Merck Manual

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Nutrition in Turtles


Joeke Nijboer

, PhD

Last full review/revision May 2015 | Content last modified Jun 2015

Many freshwater turtles in the wild eat primarily animal matter but also consume some plant material. Some species may be carnivorous when young and shift to omnivorous or herbivorous feeding patterns as adults. Most aquatic turtles cannot be considered strict carnivores, because they consume at least some plant material. Commercially available turtle feeds are available from many manufacturers, although nutrient content can vary widely. These products are usually manufactured as extruded or pelleted diets and are typically 30%–50% protein. Such diets may be appropriate for carnivorous and omnivorous turtles, although the more omnivorous species would benefit from the addition of some fruits or vegetables.

A sample diet for carnivorous and omnivorous turtles consists of the following feed items: water (272 g), gelatin (unsweetened or dry, 34 g), corn oil (11 g), spinach (23 g), cooked sweet potato (23 g), Vionate® (a vitamin/mineral supplement, 5 g), trout pellets (50 g), and vitamin E at 50 IU/g (1 g). This diet contains on a dry-matter basis 47% protein, 14% fat, 1.5% calcium, 0.55% phosphorus, vitamin A at 10,000 IU/kg, vitamin D3 at 1,000 IU/kg, vitamin E at 279 IU/kg, and vitamin C at 280 mg/kg.

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