What Do Turtles Eat?

Turtle eating a strawberry
Fruits are a favorite food of pet turtles.

Several types of turtles are sold as pets, including aquatic turtles such as the red-eared slider as well as box turtles and tortoises. Each of these turtles can have different dietary needs and preferences, and the first step toward offering a turtle suitable food to keep it satisfied and healthy is to have it properly identified. New pets can be identified by either a pet store or a veterinarian with experience in reptiles.

Foods for Pet Turtles

Providing a proper diet is the best way to keep a pet turtle healthy and happy. Understanding what turtles eat is the key to proper feeding. 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 that are specially formulated for different types of turtles and provide 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 often much less expensive to offer turtles a range of fresh foods.

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

  • 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 can be added to a 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 2-3 days to avoid too much protein in the turtle's diet; avoid raw meat or hamburger that may become tainted and rotten before the turtle eats it.
  • Offer foods in small pieces that will be 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, and no food should be left in a turtle's tank or cage where it can mold or rot. Always clean the food dish before adding another serving.

A Healthy Diet for a Longer Life

Pet turtles can eat a wide range of foods, from small insects to fruits and vegetables to flowers, and offering a widely varied, balanced diet is the best way 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?