Best turtle food for red-eared sliders

Giving your red-eared slider the same diet is one of the leading causes of preventable illnesses in a turtle tank. For instance, if your red-eared slider’s diet is always made of carbohydrates, then the lack of amino acids will eventually cause organ failure. Therefore, the best turtle food should comprise a balanced diet.

Read-eared slider turtles are omnivores. Therefore, ensure that 25% of their diet is commercial pellets. Mix the pellets with dark green leafy vegetables like lettuce and dandelion greens. Add a carnivorous meal of earthworms, shrimp, and feeder fish for the red-eared sliders. Actively chasing the prey will keep the turtles healthy and fit. 

Is your turtle weak and malnourished? Or is it your first time feeding red-eared sliders? I have discussed the best food for red-eared sliders below. You will learn what, when, and how to feed them. In this article, you will also find a feeding schedule for both adult and baby red-eared sliders. Read on to learn more.

Best food for red-eared slider

best turtle food for red-eared slider

Here are some foods that are safe for your red-eared slider:


Red-eared sliders are omnivorous turtles. In other words, they feed on a wide variety of flesh and vegetation. Your red-eared sliders will love green leafy vegetables such as lettuce and dandelion greens. Both adults and juveniles can eat vegetables, but chop them into smaller pieces first so that they can fit your slider’s mouth. 

Although dark leafy vegetables are rich in iron, don’t give your sliders an all-vegetable diet daily. The phytate enzymes in vegetables can block iron and vitamin B12 absorption, which would make your turtles anemic. The signs and symptoms of an anemic turtle include reluctance to move, weakness, and a pale cloacal mucosa. 

Therefore, feed your red-eared sliders with vegetables only thrice a week. You can also give them chopped collard, kale, and mustard greens.

Live prey

Red-eared sliders can also eat live game. They are a great source of proteins to develop your turtle’s muscles and antibodies. Therefore, feed them invertebrates like earthworms, bloodworms, and mealworms or small vertebrates like feeder fish.

Give the sliders live prey once every one or two days. If your red-eared slider is young, divide the prey into smaller manageable pieces. Otherwise, the adults can hunt live prey such as frogs and tadpoles on their own. 

Live prey not only provide a balanced diet, but they also keep the red-eared sliders fit and active. The other benefit of giving your -eared sliders live prey is that any leftovers will not spoil the water. A satisfied turtle will leave some live prey behind to chase later.


There are many commercial pellets you can give to your turtle. The best ones are Mazuri Fresh Water Turtle Diet, ZooMed Natural Aquatic Turtle (for hatchlings), and Omega One Juvenile Turtle Pellets. 

They taste and smell so good for red-eared sliders. Larger pellets are for more giant turtles, and smaller pellets are for smaller turtles. The pellets have essential nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D3, proteins, fats, and Omega 3 and 6. 

The turtle pellets are balanced for rapid growth, increased activity, and disease resistance. Note that your red-eared slider’s age influences the choice of turtle pellets. 

Always read the packaging before taking the turtle pellets home to ensure that you don’t take juvenile pellets to your adult sliders.

Aquatic plants 

Did you know there are some aquatic plants that red-eared sliders enjoy consuming? Yes. The red-eared turtles will love aquatic plants like anacharis, fairy moss, and duckweed. Grow these plants in your turtle tank, not just for the turtles but also for water filtration.

The live aquatic plants will improve the water quality by filtering turtle waste such as ammonia and nitrates. As a result, they will oxygenate the water and reduce bacterial growth. Aquatic plants also offer hiding spots to make the red-eared sliders feel safe.

However, when choosing the right aquatic plant for your red-eared slider, ensure it is edible. They have vitamin C and calcium for your turtle’s eggshell and shell development. However, don’t leave your turtles with aquatic plants only. Some fruits can also work.


The best turtle food diet also consists of fruits. You can share with your red-eared slider if you have apples, bananas, berries, or melons. However, an all-fruit turtle diet can result in diarrhea. 

Therefore, give them fruits twice or thrice weekly, but only as a special treat. Fruits are beneficial because they have significant amounts of vitamin C, which acts as antioxidants. In other words, apples and bananas can boost your slider’s immunity.

Always chop the fruits into tiny pieces that can fit the red-eared slider’s mouth. Also, remove any food leftovers in the turtle tank to reduce decomposition and toxicity.

Best food for a baby red-eared slider

Here are two of the best foods for baby red-eared sliders:

ZooMed Natural Aquatic Turtle (for hatchlings)

Your baby red-eared sliders will love the ZooMed Natural Aquatic Turtle. Before I offered it to my one-inch baby sliders, they were pretty unresponsive at mealtime. But once they smelled and tasted this food, they now eat well and happily.

Besides, ZooMed Natural Aquatic Turtle, with a hatchling formula, has no preservatives or artificial colors. Therefore, the pellets are safe for your turtles. It has essential proteins, vitamins, and minerals for a baby red-eared slider’s healthy growth and development.

Tetra Tetrafauna Pro ReptoMin Juvenile Turtle Food

Give your baby red-eared sliders the Tetra Tetrfauna Pro ReptoMin Juvenile Turtle Pellets when they are two to five inches long. It is made from fish, algae, corn flour, and shrimp meal, among other ingredients.

It is one of the best turtle food because it has a balanced calcium and protein ratio that’s safe for your baby sliders. Feed them twice a day, in the morning and afternoon.

What nutrients do red-eared sliders need for a balanced diet?

Red eared-sliders need proteins, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins for a balanced diet.

  • Proteins: Give red-eared sliders proteins like live prey and commercial pellets. Proteins will strengthen their muscles and develop antibodies.
  • Calcium & Phosphorus: These are essential for reproduction and strengthening the turtle’s shell. During reproduction, calcium and phosphorus harden the egg shells. Float a cuttlebone in your turtle tank to provide calcium for your red-eared sliders.
  • Vitamins C, B1, & D3: Vitamin C is an antioxidant, vitamin B2 improves the red-eared slider’s metabolism, and vitamin D3 helps them extract calcium from food.

Red-eared slider feeding schedule

Here is a schedule for feeding red-eared sliders:

Red-eared sliderFoodHow many times a day
Baby red-eared sliderZooMed Natural Aquatic Turtle, Tetra Tetrafauna Pro ReptoMin Juvenile Turtle FoodThree times daily (early morning, afternoon, and at night)
JuvenileCommercial pellets, green leafy vegetables, shrimpsTwice daily (morning and afternoon)
Adult red-eared sliderVegetables, live prey, floating pellets, and fruitsA sizeable meal once daily (morning or afternoon)

The best feeding methods 

  • Free-feeding: Put the best turtle food for red-eared sliders in a bowl and put it in their basking area. They can eat as little or as much as they prefer whenever they are out of the water.
  • Scheduled portioned feeding: It reinforces a disciplined feeding habit in turtles because your red-eared sliders will follow a strict feeding routine. I recommend an automatic turtle feeder like the Petzilla Auto Turtle Food Dispenser to make it easier.

What can a red-eared slider not eat?

Avoid giving them frozen fish. Research suggests that frozen fish can raise thiaminase enzyme in the red-eared slider’s body, thereby killing vitamin B1. Restrict frozen fish to only twice a week, so you don’t interfere with the turtle’s metabolism. 

Secondly, don’t give your red-eared sliders cooked chicken or lean beef. They have too many proteins that can cause kidney problems to your sliders. Besides, cooked chicken and lean beef can foul the water pretty fast.

Finally, raw meat and chicken can contaminate the turtle tank with harmful Salmonella and Clostridium bacteria. These may not impact the turtles but can be deadly to humans interacting with your beautiful pets.


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