When you're used to living with dogs and cats, getting a pet turtle means adjusting to a new routine. Turtles need a different kind of attention when it comes to housing them, keeping them clean and feeding them. Turtles don't typically need to be fed daily, but their feeding requirements vary depending on things like age and season.
Juvenile turtles are the ones who need the most frequent feeding. They need vitamin and calcium supplements about three times a week and should be fed every day. They're typically the most active during mornings and afternoons, so those are good times to feed your turtle. Turtles aren't considered adults before 7 years of age, but if your otherwise healthy turtle who is over 3 years old starts eating less or not at all every few days, it could be a sign that he is mature enough to reduce his feedings. Before cutting back though, talk to your vet. Always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your pet.
Mature pet turtles only need to be fed every other day or even only every third day. Remove any uneaten food from your turtle's habitat after 20 minutes, unless it is live like fish, crickets or earthworms. Fruits, vegetables and mice or fish that aren't live will decay, causing an unpleasant odor as well as creating a less than healthy environment for your turtle.
If you've got a box turtle, he'll have hibernating instincts to sleep through the winter. Since he'll be dormant from fall to spring, feedings won't be necessary. You should stop feeding your box turtle in the fall, but still provide him with ample water so he can continue to bathe and his little system can process and eliminate the food he's already eaten before he goes to sleep. Hibernation is optional though. If you don't want your turtle going through it, make sure he gets 10 to 12 hours of light every day -- either natural sunlight or from full-spectrum lights mounted above his habitat.
Turtles are typically omnivorous and should eat a variety of foods every day. Box turtles and sliders both need protein from food sources like bugs and fish. High quality canned dog or puppy food is a convenient way to give your turtle the protein he needs, but only feed him a small amount and don't make it the exclusive source of protein. Turtles also like leafy greens (although you should avoid feeding yours spinach), as well as fresh fruits and vegetables like berries, apples, carrots and broccoli. Always balance your turtle's diet. He might be inclined to eat only sweet, tasty fruit, but fruit doesn't have the minerals he requires, so always offer him a variety and mix his food together to encourage him to eat everything you give him.
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Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.