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What To Feed Baby Painted Turtles: 5 Suggestions (With Pictures)

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By Lindsey Stanton

Baby Painted turtle in the swamp

Whether your painted turtle just had eggs that hatched or you picked up a baby painted turtle from a breeder or pet store, you need to figure out how and what to feed them.

We break down everything that you need to know to feed your baby turtle and keep them alive here! We also dive into the dietary requirements for when your turtles grow up and answer any other questions that you might have.

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The 5 Food Suggestions for Baby Painted Turtles

Unlike their adult counterparts, which have a significant number of veggies and the occasional fruit in their diet, young painted turtles need a more protein-loaded diet. This consists of five different ingredients, and we broke down each one here.

1. Commercial Turtle Food Foods

Fluker's Buffet Blend Aquatic Turtle Food

While you can try to get the balance of these foods right to give your baby painted turtles everything that they need, with commercial turtle food, you can guarantee that balance.

Don’t give them only commercial turtle food, but definitely sprinkle it in with everything else that you give them.

2. Small Fish

platinum molly
Image Credit: Mr.Sutun photographer, Shutterstock,

Developing turtles need protein and fish have tons of protein. Just ensure that the fish that you’re giving your turtles are small enough for them to both catch and eat. You can feed them fresh fish that you’ve already killed, but depending on your baby painted turtle’s age, they might enjoy catching it themselves.

3. Worms

red bloodworm worms
Image Credit: schankz, Shutterstock

Baby turtles can eat worms, which are good for them. In the wild, baby turtles eat whatever they can get, and worms are often a readily available food source. For your worms, you should always get them from a trusted source, not your lawn.

4. Insects

Dried Crickets

Your baby painted turtle will devour various insects. Among the best insects that you can feed a painted turtle are dried crickets. These don’t have much fat, but they have tons of protein, so it’s a win-win for your baby painted turtle.

5. Tadpoles

tadpoles in the water
Image Credit: Pixabay

If you have a captive baby painted turtle, you likely don’t have any tadpoles to feed them. But in the wild, these are commonly part of their diet. This is why you should add commercial turtle food to their diet.

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Quick Tips for Caring for a Baby Painted Turtle

While getting a baby painted turtle’s diet right is an essential part of keeping them alive, there are a few other things that you need to do to keep your turtle alive and healthy.

For starters, you need a 15- to 30-gallon aquarium for them to roam. They need a dry area to bask in and an area with plenty of water for swimming. The water needs to stay between 75- and 80-degrees Fahrenheit and plenty of filtration, so you’ll need to invest in a quality filtration system and a water heater.

You’ll also need a heat lamp that gets the basking area between 90 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit because turtles can’t regulate their own body temperatures.

Finally, while feeding them once a day is the bare minimum that you need to do, it’s better to feed them several small meals throughout the day. This is even more important when your turtle is younger. As they age, you can increase the size of the meals and spread out the time between meals.

baby painted turtle
Image Credit: Jay Ondreicka, Shutterstock

What Do Painted Turtles Eat?

As your turtle starts to grow and get a little older, you can shift them away from the insect and fish diet a bit, but those are still good food sources to use as staples.

You should also feed them various leafy vegetables, carrots, broccoli, and other vegetables to keep them healthy. Painted turtles are omnivores, so they have no problem chowing down on just about anything that you give them.

Finally, you can add in some fruit, but you should keep this as an occasional treat instead of a dietary staple.

baby painted turtles
Image Credit: Pixabay


If you’re trying to raise a baby painted turtle, you’re bound to be wondering about a few things. That’s why we decided to answer common questions here.

Can Painted Turtles Eat Fruit?

Absolutely! Painted turtles are omnivores, so they can eat just about anything. Still, just because they can eat fruit doesn’t mean it should make up too much of their diet. You should aim to keep fruit to less than 5% of your painted turtle’s diet.

What Do Painted Turtles Eat in the Wild?

In the wild, painted turtles are far less selective of what they eat. They’re omnivores and opportunistic feeders, so they’ll eat just about anything that they can get. Dietary staples include fish, insects, worms, and local vegetation.

How Often Should You Feed Your Painted Turtle?

If you have a baby painted turtle, it’s best to feed them every day. They have small bellies and a ton of growing to do, so they need regular access to food. But you can feed an adult painted turtle once every other day.

What Kind of Feeder Fish Should You Get for Your Painted Turtle?

The best feeder fish for painted turtles include guppies, platies, bass, crappies, and bluegills. It’s best to get your feeder fish from a trusted source, and you should gut-load them before feeding them to your turtle.

Don’t wait too long, though, because you need to feed the fish to your painted turtle before they get too large for them to eat.

Related Read: 8 Types of Pond Turtles (With Pictures)

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Final Thoughts

Just like human babies have different dietary requirements than adults, baby painted turtles need slightly different dietary requirements when young.

As long as you keep them on a protein-rich diet and feed them a few times a day, there’s no reason that your adorable baby turtle can’t grow and thrive into adulthood!

So, if you’re thinking of getting a baby turtle, go right ahead. Also, you should probably think about getting two because they are social creatures.

Featured Image Credit: IHX, Shutterstock

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