What Do Turtles Eat?

There are hundreds of species of turtles all across the world. While some turtle species are appropriate to be reared as pets, others can grow very large and weigh up to several hundreds of kilograms!

This article aims to discuss common freshwater and sea turtles and the types of foods they love to eat both in the wild and in captivity.

We are also going to discuss the answer to the following related questions:

For fresh-water turtles

  • What do painted turtles eat?
  • What do snapping turtles eat?
  • What do box turtles eat?
  • What do mud turtles eat?
  • What do red-eared slider turtles eat?

For sea turtles

  • What do Hawksbill Turtles Eat?
  • What do Leatherback Sea Turtles Eat?
  • What do Green sea turtles eat?
  • What do Loggerhead turtles Eat?
  • What do Flatback sea turtles?

In this article we will also touch on the environment do turtles enjoy in general, in the wild and in captivity. We will also discuss some important notes on handling and feeding your pet turtles.

What do turtles eat in the wild?

Have you ever wondered what types of food do turtles eat in the wild? The answer to that question really depends on the type or species of turtle and its natural environment.

The majority of the wild turtle species are omnivorous, meaning they eat plant materials as well as insects, worms, snails, fish, or even dead marine animals.

Just like any other higher forms of life, turtles need protein in order to grow. Many wild turtle species tend to eat smaller animals when they are young to satisfy their insatiable need for protein. This feeding habit will eventually shift into herbivory or plant-eating habits as physical maturity goes by their age.

Do wild turtles eat human foods? Turtles that are wild will tend to munch on earthworms, small fishes, snails or clams, and tadpoles or small frogs. But just like us, wild turtles would love to eat fruits such as:

  • apples
  • green beans
  • bananas
  • carrots
  • potatoes
  • berries

What do pet turtles eat?

Try to visit a pet store that sells reptile and you will see that there are different types of turtles you can choose from. You can talk to the store manager on what type of food is suitable for your pet turtle.

The manager may recommend a certain brand of commercial pelleted for turtles. For some, this type of turtle feed is the best option since it is scientifically designed to float on water.

The commercial feed is specifically formulated for pet turtles so you are confident that your pet receives the right amount of nutrients it needed for optimum growth and development.

But what if you are trying to save money, do pet turtles also eat human foods? Yes, pet turtles love to eat fruits and vegetables such as:

  • apples
  • beets
  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • cantaloupe
  • strawberries

Cut the fruit into smaller pieces and position it on the tank’s dry end.

Your pet turtle will also love to eat bugs, so if you catch some spiders, grasshoppers or crickets, it will provide your pet turtles the protein it needs to grow healthy.

Here are some of the most common species of fresh-water turtles and the types of food that they do love to eat.

What do painted turtles eat?

The painted turtle (Chrysemys picta ssp. and Chrysemys dorsalis) are one of the most fascinating freshwater turtle species of the North American region. Painted turtles are known to be omnivorous, meaning they will appreciate both plant and animal meat.

Painted turtles will eat worms, fish, small freshwater shellfish, and insects but will also consume green leafy vegetables and aquatic plants such as water hyacinth, water lettuce, and duckweed.

This pet turtle species is a messy eater, so if you want to keep your tank clean, you have to build a separate tank for feeding purposes.

What do snapping turtles eat?

The snapping turtle or Chelydra serpentine is a species of freshwater turtle that prefers to eat mostly live smaller animals. Minnows and goldfish are among the favorites of snapping turtles. This type of turtle will also love to eat live feeders such as crickets or crayfish which is available at bait stores near you.

Sometimes fresh fish or live insects are not available, you can try giving your snapping turtle whole frozen fish bought from the market. You can also give your pet some non-fatty meat and some fruits and vegetables.

Don’t forget to supplement your snapping turtles with vitamins and minerals that can be purchased at the pet store near you. This will ensure that your pet will get adequate nutrients despite being captive.

What do box turtles eat?

Box turtles are fresh-water turtles that eat just about anything that humans eat. Box turtles are omnivores. They can eat fruits, veggies and of course animal meat.

Be careful though, don’t feed your pet box turtles any food that they don’t normally find in the wild, such as potato chips, hamburgers, or hotdogs. These types of foods are just intended for human consumption and will eventually kill your pet if you insist to feed these to your turtles.

What do mud turtles eat?

Mud turtles love to live and play in the mud, obviously. This species of turtle requires shallow water because they are not so good at swimming.

Mud turtles are known to be carnivorous consuming small bugs, earthworms, and tadpoles. If you don’t have enough time to hunt live food or bugs, mud turtles will love to eat meat and fish and if chop it into smaller pieces.

What do red-eared slider turtles eat?

The red-eared slider turtle is one of the most popular species of fresh-water all across the United States. This turtle species is also popular as a house pet.

Red-eared slider turtle is an omnivorous eater, meaning they will consume just about everything you will offer them. Red-eared turtles consume green leafy vegetables, fresh or dried shrimp, crickets, grasshoppers, super worms, small fish like minnows, and small mice or rats.

What do sea turtles eat?

According to expert marine biologists, sea turtles have at least seven subspecies which includes:

  • Hawksbill Turtles
  • Leatherback Sea Turtles
  • Green Sea Turtles
  • Loggerhead Turtles
  • Flatback Sea Turtles

The majority of these turtles eat soft marine life such as jellyfish, sponges and soft corals. For some of the species of sea turtles that have a stronger jaw, they prefer to eat shellfish or clams.

Some of the sea turtle species are herbivores or exclusive plant-eater such as the green sea turtle. This type of sea turtle would prefer algae rather than meat. Such feeding activity contributes mainly to the maintenance of the coral reef ecosystem.

Here are the five out of seven sea turtles species and the food that they love to eat in the wild.

What do Hawksbill Turtles Eat?

Based on its appearance, hawksbill turtles have a prominent jaw that appears to be identical to a hawk’s beak. This design helps hawkbills in their quest for food even in the narrow and hard to reach cracks.

Hawksbill turtles are considered to be spongivores due to their diet being consisted of spongy marine animals. This species of turtle also eats squids and shrimps found around the coral reefs.

What do Leatherback Sea Turtles Eat?

Leatherback turtles, on the other hand, have jaws identical to scissors. This jaw adaptation enables this turtle species to hunt jellyfish and other soft-shelled marine animals. Leatherback sea turtles fully depend on a soft diet, for it will damage their jaws permanently if they choose to eat hard food.

The leatherback turtle is called gelatinivores because their diet mainly consists of jellyfish and other jellylike animals found on the ocean floor.

What do Green sea turtles eat?

Green sea turtles have jaws with serrated edges that are able to chew on algae, seagrasses, and seaweeds.

Green turtles are the only sea turtle species that are herbivore. This turtle species is an exclusive plant eater, which rejects eating any sort of animal meat at all.

What do Loggerhead turtles Eat?

The loggerhead turtle is a species of turtle that has very powerful jaws that are capable of crushing hard-shelled marine animals such as crabs, mollusks, and large shrimps.

An adult loggerhead turtle is known to be a carnivore, meaning it will prefer eating meat than plant materials.

What do Flatback sea turtles?

Flatback sea turtles can easily be identified by its flat back appearance. These sea turtles are omnivores, meaning they tend to eat plant materials feeding mainly on seaweeds rather than eating animal meat. But flatbacks are not exclusive plant-eaters.

Animals that flatback sea turtles eat include the following:

  • Crabs
  • Cuttlefish
  • Soft corals
  • Sea cucumbers
  • Shrimp

What environment do turtles enjoy?

In general, turtles would prefer to live in a semi-aquatic habitat. Some freshwater turtle species can live up to 15 to 25 years depending on the type and the environment.

Rearing turtles as a pet is so much fun. Yes, turtles are not as cuddly as dogs or cats but observing this awesome creation every single day is just so fantastic!

Though the expenses and maintenance cost of owning a pet turtle is much less than having a dog or a cat, having it at your home as a pet is a long term engagement and requires your time and effort.

So it is best to sit down, calculate the cost behind owning one before making a decision of visiting a pet store.

Owning a pet turtle means preparing an aquarium or turtle tank that fairly mimics its natural habitat. Your tank should have a dry portion so it can enjoy an artificial semi-aquatic environment.

The water should be kept at 70°F overnight so you may want to invest in an underwater heater to maintain the water temperature. The dry side of the aquarium should include a landing dock which is a perfect place for the turtles to rest and chill out.

You might also add some small branches for them to climb on. Your objective is to duplicate as close as possible an environment similar to their natural environment.

There is no problem if you want to mix your pet with other turtles in the tank. It can also co-exist with fish! But take note, freshwater turtles love to eat live fish, so if you are concerned about waking up in the morning and seeing your fish being murdered by your pet turtle, then you have to consider putting up a partition or simply segregate them apart.

How to handle pet turtle properly

Pet turtles are not comfortable of being picked up by holding up their legs. If you want to lift your pet turtle, always do it by holding it via its mid-section. Be sure to put your fingers away from its beak because some turtle species tend to bite off potential predators.

If you have little children living with you, have time to educate them on how to treat animals with love and care. This is very important because children have the tendency to be jealous and rude with animals, especially the ones with no ability to defend themselves.

Important note before feeding a turtle

Remember this before giving a turtle some foods to eat. First, you have to properly determine the age and type of turtle in question. The age of the turtle will tell you how much protein it will need in order to grow. Young or baby turtles eat more meat because they are in their peak for growth and development.

The type or species of the turtle will tell you a lot about what does a particular turtle eat. You can research on what foods a particular species of turtles consume in the wild.

You can mimic that food or hunt for live feeders in the wild. Again, the majority of the turtles love to eat meat when they are young and gradually shift to plant-eating as they age.

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