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What Do Pet Turtles Eat?

Updated on April 23, 2016

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What do turtles eat? The variety in species makes this an answer that 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.

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.

To find what different types of turtles eat, look below for the type you are looking for. Common pet species have been included.

Painted Turtle

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 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

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These aquatic turtle don't usually want to eat on land.  They like to eat in the water.What Red Eared Sliders eat is pretty much the same as painted turtles.  Red eared sliders closely resemble painted turtlesMap and False map turtles are also similar to the red eared sliders and painted turtles
These aquatic turtle don't usually want to eat on land.  They like to eat in the water.
These aquatic turtle don't usually want to eat on land. They like to eat in the water.
What Red Eared Sliders eat is pretty much the same as painted turtles.
What Red Eared Sliders eat is pretty much the same as painted turtles.
Red eared sliders closely resemble painted turtles
Red eared sliders closely resemble painted turtles
Map and False map turtles are also similar to the red eared sliders and painted turtles
Map and False map turtles are also similar to the red eared sliders and painted turtles

Box Turtle

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.

Snapping Turtle

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

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.

Turtle Diet

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 regiment that is doable for you and your turtle.  Some foods are more expensive than other.  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.

Convenient Stick Food for Turtles

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.

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    • Jonjonny 6 years ago

      Very helpful information Thanks a lot..

    • jenine 6 years ago

      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

    • aexis 5 years ago

      that is so dume lol

    • Stuti Pathak 5 years ago

      yupe itz quite useful:)

    • cindy 5 years ago

      ummm any suggestions about if a turtle wont eat?

    • kimmy 5 years ago

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

    • Johnny Bravo 5 years ago

      Nice post.

      Kimmy - Did you try www.whatdoturtleseatinfo.com?

    • jenna 5 years ago

      um thanx but what cant they eat '

    • mars 8 4 years ago

      yeah cindy 8 was right my turtle doesn't eat

    • hi 4 years ago

      hi i have a turtle that doesn't eat

    • jason 4 years ago

      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

    • Cloudy 2 years ago

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

    • Gregory de la Cruz 9 months ago

      Turtles are so underrated in their cuteness.

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