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Some food, like chocolate, is horrible to give to turtles. However, other foods owners give are just as awful. So, just what foods are bad for turtles?

There are a lot of foods you should never feed your turtle, such as chocolate, cheese and french fries. But, did you know that it’s probably a good idea to avoid raw meat and fish, feeder fish and most fruits as well?

My video below goes into more detail on some household foods that you can feed your turtle.

What Should You Not Feed Turtles?

In the wild, opportunities to eat voraciously are few and far between. A turtle just doesn’t know if it will get the chance to eat again.

That’s why your turtle never, ever seems to be full. They will eat and eat and eat.

That’s also why your turtle will seemingly eat anything, especially if it’s meat. Fried, broiled, raw, whatever. If it’s meat, it’s going in your turtle’s mouth!

Now, even if you have never researched this topic before, you’ve probably got a decent idea of foods you should NEVER feed to your turtle. This can basically be summed up along these lines:

  • Anything created for humans to eat. That means no fried or BBQ chicken, no french fries, no ketchup. None of that stuff.

If it’s a snack, a meal, or anything you’d eat, you’re better off NOT giving it to your turtle.

That is because, although turtles will eat just about anything, they really need to abide by a specific type of diet. For most pet turtle species, the best diet follows these guidelines:

  • It has a good amount of calcium and a low amount of phosphorus. Turtles need phosphorus in their diet, but too much basically cancels out the calcium. Kale is a great source of calcium for your turtle. Another great source of calcium are calcium blocks.
calcium block for turtle
  • Avoid regular feeding of fatty foods. If a turtle eats too much fat, it can contribute to kidney problems and cause obesity. And yes, turtles CAN become obese!
  • Don’t feed your turtles foods high in carbohydrates and protein. Turtles need both, especially protein while they are young in order to grow, however too much protein can lead to turtle shell pyramiding (the shell grows too fast).

What can turtles eat?

Now you might be wondering what can I feed my turtle? I’ve covered this in-depth in my article on best food for aquatic turtles, but basically, for most pet turtle species, they will need 2 staple foods:

  • A daily vegetable or plant.
  • Protein 2-3x a week for adults (4-6x a week for hatchlings).

The easiest way to give your turtle protein is with turtle pellets. Below are some of my top choices.

Tetra Tetrafauna Pro Turtle Food

    Price: ~$10 Nutrition: High Protein and Vitamin D3

Check Price On Amazon
Aquatic Turtle Medley Food - Freeze Dried Shrimp & Mealworms for Aquatic Turtle

    Price: ~$15 Nutrition: High Protein and Fiber

Check Price On Amazon
Fluker’s Buffet Blend Turtle Food

    Price: ~$8 Nutrition: High Protein and Vitamin A

Check Price On Amazon

Some common, healthy vegetable or plant foods:

  • Kale
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Anacharis / Waterweed

It is important to note here that some turtles are picky eaters. Even though vegetables are a big portion of their diet in the wild, it might be hard to find a vegetable that they will eat. If your turtle isn’t eating the vegetables you give her, I recommend these vegetable pellets.

vegetable mix for turtles

If you want to learn more, check out my article on the best food for aquatic turtles. Although it’s processed, there really isn’t anything better than pet turtle pellets.

Just What Foods Are Bad For Turtles?

Although you may THINK these foods are healthy for your turtle, in my opinion, you are better off feeding them these sparingly, or not at all.

Raw Meat, Fish or Chicken

The opportunity for a wild turtle to eat raw meat, especially chicken or beef, is virtually non-existent. However, they do eat dead fish.

So why should you avoid feeding this to your turtle?

The biggest risk here is that raw meat may contain parasites. It is also way too high in protein for turtles.

Small portions of cooked (and unsalted) fish or chicken are okay as an occasional treat.

Feeder Fish

Feeder fish are small fish pet owners give to their turtles as part of their diet. However, it’s a good idea to give feeder fish as a treat. Once or twice a month, at the most.

The big problem with feeder fish is that many types are too high in fat, may contain diseases, parasites or bacteria and the bones may stick in your turtle’s throat when it eats them.

If really want to give your turtle feeder fish, I would suggest baby bass, bluegills, and crappies. You should avoid goldfish, fathead minnows, exotic fish and dangerous fish.


Although healthy for humans, you are better off avoiding giving fruits to your turtle regularly, particularly if you have an aquatic turtle.

Before giving your turtle fruit, I would highly recommend looking up more information for its particular species, as certain turtle species are better at digesting fruits than others.

Box turtles are known to consume fruits in the wild. Common box turtles, for example, often feed on mayapples and other fruits.

As a general rule, these fruits are okay to eat, in moderation and as a treat, every now and again:

  • Cantaloupe or melon
  • Mango
  • Papaya

Red-eared sliders can eat fruit, but it is best only in moderation.


  • If it’s created for humans to eat, avoid giving it to your turtle at all times.
  • Avoid feeding your turtle raw meats, feeder fish and fruits, except in limited cases.
  • Kale, romaine lettuce and anacharis or waterweed are the best vegetable and plant staple foods. Use turtle pellets as your protein staple.
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