Can Turtles Eat Fish Food?

Maybe you have run out of some turtle food and your turtle is hungry? Fish food nourishes fish just fine, can it do the same for turtles?

Fish food is perfectly fine for turtles to eat occasionally. It wont poison them, but they can’t eat it as a staple for longer periods of time. Fish food doesn’t provide turtles with near enough calories nor does it give them the macro-nutrients they need like calcium.

Most fish feed for aquariums is made of plant and animals produced specifically for the consumption of pet fish. All the macro-nutrients and vitamins that a fish could possibly ever need are provided by it.

But when it comes to turtles, while turtles and fish have many similar dietary needs fish food is just not going to cut it. Turtles can’t get enough calories and calcium from it. Fish don’t have a large shell to maintain nor the complex skeletal structure of turtles. These things require a lot of calcium to nourish and maintain which fish food just does not have enough of.

For a more in depth response on what kinds of foods turtles need to eat and how fish food doesn’t add up continue reading below.

Fish Food Doesn’t Provide Turtles With Enough Calories

The kind of fish that most aquarium hobbyists would keep in their aquarium are vastly smaller in terms of weight than turtles. This means they need a lot less food than a turtle would.

A pet turtle would need to eat a whole lot of fish food to be able to get anywhere near their calorie needs.

So while fish food is fine for fish its lacking when it comes to turtles. It won’t make them sick or anything like that it’s just that a turtle who is only fed fish food for sometime will eventually become very malnourished.

Turtles Need Lots of Calcium

Turtles need calcium, and a bunch of it. The raw materials for shell health and a turtles extensive skeletal structure all depends upon calcium.

The calcium needs of fish isn’t that large compared to a turtles. They don’t have shells to provide for nor is their skeleton that well developed. Fish just don’t need calcium like a turtle does.

Because of this food originally made for fish aren’t going to give turtles the calcium they need for healthy shell and bone growth.

Without enough calcium turtles can become extremely sick. They can develop a horrible disease called metabolic bone disease. When pet turtles have metabolic bone disease their shells will become severely malformed.

The back end of the shell could squeeze down hard on their tail and the front part could be way to wide for them to be able to hide their head and neck in their shell like they need to.

This is not the only one way that metabolic bone disease can develop. Truth is it can develop in many different ways. But none of them are good and they all lead to a poorly constructed shell and a painful sad life for the poor turtle that comes down with it.

Worse of all, while the turtle can later obtain the calcium need and stop the development of the disease from progressing further, the damage that has already been done becomes a permanent part of the life of the turtle.

To ensure your turtle gets the calcium it needs, give them fresh healthy greens to munch on like kale and red romaine lettuce.

You can also supplement with chalky substance known as cuttlebone. Make sure to break off the hard backing however as it can be a choking hazard for your turtle. You can also provide them with some calcium tablets that dissolve in the water over time and are absorbed through the turtles skin.

What Should You Feed Your Turtle Instead?

While fish food will provide many of the nutrients a turtle needs it wont be at the level of density that a turtle needs.

So instead try to make sure that your turtle’s diet has three main things.

  • A good source of protein which can be gotten from several good commercial turtle pellet brands. You can also feed them some live food if your up for that in the form of feeder fish and various kinds of insects.

Young turtles are usually more carnivorous but as they age become bigger vegetables eaters with time. But its good to start them off with the veggies when their young that way it builds the habit and can make feeding them easier as they age.

  • Provide them with fresh vegetables like kale, red romaine lettuce, dandelion greens and mustard greens. There are many vegetables that are good for pet turtles.

Make sure you cut them up into little bites so that theirs no chance of them choking on anything.

  • As mentioned earlier turtles need lots of calcium. They will get some of this through dark leafy greens but its good to supplement with more pure sources just to be on the safe side.

Good sources of calcium can come in the form of cuttlebone, a white chalky substance where you break of the hard backing and then throw it into your turtles tank to munch throughout the day as they see fit. It can also be bought at pet food stores.

You can also get some calcium tablets that will dissolve in the water and be absorbed through your turtles skin.

How Much to Feed Your Turtle?

Turtle obesity is a very real and serious thing. It can make them unhealthy and sick. As well as cause shell growth problems like pyramiding.

To avoid that its important to know how much and how often to feed your turtle. One good method is to feed your turtle only an amount of food that would fit inside their head. For young baby turtles they should be fed daily. But as they grow older they can slowly start to be fed less.

For ages 2 to 5 feeding them every other day should be fine. And for ages 5 to older feeding them every two days should be good as well.


Turtles can eat fish food and be fine. There is nothing in fish food that could be harmful to turtles. So if you run out of food and you just need to tide your turtle over for a day or so then its fine.

But it doesn’t have enough calories nor enough of the vital nutrients that turtles need. So you should never just feed your turtle fish food over a longer period of time. It should be only temporary.

For a more complete list of what your turtle can and should eat check out this article on turtle diet.

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