Turtles belong to the reptile family. This means that they are ‘ectothermic’ or cold blooded. Turtles are also amniotes. This means that they breathe air and do not lay their eggs underwater. Turtles, especially the larger ones, are usually aquatic animals, which means that they prefer to live in water.
While some turtles are herbivores, eating only plants, a few others are carnivores and eat mostly meat, while some are omnivores and eat both flesh and plants.
If you wish to keep turtles at home it is best to know about the correct turtle food to give them. Proper turtle care would include giving them proper diet, which in turn would ensure proper turtle health. Do keep in mind that some species of turtles are endangered and it is therefore illegal to keep them as pets and highly irresponsible. Please make sure that your turtle has been traded legally.
Here are some basic turtle food facts. Turtle diet should be based on the type of species – herbivorous, omnivorous or carnivorous. Feeding it with natural turtle foods will keep it healthy and happy. Also ensure that it gets sufficient calcium, phosphorus and vitamins like Vitamin D. However do not give too much protein.
Herbivorous and omnivorous turtles would love to chomp on leafy vegetables like grape or fig leaves, endives, dandelion, turnip greens, carrot tops and lettuce. They also thrive on sweet potatoes, pumpkin, okra, corn, green beans, wax beans, green peas, beets and squashes. Chickweed, plantain weed, duckweed, collards and water lettuce are also good turtle food. You could also feed your turtle some flowers like hibiscus, rose, pansies, geraniums, nasturtiums, borage, hyssop, petunias, carnations, lilies or chives. Fruits like mango, apple, kiwi, banana, blackberries, blueberries, strawberry, cantaloupes, figs and grapes are also nutritious turtle food. You need not keep special turtle food at home in the case of herbivorous turtles, because they eat the same fruits and vegetables that we eat, and are easily available in the supermarkets.
Carnivorous turtles can be given eggshells or boiled eggs, crushed oyster shells, cooked fish, chicken or turkey. You might occasionally give them red meat, or dog and cat food, but do not overdo it. And never give any raw meats, since they may cause contamination and disease. Silkworms, earthworms, mealworms, crickets, shrimps, snails, slugs and waxworms are favorite turtle foods. If necessary, you can get frozen or dried commercial turtle foods in the market.
What not to give: There are some foods that you should avoid giving to your turtles. Never give any dairy products such as cheese or yogurt since turtles do not have the digestive enzymes to digest them. Also avoid canned or processed foods since they contain high levels of salt and preservatives which may prove harmful to turtles.