How Often Should I Feed My Softshell Turtle?

How Often Should I Feed My Softshell Turtle

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

Before adopting any turtle species, it is important to learn about its eating behaviors. For example, how much or how often you should feed the pet. I know there is no exact answer to this, but I will try to cover the topic from my turtle keeping experience. As this article is about the softshell turtle, I will only discuss the eating behavior of this species.

For the first 6 months of a softshell turtle’s life, feed it every day. After that, provide the softshell turtle food every other day. Once the turtle becomes adult, switch to the 2 or 3 days a week diet plan.

From this article, you will know how often and how much to feed your pet softshell turtle. Also, I will talk about its balanced diet and the problems related to diet mismanagement. So, read to the end of this article.

Feeding Schedule For Softshell Turtles

How often your softshell turtle should eat, it depends on its age. In this section, I will discuss the feeding schedule of the softshell turtles, and for your convenience, I have divided them into three subcategories.

Softshell Turtle Hatchling Feeding Schedule

A baby softshell turtle needs to be fed more nutrition than an adult one. It is because most of its body and bone development happens at the early stage. So, you need to feed the hatchling food items enriched with vitamins, calcium, and other minerals. The pet may end up fragile due to the lack of proper nutrition.

For the first six months of a softshell turtle’s life, you need to feed it daily. You can feed the pet twice a day by dividing the full meal into two halves. The species is mainly carnivorous. So, add commercial pellets, meat items like small fish, earthworms, bloodworms, etc. to the diet. Do not feed the hatchlings vegetables or small plants.

As you know, the softshell turtles can not activate calcium without vitamin D. The vitamin is generated in the pet’s body with the help of UV rays. In captivity, you need to set up a UV bulb inside the habitat so that the softshell hatch can digest the minerals and vitamins.

But for safety, you can sprinkle vitamin D3 and calcium supplements on each meal. A cuttlebone is a form of calcium. Adding the cuttlebones occasionally will help the pet to fulfill the calcium requirements.

Young Softshell Turtle’s Feeding Schedule

The diet schedule of your softshell turtle will change after six months. Now you need to feed the pet every other day. You can add plants or vegetation like romaine lettuce or leafy green vegetables to the meal. The softshell turtles are not a fan of plants. But you can offer the pets a little portion of vegetables daily if they are willing to eat.

Besides the vegetables, continue feeding the pet the small fish, crayfish, large fish, snails, pellets, insects, worms, etc. Sprinkle vitamin D3 and calcium supplement on each meal. You can also offer the softshell turtles cuttlebone occasionally.

Adult Softshell Turtle’s Feeding Schedule

With the growing age, a softshell turtle loses its appetite. So, feeding it 3 times a week will be okay. If you notice your turtle is hungry, then switch to 4 times a day feeding schedule. An adult softshell turtle may show a willingness to eat more plants than before. Provide the turtle with protein-based food items like fish, snail, earthworm, etc.

Do not think that an adult softshell turtle does not need additional vitamins and calcium. Provide the pet a balanced diet and the perfect proportion of calcium and phosphorus supplements.

When Is The Best Time To Feed Your Softshell Turtle?

You may have noticed that your softshell turtle does not prefer to eat whenever you provide it food. That is right. The pet has a full appetite early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Experts suggest feeding your turtle on these hours. Your softshell turtle may avoid eating if you provide it food any other time.

Pet Turtle Diet & Feeding Chart

Pet Turtle Diet Feeding Chart

For a printable version of this amazing diet chart, click here!

How Much Should You Feed Your Softshell Turtle?

This is a very basic and controversial question. Why? It is because there is no exact scientific research that can answer the question.

However, the appetite of a softshell turtle is not constant. It can change every month. So, as a responsible turtle owner, you need to observe the pet’s eating behavior.

There are some popular methods that most turtle owners follow to feed the pets. For example,

  1. The head method
  2. The 15 minutes rule

Let’s explore these methods one by one.

The Head Method

Imagine an empty bowl of the size of your softshell turtle’s head. Guess how much food you will need to fulfill the empty bowl. That is the quantity of food you should offer your pet turtle daily. If you want to feed the pet twice a day, just half the total quantity.

The 15 Minutes Rule

Softshell turtles are greedy eaters. In the wild, the turtles do not get to eat every day. And so, they have an instinct that drives them to eat as much as they can when food is available. Often the pet continues eating even after having a full stomach.

That is why experts suggest following the 5/10/15 minutes rule. In this method, you provide the softshell turtle a sufficient amount of food and let it eat for 5 to 15 minutes. After that time, remove the leftovers. If you keep the leftovers in the habitat, the turtle will probably eat them too.

How Long Can A Softshell Turtle Go Without Food?

A softshell turtle can go without food for a longer period than you can think. Generally, the species can survive 1 to 3 weeks without eating anything. But in winter, during the hibernation, the turtles can go for about 5 to 6 months without food.

However, how long your softshell turtle can survive without food, it totally depends on its size. The larger the species, the more days it can stay without eating. Here is one thing you need to keep in mind. Even though your turtle can live without food for weeks, it still needs fresh and clean water. Without drinking or soaking its body, the pet will get into a miserable condition.

What Happens To A Softshell Turtle Due To Diet Mismanagement?

You know that softshell turtles suffer from various diseases due to the lack of vitamins and minerals. For example, vitamin A deficiency. Do you know what happens to your softshell turtle if you overfed it?

The pet will start growing faster, which is not healthy at all. Overfed protein can cause shell peeling, liver, or kidney failure to the pet. Similarly, if you underfed the turtle, it can suffer from MBD or metabolic bone diseases. So, what can you do?

The best way to keep your turtle healthy is to stick to a diet plan and feeding schedule. Offer the pet food according to its age and size. The softshell turtle is a voracious species and will beg for food even if it is full. Do not take pity and provide it more food.

Feed the pet vitamin and calcium supplements. Also, make sure the indoor habitat of the softshell turtle has a UV bulb.

What Is The Proper Diet For A Softshell Turtle?

Now you know how often and how much to feed your softshell turtle. But do you have an idea about its diet? Softshell turtles are mainly carnivorous, but they eat a little portion of small vegetation. Here is a list of foods you can consider for your softshell turtle:

  • Insect
  • Insect larvae
  • Crustaceans
  • Crayfish
  • Snail
  • Large fish
  • Small fish
  • Frog
  • Worm
  • Grasshopper
  • Cricket
  • Ghost shrimp
  • Earthworm
  • Bloodworm
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Algae
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Pellets


Feeding behavior of a softshell turtle affects its health and lifespan. In this article, I have discussed how often you should feed your softshell turtle. I hope you have found the information helpful.

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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