What Do Turtles Eat?

Jessica Gomez
Turtle feeding on leaf

There are several types of turtles you could own as a pet, including aquatic turtles such as the red-eared slider, box turtles and tortoises. Each of these turtles has different dietary needs and preferences, so the first step in keeping it healthy is to have it identified by an experienced veterinarian.

Foods for Pet Turtles

Depending on the species, turtles can be herbivores (eating only plants), carnivores (eating only meat) or omnivores (eating both plants and meat). Pet stores offer a range of turtle food products in pellets, sticks and chunks, formulated for different types of turtles and providing balanced nutrition with appropriate vitamins and minerals to keep the turtles healthy. However, this type of bland food is not the only thing turtles can eat, and it can be healthier and less expensive to offer turtles a range of fresh foods.

Foods popular for pet turtles, depending on the species, include:

  • Turtle eating a strawberry
    Protein: Boiled eggs, mealworms, snails, crickets, earthworms
  • Vegetables: Corn, beans, beets, carrots, peas, squash, yams
  • Greens: Carrot tops, lettuce, collard greens, kale, spinach
  • Fruits: Apples, grapes, strawberries, cantaloupe, banana, kiwi, mango, tomato
  • Flowers: Geraniums, dandelions, petunias, lilies, carnations

In addition to a range of foods and pet store supplements, offering pet turtles an additional source of calcium - necessary for a strong, healthy shell - is also a good idea. Crushed eggshells, oyster shells and cuttlebone are all fantastic calcium sources that you can add to your turtle's diet on a regular basis.

Pet Turtle Feeding Tips

The best diet for a pet turtle is one that is fresh and varied to provide a range of nutritional sources. Just like humans, turtles have individual tastes, and offering different foods will help keep the turtle well fed and happy. More tips for feeding pet turtles include:

  • Avoid offering turtles any dairy products such as milk, yogurt or cheese. They cannot digest dairy, and it will cause illness.
  • Offer protein sources only every two to three days to avoid too much protein in the turtle's diet.
  • Avoid raw meat or hamburger as it may become tainted and rotten before the turtle eats it.
  • Offer foods in small pieces that are easier for the turtle to eat. Turtles do not have teeth and use their jaws to cut food into bite-sized pieces.
  • Fresh foods are best; do not leave food in a turtle's tank or cage where it can mold or rot. Always clean the food dish before adding another serving.

Turtles in the Wild

Turtles who live in the wild are like most other reptiles - they eat whatever they come across. A turtle's diet ranges depending on regional factors and whatever it has access to within its habitat. Aquatic turtles and land turtles have different diets.

Aquatic Turtle Diet

Aquatic turtles, such as soft shell turtles, eat mostly protein which can be found in the water. These proteins may consist of:

  • Fish
  • Crickets
  • Spiders
  • Snails
  • Crayfish

Larger aquatic turtles, such as snapping turtles, may eat ducks or other birds who are resting on the water's surface.

Land Turtle Diet

Land turtles, such as desert tortoises, are usually herbivores, eating vegetation they come across in their region. Foods they may eat include:

  • Grass
  • Leaves
  • Wildflowers
  • Cacti and cactus pears
  • Fruits, such as blueberries, palmetto berries, and raspberries

Feeding Your Turtle a Healthy Diet

Pet turtles can eat a wide range of foods, from small insects to fruits and vegetables to flowers. Therefore, owners need to offer a widely varied, balanced diet to keep a pet turtle healthy and happy. By choosing different foods and feeding the turtle well, including adding pet store supplements to ensure enough vitamins and minerals, a pet turtle can live a long and well-fed life.

What Do Turtles Eat?