When keeping turtles as pets you’ll know that a massive part of caring for your turtle is trying to keep them healthy and a good way to do that is through the food you feed them and providing them with a nutritious diet.
All turtles are different and you will need to feed your turtle a specific diet depending on what species of turtle he/she is. Even though some turtles will enjoy certain foods more than others there are vitamins and minerals that are essential for all turtles, three of the most important being vitamin D3, calcium and vitamin A. So why are they important and how can I introduce them into my turtle’s diet?
Vitamin D3 partners well with calcium and is an aid which helps the absorption of calcium into your turtles body. Naturally in their habitats in the wild, turtles generate vitamin D3 through exposure to sunlight while going about their daily adventures. Most people who have turtles as pets keep them indoors so a good way to ensure your turtle receives this vital vitamin is to have a UVB lamp providing ultraviolet light into a section of their tank for at least 8-10 hrs a day. Ideally it is a lot easier and cheaper to allow your turtle 30 – 40 minutes of sunbathing where you would take the turtle outside into your yard and it can have exposure to natural sunlight every two to three times a week. Those few minutes will be more than enough time for them to generate enough vitamin D3 compared to the 8-10 hrs of artificial light.
One thing to keep in mind is that turtles are not used to extremely cold temperatures so if the weather is not particularly warm in your area it’s always better to stick with UVB lighting.
Calcium is extremely important for good turtle shell development and healthy bones in turtles. If there is a lack of calcium in a turtles diet it can cause severe problems to both land and aquatic turtles alike. The shells of aquatic turtles will become soft and rubbery and it’s very possible that a young calcium deficient turtle will develop malformed limbs. Land turtles on the other hand can suffer from pyramiding which is a condition that causes the shell of a tortoise to become lumpy and form pyramid like deformations. The cause of pyramiding is through too much protein and not enough calcium in a tortoise’s diet. Too much protein causes the turtle to grow at a much quicker rate than usual and this combined with a lack of calcium means the shell cannot expand quickly to keep up.
The best ways to provide calcium into your turtle’s diet is to provide them with calcium supplements which can come in few different forms. Calcium supplements for turtles usually come as powder but you can also use cuttlebones which is also used for birds and are a great way to induce calcium into your turtles diet to ensure they have good bone and shell health.
Make sure you buy the phosphurus-free calcium powder to allow your turtle to take in only calcium which will ensure your turtle does not unbalance their calcium to phosphorus ratio.
Vitamin A is important for your turtle’s skin, eyes and mucous membranes. Vitamin A deficiency in a turtle’s diet often results in turtles losing their appetites, swollen eyes and a runny nose. These symptoms all point at a condition known as hypovitaminosis A in turtles. A good way to provide your turtle with vitamin A is to feed them foods that are rich in this vitamin and this will be a good way for them to receive the sufficient amount needed.
These foods are:
*Dark leafy greens such as collard greens, mustard greens, Kale and parsley.
*yellow, orange flesh coloured vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes
*Cod liver oil: Just drizzle a bit over their food before you give it to.