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What Do Pet Turtles Eat?

I'm a music lover with an interest in animals, especially pet turtles.

To get the right food for your turtle, first you'll need to figure out what type of turtle you have.

To get the right food for your turtle, first you'll need to figure out what type of turtle you have.

Turtles are a lot of fun to keep as pets. They range from extremely easy and low maintenance to very difficult and high maintenance. Part of what makes a turtle easy or difficult to keep is what it 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.

Different Types of Turtles Have Different Diets

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 (along with sea turtles, just for fun).

  • Painted Turtles
  • Other Aquatic Turtles
  • Box Turtles
  • Snapping Turtles
  • Sea Turtles (Not Kept as Pets)
Painted turtles live well in ponds, so their diet should match what they would eat in a pond.

Painted turtles live well in ponds, so their diet should match what they would eat in a pond.

What Painted Turtles Eat

When assessing what a turtle eats, think about its 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. They may eat the following:

  • 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 to be 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.

What Other Aquatic Turtles Eat

Turtles with a diet similar to the painted turtle include the following:

  • Red-eared slider
  • Map turtle
  • False map turtle

What Box Turtles Eat

It can be difficult to get box turtles 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 its food.

You can feed snapping turtles meat, and they will be happy.  Especially if it wiggles a little first.

You can feed snapping turtles meat, and they will be happy. Especially if it wiggles a little first.

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

Of course, you can't keep a sea turtle as a pet, but their eating habits are too interesting not to include on this list. 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 its 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 jellyfish this way.

Consider your turtle's natural habitat when planning its diet.

Consider your turtle's natural habitat when planning its diet.

How to Properly Feed a Pet Turtle

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

What If My Turtle Won't Eat?

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
  • stress from being moved from its home
  • the wrong temperature
  • lack of hunger

Turtles don't have to eat every day because they are cold blooded and can go longer without eating than us.

Establish a Feeding Regimen

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.

Start With a Turtle That's Easy to Feed

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.

How to Feed Turtles: The Basics

So What Do Turtles Eat?

The answer to that question is that it depends on what type of turtle you are asking about. 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.

Do Your Research

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 your location. Turtles are one of the best pets you can own, and finding what they eat is usually pretty easy.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


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..