Musk Turtle Diet & Feeding Guide For Beginners

Last week my friend bought a musk turtle, and he was pretty confused about its food habit. When he reached out to me, I helped him with everything I knew. In this article, I am rewriting that information and presenting it as a musk turtle feeding guide.

Musk turtles are mainly carnivorous, which means their diet includes animal protein. However, many experts claim the musk turtles to be omnivorous as the meal has a small portion of vegetables.

Read this article to the end if you are struggling to prepare a diet chart for your musk turtle.

Musk Turtle Diet & Feeding Guide

Musk turtles are carnivorous as these turtles prefer animal matter over anything. But it does not mean that they do not eat vegetables at all. Experts suggest adding a small amount of plant matter to balance the meal. Hence, you can refer to this species as omnivorous.

What Do Musk Turtles Eat?

I have already mentioned that musk turtles are fans of animal protein. Besides, they eat vegetables, fruits, pellets, and supplements, etc. Here is a chart of safe food options for a musk turtle,

Animal Matter Plant Matter Commercial Food Fruits Supplements
Cricket

Locust

Roaches

Bivalves

Mealworm

Redworm

Bloodworm

Earthworm

Mollusk

Snail

Shrimp

Dragonflies

Crayfish

Chopped beef

Chopped turkey

Chopped chicken

Liver

Pork  
Celery

Kale

Spinach

Elodea

Duckweed

Chicory green

Dill weed

Turnip green

Beet green

Dandelion green

Collard Mustard

Lambsquarters

Lettuce
Pellets

Dried foods
Banana

Pears

Guava

Strawberry

Raspberry

Blueberry
Multivitamin

Vitamin D3

Calcium

See, even though the diet includes vegetables and fruits, the amount should be minimum. If you feed the musk turtles only vegetables, the pets will grow weaker and sick. Hence, the experts advise adding around 80% animal matter, and the rest should be plant matter.

Fruits contain little nutrients for the musk turtles. So, feeding the turtles fruits brings no good for them. Owners offer the turtles fruits as a treat and to boost their appetite.

So, while preparing the musk turtle diet sheet, you should focus more on pellets and animal protein rather than vegetables or fruits. And yes, adding supplements to the meals is mandatory.

My Top Picks For Keeping Your Turtle Happy!

Foods To Avoid Feeding The Musk Turtle

Musk turtles are curious by nature and will eat almost anything you offer. But are all the items safe for the musk turtles? The answer is no.

High phosphorus vegetables and high fatty foods can cause permanent damage to the musk turtle. For example, obesity, liver stone, kidney failure, etc. Hence, you should know which food to feed the turtle and which one to avoid.

Here is a list of food that you should never feed your musk turtle,

  • Spinach
  • Celery
  • Carrot
  • Watercress
  • Endive
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Purslane
  • Okra
  • Cilantro
  • Green beans
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Sweet potato
  • Green pepper
  • Red pepper
  • Squash
  • Tomato
  • Corn
  • Beet
  • Sprout
  • Pumpkin
  • High phosphorus vegetables
  • Junk food
  • Processed food
  • Dairy products
  • Dog food
  • Candy or sweets
  • Wild-caught insects or animals

Of course, the list does not end here. That is why you should research a food item before adding it to the diet chart or consult with the vet.

How Often Do You Feed A Musk Turtle?

Feed your musk turtle hatchlings daily if they are less than 6 months old. After the first 6 months, switch to an every other day feeding schedule. When the turtles get older, they might prefer a thrice-a-week food routine.

The feeding schedule of a musk turtle mainly depends on its age. While the babies require more nutrition, the adults have less appetite. Hence, you have to feed the hatchlings more frequently.

If you fail to fulfill their vitamin and mineral requirements, the babies will suffer from malnutrition and have unhealthy growth. Let’s see how a healthy feeding routine of a musk turtle looks like,

Feeding Schedule Of A Musk Turtle Hatchling

Experts advise feeding the musk turtle hatchlings under 6 months on a daily basis. It is because babies are fragile, and they require nutrition to grow immunity and develop their bodies.

You can feed these babies once every day. Or, split the meal into two halves and offer them every morning and evening.

Hatchlings are primarily carnivorous and do not eat any vegetables. So, do not force the babies to eat any greens. It is better to offer your baby musk turtles commercial pellets with chopped meat and insects.

A fruity treat every once in a while will increase their appetite. But make sure the babies do not get used to having fruits every day.

A musk turtle hatchling should get all its necessary vitamins and minerals from the food. But this is not the case. Most of the time, the babies lack nutrition even after having a balanced diet. Sprinkling supplements on each meal can solve this issue.

Generally, multivitamin once a week and calcium supplement thrice a week is enough for the healthy growth of musk turtle hatchlings.

Feeding Schedule Of A Juvenile Musk Turtle

After 6 months, feel free to feed the musk turtles every other day. However, you can follow an everyday feeding schedule by dividing the meals into halves.

Juvenile musk turtles are also carnivorous, and so, they prefer animal protein. You can offer them vegetables but do not force them. You can ask your vet if your musk turtle is not eating the greens at all.

I offer my musk turtles live insects and animals, which entice their wild instinct. So, the turtles feel more energetic and eat with more interest. Feeding the juveniles chopped fruits once a week is a good treat for them.

Like the hatchlings, juvenile musk turtles also require vitamin and calcium supplements. Follow the same routine as before.

Feeding Schedule Of An Adult Musk Turtle

The adult musk turtles have less appetite than the hatchlings and juveniles. A feeding schedule of twice and thrice a week is perfect for them.

Adult musk turtles act omnivorous as they prefer a small portion of vegetables in the meal. But of course, the preference can vary from individual to individual.

I would recommend you feed the adult turtles live insects and fruits to boost their appetite. And yes, do not forget to sprinkle calcium and multivitamin on their meals.

How Much To Feed A Musk Turtle?

Do you know musk turtles are opportunistic eaters? It means these turtles will eat whenever they get the chance, even if they have a full belly. The whole thing works like an instinct for the turtles.

My pet musk turtle is shy and not very social. But whenever the pet sees me, it comes to the surface and begs for food. It never fails to do it.

I know the turtles look cute and all when they beg for food. But do not pity them. Overfeeding the musk turtles can cause obesity, kidney failure, liver stone, etc. Hence, you should know exactly how much to offer the musk turtles.

The most two popular rules for determining the meal quantity are,

  • The head method
  • The 15-minute rule

The head method:

Imagine a bowl about the same size as the musk turtle’s head. Now fill the bowl with a balanced meal and feed your pet turtle. This head method is effective and appreciated by the turtle owners.

As the musk turtle grows, so does its head size. So, you might have to replace the bowl when the turtle starts developing. However, after a specific age range, musk turtles do not grow physically.

The 15-minute rule:

Experts suggest leaving more than enough food in the musk turtle enclosure for 15 to 20 minutes. They claim that the time frame is enough for a turtle to have a full belly.

After 15 minutes, you need to remove the leftovers from the habitat. This method is easy, but there is a downside to food waste.

How Much Water Does A Musk Turtle Need?

Musk turtles are an aquatic species, and so, water is mandatory for their living. Generally, the 20-gallon water tanks are perfect for hatchlings, and for an adult musk turtle, at least 30 gallons of water is required.

Water is a crucial part of any turtle species, especially the aquatic ones. Musk turtles are full-aquatic, and that is why they can not live without water. According to a study, turtles will barely survive more than 8 hours without water in a dry and hot environment. In humid and cold regions, the period will surely extend.

Usually, a healthy adult aquatic species can survive weeks to more than a month without water. And, of course, surviving does not mean living a healthy and fun life. When a musk turtle goes without water for a long time, it will suffer from health complexities in the future. So, you should never purposefully keep your pet turtle out of water.

Many newbies ask me if musk turtles drink water. The answer is yes. Like all other animals, musk turtles have to drink water to function. But as the creatures live in ponds or rivers, it is hard to determine the amount of water they require to stay hydrated.

Where And When To Feed Musk Turtles?

Musk turtles are aquatic, and they prefer eating while swimming in the water. Hence, you have to throw the food in the water as the pets love. However, many musk turtles might eat on the basking dock too.

Do you know your musk turtle has an increased appetite in the early morning and evening? Yes, that is why vets suggest feeding these creatures during those hours. If you offer them food at any other time of the day, the chances are that the turtles will not show great interest in food.

Musk Turtle Not Eating: Why?

Musk turtles do not always have the same appetite for food. Sometimes, these pets stop eating at all, and in most cases, environmental issues are responsible for this behavior.

Here are the probable reasons why a musk turtle might refuse food and their solution:

1. Your Turtle Is Ill

Sickness has an impact on the musk turtle’s appetite. The ill turtle refuses to eat healthily, and as a result, its weight decreases. Common signs of diseases are appetite loss, weight loss, coughing, frequent basking, etc.

If you notice any of the symptoms, take your musk turtle to the vet. Once your pet recovers from the disease, it will start eating again.

2. It Is Just Stress

Turtles are not social and prefer a solitary life. If you disturb your turtle or touch it too often, the pet will get stressed. Experts claim that stressed or mentally disturbed turtles might lose their appetite.

However, a turtle can be stressed due to other reasons too. For example,

  • If the pet is new to the home
  • When its tank mate is dominating
  • If you are housing the turtle in an improper enclosure

3. Check the Temperature

Musk turtles are cold-blooded species. These turtles will slow down their activity if they are exposed to cold weather. Generally, the musk turtles prefer a water temperature of about 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

If the temperature drops by 10 degrees or more, the turtle will prepare to hibernate. Here, hibernation is a sleep-like state, and the turtles do not eat anything during and before the process.

The water temperature drops more often if you install a low-quality water heater. Follow my article to find out the best tank heaters at a reasonable price. Also, install a thermometer inside the enclosure to keep track of the temperature.

4. You Have Made A Boring Diet Chart

Musk turtles do not prefer eating the same type of food every day. If you repeat the meal daily, the turtle will lose interest in the food. So what can you do?

Try out new food options and bring varieties to the meal. This way, the musk turtles will have an increased appetite. And yes, feeding the turtles live foods and fruits will also boost their hunger.

How Long Can Musk Turtles Go Without Food?

A musk turtle can survive up to 3 months without food. The time frame totally depends on the age, health condition of the turtle, and the surrounding condition.

Usually, the baby musk turtles can manage living one week to a few weeks without any food. But yes, there must be accessible water, and the environment has to be humid. In dry weather, the babies will struggle to spend days. If the temperature drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the survival period will extend.

A healthy adult musk turtle can spend around a month without food in normal condition. While hibernating, this turtle will survive 3 months or even more without eating. But yes, in any situation, water is a must.

It is not a good idea to starve your turtle intentionally unless the hibernation season is coming. I always discourage the owners from hibernating their captive musk turtles.

If you go on vacations too often and there is no one to check on your pet musk turtle, you should look for alternative ways. Recently, different brands have introduced us to automatic turtle feeders. You should definitely give this innovation a try.

These devices are programmed to feed your turtle at a specific time and a specific amount. You can rely on this innovation with closed eyes.

I have tried different brand turtle feeders myself, and the journey was satisfactory. My turtles used to get their meals on time, even when I was busy outside.

Click here to check out the best automatic turtle feeders in the market which fit your budget.

Do Musk Turtles Need Supplements?

In captivity, your musk turtle might not get enough vitamins and minerals from the food. If this goes on for an extended period, your turtle will exhibit signs of vitamin deficiency. Hence, vets suggest feeding the musk turtles vitamin and mineral supplements.

Calcium and phosphorus play a significant role in building solid skeletons and shells. If the diet lacks calcium, it will cause soft shells or deformed bones. Again, vitamin D3 is necessary for calcium absorption. Moreover, lack of vitamin A leads to respiratory illness, puffy eyes, and other infectious diseases.

In a nutshell, if you want your musk turtle to grow healthy and fit, you need to sprinkle supplements on its meal regularly. The general rule is to feed multivitamins once a week and calcium thrice a week.

Many owners follow an alternative of gut-loading methods. As per the rule, you have to feed the feeder insects a mineral-rich diet for 24 to 48 hours. Then offer those gut-loaded insects to the musk turtles, and they will get all the nutritional benefits.

Can Musk Turtles Eat Fruits And Vegetables?

Musk turtles eat fruits and vegetables, but they are not a fan of these foods. While only adult turtles eat vegetables, pets of all ages prefer the sweet taste of fruits. However, make sure vegetables and fruits contain no pesticides or chemicals.

You have to wash the greens and fruits and chop them into small pieces before feeding the turtles. Otherwise, the musk turtles will find it challenging to bite them.

Now, you might know that musk turtles have an appetite for animal protein. The young ones barely touch any vegetables. So, you have to keep experimenting with different veggies to find out which one is your turtle’s favorite.

What To Do If Musk Turtles Do Not Eat Vegetables?

Even though many experts claim the musk turtles to be omnivorous, these turtles prefer eating animal protein. So, what happens if your turtle does not eat vegetables? What can you do in such a situation?

Well, vegetables are not mandatory for musk turtles when they are young. But as they grow old, a small portion of greens is a must in every meal. So, what do you do if your musk turtles ignore vegetables?

Of course, you need to determine the cause first.

If your musk turtles are at the primary age, it is normal not to eat vegetables. The hatchlings require more animal protein for growth and development. Greens of any sort do no good to these babies. Hence, you should not force them to eat vegetables and let them have pellets and insects.

However, what to do if your adult musk turtle refuses to eat vegetables? Well, it simply means the pet is too dependent on the animal matter. You can do one thing to make the turtles interested in vegetables.

Decrease the pellet or animal matter portion in the meal, which will keep the turtles hungry. Now provide them with freshly chopped vegetables. The musk turtles will now eat the veggies to satisfy their hunger.

Musk turtles often show no interest in vegetables. Even if they do, each has an individual preference. You can consult with a vet if you do not find my tips helpful.

No matter what happens, do not force the babies to eat vegetables. Are you confused about the age of your musk turtle? Check this article to find out how to tell the age of your pet musk turtle.

Musk Turtle Food Habit And Health Issues

You know unhealthy food culture can cause physical complexities in musk turtles. Such as,

  • Malnutrition: If you do not feed the musk turtles a balanced diet, they will have malnutrition. It will lead to a weak immunity system, and the turtle will grow unfit. Multivitamin supplements once a week might fulfill the nutrition requirement to some extent. Still, you have to focus on a balanced and scheduled diet for the musk turtles.
  • Obesity: Overfeeding the musk turtles will lead to obesity. The pet grows fat due to this condition. Obesity increases the risk of kidney stones and liver failure.
  • Shedding: Musk turtles shed their scutes when they grow larger. If you overfeed the turtles, it impacts their growth. The pets achieve the matured carapace size in a short period. The unhealthy shedding of shells can be observed in this condition.
  • Pyramiding: When you feed the musk turtles an excessive amount of protein, it increases the risk of pyramiding. It is the condition of having a bumpy shell and deformed bone structure. A blanched diet can cure the disease.
  • Hypovitaminosis: The lack of vitamin A is responsible for hypovitaminosis. Appetite loss, weight loss, swollen eyes, lethargy, etc., are the symptoms of this disease. Vitamin A enriched vegetables and antibiotics will better the sick turtle.

How To Feed Musk Turtles: The Ultimate Guide

Do you know the right way to feed a musk turtle? If you don’t, then here is a short guide for you,

  • Proper Place & Time: Musk turtles love feasting while swimming in the water. So, throw the food in the water instead of placing it on the dock. Again, feed the turtles early in the morning and late evening, when the pets are most hungry.
  • The Right Temperature: You already know a drop in temperature will mess with the musk turtle’s appetite. If the water temperature drops below 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, the turtle will stop eating. Hence, you have to make sure the water is warm and around 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Chop Chop: Musk turtles can not digest to chew the food if the pieces are big. So, chop the insects, worms, veggies, and fruits properly so that the turtles can easily have their meal.
  • Remove The Leftovers: Musk turtles can be very messy when it comes to food. If you do not eliminate the food scraps, the habitat will become unhygienic and unhealthy. You can set up a tank filter to keep the water filtered and hygienic. Here are the top 5 canister tank filters for musk turtles.
  • Follow The Schedule: Both overfeeding and underfeeding are harmful to the musk turtle. Hence, follow the feeding chart and schedule strictly to avoid any unexpected circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Musk Turtles Eat Banana?

Musk turtles can definitely eat bananas. In fact, bananas are considered to be a favorite fruit for all turtle species. Bananas are rich in potassium, and other minerals, which surely benefit your turtle.

However, it is wiser not to feed your musk turtle too many bananas. This fruit is high in sugar and starch that can harm your turtle’s health. Moreover, musk turtles are animal protein lovers, and fruits will barely fulfill their mineral requirements.

Can Musk Turtles Eat Fruit?

Musk turtles can eat fruits, but not all of them enjoy them. I have seen turtles who love bananas, berries, papaya, melons, etc. On the other hand, my little musk turtle shows no interest in any fruit.

Can Musk turtles Eat Cucumbers?

Cucumbers have no nutritional value for musk turtles. On top of that, turtles might have an upset tummy after having cucumbers.

Vegetables are great containers of nutrition. But not all vegetables are beneficial to the musk turtles. There are a few veggies like cucumbers which should be avoided at any cost. Such as iceberg lettuce, eggplants, mushrooms, etc.

Can Musk Turtles Eat Broccoli?

Generally, broccoli is a popular vegetable option for turtles. Even though this veggie contains calcium and vitamins, it is also a good source of phosphorus. Any vegetable with high phosphorus content is not safe for musk turtles.

Musk turtles can surely eat and digest broccoli. However, vegetables increase the risk of kidney stones, and so on.

Conclusion

The hatchling and young musk turtles are carnivorous, while the adult ones are omnivorous. You should strictly follow the feeding schedule and quantity for the healthy growth of the turtles. If you feel confused about the diet of your pet, reach out to an expert immediately.

Muntaseer Rahman

I have been keeping turtles as a pet for many years now. I’ve fallen in love with these cute pets from the moment I saw them. That’s why I am writing articles to share my turtle keeping knowledge with you.

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