Can turtles eat fish food?

In this blog we will discuss can turtles eat fish food.We will also discuss their food preferences in aquarium settings.


In this blog

  • Can turtles eat fish food?
  • Key specifications of turtles 
  • What do turtles eat in the wild
  • How often can turtles be fed fish food?
  • Types of fish foods that are safe for turtles
  • Plant based food for turtles
  • Home based food for turtles
  • Feeder fish you can feed your turtles
  • Diet and nutrition for turtles
  • Why do turtles eat fish food?
  • What food can kill your box turtles?
  • Can we feed fish food to baby turtles?
  • Best turtle foods
  • Lifespan of pet turtles in captivity
  • Health issues due to overfeeding in turtles
  • Summary
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Reference 

Can turtles eat fish food?

There are different species of turtles which are kept in captivity by turtle keepers,and their dietary requirements can differ from species to species.

Fishkeepers usually keep turtles along with fish in their aquarium and feed them the same food as what they feed their fish.Fish food does no harm to turtles, but it does not fulfill their nutritional requirements which is required for their growth and development in captivity.

Turtles have a very long lifespan and in captive conditions if they are not getting the proper nutritional requirements they might starve to death.Its better to rotate their diets by feeding them specialized turtle food along with fish food.

Turtle food might be costlier than fish food but, we should never compromise with the quality of food for our land and aquatic pets.

It is very important to know when to feed and how much to feed.Its better to ask the pet shop owners about their dietary requirements and feeding frequencies.

Key specifications of turtles 

Scientific name Testudines 
Class Reptilia 
Diet Opportunistic omnivoreLand-dweller-herbivoreAquatic – carnivore 
Shape Size Colors oval-heart shaped4.5-5.25 feet Olive-greenYellow Greenish -brownReddish-brownBlack 
Lifespan 100-150 years
Feeding techniqueGap and suck methodFilter feeding

What do turtles eat in the wild?

Turtles are opportunistic omnivores and eat a wide variety of food in the wild.Juvenile turtles are carnivores and become herbivores as they age.

Land-dweller turtles-Herbivore (insects,grass,fruit,leaves)

Aquatic turtles – Carnivore (crayfish,small fish,insect larvae,snails)

List of turtles and their diets:

  • African helmeted turtle- fish, amphibians,reptiles,birds,mammals
  • Barbour’s map turtle- females eat mollusks,males arthropods
  • Blanding turtles-snails and crayfish
  • European pond turtle-water lilies 
  • Herbivore turtles-grass,leaves and fruits
  • Hawksbill turtle-sponges
  • Leatherback turtle-jellyfish
  • Mekong turtle- snails
  • Other supplements- eggshells,animal bones ,hair and droppings

How often can turtles be fed fish food?

Feeding frequency:

  • It’s very easy to feed turtles.
  • Small portions of fish every week.
  • Juvenile turtles should be fed everyday
  • Adult turtles around 7 years old should be fed 4 or 5 times a week.
  • Pellets and flakes food once a week
  • Avoid overfeeding,as it can cause health problems
  • Quarantine live food in a separate tank for 2 weeks before feeding them.The live food comes with a variety of infection if not handled well while transportation.
  • Feed them one cup of nutritious food every second.
  • Rotate their diets for improving their health.
  • Make a feeding time table for them.

Types of fish foods that are safe for turtles

  • Tropical flakes
  • Goldfish pellets
  • Freeze-dried food- shrimp and cubes of tubifex
  • Goldfish flakes
  • Frozen food- bloodworms,mysis,krills
  • Live food- daphnia, earthworms, cricket, waxworms, silkworms, aquatic snails,shrimp,mealworms
  • Commercial food for turtles- aquatic turtle food,turtle pellets (protein staple) ,floating food sticks.
  • Feed them live fish once or twice a month
  • Tuna fish
  • Best combination-Earthworms,feeder fish,superior quality turtle pellet,shrimps and some greens

Plant based food for turtles:

Vegetable based diet should be fed 3-4 times a week.Feed 1-2 tablespoon of greens to them.

Greens suitable for turtles are:

  • Bok choy
  • Mustard greens
  • Kale
  • Carrot tops
  • Dandelion green
  • Collard green
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach 
  • Aquarium plants-anacharis or water weeds and duckweed

Home based food for turtles:

Fish and turtles can eat home based food too.We can give the same home based food to turtles too,what we give to fish in captivity.

List of some home based fish food which can be given to turtles:

  • Proteinaceous food-  boiled eggs
  • Veggies- peas,beans,squash,corn,beets, yams
  • Fruits-cantaloupe,apples,strawberries,grapes,banana,mango, kiwi

Feeder fish you can feed your turtles:

Not all turtles are allowed to eat feeder fish.There are some turtles who are not allowed to eat feeder fish in their diets.Make sure you are not feeding them feeder fish on a regular basis.

Feeder fish suitable for your turtles:

  • Bluegills
  • Bass
  • Killfish
  • Crappies
  • Guppies
  • Platies
  • Mosquitofish 

Diet and nutrition for turtles

Turtles are opportunistic omnivores  and can be fed both plant based diets and meaty diets.They should be fed protein, vitamin (D and E) ,minerals and calcium enriched diets for their overall development in captivity.You can feed them home cooked food too.

Young turtles need more protein in their diets to maintain their health.It is very important to choose the right food for your turtles according to their age.

Why do turtles eat fish food?

Turtles are greedy eaters,always hungry and always look for food in aquarium settings.They are opportunistic omnivores and will eat any fish food dropped in their aquarium.

What food can kill your box turtles?

It is advised to avoid certain food for your box turtles,as it can be detrimental to them.

  • Rhubarb leaves
  • Potatoes
  • Tobacco plants
  • Seeds, leaves and peels of avocado fruit
  • Leaves of tomatoes
  • Vines 
  • Poison ivy

Can we feed fish food to baby turtles?

It is not recommended to feed wild caught fish or amphibians to baby turtles as they may come with parasites and other infectious organisms which could be harmful for them.

It is also not recommended to feed them raw meat from groceries as it may not contain calcium and phosphorus which is very important for their healthy life.

Best turtle foods

Commercial turtle based food is not available everywhere, and fish food is easily available in pet shops, so most of the turtle keepers end up feeding fish food to their turtles.

Some commercially available turtle food brands:

  • Tetra reptomin floating sticks turtle based food
  • Zoo med natural aquatic turtle based food
  • Zilla reptile munchies river shrimp turtle based food
  • Fluker’s buffet blend aquatic turtle based food
  • Zoo med canned box turtle based food
  • Zoo med gourmet aquatic turtle based food

Lifespan of famous Pet turtles in captivity

Pet turtle lifespan
Russian tortoise40 plus years
Eastern box turtle50 plus years
Wood turtle 40-55 years
Painted turtle25-30 years

Health issues due to overfeeding in turtles:

Turtles are opportunistic feeders and will keep on feeding whatever is in front of them or thrown to them.Overfeeding is not good for anyone and can lead to several health issues.

Some health issues due to overfeeding in turtles are:

  • Fatty liver disease or hepatic lipidosis
  • Obesity 
  • Too much protein can affect their kidneys,so anything in moderate amounts is good for them.

Signs of overfeeding: Due to overfeeding in turtles there is a special condition called as shell pyramiding i.e excessive growth of their shells.

  • Eyes – yellow tinged color
  • They become lethargic
  • Bloated limbs
  • They start throwing food


  • It is not harmful for turtles to eat fish food, but they should not be fed only fish food.Nutritional requirements are different for turtles growth and development.
  • So its very important to feed them specialized turtle food along with fish food to fulfill those dietary requirements.Failure to do so will result in deficiencies that may affect their health.
  • Fish based food may be cheaper than turtle based food but one should not compromise with the quality of food which is required to maintain their growth and development.
  • Not feeding a vitamin mineral enriched turtle diet along with fish food weekly will cost you more to take your sick turtle to a vet.
  • Fish food is intended for fish and turtle food for turtles, while there are some dietary similarities,the diets of these two are not the same.
  • Both turtles and fish need a regular diet that has been designed especially for them to live a healthy and long life.
  • It won’t be a bad idea to feed turtles,fish based food occasionally,but make sure you are not limited to just fish based food,as it might not contain all the nutritional contents which are required for their healthy life and could lead to nutritional deficiencies. 
  • Fish based food might lack calcium which is very important for turtles bone growth and if it is not provided they may develop metabolic bone disease and may die off eventually.

Frequently asked questions

What is not permissible for turtles to feed?

Some turtles are not allowed to eat fruits,feeder fish and raw meats.

Can we feed goldfish to turtles?

Goldfish are given as feeder fish to turtles,but it would be better to not feed them goldfish because it contains spines and lots of fat in them which is not suitable for their health.Spines can hurt their throat.So be careful while choosing a feeder fish for your turtles.