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All About The Yellow Bellied Sliders Diet (What Do They Eat?)

Yellow-bellied slider turtles are one of the most common pet turtles. They’re pretty easy to take care of once you understand the basics. However, whether you’re a seasoned turtle parent or just got your first pet, knowing the various foods that yellow-bellied sliders can eat will help you give your turtle a more balanced, fun diet. 

Yellow-bellied slider turtles start as carnivores when they are young, and as they mature, they become mainly herbivores. When sliders are young, they need a diet full of protein. When they reach the adult stage, they require much less protein.

This diet may seem complicated, but it is relatively easy to follow once you understand what you need for their diet. In this article, I will be giving you a guide on feeding your slider at any age. I’ll also tell you about specific foods your turtle will love and how much to feed it depending on how old it is.

What Do Yellow-Bellied Slider Turtles Eat?

Adult yellow-bellied slider turtles eat leafy greens, fruits, and some insects. You can feed the turtles live food if they don’t eat pellets. Some aquatic plants are also suitable for them to eat. 

Aquatic plants that are safe for them to eat are:

  • Duckweed
  • Waterweed
  • Algae
  • Water Lily

Leafy greens that are safe for them to eat are: 

  • Parsley
  • Kale
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Collard Greens
  • Carrot Tops
  • Turnip Greens
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Dandelion Greens

Other great treats for your turtle are certain fruits, such as: 

  • Apples (with no peel or core)
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Blueberries
  • Bananas
  • Tomatoes
  • Apples
  • Watermelon
  • Oranges
  • Cucumber

However, treats such as fruits should not make up a large percentage of your slider’s diet. It’s best only to feed these treats in smaller amounts once a week. 

Pellets can be a tasty food to give your turtle that has the nutrients it needs. Many kinds of pellets are available, and some have higher protein percentages than others. As sliders mature, they require less and less protein. Once they are fully mature, only 50% of their diet needs to be protein.

yellow-bellied slider turtles food

You should also feed adult turtles live food to boost that protein percentage to around 50%, even if your slider is an adult. Here is a list of live foods that are safe and turtles love:

  • Crickets
  • Mealworms
  • Earthworms

What Do Baby Yellow-Bellied Slider Turtles Eat?

Baby slider turtles are carnivores that usually feed on insects, worms, and small fish. You should provide them with live food or meat products about four times a week. Introduce fruits and vegetables slowly into their diet as they age. 

Baby slider turtles eat various things, but their diet must consist of aquatic foods, meat products, and live food to get the proper nutrients they need to keep growing.

Dried Foods are also an option if live food isn’t available. 

Baby sliders, as opposed to adult sliders, need a diet packed full of protein.

baby yellow-bellied slider turtle

There are several options for meat products to feed your yellow-bellied slider turtle. 

  • Shrimp
  • Salmon
  • Mice
  • Chicks and Chunk Chicken
  • Tuna canned in water (no oil)

Yellow-bellied slider turtles need live food in their diet as well. Live food is usually a live insect or worm you can get from a pet store. Some standard options are:

  • Brown crickets
  • Black crickets
  • Dubai Cockroaches
  • Locusts
  • Mealworm
  • Earthworm

If live food isn’t available or if it makes you uncomfortable, you can find dried versions of the insects to give to your baby slider online.

Baby slider turtles can also eat the same vegetation and fruits that adult sliders eat. However, it would be best if you waited until they started to get older to transition them into a herbivore diet. 

Pellets are also available for a baby slider diet. However, they don’t need them as often as other foods mentioned above. 

How Much Do Yellow-Bellied Slider Turtles Eat?

Yellow-bellied sliders eat as much food as can fit in their mouths. Generally, you should feed your turtle just enough food that if you balled up all of the feed, it would be the same size as your turtle’s head. 

Some people recommend feeding your turtle as much as they can eat within 15 minutes, but this isn’t always safe because it can lead to overfeeding. However, all food should be gone within 15 minutes of feeding. Otherwise, you will need to remove the excess food to keep the water clean. 

The meal can be leafy greens or a mixture of greens and pellets. It is also good to give them live food as a treat. Just make sure you don’t overdo it because live food contains a lot of protein they don’t need when they’re adults.

yellow belly turtle go without eating

How Often Do You Feed Yellow-Bellied Slider Turtles?

You should feed yellow-bellied slider turtles one time a day for the best growth. Be sure to give them food at a similar time every day to prevent them from getting too hungry between feedings. 

So, optimally, sticking to a once-a-day feeding schedule will help your turtles stay happy and healthy. If they do not eat all of their food within 15 minutes of feeding them, be sure to remove the excess. 

How Much Do Baby Yellow-Bellied Slider Turtles Eat?

Baby yellow-bellied sliders eat the same amount of food as the size of their heads per feeding. So, use the head measurement trick to determine how much to feed your turtle as it grows. 

These meals will mainly consist of live food and meat products. Other foods such as vegetation or pellets can be given as treats occasionally.

How Often Do You Feed Baby Yellow-Bellied Slider Turtles?

You need to feed baby yellow-bellied slider turtles twice daily. Each portion should be the same size as the baby turtle’s head, so they eat more than adult sliders. Be sure to feed them high-protein foods during both feedings. 

Can You Overfeed Them?

You can overfeed yellow-bellied sliders. These turtles are opportunistic eaters, meaning they will eat food whenever available. So, if you’re feeding them too much or too often, they will eat it regardless if they’re full.

Overfeeding can cause your turtle to become overweight and lead to a condition called shell pyramiding. This condition is when a turtle’s shell grows too fast and starts to stretch out and separate. It is also an irreversible disease. 

How To Tell If You’re Overfeeding Your Yellow-Bellied Slider Turtle

There are several signs your turtle will physically show if you are overfeeding it. Your turtle may have folds of fat on its legs whether or not its legs are retracted. The edges of their shell may start to turn upwards, which is usually the first sign of overfeeding.

These physical signs will show up before shell pyramiding happens, so keep an eye on your turtle’s appearance. 

How Many Pellets Should You Feed Them?

It is the same rule as other foods. The number of pellets fed should be an amount that could fit inside the turtle’s head if it were hallowed. However, baby sliders shouldn’t have a diet centered around pellets and should eat other foods suggested until they mature.

How Long Can They Go Without Food?

As adults, yellow-bellied slider turtles can go about 90 days without food. This number could vary depending on the turtle’s size, age, and environmental conditions. 

Although yellow-bellied sliders do best when they eat small meals every day, they can survive quite a long time without food. So, you can leave them without food for a couple of days without harming them – they will just be hungry and miss their food. However, if it’s longer than a weekend, it’s recommended to get someone to feed your turtle. 

Just because your turtle can go 90 days without eating doesn’t mean it’s a good thing to do, and you should avoid this at all costs. 

After a month of not eating, your yellow-bellied slider will move less to conserve energy. The slider’s immune system will also stop working, creating a considerable risk of getting sick

The turtle will also stop growing because they will use the remaining nutrients in the body for vital organ functions.

How Long Can Baby Yellow-Bellied Slider Turtle Go Without Food

A baby slider can not go as long without food as an adult slider. The baby slider could die from starvation from 5 days to 90 days. Baby sliders also need to be fed daily, so it is best not to let them go without food, or it could significantly impact their health and growth.

Why Aren’t They Eating?

Your turtles may not be eating because of stress from moving into a new environment or a lack of heat. In addition, sliders won’t eat if your tank is not suitable for swimming and basking or if you’re not feeding it in the water.

Sometimes it can take a week or so for a turtle to adjust to a new environment, and while doing this, they won’t have a big appetite. If you’ve just moved your turtle into its new home, give it about a week and see if it starts eating. 

If you’ve ruled out the new environment as the culprit, you may want to ensure that your heating lamp suits your slider’s needs. Turtles need to thermoregulate by going in between warm and cool areas. If they can’t do this, they won’t be able to digest their food correctly. 

If the temperature set up in the tank is perfect, then the next thing to look at is your tank set up. Turtles need plenty of room to swim and a big area to bask. If the turtle can’t do this, it will be unhappy and can lose its appetite. 

If you checked all the possible issues above, the last step is to ensure you’re feeding your turtle in the water and not on land. Yellow-bellied sliders are aquatic turtles and prefer to eat in the water. 

How To Get Them To Eat

If your yellow-bellied slider is struggling to eat, you may want to try offering some tastier treats to get its attention. You can give them live or crushed crickets. Other meaty foods like worms or fish might also get their appetite going. 

Be careful not to spoil your turtle on these treats because they should only be a once-a-week treat with pellets. So, once your turtle goes back to eating, lessen the number of meaty foods given regularly. 

If your turtle continues not to eat for an extended period, seek veterinary assistance to see what is happening. Slider turtles love to eat, so there could be a health issue if it continues for a drastic period. 

Should You Hand Feed Your Yellow-Bellied Slider?

You should not feed your yellow-bellied slider turtles. Although there is no harm to the turtle if you hand feed them, it is not the best practice. The turtle may associate your hand with food and eventually bite at your hand, thinking it is food. 

Unless you are okay with a possible injury, it is best not to hand-feed your turtle for your safety. Use forceps or tongs to offer your sliders food for the best, most harmless results. 

Final Thoughts

Yellow-bellied slider turtles start as carnivores and, as they age, become herbivores. Baby sliders need a diet that is mainly protein that can come from live food and meat products. 

Adult sliders don’t need as much protein and should have a diet of leafy greens and pellets. It is easy to overfeed any age turtle because they’re opportunistic eaters. 

To avoid overfeeding, the correct proportion of food is an amount that would fit inside their heads if they were hollow. Once you understand the diet, it is easy to follow, and you will have a happy and healthy turtle.


Chris is a reptile enthusiast, breeder, and blogger from the Milwaukee, WI area. After breeding hundreds of bearded dragons to supply local pet stores and owning many other types of reptiles, he is now focused on sharing knowledge to help owners properly care for their little reptiles friends.

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