The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.
I have met owners who depend entirely on commercial food items for their turtles. Well, the dried or canned meals are not bad. But who doesn’t love a fresh, natural feast? In this article, I will talk about homemade meals, especially designed for turtles.
Turtles need a balanced meal that includes animal protein (50%) and vegetables (50%) with sprinkled supplements. Increase the protein if the turtle is carnivorous. Similarly, vegetables will dominate the meal for herbivorous turtles. You can add these items in a gelatine to make the feeding enjoyable.
Keep reading for detailed recipes.
- A combination of fresh vegetables, worms, insects, and cooked meat is nutritious and healthy for turtles.
- Gelatin meals are very popular for turtles. Just add vegetables, fruits, and proteins to the gel and freeze them overnight. Slice the jellied meal and offer it to the pets.
Top 5 Homemade Food Recipies For Turtles
You can DIY thousands of recipes for your turtle when you know what to feed the pet. I will add some meal ideas that I personally follow for my pet turtles. Do not follow the recipes blindly and make modifications according to your turtle’s taste and preferences.
1. The Vegetable Dose
Though most turtles are omnivorous, some species prefer a vegetarian lifestyle. Take examples of the old turtles. There are claims that turtles switch to a herbivorous diet with growing age.
I have planned this meal for the vegetarian turtles only. Also, I will add some key information on the items if necessary. The recipe includes,
- Chopped carrots (A rich source of vitamin A)
- Shredded lettuce (Romaine lettuce and radicchio are the most nutritious.)
- Spinach (Only an occasional addition. Spinach carries oxalic acid, which is harmful to the pet.)
- Finely chopped celery (This is not a regular addition either. I never put celery and spinach together in a meal.)
- Chopped alfalfa sprouts
- A few pieces of melon, berry, banana, or peach
- Calcium powder
Preparation: Simply put all the chopped items in a bowl and sprinkle them with the supplement powder. Add a few drops of water and give the bowl a good mix. There you go! Your turtle’s meal is ready!
Modification: Well, you can easily turn this vegetarian diet into an omnivorous one. Just remove one or two items from the above list and add pellets instead. Adjust the ratio of the vegetables and pellets according to your turtle’s needs and preferences.
2. The Protein Shot
Some turtle species prefer a carnivorous diet, like the alligator snapping turtles. Also, most hatchlings depend on a protein-based diet in their early days. A protein-rich recipe for turtles is given below,
- Earthworm/ Bloodworm/ Mealworm
- Blended shrimp/ Chopped beef liver (While snapping turtles can eat beef liver or chicken, some species fail to digest the protein. Recheck the food list of your pet before adding liver or meat.)
Preparation: When preparing the meal, do not overdo the protein percentage. Remember, overfeeding of protein can lead to pyramiding and unhealthy shedding. Also, this is not designed as a daily meal.
Modification: Add chopped vegetables and remove cricket or worm from the list. This way, you can prepare an omnivorous diet without any hassle.
3. Yummy Gelatin
Have you seen those reptile gelatin packets in the pet stores? Yes, you can prepare delicious meals out of those packs. In fact, your turtles love biting and nibbling on the semi-solid jelly-like food.
You need the following items for the gelatin recipe,
- Reptile gelatin
- Worms (Some owners add cooked beef, chicken, and turkey instead of worms.)
- Sliced vegetables (Green leafy vegetables, romaine lettuce, kale, endive, escarole, broccoli, carrot, cabbage, zucchini, pumpkin, tomatoes, etc.)
- Chopped fruits (Berries, bananas, apples, grapes, prunes, dates, etc.)
Preparation: Blend the vegetables and fruits or keep them finely chopped. Put the gelatin powder into water (Follow the instructions on the pack.) and give it a good mix. Add all the vegetables, fruits, and protein to the gel as the suspension is ready.
Pour the mixture into a shallow pan and fridge overnight. The next day, you can cut the jelly with a knife and offer the gelatin to your turtles. Place the leftovers in an airtight plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator. The gelatin will expire after a week.
Gelatin includes vitamins and minerals. So you do not have to add supplements to the meals.
Again, sometimes, the jelly melts as soon as it hits the water and makes a mess. You can avoid this situation by adding more powder to less water when preparing the gel.
Finally, the gelatin may smell bad as you add a little of everything. Experts suggest putting tuna fish or tuna water to infuse an attractive and tasty scent for turtles.
Modification: You can add cooked egg or freshwater fish, too. Puree the vegetables if your turtle is a picky eater. Some owners eliminate fruits from the list altogether. They use fruits as an after-meal treat.
4. A Balanced Meal
Making the gelatin meal can be time-consuming if you live a hectic schedule. In such cases, just rely on natural and fresh ingredients to prepare a delicious diet for your turtles.
An ideal turtle meal generally includes 50% animal protein and 50% plant matter. Yes, the percentage can vary depending on your pet’s species, age, and taste buds.
Here is a list that you can use for the recipe,
- Shrimp/ feeder fish/ chicken/ beef/ turkey
- Cricket/ insects
- Mealworm/ earthworm/ bloodworm/ waxworm
- Snail/ crustaceans
- escarole/ endive/ kale/ broccoli
- Spinach/ romaine lettuce
- Green leafy vegetables/ cabbages
- Berries/ melons/ kiwi/ prune/ banana/ grape
- Finely chop each item and put them in a bowl.
- Sprinkle the calcium or vitamin supplement on the food and pour a few drops of water.
- Give the meal a good mix and offer it to your turtles.
Modification: Of course, you have the freedom to customize the meal plan. Just make sure the vegetables are low in phosphate and oxalate. Also, do not make the turtles full on the fruits and use them as treats only.
5. Popped Ice Cubes
As mentioned, gelatin can create a mess inside the tank. This is why some owners freeze the protein-veggie mix on an ice cube tray and pop them during the feeding hour. Freezing these cubes spare you from the everyday meal preparation hassle.
Preparation: You can not offer your turtles deep-frozen food. So, you have to defrost the cubes beforehand.
What Are The Alternatives To Homemade Foods For Turtles?
Do not worry if you can not go with the homemade recipes. Many owners solely depend on the pellets to raise their turtles.
Well, there are debates on whether pellets should be the primary diet source for turtles. I personally discourage a strictly pellet-based diet. Yes, pellets are safe for turtles, but too much of this item may backfire sometimes.
For example, too much protein can lead to unhealthy shedding and pyramiding. Also, there are risks of kidney and liver damage.
Therefore, try to add at least frozen or canned food alongside pellets. Remember, turtles can not eat frozen items. So, defrost the meal by melting the ice in normal water for 5 minutes. Heating or microwaving the food will ruin its nutritional value.
According to professionals, an ideal turtle diet should be 50% animal protein and 50% plants. A pellet customized meal will include 25% animal protein, 25% protein pellet, 25% vegetables, and 25% veggie pellet.
Here is a trick if you have no other option but to add pellets to the turtle’s meal. Buy pellets of different brands and feed the brands on alternate days. This will bring variety in taste and back up mineral requirements.
Can Turtles Eat Cat/ Dog/ Fish Foods?
Cat and dog foods are a no-go for turtles. Yes, the species are carnivorous and love eating protein. But cat and dog foods include a higher fat percentage. Regular consumption will lead to obesity, pyramiding, or kidney damage.
Fish foods, on the contrary, are safe for turtles. But you can not rely on the items either as the fish foods are low on nutrition. Therefore, these meals will cause malnutrition in turtles, making them vulnerable to more diseases.
What Human Food Can Turtles Eat?
Well, we humans consume a wide variety of food. So, picking a few items from our groceries for the turtles is not impossible. Right?
See, most turtles are omnivorous. So, you can use the same vegetables you eat for their meals. Of course, the veggies must be fresh and uncooked.
Again, turtles love cooked beef, chicken, turkey, animal liver, shrimp, fish, and egg. Do not use spice or oil when you cook the meat or egg.
Furthermore, your little friends will love a fruity treat occasionally. Throw some chopped berries, grapes, melons, or dates in the water after dinner. The pets will love it.
Never experiment by feeding your turtles bakery goods, candies, fries, pizzas, or processed items. Yes, the creatures will eat without any complaint. But soon, they will fall sick as their stomach can not process those items.
How Much Should You Feed Your Turtles?
I have already talked about homemade turtle food and its alternatives. But no recipe includes the ingredient quantity. Well, it allows you to manipulate the animal and plant matter ratios.
But in any case, you should not overfeed the turtles. You can follow the 15-minute rule. According to this method, you transfer the turtles to a feeding tank and place the meal. Allow the turtles to eat for 15 minutes straight and put them back in their living enclosure.
I personally recommend the head method. Here, you take a container about the size of your turtle’s head if it were empty. Now, fill up the bowl with the meal containing veggies and protein. Finally, throw the items into the water and let the turtles enjoy the meal for an unlimited hour.
Remember, as the turtles grow, their heads will get bigger. So, you must keep upgrading the bowl too.
How Often Should You Feed Your Turtles?
Yes, both the head method and the 15-minute rule include a large quantity of food. So, can you end up overfeeding the turtles? Well, no, if you follow the feeding schedule.
Generally, the hatchlings require a daily meal. It is because they are just building their body, and they need extra energy for that. Likewise, the juvenile and young turtles are fine with a meal every other day.
The adult and old turtles have a reduced appetite. So, follow a thrice-a-week or every two days feeding schedule for them.
Pet Turtle Diet & Feeding Chart
For a printable version of this amazing diet chart, click here!
What Do Turtles Eat?
DIYing the turtle meals is easy when you have access to the safe food chart. Here is a list for your convenience,
- Red bell pepper
- Green leafy vegetables
- Collard green
- Mustard green
- Watercress, etc.
2. Animal Protein
- Feeder fish
- Boiled meat, etc.
You can add vegetable and protein pellets to the list. Compliment the meal with supplements and treat your turtles with suitable fruits.
Before You Go…
Now you know turtles are interested in human food items. Do you want the whole list? Read the attached article to find out which human meals are safe for pet turtles.