If you go into your local pet store or your favorite online pet store, then you’ll likely find most of the turtle supplies lumped in together with the fish supplies. Both species are kept in wet aquariums that require filtration systems, so it makes sense for their supplies to be kept together.
Unfortunately, this can be confusing for owners trying to figure out the best diet for their turtles. As a result, many turtle parents make the common mistake of thinking that they can just feed their turtles the same food they feed their pet fish.
Turtles certainly can eat fish food, and it actually contains a lot of other common nutrients that they need to maintain a healthy diet. That being said, though, fish food is NOT enough to sustain your turtle and should not be the sole food source.
While fish food contains a lot of great nutrients, you have to remember that turtles are not fish– they’re reptiles. This means that they will have certain dietary needs such as protein, calcium, phosphorous, and Vitamin D that aren’t going to be found in the right concentrations in fish food.
In today’s article, we’ll take a brief look at when it’s appropriate for your turtle to eat fish food as well as what human foods turtles can eat. We’ll also explain some of the most important aspects of a turtle’s diet and give you a definitive list of excellent natural foods that you can feed them!
Let’s take a look.
Can Turtles Eat Fish Food? Explained!
If you’re like many first-time turtle owners, then figuring out a turtle’s diet’s specifics can be a bit of a challenge. Like humans, most turtles are omnivores, meaning that they can (and will) eat just about anything.
Although some select species of turtles are carnivorous or herbivores, the average pet turtle kept at home in your aquarium is almost certainly an omnivore.
In addition to the fact that they can eat almost anything, they also will eat almost anything. They’re not picky eaters at all and don’t really care what goes into their mouths. If it’s edible, consider it gone. It’s not uncommon for turtles to overeat or to eat unhealthy diets if you allow them to.
So back to fish food…
Fish food usually comes in little ground-up flakes or pellets and is usually made up of a combination of the following ingredients:
- Vitamins and minerals.
- Plant matter.
- Fish meal (cooked, dried, and ground fish meat/shells).
As you can see, it’s a fairly healthy mix with one exception- turtles don’t usually eat flakes. If you’ve ever observed a turtle in the wild, you’ll notice that they’re foragers. They dive to the bottom of the lakes, tearing up bits of plants to eat. If they feel safe, they’ll even walk around on land a bit, digging up random vegetables or even eating bits of leftover meat they find.
So while they will eat fish food, they’ll typically prefer larger, more substantial food. In addition to this, the nutrient levels in fish food tend to be far lower than they need for everyday growth and survival. Fish food should be a last-case scenario type of food for your turtle for when you’ve exhausted your other options.
What Do Turtles Eat?
So what do turtles eat?
Usually, most turtle owners just feed their pet turtles pre-made “turtle sticks” or “turtle pellets.”
These pellets are made up of a balanced ratio of protein, fat, carbs, vitamins, and minerals. The main advantage of these pre-made foods is that they’re perfectly portioned, so you’ll never have to worry about whether or not your pet turtle is getting the nutrients that they need! Simply measure out the right amount based on your turtle’s weight, and you’re good to go.
However, some commercial turtle food can have preservatives and other unwanted chemicals in them. For this reason, some turtle parents prefer to feed their pets a more natural diet consisting of raw fruits, veggies, and cooked proteins.
Foods To Avoid For Turtles
While we’re at it, let’s address another common question- What Can Turtles Eat From Human Food?
Since turtles aren’t picky eaters, a lot of first-time turtle owners end up feeding their turtles scraps of whatever they have in their fridge or cabinet. This is especially true of children, who often don’t understand the importance of a healthy diet when it comes to animals.
In general, you should try to avoid feeding your turtles human food. Most human food is full of carbs and artificial sugars, which are very bad for turtle metabolism. In addition to this, our human food is often laden with salt and spices which can be toxic to turtles who aren’t used to it.
Sure, a little piece of bread or a cracker here and there won’t kill your turtle, but try not to make a habit of it.
How Much Should Turtles Eat?
Turtles tend to eat as much as they can in a single sitting. A common feeding tactic involves giving them a moderate amount of food and letting them eat for 15 to 20 minutes. By this time, they will probably be full and stop eating. You can then remove the food and save the rest for another feeding time.
It’s important not to let your turtle overeat because they can become obese. This can be very bad for turtles since they are already heavy and suffer from limited mobility. Adding obesity to the mix can result in some substantial health problems.
Some owners feed their turtle smaller amounts every day, while others feed their turtles larger amounts every 2-3 days. Ultimately, it’s up to you, though. Turtles are used to going several days between eating in the wild, so they usually won’t care either way as long as they’re getting the right nutrients.
7 Great Foods To Feed Your Turtle
If you’re looking for some great all-natural foods that are turtle-friendly and will contribute to their longevity, then these 7 foods are all great additions to your turtle diet. When used in the right combination, you can base their entire diet on this if you desire!
Carrots are full of Vitamin A, which is essential for your turtle! Vitamin A helps your turtle maintain a healthy immune system and prevents them from developing common bacterial infections such as pneumonia as well as fungal growths, which can damage their skin and shell.
Like carrots, yams are full of vitamins. They also contain lots of fiber that is healthy for their digestion and a good concentration of healthy carbs, keeping your turtle energetic.
Brocolli (and any other dark, leafy green) is an excellent food for your turtle. Apart from vitamins, they’re also full of calcium and phosphorous- two very important nutrients that will help your turtle grow a strong, healthy shell.
- Cooked Chicken
Although meat shouldn’t be a large part of your turtle’s diet, they still need some protein from time to time. In addition to protein, cooked chicken contains Vitamin D3, which helps turtles absorb and metabolize the calcium and phosphorous from leafy greens. A perfect meal would be 80% fresh greens and 20% cooked chicken.
- Hard-Boiled Eggs (And Shells!)
Turtles also love eggs! Like meats, eggs should be given sparingly. However, hard-boiled eggs are a good source of protein, healthy fats, and Vitamin D. You can also grind up the shell, which the turtles can eat for extra calcium.
Just because your turtle will eat anything doesn’t mean that they should eat everything. If you want to ensure that your pet turtle lives a long, healthy, and happy life, make sure they’re getting a well-balanced diet containing all of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients they need.
Try to avoid human foods that contain salt, sugar, and dairy as these can be toxic to turtle’s digestive systems. Turtles do well with a primarily vegetarian diet, with small amounts of cooked meat and eggs added incrementally.