One item that will help you cross your turtle’s eating habits over is a pair of forceps, tweezers, or reptile feeding tongs. This will help you feed your turtle both living and non-living food. I start feeding them different worms, such as wax worms or meal worms, to the turtle with tweezers. Once they are used to being fed with the tweezers I will begin feeding freeze dried insects. If you use meal worms you can try to trick them by starting feeding the turtle living worms and then trying to give them freeze dried meal worms after a bit. After they have eaten a few living worms you may throw a few in the water to float around. After a little bit they may scavenge around and find them. They may bite them but not eat them at first but after a little time they should start eating them.
If you have a readily available supply of crickets you can try throwing some live crickets in the tank. Crickets can swim on the surface and their swimming about should attract your turtle. Your turtle should chase them down but make sure the crickets can’t get out of your enclosure, as they can climb up on basking docks and jump out of the tank. Once your turtle is used to eating the live crickets you can try throwing in some freeze dried crickets and seeing if they will go for them.
Turtles are attracted to movement and this is why turtles are attracted to live prey. When feeding them non-living food items use this to your advantage and try to move the food in such a way it will attract the turtles. By mimicking the way insects and other living prey move they will be attracted to the item, as they believe it is living. Don’t be afraid to let some freeze dried meal worms sit in the tank for a little while. Eventually they will be hungry/curious and try some of them out.
Once you get them going on non-living food items you can use some of the same methods to get them eating commercial turtle pellets. I start by holding a food pellet in the tweezers and moving it, trying to get the turtle to try some. If you feed your turtle by hand or with tweezers they will be attracted to the site of them. This is because they quickly become conditioned to think that your hand or tweezers equals food. You can use this to your advantage as they will be looking to the tweezers for food, they will eventually bite at the pellet to see if it is some tasty food. It may take some tries to get your turtle eating the pellets but eventually they should.
You can also wean you turtle off of the high protein foods such as meal worms and crickets by mixing in pellets with these insects when you feed them, each time giving a few more pellets and fewer insects. This is important because feeding too many high protein foods, such as freeze dried insects and shrimp, can cause your turtle to grow faster than it normally would and can also cause deformities to occur. You may have to force your turtle to stop eating high protein foods by not offering them even if they will not eat anything else. In this case you will need to stop offering the high protein food and only offer foods with lower protein. Eventually the turtle will begin to eat the lower protein food. Turtles will naturally go for foods with higher protein but if none is present they will turn to other food sources of lower protein.