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Frequency and Quantity

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Update: Our guideline recommendation has been slightly reduced.

There are many opinions and suggestions regarding the amount of proper feeding we should offer our turtles. The information presented represents a guideline suitable for RES. Hatchlings or turtles under a year old should be given pellets daily. It is appropriate to offer vegetables daily - even if they initially refuse. You may have to try different varieties to see which kind your RES would take. RES over a year old should be given pellets every other day or every two days.

There are various ideas on the quantity of pellets you should feed your turtle. Hatchlings should receive more protein in their diet - approximately 50% of their entire diet. Since turtle pellets can contain more than 40% protein (Reptomin for instance), adding the occasional cricket, guppy or earthworm can round out their diet. For older turtles, pellets should comprise between 10-25% of the diet.

Turtle pellet colors, shapes and sizes vary between brands and product instructions are often too generous. A general guideline calls for the amount of pellets to be roughly 2/3 compared to the size of their heads (excluding their necks). Remember, pellets should only be offered every other day for yearlings and adults.
Note: Commercial pellets should still be the staple of your turtle's diet. They are specially formulated, but they should not be the only food that you offer them. The high protein content in pellets allows you to offer them in smaller quantities. Often products' packaging might list different estimates on how much to feed. Just be aware of the quantity you are feeding and take steps to ensure that your RES is receiving a balanced diet and is not overfed.
Turtles are very opportunistic and will eat despite not being hungry. If there is constant begging, then this is a good opportunity to offer vegetables such as red leaf lettuce, which is also calcium rich. Avoid overestimating your turtle’s need to eat and avoid offering too much food. Some RES will eat more than is healthy while for others, it will only produce more waste in the water.


Red ear sliders can be very aggressive beggars and many inexperienced keepers, supplied only with pellets, often give in to this begging. Overfeeding is also a result of other people besides the owner offering additional pellets to turtles without consideration to the overall quantity a RES should receive. This excessive amount of protein causes accelerated growth, premature sexuality, shell disfigurements (pyramiding), and even organ failure.

Feeding directions on these products are often too generous and vague. An example would be (from Ecotherm Aquatic Turtle Medley): “Feed daily, do not feed more than turtle will consume at each feeding. The amount per feeding will depend on size and preference of your pet.” The overfeeding of pellets is a serious problem and our general guideline calls for the amount of pellets to be roughly 2/3 in proportion to the size of their heads (excluding their necks).

Turtle Pellets

ReptoMin These types of food should be the staple of your slider's diet. While color, shape, and size may vary, quality will also vary. With the different brands available, you may have to try a few before you find a variety your turtle will enjoy. Pellets are specially formulated for “optimal” nutrition but can carry a significant amount of protein. Feeding directions on these products are often too generous and owners often give in to begging. Be careful of them.

A general guideline used by most experienced keepers calls for the amount of pellets to be in proportion to the size of their heads (excluding their necks). Remember, pellets should be offered every day to hatchlings and only offered every other day for yearlings and adults.

Read and understand the packaging label to ensure that proper calcium and vitamins are included. Calcium content should always be offered in a greater quantity than phosphorus.

Here are some reputable brands that are very popular:
  • Fluker's Aquatic Turtle Diet
  • HBH Turtle Bites
  • Mazuri Fresh Water Turtle Diet*
  • Omega One Turtle Sticks*
  • Nutrafin Turtle Gammarus
  • Rep-Cal Aquatic Turtle Food
  • Tetra ReptoMin
  • Wardley Reptile Sticks
  • Zoo Med Aquatic Turtle Food
*Highly recommended

Here is a sample of the nutritional content:
 Tetra ReptoMinMazuri Fresh Water Turtle Diet
Crude Protein (Min.)42.5%40%
Crude Fat (Min.)8.5%10%
Phosphorus (Min.)1.8% 1.3%
Calcium (Min.)2.0% 2.0%

Please note the high amount of protein and always make sure there is good calcium to phosphorus ratio. Various sources of additional calcium can be found in vegetables such as red leaf lettuce or a supplement such as Rep-Cal or cuttlebone.
Comment: If your hatchling came with its own pellets then it is likely that the pellet is of low quality with little nutritional benefit. If the seller is selling a turtle illegally, then that is even more reason to discard the suspect food even if your turtle is willing to eat them. Purchasing a container of new pellets at a pet store is easy and highly recommended.
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This page updated: 2016/10/08 Copyright © 2005-2016 Red Ear Slider. All rights reserved.