There are over 300 species of turtle, and they all have different eating habits and food preferences. Factors like their jaw for chewing the food and where they live influence their diet. Availability of food sources is another important factor that decides what turtle will eat more often. Turtles are omnivores that is they feed on both plants as well as animals.
When left in the wild, turtles can be seen eating various things like worms, small insects, snails, and fish. Some terrestrial turtles are carnivores to an extent. They eat various food ranging from beetles to caterpillars to fruit berries, mushrooms and flowers. Earthworm grubs and snails are also the go-to food in their diet.
Nowadays, many individuals keep turtles as their pets. People choose them as their pets even though they are not cuddly like cats and dogs. The sole reason for this is the fun one can have while taking care of them, and also, they are mesmerizing to even look at. Pet turtles are usually omnivores and feed on whatever food is given to them, provided the items are mentioned in their diet. Commercial turtle food pellets are best for them to eat but being omnivorous; they can also be fed with fruits and vegetables. Let’s find out the human foods that a turtle can eat.
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Human Foods That a Turtle Can Eat
Turtle owners try to provide their turtles with various food options. Following are the human foods that are safe and healthy for turtles to eat.
Being omnivores, turtles love to eat fish. Turtles need protein in their diet, and the availability of fish in the wild becomes their primary source of protein. Turtles love to chase and hunt fish, and it is their natural diet.
Fishes are extremely good sources of omega-three fatty acids. Most importantly, they have many minerals and nutrients like calcium and phosphorus in them. Therefore it is quite obvious for a turtle to have a positive impact on its health if it eats fish.
The few safest fishes options for these reptiles are bass, bluegills, and crappies. It is suggested to usually avoid high-fat fishes since they make their body deficient in vitamin E. Even wild-caught fishes are not considered a safe option since they may contain unknown pathogens that can be very dangerous and life-risking for the turtles.
If you have a turtle, you will know what meat means to them. Turtles love feeding on meats. Meats are considered a rich protein source, so it is a great diet for baby turtles because of their more protein needs. After they grow up, the intake of meats must be reduced to avoid various health issues. Giving them meat to eat once in a while is a good idea.
Meats are high in fat and protein. Feeding your turtle too much meat can affect their health in all the wrong ways. It is generally asked to avoid giving too much meat because turtles are prone to the disease called pyramiding. Pyramiding is caused when too much protein intake takes place. Shell pyramiding can lead to organ failure and eventually premature death of your beloved turtle.
Fruits being high in antioxidants, improved the overall health of the turtle. Intake of fruits is the best way to avoid and reduce the risk of several diseases. Baby turtles might show hesitation while eating certain fruits, but they will eat almost all kinds of fruits offered to them as they grow.
While fruits are healthy, you should avoid giving them citrus and phosphorous rich fruits. Turtles are not good at digesting phosphorus or citrus food. It may cause inflammation in their stomach or ingestion.
Also, it should be noted that fruits or any other human food are not a complete diet for your pet turtle. It should be considered as a treat rather than a food diet. Commercial turtle pellets should be their food in 90% of the diet, and in the rest 10% of the diet, you can give them human foods.
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Turtles happily feed on vegetables. Vegetables must be a staple food in their diet always. A turtle’s body is suited for all types of vegetables, but one should keep in mind not feeding them vegetables with little to no nutritional value. One such example could be iceberg salad. Unlike other salads, iceberg salad does not have any nutrition, so it should be a no for your turtle.
While your turtle might look happy with almost all kinds of vegetables, you should avoid giving them some. This exception would be vegetables like spinach and potatoes, which contain a high oxalate content. Oxalates restrict calcium absorption, so these should be restricted in your turtle’s diet.
While you probably think why I include insects in the human food list? In some parts of the world, people eat insects, so I think it is good to add it here as well. Insects are the most loved treat of turtles. Insects constitute a major part of turtle’s daily diet in the wild. These are considered as a complete diet for the turtle. Live insects are the best choice for your turtle as it allows them to chase and hunt them. You can also use packets of dried insects for the turtles to eat. You can get it easily in any pet shop nearby.
Related Article: Do Turtles Eat Worms?
What can be a better option than eggs in a protein-rich diet for turtles? Eggs are a good choice for a protein-rich turtle diet. However, one should remember to boil them, peel them off, and feed them in smaller chunks to the turtles. This makes the consuming process very easier for these innocent animals.
Most turtles will eat chickens in the early stage of their life. As they grow, they become herbivorous, so it varies from species to species whether they will eat chicken or not at the latter part of their life.
When I say chicken, it means boiled chicken and not raw chicken. You should never feed your pet turtle with raw chicken as it might lead them to health troubles.
You should only give boiled chicken. Chicken lacks a balanced calcium-phosphorous ratio, so it should be given in a very limited quantity. Do not add salt or oil to the chicken. Also, the preservative added packed chicken should be avoided.
The food habits of a turtle are very easy to maintain. They nearly eat about everything they are given. Therefore it is not unnatural for them to eat rice. Rice being not that nutritional, it is generally asked to feed them rice in moderation or occasionally.
Apart from these, shredded carrots, zucchini and squash are great human foods that a turtle can eat without any worries.
What Human Foods Are Bad For Turtles?
There are a lot of human foods that a turtle can eat, but not all types of food that a human being consumes is safe for these creatures. Some human foods may be very appealing to them but can be very dangerous for their lives. Below are some human foods that you should never give to your turtle.
The first human food prohibited for a turtle is all sorts of dairy products. There are specific enzymes required for the digestion of these dairy products. A turtle’s body is deficient in those sets of enzymes. The absence of these enzymes leads to a turtle not being able to break down its nutrition which in turn causes severe indigestion.
Turtles should not be given any sort of sweets in any quantity. Be it chocolates or other kinds of sweets, or a sugar product, one should not take the risk of feeding these things to turtles.
Bread and bakery products
Bread or any other bakery products are not a good option to be included in your turtle’s diet. These bakery products are not nutritious and cause difficulty in digesting them. It is not life-threatening, but it does not help your turtle with anything either.
Nuts are rich in oxalates which hinders the absorption of calcium. Calcium is a nutrient that is very much required for these reptiles to stay healthy. Since their bodies are mainly covered with bones, calcium intake becomes very necessary for them. Therefore feeding nuts to Turtles can have very negative results, and one should not even think of giving turtles these kinds of foods rich in oxalates.
For your turtle’s healthy and happy life, one should strictly not let them eat any fried food. Boiled foods are okay, but fried foods should never be included in their diet.
Foods like hot dogs or maybe raw hamburgers and stuff that they are not likely to find in the wild must not be fed to them. These foods, if consumed, lead their body to be very unhealthy.
Cheese is a dairy product, and turtles must be restricted from having dairy products, whether milk, cheese or yoghurts, since they cannot digest them. Consuming dairy products can cause them great trouble.
Broccoli might look so colorful, and you may be thinking it is harmless for your turtle, but surprisingly it’s not. The stem and flowers of broccoli contain glucosinolate and riboflavin. When consumed by turtles, these compounds get converted into goitrogen, which is harmful to them. Goitrogen can disturb turtles’ thyroid activity. It also disturbs iodine uptake, leading to kidney diseases and even damaging the turtle’s liver.
Pasta is not a good option for this creature. Avoid feeding it to turtles as it does not have any nutrition and could cause digestion problems to the turtle.
Turtles may find candy attractive, and they try to grab a candy if one is kept in front of them. But this should be stopped immediately. Candies contain a lot of sugar and chemicals, which can be very harmful to turtles.
Avoid giving snacks to your turtles. Snacks include everything humans munch, like potato chips, popcorns, biscuits, etc. All snacks are fried food with added salt, preservative, and other chemicals that might not be suitable for turtle consumption. For a turtle to stay healthy, all these foods must be restricted.
Certain human foods are good for turtle consumption, but some could also be life-threatening for them. Instead of experimenting with human foods, it is always better to give pellets to your turtles. Turtle food pellets are a balanced diet with a lot of nutrition for their overall growth. The large variety of options available makes it easy for pet owners to take care of these creatures at a low cost. Turtles being omnivores, mostly will feed anything and everything they get, but one must be clever and knowledgeable enough to know what is right for them and what can cause harm to them.