What Do Pet Turtles Eat?

Turtles are a lot of fun to keep as pets. They range from extremely easy and low maintenance to very difficult high maintenance. Part of what makes a turtle easy or difficult to keep is what the type of turtle eats. Some foods are more difficult to acquire or cost more than others, so keep their diet in mind when selecting the type of turtle you want.

What do turtles eat? It depends on what type of turtle you are talking about. For example, a sea turtle, a box turtle, and a snapping turtle will have very different diets. To find what different types of turtles eat, look below for the type you are looking for. Common pet species have been included.

What Painted Turtles Eat

When assessing what a turtle eats, think about it's native environment. Ask yourself what you would eat if you were a turtle living in the area that the turtle lives. In this case, the painted turtle lives in North America in ponds, creeks, and rivers.

  • worms
  • small fish
  • insects
  • reptile stick food

It may be best to supplement baby painted turtles' diets with natural animal foods and move more toward the stick food as the baby grows older. Babies need fed more often than adults. Adults you can feed twice a week.

Painted turtles are some of the easiest turtles to take care of. You can buy fish or worms at the bait store or pet store to give it some fresh food, but stick food works well mostly. Of course you can find your own worms and bugs outside to feed your turtle too.

Other Aquatic Turtles

These aquatic turtle don't usually want to eat on land. They like to eat in the water.

What Box Turtles Eat

Box turtles can be the most difficult turtles to get to eat. Temperature as well as humidity and the environment at large can affect the box turtle's appetite. Box turtles eat a variety of foods, and that is what you want to aim for when feeding them.

Box turtles live more of their life on land. Because their living environment is different, they eat differently than aquatic turtles. Their natural food sources include:

  • fruits
  • fungi
  • veggies
  • mushrooms
  • greens
  • mollusks
  • grubs
  • snails
  • worms
  • caterpillars
  • insects

Since box turtles need a variety, you will want to give them a meal containing a variety of nutrients, such as: earthworms, peas, grapes, and dandelion greens.

You will likely need to supplement the turtle's calcium by giving it pieces of cuttle-bone in it's food.

What Snapping Turtles Eat

Snapping turtles will bite at just about anything, especially if they are wild caught and have not been tamed. You could put just about anything in their mouths, but they aren't going to necessarily thrive on anything you give them.

Snapping turtles eat mostly fish in their natural environment. They are master predators and have the second strongest bite among reptiles. Snapping turtles will eat other types of food such as beef if you cut it up into small enough pieces. You can feed baby snapping turtles feeder fish and stick food from the pet shop and your turtle should thrive. They are easy to take care of in regards to feeding since they are so aggressive they will eat most live fish.

Here are some things you could easily see your pet snapping turtle eat:

  • Worms
  • fish
  • stick food
  • bugs
  • your pet frog's legs
  • anything else you think you can put with your snapping turtle (trust me)

What Sea Turtles Eat

Sea turtles eat something that most people wouldn't expect. They will eat jellyfish. It turns out that sea turtles are immune to the jellyfish tentacle stingers everywhere on their bodies, except on their eyes.

So, a sea turtle will swim right up to a jellyfish and shut it's eyes right before moving in a taking a big bite out of the jellyfish like it's a chocolate chip cookie. It is fun to watch the sea turtles eat jelly fish this way.

How to Properly Feed a Pet Turtle

When you are considering your turtle's diet, consider it's natural habitat and what it eats in the wild. Most turtles will eat earthworms, so it is usually a good place to start. If the turtle doesn't want it, it won't hurt it.

Some turtles can be picky eaters such as box turtles. There are many reasons a turtle may not want to eat including stress from captivity or being moved from it's home, the wrong temperature, or even lack of hunger. Turtles don't have to eat every day because they are cold blooded and can go longer without eating than us.

Once you find out what your turtle will eat, it is important to find the feeding regimen that is doable for you and your turtle. Some foods are more expensive than others. Some are more smelly than others, and some are really messy. Give your turtle the best nutrition you can at the convenience level that works for you.

If you have never had a turtle as a pet, it would be best for you to keep something fairly easy, such as a painted turtle or even a snapping turtle. Box turtles are much more difficult to keep and are likely to go on a hunger strike when you try to get them to eat. Eventually you may lose it or have to take it to the vet. So start with a turtle that will be easy to feed and work your way to more challenging species as you gain experience and expertise.

So What Do Turtles Eat?

The answer to that question is that it depends on what type of turtle you are asking about, and where that turtle lives will give you a good clue about what it might eat. Some turtles do most of their feeding in the water and others on land. Some turtles will eat just about anything, like snapping turtles, and others are more finicky eaters.

Make sure you look up your particular type of turtle if it wasn't listed here, so you can find out what your species will eat. Of course, you may not even know what species you have. In that case you may need someone to help, or spend a considerable amount of time searching through pictures of turtles from you location. Turtles are one of the best pets you can own and finding what they eat is usually pretty easy.

Cooper on April 28, 2020:

Can you do a please do a Video about Want to Snapping turtle eats

GalaxxyTurtlezz on June 11, 2018:

I finna get 2 turtles soon-boy and girl, and i cannottttt waiiit they gonnaaa be so cutteeeeee

Césae on October 27, 2017:

I have a baby snap turtle, so I give her worms and pellets to vary its diet. My question is, should I clean and remove the uneaten food and give her fresh one or wait till it eats anything? I can wait for a half day and her food remains the same.

GEORGE on September 12, 2017:


Gregory de la Cruz on April 23, 2016:

Turtles are so underrated in their cuteness.

Cloudy on April 29, 2014:

I have an unknown species of turtle and my red eared slider attacked one. help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

jason on April 04, 2012:

what should i do about my land turtle what does he eat by the way his name is rex like captain rex from star wars the clone wars

hi on February 29, 2012:

hi i have a turtle that doesn't eat

mars 8 on January 24, 2012:

yeah cindy 8 was right my turtle doesn't eat

jenna on January 16, 2012:

um thanx but what cant they eat '

Johnny Bravo on January 12, 2012:

Nice post.

Kimmy - Did you try

kimmy on November 30, 2011:

it didn't give me exactly what i was looking for but it was still useful. thank you!

cindy on November 27, 2011:

ummm any suggestions about if a turtle wont eat?

Stuti Pathak on October 11, 2011:

yupe itz quite useful:)

aexis on September 26, 2011:

that is so dume lol

jenine on April 24, 2010:

wow im getting a turtle soon and they already seem so interesting and i just cant wait to get mine..i had one before named jake but he ran away or walked away lol im gonna name my new turtle jake too yay

Jonjonny on April 23, 2010:

Very helpful information Thanks a lot..

What can turtles eat from human foods?

I found out that turtles can eat pretty much everything that humans can. It is only that some of these foods should be consumed in moderation. Some human foods, when taken in large amounts, may be harmful to the turtles.

Since turtles can eat almost anything from plants and meat, they should survive quite okay with human food. You should not be stressed when their food runs out. However, since some foods may be harmful, I will share some completely healthy foods for turtles and those that should be moderated. Stay tuned.

What human food can turtles eat?


Meat plays a very important role in the turtle’s diet. It helps in the turtle’s growth. You should also know that younger turtles enjoy more meat than any other food. It helps in the growth of the shell. However, if consumed in large amounts, it will cause some metabolic bone disease. The shell will start pyramiding. It is a condition where the shell’s growth accelerates.

Since there is a limit on how long the shell should grow, the shell will start to make pyramid shapes on the shell’s scute. If the case becomes severe, the is no cure, but if it is noticed earlier and the diet is changed, this bone disease will stop developing.

Take note that too many fats are not good for the turtle. You should, therefore, avoid bacon and stake. Also, ensure you cook the meat just to be on the safe side. Raw meat may contain some bacteria.


Fish is also a great meal for the turtle. They happen to share the same environment in the wild. For this reason, the turtle feeds on the fish for food. Although they do feed on the fish in the wild, your turtle is not wild. You should, therefore, avoid giving him wild fish. The most likely contain some bacteria that may harm your turtle.

Instead, you should visit the nearest pet shop and ask for some turtle feeder fish. They should give either bass, killifish, platies, bluegills, crappies, or guppies. A list of fish to avoid include goldfish, carp, feathered minnows, gizzard shad, and rosy red minnows. You should also avoid fishes with lots of fat. Try to get small-sized fish to make it easier for the turtle to consume.

Fruits and Vegetables

As turtles grow older, they start to enjoy fruits and vegetables more. It means fruits are very important to turtles. Turtles will eat pretty much every fruit that humans eat with a few exceptions.

Some fruits like citrus and those rich in potassium are harmful to turtles. Citrus fruits will irritate the turtle’s stomach. Other than these, fruits are very nutritious to turtles. They provide them with other vitamins that keep them healthy.

Keep in mind that fruits should not form more than 10% of their full diet. Feed them fruits in small quantities.

Vegetables are also good, but some should be avoided. They include iceberg salad and veggies with high oxalates content, which will inhibit calcium absorption. You never want to disrupt their calcium absorption.

Bread And Other Bakery Products

Bakery products are not the go-to option when their food ends. They are not harmful to them, but still, they are not helpful. When you feed them bread, you will fill their stomachs, but you will not add any nutritional value. You might even make them have stomach upsets. Some of these products may cause digestion problems. Avoid feeding them bread and bakery products.


Pasta is like bakery products. They should be avoided since they add no nutritional value to the turtle.


Sweets should be kept very far away from turtles. It is because sweets are harmful to turtles, and as we know, there is nothing that turtles will not eat, so keep them away from sweets.


Snacks are great options for people in a hurry or just chilling. It is not the case for turtles. You should not feed them snacks when their food is completed. Most bites tend to have a lot of sugar or salt. They also contain chemicals and preservatives which are harmful to turtles. Keep snacks out of reach of the turtles. Read what vitamins do turtles need?


After ardent research, I found out that nuts are like some vegetables. They contain high amounts of oxalates, which hinders the absorption of calcium. Don’t even think of giving nuts to your turtles as a treat or anything.

Dairy Products

Dairy products are the other food option that you should not give to your turtle. Turtles cannot digest dairy products, which is so unfortunate for them. Keep them away from dairy products for healthy living.


Eggs are a good option. They are not harmful to your turtle, and they are a good source of protein. When giving them eggs, just remember to boil them and peel them. It will make it easy for your turtle to consume.


You might wonder why I Have included insects in the list. Well, some people in places like Asia do eat insects. Insects are a great food for the turtle. It is what they feed on in the wild. I recommend feeding them live insects and also dried crickets.

In conclusion, your turtle should never go hungry since their pellets are over. Turtles can eat most of what we humans can eat. Keep in mind that it is not all foods. Some other meals will be harmful to the turtles, and some add no nutritional value. When feeding your turtle, always ensure that the food is fresh. Pay attention to the human foods that you give them. Make sure the food is safe for them.

Related Questions:

Can Turtles Eat Cat Food?

Cats are mostly carnivores. They feed on meat, which is good for the turtle. Just ensure the meat is safe for the turtle and does not contain fats.

Can Turtle Eat Dog Food?

Just like cat food, dog food is also great for turtles. Dogs can eat most of what humans eat, and their food mostly contains some sort of meat, which is great for the turtle. Ensure that the food is fresh.

Can Turtle Eat Fish Pellets?

Fish pellets are a good option for the turtles. They are similar to turtle pellets though not all. I do recommend fish pellets for your turtle.

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What do Do Baby Turtles Eat?

No two turtles will eat the same amount of food, so recommendations on the amount to provide have to be generalized. In that case, it’s important to note that young turtles should be fed often.

Juvenile turtles , a term that most describes baby turtles, need lots of food and need to be fed most often than mature turtles. Feed juvenile turtles every day until they reach at least seven years of age. You may find that their appetite will change when they reach this age, and they will eat less and less. In this case switch to feeding them less often. But always be sure to consult a vet to see if there is any other reason for the diminished appetite. Always remember baby turtles need a lot of special care to keep them alive and healthy. So, here are some pointers on how to feed baby turtles:

#1 First, Feed land baby turtles, a combination of commercially produced food and fresh leafy vegetables, such as lettuce and cabbage, and make sure you chop the food into tiny pieces.

#2 Feed your aquatic baby turtle in a smaller feeding tank. Aquatic baby turtles are sloppy eaters, and they relieve themselves in the middle of their meals. Therefore, they are bound to dirty their aquarium.

#3 Give your turtle feeder fish and crickets for some meals.

#4 Feed baby turtles two or three times a day.

#5 Remember to leave your baby turtle’s food in the tank for half an hour and then remove what’s left. You can feed it to your turtle again later.

#6 Lastly, give baby turtles vitamin supplements, especially vitamin D , which is suitable for shell development. It’s also good to keep baby turtles in the sunshine so that they can get natural vitamin D.

What Do Turtles Eat? Best Food for Pet Turtles

Turtles might seem the best pets because they have fewer care needs than dogs or cats and are more social than fish. Even so, you should have the right care strategies in place to guarantee your turtle remains comfortable and healthy.

One of these is the proper diet. Though turtles have almost similar dietary options, every animal has different habits meaning your pet will have a specific preferred food. A turtle’s diet varies based on its age, habitat, and species.

When considering food options, there are three turtle types to keep in mind. Freshwater turtles like the yellow-bellied, Cumberland slider, pig-nosed, razor-backed musk and spotted turtles feed on water-based microorganisms or plants.

Sea turtles primarily live underwater where they feed on aquatic plants, mainly algae and sea squirts, squid, crabs, jellyfish, or shrimp.

Land turtles, often called tortoises are strict herbivores that thrive on shrubs, green leafy vegetables, flowers, grasses, and fruits. They include the leopard, Texas, Russian and desert tortoises.

Below are some beneficial guidelines on your turtle’s feeding.

Common Health Problems

Painted turtles are relatively easy to care for with the proper setup and diet but they are not immune to health issues.

  • Parasites- Intestinal parasites are found naturally in most reptiles, including painted turtles, but they can become a problem for your turtle if they overpopulate the intestinal tract. Annual fecal parasite exams should be performed by your exotics veterinarian.
  • Infections - If water quality is a problem, your turtle can get skin, shell, and ear infections from the dirty water. If too much algae is building up on your turtle's shell or skin, use a soft toothbrush to help keep it clean. Ear infections from poor water quality will display as large bumps behind your turtle's eyes and need to be addressed by your vet.  
  • Hypovitaminosis A - When a painted turtle doesn't get a proper diet it may develop a lack of vitamin A in its body called hypovitaminosis A. Swollen eyes, raw skin, stomatitis, and nasal drainage can all be symptoms of this disorder.
  • Metabolic bone disease - Without proper UVB lighting and calcium, painted turtles will develop metabolic bone disease and shell deformities.  

If you suspect your turtle has a health issue get him in to see a vet as soon as possible. With your help, your turtle can live a long and healthy life.

Watch the video: What Do Turtles Eat? Feeding A Pet Turtle (July 2021).