What Do Turtles Eat? Fresh & Commercial Food Sources

Updated May 19, 2022
Turtle feeding on leaf

If you want to know what turtles eat, there are several types of turtles you could own as a pet, including semi-aquatic turtles like red-eared sliders or box turtles and land turtles, such as tortoises. Since each one has different dietary needs, make sure you choose from the right turtle food list below.

Turtle Food for Pet Turtles

What do turtles eat? 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 food should only make up about 25 percent of what your turtle should eat. In addition to commercial turtle food, it's important to offer turtles a range of fresh foods.

Fresh Foods to Feed Your Pet Turtle

turtle eating lettuce

Popular foods 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, mustard greens
  • 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 (weekly or twice each week).

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.
  • Baby turtles should be fed every day, whereas adult turtles can eat four to five times each week.
  • Offer adult turtles protein sources only every two to three days to avoid too much protein in the turtle's diet, which can lead to pyramiding.
  • Avoid raw meat or hamburger, as it may become rotten before the turtle eats it.
  • Avoid manufactured foods, such as crackers or bread, which may have ingredients that don't support your turtle's health.
  • Offer foods in small pieces that are easier for the turtle to eat, especially baby turtles. 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.

What Do Turtles Eat for Food 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.

What Do Aquatic (Water or Lake) Turtles Eat?

Aquatic turtles, such as softshell 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.

What Do Land Turtles Eat in the Wild?

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.

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What Do Turtles Eat? Fresh & Commercial Food Sources