What do turtles eat? Getting to know the reptile's eating habits.

·4 min read

From local ponds and the deep sea to a tank in your bedroom, turtles can be found anywhere. These aquatic, semi-aquatic or terrestrial creatures are recognizable thanks to their bony, cartilaginous shells.

What is not as well known about these reptiles is their diet, but after being on Earth for over 200 million years, turtles have definitely had time to decide what they can and cannot eat.

Each species has its own specific diet, so it is important to know what turtles can eat to make sure they do not get sick.

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What do turtles eat?

Turtle species are diverse, and so are their diets.

Some turtles are carnivores, meaning they eat meat, while others stick to a vegetarian diet. There are also turtles who are omnivores, meaning they eat both meat and vegetables.

What a turtle can eat is determined by what kind of jaw it has, where it lives and what food is available, according to Live Science.

Leatherback sea turtles enjoy a gelatinous diet of jellyfish and sea squirts, according to World Wide Fund for Nature. Red-eared slider turtles can chow down on earthworms, snails, slugs and leafy greens, according to VCA Animal Hospitals.

Land turtles munch on beetles, fruit and grass, according National Geographic Kids.

When it comes to your pet turtle, their diet is omnivorous. Younger turtles, between 7-to-10 years old, will need more meat, but as they get older, they will eat meat, vegetables and fruit, according to Fetch by WebMD.

Your pet can eat  drained sardines and cooked chicken to moths and worms. For vegetables and fruits, pet turtles can have dandelions, mustard greens, cantaloupe and bananas, among other options.

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What a turtle can and cannot eat depends on what is its jaw type, where it lives and what food is available to it.
What a turtle can and cannot eat depends on what is its jaw type, where it lives and what food is available to it.

What foods kill turtles?

Since different turtles eat different foods, it may feel nerve-wracking when dinner rolls around.

A rule of thumb for feeding turtles is if it is meant for humans, never give it to your turtle, according to Turtleholic. So, foods like fries and pizza are off-limits.

Certain vegetables should also be avoided, including chives, parsley and spinach, since they contain high levels of chemicals called oxalates, according to Fetch by WebMD.

Raw meat, fish or chicken is also off-the-table, since raw meat may contain parasites, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

In general, consult a veterinarian to see if a certain food fits in your turtle's diet.

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What can I feed wild turtles?

When you are taking a walk around a pond, it may be tempting to feed a turtle. In general, you should avoid touching a wild turtle, since it may carry salmonella, which can make humans sick.

But if you cannot stop yourself from giving these reptiles a snack, it is OK to feed most wild turtles carrots, romaine lettuce, apples and bananas, according to Total Tails.

Though you should avoid contact with wild turtles, it is OK to feed most wild turtles carrots, romaine lettuce, apples and bananas.
Though you should avoid contact with wild turtles, it is OK to feed most wild turtles carrots, romaine lettuce, apples and bananas.

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How often do turtles eat?

Feeding time depends on age and species. For younger turtles, they can eat one to two times a day, while older turtles can eat once every day or two, according to Fetch by WebMD.

Baby turtles up to 1 year old should eat every day, but adult turtles can go up to two or three days without eating, according to Pet Keen.

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Is bread OK to feed turtles?

The short answer: rarely. Bread has no nutritional value to turtles, according to Pet Keen. It is non-toxic to turtles, so if your pet sneaks a piece, it will not be the end of the world. However, turtles should not consume bread in large quantities as it contains dairy, sugar and other indigestible ingredients, according to Pet Keen.

It is best to avoid feeding bread to turtles.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What do turtles eat? Here's what you need to know, care & feeding tips