Terrapins can make fantastic pets for people looking for something a little bit “different”.
However caring for a terrapin requires some specialist knowledge. One of the factors that can make terrapin care a little more challenging is that they require quite a specialist diet.
Understandably, one of the most common questions asked among new terrapin owners is what exactly their terrapin will eat. In this guide we’re going to look at both what to feed your terrapin, as well as how best to feed him or her.
By the end of this article should know everything necessary about feeding your pet terrapin.
The Importance of Variety in Terrapin Diets
Over the years we’ve learned a huge amount about how to keep terrapins fit and healthy in captivity. This is especially so when it comes to diet.
One of the most important aspects in any terrapin’s diet is variety. This reason is simple enough; a greater range of food stuffs means a greater diversity of vitamins and minerals. Terrapins fed solely on just one or two food stuffs are more likely to suffer from nutritional deficiencies, which can lead to significant health problems.
This means that one of your priorities as a terrapin owner should be regularly assessing what you’re feeding your terrapin, with a view to offering as broad a range of food items as possible.
How to Feed Your Terrapin
Terrapins invariably eat in the water, rather than on land. They will grab hold of a food item and start clawing madly at it, in order to break off a chunk small enough the swallow. The remainder may get another bite, or it may simply be left to sink to the bottom of the tank.
This method of feeding creates two distinct problems for terrapin owners. Firstly, in order to minimize waste (or choking) you should aim to provide food items of a suitable size. Generally speaking, for example, food items are more easily swallowed if they have been finely chopped.
Secondly, many owners opt to feed their terrapin in a separate container to make cleaning easier. The terrapin is moved into a “holding tank” with water of the same temperature. They are then fed and, once satisfied, are then moved back to the original tank.
In this way it is much easier to remove food items which have sunk to the floor, and to change the water, before the next feeding is due. It also keeps the water in your terrapin’s main tank fresher and cleaner for longer.
What to Feed Your Terrapin
Most terrapins commonly kept as pets are omnivorous by nature; this means that they will eat both plant and animal matter in captivity. As a result we have a huge range of possible food items that can keep your pet healthy in captivity.
Since terrapins aren’t quite as unusual as they once were, a number of specialist reptile companies now produce commercial diets.
These typically come in the form of dried floating “sticks” which contain a wide assortment of nutrients to keep your pet healthy.
While these complete terrapin foods aren’t always cheap, they have form a good basis to your pet’s diet. The reasons are simple; these diets typically have a long shelf life, contain a range of vitamins and minerals, and have been specifically designed for your terrapin.
Keeping a tub of terrapin food on hand can therefore make your life easier, with less need to prepare meals by hand.
That said, as discussed earlier, variety is critical to your terrapin’s diet. As a result it isn’t enough to provide just a commercial diet; ideally this should be supplemented with a range of other food stuffs to maximize the range of vitamins and minerals your terrapin receives.
The second food that terrapins will eat is raw meat. This can include items such as chicken, pork and beef.
Some terrapins will even enjoy cat food in small measures.
Note that any meat fed should be uncooked, and you should be certain to chop it into tiny pieces to make eating easier.
Of all the foods that terrapins will eat meat is the most likely to rot and spoil the water, so if you opt for this solution it is critical to clean your terrapin tank thoroughly on a regular basis.
You might be surprised that many terrapins will happily accept many types of seafood.
A popular solution among both terrapin keepers and their pets are prawns. These can be bought frozen, with a small number being defrosted in hot water as required.
Alternatively oily fish tends to be most welcome; items such as tuna, sardines and mackerel are all safe and popular foods for terrapins.
If you really want some fun, try giving your terrapin some live invertebrates.
A highly effective method for taming your terrapin is carefully handfeeding live mealworms or crickets, as available from many exotic pet shops.
However you can also feed invertebrates intended for aquarium fish, such as tubifex and bloodworms.
Besides the carnivorous part of their diet, most terrapins will also benefit from some finely-chopped or grated fruits and vegetables.
Popular solutions include water cress and other leafy vegetables, apple, carrot, pear or strawberries.
Pet reptiles like terrapins regularly suffer from a lack of calcium in their diet. This is a particular problem among chelonians (shelled reptiles) as it can lead to soft or misshapen shells. Once the problem has occurred, reversing the issue can be challenging. As a result it is critical to ensure that your terrapin is receiving the necessary minerals in their diet from the outset.
Possibly the most effective solution is the use of reptile-safe dietary supplements. The most common form of supplements for reptiles come in the form of a fine powder. Food can be placed into a plastic bag together with a little mineral powder before being shaken vigorously. The coated food can then be carefully fed to your terrapin using tweezers to prevent you getting accidentally bitten.
The goal when feeding terrapins should be to provide a broad range of the above food items, adding vitamin supplements to the diet several times a week. The above plan will ensure your terrapin receives all the nutrition he or she deserves.
How Often Should I Feed My Terrapin?
As with most pet reptiles, smaller individuals tend to eat far more frequently than adults. Thus hatchling terrapins should be fed daily, providing just what they eat in a short space of time to minimize mess.
As your terrapin grows you can then reduce the frequency of feeding, ending at two to three times a week for adult terrapins.
If you are in any doubt, pay attention to how much your terrapin is eating and how hungry they appear. Assuming you are feeding your terrapin a suitable diet it is very difficult to over-feed them. As a result if your terrapin seems to be hungry most of the time feel free to feed your pet more often until you find a routine that works for both you and your terrapin.