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Professional Version

Nutrition in Turtles


Joeke Nijboer

, PhD, Nijboer Consultancy

Reviewed/Revised Aug 2020 | Modified Oct 2022

Many freshwater turtles in the wild eat primarily animal matter but also consume some plant material. Some species may be carnivorous when young and shift to omnivorous or herbivorous feeding patterns as adults. Most aquatic turtles cannot be considered strict carnivores, because they consume at least some plant material. Many commercially available turtle feeds are available from manufacturers, although nutrient content can vary widely. These products are usually manufactured as extruded or pelleted diets and contain 30%–50% protein. Such diets may be appropriate for carnivorous and omnivorous turtles, although the more omnivorous species would benefit from the addition of some fruits or vegetables. Young turtles should be prevented from growing too fast to prevent the carapace from getting too bumpy. Early development of an abnormal configuration may become permanent.

If a commercial diet cannot be obtained, a proven carnivorous and omnivorous turtles gelfood can be made from: water (270 g), gelatin (34 g), corn oil (11 g), spinach (23 g), cooked sweet potato (23 g), trout pellets (50 g), and a vitamin/mineral supplement (6 g). The gelfood contains on a dry-matter basis 47% protein, 14% fat, 1.5% calcium, 0.55% phosphorus, vitamin A at 10,000 IU/kg, vitamin D3 at 1,000 IU/kg, vitamin E at 279 IU/kg, and vitamin C at 280 mg/kg.

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