What do Terrapins Eat?

It’s fun to have a terrapin as a pet. They have a lot of personality—so much so that pet owners are often surprised by them and joke they are like small children.

And, just like with kids, all this energy is fuelled by a nutritious, well-balanced diet.

In the wild, terrapins are smart and manage to get all types of foods and don’t rely too much on a single food type. As omnivores, they like both meat-based and plant-based foods.

Terrapins eat all types of plant and animal foods like fruits, vegetables, grasses, flowers, fishes, snails, worms, and insects.

A terrapin in a tank should have a diverse nutrition plan that mimics what terrapins would find in the wild. So, let’s see how you can give your terrapin the best diet and keep it happy and growing.

Commercial foods

A diverse diet provides all nutrients and vitamins a terrapin requires. Commercial foods make it easier to feed your terrapin, as long as you keep in mind they like more variety and appeal when it comes to food.

They are available in the form of vegetable pellets and food sticks, both in local pet stores and online.

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The good thing about commercial terrapin food is that they have a long shelf life. A box or tub of terrapin food can go a long way without you worrying that it might go stale.

Commercial food ensures a well-balanced diet. However, these foods are best used to provide a good base instead of completely replacing your terrapin’s diverse diet.

Animal foods

When in the wild, terrapins feed almost exclusively on live prey. When you keep a terrapin as a pet, you can use meat as a tasty part of a nutritious diet. As far as possible, low-fat animal meat should be provided. This may include fat-free pork or beef, chicken, and small fish like shrimp and trout.

Meat chunks should be cut very small so that the terrapin is either able to eat them whole or tear the pieces apart if it wants to.

Terrapins also enjoy the taste of water snails and earthworms.

Since terrapins don’t encounter cooked food in their natural habitat, they don’t normally like the taste of cooked meat, though they eat it if they are very hungry.

Of course, if your terrapin is very hungry it might mean it’s not getting a consistent diet of foods it likes, so this is something to explore.

Terrapins love to eat oily fish like tuna, mackerel, shellfish, and sardines. Such fish are easily available and contain Vitamin D. Fish entrails, such as liver and intestines, may be given as well.

Terrapins can also be fed whitebait, mussels, prawns, shrimp, sprats, cockles, bloodworms, Tubifex worms, and beef heart. You can easily buy frozen shrimp and defrost a few for your terrapins to enjoy as a treat and for optimal nutritional variety.

Terrapin Eating Plant Based Food

Plant foods

Terrapins can also be fed several kinds of plant food. They particularly relish lettuce, watercress, and other green leafy vegetables.

Some terrapins also love fruit such as apples, pears, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and bananas. You can judge your terrapin’s preference by giving it a small bit of the vegetation—if it enjoys eating it, you may give some more.

Dietary supplements

Dietary supplements are essential to provide trace elements and minerals such as calcium, which is an essential mineral for shell maintenance.

A calcium deficit is difficult to remedy so it’s best to provide your terrapin with the right diet from the start.

Cuttlefish and ground eggshells are good sources of calcium. Cuttlefish can be broken into bits and kept in the terrapinarium for the terrapin to nibble on as and when it wants to. As for eggshells, you should ensure to grind them fine because any big pieces can cause injury.

You can also provide dietary supplements prepared by some good pet stores. You can buy a calcium reptile dietary supplement in powder form. You then coat bits of food like shrimp, fruit and vegetables in the powder and give your terrapin.

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Remember that terrapins have fierce snatching strength, so it may be best if you use tweezers to present them with the supplement-coated delicacy.

What size food should I give my terrapin?

Terrapins have strong jaws, with female terrapins being bigger and having stronger jaws than males—which is quite unusual in the animal kingdom.

Even so, the food size you give your terrapin should be small enough to be eaten in a small bite or soft enough to be shredded by their powerful jaws.

Terrapins eat food in the water. Once they have nibbled at their food, the rest falls to the bottom where they won’t touch it anymore.

As more food bits accumulate at the bottom of your tank, the water becomes dirty.

Terrapins need clean water, a basking area where they can take in the sunshine of the UV lights, and good nutrition.

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If, however, you feed your terrapins too much, food will soon turn the water mucky and dirty. If the food pieces are too big or the food quantity is too much, again it will pile up at the bottom.

That’s why some people choose to feed their terrapins in a separate tank, where water is kept at the right temperature.

Bear in mind that some terrapins don’t like being handled repeatedly, so removing them from their rank into a different one for lunchtime might stress them.

It’s a trial-and-error approach that you should adopt very carefully.

How often should I feed my terrapin?

Baby terrapins need to eat more frequently compared to adult ones and should be given a variety of food types on a daily basis.

Adult terrapins need less frequent feeding—you can feed your adult terrapin every 2 to 3 days.

When does a terrapin qualify as an adult? A male terrapin reaches adulthood when he’s around 4 to 6 years old. Female terrapins take longer and are considered adults when they are 8 to 12 years old.

Therefore, for a long time, you should take extra care of the diet and nutritional schedule of your terrapins, feeding them daily good food.

Feeding a baby terrapin as opposed to an adult terrapin

Baby terrapins need more protein to build their body. This means more animal protein-rich commercial food. As the terrapin grows into an adult, its diet requires less protein and more vegetable-based food.

While you shouldn’t forego animal foods altogether, you should adjust the quantity and overall balance between animal and plant foods.

If you are looking for more tips and ideas on taking care of your pet terrapin, we have provided a complete handbook on everything you need to know. Please check out the complete terrapin guide.

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