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Animal, Insect, Fish Based Foods

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Sliders are very omnivorous and will more than gladly take live prey. The variety of prey you can offer includes various insects, snails, small fish and worms. Offering live prey can be exciting for both the keeper and turtle but there are certain concerns and restrictions. Live prey may not contain much nutritional content and may harbor parasites and diseases. A small turtle can also be hurt from a larger prey or by one with a tough exoskeleton. Fish may contain thiaminase, an enzyme that destroys Vitamin B1 (thiamin). Shellfish may contain bacteria that causes shell rot and may be high in purines.

Though RES may readily eat anything, it is the responsibility of the keeper to offer a varied and balanced diet. The items of this section should be used as moderate and rare treats in small portions. These items can also be useful to entice a reluctant RES to eat. For an increase in benefit, certain live foods and commercially made treats may be fortified with vitamins and calcium though “dusting” or “gut-loading”. Be certain that the foods you use are clean and free from biological and chemical contaminates and pollutants.
Comment: There are some in the turtle community that use foods that we do not recommend. These opinions will vary and no one is either entirely correct or incorrect, though we will warn of potential hazards when possible. There are also uninformed keepers, pet store employees and just about anyone else has an opinion on what to feed turtles. Experiment with what is recommended here and not what you want to try on a whim. Consequently, foods not recommended here are not advisable without additional research on your part.

Aquatics (Live Prey)

Aquatic creatures are viewed as a good way to offer some variety and prey for your turtles. Even though they may not have the same nutritional density of other foods, it is recommended that they be used in limited amounts. Younger RES will already have a primary protein source from pellets and older RES should be fed mainly vegetables. There is a greater presence of parasites and disease in wild caught foods. Unfortunately, store bought prey may also harbor them and they may have been kept in poor and stressful conditions. Be aware of offering something that may be difficult to digest or swallow.

Moderate (Limited usage)
    Freshwater snails
  • Apple snail
  • Pond snail
    Feeder fish
  • Guppies
  • Rosy red minnows

Use rarely (Not a staple)
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Ghost shrimp
  • Brine shrimp

Not recommended (Medium and high-risk foods)
  • Crayfish
  • Goldfish

Insects & Worms (Live Prey)

Insects such as crickets and earthworms are good choices to use as the occasional treat. Live varieties are usually not very nutritious, though some can be “gut-loaded” or “dusted” to enhance what they might be deficient in. Some people also choose to catch or dig up these treats for their turtles. It is fine under most circumstances but not a good idea if you or your neighbors use herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals in your yards and gardens. If they are used in your general area, then you must consider them as a possible source of contamination.

Moderate (Limited usage)
  • Crickets (Pinhead)
    (preferably gut-loaded or dusted)
  • Earthworms
  • Silkworms

Use rarely (Not a staple)
  • Waxworms

Not recommended (Medium and high-risk foods)
  • Mealworms
  • Slugs
  • Tubifex worms

Commercial Turtle Treats
(Canned, Processed, Frozen or Freeze-dried)

Prey frozen for more than 30 days as well as freeze-dried offerings should be parasite free. Freezing, however, does not remove thiaminase from fish and frozen prey must be thawed before they are used. Avoid the generous quantity described by the product’s instructions and severely limit these treats. These processed varieties will likely have some added nutrients, though some will have excessively high protein and/or sodium. They may be useful as a quick treat or to entice eating.

Moderate (Limited usage)
  • Bloodworms
  • Crickets (Pinhead)
    (preferably gut-loaded or dusted)

Use rarely (Not a staple)
  • Brine shrimp
  • Feeder fish (Frozen)
  • Gammarus (Shrimp)
  • Krill (Shrimp-like invertebrate)

Not recommended (Medium and high-risk foods)
  • Mealworms
  • Snails (De-shelled)
  • Tubifex worms

Other (Various)

There are various other foods that are intended for people or other animals that may be offered to turtles. While some of these items can be useful as a treat or to entice eating, they might require careful preparation and there are many things to avoid. Never feed your turtle raw meat since it is very unhealthy and a contamination risk. Processed and canned foods contain large amounts of sodium, additives and preservatives that may be unhealthy.

Use rarely (Not a staple)
  • Boiled egg whites
  • Boiled white chicken, turkey meat
  • Salmon (Canned – in water)
  • Tuna fish (Canned – in water)

Not recommended (Medium and high-risk foods)
  • Anchovies, Herring, Mackerel, Sardines
  • Beef, hamburger meat (cooked or raw)
  • Bread, grain, pasta
  • Cat or dog food
  • Deli meats
  • Eggshells (crushed or powdered)
  • Pinkies - Mice
  • Pork (cooked or raw)
  • Poultry – Chicken, Turkey (raw)
  • Scallops
  • Shellfish, Shrimp
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This page updated: 2011/01/28 Copyright © 2005-2011 Red Ear Slider. All rights reserved.