What To Feed A Baby Snapping Turtle? [Diet Guide]

What To Feed A Baby Snapping Turtle

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

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What ensures the healthy growth and long lifespan of a baby snapping turtle? If you ask me, I would say food without thinking twice. Of course, a well-equipped habitat and proper environment have equal roles, but food works as a fuel. And this article is going to be all about the baby snapping turtle’s diet. So, what to feed a baby snapping turtle?

Feed baby snapping turtles small pieces of fish, worms, insects, and commercial turtle pellets. Provide leafy greens and aquatic plants for a balanced diet.

Do you want a foolproof diet chart of a baby snapping turtle? Or are you wondering how much and how often to feed the hatchling? If the answers are yes, then this is the article you are looking for.

At the end of this write-up, you will be able to prepare a balanced meal for your pet all by yourself.

key takeaways

  • Experts recommend including a significant portion of greens in a baby snapping turtle’s diet, although hatchlings may prefer animal proteins with supplemental nutrition​.
  • While baby snapping turtles can eat fruits like strawberries and blueberries, these should be given as occasional treats rather than daily food to prevent stomach upset and malnutrition​.
  • Calcium and vitamin D3 supplements are crucial to a baby snapping turtle’s diet to support their health and development, with multivitamins also being beneficial​​.
  • Commercial foods like pellets should only constitute a quarter of the diet, with live foods offered periodically to maintain the turtle’s natural hunting behaviors and appetite​.
  • Despite being in captivity, baby snapping turtles retain a strong instinct to eat voraciously, akin to their behavior in the wild where they must forage for food​.

What To Feed A Baby Snapping Turtle?

As I have told you, baby snapping turtles are omnivorous, which means they eat both animal and plant matter.

At the primary stage of life, the hatchlings prefer eating more animal proteins. But of course, you need to add plants and vegetables to the list to balance the meal.

Here I will enlist all the possible foods that suit a baby snapping turtle,

safe Animal Protein list for baby snapping turtles

  • Feeder fish
  • Shrimps
  • Crayfish
  • Tadpole
  • Frog
  • Cricket
  • Snails
  • Bloodworm
  • Earthworm
  • Mealworm
  • Rodent
  • Mice
  • Carrion
  • Small bird
  • Spider
  • Snakes
  • Shredded chicken, beef, bacon

As you can see, a baby snapping turtle can feast on almost all animal proteins. But of course, many of the items are not available for the captive baby snapping turtles. When choosing the food options for your pet, go for the safe options like feeder fish, crayfish, worms, shredded chicken, beef, etc.

In the wild, snapping turtles survive and collect food by hunting down small animals. So, their appetite might not match the captive ones.

Again, there are two subspecies of snapping turtles, common snapping turtles and alligator snapping turtles. While alligator snapping turtles are fierce hunters with sharp, powerful jaws and claws, the common snapping turtles are at a step behind.

So, if an alligator snapping turtle can devour carrion or any other mid-sized animal, do not expect the same from the common snapping turtle.

I have mentioned all the possible food options for your snapping turtle hatchling. As the species is not picky eaters, they will eat anything you provide. But I suggest choosing safer options while you are handling a baby. Consult an expert for any advice.

safe Plants And Vegetables list for baby snapping turtles

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Collard greens
  • Water hyacinths
  • Waterweed
  • Duckweed
  • Kale
  • Mustard green
  • Leafy greens
  • Red leaf salad
  • Parsley
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Beet green
  • Dandelion green
  • Turnip greens
  • Dill weed
  • Carrot
  • Cucumbers

You know, baby snapping turtles are omnivorous. So, adding plants and vegetables to the meal is equally significant for their healthy growth.

Experts suggest including half the amount of greens in the baby snapping turtle meals. It can be 4 to 5 leaves or chopped vegetables.

However, sometimes turtles are not interested in having greens, especially the hatchlings. What will you do then?

Well, it has been seen that baby snapping turtles often refuse to eat vegetables. All they want is animal proteins with a sprinkle of supplements.

There is no harm in feeding your hatchlings an all-animal meal for the first six months. But yes, after that period, you must include vegetables in the diet.

Owners often suggest reducing the animal matter portion in the meal and replacing the rest with plants. They claim that a hungry turtle will eat anything you offer. You can apply this trick or ask a vet for better advice.

snapping turtle in tank
Owner: Josh Kelley

safe Fruits list for baby snapping turtles

  • Strawberry
  • Raspberry
  • Blueberry
  • Banana
  • Peach
  • Melon
  • Apple
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew
  • Pear
  • Mangoes
  • Grapes
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Have you ever asked yourself, “Can snapping turtles eat fruits?” The answer is yes, and in fact, fruits like strawberry, blueberry, banana, peach, etc., are their favorite.

Like humans, the taste of snapping turtles varies from one to another. So, if one baby snapping turtle loves blueberries, not all hatchlings need to eat the same. Try out new fruits to find out the preferences of the babies.

However, do not include fruits in the everyday meal of the baby snapping turtle. Fruits are an occasional treat for the hatchlings and boost their appetite. Frequent feeding can upset their stomach and cause malnutrition.

safe Supplements for baby snapping turtles

  • Calcium powder
  • Vitamin D3
  • Multivitamins

Of course, it is not mandatory to include each of the supplements mentioned above. Most experts suggest adding calcium and vitamin D3 supplements to the daily meal. It is because lack of these minerals threatens the life of a baby snapping turtle.

Multivitamins include all the necessary vitamins that a baby snapping turtle needs. So, many owners prefer adding this supplement to the baby’s diet.

Do you know why baby snapping turtles require supplements? Let me explain it to you.

Babies are born vulnerable and badly in need of nutrition for growth. Vitamins, protein, calcium, and other minerals contribute to the healthy development of hatchlings.

But how do the baby snapping turtles get all these nutrients? Yes, from food.

However, sometimes the foods we provide are not enough to fulfill the needs of the hatchlings. In those cases, the babies lack minerals and exhibit symptoms of deficiency. Any disease of the hatchlings can be proven severe and may cost a life.

It is better to provide the baby snapping turtles with dietary supplements to avoid such circumstances. I recommend you consult your vet before trying out any new brand or product.

Pet Turtle Diet & Feeding Chart

Pet Turtle Diet Feeding Chart

For a printable version of this amazing diet chart, click here!

importance of calcium supplementation for baby snapping turtle’s shell growth

Calcium supplementation is crucial for the proper growth and development of baby snapping turtles, particularly for their shell and bone health. A snapping turtle’s diet should contain adequate calcium to promote healthy shell development and overall bone health.

The shell of a healthy turtle should be hard and smooth, and any softness or deformities can indicate calcium deficiency.

A lack of sufficient calcium can lead to a slow growth rate in baby turtles, and in severe cases, it may cause stunted growth.

To avoid such deficiencies, it is recommended to dust the turtle’s food with a calcium powder specifically designed for reptiles, which provides an additional boost of this essential mineral ensuring they receive ample amounts for their growth.

Moreover, inadequate calcium can lead to Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD), a common condition in baby turtles that hinders their proper growth and can lead to weakened bones and deformities.

To prevent these health issues, calcium and vitamin supplements are essential, which can be dusted over their food before feeding. Calcium aids in the development of strong shells, while vitamins are vital for overall health and immune function.

In summary, providing baby snapping turtles with calcium-rich foods or supplements is a key aspect of their care to ensure healthy shell and bone development and to prevent diseases associated with calcium deficiency.

3 snapping turtles in a row
Owner: Josh Kelley

recommended Commercial Foods for baby snapping turtles

  • Pellets
  • Dried worms and insects

Generally, pellets and dried or frozen foods are the only sources of protein for the captive snapping turtles. But do not overdo the items, which might lead to unhealthy growth.

Experts suggest including only 25% of commercial foods in the daily meal.

It is hard to manage live food. But you might find local pet stores that sell live insects, worms, and fishes for the baby snapping turtles.

You should feed your pet the live foods from time to time to keep the wild instinct alive. Also, hunting down prey makes the whole feasting interesting and boosts the pet’s appetite.

N.B: While buying live foods for the baby snapping turtles, shop from any reputed source. Picking up insects, worms, or fishes from the wild is not recommended.

How Often Should You Feed A Baby Snapping Turtle?

Even though you are raising a baby snapping turtle in captivity, it has a wild instinct of voracious eating. In the wild, the turtles have to struggle to collect daily meals. So they feast on whatever they get. No wonder why your pet never gets tired of eating.

Will you keep feeding the baby snapping turtle just because it is accepting the meal? Of course not. Remember, both underfeeding and overfeeding are dangerous for the hatchling’s health.

So, how often should you feed the baby snapping turtles?

Experts suggest feeding the hatchlings once or twice, every day for the first 6 months. Switch to an every other day feeding schedule right after their juvenile period starts.

Usually, the baby snapping turtles are most hungry in the early morning and early evening. Offer them food during those hours, and the pets will eat with a great appetite.

It often happens that baby turtles get familiar with the sight of the owner. Whenever the keeper comes close to the tank, the hatchlings come to the surface and start begging for meals. Do not take pity for this innocent act and feed them food. Turtles can still eat even after having a full belly.

snapping turtle screaming
Owner: Josh Kelley

How Much Should You Feed A Baby Snapping Turtle?

Now that you know how often to feed the baby snapping turtle, have you thought about the quantity of meal to offer? Well, it is similarly important to measure the right amount of food for the hatchling. Otherwise, there is always a risk of overfeeding or underfeeding.

See also  How To Take Care Of A Baby Snapping Turtle?

You can feed your baby snapping turtle following different techniques. But, here I will discuss the two most popular methods. Such as,

  1. The 15-minute rule
  2. The head method

The 15-Minute Rule

The 15-minute technique is simple to understand and follow. Provide the baby snapping turtle with a lot of food and leave the meal for 15 minutes. Remove the leftovers when the time is up.

Experts suggest that a turtle will have a full belly in the first 15 minutes. If you still keep the food in the enclosure, the pet might continue eating even if it is not hungry.

I personally recommend following the 15 minutes rule for feeding the baby snapping turtles because it eliminates the risk of underfeeding or overfeeding. I understand there can be food waste. But with management skills, you can reuse the leftovers on the next meal of the pet.

The Head Method

The head method is more complicated, but there is no chance of food wasting. As per the method, you need to feed the baby snapping turtle in such a quantity that would fit in the pet’s head if it were hollow. Sounds confusing? Let me break it down for you.

Take a small bowl or container about the size of your baby snapping turtle. Fill it with the protein and plants, and then feed the pet.

At first, you might find it challenging to determine the food quantity. But with time, you will get adjusted to the system.

snapping turtle tank
Owner: Josh Kelley

How To Feed A Baby Snapping Turtle?

When you are well aware of the feeding quantity and frequency, you should focus on the feeding technique. You know baby snapping turtles are aquatic, and they prefer having their meals in water. So, you have to offer them food where they desire.

I have seen owners using small containers to measure the meal for the baby snapping turtle. It is definitely a wise decision. However, you can install a turtle feeder inside the enclosure for easy food maintenance.

Also, the appetite of a snapping turtle changes with age. So, you need to keep an eye on the growth of the pet.

For a foolproof care sheet of a baby snapping turtle, check this article.

Baby Snapping Turtle Not Eating: Why?

Turtles refusing to eat is a common scenario. Many reasons can be responsible for such behavior, for example, sickness, cold environment, etc.

Here are the probable cause and solutions to the appetite loss of your pet snapping turtle hatchling,

1. Cold Environment:

You know the snapping turtles are cold-blooded species, and they need external heating sources to regulate body temperature. A drop in the habitat temperature slows down the metabolism of the babies, which is why they might refuse to eat.

Generally, an enclosure temperature of around 80 degrees suits the snapping turtle hatchlings.

If your pet turtle is refusing to eat, check the temperature first. Set it back to the required zone, and soon the baby will start eating again.

2. Sickness:

I always say that baby snapping turtles are vulnerable due to weak immunity. Whenever the hatchlings fall sick, there are a few common symptoms. Such as,

  • Appetite loss
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Runny nose
  • Frequent basking, etc.

If your baby snapping turtle is not eating like before, look for any signs of illness. Take the pet to a vet for a thorough check-up.

3. Boring Meals:

You can not eat the same type of food every day for the rest of your life. Right? How can you expect the same from your baby snapping turtle?

When you feed the hatchling the same food every day, it will lose its appetite and refuse to eat at one point. Keep bringing variety to the meal every now and then and explore the taste of your pet.

Offering occasional treats like fruits and live foods often boost the baby snapping turtle’s appetite.

4. Stress:

If you have just bought your baby snapping turtle, it might take a few days for the baby to settle in the new environment. The home is still unfamiliar to the pet, and new faces can stress it. As a result, the hatchling might refuse to eat at all. Give the pet a few days, and it will get adopted to the feeding schedule soon.

Owner: Josh Kelley

What Happens If You Overfeed A Baby Snapping Turtle?

Malnutrition or deficiency increases the possibilities of more diseases among the baby snapping turtles. Similarly, overfeeding also puts the health of the hatchlings at risk.

Overfeeding not only causes obesity but is also the reason behind liver and kidney failure. If you increase the protein level in your baby snapping turtle’s diet, the pet will experience fast growth. Though its carapace will grow faster than usual, it is still unhealthy.

Frequent and unscheduled shedding is the sign of overfeeding protein. Also, the babies may suffer from pyramiding and other diseases.

what do baby snapping turtles eat in the wild?

In the wild, baby snapping turtles have a diverse and omnivorous diet, often eating a variety of animal and plant-based foods. Their diet includes small animals such as carrion, birds, frogs, shrimp, smaller turtles, fish, crayfish, snakes, spiders, worms, and amphibians​.

See also  How Long Can A Snapping Turtle Be Out Of Water?

They also consume reptiles and amphibians found in or near water, including water snakes, salamanders, frogs, and tadpoles, and sometimes even other turtles​​.

Baby snapping turtles enjoy blood worms, fish, shrimps, and a variety of other animals, indicating a strong preference for protein-rich foods.

It’s important to note that while protein is a significant part of their diet, they also require plant matter for a balanced diet, which in the wild would include aquatic vegetation and possibly algae​.

Depending on their habitat and availability of food sources, baby snapping turtles will eat whatever they can find, including slow-moving fish, eels, water snakes, crayfish, frogs, amphibians, worms, and insects.

The exact composition of their diet can vary based on the region they inhabit​. They are known for their opportunistic feeding habits, which means they will hunt a variety of animals and plants, including fish, frogs, worms, small turtles, insects, and small mammals​​.

This variety in their diet is crucial for their growth and development, providing a balance of nutrients necessary for their survival in the wild.

what do baby alligator snapping turtles eat?

Baby alligator snapping turtles in the wild have a unique and specialized diet that reflects their status as opportunistic ambush predators.

Unlike most turtles, alligator snappers possess an oral predatory lure, which is a specialized, worm-like appendage on their tongue that they use to attract prey. When a fish approaches this lure, mistaking it for a worm, the turtle snaps its jaws shut to capture the prey​​.

As highly piscivorous creatures, alligator snapping turtles focus on eating fish but are not picky predators; their diet includes a broad range of aquatic organisms.

Baby alligator snapping turtles consume crayfish, freshwater mussels, salamanders, juvenile alligators, other turtles, snakes (including venomous ones like Cottonmouths), wood ducks, and carrion.

Despite their preference for live prey, they are also known to eat acorns, wild grapes, palmetto berries, and other fruits that fall into the water​.

They have a particular fondness for smaller turtles and are known to prey on musk turtles, which are common in the habitats where alligator snappers live. These snappers are capable of detecting the odors of musk turtles in the water, while musk turtles can also sense the presence of alligator snappers, often avoiding them if possible​.

In terms of foraging behavior, alligator snapping turtles can be quite sedentary, sometimes remaining in the same spot for weeks and using their lure to attract prey without much movement.

However, they can also be active foragers, especially at night, walking along the bottoms of bodies of water in search of food​.

Overall, baby alligator snapping turtles’ diet in the wild consists of a wide variety of animals and some plant-based foods, reflecting their adaptability and opportunistic nature as predators.

snapping turtle on rocky road

try to avoid refined sugars and processed foods for baby snapping turtles

Refined sugars and processed foods can be harmful to their health because they do not provide the nutritional benefits that baby snapping turtles require for proper growth and development​.

In the wild, baby snapping turtles would not encounter refined sugars or processed foods. Their diet would consist of a variety of proteins, plants, insects, and perhaps fruits that provide the necessary nutrients.

Feeding baby snapping turtles foods high in refined sugars or that are heavily processed could lead to health problems, including obesity, malnutrition, or metabolic diseases, as these foods would not meet their nutritional needs.

It is essential to mimic their natural diet as closely as possible to ensure their well-being.

can you offer live prey to baby snapping turtles?

Yes, you can offer live prey to baby snapping turtles. In the wild, snapping turtles are opportunistic predators and their natural diet includes a variety of live prey such as fish, insects, and worms.

Offering live prey can help replicate a more natural diet and stimulate their hunting instincts, which is beneficial for their overall health and well-being.

It’s important to ensure that the live prey offered is suitable for the size of the turtle to prevent any potential injury to the turtle.

dietary transition from hatchling to adult snapping turtle

The dietary transition from hatchling to adult snapping turtle involves several stages marked by changes in physical characteristics and feeding behavior.

Hatchlings start with a soft shell and are tiny and vulnerable, primarily hiding and feeding on small aquatic invertebrates.

As baby snapping turtles grow, they become more active and start hunting larger prey like fish and insects. Their jaws and claws increase in size, enabling them to capture and consume larger prey items.

The feeding preferences of hatchlings typically include a variety of insects, worms, small fish, and aquatic plants.

They are opportunistic feeders, taking advantage of available food sources, which is crucial for their growth and development​.


Baby snapping turtles are omnivorous and eat both animal and plant matter. Sprinkle supplements on the meals of the hatchlings to avoid the risk of deficiency. The occasional treat of fruits and live insects is good for boosting the appetite. If you ever get confused over the diet of your pet baby snapping turtle, consult a vet to clear the doubts.

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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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