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Feeding Turtles Blood Worms or Turtle Dinners? Read here for advice on feeding...

Discussion in 'Aquatic Plants' started by Ikola, Sep 21, 2009.

  1. Ikola

    Ikola Senior Turtle

    Feb 20, 2009
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    We have a lot of members who stumble across AFT looking for advice on how to better care for their shelled friend in terms of feeding. Most of the following is from Craig's previous posts.

    It is quite often the case that incorrect advice is given toward turtles feeding causing many people to give their turtles a diet consisting of Blood Worms and / or pre-made Turtle Dinners (the one that comes in the push out blister pack).

    Whilst Blood Worms and Turtle Dinners are a definite favourite of turtles, these should be avoided. Most Blood Worms are high in protein and lack the common nutrients that your turtle requires for its development. Turtles that have had a diet consisting of a majority of blood worms can have issues shedding scutes, can have white patches appearing on their shells and overall have an unhealthy appearance.

    Turtle Dinners are also similar in that they contain a lot of fat and waste / cheap off-cut type products. These also contain blood worms and a minute amount of non-aquatic vegetable matter. The amount of fats far outweigh the nutritional benefits to your turtles health in feeding Turtle Dinners...

    From the Care Guide:

    Frozen, commercially available ‘Turtle Dinners’ are not recommended for freshwater turtles as they contain red meat which cannot be fully digested by turtles. Diets high in red meats are also customarily high in phosphorous and low in calcium. It is best to provide a diet high in calcium and low in phosphorous with the recommended ratio being at least 2 : 1 of Calcium to Phosphorous.
    Peas and Corn are two of the worst vegetables that can be fed to turtles as they contain multiple anti nutrient properties. Peas are extremely high in Phytic acid which binds with minerals like calcium and magnesium, preventing the body from metabolising these minerals and utilising them. Even adding additional calcium and magnesium to the diet will NOT overcome this problem, but will actually create a greater deficiency. Peas are also very high in protein which is a ‘double blow’ to a turtle’s system if they are fed in combination with red meats of any kind. Corn is high in Phytic acid and oxalic acid. Phytic acid, as mentioned previously, binds with calcium and magnesium, which are two very important minerals to turtles, and prevents the body from processing them for their own use. Oxalic acids in corn also binds with calcium and magnesium (as well as other minerals) to form oxalates (salts) which further diminishes these minerals from being metabolised and used by the body.
    I do not recommend ANY vegetables of any kind being fed to your turtles, but especially NOT peas, corn, lettuce and spinach.

    These common mistakes in feeding can cause turtles to grow at a much quicker rate than that of feeding a rounded, varied diet.

    So, what should you really be feeding your turtle?

    Firstly, if you haven't already, you should download and print yourself a copy of the AFT Care Guide written by Craig Latta:



    Some species of turtles require vegetable and plant matter in their diets. Here is a list of turtle safe plants compiled by Craig that you may add to your tank / pond that will offer your turtle shelter, protection and a potential food source:

    Duckweed Lemna minor and Giant Duckweed Spirodella polyrhiza (both high in calcium)
    Elodea Common Oxygen weed available at almost all Aquarium stores (Good for Short-necks)
    Vallisneria (available in several variations - especially good for Short-necks as a food type)
    Ruffled Sword (Echinodorus martii )
    Broad Chain Sword (Echinodorus quadracostatus)
    Queen of Hearts (Echinodorus horizontalis)
    Broad Amazon Sword (Echinodorus bhleri)
    Amazon Sword (Echinodorus amazonicus)
    Penny wort Green (Lysimachia nummumlaria)
    Pennywort Gold (L.n.aurea)
    Giant Milfoil (Myriophyllum scabratum)
    Lake Water Milfoil (M. salsugineum)
    Broad-leaved Milfoil (M.amphibium)
    Mat watermilfoil (M.pedunculatum)
    Egeria densa (looks like Elodea)
    Hornwort (Ceratophillum demersum)
    Cabomba (C.carolineana)
    Stone wort or Musk grass (Chara fibrosa and Chara corallina)
    Nitella congesta
    Azolla (floating native fern)(Azolla pinnata)
    Curled pondweed (Potamogeton crispus)
    Blunt Pondweed (P.ochreatus)
    Perfoliate Pondweed (P.perfoliatus)
    Bronze Bacopa (Bacopa amplexicailis)
    Laceplant (Aponogeton elongatus)
    Qld Laceplant (A.queenslandicus)
    Water Lettuce (Pistia stratioides)
    Common Watercress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum)

    *Note some of these plants may be listed as noxious in some States. Check your relevant State EPA or GOV site for more information.


    Lettuce has low nutritional value and is not really beneficial to turtles.
    Steer clear of store purchased vegetables as certain chemicals, sprays etc can be harmful to turtles.

    Originally Posted by Craig [​IMG]
    Try to steer clear of any store bought veggies. They aren't natural nor are good for them. I'll give you an example: A lot of vegetables contain 'Anti-nutrient' factors that include Oxalic acid, Phytic acid, Glucosinolates/Goitrogens, Purines and Tannins. Purines and Tannins at low levels are actually good for turtles but the others are not good.

    Some problems that arise from feeding store bought vegetables are : High levels of Purine can cause kidney diseases, Glucosinolates/Goitrogens can cause swelling of the Thyroid glands and Goitre. Phytic acids bind with minerals and proteins, preventing the use or uptake of the minerals and proteins by the turtles. Oxalic acids bind with Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Sodium and Potassium to form salts. High levels of Oxalic acids cause kidney stones and renal failure.



    Turtles can also be offered readily prepared fish and turtle foods in pellet form:
    Hikari Cichlid Gold Pellets (available in several pellet sizes)
    Hikari Cichlid Staple Diet Pellets
    Nutrafin Max Turtle Gammarus Pellets
    Exo Terra Aquatic Turtle Food
    Zoomed branded turtle products
    'Wombaroo Insectivore' mixed with prawn, fish and insects to make home made turtle pudding (see Care Guide)

    The Hikari Cichlid Gold pellet is recommended by many of our members:


    It is a fish food but suited for turtles - high in all the required nutrients and far superior to Blood Worms or Turtle Dinners. Available in different pellet size - pick the pellet size relevant to your turtle. The larger bag costs around $15 - $18 at the better priced pet stores. This food contains a natural colour enhancing quality and is great for all other tank mates! There is also a green variety called Cichlid Staple - this is slightly cheaper and ok as part of a varied diet - this variety costs between $12 - $15 for the larger bag.

    Fresh / Live Foods:

    A turtle in its natural environment will feed on a number of live foods. Here are some that are readily available from Aquarium Stores, Pet Stores, Bait shops and things that can be collected from local waterways.

    Freshwater Yabbies / Crayfish (if feeding live, remove nippers)
    Swordtails etc.
    Glass Shrimp
    Freshwater Shrimp
    Aquatic Insects, water bugs
    Common Insects (chemical free ie: swatted flies)
    Silkworms, Crickets, Moths and Woodies (suited for aquarium fish, must be chemical free)
    Mosquito Larvae
    Fish fillets (ask for freshwater fish {NOT Basa}, ie: freshwater whiting) - or, cleaned and soaked in freshwater to remove salt
    Small prawns - Rostrum and centre tail spike removed and soaked in freshwater to remove salt content
    Earth Worms - cleaned in freshwater before feeding to remove dirt etc

    * Allowing your turtle to hunt for its food gives your turtle stimulation and behavioural enrichment. These freshwater prawns/shrimp and other live foods (fish, yabbies) are available at most aquarium outlets if you cannot catch your own. It is very entertaining watching a turtle hunt!


    * You will find some insects in the fridge section near where you would find blood worms and turtle dinners, live insects you will find most often in the reptile section.

    Remember that at any feeding time, only feed a turtle an amount the size of its head - this is safest way to not overfeed.

    How often should I feed my turtle?

    As your turtle adapts to you as its owner, the turtle will also make a food based connection. It is quite common for tank kept turtles to 'dance' up and down the glass getting your attention, they splash around, wave their arms - making you think they are hungry! Don't be fooled by this - if you kept feeding, the turtle will keep eating...
    Feed your baby turtle a portion the size of its head every day up until approximately 8 cm straight carapace length (SCL).

    Larger juvenile turtles only require feeding every second or third day and adults require feeding only every fourth or fifth day. However, having live aquatic plants (for short-necked turtles) and feeder fish and freshwater prawns available at all times is essential. Overfeeding can be detrimental to their health. A turtle’s diet should include small whole fish (high in calcium), pesticide free garden worms, insect larvae, water snails, freshwater prawns, raw salt water prawns (soaked in freshwater) with their sharp rostrum and tail spike removed, freshwater mussels, crickets, woodies, silkworms, and small yabbies. Good quality turtle pellets or plant based fish pellets, including Hikari Cichlid Gold, Nutrafin Max Turtle Gammarus Pellets and Exo Terra Aquatic Turtle
    Food should also be included in your short-necked turtle’s diet.

    Long-necked turtles rarely eat ‘turtle pellets’ and need a diet that includes live feeder fish, freshwater prawns, yabbies and a variety of insects including crickets, woodies, flies, moths, silkworms (very high in calcium) and garden worms. Do not feed your turtles mincemeat as it is too fatty, and can contain chemical dyes and preservatives. Also avoid feeding your turtles any red meat of any kind as it lacks the vitamins and minerals necessary for their growth and survival. Apart from that, red meat cannot be fully digested by turtles. A short-necked turtle’s diet should also include a wide variety of vegetation. Most short-necked species regularly eat some form of vegetation in the wild. Ribbonweed/Vallisneria, Duckweed, Dandelion, Clover, Cat’s ears and Plantain are all common weeds that are high in Calcium, low in phosphorous and highly recommended if you wish to add plant matter to your turtle’s diet.
    For all sized turtles we recommend the following ‘Turtle Pudding’: Mix ‘Wombaroo Insectivore Rearing Mix’ (available from all veterinary clinics & some specialist Pet Stores) with gelatine and warm water to a sticky paste, and add whole feeder fish, prawn meat and/or yabby tail meat. You may need to blend this mix in an electric blender. If you are feeding short-necked turtles you can add duckweed as well. Adding Calcium Carbonate to the mix will help with bone and shell development. Spoon into ice-cube trays and allow to ‘set’ in the refrigerator. Turtle Pudding cubes can then be placed in a bag and frozen for use at a later date. Various insects could also be added to the mixture for a more natural source of food. All of my short-necked and long-necked turtles, hatchlings and adults alike, find this mixture irresistible.

    Ensure that you have read Craig's care guide noted above, this has some very important information that will be extremely helpful to you and will cover off a lot of points you may want to know. Searching the forum is also a great way to find out the information you need - many people have asked for advice on feeding, frequencies and variety.
  2. Craig

    Craig Retired AFT Public Officer
    Platinum Level Supporter

    Aug 8, 2001
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    Hi Hervey, feed tadpoles small whats? Do you mean feed them bloodworms?

    You really shouldn't collect tadpoles because they can potentially carry Chytrid fungus. If that spreads to other populations of frogs and tadpoles, it will wipe them out. That's how many wild frog populations have disappeared recently.
  3. Craig

    Craig Retired AFT Public Officer
    Platinum Level Supporter

    Aug 8, 2001
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    Hi Mark and Mel,

    You are right, we do need some clarification here.

    Blood worms are fine occasionally (not as a staple), for Baby turtles ONLY. The only ones you should feed them are the brands with added vitamins and minerals.

    It is not recommended or practical feeding LARGE juvenile and adult turtles bloodworms, as they are too small.

    Prawns and small Whitebait occasionally would also be good for your long-necked turtles. Just remember to completely remove the heads and tails from the prawns. The sharp rostrums on the heads of the prawn and sharp centre tail spike can puncture the skin around the mouth as well as inside the mouth, causing stomatitis/canker. This goes for small, live freshwater prawns as well, so you just have to take the chance that this won't happen to your turtle if you intend to feed live freshwater prawns to your turtles.

    We actually have one ELN inside with us and he eats Cichlid Gold pellets. In fact, he will eat anything we hand feed him.

    Brine shrimp do not have much going for them as far as nutrition, so you could probably avoid feeding those, although occasionally would be fine. A few insects to give your turtle variety would be good. Crickets, earth worms, flies, Silkworms, woodies and moths are very good for them.

    Fresh and live is best. Live fish are the best food source that you can feed your turtles. That does not include Goldfish or Comets etc. as they contain an enzyme called Thiaminase, the same as defrosted frozen fish has.

    Ocean Plankton and Krill are fine to feed your turtles, Zoo Plankton is too small and disintegrates in your water causing a mess.
  4. dylanthomas

    dylanthomas Hatchling Turtle

    Oct 25, 2011
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    Thanks for the clarification Craig! What is a woodie by the way?
  5. Craig

    Craig Retired AFT Public Officer
    Platinum Level Supporter

    Aug 8, 2001
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