turtles, with introduced populations thriving on every continent save Antarctica!). The same applies to the various Painted Turtles (Eastern, Midland, Southern, Western), the Chicken Turtle and the Cooters – as they mature, over 90% of the diet may be comprised of plants.
Map Turtles vary by species and population as regards their diet – most consume more plants as they mature, but tend to remain largely carnivorous. Some Map Turtles exhibit unique strategies. For example, female Barbour’s Map Turtles (Graptemys barbouri) are specialized predators of crayfishes, clams and snails, while the much smaller males take insects, carrion and plants.
Many commercial Aquatic Turtle Diets provide excellent nutrition and can serve as a dietary mainstay, and there is some evidence that diet of Reptomin and Freeze Dried Krill meets all the nutritional needs of several species.
However, I’ve always found it preferable to include a good amount of whole, natural foods in turtle diets, especially where less well-studied species are concerned. The shift from animal-based to plant-based foods is a very definite phenomenon in nature, and may very well hold the key to captive longevity and reproduction for some types of turtles.
An interesting study of the diets of wild Red-Eared Sliders and River Cooters is posted here.
Even baby Sliders will take greens, as this YouTube video shows.
Southern Painted Turtle image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Aka
Feeding Box Turtles (Terrepene spp.) and Wood Turtles (Clemmys insculpta): The Importance of Commercial Diets (and how to trick your pet into accepting them!)
Box and wood turtles are well-known for both their suitability as pets and the unusual degree of intelligence that they display. Unfortunately, they often put their brain power to use in thwarting their owners’ efforts to provide them with a balanced diet. More so than most other species, box turtles (and, to a lesser degree, wood turtles) very often become fixated upon certain foods, and can be very stubborn about switching. As a result, they sometimes end up living on inappropriate diets composed of 1 or 2 favored items, such as strawberries and cooked chicken.
Prepared Box Turtle Diets
Prepared foods formulated specifically for box turtles, supplemented with a variety of natural foods, provide the best means of assuring that captive box turtles are consuming a balanced, nutritious diet. Zoo Med’s Canned or Pelleted Box Turtle Food, or Bug Company’s Box Turtle Pellets should form the bulk of your pet’s diet. Taste is a big factor with box turtles, and each of these foods has a different fruit-base and taste, so be sure to experiment a bit.
Tricking Your Turtle
Keeping turtles a bit hungry is useful when attempting substitutions, but most captives carry plenty of reserve fat and so can usually wait out their owners. There are a few tricks that can be used to increase the palatability of prepared box turtle diets.
Especially effective is spreading blueberry or strawberry jelly over the prepared diet. The fruits themselves can also be used, but turtles tend to be very good at picking out only what they want and leaving the rest…covering the food with jelly forces the turtle to consume everything.
Canned Snails and Insects
Canned insects and invertebrates offer an excellent means of increasing dietary variety while adding to the attractiveness of commercial turtle foods. We’ll take a look at using canned and live invertebrates, as well as the importance of fruits and vegetables, in Part II of this article.
Please see my article Providing a Balanced Diet to Reptile and Amphibian Pets for further information on reptile and amphibian nutrition.