Diamondback Terrapin Diet & Feeding Guide For Beginners

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Beginners struggle to track down the food habit of diamondback terrapins. As a result, they end up feeding the turtles a messy diet. But let’s not make the same mistakes again. Here is the feeding guide of diamondback terrapins for all turtle keepers.

Diamondback terrapins can eat both animal protein and plant matter. However, they have an appetite for meat more than veggies. Besides these two items, terrapin diets also include fruits, pellets, and supplements.

Feeding the diamondback terrapins a balanced diet is not enough for promoting good health. You have to follow a proper feeding schedule too. Are you confused about where to find all this info? Just read this article to the end, and you will master the art of planning the terrapin diet.

What Do Diamondback Terrapins Eat?

Diamondback terrapins are omnivorous but prefer eating animal protein. Snail, crab, fish, insects, and worms top their diet list. However, vegetables and supplements should also be on the menu to balance the meal.

The truth is, the food habitat of the diamondback terrapins is still new to scientists and under observation. However, it is not impossible to make an educated guess of the ideal diet of terrapins from the available data.

Diamondback terrapins are omnivorous as they eat all kinds of foods. However, as the species have an appetite for animal matter, many experts tag it carnivorous.

If you break down the diet chart of a diamondback terrapin, you will get the following items.

  • Animal Protein
  • Plant Matter
  • Fruits
  • Pallets
  • Supplements

Let’s talk about each category in detail.

Do Terrapins Eat Animal Protein?

Diamondback terrapins are primarily carnivorous and love gushing animal protein. As a result, the terrapins prey on small fish, amphibia, insects, and worms in the wild. Similarly, the captive turtles also prefer live animals from time to time to influence their hunting instinct.

The terrapins can eat any meat as long as it is low in fat. Here are some animal protein sources for diamondback terrapins,

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Crickets
  • Bloodworm
  • Mealworm
  • Marine worms
  • Tubifex
  • Animal liver
  • Intestine
  • Mollusk
  • Mussels
  • Mackerel
  • Sardine
  • Shellfish
  • Tuna
  • Prawn
  • Seafood
  • Shrimp
  • Crab
  • Smelt
  • Snail
  • Squid
  • Barnacles
  • Clams
  • Shiners
  • Conch

Hence, you can say the terrapins eat more or less all kinds of meat, free from fat. Raw proteins are best for these turtles as adding condiments can harm them. Spicy and cooked meals indeed sound tempting, but not for the terrapins. However, some turtles do enjoy cooked meat.

Terrapins have a powerful jaw, which helps them crush animals. Yet, you should chop the fish or protein source before placing it in front of the pets. Turtles find it easier to chew on small pieces. Moreover, experts advise feeding the captive diamondback terrapins live animals to boost their appetite.

Animal protein is a staple food for terrapins. However, the leftovers might rot in the water and spread bacterial growth. Hence, you should install a powerful water filter if you plan to raise a diamondback terrapin. You will get the tank filter ideas and buying guide from this article.

What Vegetables Can Terrapins Eat?

Diamondback terrapins are carnivorous, yet they eat a fixed portion of vegetables. Such omnivorous behavior is primarily observed among the wild terrapins. Their veggie list includes grass, plant leaves, seaweed, beet, lettuce, etc.

The captive turtles also nourish a habit of eating vegetables if you guide them right. Moreover, plants or veggies carry nutritional values. Hence, feeding the terrapins vegetation adds nothing but benefits.

However, not all vegetables are safe for diamondback terrapins as they can not eat high phosphorus foods. The higher phosphorus percentage blocks the calcium absorption process resulting in shell and bone deformation.

The standard vegetable options for diamondback terrapins are,

  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Brussel sprout
  • Broccoli
  • Carrot 
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn
  • Grass
  • Green beans
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkin
  • Relish lettuce
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Turpin
  • Watercress
  • Periwinkle
  • Seaweed

Certain vegetables carry no nutritional value, for example, cucumber, eggplant, mushroom, and iceberg lettuce. Hence, feeding the terrapins on these items can cause mineral deficiency and even diarrhea. Moreover, spinach and kale are also harmful to their health. So, avoid feeding the terrapins any item you might regret later.

First, you have to chop the vegetables and then feed the turtles. Of course, the diamondback terrapins might not want to eat the veggies at all, which is okay to some extent.

If your baby terrapin shows no interest in the vegetables, you can consider it. However, feeding vegetables to young and adult terrapins is mandatory.

Try to minimize the meat portion and increase the leafy greens to make the turtles feed on the veggies. And as you know, a hungry terrapin always takes the bite.

Again, the diamondback terrapins have individual favorite vegetables. Hence, experiment with various options and see what suits their appetite.

Diamondback Terrapin Care Infographic

diamondback terrapin care infographic

Want a printable version of this infographic? Click Here!

Do Diamondback Terrapins Eat Fruits?

Surprisingly, diamondback terrapins are fond of fruits. But of course, you can not feed them any fruit you want.

The terrapins can not digest high phosphorus or citric fruits. Also, the high sugar fruits are a curse for these turtles.

Citric acid causes stomach irritation in the diamondback terrapins. On the contrary, the high phosphorus content creates an imbalance in the calcium-phosphorus ratio. As a result, the turtle might suffer from MBD or bone deformation. Again, the sugary fruits lead to an upset tummy.

Hence, you should avoid feeding the terrapins fruits containing high phosphorus, sugar, and citric acid. The safe options are,

  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Blackberry
  • Cantaloupe
  • Coconut
  • Date
  • Grape
  • Guava
  • Honeydew
  • Kiwi
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Mulberry
  • Nectarine
  • Orange
  • Pears
  • Peach
  • Persimmon
  • Pomegranate
  • Prune
  • Raisin
  • Raspberry
  • Strawberry

Fruits are an excellent treat for diamondback terrapins. These snacks can bring back the lost appetite of the turtles promoting good health. Remember to cut the fruits into small pieces and do not overfeed the turtles.

Feeding the terrapins fruits every day will cause a mineral deficiency in them. Even though fruits contain nutrients, these are not enough for the turtles to stay in shape. Hence, if they fill up their tummy on these snacks, they will miss the main course.

Again, terrapins have a distinct taste in fruits. So, provide them with a variety of options and track their preference.

Pellets And Commercial Foods For Diamondback Terrapins

Pellets and commercial foods make up 40 – 50% of the terrapins’ diet. These are rich in nutrients and minimize the risk of vitamin deficiency. But yes, it is not advisable to replace natural items with commercial foods entirely.

Sticks, dried or frozen shrimps, insects, worms, and dried vegetables are popular commercial diets for diamondback terrapin. Read the label before purchasing any item from the pet store. Avoid pellets with harmful ingredients.

Dietary Supplements For Diamondback Terrapins

You can never fulfill all the nutritional value of your pet diamondback terrapin, no matter how hard you try. It can be because of the commercially bought items or the surroundings. As a result, the risks of mineral deficiency are higher in captivity.

However, there are obvious solutions to this issue.

Experts advise feeding the terrapins commercial multivitamins, vitamin D, and calcium. These items can prevent any mineral deficiency in the turtles. Therefore, adding supplements is mandatory in their diet.

There are specific methods of feeding supplements to the terrapins. For example, sprinkle calcium powder over the meals or provide the turtles with prepared cuttlebones. Here are 8 different ways of preparing calcium for diamondback terrapins.

Foods To Avoid For Diamondback Terrapin

A lousy diet plan means frequent diarrhea and malnutrition for the diamondback terrapins. In addition, certain items are mouthwatering for the turtles but not suitable for their health. Hence, it would be best if you avoid them at all costs.

Here is the food list to avoid for diamondback terrapins,

  • High phosphorus vegetables
  • Dog foods
  • Processed foods
  • Pasta
  • Burger
  • Fried items
  • Sugary treats
  • Bread
  • Dairy items, etc.,

How Much Should I Feed My Diamondback Terrapin?

Two techniques are widely popular and effective for feeding diamondback terrapins, the 15-minute rule and the head method. As per the first, you need to let your turtle eat as much as possible in the first 15 minutes. For the latter, use a container about the size of the turtle head to measure the food.

Here is a brief discussion on feeding methods of diamondback terrapins,

The 15-Minutes Rule

Experts claim that feeding a diamondback terrapin for 15 minutes will satisfy its hunger completely. Then, again, letting the pet eat for a minute or two more will do no harm. However, if you do not remove the food after 15 to 20 minutes, the turtle might eat more than necessary.

See, the diamondback terrapins are wild turtles. They live with their wild instincts, even in captivity. While in forests, these terrapins do not get food every day. As a result, they feast on whatever they get, whenever they get it. Following this trail, the terrapins do the same in captivity.

Hence, the diamondback terrapins will keep eating even when they are full. My turtles beg for food right after their meals. Taking pity on their innocent eyes and letting them eat will cause obesity.

Therefore, make sure you do not keep the food inside the habitat for more than 15 minutes. This 15-minute rule is compatible with any level of turtle keepers. However, many hobbyists avoid this method due to the leftover issue.

The Head Method

The name head method almost describes the process. Take a container about the size of the diamondback terrapin’s head, fill it with food, and feed it to the pet.

The head method is another effective method of feeding the terrapins. Professional turtle keepers often recommend the head rule as the foodscape production is minimum here.

Keep updating the size of the container with the growing age of the terrapin. The newbies often find this method challenging because of these changes.

How Often Do Diamondback Terrapins Eat?

Diet schedule of diamondback terrapins changes with their growing age. For example, you need to feed the hatchlings every day, while the juveniles need meals every once in two days. The adult terrapins live well enough on a once-in-three-day meal routine.

Catch the brief on the feeding schedule of diamondback terrapins below,

Feeding Routine For Diamondback Terrapin Hatchling

The baby terrapins require more nutrition than the young or adult ones. They spend this energy on their development. As per the available data, the diamondback terrapins grow fast in the first year.

A hatchling is born 1 – 1.5 inches. But at the end of the first year, they grow about 3 – 4 inches. So, can you imagine the development rate?

The turtles will not grow this fast without proper nutrition and suffer from a deficiency. These conditions will impact the further development of these turtle hatchlings.

Hence, feeding the terrapin babies every day is the safest and most advisable. You can provide the turtle meals twice a day by dividing the quantity in half. Generally, the turtles are more interested in food early in the morning and evening.

Feeding Routine For Diamondback Terrapin Juveniles

The terrapins can manage on a twice-a-day feeding schedule as they grow. Once the babies grow 8 to 12 months or more than 4 inches, you can make the jump.

These young adults or juveniles do not experience the fastest growth rate, so the small meals do not matter much to them. You can also feed them every day by dividing the total food quantity as per requirement.

The terrapin hatchlings mainly eat animal proteins. But as they grow juvenile, you have to introduce vegetables and plants to the diet. Besides, pellets and supplements are a must in the meal.

Feeding Routine For Diamondback Terrapin Adults

The diamondback terrapins will lose interest in food once they reach adulthood. At this age, the turtles stop growing, and so, they only require energy for their daily activities. Hence, switching to a once in three days meal plan is not unhealthy for these turtles.

Adult diamondback terrapins eat both animal and plant matter, but the proportion might differ from before. Therefore, make sure to upgrade the menu and food quantity with its growth.

Diamondback terrapins indeed have less appetite during adulthood. However, that does not mean you would feed the turtles anything you get in your kitchen. Instead, you have to provide the turtles with a balanced diet to ensure good health and long life.

How Many Pellets Should I Feed My Terrapin?

Feed your terrapin enough pellet to fill its empty head. In other words, you can increase the pellet portion to 40 – 50%. However, make sure not to replace the natural food sources with these pellets entirely.

Pellets are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, and nutrition for diamondback terrapins. These are available in both animal protein and plant matter forms.

Feeding your turtle pellets is nothing but a relief as you do not have to take much hassle now.

However, some pellets are not suitable for the turtles and harm them. Hence, read the packaging before making the purchase. If the container has a higher fat level or any harmful chemical, avoid buying it.

Pellets are easier to prepare, and the terrapins love chewing them, apart from the nutritional values. So, why won’t the keepers buy this hot cake for their turtles?

Can Terrapins Eat Fish Food?

Terrapins eat fish in both captivity and wilderness. Fishes like sardine, mackerel, shellfish, etc., are their favorites. Besides providing protein, these oily fishes work as a high source of vitamin D, an essential for the terrapin diet.

Besides hunting snails, crabs, and amphibians, terrapins prey on small fishes in the wild. These turtles enjoy fish as it fulfills both protein and vitamin requirements.

Diamondback terrapins have sharp jaws for piercing through the fishes and crushing them. Hence, you can free live fishes in the turtle tank and let the pets prey. Such activity once in a while promotes the wild instinct in the captive turtle and boosts their appetite.

However, fish in any form is good for the diamondback terrapins. You can chop them into small pieces to ease the chewing or provide the dried, commercial fish to the turtles.

Remember, like meat, fish carries equal significance in the terrapin diet. Hence, do not forget to add fish per your pet’s preference.

Live fish is available in the local market or the pet store. But again, if you can not manage this option, go for the dried or frozen fishes, which will equally add nutrition to the meal.

Diamondback Terrapin Overfeeding Or Underfeeding

Overfeeding or underfeeding are both curses for the diamondback terrapins. Feeding the turtles more than necessary causes obesity, pyramiding, and shedding. On the contrary, turtles might experience malnutrition if they eat less.

Take a look at the potential health issues of diamondback terrapins caused by improper diet plans,

Hypovitaminosis A

The lack of vitamin A causes hypovitaminosis in terrapins. It can be because of your poor diet plans or ignorance of the food habits of these turtles.

Swollen eyes, puffy eyes, lethargy, infection, weight loss, appetite loss, etc., are the symptoms of vitamin A deficiency in terrapins. Feeding the turtles vitamin-rich meals with proper medications can cure the disease.


The metabolic bone disease occurs when the turtles can not absorb enough vitamin D and calcium. Feeding the turtles high phosphorus foods and low vitamin D lead to this disease. However, a poor quality UV light is also responsible for this condition in terrapins.

The metabolic bone disease causes lumpy and swollen legs, deformed shells, and bumpy scutes in turtles. Therefore, installing a high-quality UV light and feeding a balanced diet is mandatory to improve the pets’ physique.


What happens when you eat more than you can digest? You get all fattened up. Right?

The same thing happens with the diamondback terrapins. Overfeeding leads these turtles to obesity, making it challenging to move. Obesity is never blissful and causes kidney or liver problems.


Diamondback terrapins are fans of protein foods. However, feeding them excess protein can cause pyramiding. It is a condition of bumpy and deformed scutes.

Experts usually advise controlling the food options and feeding the terrapins a balanced diet in pyramiding.


Turtles shed their shell layers with every growing cycle. However, overfeeding the terrapins leads to unusual growth and unhealthy shedding. The shell will peel off abnormally and irritate the turtles in such conditions.

Diamondback Terrapin Not Eating: Why?

It is not uncommon for terrapins to avoid food. Many reasons can be responsible for such behavior of the pet turtles. Here are the probable reasons with solutions,

1. Too Cold!

Like all other species, diamondback terrapins are also cold-blooded. Therefore, they require external heating sources to warm up their bodies. Hence, if the temperature drops by any chance, they start shutting down their systems. Such a condition is referred to as hibernation.

Inactivity, slow movements, loss of appetite, and going into long sleep often indicate hibernation of terrapins. Terrapins do not eat during hibernation and live on stored energy.

Turtles usually hibernate in freezing weather. However, they will slow down when the temperature falls under their suitable range.

Hibernating behavior or slow metabolism is more common in winter. Yet, the turtles might exhibit these signs even if the tank temperature drops.

Installing high-quality lighting sources and tank heaters in the habitat are the only ways to prevent this situation. Also, you have to maintain a suitable temperature range for the terrapins in both land and water.

2. Water Quality Is Not Up To Mark

Diamondback terrapins live in brackish water. Therefore, you have to replicate the wild habitat in captivity too. Hence, mixing salt with freshwater is mandatory for raising terrapins. However, the pets can adapt to freshwater too, which is another transformation process.

Improper water conditions can pose health hazards for diamondback terrapins. Avoiding food is a sign of their discomfort. Apart from that, dirty water causes the terrapins stress, another reason for them to lose appetite.

Checking the water pH and salinity is recommended when you raise diamondback terrapins. Besides, installing a high-quality water filter is mandatory.

3. Your Meal Plan Is Boring

Feeding the turtles the same type of food every day will cause them to lose appetite. Hence, experimenting with a variety of items is always suggested.

4. Sickness Alert!

Showing no interest in food and weight loss are two of the major symptoms of terrapin disease. If you notice your pet not eating, passing inactive hours, basking more, coughing, etc., take it to a vet for a thorough checkup. Then, follow the suggestion of the expert for treating the terrapin.

Turtle sickness is often contagious. Hence, isolate your ill turtles from others and provide them special care.

5. Something Is Stressing The Terrapins!

The diamondback terrapins require a few days to get familiar with anything new. Therefore, forcing these turtles with something only makes them stressed. Anxiety or panicking over small things can be why your terrapins avoid food. Apart from the new environment, frequent touch, loud surroundings, or poking the turtles unnecessarily can also make them stressed.

It would be best if you do nothing to make the terrapins anxious. Instead, give the turtles space to live as they want. Also, avoid touching the terrapins more than necessary.


Diamondback terrapins are omnivorous but prefer eating animal protein. Besides the meat and vegetables, fruits, pellets, and supplements are also necessary for the healthy growth of these turtles. Again, only a balanced diet can not ensure a fast growth rate of the terrapins. A proper feeding schedule and meal measuring technique are also necessary.

About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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