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How Often Should I Feed My Red-Eared Slider? (Schedule)

You should feed an adult red-eared slider every 2-3 days. Their diet should consist of both protein and greens. Juvenile red-eared sliders should be fed every day. They should also receive more protein than adults.

How often should you feed your red-eared slider? That’s a question that a lot of pet owners have. 

The answer is not always easy to determine. 

Depending on the age and size of your slider and its activity level, you may need to feed it anywhere from once a day to two times a week. 

Here are some tips on creating a feeding schedule for your red-eared slider.

How Often Should I Feed My Red-Eared Slider?

Feed juvenile red-eared sliders daily, as they have high metabolisms that need to be fueled in order to support their growth and development. Once they reach adulthood at 5-7 years old, you can start feeding them every 2-3 days, or small portions daily.

If your slider is particularly active, you may need to feed it more often. Swimmers tend to burn off more energy and need to eat more frequently as a result. 

If you notice your slider is losing weight, you should increase the frequency of its meals.

red eared slider feeding schedule
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On the other hand, if your slider is less active or starts to put on weight, you may need to cut back on its food. Obesity in red-eared sliders can lead to health problems such as liver disease. It’s important to keep an eye on your pet’s weight and adjust its diet accordingly.

Lifestage Hatchling Juvenile Adult
Age >1 year 1–5 years 5+ years
Diet Composition 50% live food25% pellets25% vegetables 40% live food25% pellets35% vegetables 10–20% live food10–20% pellets50–75% vegetables*
Feeding Frequency Daily 1–2 days 2–3 days

*adult diet composition depends on individual activity levels and reproductive requirements

Do Red-Eared Sliders Need To Eat Every Day?

Baby red-eared sliders under the age of 1 year need to eat every day. Feed juveniles between 1 and 5 years daily or every second day. Adults of 5+ years eat 2 to 3 times per week.

Young red-eared sliders need to eat daily to support their growth. This is particularly important for hatchlings in their first year of life when their growth is most rapid.[1]

During the juvenile stages, red-eared sliders are growing at a steady rate and daily meals support this development. Feeding decent-sized portions every second day is also fine at this age.

Once your turtle has finished growing (between 5-7 years, depending on sex) its metabolism slows down. At this stage, they only need to eat 2 to 3 times a week. An adult diet is mostly greens, which are low in calories. 

It’s okay to feed them small portions of greens daily, but protein should be limited to every 2-3 days.

Do Red-Eared Sliders Need To Eat Every Day
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Adult Red-Eared Slider Feeding Schedule

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Greens, Pellets Greens Greens, Live food Greens Greens, Pellets Greens GreensOptional treat: fruit, cooked meat protein

Baby Red-Eared Slider Feeding Schedule

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Pellets, Live food, Greens Pellets, Live food Pellets, Live food, Greens Pellets, Live food Pellets, Live food, Greens Pellets, Live food Pellets, Live food, Optional treat: fruit or cooked meat protein

How Much Does a Red Eared Slider Eat?

Red-eared sliders are opportunistic eaters and eat as much as they can. To ensure proper portion control, allow your red-eared slider to eat as much as they like within ten minutes. Remove the excess food afterward.

Feeding your red-eared slider is not as simple as offering a specific portion of food. Doing so can easily result in over or under-feeding. Access to food is particularly important for growing juveniles.

They should be able to eat as much as they like within a designated period. Most keepers limit this feeding time to 10-15 minutes.

How much your slider needs to eat depends on their age and size. Here are some general guidelines for portion sizes:

  • Green portion is approximately the size of the turtle’s shell
  • Juvenile protein should be the size of the turtle’s head
  • Adult protein should be half the size of their heading

After feeding, it is essential to remove all old food from the tank. This is important for hygiene reasons as old food can grow potentially harmful bacteria. But it also prevents the turtle from overeating outside of feeding.

Red-Eared Slider Diet & Feeding

Can You Overfeed a Red-Eared Slider?

It is possible to overfeed a red-eared slider. These turtles are opportunistic eaters and overeat if offered too much food or meals too frequently. Overeating can cause obesity and shell pyramiding.

The opportunistic wild red-eared slider never knows when it will get its next meal or where it will come from. To ensure survival, they make the most out of available food sources. This means they eat much more than necessary in captivity.[2]

Overfeeding is common in captivity as red-eared sliders quickly make the connection between their owners and food. They often beg for food, even when they do not need to eat.

The best way to avoid overfeeding your red-eared slider is to stick to a regular feeding schedule and remove all food after the designated period.

It’s also essential to offer a variety of greens and limit protein to 1-2 times per week. A diet consisting mainly of pellets is likely to result in overeating.

Related: Why Is My Red-Eared Slider Not Eating?

Can You Overfeed a Red-Eared Slider?
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Obesity

Red-eared sliders become obese when they consume more calories than they burn. This is common when turtles are kept in captivity and given an incorrect diet. A diet that is too high in protein or fat can lead to obesity.

If your red-eared slider is overweight, you can do a few things to help them slim down.

  1. Cut back on the frequency of meals. If you’re currently feeding daily, try every other day.
  2. Reduce the portion size at each meal
  3. Offer food for 10-15 minutes at each feeding
  4. Remove food from the tank after feeding
  5. Alternate food items for a variety of nutrients
  6. Increase tank size or add a basking area to encourage activity
  7. Provide hiding spots and toys for enrichment

Obesity can lead to other health problems in turtles, such as shell pyramiding, respiratory infections, and heart disease. If you think your turtle is obese, talk to a reptile vet about changing their diet and increasing activity.

Shell Pyramiding

Shell pyramiding is a condition that results from insufficient nutrient intake, most often calcium[3]. This happens when turtles eat an incorrect diet or do not have enough space to move around.

Excess protein and calories can also contribute to shell pyramiding. 

When turtles overeat, they are more likely to develop this condition. This is especially a concern in adult sliders, whose protein intake should be limited.

Raised scutes and a bumpy shell characterize shell pyramiding. The shell may also appear uneven or deformed. In severe cases, shell pyramiding can make it difficult for turtles to move and breathe properly.

Increasing the size of the tank or adding a basking area under a UV lamp also helps to improve shell health. These changes give your turtle more space to move around and encourage activity.

Related: Red-Eared Slider Shell Rot

How Do I Know If I’m Overfeeding My Red-Eared Slider?

If you’re unsure whether or not you’re overfeeding your red-eared slider, there are a few things you can look for.

One of the most obvious signs of overfeeding is obesity.

Signs of obesity in red-eared sliders include

  • Excess skin
  • Bulges around the head and limbs
  • Inability to tuck head and limbs inside the shell
  • Difficulty walking on land
  • Unable to tuck limbs into the shell all the way

Other signs of overfeeding include shell pyramiding, respiratory infections, and heart disease. If you notice any of these problems, talk to a reptile vet about changing your turtle’s diet.

How Do I Know If I’m Overfeeding My Red-Eared Slider
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Can Red-Eared Sliders Eat Out of Water?

Red-eared sliders need to be in the water while they eat. They lack saliva to lubricate food during chewing and swallowing. Eating on land puts them at a higher risk of choking.

As a semi-aquatic species, red-eared sliders rely on water for many basic life functions. Eating is one of these things.

They lack salivary glands. They do not produce moisture in the mouth[4]. Moisture is needed for chewing and swallowing, which sliders get from eating in the water.

During eating, the turtles consume a lot of water with their food, so they often spurt water back out of their mouth and nose. This is a normal response.

In addition to needing lubrication, red-eared sliders have a fixed tongue, meaning they cannot manipulate food well. Eating within water helps to control the food during eating to mold it to a suitable size for swallowing.

What Do Red-Eared Sliders Eat?

Red-eared sliders are omnivores. They eat a range of aquatic plants, insects, and small fish in the wild. As pets, they eat turtle pellets, live insects, and vegetables.

As an omnivore, your red-eared slider enjoys a diet of both plant and animal matter. In the wild, they munch on aquatic plants, algae, and small animals such as insects and fish.

If you’re keeping your red-eared slider as a pet, you can give them a few different food options, including commercial turtle food, live insects, and leafy vegetables. 

As a general rule of thumb, aim to offer your red-eared slider a variety of foods. This ensures they’re getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

Related: What Do Red-Eared Sliders Eat?

What Do Red-Eared Sliders Eat

What Vegetables Can Red Eared Sliders Eat?

The following vegetables are the best for red-eared sliders:

  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Dandelion greens
  • Endive
  • Scarola
  • Turnip greens
  • Beet greens, parsley
  • Arugula
  • Bok choy
  • Carrot tops
  • Zucchini
  • Peas
  • Green Beans

Avoid these vegetables for red-eared sliders:

  • Rhubarb, spinach, leeks, beetroot, beets, and chard – contain oxalic acid which can bind with calcium and limit absorption.[6]
  • Cabbage, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts – are part of the brassica family, which can limit the absorption of iodine. 
  • Iceberg lettuce – contains very little nutritional value.
  • Avocado

What Fruits Can Red Eared Sliders Eat?

Fruits can be an occasional treat (no more than 1-2 times per week). The following fruits are safe for red-eared sliders:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Grapes
  • Mango
  • Melon
  • Papaya
  • Berries

What Proteins Can Red Eared Sliders Eat?

Protein should only make up a small portion of an adult’s diet (10-20%). The following proteins are safe for red-eared sliders:

  • Turtle pellets
  • Live foods (earthworms, crickets, and mealworms)
  • Cooked meat (chicken, turkey, and beef)
  • Fish and shrimp

Final Thoughts

Red-eared sliders should be fed every 2-3 days for adults, and every day for juveniles. Adults should be fed protein equal to 10-20% of their diet, while juveniles need more protein.

Remember to always offer a variety of foods to ensure they’re getting all the nutrients they need. If you have any concerns about your turtle’s health, consult a reptile veterinarian.

About Sophie Herlihy (Zoologist)

Sophie Herlihy, a trained zoologist, is a lover of true misfit animals. With a specialty in insects, birds, and rodents, she helps the Misfit Animals craft factual and valuable informational pieces on various animals.