What Do Water Turtles Eat?

There are two types of water turtles on our planet. Like many other species they’re split up into saltwater and freshwater species. Both species have different dietary requirements given they live in different environments, so let’s take a closer look at “what do water turtles eat?”.

First of all you should know that each species has its own dietary requirements, however there are many similarities which apply to all species so we’ll cover these foods in this article. So first up we have our Freshwater species. These includes species such as; Slider Turtles, Painted Turtles, Cooter Turtles, Map Turtles, Stinkpot Mush Turtles and many more. And these has a variety of foods which can include natural and commercial foods.

What Do Freshwater Turtles Eat?

Researching into ‘what do water turtles eat’, here is our freshwater turtle food list;

  • Turtle Pellets
  • Crickets
  • Earthworms
  • Guppie Fish 
  • Freshwater Aquatic Snails
  • Freeze Dried Shrimp & Krill
  • Carrots
  • Squash 
  • Green Beans
  • Red & Green Lettuce
  • Dandelion Leaves

There are manly other suitable foods what freshwater turtles eat, which will be listed at the end of the article. It is also worth mentioning that freshwater turtles CAN NOT eat iceberg lettuce, so never offer this to your (or any) turtle. It contains too much water for a turtle and will cause an upset stomach. Not only that, it doesn’t offer much nutritional value anyway, so please stay away from feeding your turtle iceberg lettuce. 

But for now, let’s take a closer look at our top recommendations.

Turtle Pellets

Turtle pellets should be the main food source for many pet freshwater turtles. The pellets are commonly made with Gammarus shrimp and crammed with vitamins and minerals. These pellets will give your turtle all the nutrients it needs for a healthy diet combining vitamins, minerals, calcium and  proteins. Another great thing about this pellet food is that it floats on the surface top, so they are easily removed if not eaten. 


Yes crickets can be eaten by freshwater turtles as a form of food every so often. Freshwater turtles will feed on small insects, and crickets come under this category. As long as the cricket is small enough tho consume then your turtle should be fine eating it. Crickets are highly nutritious and easy to digest which makes them a great treat for your turtle. They high in protein which may otherwise be hard to get in a turtles diet. You can also freeze crickets and they will still hold off the goodness inside them, so yo can offer these to outside turtle also, without the crickets hopping away.


Earthworms are high in calcium and fat, which makes this food a great treat for many freshwater turtles also. If you choose to feed your turtle earthworms, then you should do so only 1 or 2 days a week. Earthworms should be bought from a reptile store, or online, as they are commonly fed a reptile friendly diet prior to packing.

Guppie Fish

Live guppy fish can be used as food for your pet freshwater turtle, specially slider turtles. They may not however feed on these fish if they are getting a constant healthy diet on a daily basis. Usually the pellets, dried shrimp and plantations will be enough. Usually guppies can be added to the aquarium as tank/pond mates, however don’t be surprised if they are eaten eventually. 

Aquatic Snails

Snails are an importantly part of a freshwater turtles diet, as these are commonly what they would eat in the wild. Aquatic snails can be offered dead or alive. You can buy them both live, or canned from reptile shops or online stores.  Usually snails will have added calcium if bought from reptile stores, as they are commonly very low in calcium by themselves. You’ll need to take this into consideration when monitoring calcium level consumption.

Freeze-Dried Shrimp & Krill

Shrimp and Krill which has been free dried is another great food you should be offering your turtle.  Both shrimp and krill belong to a freshwater turtles natural diet, so these should be offered at least every other day. Make sure you buy ‘freshwater’ and not saltwater, as this type is commonly not in reptile diets. Another great thing is that usually they are offered in small and large sizes, so can be offered to both juvenile and adult turtles.


Carrots are another good substantial vegetable to be offering your pet freshwater turtles. They’re high in carbohydrates and natural sugars which your turtle won’t commonly get from aquatic plantations. The only thing you will need to do to carrots is to wash them before offering them as food. Sometimes vegetables bought from shops are sprayed in chemical which may be harmful to your turtle.


This is a vegetable that should only be offered a couple of times a week. Squash is high in vitamins A, C and E which is good for an all round vegetable. It is however also very high in fibre and this is why it should only be offer a couple of times a week. Again this should be removed after a day.

Green Beans

Raw green beans can be offered as a treat to a freshwater turtle. Not all turtles will eat green beans as they have an acquired taste, but they are safe to offer. They are high in calcium, magnesium and potassium, so they have a wide variety of nutritious mineral values.

Aquatic Plants

Aquatic plants such as Duckweed, Anacharis and Water Hyacinth are great additions to your turtles diet. These plants can be self sustained in the water conditions are okay in your pond or aquarium. Live aquatic plants are great as they can just be nibbled at, as and when your turtle is hungry. They’re high in vitamins and minerals which will help to sustain a healthy and staple diet.

Green & Red Leaf Lettuce

Lettuce can be offered to your turtle regularly. Very similar to aquatic plants however lettuce should be offered in a feeding bowl. The lettuce should only be available for one day, then it needs to be changed. It will most likely become very unappealing to your turtle if its been sat there for a few days. Again, lettuce is high in vitamins and minerals so should be offered most days.

Dandelion Leaves

Dandelions can be offered as part of a freshwater turtles diet every day. They may not eat it every day but it is good to offer it to them. This can however be seasonal if you are growing yourself, however it can also be bought, usually online for delivery. Dandelion leaves are high in vitamins and minerals. These can be grown in a small pot on a windowsill or in a garden.

Other suitable foods that freshwater turtles eat?

Okay, so these foods we’ll not go into detail with, but these will all need to be offered only a couple of times a week. These foods have high levels of varying vitamins and minerals which is why they should only be offered in moderation. Freshwater turtles are relatively non fussy eaters, which makes meal prep pretty easy. You should soon get a good idea of the foods they do and don’t like. 

What do water turtles eat, alternative food list;

  • Mealworms
  • Bloodworms
  • Crayfish
  • Ghost Shrimp
  • Minnows
  • Waxworms
  • Collard Greens
  • Beet Greens
  • Mustard Greens
  • Broccoli
  • Turnip Greens
  • Bok Choi
  • Kale
  • Parsley
  • Watercress
  • Clovers
  • Red & Green Cabbage
  • Savory 
  • Bell Peppers
  • Duckweed
  • Honeydew
  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Berries

What do water turtles eat? – Ocean Species


This species has a special appetite which changes as it grows into adulthood. Hatchlings and juveniles are Omnivores, which means they eat both animals and plantations. This is due to the fact they have to fend for themselves from the moment they hatch, so have to adapt to their surroundings. 

Luckily for them, their mothers have chosen a perfect location with waters rich in plantations. Young turtles don’t have the skills, or the size they need to catch live foods. Once they reach adulthood, loggerheads will have mastered the skills they need to hunt crabs, whelks and conchs.


The green turtle is ironically named as it only eats greens. Thats right, this species of turtle is the only specie to be a herbivore as an adult. This means they only eat sea plants, foliage and marine algae. Green turtles are actually named ‘Green’ after the colour of their fat and cartilage. Not the colour of their shells like most people believe.

Hatched green turtles are in fact omnivores, feeding on small sea creatures. As they get older they will commonly find a coral reef to call home, feeding mostly on seagrass and algae.


On to the hawkbill’s which are know to be the fussiest eaters amongst the seven species. This is because they commonly only eat sea sponges. Sea sponges are living animals which can be found in sallow waters, coral reefs and even at the depths of the deep sea. 

The hawkbills name comes from its hawk like beak, which is long, slightly curved and pointy. This makes for a great tool when digging into coral to find their beloved sea sponges. 


Leatherback turtles are the only species thought to be something we call ‘Gelatinivores’. Gelatinavores are know to only eat gelatinous prey such jellyfish, tunicates and sea squirts. They are not known to eat any other foods apart from these.

Because of this gelatinous diet, leatherback turtles sometime misinterpret plastic waste in the sea for edible food. For this reason leatherbacks have become the most polluted species of turtle, due to eating human made plastic waste.  


Commonly falsely categorised as carnivores, flatback turtles are in fact omnivores. Although mainly they chose to feed on jellyfish, sea cucumbers and soft coral, they will sometime feed in sea grass when food is scarce and hard to come by. 

Kemp’s Ridley

This specie of sea turtle is strictly carnivorous, with only ever meat on the menu. Usually found in the warmer shallow waters, Kemp’s Ridley turtles will dive down to feed on their preferred crab, but will eat other shellfish if crab isn’t available.

Unfortunately this species is the most endangered amongst the seven sea species. Not only is their nesting habitat being threatened, they are also at most risk from being caught in fisherman’s nets in the shallow waters.

Olive Ridley 

The Olive Ridley is the worlds smallest sea turtle specie, commonly found in the tropical regions of the worlds oceans such as the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans. They are mainly carnivorous, feeding on jellyfish, crabs, snails and shrimp, however they do occasionally eat algae, seaweed and sea grass also. 


We hope you have enjoyed reading our article of “what do water turtles eat”. There is a wide variety of foods which can be eaten buy both freshwater and saltwater turtles, so make sure you know the difference before offering either the wrong foods.

What do water turtles eat? Most commonly for pet fresh water turtles you should offer commercial food pellets as the main source of foods, but do offer some other treats once or twice a week to keep their meals interesting.

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What Do Water Turtles Eat?

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