Aquatic turtles such as the yellow belly turtle do best when offered food on a set schedule every day. These turtles generally have higher metabolisms and better appetites when their habitat is warm, as their metabolism and energy expenditure is directly related to the environment. This holds true for other cold-blooded reptiles as well. Additionally, aquatic turtles regularly go through periods where they might seem to be in a sluggish state, especially when their habitat is cooler in temperature. Turtles that live in warm water may seem to be hungry more often, sometimes even begging for food when they recognize their owner near the tank.
Most stores sell pellet foods, which can be more difficult to offer to turtles compared to moist foods such as gels or pates. Aquatic turtles such as the yellow belly turtle are often more picky about their food than land turtles, and may be reluctant to eat pellets. This is especially true if they were raised to eat frozen or live animal protein. Some stores offer dehydrated foods that the owner can add warm water to, which produces a warm, fresh-smelling meal that most turtles will happily consume. Additionally, these mixes include nutritional fortification to make sure that they include the same nutritional value as a pellet food.
In addition to a complete staple food, it is important to supplement aquatic turtles with extra animal protein in different forms. Turtles require variety in their diet, which can come in the form of frozen crustaceans, fish and other animal protein. Alternatively, the same foods can come freeze-dried. Frozen foods are more enticing to turtles, but freeze-dried foods are more inexpensive, easier to store and cleaner to feed. As such, the majority of turtle owners feed freeze-dried food on a regular basis and offer frozen seafood as an occasional treat.
Some turtles will eat fruits and vegetables occasionally, which is a valuable source of fresh nutrition. However, it may take some work to get turtles to eat them, since aquatic turtles have a bigger appetite for animal protein than vegetable. Calcium-rich vegetables can help make sure that turtles avoid metabolic bone disease, since they are often reluctant to ingest supplemental calcium with their food. Their primary source of nutrition should always be a staple diet and supplemental animal protein, but adding small amounts of fruits and vegetables is a great way to add variety and nutrients.
The nutritional composition of all these foods varies from one item to the next, making it necessary to select foods with care to ensure that the turtle is meeting all of its dietary needs. Turtles require higher protein and fiber ratios and lower fat ratios, meaning that high fat foods should be set aside for treats only. This is not often a problem, since most turtles do not discriminate between animal protein and will eat high-fiber krill as readily as they would eat high-fat silverbacks. Providing a high quality diet is the key to owning a happy, thriving yellow belly turtle for any owner.