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How Often Should You Feed Red Eared Sliders

Raising a red-eared slider is a real pleasure. These beautiful reptiles love to swim and will hunt live food that you place in the tank such as feeder fish, crickets, and earthworm. It’s easy to watch them for hours. If you are wondering how often to feed red eared sliders then today is your lucky day!

In this article, we’re going to give you a crash-course on what red-eared sliders eat, creating a diet and scheduling feedings, as well as some tech options to help you automate the process in case you have a hectic schedule.

We’ll also provide you with a sample feeding schedule for juveniles and adults, touch on feeding techniques for providing your slider with fruits and veggies, pellets, and meats, and even answer some frequently asked questions before we’re done!

If you’re ready, then let’s discuss how often to feed red eared sliders and what you need to know to do it RIGHT!

What is a good diet for a red-eared slider?

When it comes to survival, it might surprise you to know that the red-eared slider is an expert among experts – these creatures are geared to last! In fact, they are so good at it, that they are considered one of the top 100 most invasive species on the planet.

Chew on that for a second… It’s pretty impressive for a cute, colorful turtle!

Sliders in the wild are not only omnivores, but extremely opportunistic feeders. They’ll eat a few things that you expect, such as aquatic plant life and small fish that they can catch, but they aren’t above making a meal out of a convenient corpse from time to time, either!

Dead frogs, fish, or just about any meat they can find is going to be gobbled up and while they might not like it as much as the live fare, these turtles like to eat on a regular schedule and Nature has designed them to be able to do just that.

In captivity, of course, they are going to have access to a much nicer diet than they might get in the wild, and that diet should start with turtle pellets and you’ll want to pick the ones that are formulated specifically for your turtle.

Turtle diets vary based on whether or not they are terrestrial and their age. With terrestrial turtles you have pellets that can be put in a food bowl, while aquatic pellets are designed to float in the water. Next, the age factor with sliders makes a big difference in what they eat.

Hatchlings and juveniles are more carnivorous, eating about 50% meat and 50% veggies (although some will, in actual practice, go for 75% meat and 25% veggies!), while sliders over 1 year old will tend to eat closer to 25% meat and proteins and 75% plants and veggies.

Some good pellet examples include Tetra ReptoMin for adults and for juveniles, and Flukers tortoise diet for tortoises and box turtles.

The pellets should not be their only food, of course, but the rest is really a piece of cake. You can provide live food in the form of feeder fish and insects (and we’ll go into this more in the next section). For fresh green plant matter, aquatic plants are good, but veggies and fruits are also ideal.

Keep the fruits at minimum and only as a treat, however – too much sugar is bad for your slider, but a fruity treat once a week will definitely be healthy and most-appreciated.

As far as vegetables, leafy greens are best, but rather than dwell on that here, we’ve devoted the next section to some more concrete examples that you can use. Let’s take a look!

Creating a diet and scheduling feedings

When it comes to creating a diet and feeding schedule, the first thing you’ll need are a few examples of what to feed your turtle. Below are a few to get you started, and then we’ll talk about how often to feed your red-eared slider:

Live food – Worms, feeder fish, and crickets are a great start for live food that you can give your red-eared slider. With fish, be careful to avoid fish that are oily or high in thiaminase – too much oil can cause vitamin E deficiency and excess thiaminase destroys vitamin B1. Goldfish, for example, are a fish high in thiaminase that you should avoid!

Veggies – Vitamin A is one of the most important vitamins for your slider and leafy green veggies are chock full of it! You can also feed them veggies like red bell peppers, turnip greens, green beans, or kale. Avoid alliums, such as garlic and onions – these are toxic and you definitely don’t want them in the water!

Fruits – Apples, berries, melons… Red-eared sliders LOVE fruits, but keep these too a minimum. They have a lot of sugar and that’s not good for your turtle in the long run. Once a week as a treat should be fine, just keep the amounts small.

Aquatic plants – Having some aquatic plants in the tank helps to give your turtle something yummy to snack on whenever they like. Some good examples are duckweed, crystalwort, arrowhead, and Amazon sword, but check at your local pet store – there are quite a few suitable and tasty options!

Supplements – Calcium with D3 is a great supplement, as the D3 helps your turtle to absorb that calcium and to keep a high calcium to phosphorus ratio (this is important so that you can avoid conditions like metabolic bone disease). You can dust crickets with it and a little bit sprinkled on veggies is also good to help give your turtle a calcium boost.

As far as a feeding schedule, that’s all going to depend on your turtle’s age. Hatchlings and juveniles eat more regularly, and they tend to eat more proteins than plant matter (as we mentioned in the previous section).

It’s understandable – they’re doing a lot of growing right now – and as they get older they start eating a lot more plant matter and need a less aggressive schedule.

So, if you have hatchling or juvenile sliders, feed them every day, while older juvenile to adult sliders (older than 1 year) should be fed every 2 to 3  days.

Consider Automatic feeders if you have a busy schedule

It’s best to feed your turtles on a tight schedule, so that they will anticipate feedings and you won’t need to worry about them skipping a lot of food. It also helps you to gauge how much they eat and that they are getting all the nutrients that they need, so a reliable schedule is going to be a must.

Life doesn’t always allow for that – sometimes you’ll have to work late, your car might break down, or you might want an evening or two out with friends, and for scenarios like this an automatic feeder is a wonderful thing.

Automatic feeders are designed to hold turtle pellets and to release them reliably on a schedule that you can program in advance.

Just be sure if you will be gone for a few days that a good friend or family member can come in to check on your turtle’s to ensure the feeder is working and that your filter pump is still chugging along -technology is nice, but you must still monitor it to avoid the worst!

Feeding your slider – Example schedules and feeding techniques

Now that you have a general idea of what to feed your red-eared slider and how often they need to be fed, we thought we’d share two example schedules and after that, some quick feeding technique tips.

For hatchlings or juveniles, scheduling is pretty easy to follow since you will be feeding them every day, but for sliders over 1 year old it will look a little more like the 2-week sample schedule below.


As you can feed them every 2 – 3 days, in this example we’re feeding every 3 days the first week, and every 2 days the next week, but you can feed them every 2 days the whole month or every 3 days.

Ultimately, it’s really up to you- but this is just a sample to give you an idea of what your turtle’s feeding schedule might look like.

Techniques for feeding

A lot of articles will tell you the proper schedule, but you also need to know HOW to feed them. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy and a whole lot of fun – your turtle will start recognizing you and after 2 to 3 feedings they’ll be swimming up enthusiastically towards you to see what goodies you’ve brought them!

We’ll tell you the easiest way to feed them pellets, proteins, and fruits and veggies in the sections below. Keep in mind you should provide ALL of these when you can, although in a pinch the pellets will do if you’re out of fresh veggies or proteins.

Feeding pellets to your turtles

Turtles will overeat if you let them – it’s a survival trait that works pretty well in the wild, but which can lead to obesity in a captive environment where the food is always plenty and delivered regularly.

To combat this, add a small scoop of pellets into the water and let them eat as many as they like within a 5 to 15 minute period. After that, scoop up what’s left.

 This will help to keep the water cleaner and also to prevent your turtle from overeating and over time, you’ll get a good idea at how much they are eating.

Finally, pellets should only make up about 25% – keep the rest live proteins and fresh veggies in amounts based on age and you’ll have a happy, healthy slider!

Feeding proteins to your turtles

With dead proteins, such as dried crickets or shrimps, soaking them in warm water will freshen them up first, and it’s best to feed only a few at a time unless the insects are very small. As with pellets, set a time of 5 to 15 minutes before scooping up what hasn’t been eaten.

With live insects, you can put them briefly in a baggie with a pinch of your calcium with d3 and shake it up to dust them, and after that feed them one by one to your turtle (you can drop in more if you have more turtles, of course).

The wiggling in the water will definitely be noticed and your turtle will happily do the rest!

Feeding fruits and veggies to your turtles

Fruits and veggies that float are the best, as your turtle can snack on these at their leisure, and you can go with the 5 to 15 minute time limit like you would with the pellets or even extend the fresh veggies and fruits to 30 minutes -it’s your call.

A light dusting of calcium with vitamin d3 is optional and you want to make sure that the veggies or fruit is cut into small, easy-to-eat slices. Finally, keep fruit to once a week for best results – it’s yummy and your turtle loves it, but it’s too sweet to eat every day!


Now that we’ve covered your turtle’s ideal feeding schedule and diet, we’ve got a few frequently asked questions that we’d like to address before we go. Let’s take a peek and then we’ll wrap things up!

Why is my slider not eating?

Most often if your slider isn’t eating, but they seem healthy, it’s the temperature. A red-eared slider’s water should be between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and their basking area should be 85 to 95 degrees. If it’s too hot or two cold, your turtle’s eating habits will definitely change!

Can I hand feed my red-eared slider?

If you are careful and your turtle doesn’t seem to be frightened, then hand feeding can be fun for both you and your turtle. Just be sure to only do this with food big enough that it’s hard to miss!

Also, if your turtle likes hand feeding, this will come in useful later when you need to lure them onto land for a quick checkup!

Do red-eared sliders need a water dish?

No, red-eared sliders will drink the water that they are in and most turtles are the same, except for terrestrial ones like box turtles.

With box turtles, you’ll definitely need a dish and they’ll get in it from time to time, but sliders are happy just drinking the water in their tank and using that to help them to swallow food.

Final thoughts

Today we’ve talked about how often to feed red eared sliders and if you have juveniles, that’s going to be daily, while turtles older than a year should be fed every 2 to 3 days. Don’t forget to tailor their diet to their age – hatchlings and juveniles are more carnivorous, while adults eat more plant matter.

Pellets can help to round-out their nutrition but should only be about 25% of their diet, with the rest being taken up by live or freeze-dried insects, veggies, and the occasional fruits as a treat.

Provided that you set a schedule and stick to it, keeping their meals fresh and varied, you’ve got a recipe for a happy and healthy red-eared slider!


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