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What Do Baby Painted Turtles Eat?

| Updated September 26, 2017

The painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) is North America's most widespread species of turtle. Active during the day, small and attractively colored, painted turtles are popular pets. Painted turtles are easy to care for, and the diet of baby turtles becomes more varied as the turtle matures.

On their own

Female painted turtles bury their eggs in dirt or sand and then leave the nest. Painted turtles hatch in about 72 days, dig to the surface and are immediately on their own. Newborn turtles must find their own food.


Baby painted turtles are carnivorous, which means they eat other living things. The diet of baby painted turtles consists of small fish, worms, insects and tadpoles. They also eat carrion, or dead fish and insects. As painted turtles mature, they add plants to their diet. In captivity, baby painted turtles will eat commercial turtle food supplemented with small pieces of meat and insects.


Baby painted turtles will eat every day, expending a significant amount of energy catching small prey. In captivity, adult painted turtles will survive if offered food every other day, but baby painted turtles should be fed a varied diet daily.


Painted turtles are semi-aquatic, which means that they spend a significant portion of their life in water. They cannot ingest food unless their mouths are in water. Painted turtles must have adequate sunlight and heat to digest their food.

Nutritional Needs

Baby painted turtles will develop shell abnormalities if their diet is nutritionally incomplete. They require a variety of minerals, especially calcium.