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Can Turtles, Tortoises And Terrapins Eat Fish Food? What You Need To Know

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When you’re shopping in the grocery store for pet food, you will often find flakes or pellets of food for fish, but you won’t necessarily find any such prepared food for the likes of turtles, tortoises, and terrapins.

If you want to buy prepared food specifically for turtles, tortoises, or terrapins, you usually either have to go to a dedicated pet store or order the food online at home.

Turtle eating on aquarium

But if you could just give your pet regular fish food from the grocery store, that would be so much more convenient than traveling to the pet store or entering your debit card details online.

So, this article is going to look into whether it’s OK to give regular fish food to such family pets as turtles, tortoises, and terrapins. We will also endeavor to answer all of your most frequently asked questions on the subject along the way. 

By the end of the article, when we reach our conclusion, you will be much more well-informed and will be in a position to know if and when it’s OK to give regular fish food to your beloved pet.

(Please feel free to scroll ahead to any section that jumps out at you.)

We will cover each of these three pets in turn. Here goes.

Tip: Read our full guide, “What Do Turtles Eat?”

What Do Turtles Eat in the Wild? Can They Eat The Same as Fish?

In the wild, turtles will feed on aquatic plants, insects, small invertebrates, crustaceans, mollusks, worms, snails, frogs, lizards, snakes, birds, eggs, and even other turtles.

They have also been known to consume fruits, berries, seeds, flowers, and even small mammals like mice and rats.

The only things that they cannot eat are vertebrate animals like reptiles, amphibians, birds, and most mammals.

So, although what a turtle can eat altogether does come under a much wider range than what your pet fish can eat, there does appear to be some overlap. 

For example, in the wild, both turtles and fish will eat crayfish, shrimp, crabs, clams, mussels, oysters, barnacles, and seaweed.

However, while many fish generally prefer fresh water, sea turtles tend to live near saltwater rivers and estuaries, and these habitats tend to feature a different array of potential foods available.

Is It OK To Give Fish Food To My Pet Turtle?

While it may seem strange to think about giving fish food to a turtle, the fact remains that it is possible.

And since turtles are not considered to be true carnivores, they don’t need meaty bones or anything else from an animal to survive. All they require is protein-rich food with high levels of calcium and phosphorus.

And thanks to their unique diet, turtles are able to thrive on diets containing up to 50% of their body weight in dry matter. This means that a 20 kg (44lb) turtle could happily eat around 1 kg (2 lbs) of dried food every day.

This amount of food should keep your turtle healthy and happy for quite some time.

It’s important to note that although turtles can eat fish food, they are not necessarily suitable for all types of fish food since some brands of fish food contain ingredients that aren’t recommended for use by turtles.

If you’re unsure about the suitability of a particular brand of fish food for your pet, then you might want to check with your veterinarian first. If he or she tells you it’s fine, you’ll be good to go. But if your veterinarian advises against using it, then you shouldn’t risk it.

What Do Tortoises Eat in the Wild? Can They Eat the Same as Fish?

Tortoises are herbivorous reptiles, meaning that they eat plant material. In the wild, they will usually eat grasses, herbs, leaves, roots, fruit, bark, buds, twigs, shoots, bulbs, corms, rhizomes, tubers, fungi, mosses, lichens, algae, ferns, shrubs, brambles, bushes, trees, and even other tortoises.

So, as you can see from the above list of acceptable foods, there’s very little overlap between tortoises and what fish eat in the wild. In the wild, both tortoises and fish eat similar kinds of foods, but they don’t share any common menu items.

Is It OK To Give Fish Food To My Pet Tortoise?

Small turtle eating

As far as I am aware, there has never been any research into whether or not tortoises can eat fish food. I suspect that they may potentially enjoy it just as much as they enjoy eating their natural diet.

That said, however, I will not encourage it because there could be any number of reasons why fish food would be a bad diet for your pet tortoise.

For one, if you were to give fish food to your pet tortoise, you won’t get anywhere near the variety of foods that tortoises enjoy eating in the wild. And secondly, fish food is manufactured specifically with the dietary needs of fish in mind, and not reptiles.

If you really do want to give fish food to your pet turtle, I would suggest not doing so until you have consulted with a veterinarian for their approval because you don’t want to risk giving food to your tortoise that may potentially be harmful or toxic to them.

What Do Terrapins Eat in the Wild? Can They Eat the Same as Fish?

Terrapins are also herbivorous reptiles, like tortoises. They feed on plants, fruits, seeds, buds, twigs, and flowers. In the wild, terrapins eat aquatic vegetation such as water lilies, duckweed, bulrushes, pond weeds, hyacinths, duckweed, and lettuce.

So, unlike with tortoises, there may be more overlap between what terrapins eat in the wild and what fish eat in the wild.

For example, terrapins and fish will eat watercress, chestnuts, spinach, convolvulus, hyacinth, pond weeds, duckweed, lettuce, water lily, and water hyacinth.

However, this isn’t always the case. Some species of terrapin only eat certain types of plants. So, while they may eat some of the foods listed above, they may not eat all of them.

Is It OK To Give Fish Food To My Pet Terrapin?

Again, as far as I know, there has never been research into whether terrapins can eat fish food. However, I wouldn’t recommend it either. The reason is that fish food is specifically designed with fish in mind, and not reptiles.

As such, it may contain ingredients that are unsafe for your pet terrapin.

I would suggest consulting with a veterinarian before feeding your pet terrapin anything other than its natural diet. If you’re unsure about what kind of food your pet terrapin should be fed, then it might be best to consult with a reptile specialist first.

Final Thoughts

So, as we have seen, there can often be an overlap between what different creatures will eat in the wild, which may cause you to wonder whether you can safely give fish food to your pet turtle, tortoise, or terrapin. 

However, if you were to start feeding them on a diet that is too different from what that species would normally expect to eat in the wild, then this could risk health problems.

For that reason, we would recommend using caution and only giving fish food to your family pet if your veterinarian says that it’s ok.

Thank you for reading!

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About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.