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Are Turtles Carnivores, Herbivore Or Omnivores?

Although turtles are much rarer than other pet types that we see people asking questions about, we have lost count of the number of people reaching out with turtle questions recently to try and ensure that they are offering the best possible care to their pet turtles.

We are not sure if this is due to there being a distinct lack of information online about keeping pet turtles or if it is just due to people not trusting the sources of information that are already online about keeping pet turtles.

Either way, we have decided to start publishing more content based around keeping pet turtles and answering the various questions that we see asked by the community time and time again to try and help as many of our readers as we possibly can.

One of the more common questions that we have noticed people asking recently is based on if turtles are carnivores, herbivores or omnivores.

Due to your pet turtle’s diet being extremely important to ensure that it is able to live a long and happy life, we have decided to publish this dedicated article going over exactly what you should be feeding your pet turtle to ensure that it is healthy.

We will be going over the various diet types for carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore turtle species too in an attempt to help our readers nail the perfect diet for their pet turtle.

Are Turtles Carnivores, Herbivore Or Omnivores?

The majority of turtle species are omnivores and will happily eat animals and plants depending on what they have available to them.

There are a small number of turtle species that are strictly carnivore or herbivore though but out of around 300 different turtle species, the majority of them are omnivores.

This tends to make it much easier when looking to feed a pet turtle as a high-quality omnivore turtle food will be a great fit for the vast majority of turtle species out there.

As it is not practical to keep most of the carnivore turtle species as pets due to their much larger size, we doubt that any of our readers have strict carnivore turtles but they usually eat crabs, conchs, and whelks with mealworms and shrimp usually being used for smaller carnivore turtle species.

It is also rare that our readers will keep vegetarian turtle species as pets too due to them also being larger and due to there being so few species of turtle that are strict vegetarian.

That said though, the vegetarian turtles often eat seagrasses, seaweeds, and algae with them tending not to do too well on other types of food making it harder to keep them in captivity without specialist foods.

Do Turtles Eat Meat In The Wild?

The majority of the 300 turtle species do eat meat in the wild with their natural meat sources ranging from crabs and conchs to shrimp and whelks with there being a large number of animals in between.

Although rarer, some turtle species will eat jellyfish, sea sponges, and dead fish as their sources of meat in their diet in the wild too.

Due to the wide open spaces fish have to swim in the wild, it is rare that the omnivore and carnivore turtle species will be able to catch a healthy fish in the wild.

That said though, in captivity, especially smaller turtle species that are kept in a small aquarium do have a much higher chance of being able to catch and eat healthy fish.

This is why some people notice the fish population in their aquariums slowly decline if they are keeping an omnivore or carnivore turtle in there too.

One way to try and prevent this is to do your best to keep your turtle as full as possible so it is less inclined to try and make a grab for your pet fish in the same aquarium as it.

Some omnivore turtles will be totally fine just eating a high-quality omnivore turtle food and will eat it constantly without issue but some may require live feeding for the additional mental stimulation.

Offering your pet turtle live feeder fish has the advantage of offering mental stimulation during the hunt with the disadvantage of improving your turtle’s fish hunting skills and its ability to catch your pet fish too.

Which Turtles Are Carnivores?

Snapping turtles, Loggerheads, Leatherbacks, and Painted Turtles are all primarily carnivores with painted turtles often switching to being omnivores later in life.

Out of those four turtle species, the Painted Turtle is the one that is most commonly kept as a pet with it usually being very easy to care for in most cases due to switching to being an Omnivore later in life.

This is why Fluker's omnivore turtle food is such an excellent option for adult Painted Turtles with most people who keep them as pets using it as their primary food source.

Due to Painted Turtles being intelligent animals, it can also be a good idea to offer them live feeder fish at least once to see if they take to them and eat them while getting some mental stimulation during the hunt too.

Some people who keep turtles as pets don’t like to offer their turtles live feeder fish though with mealworms and crickets usually being the best meat-based treat alternatives to live feeder fish.

These do tend to be cheaper and offer a good source of protein for your pet turtle but lack the mental stimulation that hunting live feeder fish offers.

Can Turtles Live On A Herbivore Diet?

Most turtles are not able to live on a herbivore diet with a very small number of turtles having evolved to be strict herbivores.

Although the omnivore turtle species do consume plants as a part of their diet, they also require meat as their primary protein source and offering an omnivore turtle a diet without meat can lead to a number of health issues.

We have seen a number of reports from people who have tried to keep an omnivore turtle on a strict herbivore diet and although the turtle may look fine at first, health issues tend to slowly develop with them not becoming apparent until it is too late.

If you do want to get a pet turtle and feed it a strict herbivore diet then be sure to get a turtle species that has evolved to be strict herbivores.

Trying to force a turtle species that has evolved to be an omnivore or carnivore to survive on a strict herbivore diet is cruel and will not offer a nutritionally complete diet for your pet turtles.

This tends to lead to various health issues and potentially death if you don’t introduce meat into their diets quick enough.


That brings our article going over if turtles are carnivores, omnivores, or herbivores to an end. We hope that we have been able to help you better understand the various dietary requirements of turtles as well as the various food sources that you should be offering the different types of turtles often kept as pets. Due to most pet turtles being omnivores, you can usually get away with using a commercially available turtle food as your primary food source for your pet turtles and then supplement their diet with other food types as required.