What Do Painted Turtles Eat, And More!

Last Updated on June 1, 2021 by cmoarz

The painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) is a North American native commonly found in forested wetlands and along streams. The painted turtle lives in slow, freshwater areas around the U.S., and from coast to coast. The turtle is the only species of the genus Chrysemys, Painted turtle is part of the pond turtle family, Emydidae.

It’s one of the most common types of turtles in North America, and it’s also one of the smallest.

The average size for a painted turtle is about six inches long (15 cm) from head to tail when fully grown. It has a carapace that can be brown or black with yellow stripes on its edge between each scale.

In this article, we will answer the most common questions owners of these turtles have.

What Do Painted Turtles Eat?

Painted turtles are omnivores and eat both plants (vegetation) and animals (insects, worms) as well as various types of fruit. They will eat just about anything they can get! Here’s a list of some of the most common things people generally feed their painted turtles:

  • Turtle pellets
  • Fish pellets
  • Leafy lettuce (not iceberg)
  • Algae
  • Frozen peas, corn, and mixed vegetables
  • Mealworms
  • Snails
  • Newts
  • Water plants
  • Grasshoppers
  • Crickets
  • Bloodworms
  • Superworms
  • Tomatoes, Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and other assorted berries
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Bug larvae
  • tadpoles
  • Small amphibians

And the list can go on for quite some time! Surely their diet is as wide and varied as they are.

What do baby painted turtles eat?

baby painted turtles eat much of the same as their adult counterparts, Except in smaller quantities. They require a more protein and calcium-rich diet than their adult counterpart due to the growing and developing bones and their shells.

Protein-rich foods can be found in the form of mealworms, snails, and superworms. Calcium is obtained from water plants such as lettuce (not iceberg), spinach, or celery leaves. Meal worms are a good source of calcium too!

You can also gut load insects with calcium supplements before feeding them if you think they aren’t getting enough of it. Just remember that baby turtles are small and their food needs to match their size. You may need to cut it up for them if it’s too big, such as mealworms and super worms. Pinhead crickets are also a great choice for such small babies.

How long do painted turtles live?

Painted turtles can live to be 25-30 years old.

The lifespan will vary based on temperature, diet, and other factors. Some have been known to reach over 40 years old.

Reptiles’ lifespans can fluctuate massively based on many factors, so it’s hard to say for sure how long they will live with any exact nature. So a range of 25-40 years is the best we can do without more studies on the subject.

It wouldn’t surprise me if soon we were to learn some of these turtles can get past 50, as turtles tend to just keep going when conditions are good! They can live for quite some time, So expect to have a lifelong friend in your pet turtle.

Do painted turtles bite?

Yes, all turtles can bite. They will bite when they feel threatened or in self-defense or if your finger just smells good. Sometimes turtles will bite in a playful manner as well.

If a turtle bite breaks the skin, you should rinse the wound with soap and water to reduce infection risk and then apply antibiotic cream if needed.

Unlike other turtles though, It’s unlikely your painted turtles’ small but powerful jaw will do much damage to human skin, Although their beak is quite sharp, so you may expect a cut or even drawn blood.

Do painted turtles hibernate?

Do painted turtles hibernate? Yes, they do! In winter, they will swim to the bottom of a pond or lake and bury themselves while everything above them freezes over.

They go into a very deep cycle where the metabolism drops to almost nothing. They can survive for months in no and low oxygen environments when hibernating.

What about in captivity? yes, they will still hibernate in captivity, but the duration and methods will vary compared to in the wild. Usually, a turtle needs to go through its hibernation cycle before it will start laying eggs.

If the tank is too warm all year long, it might force the turtle to not hibernate, Which isn’t good for them. You would need to make concessions for your turtle to do her hibernation cycle if you want to keep her happy and healthy.

How long can painted turtles hold their breath?

When hibernating, painted turtles can hold their breath for several months at a time. This starts happening at 37 degrees F. (2.7c)

When not hibernating and their metabolism is normalized, painted turtles will usually hold their breath for only 15 to 30 minutes at a time before needing to come back up for air. But they are able to go up to 30 hours at a time at room temperature without needing to take a breath.

How long can painted turtles stay underwater?

As stated above, If hibernating, a painted turtle can stay underwater for months at a time. When not hibernating, they typically only do so for 15 to 30 minutes before needing to come up and take air but can stretch up to 30 hours.

Can painted turtles breathe underwater?

No, the painted turtle needs to come up for air eventually. They do not have gills, but they are able to regulate their oxygen levels to last very long periods underwater without a fresh breath.

However, painted turtles do take part in something called cloacal resperiation. Whats that?

Cloacal respiration is another way of saying that the turtle takes in water and expels it through its cloaca. This allows them to stay underwater for long periods of time, but they do need fresh air eventually. Basically its diffusing oxygen and carbon dioxide out.

How long can painted turtles stay out of water?

We know these turtles can stay underwater for months at a time, But what about outside of water?

Painted turtles can stay out of water for up to three days at a time. They cannot live without water, but they are able to have periods of dryness with no ill effects on their body as long as the skin is still moist and pliable.

Unlike aquatic turtles that must stay in the water for most of their life, the painted turtle is free to move about the land anytime they wish as long as they don’t completely dry out in the hot sun.


Owner of AquariumGravel.com and also owner of actual Aquarium Gravel believe it or not! ;). Setting up beautiful aquarium sceneries and habitats since I was very young. Enjoy!