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Do Turtles Eat Meat? (Which Turtles + What Kind Of Meat?)

By Kerry
Updated on

In order to really grow and thrive, it couldn’t be more important that your pet turtle gets all the proper nutrition it needs, so this article is going to explore what makes an ideal diet for turtles.

And since (spoiler alert) some turtles do eat meat, we’re going to identify which types of turtles do eat meat and in what form.

We will also cover all of your most frequently asked questions on the subject along the way.

Turtle eating meat

By the end of the article, when we reach our conclusion, you will be much more knowledgeable and well-informed and will be able to impress your friends with just how much you know on the subject altogether.

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

Let’s kick things off with an in-depth description of a typical diet for a turtle and what are its ideal foods.

Typical Or Ideal Foods For A Turtle

Most turtles are omnivores, meaning that they eat both plants and animals. They’ll eat almost anything, including vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds, nuts, and meats as well.

A typical diet for a turtle consists of two main things:


This can include both live food like insects or worms and dry food like pellets or crumbles. Live food will provide essential vitamins and minerals, while dry food will help keep their teeth clean and healthy.


While they don’t need much water, most turtles should have access to fresh, clean water at all times.

The amount of water varies depending on the size of the tank, but generally speaking, 1 gallon per square foot of aquarium space is enough for a small turtle.

What Kinds Of Food Would A Turtle Eat If Living In The Wild?

The answer to this question depends largely on where the turtle lives and its natural environment.

If the turtle was found in a forested area, then it may be eating various fruits and berries. On the other hand, if it was found near a lake or pond, then it might be eating fish and amphibians.

If the turtle lived in a tropical climate, then it may be found feeding on dead lizards, frogs, and even snakes. However, if it lived in a cold climate, then it might be feeding on rodents and birds.

Is It Okay For A Turtle To Eat Meat?

As a general rule, yes, it’s fine to give your pet turtle a little meat.

It’s not uncommon for turtles to feed on small animals, including mice, rats, rabbits, chickens, ducks, and even dogs. Some species of turtles also eat carrion, such as deer carcasses.

However, there are certain species of turtles that actually prefer to eat raw meat. These include the Chinese soft shell turtle, the American alligator snapping turtle, and the red-eared slider.

Benefits Of Meat In A Turtle’s Diet

While it’s true that meat isn’t always good for us, it does contain many nutrients that are beneficial to a turtle’s health.

For example, meat contains protein, which helps build strong muscles and bones.

It also contains iron, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin B12, which are vital for healthy growth and development.

In addition, meat has a high-fat content, which provides energy. Finally, meat contains amino acids, which are necessary for building muscle tissue.

Is It Ok To Only Give Your Turtle Only Vegetarian Food?

Yes, it’s perfectly acceptable only to feed your turtle vegetarian food. In fact, some manufacturers of reptile food recommend that you do so.

However, vegetarian diets are often very low in calories, and therefore aren’t really sufficient for growing large amounts of muscle mass.

Therefore, if you are not against feeding meat to your pet turtle, then we would recommend that you do so.

You could continue to feed them vegetarian pellets if that’s what you have started doing, but you could also supplement this with meatier foods such as insects and worms.

How To Tell If Your Turtle Needs More Meat In Their Diet

Turtle eating meat

There are several ways to determine whether, or not, your turtle needs additional meat in their diet.

First, look at their overall condition. A healthy turtle should appear active and energetic and should exhibit no signs of illness.

Second, watch how quickly they grow. If they’re growing too slowly, then you may want to consider giving them extra meat.

Finally, observe how much weight they gain each week. If they seem to be gaining weight at an abnormally slow rate, then you may want to consider adding meat to their diet.

Does Dry Turtle Food, Such As Pellets, Contain Protein And Meat?

So, it turns out that, yes, many brands of dry turtle food do actually contain meat byproducts…

These products usually come from chicken, beef, fish, etc., and are then ground up into a powdery consistency. Some brands will also add other ingredients to make them taste better.

However, not all dry turtle food contains meat.

Many companies use high-quality vegetarian proteins to create nutritious products for reptiles. So if you want to feed your turtle meat, look for a brand that uses high-quality animal products.

What Kind Of Meat Does A Turtle Eat?

The following is a list of the most common types of turtle meat that you may come across in manufactured pellets:


This is probably the most commonly eaten type of meat for turtles. However, it can cause problems if fed too frequently.


This is another popular choice for turtles. Be sure to buy organic beef, though.


Like chicken, fish is one of the most commonly eaten meats for turtles.


While pork isn’t typically considered “healthy” for humans, it is sometimes used as a dietary supplement for reptiles.


Although lamb is less common than chicken, fish, or beef, it is still a good option for your turtle.

Meat Content In Insects And Worms

As we mentioned earlier, turtles are often known to eat the likes of insects and worms. But just how much protein can they get from such animals, and is it enough?

Insects and worms are generally considered to be lower on the food chain than mammals, and they don’t have any bones. They also tend to be smaller in size, so they provide fewer nutrients per unit volume.

Therefore, when compared to the other meats that we listed earlier on, insects and worms are relatively poor sources of protein in comparison.

However, there are some exceptions. For example, mealworms are quite small, but they are packed full of protein.

Which Species Of Turtle Eat Meat?

Most turtles are omnivores, which means that they can eat both plant-based foods and animal-based foods.

However, it’s important to note that not all turtles will eat meat, and in fact, most turtles often prefer to eat plant-based foods such as leafs.

It’s also worth noting that different species of turtles have different diets. For example, tortoises are herbivorous, while terrapins are carnivorous.

Species of turtles that do like to have meat in their diet include:

  • Alligator snapping turtles
  • American alligators
  • Alligator gar
  • Common box turtles
  • Eastern painted turtles
  • Eastern soft shell turtles
  • Florida box turtles
  • Green sea turtles
  • Loggerhead turtles
  • Northern map turtles
  • Olive Ridley turtles
  • Red-eared slider turtles
  • Ridley turtles
  • Snapping turtles
  • Softshell turtles
  • Spotted turtles
  • Western painted turtles
  • Wood turtles

In order to provide the best possible foods for your pet turtle, it is important that you identify which species you have so that you can feed them accordingly.

If you have spotted your pet turtle’s species in the list above, it is strongly recommended that you incorporate meat into their diet.

How Should I Feed My Turtle?

Feeding turtles

There are many different ways to feed your turtle. You’ll need to decide what works best for your pet.

Here are some ideas for feeding your turtle:

Mixing Dry Pellet With Water 

This method is very easy and convenient. Simply mix together a portion of dry pellets and a portion of fresh water.

It’s recommended that you only add about 10% of the total amount of dry pellets into the tank. The rest should be added gradually over time.

Feeding Live Crickets 

This is one of the easiest methods of feeding your turtle. Crickets are usually sold in large numbers at grocery stores.

Just place them directly into the tank. However, make sure that you keep an eye out for bugs that may escape. Also, remember to clean up after yourself!

Feeding Frozen Or Freeze Dried Insects 

Freeze-dried insects are available online or at pet stores. These are usually sold in packages of around 5-10 pieces. To use these, simply thaw them out before adding them to the tank.

Feeding Raw Meat 

Raw meat is another option. Make sure that you buy from reputable vendors.

How Often Should I Feed My Pet Turtle?

The frequency of feeding depends on how much food your turtle needs. Generally speaking, it is recommended that you feed your pet every day. However, this is dependent upon the size of your tank and the type of food that you’re using.

If you’re feeding your turtle using a mixture of pellets and water, then you should feed them once per day.

If you’re feeding your turtle with live crickets, then you should feed your turtle twice per week.

If you’re using freeze dried insects, you should feed thrice per week.

If you’re using raw meat, then you should feed four times per week.

How Much Meat Should I Feed My Pet Turtle?

It’s important to note that not all types of turtles require the same amount of meat. Here are some examples of how much meat you should give your pet turtle based on its species:

  • Alligator turtles – 2-4 oz/day
  • American box turtles – 1-2 oz/day
  • Chinese box turtles – 3-5 oz/day
  • Common snapping turtles – 4-6 oz/day
  • Eastern soft shell turtles – 6-8 oz/day
  • Flathead mud turtles – 8-12 oz/day
  • Green sea turtles – 12-16 oz/day
  • Leatherback turtles – 16-20 oz/day
  • Olive Ridley turtles – 20-24 oz/day
  • Red ear slider turtles – 24-28 oz/day
  • Spotted turtles – 28-32 oz/day
  • Western pond turtles – 32-40 oz/day

Final Thoughts

So, as we have covered, meat can be an important part of a turtle’s diet, especially when they are still growing. However how much meat to give them per day depends on their particular species. 

If you wish to encourage their carnivore instincts, you can feed them live food such as mealworms. If not, then you may find sufficient meat byproducts in pellet foods for turtles.

We hope this guide has helped – 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.