What Do Turtles Eat?

By: Laurie L. Dove  | 

turtles eat
A giant tortoise chomps down on a veggie lunch. Not all turtles are tortoises, but all tortoises are turtles. Fuse/Getty Images

What a turtle prefers to eat, whether in the wild or as a pet, will depend on its age, size and species. The one thing that remains a constant is that, like humans, most turtles appreciate variety. Although they tend to be omnivorous, eating both plants and animals, each of the more than 300 species of turtles is known to have specific preferences for what they like to eat. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it?

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What Do Pet Turtles Eat?

If your pet is a land turtle, plan on feeding it a varied diet of dark leafy greens, vegetables and fruit, as well as animal protein. You don't necessarily need to go hunting for insects and small animals, however. You can purchase earthworms, crickets and feeder fish at most pet supply retailers. In a pinch, you may also feed a high-protein form of wet dog food or specially made protein pellets. Keep in mind that if you come across a bag of mealworms, they make great treats for turtles but do not have much nutritional value. Most pet turtles will appreciate any of the ingredients you might expect to see in a salad such as blueberries, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce or strawberries. If your turtle doesn't seem interested in a particular food, try another one. One turtle may not like apples, but will eat bits of hard-boiled egg.

What Do Sea Turtles Eat?

Sea turtles, also known as aquatic or water turtles, are either omnivores (eating plants and animals), herbivores (plants only) or carnivores (animals only), depending on the species to which they belong. Of the seven sea turtle species currently in existence, only flatback, loggerhead and olive ridley sea turtles are omnivorous, dining on everything from jellyfish and seaweed to fish and shrimp. Green sea turtles are herbivores, eating seagrass and algae, but only as adults. When young, green sea turtles add meat to their diet. Hawksbill and Kemp's ridley sea turtles are carnivores that prefer sea sponges and crab, respectively. Leatherback sea turtles, on the other hand, often are called gelatinivores because they only eat invertebrates like jellyfish.

What Do Land Turtles Eat?

Land turtles, also known as terrestrial turtles or tortoises, are omnivores who prefer to eat a range of foods. Adult land turtles generally like a balanced diet of beetles, caterpillars, earthworms, grubs and snails as well as berries, flowers, fruit, grasses and mushrooms. Young turtles, however, prefer a protein-heavy diet because of the intense growth period that takes them into adulthood. Whatever the age, land turtles may even make a meal of a relatively fresh carcass such as that of a dead frog, rodent or other small mammal.

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