Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

What Plants Do Painted Turtles Eat?

A painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) hanging out on a log.
Ricardo Colon/500px/GettyImages

Painted turtles (‌Chrysemys picta)‌ have an omnivorous diet consisting of both plant and animal material. The turtles, identifiable by their bright yellow and red colors, are mainly carnivorous when young and prefer crustaceans, fish and aquatic insects.

As they mature, their diet evolves into a preference for diverse plants, though adult painted turtles continue to eat animal matter, including carrion.

Waterweed (Elodea canadensis) growing in the Płonia river in Szczecin Dąbie, Poland.
Krzysztof Ziarnek, CC SA-4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Aquatic Plants for Painted Turtles

  • Waterweed:‌ Also called anacharis, waterweed (‌Elodea canadensis‌) is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 10. The submersed leafy plant is widely used in aquariums because it’s easy to care for and helps in oxygenating the water. Waterweed is invasive in the wild because it grows quickly and is hard to manage.
  • Common Duckweed:‌ Hardy in zones 4 to 10, common duckweed (‌Lemna minor‌) grows on the surface of ponds. The plants with small green leaves grow in colonies and, if left uneaten by turtles, ducks or other animals, they can cover the pond and starve the water of oxygen.
  • Water Lilies:‌ Water lilies (‌Nymphaea‌ spp.) have large, oval leaves that float on the surface of the water and showy, whorled flowers in a multitude of colors. Hardy water lilies are found in zones 3 to 11, while tropical water lilies thrive in zones 9 to 11. The flowers of the American white water lily (‌Nymphaea odorata‌) are quite fragrant.
  • Water Hyacinth:‌ While a favorite of painted turtles, water hyacinth (‌Pontederia crassipes‌) is considered one of the most difficult-to-control aquatic weeds. Common in zones 8 to 11, water hyacinths have bladders that keep the thick leaves afloat. Lavender flowers grow on a single stalk. Note that the bulbs of the hyacinths that grow on land are poisonous and should not be fed to turtles.
  • Algae:‌ A broad term referring to a number of genera, algae vary from single-celled organisms to enormous multicellular forms, like kelp. Generally speaking, the algae that grow in ponds and provide food for turtles are single celled and frequently float on the surface of water or are the filamentous algae that grow in mats.
A white, lavender, light pink and yellow flower of the common water hyacinth (Pontederia crassipes).
Muhammad Mahdi Karim, CC SA-2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Garden Plants for Captive Turtles

If you’re feeding a pet turtle, keep in mind that young turtles are mostly carnivorous and need more meat than vegetables in their diet. Turtles in captivity depend on you to provide proper nutrition.

If you choose to supplement or replace your adult turtle’s diet of commercial turtle food, you’ll need to feed them a healthy diet supplemented by once-weekly animal matter, like blood worms or brine shrimp. Overfeeding is one of the most common mistakes turtle owners make. If your turtle develops cloudy skin or seems lethargic, an incomplete diet may be to blame.

Warning

If your turtle develops cloudy skin or seems lethargic, an incomplete diet may be to blame. Keep in mind that young turtles are mostly carnivorous and need more meat than vegetables in their diet.

What common foods can you feed to a turtle?

Most garden vegetables are suitable for your turtle. Provide a varied diet of collard and mustard greens, red leaf lettuce, romaine, squash, kale, escarole and endive, but avoid poisonous plants and citrus.

Vegetables high in oxalates, like broccoli, carrots, spinach, parsley and rhubarb, should be fed sparingly. Dandelions are high in oxalic acid, but they’re also high in calcium, which is a mineral turtles need. Feed them younger dandelion leaves, which are lower in oxalic acid.

Feed an adult captive painted turtle every two or three days. Feeding them more frequently may cause obesity. Put the food in a container rather than dumping it in the turtle’s habitat. Turtles are messy eaters, and you’ll have to clean the habitat more often if you don’t.

Related Articles

Plants That Live in Streams
Plants That Live in Streams
Water Lily Plant Information
Water Lily Plant Information
Plants That Grow in Freshwater
Plants That Grow in Freshwater
Insects That Eat Algae
Insects That Eat Algae
Water Flower Names
Water Flower Names
What Is the Lotus Plant?
What Is the Lotus Plant?
What Do Grass Carp Eat?
What Do Grass Carp Eat?
List of Marine Water Plants
List of Marine Water Plants
Plants in a Pond Ecosystem
Plants in a Pond Ecosystem
Which Plants Grow in Ponds?
Which Plants Grow in Ponds?
Animals That Eat Rice Fields
Animals That Eat Rice Fields
Uses of Water Lily Flowers
Uses of Water Lily Flowers
Duckweed Facts
Duckweed Facts
Life Cycle of a Water Lily Plant
Life Cycle of a Water Lily Plant
How to Kill Lotus Plants in Pond
How to Kill Lotus Plants in Pond
The Characteristics of a Water Hyacinth
The Characteristics of a Water Hyacinth
How to Take Care of Water Canna
How to Take Care of Water Canna
Pond Plants That Are Poisonous for Cats
Pond Plants That Are Poisonous for Cats
Garden Guides
×