Feeding Nature
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What Do Turtles Eat?

Turtles are some of the most unique animals on our planet.  These reptiles have unusual bodies because their ribs developed into a bony cartilaginous shell that they use to protect themselves against predators. 

 

This protective shell also acts as a mobile home to shelter them from heat, cold or it can serve as a cozy place for turtles to nap when it is time to take a rest.

 

There are 356 known species of turtle on our planet.  Sadly, many of these species are highly endangered.  

 

What Do Turtles Eat?

Some turtle species are only found on land, while others live semi-aquatic lifestyles and spend most of their life inside the water.  All turtles need to breathe air and they do not lay their eggs underwater. 

 

The diet of most turtle species is fairly similar but there is quite a difference in the foods that land turtles consume compared to aquatic turtles.  Here is a quick look at the most popular foods that turtles love to eat;

 

What Do Land Turtles Eat?

Land turtles fall under a different category than turtles and are called tortoises.  They also have shells but their shells have a rounder or higher design.  

 

Tortoises are mostly found on land but they can also swim.  Tortoises won’t swim underwater since their bodies allow them to drift on the surface rather than submerge underwater.  They do, however, prefer to dwell on land and they are mostly herbivores. Some tortoise species might be omnivores.  Here is a quick look at the best foods to offer tortoises;

 

Grasses And Hay

Some tortoises eat mainly grasses and weeds but for others, this food source only makes up 1/3rd of their diet.  They can consume grass from your lawn and are also found eating natural grass they find in the field.  Some pet owners also offer their tortoises hay to feed on.  They can eat a variety of grass types such as buffalo grass, lawn grass, finger grass, lemongrass, and many others.

 

Plant Matter

In the wild, plant matter such as leaves and soft stems makes up most of a tortoise food.  They will eat all sorts of leaves from indigenous trees.  The type of leaves they consume does depend on their location since different tree species grow in different regions.  It is important to do proper research on the tortoise specie you have before you offer it leaves.

 

It is safe to offer most of tortoise’s timothy and alfalfa.  They love these foods and these leafy plants are fairly easy to find.  

 

Fresh Vegetables

Most tortoises can eat a variety of vegetables and they do love these foods.  You can offer your pet tortoise foods like kale, collard greens, bell peppers, sweet potato, squash, cauliflower, and many leafy greens. 

If you are feeding fruits and veggies, it is best to offer 80% veggies since they do need more vegetables than fruits.

 

Fruits

Tortoises do have a sweet tooth and might love all sorts of fruits.  It is important not to exceed your daily fruit offerings by 20% of the tortoise’s overall food since too much sugar isn’t healthy for your pet.  You can offer fruits like apples, melons, grapes, and strawberries.

 

Commercial Tortoise Food

Commercial tortoise foods are good for pet tortoises and are often used to nurse ill tortoises back to health.  Commercially produced tortoise pellets do contain many healthy ingredients.  There are quite a few different types available on the market.  Some of these foods are high in fiber and low in protein which makes them practical for vegetarian tortoises.  Some of these foods contain more protein which is better for omnivore tortoises.  

 

Insects

Omnivore tortoise species like the Asian tortoise, hinge-back tortoise, and others do need a little bit more protein in their diet.  They may eat insects like worms, invertebrates, mealworms, earthworms, millipedes, and snails.  The protein snacks you offer pet tortoises should be minimal because these tortoises do still require lots of fiber in their diet to keep their digestive system healthy.

 

Supplements

Pet tortoises are often supplemented with calcium powder twice a week.  When offering calcium, it is important to find one suited for tortoises as these can vary quite a bit from supplements for turtles.  Calcium is very important for maintaining strong healthy shells.  

 

Water

Mediterranean tortoises can survive without water for quite some time but they do require water to survive.  Tortoises cannot get all their needed hydration just from food.  Without access to fresh water, your tortoise can become dehydrated and can develop kidney disease or articular gout.  

 

Diet Variations

In the wild, tortoises usually don’t vary too much from their diet that consists of grass, leaves, and insects.  Pet tortoises might grow a taste for other foods such as human foods.  They might nibble at foods like porridge or cereal. 

If you are offering these foods, you should keep them very limited as they might contain ingredients that are not healthy.

 

What Do Sea Turtles Eat?

Some sea turtle species like the green turtle are vegetarian and will only eat plant matter.  Others, like the olive ridleys, are omnivores and might eat animal matter in addition to plants.  The species and their natural habitat can have a huge impact on their diet. 

Here is a quick look at some of the most common foods sea turtles love to eat;

 

Sea plants

Sea turtles eat all sorts of aquatic plants and some species do prefer certain plants over others. 

Green turtles prefer seagrasses and hawkbills love soft coral, anemones, and sea sponges.  These animals will also consume other aquatic plants such as algae and seaweed.  

 

Invertebrates

Omnivore sea turtles do need lots of protein.  They eat a variety of invertebrates (animals with no backbone or skeleton). 

Leatherback turtles eat mostly Jellyfish and other sea turtles love jellyfish, snails, slugs, and other aquatic invertebrates found in the ocean.

 

Crustaceans

Some turtles have hard beaks that can crush through hard-shelled organisms.  Loggerheads are good examples of sea turtles that love crustaceans. 

They love to eat lobsters, crabs, shrimp, crayfish, prawns, krill, and snails.  

 

Fish

Some turtles may also catch and eat fish. Fish usually only makes a small portion of their food consumption because sea turtles are not quite as fast as most fish species. 

They do however occasionally get lucky and can catch some saltwater fish species.

 

Supplements

In aquariums, sea turtles are often nourished with supplements that contain lots of calcium, multivitamins, and vitamin D.  It is important to know that the supplements for sea turtles differ from those of land turtles.  

 

Diet Variations

Sea turtles often mistake non-food objects for foods.  Plastic is one of the most dangerous non-food objects that these animals consume because plastic can look very similar to jellyfish when it is tossed in the water.  Consuming plastics can be fatal for turtles and high pollution levels have resulted in a dramatic decline in sea turtle numbers.  

 

What Do Freshwater Turtles Eat?

Freshwater turtles are also omnivores.  They consume a combination of aquatic plants and aquatic insects found in their natural habitat. Here is a quick look at the most common food sources for these animals;

 

Water Plants And Fruits

Water turtles can eat a variety of plants that grow in lakes and rivers.  They also sometimes eat algae that might grow in standing waters like dams.  They mostly prefer fresh plant matter.  

 

The fruits of trees that overhang rivers or lakes sometimes fall into the water.  Turtles will then consume these fallen fruits that may lie on the riverbanks or that might fall into the water.  

 

Insects

Freshwater turtles do consume a variety of insects that they find in their natural environment.  Insects like snails or slugs are good foods for these animals.  They will also eat aquatic insects and aquatic larvae such as mosquito larvae, may fly larvae, crickets, mealworms, and many others.  Freshwater crustaceans like crabs can also be good food for these animals.

 

Small Animals

Some turtles will also catch and eat small animals.  They might not be fast swimmers but these turtles love to sit in the water and wait for animals to pass by.  They will then react with lightning-fast reflexes to snap and catch their prey.  Small animals like frogs, turtles, snakes, and even other turtles are all good foods for these animals.

 

Fish

Freshwater turtles will also catch fish.  They patiently sit and wait for fish to pass by.  Most turtles are camouflaged which makes it easy for them to hide.  When fish swim by, the turtle will snap at it to catch its prey.  These animals are also known to eat carrion fish (decayed fish) if they cannot find live bait.

 

Commercial Turtle Pellets

There are quite a few different types of commercial turtle foods available.  Freshwater turtles require a commercial food that is high in protein but that also offers lots of fiber.  You can look for these foods at your local pet store if you have a freshwater turtle.

 

Diet Variations

Freshwater turtles are omnivores and can have quite a few diet variations.  They sometimes eat carrion (dead decayed flesh) to survive and will eat all sorts of plant matter such as leaves, flowers, roots, and other parts. 

 

How To Feed Turtles?

Before you offer your turtle foods, it is important to identify its species.  Some turtle species are vegetarian, others are omnivores and some mainly consume meat.  If you are not offering your turtle the right food, it can become quite ill.  Your turtle should also have the right living environment.  Freshwater turtles don’t do well if there is too little water to swim in and land turtles won’t do well if you keep them in a tank that is too wet.

 

The best way to feed your turtle is by offering it a variety of foods.  With a greater variety of foods to eat, your turtle will get all the needed nutrients.

 

To feed your turtle, you can simply add the right foods to its tank.  Some turtles can even be kept in the garden where they can feed on your lawn.  You should however ensure that your turtle has a combination of foods to consume every day.  A good combination includes turtle pellets, 80% fresh plant matter, 20% fruits for herbivore turtles.  For omnivore turtles, you will also need to offer insects or other meat sources.

 

Pet turtles should also be supplemented with proper multivitamins and calcium.  Most pet owners use a crop-dusting technique to introduce these supplements.  To do this, you need to dust the insects or foods you offer your turtle in a powdery multivitamin before offering it to your turtle.  Alternatively, you can also offer gut loading insects that have been fed on healthy fruits and veggies so your turtles will get all the nutrition they need.

 

What do Turtles Eat in the Wild?

In the wild, turtles can only eta foods they find in their natural environment.  Tortoises mostly focus on plants, mushrooms, and grass foods but some will also catch and eat insects.  Sea turtles need to find plant foods in the water or they have to hunt for suitable meat sources.  Freshwater turtles also need to hunt for their own foods, find aquatic plants or they need to scavenge for carrion meats in the water.  

 

What do Baby Turtles Eat?

A baby turtle is called a hatchling.  These small animals need to hatch all on their own and they need to make their way to the sea or a safe haven on their own.  Hatchlings also need to fend for themselves to survive.  They can eat the same basic foods as adult turtles but in smaller quantities.

 

Pet baby turtles can be offered commercial foods and a combination of fresh insects, fruits, vegetables, and insects.  The foods they eat do depend on their species.  

 

What Foods Are Toxic To Turtles?

Pollutants such as plastic bags are the most toxic product that turtles often consume.  You should also avoid offering potato leaves, tobacco leaves, avocado peels, avocado seeds, tomato leaves, and poison ivy. These foods are toxic to most turtle species.  

  

Turtles are becoming more endangered with each passing year.  If you want to help these creatures, the best thing you can do is to refrain from polluting the environment.  If you do decide to keep a turtle as a pet, you should also offer it the correct foods to ensure its overall health.