What Do Baby Turtles Eat? (Diet, Care & Feeding Tips) (2023)

There are over 300 known turtle species. What is your baby turtle’s species? These animals eat what they can find in their natural habitat.

If you don’t know your baby turtle’s species, first, find out whether he/she is an omnivore, carnivore, or herbivore.

Fair warning, turtles are cool exotic pets that come with high maintenance. Are you ready for the task?

Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

  • Baby Turtle Habits And Biology
  • Do Baby Turtles Eat Dirt?
  • What Do Baby Turtles Like to Eat Most?
  • Food Avoid To Feed Feeding A Baby Turtle
  • Tips to Feed Baby Turtles
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Summary

Baby Turtle Habits And Biology

What Do Baby Turtles Eat? (Diet, Care & Feeding Tips) (1)

Baby turtles are called hatchlings. They are reptiles and cold-blooded. That means you will have to regulate your animal’s temperatures. At extremely low temperatures, they can’t function. At high temperatures, they suffer. Keep them warm.

Turtle Shells

Turtles can’t get out of their shells.The turtle’s shell is connected to its skeleton and vertebrae. The shell has over 50 bones, including the ribcage.

The shell grows with the turtle. It is covered in scutes that shed as the turtle grows. You can do creative stuff with the scutes.

How Turtles Breathe

Baby turtles breathe through their lungs. You will spot the external nares in front of their face. They have to come above the water to breathe. But when they go under,pet turtles can last more than 30 minutes without coming back up for another breathe. Sea turtles last hours underwater!

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Turtles Have Beaks

Theprehistoric turtles did have teeth, but not anymore. The current turtles have beaks, and they bite with these.If your baby turtle is the snappy alligator turtle, do not feed her with your fingers.

Turtle Habitats

You will find turtles all over the world, except in Antarctica. Most turtles spend some time in the water. Land turtles are different from water turtles.While land turtles (like the box turtles) have webbed feet, sea turtles have flippers to swim quickly. Sea turtles only come to the beaches to hatch; right before abandoning the eggs.

Between the sea turtles and land turtles, we have aquatic turtles like the famous red-eared slider turtle. Land turtles are considered semi-aquatic.

Turtles Are Not Pets

Turtles are neither cuddly nor social. They don’t even like to interact with other turtles. Once you place them in an aquarium, only remove them when feeding or cleaning. Moving them around is pretty stressful.

Turtles are only good to watch them swim and feed them. But rearing a baby turtle protects turtles from extinction. Most baby turtles die in the first days of their lives. They are very fragile.

Did You Know This About Turtles?

Turtles existed way before humanity!They have been around since the age of dinosaurs.And they can outlive you.

It’s a shame that humans have played a big part in reducing the number of turtles worldwide.

Even a tortoise is a type of land turtle.

Do Baby Turtles Eat Dirt?

What Do Baby Turtles Eat? (Diet, Care & Feeding Tips) (2)

Sea turtles do not eat dirt. But land turtles that spend their time in ponds? They do! They may eat dirt when craving minerals like calcium. Soil is rich in calcium. Or they may collect sand while snacking.

You may notice your baby turtle eating soil in the turtle tank. That could be because he confused dirt for food. A little dirt is not poisonous. The only challenge with eating dirt is impaction from eating excess dirt.

(Video) How To Feed Red-Eared Slider Turtle (Complete Feeding Guide)

If your little guy is eating dirt, offer some food. Turtles spend their day swimming, looking for food, and eating it. They are wild animals.

What Do Baby Turtles Like to Eat Most?

What Do Baby Turtles Eat? (Diet, Care & Feeding Tips) (3)

Turtle pellets are a baby turtle’s favorite meal. They are easy to chew and swallow.

Baby turtles, no matter whether herbivores or carnivores, start as omnivores. A hatchling’s diet is mostly protein and calcium (in animals). But as they grow older, they switch to a more plant-based diet.

Only tortoises are exclusively herbivores from the hatchling till old age.

Nonetheless, some turtles like the snappy alligator are more carnivores. They have strong jaws to crush their prey. They are predators.

The best thing about turtles is that they are opportunistic feeders. Their survival instinct tells them to eat whenever they can. So very likely, they will adapt to any meal, and even keep begging for more and more.

What To Feed Your Baby Turtles?

  • Proteins and calcium. Protein accelerates the turtle’s growth, and calcium takes care of the bones. But be careful not to overdo or underdo anything. Moderation is key.
  • Baby turtles love to eat turtle pellets. Commercially processed turtle pellets have the right balance of proteins (moderate), phosphorous(low), calcium(high), cabs(low), and other essential nutrients. They are mostly animal matter.

Some of the best pellets to feed your baby turtles include:

These pellets are great, but don’t rely solely on them. Remember that your baby turtle is a wild animal. In their natural habitat, turtles eat snails, worms, even plants.

So, as you give your hatchlings commercial pellets, also offer natural meals. Look at your baby turtle’s mouth. What can she handle?

  • Catch some crickets, mealworms, earthworms, shrimps, grasshoppers, or caterpillars, and chop them into pieces that won’t chock your little friend.
  • Plants? Absolutely!Even though your hatchling will not show any interest in the plants for the first weeks, you should offer the plants. Let your hatchling smell and know about plants.

Introduce your hatchlings to vegetables like:

(Video) Feeding BABY TURTLES!

  • Dandelion greens
  • Water lettuce
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Cooked carrots
  • Strawberries. Adult turtles love strawberries.

If you give your baby turtle papaya, remove the seeds. You can even blend the vegetables.

Always add calcium sources like processed calcium powder, crushed eggshells, or cuttlebone.

Mix up different pellet brands plus natural things.The most important thing about feeding your baby turtle is variety and moderation.

Eating the same food every day is boring, even for a turtle. You can add some fun into the meal by throwing in small live worms. It will also exercise the turtle. These are occasional treats. Don’t let her get used to the good stuff, else you will have a picky eater.

If you own a carnivore pet turtle, give more flesh, and if you own a herbivore, give more plants. If you own an omnivore, give both plants and animals.

Food Avoid To Feed Feeding A Baby Turtle

What Do Baby Turtles Eat? (Diet, Care & Feeding Tips) (4)

Avoid giving your hatchlings the following foods:

  • Citrus fruits.Oranges and lemons irritate their digestive tract.
  • Raw meat. Raw meat often carries salmonella that also infects turtles. Turtles are also salmonella carriers!
  • Goldfish. These have thiaminase (an enzyme) that destroys the much-needed vitamin B1.
  • Shellfish.These may have a harmful bacterium that rots the turtle’s shells.
  • Toxic plantslike ivy, nightshade, mistletoe, foxglove, aconite, azalea, sweet pea, and oleander.
  • Dairy products. Reptiles do not consume or digest dairy products.
  • Processed sugary thingslike chocolates and candy. Stick to natural products.

Caution With Live Feeds.

Live feeds often come with parasites, pesticides, and infections. If you will use live feeds, either catch them yourself, breed them, or buy from reputable pet stores to avoid chemicals.

Live feeds that like crabs and scorpions can harm your pet.

Tips to Feed Baby Turtles

  • Baby turtles can stay weeks after hatching before ever taking a meal. It’s okay. Be patient. These adorable creatures can last long without food.
  • If your turtle refuses to eat, try moving them to a smaller tank. You can also try reptile stimulants to jumpstart their appetite. If all fails, let a turtle expert examine your pet.
  • Feed your turtle in a separate shoebox filled with water up to an inch higher than your turtle’s shell width. Feeding separately reduces pollution in the aquarium. It is also great if your turtles associate the show box with feeding. It creates a feeding routine.
  • Always feed your turtles in the water. The water soaks up the pellets, and it also helps the turtle to swallow the food.
  • If the water temperature is too low, your turtle may not feel like eating. Use an aquarium heater to raise the temperatures to anywhere between 75 to 82 degrees Farenheight. High temperatures make them active and eat more.
  • Your turtle may choose not to eat when you are watching them. In such a case, leave the turtle with the food then come back later to empty the leftovers.
  • Even when you have land turtles (like a box turtle), always provide a place to soak up.
  • Wash your hands whenever you handle your turtle to prevent spreading salmonella.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Do Baby Turtles Eat? (Diet, Care & Feeding Tips) (5)

1. Can Baby Turtles Get Attached To Their Owners?

Turtles have poor short-term memory, but they don’t forget things that help them survive.Your pet turtle may recognize you, not as the owner, but more like the food source.They have an excellent long-term memory to remember you even after a long absence

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2. What Do Baby Turtles Need?

  • Clean water
  • Heat
  • UV-B and UV-A rays
  • Variety of food that is as close to its natural thing.
  • Calcium and vitamin D3 to help in calcium absorption.
  • A basking spot.

3. Are There Human Foods That Baby Turtles Eat?

Yes. You cangive your hatchling boiled chicken, egg whites, and turkey. You can also feed them with canned (in water) tuna and salmon.

4. How Often Do You Feed A Baby Turtle?

Feed your baby turtles at least once every day. Feed them as many pellets as would fit inside their head if it was hollow.

5. Do Baby Turtles Need Water?

Yes, baby turtles need water to soak up and stay hydrated.

6. Do Baby Turtles Drink Water?

Yes, turtles drink the water that they swim in. That is why you should invest in an efficient filtration system to clean up the water regularly.

7. How Much Water Should You Put In A Baby Turtle Tank?

You need 10 gallons of water per turtle’s inch.Red-eared sliders require a minimum of 20 gallons of water.

7. Which Baby Turtles Stay Small When Adults?

According toReptile Guide, these turtles will stay small even as adults:

  • Mississippi mud turtles
  • Bog turtles
  • Common Musk turtles
  • Michigan spotted turtles
  • Reeves turtles

8. Can Baby Turtles Drown?

Yes, baby turtles can drown, especially if you put them in very deep water.

9. Will A Baby Turtle Eat Your Fish?

Yes,baby turtles will eat your small fish. If you have a red-eared slider, it will very likely eat the small fish you put in your aquarium.


Baby turtles are omnivores. As hatchlings, they prefer more animal matter. You can expect your hatchlings to eat vegetables from the tenth week.

Baby turtles start out as animal lovers and grow up to be plant lovers.

If at any point you feel that you don’t want the turtle pet, do not set it free outside your yard. Instead, contact an animal rescue center. They will take it from there.

(Video) How To Care For A Baby Turtle - (Most Species!)


What do you feed a baby turtle? ›

Consider aquatic plants that would be part of a turtle's regular diet, including duckweed, water lettuce, and water hyacinth. If your turtle needs a meat-based diet, you can feed it mealworms, earthworms, crayfish, minnows, snails, slugs, and wax worms.

What do most baby turtles eat? ›

Sea turtle hatchlings eat a variety of prey including things like molluscs and crustaceans, hydrozoans, sargassum sea weed, jellyfish, and fish eggs. Unfortunately, hatchlings also mistake garbage and objects like tar balls as food and ingest them.

What is a turtles diet and eating habits? ›

They graze on grass or browse on the leaves of bushes and shrubs that are within their reach. A few species of turtles also eat fruits. Occasionally, some turtles also ingest small insects such as caterpillars that get caught up in the plants they eat, so invertebrates make up a part of a turtle's diet as well.

How should I feed my baby turtle? ›

Feed your pet baby turtle "feeder fish and crickets" for some meals. Feed baby turtles two or three times a day. Leave your baby turtle's food in the tank for a half hour, and then remove what's left. You can feed it to your turtle again later.

Do you feed baby turtles everyday? ›

The frequency of feeding depends on the age and size of your red-eared slider. Smaller or juvenile turtles will eat heartily every day. As they get older, adult turtles may be offered a good-sized portion of food every two or three days.

What can baby turtles not eat? ›

Treats to Avoid
  • Dairy. Turtles possess none of the enzymes necessary to break down and digest dairy products. ...
  • Sweets. Do not feed any food with chocolate, processed sugar, or corn syrup to your turtle.
  • Salty foods. Most turtles are not used to eating highly salty foods.

Can baby turtles eat apples? ›

Treats should never make up more than 5% of their overall diet and include: Commercially available aquatic turtle treats. Dog or cat kibble. Fruits, such as banana, melon, apples, and berries.

Do baby turtles need sunlight? ›

If artificial UV light sources are unavailable, turtles should be exposed to direct sunlight for 2-4 hours daily. Most take advantage of the warm sunlight resting on their basking areas. The water in small aquariums can readily become overheated if no shade is provided.

What do baby turtles need to survive? ›

The key to taking care of a baby turtle is providing the right tank, substrate, light, heat, basking area, and filter. Aquatic turtles and terrestrial turtles require slightly different habitats. However, both will need access to land and water. For aquatic turtles, you will need a watertight aquarium.

Do baby turtles need deep water? ›

For baby turtles, the water in the tank should be at least one inch deeper than the width of your turtle's shell. This will allow them to swim freely. As your turtle grows, you can provide deeper water. Use a filter to reduce how often you need to change the water.

What is a turtle's favorite food? ›

Animal-based food sources for turtles can include processed pet foods like drained sardines, turtle pellets, and trout chow. You can also feed them cooked chicken, beef, and turkey. Live prey can include moths, crickets, shrimp, krill, feeder fish, and worms.

Can turtles eat tomatoes? ›

Fruit should be fed more sparingly than vegetables, since they are often preferred by box turtles over vegetables and tend to be less nutritious. Fruits to offer include apples, pears, bananas (with skin), mango, grapes, star fruit, raisins, peaches, tomato, guava, kiwis, and melons. Fruits that are particularly ...

Do turtles eat strawberries? ›

And if you're wondering whether or not these turtles should be going to town on fruit, don't worry animal fans — strawberries are perfectly safe(opens in a new tab) for turtles to eat. In fact turtles love a variety of fruits and veggies, especially tropical fruit like papaya, guava, and banana.

How much should a baby turtle eat a day? ›

How much food should I feed my turtle? As a guide, one portion of dried turtle food should be the same size as your turtle's head. One portion of live food is slightly larger than your turtle's head, as is one portion of vegetables. You can give as many leafy greens as your turtle can eat in a day.

How do you make a baby turtle happy? ›

Provide lots of space. Turtles enjoy swimming, basking in the sun, and being active. Turtles also grow. Therefore, providing lots of space for your turtle to enjoy these activities and giving room to grow is important in making your turtle happy.

Do baby turtles need milk? ›

Turtles cannot digest milk or dairy products because their stomachs do not carry the enzymes needed for the breaking down of lactose. Feeding dairy products to your turtle is a good way to make sure it gets very sick. It is also a bad idea to feed any sort of canned or processed food to your turtle.

Is it OK to put baby turtle in water? ›

For baby turtles, the water in the tank should be at least one inch deeper than the width of your turtle's shell. This will allow them to swim freely. As your turtle grows, you can provide deeper water. Use a filter to reduce how often you need to change the water.

Do baby turtles need to drink water? ›

Baby turtles do drink water, but it depends on the species and on the pet's diet. In fact, some people argue about when or if baby turtles should even drink liquids. Some say they don't need it because they get enough water from their food (especially vegetables).


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