Last updated: September 5, 2021

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Both turtles and tortoises represent long life and nobility. They are very calm animals and if you have decided to buy one of them as a pet, you will have this animal for a long time. Just like any other animal, the food you give to your turtle or tortoise is one of the most important factors of daily life and the well being of your pet. It is important to note, that in this article when we refer to turtle food, we are talking about food for both water turtles and land tortoises.

In this article, you are going to learn about what type of food is best for your reptile, depending on if it is a water turtle or land tortoise. We hope to answer any questions that you may have about keeping these cute, little animals as pets. These pets are very easy to take care of and will make great company for you and the whole family.

Key Facts

  • A land tortoise and a water turtle do not require the same diet. You have to remember this to buy the correct food for your pet.
  • Before deciding what food to get for your turtle, you should also understand what species of turtle you have because the food that your turtle will need varies between species. Semi-aquatic turtles need high levels of protein, while land tortoises are herbivores and almost never eat food that is made of animal products.
  • If you take good care of your turtle or tortoise, it can stay alive for dozens of years depending on its species. Along with its regular food, you can complement the diet of the turtle or tortoise with human food.

Our Selection of the Best Turtle Food

In this section of the article, you will see the best products of turtle food in the market this year. Each listing comes with a short explanation of what the food may include, so you can choose the best food for your little animal.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Turtle Food

To make sure your little reptile grows up to be a happy and healthy turtle, you need to understand and provide its basic needs. This animal will be in your house and outside of its natural habitat. In your home, the turtle will only depend on you to get what it needs daily. Here we will answer a few common questions of new turtle owners.

lovely boy with turtle

Turtles are excellent pets.
(Source: Ann Dudko: 121770064/

How many times a day should I feed my turtle?

It is important to keep in mind that a turtle, unlike other pets, will not overeat if you put a large quantity of food in its cage. Also, the number of times you feed your turtle depends on the age of your pet.

When they are babies you should feed them two times a day. When they are middle-aged, it is enough to feed them once every two days.

Once your turtle or tortoise has reached adulthood, you can feed it three times a week. The adulthood of a tortoise or turtle varies from species to species but is usually at around six years old. However, to make sure you have the right information, you will need to look up your animal's specific species. It is important to take the food that the turtle does not eat out of the cage when it has finished so that the food does not make the cage dirty or contaminate the water.

Does the way I take care and feed my turtle depend on the species?

Yes. For example, a water turtle requires much more protein than a land tortoise, which needs more vegetables. There is a huge variety of turtles and tortoises that you can keep a pet. The following is a list of the main characteristics of a few common species of turtles and tortoises:

Japanese Turtle or Red-Eared Slider

  • Habitat: Semiaquatic (They spend a lot of time in the water but need time on land as well).
  • Characteristics and Care: They are green with yellow spots on their bodies. They have two red spots on each side of their heads. They live to be 20 to 30 years-old. When they hibernate, they do not need much water. Make sure that they get enough sunlight in their resting place. If you do not have access to sunlight in your home, you can buy a proper heating lamp.
  • Food: These turtles are omnivores meaning they eat both animal and plant products. You can give it the correct turtle food along with meat, fish, vegetables, and a supplement that is rich in calcium.

Cumberland Slider

  • Habitat: Semiaquatic (They spend a lot of time in the water, but need time on land as well).
  • Characteristics and Care: These turtles can live to be 50 years old and are the most popular breed of turtles as pets. They have a green shell and many yellow spots on their belly and head. The temperature of their water should be between 20 and 25 ºC. To maintain this temperature you can install an automatic water heater into the tank. They need access to direct sunlight.
  • Food: These turtles are omnivores, meaning they eat both animals and plants. Therefore, they need both meat-based and plant-based turtle food. You can give them vegetables, fruits, or even insect larvae!

Turtles are very calm animals and make great pets.
(Source: Ilya Meriin: 8350920/

Yellow Belly Slider

  • Habitat: Semiaquatic
  • Characteristics and Care: These turtles have a flatter, deep green shells and bright-yellow and dark spots on their bellies. They live to be about 40 years old. This species of turtle needs an aquarium or tank that always has two parts: a dry part that is at about 30 ºC to sunbathe during the day and an aquatic section for the night.
  • Food: In addition to the turtle food you give it, it will need a meat-based diet, like insects, snails, tadpoles, fish, and even human food like meat, fat, and fish! You can also give them some type of fruit or vegetable, but certain yellow belly turtles will not eat this type of food. If your turtle likes the vegetables you give it, you can keep lettuce or duckweed in their tank so that they can have a snack when they get hungry.

Hermann's Tortoise

  • Habitat: Land
  • Characteristics and Care: These turtles are known for being very small. They only grow to be 15 to 18 centimeters long. This turtle prefers to be in vegetation, if possible. Unlike other species, these turtles are very active and playful. They like to run around and hide. Therefore, they need a big space to be able to move around and be active.
  • Food: These turtles are mainly herbivores and usually can only eat fruits and vegetables. It cannot consume too much protein. To keep its shell hard and healthy, you need to give this turtle a lot of calcium and not too much phosphorus. In addition to the turtle food you give it, it will love to eat green leaves and flowers, like clovers, hibiscus, chicory, lettuce, dandy lions, etc.

Proteins are more important for aquatic turtles.
(Source: BlueOrange Studio: 15810751/

Greek Tortoise (Various Subspecies)

  • Habitat: Land.
  • Characteristics and Care: They live to be very old. Some Greek tortoises have reached 100 years of age. They can grow to be 20 centimeters long, though some species can grow up to 30 centimeters. These turtles are originally from places that have very dry weather, so you do not need to provide vegetation for this type of turtle. They like high temperatures and dry environments. You should get a shelter for this animal to go under when it gets too hot.
  • Food: As for food, this turtle's diet needs to be very high in fiber, low in protein, and rich in calcium. In addition to the turtle food you give this turtle, it loves mixed fruit and vegetable salads. Do not give it much meat. Give it a little bit of fruit that contains a lot of water, like melons. You should only give fruit to this type of turtle every two weeks. The turtle's sepia bone helps keep this turtle at its correct calcium level.

Russian Tortoise

  • Habitat: Land.
  • Characteristics and Care: Something strange about this species is that they have four toes per foot while other species actually have five. They come from dry, cooler zones. The highest its habitat can be is 30 ºC during the day and 20 ºC at night. You should let them roam as much as possible. This turtle will grow to be between 13 and 25 centimeters long, depending on if it is male or female. They can live for more than 50 years.
  • Food: This turtle is strictly a herbivore. It eats various types of vegetables. However, it does not eat much cabbage or spinach. You should never feed this type of turtle any type of fruit because they can get diarrhea. You also should not feed this animal any meat or fish. It should only consume small amounts of protein from vegetable products. In addition to the turtle food you will give this species, you can also give it dandelions, chicory, alfalfa, clovers, iceberg lettuce, Chinese cabbage, and endive!

Indian Star Tortoise

  • Habitat: Land.
  • Characteristics and Care: This type of turtle has a very bumpy shell. It has a dome shape with black color and yellow lines that form stars on its back. This is why it is called a star tortoise. Unfortunately, these turtles have a high mortality rate in their first few months of life, so they require more attention than other species. They come from dry and rainy areas and often behave based on these seasons.
  • Food: The star tortoise is a herbivore. It mostly eats flowers, leaves, and fruit. This type of turtle needs a lot of vegetables and green leaves, but you should not feed it too much cabbage or lettuce. They need high amounts of fiber. Cactus is a great food for this animal. Do not give it any protein. This tortoise needs a calcium supplement.

Turtles need a specific food

Turtle food is usually the same color as the ingredients that it is made from.
(Source: Alta Oosthuizen: 39642323/

If I give my turtle or tortoise too much food can it become overweight?

Yes, it can. If your turtle or tortoise cannot fit all of its body into its shell, this is a sign that it might be overweight. According to veterinarians, if this happens, you will need to reduce the food they consume to 30 or 40% of its original intake for a few days. You should not worry. Your turtle will not get too hungry because its body will begin to consume its body fat reserves.

Another sign of obesity is if the head of your pet is extremely wide compared to the rest of its body. In addition to limiting the food intake of your turtle or tortoise, you can give your pet a little bit of exercise. If it is an aquatic turtle, you can put more water in its tank so that it can move around more, or you can set up a little room for your land tortoise to run around and play.

Does my turtle or tortoise need water to drink?

All species of turtles and tortoises need a water tank to drink from. Even tortoises that are from the desert need to drink large amounts of water daily. You should change their drinking water often, at least daily. If you have an aquatic turtle, it will drink the water that it swims in, so make sure that is is always clean with no chlorine.

Land tortoises can drink out of a water bowl that you put on the floor of its habitat. It should be deep enough for the turtle to get on the bowl and reach its head down to drink. It should not be so deep that the turtle drowns. You should always have clean drinking water for your little animals.

The food you give your turtle or tortoise depends on its species.
(Source: Elizaveta Galitckaia: 60632364/

Why do all turtles and tortoises need calcium in their diet?

While the levels of what type of nutrients you should give your pet vary greatly between turtles, all turtles and tortoises need calcium. Wild aquatic turtles get calcium naturally, but if you have this animal as a pet, you need to give it its proper dosage of calcium. There are many calcium supplements that these pets love.

If you do not give your pet calcium, this can lead to deformation of the skeleton, weakness of the shell, and, in some cases, rickets. However, do not worry. This problem is easy to prevent by giving your tortoise or turtle the necessary amount of calcium. The best type of calcium supplement also includes vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 or sunlight will help your pet absorb the calcium.

In addition to the turtle food, does my turtle or tortoise need food supplements?

If you have an aquatic turtle we recommend that 25% of its daily intake is made only of animal protein, even if you buy food supplements with a high percentage of protein. You can also buy crickets, worms, larvae, and other insects meant to feed reptiles to this type of turtle. These types of food will keep your aquatic turtle strong.

Let's not forget about land tortoises, which also need extra food supplements. We recommend that you give your tortoise a calcium supplement and vitamins for reptiles twice a week. Land tortoises also need extra phosphorus. You can give them small amounts of larvae or insects. Make sure you give them significantly fewer larvae than what you would give to your aquatic turtle, as land tortoises are herbivores.

Turtle food usually looks like little balls or thin, little sticks.
(Source: Isabelle Khn: 22110594/

Can a turtle or tortoise eat food that is meant for humans?

Yes, they can. Actually, we recommend giving your turtle or tortoise human food. Experts say that you should feed your pet the correct type of turtle food and complement its diet with certain human foods as well. As we have already told you, you should always keep in mind the type of turtle you have. For example, you can give raw fish to an aquatic turtle but not to a land tortoise.

The same goes for fruits, vegetables, and meat. Some species need certain types of food while these same types of food may make another species very sick. This is why it is very important for you to keep in mind what type of turtle you have and what that species can consume safely.

Did you know that turtles and tortoises smell from their throat? Thanks to their throat, they can detect smells from very far away.

Should I feed my turtle when it is hibernating?

When it gets cold, turtles and tortoises need to hibernate. They will do this in the winter. Depending on the turtle you may have and its age, they usually hibernate between two to four months out of the year. If it takes a longer time to start moving again after hibernation, it could have a metabolism problem and you should talk to a veterinarian. When this animal hibernates, it does not eat, urinate, or defecate.

Buyer's Guide

If you have read the first part of this article you have probably realized that feeding a turtle or tortoise is not so easy. Its body is much different than ours and different species of turtle and tortoise have completely different needs when it comes to their food and habitat. In order for you to make the best purchase, in the next section, we will lay out what you need to look for when picking out the correct turtle food for your pet.

Types of Turtles

As we have already shown you, there is a great difference in turtle food depending on the species of turtle or tortoise you may have as a pet. There are two big groups, aquatic turtles and land tortoises. Within these two groups, there are even more species. There are differences that you need to keep in mind, but, generally speaking, aquatic turtles need high levels of protein, and can eat some vegetables.

On the other hand, land tortoises are herbivores and require a lot of green leaves and very little animal products. If you are going to give your land tortoise protein, it is better to give it a plant-based supplement. If you want to know if your tortoise can eat fruit, you need to look at the specifications of your pet's subspecies. Both water turtles and land tortoises, usually need calcium to keep their shells strong.

Turtles can suffer from obesity. If this happens we recommend that you reduce its consumption of food.
(Source: Suwat Wongkham: 78454120/

Nutrients for Aquatic Turtles

Aquatic turtles are omnivores, and they need a variety of products, as protein is very important for these little animals. Depending on the species, they need to consume between 35 and 42% of animal-based protein. Their food needs to have 5 to 10% fat, moisture, and 2 to 5% fiber.

Their food should include mostly fish or meat. You can also give these animals grains, mollusks, crustaceans, algae. You should also feed your aquatic turtles vegetables and fruits. The number of fruits and vegetables you give to your aquatic turtles should be significantly less than the amount you give to your land tortoises.

Nutrients for Land Tortoises

Land tortoises are herbivores, which means that they mostly consume vegetables and not much protein from other animals. If you have a land tortoise, it is very important to feed it large quantities of fiber. Its diet should include fibrous plants and a lot of vegetables and green leaves, but not too much spinach or lettuce.

Land tortoises need vegetables with a high quantity of calcium, like arugula. They should also eat vegetables and fruits that are rich in vitamins (this does not apply to all species), food that has low phosphorus, and a small amount of fats and oils. Fish and meat should be the main source of these nutrients.

Did you know that turtles are one of the world's oldest animals? Studies show that turtles were present during the age of the dinosaurs. They have existed for more than 150 million years.


Keep in mind that every species of turtle and tortoise requires different nutrients. You need to check what type of animal you have and give it the needed supplements along with its turtle food. There is a huge variety of extra supplements for turtles and tortoises on the market. In addition to choosing the correct turtle food depending on if your pet is an aquatic turtle or a land tortoise, you should buy its supplements based on its species and needs.

Supplements can be pure animal protein, pure vegetable protein, or rich in fiber. All turtles and tortoises need calcium supplements. There are also vitamins for turtles and tortoises. The most important vitamin for these animals is vitamin D3. There are also other elements like iron, iodine, cobalt, copper, manganese, and zinc that are good for the health of certain turtles and tortoises.


Turtle food does not have a specific color. It usually is the same color as the original ingredient. However, the food might have food coloring. If this is the case, make sure that this food coloring is not toxic and does not harm your pet. It is better to get turtle food that does not have food coloring.


Turtle food comes in different shapes. If you are buying food for aquatic turtles, it is important that the food floats. It is also very important for the food to be small enough for the turtle to eat. Turtle food usually comes in circular grains, pellets, long grains, or flat and dehydrated flakes. Sometimes they even take the shape of little shrimp for marketing purposes.


Turtles and tortoises kept as pets can live a lot longer than they can in the wild. If you want to keep this turtle happy and healthy for many years, it is important to choose carefully what it consumes. These animals make very simple pets. They are very calm, independent, and will not eat too much food and make themselves sick, unlike other pets.

If you have decided to get an aquatic turtle or land tortoise as a pet, you should do the proper research before buying its turtle food. Different species of turtles and tortoises have different requirements, and you should know them. We hope that you have learned a lot about your new pet and its habit.

(Source of Featured Image: Pablo Hidalgo: 25740506/