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Fresh Plant Matter

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Fresh vegetables should always be offered, regardless if your RES shows interest in them. The right combination of vegetables can offer a balance of calcium and vitamins A and K. Aquatic plants are also beneficial, especially since it would be similar to what wild RES consume. Older RES especially should consume more vegetables and aquatic plants. Expect an adult to have a diet that is about 75% plant based. Be aware that there are some vegetables that have a poor calcium / phosphorus ratio and fruits are considered to be a small and rare treat. A lack of vegetables may also cause a Vitamin K deficiency. This shortage disrupts intestinal bacteria and may reveal itself with a bleeding mouth.

Collards and other plants from the Brassica group may also inhibit iodine absorption, resulting in goiters. Though that is not completely proven, they are considered to be acceptable in small amounts. Adding kelp, which is rich in iodine, is believed to counteract any potential effects. A high-purine diet can cause high levels of uric acid. This presence can lead to gout.
Comment: There are several good on-line sources of reference material regarding turtle feeding (see bottom of page) and we encourage you to read them. You will also discover occasional conflicting information in addition to old, uninformed statements. It is your decision on how you want to interpret this content for feeding information. This feeding list and guide will receive regular updates to provide up-to-date recommendations.
Fresh vegetable matter is highly recommended over their frozen counterparts. Although frozen varieties are convenient, they are only acceptable in limited usage. Thiaminase enzymes can develop in frozen greens, which would break down thiamin and result in a Vitamin B1 deficiency.

Greens and Vegetables

Beneficial and recommended (Staple foods)
This is the main volume of an adult slider’s diet. Younger RES should be introduced to these items early, though they may show no interest. A RES could safely receive these on a daily basis.
  • Dandelion leaves
  • Green Leaf lettuce
  • Red Leaf lettuce
  • Turnip greens (leaves only)

Moderate (Limited usage)
In small and occasional use, these vegetables help keep your turtle’s diet varied and balanced. These items have good nutritional value but may be potentially harmful if used in excessive quantities.
  • Carrots
  • Endives, Escarole, Chicory
  • Green bean
  • Kale
  • Pumpkin
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Squash
  • Sweet potato
  • Zucchini

Use rarely (Not a staple)
These items have little benefit compared to other options. They may serve as filler material, a “treat”, or to add variety. These should not be offered in an unbalanced diet. They may be potentially harmful if offered in excessive quantities. Limit the amount of collards (Brassica group) offered.
  • Collards (various)
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Mustard greens
  • Red pepper
  • Tomato

Not recommended (Medium and high-risk foods)
These vegetables provide little or no benefit and can be harmful for RES in excessive quantities and in unbalanced diets. These items are questionable and may contain goitrogenic compounds, large concentrations of oxalic and/or phosphorus. Most of these are part of the Brassica and Chenopodiacea groups.
  • Amaranth
  • Beet greens
  • Bok Choi / Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Celery
  • Chard
  • Chives
  • Mushroom
  • Parsley
  • Peas
  • Rhubarb
  • Spinach

Aquatic Plants

Aquatic plants are believed to be a very healthy part of a sliderís diet. This type of vegetation would naturally be available to wild RES and should present little risk. Aquatic plants are not readily available to most keepers and may be prove to be expensive if regularly used. In the effort to offer variety, these are good choices.
  • Amazon Swords
  • Anacharis*
  • Duckweed*
  • Frogbit
  • Hornwort
  • Nasturtium
  • Pondweed
  • Water Fern*
  • Water Hyacinth*
  • Water Lettuce
  • Water Lily*
  • Water Milfoil
  • Water Starwort
*Highly recommended


Fruit is not a natural food wild RES would normally encounter and its use should be limited to rare and in very small portions. They are generally high in sugar and can be offered as a treat or to entice eating. Like other plant material, they should be served fresh, raw and thoroughly washed. Seeds and skins should be removed, unless noted. These should only be offered once a month or less. Avoid giving your turtle any forms of nuts, pits or seeds.

Moderate (Limited usage)
  • Cantaloupe / Melon (rind optional)
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Prickly pear pads, fruit

Use rarely (Not a staple)
  • Apple (shredded)
  • Banana
  • Blackberry
  • Blueberry
  • Citrus (various)
  • Grape
  • Peach - Nectarine (pits removed)
  • Pear (various)
  • Plum - Cherry (pits removed)
  • Strawberry
  • Watermelon

Additional Resources

Nutrient Analysis of Replacement Turtle and Tortoise Foods http://www.chelonia.org/Articles/nutrientanalysis.htm

U.S. Native Turtle Menu

Article: Edible Plants List

Nutritional Data (Search tool)

Plants for a Future

Article - What Should I Feed My Turtle?

Anapsid - Harmful & Poisonous Plants

Herbicides, Pesticides and Fertilizers

Herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers are commonly used on vegetables and fruits. Since a large amount of a turtle's diet should come from vegetables, it is recommended to wash them with water thoroughly and to use organic varieties. If you provide insects or worms that you have caught yourself, do not use any that have been near herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers. If your neighbors use these and other chemicals, then you must consider it as a possible source of contamination.
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This page updated: 2011/01/28 Copyright © 2005-2011 Red Ear Slider. All rights reserved.