What Do Baby Painted Turtles Eat? [Safe Food List]

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

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Painted turtles are beautiful turtles that are relatively easy to care for. If you plan to get baby painted turtles or already have them, you are probably learning the right ways to take care of them. To keep the baby turtles healthy, you must provide them with nutritious food. So, what do baby painted turtles eat?

In this article, I will give a list of foods best for your baby painted turtles. You should also know that some foods are not good for baby painted turtles. Now, let’s get to know more. 

What Do Baby Painted Turtles Eat? 

Baby painted turtles need a proper diet plan to grow up to be healthy adults. They are initially carnivores for the first few years of their lives. So, their diet should include worms, small fish, insects, meat, tadpoles, and pellets. You can try feeding them some vegetables and aquatic plants as well.  

Baby painted turtles have the same food preference as adult painted turtles. But they need more protein and calcium for healthy growth. Without the nutrients, they cannot have healthy bones and shells. Therefore, you must keep the diet plan full of protein-rich food. 

Here is a list of food for Baby Painted Turtles:

ChickenGuppiesAny small size dried insectZucchiniMelonLow-fat dog food
Tadpoles, baby lizards, newtsPlaties CarrotsApples 
MealwormsBlue Gills Romaine lettuceBerries 
EarthwormsKillifish Red leaf lettuce  
Black wormsBass Kale  
Brown worms  Escarole  
Waxworms  Parsley  
Blood worms  Dandelion  
Snails  Celery  
Krill  Tomatoes  
Catfish  Water plants  

A wild baby painted turtle has plenty of off available in nature. They live on various fish, insects, and aquatic plants. Since a captive baby painted turtle cannot move around to eat foods of different nutritious value, you must provide them with foods containing vitamins and minerals. 

What Do Baby Turtles Eat for Protein and Calcium? 

When baby painted turtles are born, they are about 1 inch long. But within the first four years of their life, they grow quite fast. For healthy growth, baby painted turtles depend mostly on protein-rich food. These foods should also provide them with Vitamin D and calcium. 

First-time painted turtle owners may wonder what foods they should feed baby painted turtles for protein and how. 


Painted turtles love to eat meat. Adult painted turtles can munch on raw and cooked meat. But the digestive system of baby painted turtles are not fully developed. Also, raw meat can contain bacteria or parasites. So, it is better to feed baby turtles cooked meat.

A baby painted turtle has a really small mouth. Hence, cut the meat into small pieces to feed them. You can give them sliced beef or chicken meat. Besides, earthworms, black worms, brown worms, bloodworms, mealworms, waxworms, snails, crayfish, and shrimps are great choices for protein. 

You can give them tadpoles, newts, and frogs cut into small pieces. These are favourite among the wild painted turtles.  


Fish is another food item essential to meet your turtle’s protein and calcium needs. Painted turtles enjoy hunting various fish. However, baby painted turtles are not expert hunters. Therefore, you can give them very small fishes that are easy to hunt. Dried fishes and fish eggs are also best for protein. 

Baby painted turtles enjoy eating guppies, platies, crappies, bass, and killifish. When you are getting fish for baby painted turtles, make sure they are free from bacteria. 


You should add both live and dried insects to the diet plan of your painted turtles. Baby painted turtles have fun hunting insects and crickets. Insects provide not only protein but also low-amount of fat. You will find many insect food products in pet stores and online. 

Commercial Foods 

Captivated baby painted turtles need supplements to stay healthy. There are many brands of commercial pellets for painted turtles. Some pellets are specially made for juvenile turtles. The ingredients for the pellets can be whole herring, whole salmon, black cod, and many other fishes. These contain protein, vitamin D, and vitamin E. 

If you are looking for the top-rated commercial food for your turtle, I’ll recommend the ReptoMin Food Sticks from Tetra. These food sticks simply pack most of the nutrients your baby painted turtles will need to grow.

What Veggies Can Baby Painted Turtles Eat?

Many people wonder if they should feed vegetables to their baby painted turtles. Yes, baby turtles eventually get interested in eating vegetables and aquatic plants. 

You can introduce different vegetables and water plants when your painted turtles become 6 years old. Initially, they may not eat veggies, but you should leave the veggies in the enclosure. 

As baby turtles grow up, they like eating red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, squash, zucchini, collard, kale, mustard greens, escarole, etc. Some baby painted turtles eat rose and dandelion greens too.

Painted turtles are semi-aquatic turtles. Hence, they spend a long time underwater. Apart from aquatic animals, they like to eat almost any kind of aquatic plant. So, you can feed them water lettuce, water hyacinth, waterlilies, fern, algae, pondweed, and hornwort. They are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals. 

Can Baby Painted Turtles Eat Fruits?

Adult painted turtles enjoy eating fruits as special treats now and then. But baby painted turtles are not so interested in fruits. Do not be concerned if your turtles do not eat fruits every day. Turtles can get their essential nutrients from other foods. 

However, you can add some fruits as an occasional treat for your baby painted turtles. Try different kinds of fruits like chopped apples, carrots, beets, melons, blueberries, and strawberries. A baby painted turtle may not like all these fruits and sticks to just one or two fruits. 

Foods Baby Painted Turtles Should Avoid

Baby painted turtles will try eating any food you give them. They do not care how the food affects them. So, you have to be extra careful about what you are feeding your baby painted turtles

You should buy the foods from a reputed pet store. The food should be chemical-free and fresh. Avoid feeding the baby turtles foods from unknown sources.

Besides, some foods are not healthy for baby turtles, especially fatty fish. Here is a list of fish you must not feed your baby painted turtles:

  • Goldfish
  • Carp
  • Minnow
  • Gizzard

Also, do not throw in just any vegetables and fruits in your turtle’s diet plan. The oxalates in some fruits can affect the calcium absorption process of turtles. So, you must avoid feeding these veggies. Then there are fruits that contain citric acid and potassium that are harmful to painted turtles. 

Never include these vegetables and fruits in your baby painted turtle’s food list:

  • Potatoes
  • Beetroot 
  • Chard
  • Endive
  • Orange
  • Grapes

When and How Often Do Baby Painted Turtles Eat?

You should feed your baby painted turtle two to three times a day. You can provide them with a proper meal in the morning and the afternoon when they are hungriest. If you find your pet hungry in between this time, you can give them some pellets to snack on. 

How Much Does A Baby Painted Turtle Eat?

Each time you feed your baby painted turtle, give it food based on the size of its head or food it can finish within 15 minutes. Baby painted turtles need to be fed multiple times a day because it is crucial for their growth. They are also highly active during their early stage of life. 

Where Should You Feed Your Baby Painted Turtle?

Now, where should you feed your baby painted turtle? New owners often make the mistake of leaving the food in the basking area or any land area. You might see that turtles try to eat the food, but eventually, they drag the food into the water or leave the food.

This is because painted turtles are aquatic turtles. They prefer eating food while floating on water or submerged in water. Moreover, turtles cannot produce saliva. Thus, they need water to chew and swallow the foods.

So, give them food in the water area. You have to chop the food into small pieces for the baby turtles. 

What Happens If Baby Painted Turtles Are Not Fed Properly?

Baby painted turtles need to be fed a balanced diet every day. If your baby painted turtle does not get sufficient food daily, it may face many health complications. 

They will suffer from metabolic bone diseases and shell problems. As a result, your baby turtle will not grow as much as it should. Your turtle may also suffer from vitamin deficiency, eye problems, respiratory disease, and digestive problems. Hence, you must feed a baby painted turtle at least twice a day. 

Then again, do not overfeed your turtle. Like any other animal, turtles can get fat. Overeating causes them to gain extra weight, which hampers their movements. Thus, your baby painted turtle may not develop properly. 


Having painted turtles as pets can be exciting. They are beautiful and friendly. You must take good care of them from an early age to maintain their health. For the first couple of months, your baby painted turtle may only eat meat, insects, and pellets.

They hardly touch any vegetables. But you should still put some vegetables in their diet plan. They eventually eat them as they become older. Follow the baby painted turtle food list in this article to make sure your baby turtles get the essential vitamin D, calcium, phosphorous, and minerals. 

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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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