Red-bellied turtles are beautiful aquatic turtles with distinct red stripes on the underside of their shells. They get their name from the beautiful red and black patterns on their shell. They are very popular pets, and so their owners must be aware of their dietary requirements to keep them healthy. So, what do red-bellied turtles eat?
The primary diet of red-bellied turtles includes algae and aquatic plants. However, since these turtles are omnivores, they occasionally feed on crayfish, small fish, amphibians, crustaceans, and insects. Red-bellied turtles prefer a protein-rich diet when young and plant-based nutrition as adults.
Let’s talk about the diet of red-bellied turtles in more detail. But first…
What Is A Red-Bellied Turtle?
Red-bellied turtles belong to the United States.
You can find these animals in freshwater habitats along the Potomac River and coastal regions of Maryland, West Virginia, and North Carolina.
Young turtles have a greenish carapace and orange plastron.
The lines and beautiful details become visible once they are adults.
The reddish bands on the base become visible when the shell is wet.
At one glance, red-bellied turtles appear to resemble painted turtles.
However, you can distinguish between these two animals by looking at their size.
Another difference is that painted turtles have a yellow mark on their head, whereas red-bellied turtles do not have it.
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Diet Of A Red-Bellied Turtle
Red-bellied turtles are omnivores. Their dietary habits depend on their environment.
When kept as pets, they survive on store-bought turtle food and homemade food.
However, replicating their natural diet is ideal for keeping them healthy.
What Do Red-Bellied Turtles Eat In The Wild?
In the wild, red-bellied turtles feed on both animal and plant-based food.
Adult red-bellied turtles are primarily herbivorous.
They eat algae and other aquatic vegetation and are particularly fond of aquatic plants called milfoil.
These animals will also eat small invertebrates like shrimp, crayfish, small fish, insects, and amphibians.
What Do Baby Red-Bellied Turtles Eat?
Baby red-bellied turtles need more protein than adults.
In the wild red-bellied baby turtles eat insects, small crustaceans, and fish.
For the vegetarian part of their diet, they feed on algae and aquatic vegetation.
What To Feed Pet Red-Bellied Turtles?
You can feed pet red-bellied turtles a mix of commercial and fresh food to satisfy their nutritional requirements.
Adult turtles will enjoy a varied diet of aquatic plants like duckweed, arrowheads, hydrilla, and water hyacinth.
If you grow these plants in their enclosure, the turtle will snack on these plants whenever they are hungry.
Commercially available turtle pellets will also help them meet their nutritional requirements.
You can also add a calcium supplement to ensure that their shell and bones stay strong and healthy.
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What Are Northern Red-Bellied Turtles?
Red-bellied turtles are classified into three groups based on their geographical presence.
Northern red-bellied turtles exist in the region from New Jersey to North Carolina.
They are also present in different locations in Massachusetts.
The northern red-bellied turtles prefer to live in freshwater bodies like ponds, streams, and creeks.
They need basking areas and like to live in places with plenty of vegetation.
Northern red-bellied turtles are characterized by the red pattern on their carapaces. Females may sometimes be black.
The underside of the shell will be yellow to red with black spots.
Baby northern red-bellied turtles will usually have red to orange colored shells.
They will also have a dark pattern along the edges. This fades over time and finally disappears.
What Do Northern Red-Bellied Turtles Eat?
Adult northern red-bellied turtles are omnivores. However, they prefer vegetarian food to animal nutrition.
These animals thrive on readily available aquatic vegetation and algae in their surroundings.
These turtles will also feed on insect larvae, crustaceans, and worms.
What Do Baby Northern Red-Bellied Turtles Eat?
Young Northern red-bellied turtles are omnivores. Younger turtles prefer a protein-rich diet.
In the wild, they feed on insect larvae, worms, small fish, and crustaceans.
These meaty foods satisfy their protein needs and help them grow quickly.
However, baby northern red-bellied turtles also need vegetable matter to balance their nutritional needs.
They snack on algae and other aquatic plants in their surroundings to stay healthy.
What To Feed Pet Northern Red-Bellied Turtles?
It is a good idea to grow aquatic plants in the enclosure where you keep northern red-bellied turtles.
They will nibble on these plants when hungry and obtain the nutrition they need.
You can plant non-toxic aquatic plants like water hyacinth, arrowhead plants, duckweed, and hydrilla.
Northern red-bellied turtles also need protein from meat.
You can add fresh or freeze-dried foods like feeder fish, worms, and krill to their diet for this purpose.
They will also enjoy snacking on green vegetables like beet leaves, collard greens, lettuce, and zucchini.
You can also occasionally treat them to fruits like bananas.
Northern red-bellied turtles will thrive on commercially available turtle food in the form of pellets or flakes.
To keep their shell healthy, it is also important to include enough calcium in their diet.
Add a calcium supplement to compensate for any dietary deficiencies.
You can also give your pet a cuttlebone to improve its calcium intake.
Interesting Further Reading:
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- Are Turtles Omnivores, Herbivores, Or Carnivores? (Actual Facts)
- Are Turtles Good Pets? [How Hard Is It To Keep Turtles?]
Habitat And Other Needs Of Red-Bellied Turtles In Captivity
Red-bellied turtles make exciting pets. They have attractive colors and beautiful patterns on their shells.
These animals are timid. They do not like to be picked up and handled.
They are easily startled, and you may stress them out if you touch them too often.
Red-bellied turtles are excellent swimmers. So, you must keep them in tanks or enclosures with plenty of water.
These turtles will also bask for long durations.
Hence, you should ensure that their enclosure allows them enough exposure to the sun or has a UV lamp.
Apart from these basic factors, you should also address the following points when keeping red-bellied turtles as pets.
Red-bellied turtles require temperatures within the range of 75°F and 80°F. They do not do well in low temperatures.
If the enclosure becomes cold in winter, add a heat source to raise the temperature.
They may show the tendency to hibernate when temperatures fall.
Although they are hardy and can survive low temperatures, it is always risky to allow them to hibernate.
If you keep your red-bellied turtle in an indoor enclosure with limited access to light, add a good source of UV light to keep it healthy.
Red-bellied turtles like clean water. They do not do well in dirty or muddy water.
Since they are strong swimmers, they will also need large quantities of water to dive and swim.
Water with a depth of 1 to 2 feet is ideal for an adult turtle.
Red-bellied turtles in captivity need a good-quality filter.
It should control the build-up of ammonia or toxins, which will adversely affect their health and make them prone to illnesses.
Red-bellied turtles are not too fond of company. If you keep them with other turtles, they may end up fighting.
Even if you keep them with other red-bellied turtles, they may fight.
If you keep a pair of turtles, the male turtle may harass the female. So, always alert for signs of stress in any of the turtles.
If you catch them fighting, separate them promptly to prevent them from getting injured.