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Freshwater turtle nutrition – a review of scientific and practical knowledge

Mateusz Rawski, Christoph Mans, Bartosz Kierończyk, Sylwester Świątkiewicz, Aneta Barc, Damian Józefiak
Annals of animal science 2018 v.18 no.1 pp. 17-37
Pelodiscus sinensis, calcium, captive animals, conservation programs, crude fat, crude protein, cysteine, diet, farmed animal species, feeds, fish, foods, habitats, humans, invertebrates, markets, methionine, nutrient content, nutrient requirements, nutrients, pets, rodents, turtles, zoos
Freshwater turtles are commonly kept in captivity as pets, bred in zoos for conservation programs, and commercially farmed for pet markets and human consumption, but their nutrition can be challenging. However, based on practical experience, two main strategies may be identified: the use of non-calculated raw diets and the use of balanced commercial feeds. Raw diets are based on fresh, frozen and dried components including invertebrates, fish, rodents and plant matter; they imitate the variety of foods that are accessible to turtles in the wild and are considered most useful when turtles are bred for reintroduction into their natural habitat as part of conservation programs. Granulated, pelleted or extruded commercial diets are frequently used for farmed and pet turtles; they contain animal- and plant-based materials supplemented with vitamin and mineral premixes and calculated to reach the nutrient levels assumed to be optimal for most species. Until more species-specific information on the nutritional requirements of freshwater turtles is available, the Chinese softshell turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis), a commonly commercially farmed species for human consumption, may be used as a reference for other species in terms of suggested nutrient levels. Based on experimental data, the most important nutrients and their levels that should be included in turtle diets are crude protein (39.0-46.5%), crude fat (8.8%), Ca (5.7%), P (3.0%), methionine (1.03%), and cysteine (0.25%). The diet composition for freshwater turtles should be based on scientific knowledge and practical experience, so this paper aimed to present and discuss the available data on the nutrient requirements of turtles and the characteristics of the feed materials used in their nutrition.