In this post, I’m going to answer (in depth) a question that is frequently asked on forums and social platforms: “what do turtles eat as a pet?”
In short, most Turtles can eat a variety of food items from fruits, flowers and vegetables to meat pieces, feeder fish, stick food, worms, insects and even boiled eggs.
But, what a pet turtle can really eat depends upon their species.
For example, box turtles, painted turtles, and Indian flap shell turtles belong to different species. Hence they have different dietary needs and food requirements.
Besides species, what a turtle eats is also largely dependent upon whether the turtle is herbivorous, carnivorous or Omnivorous.
A herbivorous turtle will only eat fruits and veggies, not meat. But a carnivorous and omnivorous turtle will eat meat.
So, with the basics clear, let’s dive right into the details.
- General Food that Turtles Eat
- Food Items for Herbivorous Turtles
- Food Items for Carnivorous and Omnivorous TURTLES
WHAT DO TURTLES EAT AS A PET?
As told already, the food that turtles eat variety of items depending upon their species and habitat.
So now, we are going to dive deep into what you should feed your pet turtle, and also what different species and types of turtles eat. I will also cover some other necessary details.
General Food that Turtles Eat
- Meat: Most of the turtles generally eat lean red meat and beef liver. You should cut the meat pieces into strips before feeding.
- Fruits and Vegetables: All land turtles are generally vegetarian. They love figs, apples, carrots, pears and bananas. Common shell turtles love currants and strawberries. But don’t give citrus to turtles as they may cause diarrhea. Vegetables should make up a major part of your pet turtle’s diet. Try serving your turtle two teaspoons of leafy green vegetables like kale, collards or mustard green (three to four times a week).
- Worms and Insects: Worms are full of nutrients. Earthworms and larvae of some insects are best for your turtles.
- Fishes: turtles may eat up the whole fish (dead or alive). They are a good source of protein.
- Mollusks: Many turtles love sea snails, squid pieces, mussels and clams. Oyster shells, cuttlebone and crushed eggshells offer a lot of calcium needed by the turtles for building strong skeleton.
A lot of pet turtles love the above food items. But not all turtles will eat some them. Some will eat only a particular type of food.
So I recommend you to read further to identify the particular type of food item your turtle will love.
Food Items for Herbivorous Turtles
If you own a land turtle, it is certainly a herbivorous turtle. So you must only feed them with fruits and vegetables.
Their diet must contain about 80 to 90% vegetables and only 10 to 20% fruits.Types of fruits and vegetables that your herbivorous turtle can eat includes:
- Fruits: Kiwifruit, Apples, banana, grapes, strawberries, manga, tomato, cantaloupe, etc.
- Greens: Carrot tops, spinach, kale, lettuce, collard greens, etc.
- Vegetables: Corn, yams, beans, carrots, peas, squash, etc.
- Flowers: lilies, carnations, dandelion, petunias, etc.
Now, it’s time to know what Carnivorous and Omnivorous turtles can eat.
Food Items for Carnivorous and Omnivorous TURTLES
As you may have guessed, a Carnivorous turtle will not eat fruits or vegetables, but an Omnivorous turtle will eat fruits, vegetables, meat and almost all types of food items.
Omnivorous turtles eat fruits and vegetables such as apples, grapes, strawberries, cantaloupe, corn, beans, beets, etc.
Carnivorous and Omnivorous turtles can eat commercial pelleted food, insects, feeder fish.
Commercial Pelleted or Turtle Food:
You can buy food made for turtles. These readymade turtle food float on water & don’t fall apart like the pelleted food for other reptiles. Pellets should make up one-fourth (25%) of your turtle’s diet.
Also, turtles like to eat frozen fish food, sticks, chunks and turtle pellets. Offer them in small amounts at a time.
Don’t overfeed or dirty the water. Stop feeding turtles when they show no interest in the food.
Feeder Fish, Insects and Protein
You can feed your turtle crickets, mealworms, or even feeder fish.
You can also feed your turtle with boiled eggs, snails, and earthworms.
Feeders (e.g., comet goldfish) offer great amount of protein and minerals like calcium, phosphorus and vitamins like Vitamin A.
WHAT ARE THE BEST FOOD FOR PET TURTLES
While you should try feeding your turtle with a balanced amount of veg and non-veg items, here are a few options to try.
Food prepared for turtles: You should buy turtle food from the near pet shops. They float on water and contain all the necessary nutrients for your turtle.
Try feeding your turtle according to the options given in the above section (combination of fruit, veggies, insects and meat).
The best thing would be to ask a veterinarian what food your turtle would enjoy.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU FEED YOUR TURTLE?
Some people believe that feeding pet turtles once a day is okay.
You should feed young adult turtles once every two days. Feed older turtles every three days.
Some veterinarians suggest that feeding adult turtles twice every week is okay.
Young or baby turtles have a bigger appetite. They feed more on meat in early days.
Once they start growing, feed them with fruits and vegetables. Offer them stick food more.
Feeding turtles in small portions every day works as well according to many pet owners.
However, as a rule of thumb, never ever over feed your turtle as it may cause health issues.
WHAT DO BOX TURTLES EAT AS A PET?
Box turtles eat a variety of items such as dandelion, peas, grapes, worms, fruits, grubs, fungi, mollusks, veggies, insects, mushrooms, greens, snails and caterpillars.
They need a variety of food items. So their mail must contain different types of nutrients.
Supplement box turtle’s diet by adding pieces of cutting-bone.
However, a box turtle’s appetite is affected by a lot of factors such as temperature, humidity and environment too. So they can be the most difficult species of turtle to feed.
WHAT DO BABY BOX TURTLE EAT AS PETS?
Baby box turtles generally eat insects, some invertebrates, fruits and some other vegetables in small amounts. A baby box turtle’s diet should contain 25% vegetable, 25% fruits, and 50% animal protein.
You must feed baby box turtles daily around the mid morning. Don’t feed the same item over and over again. Offer them a variety of food.
- Fruits for Baby Box Turtles: apples, tomatoes, melons, berries, mangoes, grapes, peaches
- Animal Proteins: snails, slugs, commercial turtle pellets, low fat cat foods, night crawlers, worms and crickets.
- Leafy Green: romain, collard green, endive
- Vegetables: peas, carrots, pumpkin, squash, green beans, bell peppers, okra
- Other Vegetation: leafy weeds, clovers, spineless opuntia pads.
- Offer calcium supplement once every week
Don’t offer them food that has come in contact with herbicides or pesticides. They may cause severe health issues.
WHAT DO BABY TURTLES EAT AS A PET?
Baby turtles need higher amount of pellets and feeder fish compared to fruits and veggies. As they grow, offer them more fruits and vegetables relative to animal proteins.
WHAT DO PAINTED TURTLES EAT AS A PET?
Naturally, painted turtles are habituated to eat worms , small fish, insects, and reptile stick food.
You may feed them worms, bugs or fish too.
WHAT DO BABY PAINTED TURTLES EAT AS PETS?
Veterinarians recommend supplementing baby painted turtle’s food with animal foods. As the baby grows, offer them more stick food.
WHAT DO WATER TURTLES EAT AS A PET?
Water turtles (sea turtles) feed on jellyfish, sponges, fish, spiders, snails and other small beings found in the water.
However, all water turtles aren’t Carnivorous. Green turtles for instance, clean the coral reefs by eating seaweeds.
Further, there are freshwater turtles. Freshwater turtles generally eat small living animals such as tiny fish, insects, crickets and even crabs.
Their diet may also include lean meats, vegetables and fruits.
In case you own a freshwater turtle, go and buy them little fish from the near pet store.
WHAT DO SNAPPING TURTLES EAT?
In their natural habitat, snapping turtles mostly eat fish. However, they eat almost anything put in their mouth. They may eat a variety of food such as beef (in small pieces), turtles feeder fish, stick food and even live food.
If you have a snapping turtle as pet, you can feed them with worms, fish, stick food, bugs, or anything else (yep, they will eat anything… even your fingers. Don’t try it though!)
Snapping turtles are very aggressive in nature and have the 2nd strongest bite among the reptiles.
WHAT DO SOFTSHELL TURTLES EAT AS A PET?
Soft shell turtles are a kind of aquatic turtles. They mostly eat protein found in the water.
Their diet includes fish, crickets, spiders, snails and crayfish.
Snapping turtles (large aquatic turtles) may also eat ducks or other birds.
WHAT DO LONG NECK TURTLES EAT AS A PET?
Long neck turtles are carnivores. They will eat insects such as moths and crickets, tadpoles, small freshwater water fish like guppies and white bait, fresh and saltwater prawns and yabbies, snails and mussels and worms. They also eat carrion.
Before you give them any saltwater feed, make sure to thoroughly rinse and soak them for one hour at least.
Unlike long neck turtles, short neck turtles are Omnivorous. They are scavengers and hence are able to eat a variety of diet.
You can offer them the same feed as long neck turtles. Besides those feeds, short neck turtles love fruits and veggies.
Short neck turtles eat spinach, broccoli, cabbage, pumpkin, parsley, apples and pears too. You can also give them some freshwater plants such as ribbon weed, duckweed, and nardoo.
WHAT DO RED-EARED TURTLES EAT AS PETS?
Red eared slider turtles are aquatic. When these turtles are living in the wild, they feed on aquatic vegetation, small fishes, and dead frogs and fishes.
But, when you have red-eared turtles as a pet, you can feed them with:
- Earthworms, crickets, waxworks, silkworms, daphnis, bloodworms, mealworms, krill, shrimp, aquatic snails. For baby turtles, cut these prey items into small fishes.
- Bigger turtles can even eat tadpoles and feeder fish. But, don’t feed too much feeder fish or goldfish as they may be carrying parasites or even, a lot of fats.
- Carrots, squash, Collard greens, mustard greens, bok choy, kale and dandelion green. Feed only dark green leaf lettuces , not iceberg lettuce. Food items should have enough calcium and phosphorus.
- Red eared turtles love to shank on the aquatic plants. Example, water lettuce, water hyacinth, duckweed, fairy moss, and frog-bit.
WHAT DO WILD TURTLES EAT?
Several land turtles like desert tortoises are generally herbivores. Hence they eat the vegetation available in the region.
Wild turtles eat grass, leaves, wildflowers, blueberries, raspberries, cacti and cactus pears.
WHAT DO TORTOISES EAT?
Balanced diet for an adult land tortoise should include 40% meat, 20% fruit, and the rest 40% vegetables. Feed them with calcium (except dairy products).
Offer food in smaller amounts in several doses during the day as they have slower metabolism.
Recommendations for tortoise food:
- Melons, kiwifruit, oranges, berries, etc. Fruits should make up 5 to 10% of tortoise diet.
- Kale, dandelion, mustard and collard green. Offer yellow bell, little green, sweet potato, squash or cauliflower as a treat.
- Commercial tortoise food are good too.
CAN MY TURTLE EAT HUMAN FOOD?
Turtles can eat some of the human food beside fruits and vegetables. They may be offered most. However, other human food probably lack the amount of nutrients needed by these creatures.
WARNING: We don’t recommend you to feed dog or cat food. Some sites out there on the internet recommend these foods. But in reality, their protein content is very high that causes harm in longer terms.
HOW TO PROPERLY FEED YOUR TURTLE
Consider the natural habitat of your turtle before feeding them. Most turtles eat earthworms. You may start feeding your new turtles with earthworms.
Some turtles like box turtles are picky eaters. Many times turtles may not eat anything because of factors like wrong temperature, lack of hunger, being moved from its home, or even from stress of captivity or fear of humans around.
You don’t need to feed your turtles everyday. They can go longer without eating as they’re cold blooded beings.
Some tips for feeding your turtle
- Don’t offer manufactured food like bread. They harm your turtle’s health.
- Offer food in smaller pieces. Small pieces are easier to eat. Turtles do not have teeth. They use their jaws to cut food.
- Offer fresh foods
- Don’t offer any dairy product such as milk or yogurt. Turtles can’t digest them.
- Avoid too much protein in your turtle’s diet. Offer protein sources only every two to three days.
- Don’t offer raw meat (or hamburger). They become rotten even before the turtle eats it.
- Provide constant supply of water to your turtles.
- Don’t feed adult turtles everyday.
OTHER IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
What nutrients are essential to my turtle’s health?
Turtles need proteins, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Turtles specially need calcium for their shells.
Do turtles eat fish food?
Although turtles can eat fish food but they cannot sustain their lives off fish food only.
How frequently can I expect to buy turtle food?
Generally a portion of pelleted food lasts for a month and half. But that also depends upon the size of your turtle and how much you feed them.
Now that you know a lot about what turtles can eat and what now, what are you going to feed your turtle next?