How To Provide Calcium To Turtles? [8 Sources]

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

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You are feeding your turtles calcium-enriched foods. But it still has a soft and discolored shell. Why? My strong guess is your turtle can not absorb sufficient calcium from its diet, or you do not know how to feed the turtle calcium. Do not worry. I am here to help.

How to provide calcium to turtles:

  • Roll calcium powder in the food
  • Place calcium release blocks in water
  • Break cuttlebone in the size of pellets and feed the turtle
  • Calcium enriched food and UV bulb

Do you know insufficient calcium can lead the turtle towards permanent health damage? Yes, your turtle might suffer from MBD or other severe diseases. Allow me to describe the easiest way to save your turtle from calcium deficiency.

How To Provide Calcium To Turtles?

I know you are trying your best to keep your turtle in good health. You are probably feeding the pet green veggies besides feeder fish and other diets. Still, why does it seem your turtle is lacking calcium?

See, a captive turtle can not always absorb the right amount of calcium from the food. Hence, experts suggest supplementing the meals with calcium besides feeding the pet a mineral-enriched diet.

But calcium does not taste good, and the turtles seem to hate it. What to do then? Well, you have to follow the thousand-year-old technique. Yes, trick the pets.

There are many sources of calcium suitable for your turtle, both natural and supplement. I will mention all the potential calcium sources in the upcoming sections. But here, let’s point out how you can feed the turtles calcium in the way they eat.

Here is the cheat you need right now,

  • Calcium Powder: Put your turtle food in a plastic bag and pour a few drops of water to make the items moist. Add calcium powder into the bag, and now shake! The calcium will get into the foods, and your pet will eat them without a second guess.
  • Cuttlebones: Break off the cuttlebones into pieces so that the turtle can nibble or peck at them. Use the liquid from the fish can to moist the chunks. The smell will trick the turtle. However, water will also work if you do not have canned fish at home.
  • Calcium Release Blocks: These blocks slowly dissolve into the water, releasing calcium. They influence the shell and bone growth of the turtle.
  • Calcium-Rich Diet: Usually, feeder fishes, shrimps, and insects contain sufficient calcium for the turtles. Even though the diet is not enough to fulfill the calcium requirements of these pets, you must include these items in the turtle meal. You may chop them into pieces so that the pets find it easier to devour.
  • UV Light: The UVB rays do not directly provide calcium to the turtles. But these exposures impact the calcium absorption in their body by producing vitamin D3.

Good Source Of Calcium For Turtles

The safe calcium sources for turtles are:

  • Freshwater feeder fish
  • Shrimp, crayfish, and krill
  • Worms, insects, and invertebrate
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Calcium powder
  • Cuttlebones
  • Calcium release block
  • UV rays

Do not stress over finding the natural calcium sources for your turtle. I have seen owners who think only a balanced diet is enough to keep a turtle healthy and fit.

Well, a diet might work for most minerals but not for calcium. Turtles require both natural and supplements to avoid calcium deficiency.

In the following section, I am going to tell you I provide calcium to my turtles and all the potential sources I know,

1. Freshwater Feeder Fish

The freshwater feeder fishes are good sources of calcium for aquatic turtles. My favorites are guppies, platies, shrines, killifish, bluegill, crappies, mosquitofish, medaka, and bass. Why am I suggesting these options?

See, all these fishes live in the outdoor pond. There they eat insects and invertebrates, which are rich in calcium. Also, these fishes get a prepared meal daily.

I guess the diet is responsible for the superior nutritional profile of these feeder fishes.

I depend on the local market and my fishing skill to collect this calcium source for my turtles. You might not know, but turtles love feasting on dace and sunfishes.

Unfortunately, these species do not fit in the turtle aquarium. But the good news is, trapping them with your fishing hook is easy using minnows as bait. If you are confident with your fishing skill, you can trap any fish and turn it into a tasty meal for your turtles.

The store-bought fishes are also fine as long as they are fresh. You can shop for white perch, tilapia, or trout if you have snapping turtles or turtles around that size.

I usually feed my turtle fish once a week, and you should follow this routine too. Do not be greedy, as overfeeding of feeder fish can backfire sometimes.

Also, stay away from some fish species, for example, feathered or red rosy minnows, goldfish, pre-killed pinkies, etc.

2. Shrimp, Crayfish, And krill

Many of you get confused between crayfish and shrimp. I agree both of these share similar nutritional values, but they have differences. Well, that is not the topic of our discussion today.

The good thing is, you can feed your turtle crayfish, other crustaceans, and shrimp. Krill is another favorite food of the turtles.

All the items I have mentioned above are rich in calcium. Experts advise adding them to the meal to balance the diet.

Now you might ask whether to feed turtles these items intact or after removing the shells. The answer is, the first approach is well-appreciated.

Scientists claim that the shell or skeletons of shrimp, crayfish, and krill are high in calcium. I am sure you do not want to waste the minerals.

Shrimp, krill, and crayfish are available in the market. You can buy readymade ones from the pet store or do the cleaning all by yourself. Many owners provide the turtles with live shrimp or crayfish and let the pets hunt. It boosts their appetite and adds a thrill to their routine.

Shrimp and krills are also available in a frozen form. You can trust renowned brands with their nutritional values.

I know shrimp or crustaceans are calcium-enriched. However, feeding your turtle these items every day is not a wise choice.

3. Worms, Insects, And Invertebrate

Worms, insects, and intervertebral are good protein sources for turtles. Roaches and crickets are popular choices for such purposes.

Of course, these worms or insects are all around us. But I suggest you buy live worms from a store or dried ones.

In the case of snails, you should avoid feeding your turtles the wild-caught ones.

Many experts feed their turtles earthworms, and it is rich in calcium. However, I personally am not a fan of earthworms. They contain high fat, which might harm the turtle. Avoid overfeeding your turtle worms and insects.

4. Green Leafy Vegetables

Turtles in the wild do not get calcium supplements. Right? How do they manage to balance their nutritional profile?

The wild turtles have access to abundant green vegetables and an open-source of animal protein. So, why would they suffer from mineral deficiency?

Many of us only focus on the fish, snails, or insects and completely forget that the green leafy vegetables are an excellent source of calcium. Hence, experts advise including green veggies, especially kale, in the turtle’s everyday diet.

Are all those green leafy vegetables safe for the turtles? Of course, not.

Stuffing the meal with chard, collard green, spinach, cabbage, etc., might backfire in the long run. So, know the safe limit and feed your turtle an optimal amount of vegetables every day.

See also  Can Turtles Survive Winter In A Pond?

5. Powder Calcium

Powder calcium supplements are popular, and most breeders go for this option. However, they often make the mistake of sprinkling the supplement on the meal.

Well, sprinkling calcium powder on the food will work if you feed the turtle on the land. But when you offer them a meal in the water, the powder will dissolve within seconds. As a result, your turtles will lack calcium no matter how consistent you are with the supplement.

So, what to do?

I have already discussed the right way to supplement calcium powder in the previous section. However, here is a brief note.

Take the meal in a bag first instead of sprinkling the calcium powder. Then pour a few drops of water to moist the items. Next, add a spoonful of calcium and give the bag a good shake. This way, the powder will get into the meal and fulfill the calcium requirement of your pets.

Experts advise drying the foods before feeding the turtles. It eliminates the risk of dissolving calcium into the water.

Moreover, you do not want to stuff your turtle’s diet with calcium. Hence, adding supplements once a week will work.

N.B. Spare a minute and go through the label of the calcium supplement before buying it. The product should be free of phosphorus.

6. Calcium Cuttlebones

Cuttlebone is another effective way to feed your turtles a sufficient amount of calcium. The bird owners use this supplement to boost the calcium intake of the birds. But it works amazingly with the turtles too.

Cuttlebones come in a white and chalky shell. It is hard for your turtle to swallow the whole thing. So, scraping off the hard part and breaking the bone into pallet-sized pieces will be helpful. Or you can throw the entire thing into the water, and the pet will nibble and peck at the calcium whenever they want.

Do you know the recipe for preparing cuttlebones for your turtle? Of course, you know. It is a one-step process. All you have to do is to throw the bone into the water, and there it goes. Your turtle can take a bite from the moist cake whenever it wants.

Usually, one piece of cuttlebone lasts for a week or two.

The cuttlebones are cheap and work as the perfect source of calcium for the turtles. However, the only disadvantage with these products is their taste. It seems that many turtles do not like to nibble the cuttlebones.

I recommend you try feeding cuttlebones to your turtles. If they reject the calcium, you can switch to another source.

7. Calcium Release Blocks

Calcium release blocks serve two purposes,

  1. They provide calcium to your turtles.
  2. These products help in conditioning your cloudy tank. (Here is how)

So, why won’t you use calcium blocks? They are cheap, available, and all you need is to stick them in the water. The turtles will chew on them from time to time. Unlike cuttlebones, the turtles do not hate the calcium release blocks.

8. UV Rays

You probably know that the UV rays do not directly help turtles with calcium. Instead, they indirectly influence the absorption of this mineral. How?

Turtles can not absorb calcium from their diet without vitamin D3. Food is indeed an excellent source of vitamin D, but that is not enough. So, from where would the turtles get sufficient vitamin D3?

Yes, UV rays.

Scientists have proven that sunlight contains UVA and UVB exposures. Among these two, the UVB aids in vitamin D3 production in turtles. This vitamin allows the turtles to utilize calcium from the food.

Hence, letting the turtles bask under UV source is mandatory.

The sun is the natural source of UV rays in the wild and an outdoor pond. But what about in an indoor enclosure?

Do not worry. The artificial UV sources work as fine as the natural ones. Of course, only when you buy the good quality one.

Usually, 2.5 to 5% UV lamps are better for aquatic turtles. You have to maintain a minimum distance between the light and the dock while installing. For example, 12 inches for 2.5% UV and 18 inches for 5% UV source.

The 10% UV lights are designed for desert turtles and tortoises. Still, you can use one temporarily for your aquatic turtles by setting it up away from the dock.

Do you feel like buying the right UV lamp is challenging? Let me do the brainstorming part. I have come up with the best lighting solutions for your turtles after researching the market and from personal use. Do not forget to check the list from here.

Why Do Turtles Need Calcium?

Do turtles need calcium? Yes, they do. Actually, calcium is one of the vital minerals that aids in the healthy growth of these creatures.

To be precise, growth is the main reason why turtles need calcium. Let me explain.

When a turtle hatchling is born, it has a soft shell and a fragile body structure. But the baby does not always stay in that state. Right?

The hatchlings start developing solid bone and tough shells with the growing age. How do you think the baby achieves that?

Yes, a balanced diet.

A nutritional diet fulfills every requirement a turtle body needs to thrive. Take vitamin A as an example, which is necessary for the skin and immunity.

Similarly, calcium plays a vital role in solid bone and shell growth. Not only that, this mineral works on the immunity and nervous system build-up of the turtles.

The lack of calcium leads to diseases like MBD, beak or shell overgrowth, paralysis, etc.

Turtle Calcium Deficiency

What if you fail to offer the turtles enough calcium? They will suffer from calcium deficiency. This condition leads to soft shells, immature growth, metabolic bone diseases, paralysis, and more severe diseases.

You would be surprised to know most turtles are at the risk of being calcium deficient. Owners, especially beginners, believe the diet is enough to cover up for all the mineral requirements of these creatures. But of course, that is barely the case.

Turtles do get calcium and other minerals from food. But not enough. I guess the captive condition is the one to blame here.

Again, many owners think that calcium supplements are unnecessary if you install UV lamps. Let me clear the confusion once and for all. You must supplement the turtle diet even after installing the high-quality UV lamp in the enclosure.

The lack of supplementing the meals or the presence of UV light will make your turtles suffer from calcium deficiency. It further leads to metabolic bone disease or MBD.

Here are the symptoms of metabolic bone disease,

  • Lethargy
  • Swimming abnormally
  • Limp walking
  • Refuse to eat
  • Weight loss
  • Abnormal shell or bone growth (Pyramiding)
  • Soft spots on the shell
  • Swollen legs
  • Lumps in the head
  • Deformed jaws
  • Beak deformation
  • Bumps on the leg bone, tail or spine, etc.

As I have said earlier, calcium deficiency gives birth to many other diseases. Take paralysis as an example. Insufficient calcium for a prolonged period might lead to lumpy legs, and one day, your turtle will lose the ability to walk again.

Again, calcium deprivation sometimes develops anorexia in turtles. Are you familiar with this term?

See, the calcium you feed your turtles benefits their bones and shells. At the same time, this mineral aids the turtles in contracting their muscles properly. Calcium deficiency tends to affect the muscles in the gut and slow down the digestive process.

What is the result of this condition? The turtles with anorexia lose appetite for food and start eating less. Hence, the pets will experience weight loss and have low immunity.

Do you know that calcium deficiency negatively impacts gravid turtles? Yes, calcium deprivation leads to egg binding. So, the mother turtles can not deposit their eggs.

What a pathetic and painful situation that is! Gravid turtles unable to lay eggs may develop critical health conditions and suffer from unbearable pain. Sometimes the mother turtles might have to undergo surgery to remove the eggs.

The hatchlings are also in need of sufficient calcium. The lack of this mineral affects their shell growth, and eventually, these babies grow up with uneven scutes. Calcium deprivation might give birth to more critical health conditions in the hatchlings.

How To Use Turtle Calcium Block?

The commercial calcium blocks are easy to use. Open the wrap, release the chunk in the water, and wait for the turtles to eat. However, homemade calcium sources disintegrate in water. So, you have to feed them in the dry area.

See also  How Much Food To Feed Baby Turtles?

Actually, commercial calcium release blocks are of multiple-use. You can treat your cloudy turtle tank water with the same product as it works as a conditioner.

Unlike cuttlebones, turtles love these calcium-release blocks. You can feed them to your pets in both dry and land areas. These blocks do not dissolve in water fast, which is definitely benefits the owners. But, drying or reusing the wet calcium can be a hassle.

So, commercial calcium blocks seem a better idea. Right? Most of the time, yes. However, you might notice disturbing elements on the label, and you do not want to expose your turtles to the chemicals. In that case, DIY calcium blocks come in handy.

The only downside of homemade calcium blocks is they dissolve in water. So, you have to feed your turtles these on the dry dock.

How to make calcium blocks for turtles at home? Read on to the next subsection for the detailed tutorial.

How To Make Calcium Blocks For Turtles?

You can make calcium blocks for turtles with these simple steps:

  • Mix calcium carbonate and water and convert them into a paste
  • Pour the paste into a mold
  • Bake the mold at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 4 hours
  • Cool down the dry paste for 24 hours, and your calcium block is ready

Preparing calcium blocks is not rocket science, and anyone can make these. I always try DIYing calcium blocks for my turtles and tortoises whenever I get free hours.

I have researched many tutorials and asked experts about the right recipe for calcium blocks. Surprisingly, there is no universal way for preparing these sources. Each turtle hobbyist has a specific way and preference in producing the blocks from scratch.

Here is the technique I follow while preparing calcium blocks for my turtles,

1. Gathering The Supplies:

Preparing calcium blocks requires 1 main ingredient and 3 to 4 additional equipment at best. Here is the list,

  • Calcium source
  • Mixing bowl
  • Spoon
  • Thermal resistant mold
  • Oven

Are you confused about the calcium source? Don’t be. Go through the next point before making any purchase.

2. Choose The Calcium Source:

You can not just use any calcium source to prepare these blocks. Food-grade calcium is the perfect fit for this recipe. Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) or limestone flour should be your top priority.

Limestone flour is expensive. If you are looking for a cheaper option, settle for agricultural lime or soil amendment. I find this product safe and totally on budget.

The agricultural limes are manufactured by pulverizing the chalk. So they contain no harmful elements.

But of course, if you have some other source on your mind, give it a try. But make sure the product contains no toxic ingredients.

3. Mix & Mix:

In a tutorial, the instructor shaped the cuttlebones using an adhesive. I am not taking that road, and instead, we will use plain water to make a slurry of calcium carbonate.

Generally, 1.5 cups of water and 7 cups of CaCO3 powder create the perfect mix.

I am sure you have your own way of mixing things up, but here is how I get the best result,

  • Take the powder in a bowl. Break down any chunk of chalk you find.
  • Slowly pour warm water.
  • Stir! Stir! & Stir!
  • Soon, the powdery calcium will settle down and convert into a thick paste.

Here is a warning. Do not challenge yourself with a fragile spoon or spatula. You would require a sturdy spoon that cuts through the rocky paste.

4. It’s Muffin Time:

Next, you pour the paste into the mold. Before baking the mixture, make sure you have a perfect mix. Liquid on the top or powder pockets at the bottom degrade the calcium block quality.

What will you do if you have got excess slurry on hand? Damp it in the drain? NOOOO! It will clog up the pipe and mess with your disposal system.

Instead, dump the extras on your garden or lawn. Win-Win!

5. Bake The Cake:

Place the mold inside the oven. Then set the temperature to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and time for 1 hour. All you have to do now is to wait.

After 1 hour, pull out the oven rack and check on the calcium paste. You might notice slurry on the top of the blocks, which means you are not there yet.

Place the rack inside the oven and set the timer for 2 to 3 hours. I suggest you keep an eye on the batch and do quality checks every hour.

Many owners check the moisture status using paper. If the piece shows any trace of absorption, the baking is incomplete.

There is an advantage in this testing process. You are removing moisture out of the slurry paste via the paper, no matter how insignificant the amount is.

Your calcium blocks will be ready after 4 hours, completely dry, and shaped into cupcakes.

Are those calcium blocks ready? Not yet.

Remove the cupcakes from the mold carefully. Wear hand gloves if you do not want to burn your fingers. Then leave the blocks to cool down for 24 hours.

The next day, you will have calcium blocks ready for your turtles. Pat your back as you have successfully pulled off this project.

You can always buy ready-made calcium blocks if you do not want all these hassles. But DIYing is fun and a money saver at the same time. So, why not give it a try?

How To Prepare Cuttlebone For Turtles?

Cuttlebone preparation is easy. Just remove the hardshell with a knife and toss the entire thing into the water. Or you can break the cuttlebone off into small pieces and feed your turtle.

For those who do not know, cuttlebones come from actual fish. Yes. Sepia Officinalis (widely known as cuttlefish) is the natural supplier of these bones.

Cuttlebones are mainly a snack for the birds. The hobbyists use these shell-bones to boost the calcium intake of the birds. Experts have experimented and declared these bones a safer calcium source for turtles.

Now, many of the owners have confusion regarding the preparation of the cuttlebones. Let me assure you. It is a cup of tea, and you have to do close nothing. Yet, I am adding a step-by-step guide for your convenience,

  • The backing of the bones is rocky and might hurt the turtles. So, take a knife and scrape off the discolored hard shell until you reach the chalky white part. I know it is a waste, but cuttlebones are cheap. However, many owners offer their turtles intact cuttlebone, which is fine if your turtle is okay with it.
  • Now break off the cuttlebone into the size of pellets and feed your turtle. You might offer the turtles the whole bone, which is also okay.

Cuttlebones do not dissolve into water and last for a week or two. So, you can put it into the water and stay tension-free. Your turtles will take a bite whenever they like.

Cuttlebones come at a cheap rate. But do not buy them in a bulk. Even though some turtles eat the bones, many pets hate the taste of this calcium source. Also, while buying, check the color and odor of the cuttlebones.

If your turtle rejects cuttlebones, you should switch to another calcium source.

How Much Calcium Do Your Turtles Need?

Calcium deficiency is horrible. You do not want your adorable pet turtle to go through this suffering. Hence, you should know how much calcium your turtles really require.

A recent study published in the Journal Of Zoo Animal Medicine has shed light on this topic. The researchers observed 24 turtles under this study of calcium requirements of red eared sliders.

The team fed each turtle a different amount of calcium every day and tracked their health progress.

The researchers recommended that 2% of the calcium in the diet keeps the turtles healthy and fit.

It is hard to measure 2% of calcium. Right? The best you can do is feed calcium supplements besides providing the turtles with a balanced diet.

Too Much Calcium For Turtles

What if you are feeding your turtles excess calcium unintentionally. What happens then? Apparently, experts claim that you can not overdose your turtles with calcium. Hence, it barely harms the turtle.

Excess calcium in a human diet is definitely a red flag. It leads to unpleasant health conditions like kidney stones. For a long time, experts assumed the situations were the same for the turtles. But no.

Scientists surprisingly notice that the lack of calcium might lead to kidney stones. However, the research is still in progress.

Recent studies show that turtles can not overeat calcium. These pets ingest the mineral as per their need. Hence, there is no risk of calcium overfeeding.

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Calcium Food For Turtles

Feeder fishes, shrimp, crustaceans, krill, and dark green vegetables are excellent calcium-rich foods for turtles. If you are looking for supplements, you need to focus on cuttlebones, calcium release blocks, and calcium powder.

Almost all natural foods turtles eat have calcium in it. Here are the popular calcium-rich foods for turtles,

  •  Guppies
  • Platies
  • Shrines
  • Killifish
  • Bluegill
  • Crappies
  • Mosquitofish
  • Medaka
  • Bass
  • Sunfishes
  • Dace
  • Shrimp
  • Crayfish
  • Krill
  • Cricket
  • Worms
  • Invertebrate
  • Kale
  • Dark green leafy vegetables, etc.

You can add any food items to the list as long as they are nutritionally valuable and safe. The diet includes enough calcium a turtle body requires. Still, supplementing the meals with calcium is mandatory as the pets can not absorb sufficient minerals from the feast.

I have included all the possible calcium sources available for your turtles above. Go through the texts if you need a clear idea on that topic.

How Do Turtles Get Calcium In The Wild?

The wild turtles do not get calcium supplements. But look, they are totally healthy and rarely suffer from calcium deficiency. How is that even possible?

Turtles have an abundant source of food in the wild. They can have natural growing vegetables and plant leaves. At the same time, they get to prey on insects, worms, and slow-moving fishes.

The plants grown on the calcium-rich solid provide enough nutrients to the turtles. Again, the snails, feeder fishes, and bones are also excellent sources of calcium for these reptiles.

Wild turtles have another source of calcium. Can you guess? Yes, the sun.

The sun is the natural source of UV rays which indirectly help the turtles absorb calcium. All I am saying is the turtles get all the minerals they require naturally in the wild. Hence, they do not suffer from mineral deficiency.

Turtle owners often misinterpret this cycle. They think the captive turtles can live on the diet only like the wild ones. But the opposite is the case.

Do not rely only on the meals alone to fulfill the calcium requirement of your turtles. Supplementing the diet is a must. Otherwise, your turtles will suffer from calcium deficiency.

Best Calcium Supplements For Turtles

Different brands are introducing their calcium supplements in the market. You can make a choice after going through the ingredient label. I suggest buying a renowned brand or generally asking your vet.

Here is a list of calcium supplements I recommend,

●       Rep-Cal SRP00200 Phosphorous-Free Calcium Ultrafine Powder Reptile/Amphibian Supplement with Vitamin D3

●       TetraFauna ReptoGuard Turtle Health Conditioner 3 Count, Slow-Release

●       Zoo Med Reptile Calcium with Vitamin D3, 8-Ounce

N.B. I haven’t used all these supplements by myself. I have asked around my turtle keeper friends and experts and pulled off the list. You do not have to trust me blindly. You can talk to professionals, do research and then buy the calcium supplement for your turtles.

You can prepare calcium supplements at home too. The main ingredient, in that case, is calcium carbonate or limestone. Remember, calcium hydroxide is not what you want to feed your turtles.

Again, while shopping for calcium supplements, you should buy products that include the following compounds,

  • Bone meal
  • Oyster shell
  • Calcium lactate
  • Calcium gluconate
  • Calcium nitrate malate
  • Dicalcium phosphate
  • Tricalcium phosphate

The above ingredients are beneficial and enrich the supplement quality. On the other hand, you should look for the following elements,

  • Mercury
  • Lead
  • Aluminum
  • Cadmium
  • Arsenic, etc.

Bone Meal Supplements As A Calcium Source

I am sure you have heard of bone meals, which are indeed excellent sources of calcium. Yet, I do not recommend them because of their phosphorus level.

Turtles might not absorb the required calcium because of the high phosphorus. It will do no good to your turtles and lead to calcium deficiency.

Eggshells As A Calcium Source

You might not know, but eggshells are reliable and excellent sources of calcium for turtles. In fact, eggshells include many more beneficial nutrients the pets require, not only in calcium.

Many owners feed their pets eggshells as an alternative to supplements.

However, eggshells have a downslope too.

Experts suggest that eggshells might carry antidote traces, which might be responsible for Salmonella in turtles.

On the contrary, another group claims that the eggshells are safe as long as you feed the turtles boiled shells.

Hence, I strongly suggest you talk to your vet first before switching to eggshells.

Are Calcium Blocks Safe For The Turtle?

Calcium release blocks work as a conditioner and a source of calcium for the turtles. I know it sounds a great deal, but let me warn you. Too much calcium block is not healthy for the turtles.

Calcium release blocks contain heavy chemicals and plaster of Paris. Feasting on the chemicals might make your pets sick.

Are Feeder Fishes Safe For Turtles?

Why would the fish be unhealthy? They are excellent sources of calcium for turtles. Right?

Of course, you have a point. But experts suggest that feeding excessive amounts of feeder fish can be fatal to the turtles. How? There are things that make this source unhealthy. Such as,

  • Feeder fishes contain high levels of fat. Consumption of excessive fat affects the nutrition absorption of the turtles. Hence, the pets suffer from mineral deficiency. Not only that, overeating feeder fish might lead to kidney stones or failure.
  • Feeder fishes also cause thiamine deficiency in turtles. You might know that thiamine or vitamin B1 and B2 regulate turtle metabolism. If the turtle is vitamin B deprived, it will exhibit lethargy and fall victim to many diseases. The sick turtle has a life risk if the condition affects its appetite and overall metabolism.

So, which feeder fishes are unhealthy? I would say overfeeding any fish species is not recommended. But here are the red flags,

  • Goldfish
  • Minnows
  • Gizzard shad
  • Bullhead and channel catfish, etc.

What Other Minerals Do Turtles Require?

Calcium plays a significant role in the shell and bone development of turtles. There is no doubt about that. But it alone can not bear all the responsibilities.

There are some other minerals that contribute to the healthy shell and bone growth of turtles. Those minerals are,

  • Magnesium: Experts claim that magnesium aids in calcium absorption and the same time, in regulating hormones. Turtles get enough magnesium from the diet. Hence, they require no supplements for this.
  • Phosphorus: I know excess phosphorus is harmful to turtles. Yet, a minimum amount of this mineral should always be present in the turtle diet. It has an influence on shell growth.
  • Others: Turtles might require some other minerals at a minimum level. Such nutrients are zinc, manganese, boron, etc. Your pets can absorb these minerals from the food, and there is no need for a supplement.

Do you know which vitamin contributes the most to calcium absorption? Yes, vitamin D3.

The food calcium goes in vain without sufficient vitamin D3. Turtles get this vitamin from food, and also the UV rays activate the production of vitamin D3 in their bodies.

Some owners offer vitamin supplements to their turtles. However, food and UV light should be enough to fulfill the vitamin D3 requirements of these creatures.

What Happens If A Tortoise Doesn’t Get Calcium?

Calcium deficiency causes shell deformation and soft bones in tortoises. The sick tortoises find trouble walking and living up to a usual routine. These are the symptoms of metabolic bone diseases, which might lead to permanent health damage.

Like all other reptiles and their close brothers, tortoises require calcium for healthy growth.

What happens if they do not get enough calcium?

The tortoise grows in size but not in shell, or the scutes get deformed and take an abnormal shape. Eventually, the calcium-deprived tortoise ends up having bumpy, discolored scutes, or its body does not fit in the shell.

Wait, this is not the end of it.

Calcium deficiency affects the bone growth of the tortoises. So, the reptiles might have soft legs, which troubles their walking.

Swollen eggs, bumpy shells, deformed jaws, anorexia, lumps on the spine or tail, pyramiding, paralysis, etc., are the signs of metabolic bone diseases among tortoises. Tortoises suffer from unbearable pain, and moreover, the condition becomes life-threatening if untreated.


You can provide calcium to your turtles through food, supplements, and UV lamps. Turtles often reject the supplements because of their taste.

Hence, you might have to trick the pet by mixing the mineral with food or go with another way. Remember, turtles suffer a lot due to the lack of calcium.

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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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