What Do Yellow Bellied Turtles Eat?

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

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Yellow bellied turtles are the best pet for beginners. They are low maintenance, and feeding these turtles is extremely easy. I will discuss the yellow bellied turtle diet in detail in the article below.

Yellow bellied turtle diet:

  • Plant Matter (50 – 60%): Kale, parsley, water lily, duckweed, etc.
  • Animal Matter (20 – 25%): Spider, crayfish, worm, insect, chicken, etc.
  • Pellets (25%)
  • Fruits (Occasional Treat): Banana, apple, melon, berry, etc. 
  • Supplements: Vitamin D3, calcium, and multivitamin. 

Catch more details below.

Yellow Bellied Turtle Complete Diet

As mentioned, yellow bellied turtles are omnivorous. So, the diet includes plant matter (leafy greens and vegetables), animal protein, fruits, and supplements.

But yes, you can not just offer the turtles any plant or protein. Turtle’s digestive system does not work like ours. Hence, the pets will fall sick or may choke to death. 

The safe food lists for the yellow bellied turtles are,

1. Plant Matter & Vegetables (50 – 60%)

  • Asparagus 
  • Algae 
  • Beet 
  • Broccoli 
  • Brussel sprout 
  • Cauliflower 
  • Carrot 
  • Carrot tops 
  • Collard greens 
  • Corn 
  • Dandelion green 
  • Duckweed 
  • Foliage 
  • Kale 
  • Green beans 
  • Pepper 
  • Pumpkin 
  • Parsley 
  • Romain lettuce 
  • Root 
  • Sweet potato 
  • Seed 
  • Squash 
  • Stem 
  • Tomato 
  • Turnip greens 
  • Water lily 
  • Waterweed

You can add other greens to the list too. Just make sure the items are nutritious, contain less oxalate, and have proper calcium-phosphorus balance (3:1).

Moreover, some vegetables and leafy greens contain more water content and fewer minerals. For example, iceberg lettuce and cucumber. Making the turtles full on these items will lead to malnutrition.

Two other items that you should avoid are mushrooms and eggplant because of their toxicity to turtles.

2. Fruits (Occasional Treat)

  • Apples
  • Apricot 
  • Avocado 
  • Banana 
  • Blueberries 
  • Cantaloupe 
  • Coconut 
  • Cucumber 
  • Date 
  • Kiwi 
  • Lemon 
  • Lime 
  • Guava 
  • Grapes 
  • Honeydew 
  • Mulberry 
  • Nectarine 
  • Orange
  • Peach 
  • Pomegranate 
  • Prune 
  • Persimmon 
  • Resin 
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes 
  • Watermelon 

Turtles love munching on fruits. But these are high in sugar and include little beneficiary nutrients for these creatures. Hence, feeding the turtles fruits every day will only bring health disasters.

Instead, use the fruits as treats. For example, you can offer the yellow bellied turtles fruits to boost their appetite and motivate them to learn something new.

3. Animal Protein (20 – 25%)

  • Insect 
  • Bug 
  • Snail 
  • Shrimp 
  • Liver 
  • Black cricket 
  • Brown cricket 
  • Cockroach 
  • Crustaceans 
  • Chopped chicken 
  • Salmon 
  • Mice
  • Spider 
  • Locusts 
  • Tuna 
  • Mollusk 
  • Mealworm
  • Waxworm  
  • Earthworm 
  • Fish 
  • Crayfish 
  • Tadpole
  • Dragonflies larvae 
  • Carrion 

Yellow bellied turtles prefer animal proteins over plant matter. Yet, do not just fill the meals with protein and remember to throw in some greens to maintain a balance.

When selecting the protein, make sure the piece has low fat. Also, chop the big chunks and remove the bones before serving the yellow bellied turtles. These pets are not fans of condiments. So, no need to sprinkle salt or spice on the meals.

Experts encourage adding live insects to the diet. It keeps the turtles enthusiastic while boosting their appetite. But managing live insects is not always possible. You can feed the turtles packaged dried shrimp, worms, or insects in such cases.

Do Yellow Bellied Turtles Need Supplements?

Supplements are mandatory for any turtle species, including the yellow bellied turtles. See, you can not always fulfill the 100% mineral requirements of the turtles in captivity. So, in such cases, the supplements come in handy to back up the lackings and fight the deficiency.

Usually, calcium and vitamin D3 are a must in the diet. You can treat the multivitamins as optional. Sprinkling the supplements twice or thrice a week.

Well, calcium and vitamin D3 supplements help build the turtle a solid bone and shell structure. These additionals also play a significant role in combating MBD in yellow bellied turtles. Remember, the supplements are of no use if the enclosure lacks quality UV light.

On another note, turtles often hate the taste of calcium supplements. Hence, they keep avoiding meals with the powder. But don’t worry. I have come up with the right trick to provide calcium to your turtles.

Can You Feed Yellow Bellied Turtles Pellets?

Pellets are almost a staple for turtles. Well, vegetables, leafy greens, and animal proteins are not always enough to fulfill the mineral requirements of turtles. Hence, the vets always suggest adding pellets to the meals. 

But too many pellets can be harmful to the turtles. Do not exceed the pellet limit of over 25%.

11 Foods That Are Poisonous For Yellow Bellied Turtles

Certain types of foods do not suit a turtle’s digestive tract. For example,

  1. Dog food
  2. High fatty protein 
  3. Sausage 
  4. Burger 
  5. Bacon 
  6. Fries 
  7. Candy 
  8. Bakery items 
  9. Sweets 
  10. Milk 
  11. Cheese, etc. 

Well, the yellow bellied turtles will devour these foods without any complaint. But soon, the pets will start vomiting and show signs of diarrhoea. Thus, it is wiser to avoid processed items as much as possible.

How Much Should You Feed The Yellow Bellied Turtles?

Of course, yellow bellied turtles are opportunistic feeders. They inherit this feeding instinct from their wild ancestors. No wonder these turtles keep begging for food right after a full stomach. 

Well, just because your turtle is not saying no to the meals, you can not keep feeding it. If you do not follow the healthy quantity, the turtle will soon fall victim to obesity.

I follow 2 popular methods to measure the food quantity for my yellow bellied turtles. Such as,

1. 15-Minute Rule

As per this rule, you throw more than enough food in the yellow bellied turtle’s enclosure. Then you wait and let the pet grab as much food it wants in 15 minutes. The vets suggest this short feeding session is enough for the turtle to get full.

However, there is a risk of food wastage with this method.

2. Head Method

Imagine a bowl similar to the size of your yellow bellied turtle’s head if it were hollow. Now fill the container with the food items and offer them to your pet. Yes, this exactly is the head method.

At first, you may struggle to get the quantity straight. But continuing for days will help you guess the right meal amount.

One more thing. Turtle’s appetite changes with growing age. So, if you use a bowl to track the meal quantity of the pet, keep updating the container regularly.

How Often Should You Feed Your Yellow Bellied Turtle?

You already know that young yellow bellied turtles prefer animal protein and are considered carnivorous. Likewise, middle-aged turtles are on an omnivorous diet, while adults like to go all herbivorous.

In short, the appetite of yellow bellied turtles is not constant, and so is their feeding routine. It means with growing age, the turtles lose their appetite. So, you need to switch to a new meal schedule. Such as,

1. Feeding Schedule For Baby Yellow Bellied Turtles

The hatchlings are exposed to more diseases because of their weak immunity. Babies require more food than young and adult turtles to build a strong immunity and solid body structure.

So, feed your baby yellow bellied turtles every single day once or half the meal and offer them twice a day.

2. Feeding Schedule For Young Yellow Bellied Turtles

Usually, the young yellow bellied turtles (around 1-year-old) prefer an every-other-day feeding routine. Also, you can divide the meals into portions and feed the pets daily.

Yes, they are also at a growing age and need fuel to thrive. So, make sure the meals include all the necessary minerals, vitamins, and proteins.

3. Feeding Schedule For Adult Yellow Bellied Turtles

Well, adult yellow bellied turtles have the least appetite. Hence, feeding the pets once every 3 days is more than okay. Also, the meals must include more vegetables and greens.

Where & When To Feed The Yellow Bellied Turtles?

Every turtle has a special corner to have its meal. Recognize the favorite spot of your pet yellow bellied turtle. Generally, these turtles prefer eating in the water and sometimes on the dock. Notice the eating pattern of the creatures and offer them food at their spots.

Remove the leftovers as soon as possible, no matter where the turtles like to eat. Furthermore, installing a strong filter to keep the water chemistry healthy for the pets.

Moreover, turtles are the most hungry during the morning and evening. So, try offering the pets a meal during these hours. If you are too busy to maintain a feeding schedule for turtles, set up an automatic turtle feeder in the pen.

My Yellow Bellied Turtle Not Eating: What To Do?

Honestly, there can be many reasons why a yellow bellied turtle refuses to eat. I am giving off a brief on each cause, one by one,

1. Temperature Drop

The ideal water and basking temperature for yellow bellied turtles are 72F – 80F and 90 – 95F, respectively. A fall in this temperature slows the metabolism of these creatures. So, check the heat setting in the pen and increase the temperature if needed.

2. Hibernating

The pet may enter hibernation if the temperature is constantly down. It is in a deep sleep-like state, and the turtle does not eat or drink during this period. Though hibernation is natural and common in the wild, it can be dangerous for captive turtles. Talk to a vet if you catch your turtle hibernating, and wake it up by increasing the temperature slowly.

3. Illness

The most common symptom of any turtle disease is loss of appetite. So, if your yellow bellied turtle refuses food, look for the signs of physical illness. The pet will return to the usual feeding habit once healed.

4. Stress

Mental illness is common in the yellow bellied turtles. Disturbing the turtles, frequent touching, congested pen, improper temperature, etc., are enough to stress out the pets. Moreover, a bullying tank mate or trauma can also make the turtles anxious. A stressed turtle often shows no interest in food.

5. Boring Meals

You can not eat the same old meal every day. Right? Then how do you expect it from the turtles?

You must keep experimenting with the meals by adding and removing new items. But yes, the food must be safe and nutritious for the turtles.

Yellow Bellied Turtles Obesity & Other Diseases

A bad food habit can lead to unwanted physical conditions. For example,

1. Obesity

Overfeeding the yellow bellied turtles will cause obesity. The life of an obese turtle is definitely not blessed. Fat accumulation on the neck or limbs slows down the speed of the pets, and they can not even fully retract inside the shell. Besides, obesity increases the risk of kidney failure and liver diseases.

Following a strict diet and making the turtles work out every day can reverse the condition. Get your hands on all tricks to shape your fat turtle from this article.

2. Malnutrition

While overfeeding leads to obesity, underfeeding the turtles causes malnutrition. A meal with improper food selection will only make the turtles weak and vulnerable to diseases.

3. Pyramiding

Though yellow bellied turtles are big protein fans, overfeeding the animal matter can cause pyramiding. In this condition, turtles experience abnormal scute growth, which is irreversible. However, making the turtles eat a balanced diet with the right protein proportion can stop pyramiding.

4. Unhealthy Shedding

So turtles have this habit of shedding their shell as they grow. But overfeeding the turtles influences their growth, and so does the shedding process. It is tagged as unhealthy shedding. Controlling the diet and a trip to the vet can heal the pets from this condition.

Can You Hand Feed Yellow Bellied Turtles?

Many turtle owners love hand feeding their pets. Of course, some turtles may enjoy this, while others may despise it.

See, the turtles are very particular about their choices. If they like eating in water, forcing them to have a meal on the dock will only make the pets angry and stressed.

Therefore, run through your turtle’s habits first. If the pet is comfortable with hand feeding, go ahead by all means. But yes, use a glove and thong to avoid any painful bite from the yellow bellied turtle.

How Long Can Yellow Bellied Turtles Go Without Food?

Turtles have a slow metabolism, and yellow bellied turtles are no exception. As a result, the pets can go about a month without eating (of course, if the turtle is healthy).

In the cold season, the turtles experience a slower metabolism due to the drop in temperature. Hence, they stop eating or drinking altogether. Besides, the pets no longer participate in any activity and spend months sleeping. This is called hibernation.

A hibernating turtle can survive 4 – 6 months without food.

Remember, while the turtles can go months without food, they can not survive weeks without water. So, in any case, make sure the yellow bellied turtles have access to fresh water. 

One more thing.

Just because the turtles can survive months without meals, you should not force them to. Starving leads to malnutrition and a weak immune system. As a result, the pets will be exposed to severe and deadly diseases.

Before You Go

Only a feeding guide is not enough to raise a healthy yellow bellied turtle. But you will need a complete care sheet for this species. The attached article below illustrates all the in and out of caring foar a yellow bellied turtle.

How To Take Care Of Yellow Bellied Turtle (Diet, Disease, & Care Sheet)

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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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