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What Should I Feed My Red Eared Slider?

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Red Eared Slider Photo

Red Eared Slider

Lianne McLeod
Question: What Should I Feed My Red Eared Slider?
Answer: Red eared sliders need a diet that is a mixture of animal and plant material. However, young red eared sliders eat more animal protein so babies are started off on a diet that is more on the carnivorous side. It is still a good idea to offer vegetation to young turtles although they may not really start eating it until they get older (offering it early on at least makes it less likely they will shy away from trying it as they age). For adult red eared sliders, vegetation should make up a significant part of the diet.

Packaged Turtle Diets and Red Eared Sliders
Commercial pellets are fairly nutritious and are certainly convenient, and are beneficial since they contain a good mix of vitamins and minerals. However, as the saying goes, "variety is the spice of life." Offering a wide variety of foods is better than solely feeding a commercial turtle pellet as a variety of fresh food offers a wider range of nutrients in different forms (which may even be absorbed better when fed in the natural state). As well, feeding a variety of items is more stimulating to the turtle. Live prey items are especially enriching, as they give turtles an opportunity to exercise by hunting as they would in the wild. Generally, I would recommend limiting pellets to about 25% of the diet, making up the rest with items from the list below.

Items to Feed Red Eared Sliders

  • Feeder Items: earthworms, crickets, waxworms, earthworms, silkworms, aquatic snails, blood worms, daphnia, shrimp, krill, mealworms. For very small turtles, prey may have to be cut into smaller pieces. Larger turtles can be offered larger items like tadpoles or feeder fish, though some experts warn that feeder fish may be carrying parasites, etc.
  • Leafy greens: collard, mustard and dandelion greens, kale, bok choy. Head (iceberg) lettuce should never be feed as it contains very little nutrition, but dark green leaf lettuces (e.g romaine) can be feed sparingly
  • Aquatic plants: in an aquarium or pond you can add aquatic plants on which turtles usually love to snack. Submerged plants like anacharis are often eaten, as are water hyacinth, water lettuce, duckweed, azolla (fairy moss), and frog-bit.
  • Other vegetables: carrots (tops are fine too), squash and green beans.

Supplements
A good reptile multivitamin with calcium and vitamin D3 shoule be mixed with the food a couple of times a week. Also, an excellent way to provide additional calcium is by putting a cuttlebone in the turtle tank. These are often avaiable in the bird section, and they can be affixed to the tank or just floated in the water.

Red Eared Slider Feeding Tips

  • Catching wild prey items is fine, as long as you are sure they are pesticide free. Same for vegetation.
  • Vegetables can be shredded to make them easier to eat, especially for smaller turtles.
  • Some experts recommend feeding fresh fruits such as bananas, berries, apples, and melon. However, this isn't really a natural staple in the red eared sliders diet and it may cause diarrhea. If used, fruit should be only in very small quantities.
  • Don't feed frozen fish, or at least not very often, as freezing some types of fish increases levels of an enzyme in the fish that destroys vitamin B1.
  • Cooked chicken and cooked lean beef don't offer balanced nutrition and these will foul the water very quickly. Use only as very occasional treats and feed only if you use a feeding tank outside of the main tank.
  • Never feed raw chicken or meat due to the risk of bacterial contamination.

Also See

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  3. Exotic Pets
  4. Reptiles and Amphibians
  5. Turtles and Tortoises
  6. Aquatic Turtles
  7. What Should I Feed my Red Eared Slider Turtle - Feeding baby and adult pet turtles

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