If you have it in mind to get a turtle as a pet, then this question must have come to your mind. Or you must have seen people ask this question on online forums. Although, this is not the only question people asked as there are other essential aspects of turtles. However, this is one of the most important as it is the key to the pet’s survival.
Turtles are interesting animals as they are omnivores, meaning they feed on meat and plants. For example, box turtles can feed on different foods like slugs, crickets, worms, tomatoes, green vegetables, and cantaloupe. The dandelion leaf is also beneficial for turtles as they are rich in Vitamin A and calcium. However, the most preferred food of box turtles is snails; just ensure they are free from pesticides. In addition, baby box turtles feed on meat at a younger age while they begin to adopt a vegetarian diet as they mature.
Different from terrestrial turtles, it is essential for aquatic turtles to feed in the water so they can absorb their food. Sliders feed on crayfish, snails, and salamanders and eat a little meat, fruits, vegetables, and their normal diet. Sliders are different from box turtles as they don’t stop eating meat even at maturity. Experts on turtles advised that you feed a live goldfish to aquatic turtles at least once per week. Like a predator, turtles pursue their prey; therefore, while enjoying their meal, they also have some fun and exercise.
In most pet stores, you will find food sticks. The food sticks are made to contain the necessary vitamins, minerals, and protein that should be an essential part of your turtles’ diet. In addition, it can be used as a supplement for terrestrial and aquatic turtles.
Besides regular snacks, baby turtles should eat two times a day. Matured ones can be fed once every day, specifically early in the morning. Also, always remember that turtles love begging to be fed. Once it notices you approaching, it will come above the water and opens its mouth while also closing in a chewing motion.
In this article, we will take you through some of the important things that you need to know regarding the dieting of a turtle. Irrespective of the turtle, whether terrestrial or aquatic, you will learn some important facts and tips to give your pet a healthy life.
What Do Sea Turtles Eat?
Feeding terrestrial turtles is different from feeding the aquatic turtle. Sea turtles are categorized into seven species, and they all feed differently. Therefore, you must identify the species before you can determine what to feed them.
The species of a sea turtle will determine its food. Some feed on both animals and on different plants (omnivores), while the hawksbill and leatherback are specialists feeding only on sponges (hawksbill) and jellyfish (leatherbacks)
For example, Hawksbills live mainly on and around coral reefs, which are their prey’s houses (sponges). Greens forage on seagrass beds and coastal habitats, and deep-sea diver leatherbacks exist in pelagic environments (open ocean), where they specialize in feeding on jellyfish and other invertebrate mollusks that swim in the water column. Below are the seven categories of aquatic turtles.
The mature ones are called herbivores, although they are omnivorous when young. Their diet is mainly made up of seaweed, seagrass, and algae. Greens have a finely serrated beak (similar to a saw) that can be used to scrape algae off rocks and destroy grass and algae.
Sometimes called gelatinivores (eating gelatinous prey) as their diet consists entirely of jelly and other invertebrate mollusks such as tunicates and marine squirts. They have two sharp protrusions, one on the upper jaw and the other on the lower jaw, which can pierce jelly and other soft-bodied creatures.
The grown-up ones are carnivores and will eat crabs, clams, whelks, and horseshoes crabs. Babies are omnivores and eat vegetables and animals. Loggerheads have huge heads and strong jaws that allow them to crush their prey with a hard shell.
Usually called spongivorous because their special diet consists almost entirely of sponges. Hawksbill has a sharp and narrow beak in the shape of a “bird” that allows them to reach the crevices of the coral reef.
These turtles are omnivores and eat different animals and plants, for example, crabs, shrimp, lobster, sea urchins, jelly, algae, and fish.
A carnivore animal that eats various crabs, fish, jellyfish, shrimp, and mollusks. However, their favorite prey is crabs.
An omnivorous animal that eats sea cucumbers, jellyfish, soft corals, shrimp, crabs, mollusks, fish, and algae.
The first ancestors of these seven species came around on the earth about 220 million years ago, and the present-day sea turtles have evolved to live under the waves successfully.
What Do Turtles Eat at Home?
The answer to this question depends on the species; they can be herbivores (that only eat plants), carnivores (that eat only meat), or omnivores (that eat plants and meat). Pet stores provide a variety of granular, strip, and block turtle foods designed for different species of turtles and provide a balanced diet and enough vitamins and minerals to keep them healthy. However, this type of bland food isn’t the only food for turtles; it might be healthier and cheaper to provide turtles with a variety of fresh foods.
You can give some of these foods to your turtle. The food listed below also depends on the species.
- Protein – Boiled eggs, crickets, earthworms, mealworms, snails,
- Vegetables – Beans, beets, corn, carrots, squash, peas, yams
- Greens – Carrot tops, collard greens, kale, lettuce, spinach
- Fruits – Apples, banana, cantaloupe, grapes, kiwi, mango, strawberries, tomato
- Flowers – Carnations, dandelions, geraniums, lilies, petunias.
Besides the variety of foods and supplements available in pet stores, it is also advisable that you offer your turtles an additional source of calcium, as it is necessary for a strong and healthy shell. Some excellent calcium sources that can be added to the turtle’s food regularly are crushed eggshells, cuttlebone, and oyster shells.
A fresh and varied diet with different nutritional sources is the best diet you can offer your turtle. Like humans, a turtle has unique tastes; therefore, giving them different foods will help them stay fed and happy. You can apply the below tips while feeding your pet turtles at home:
- Dairy foods are a no-go area for turtles; therefore, it is important to keep food like yogurt, milk, and cheese off their diet list as they cannot digest them and result in illness.
- Avoid feeding them with too much protein; you can just offer it every two or three days.
- Do not feed them raw meat & hamburger because they might become rotten before they feed on them.
- Crackers or bread should be avoided; they are processed foods, and the ingredients won’t be good for your turtle’s health.
- You should cut the food into smaller pieces to help the turtle eat them conveniently especially young turtles. They do not have teeth as they only use their jaws to cut foods into pieces.
- Foods are best offered when they are fresh. Avoid putting the food in the cage where it can rot. In addition, clean their food plate before adding another.
What Can Turtles Eat?
You can find these cuties eating almost anything humans can eat, but some foods can be dangerous for them if they are overfed. Generally, sea turtles should avoid manufactured foods and phosphorus-rich fruits and vegetables. In this section of the article, you will find most of the things the turtle can eat. Following are some of these explanations;
Turtles are a big fan of meat; as long as you give them something fresh, they will eat it. Generally speaking, meat is recommended for turtles, but too much can result in problems. Meat is rich in protein, and sea turtles use this protein primarily to grow their shells. However, if the turtle eats too much protein, the turtle’s shell will start to get damaged because it will begin pyramiding.
Another thing to avoid with meat is one with high-fat content. Excess fat can cause serious health problems for turtles. Therefore, possibly, avoid feeding your turtle bacon or stakes. Another important aspect of turtles and meat is that they can eat raw and cooked meat.
Turtles lived in the same habitat with fish and also feed on them. As with meat, turtles will eat any fish you feed it. But, like meat, you should avoid giving turtles too fat fish. In addition, you should also avoid while feeding turtles are feeding them wild fish. The wild-caught fish will contain a lot of bacteria, especially raw ones, and can harm sea turtles. Even though they share habitat in nature, turtles are not wild, so they are not used to the presence of bacteria. The use of bony fish should also be avoided. Turtles cannot remove the bones of fish, so they end up swallowing them. When they do that, what changes is that the bones can do some internal damage.
If you want to stay safe while feeding them fish, then head over to a pet store and ask the staff questions about turtle fish food.
Fruits are good for turtles, but you need to feed them in small amounts. Fruits should not exceed 10% of the turtle’s diet. That’s because fruits do not contain a potassium-calcium ratio that’s highly beneficial for turtles, but other than that, turtles certainly benefit greatly from them.
Turtles can eat almost any type of fruit, with a few exceptions. The exceptions are citrus fruits and fruits rich in excess potassium. Citrus fruits have citric acid, which can irritate the turtle’s stomach, while potassium-rich fruits are unhealthy for the shell.
Generally, turtles can consume almost all edible vegetables to humans, but there are also some exceptions that can cause them to do more bad things than good.
The first on the list to avoid is iceberg salad. Different from other salads, iceberg salad doesn’t have much nutritional value. So, when the turtle feeds on iceberg salad, it not only fills its stomach it also barely gets anything from it.
Other exceptions are vegetables featuring high levels of oxalate. Oxalate is a substance that prevents calcium from being absorbed into the bones. Because the turtle’s body is completely covered with bone, calcium is very important to the turtle, and you don’t want to interfere with its absorption.
Yes, you saw that right! Turtles can eat eggs, you only need to keep them fresh, and the species is never a problem. However, it is advisable that you boil the egg and ensure you peel them as well. In addition, to make the eating convenient, cut the eggs into smaller pieces, or you can try to hold them while the pets eat. Otherwise, you will leave the pet struggling while trying to fill its stomach.
Turtles can feed on insects. In fact, turtles in the wild feed on insects every time. However, it would be best to feed them with dried insects, e.g., crickets. There is nothing bad about feeding them live insects, just that they move a lot, and if proper care is not taken, they will walk freely around the house.
What Do Water Turtles Eat?
Wild fish can eat aquatic turtles. You can buy “feeder fish” at pet shops or bait shops to feed pet turtles. Fish like goldfish, guppy, or juvenile fish should be available depending on the sea turtle’s size. By feeding turtles live fish, they will gain mental stimulation and agility while chasing their meal. In addition, fish can be an excellent source of calcium for sea turtles, just that they will need to eat the whole fish, bones, and anything else.
However, it is believed that newly feeder fish carry parasites and bacteria and can infect turtles that consume them. So, when fish feed is given to turtles, it should not be provided frequently. Fish, mackerel, and other fatty fish should be eaten with ease or avoided. Their high-fat content can disrupt the nutritional balance and make them deficient in vitamin E. Also, dietary fish can cause thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency; therefore, fish can only be used as a small part of the turtle’s diet.
As mentioned earlier, the size of the sea turtle also matters when it comes to feeding. You can give them amphibians like frogs and tadpoles. You can also offer earthworms, beetles, grasshoppers, moths, crickets, mealworms, and wax worms. Snails and slugs can also be part of their food. It is not recommended to feed wild-caught fish and amphibians as they might be hosting parasites and other organisms that can be harmful to turtles.
It is not advisable you feed them raw meat and fish from the grocery store as they do not have the right proportion of calcium and phosphorus for turtles. However, irrespective of the source of protein, the carnivorous portion of their diet should not exceed two-thirds of juveniles and about half for adults.
What Do Turtles Eat as a Pet?
What turtles eat as a pet is different from what they would feed on in the wild. Without questions, what they eat as a pet is not different from what they eat at home. And that’s has been cleared discussed in sections before this. However, in this section, we will still discuss some beneficial things for your cute pet. One of the advantages that turtles get as a pet is that their feed is controlled. The owner decided on what to feed them, therefore reducing their potential of feeding on harmful substances. Unlike the wild ones that feed on whatsoever they feel is appropriate for them.
It was noted earlier that turtles are omnivores; they feed on both animals and plants. Although, the feeding habit is tailored to its species. Some turtles are carnivores as babies; however, they adopt a vegetative lifestyle once they reach maturity. At the same time, some remain carnivores right from juveniles till they achieve maturity. Therefore, being omnivores, their diet as a pet can include any of the following.
Commercial turtle food
You can get these at your local pet store. They love eating turtle pellets and freeze-dried fish food. Turtles might have a big interest in this meal; however, ensure you do not overfeed them. Please give them a little at a time, and also avoid dirtying the water too much. Carefully examine your turtle once they stop showing interest in what you are giving them. Then it’s time for you to stop.
Turtles love the excitement of having fun (chasing their prey) while they feed. You can feed them crickets, mealworms, or feeder fish on different occasions.
You can serve them veggies a minimum of three or four times per week. Offer them one or two teaspoons of leafy greens like collards, mustard greens, or kale. Also, check to remove any leafy greens they do not consume in few hours.
You can start by offering them a quarter-cup of freshly selected food every day, and later you can increase the portion depending on how fast they are eating.