Are Turtles Omnivores, Herbivores, Or Carnivores? (Actual Facts)

Image of a turtle eating vegetables

Some turtles eat plants, some eat meat, while some eat both. So are turtles omnivores, herbivores, or carnivores?

Most of the turtles are omnivores because they eat plants, insects, eggs, and all sorts of other insects their entire life. However, some species of turtles start out as omnivores when they’re hatchlings and then change to either pure herbivores or carnivores, depending on the turtle species.

In addition to this, there are also gelatinivores and spongivores among the turtle species. We cover these in more detail further below. However, almost all turtles start out as omnivores as they eat tiny pieces of broken plants and fish in the early stages of their lives. So if most turtles are omnivores, which ones are herbivores?

Are Land Turtles Omnivores?

No, land turtles are not omnivores. Land turtles are usually herbivores, although some species of land turtles also eat insects and worms.

For the most part, land turtles eat only plants like leafy greens, grass, weeds, flowers, and fruit. Even for the few land turtles that do eat worms and insects, too much protein can negatively impact their health, resulting in shell deformities.

What Is The Best Diet For Pet Land Turtles?

A healthy diet for pet land turtles should include the following foods:

  • Fresh Vegetables: Kale, dandelions, mustard, and collard greens are suitable for your land turtle’s diet. Vegetables with a high-water content like iceberg lettuce should only be fed occasionally as they don’t add much in terms of nutrition.
  • Fruits: Melons, pears, apples, berries, oranges, and kiwis are just some of the fruits you can safely feed your land turtle.
  • Commercial Turtle Food: There are a lot of high-quality turtle pellets on the market that you can buy to supplement your turtle’s diet.
  • Insects and Worms: Land turtles don’t need a lot of this type of food, but you can certainly offer some of it occasionally.

Which Plants Are Toxic For Land Turtles?

Given below are some of the most toxic plants for land turtles. If you suspect that your turtle has eaten any of these plants, it’s best to have it checked by your veterinarian.

Low Toxicity PlantsMedium Toxicity PlantsHigh Toxicity Plants
Arrowhead VineAmaryllisCandytuft
BegoniaAvocado (leaves, seeds)All types of Ficus
Boston IvyAzaleaPrimrose
Calla LilyBird of ParadiseGardenia
Chinese EvergreenCarolina JessamineGrape Ivy
Dumb caneCastor BeanPoinsettia
Split leaf PhilodendronChinaberrySweet Pea (seeds)
ColumbineElephant’s Ear
Creeping CharlieFirethorn
CyclamenPothos
DaffodilUmbrella Tree
Delphinium, LarkspurAsparagus Fern
Dianthus, CarnationBoxwood
FoxgloveButtercup family
Heavenly BambooCrowfoot
HollyIvy
HyacinthIris (esp. rhizome)
HydrangeaLantana
Jerusalem CherryLily of the Nile

Recommended Further Reading:

Is A Pond Turtle A Herbivore, Carnivore, Or Omnivore?

Pond turtles are omnivores, from hatchlings to adults. They enjoy eating tadpoles, frog eggs, snails, leeches, aquatic beetles, dragonfly larvae, and more. They also eat lily pods, algae, tule, and cattail roots. A pond turtle is the prime example of an omnivore turtle.

What Is The Best Diet For A Pet Pond Turtle?

A healthy diet for your pet turtle includes the following:

  • Mostly dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and mustard greens.
  • Finely chopped carrots and squash are also healthy.
  • Shredded fruits like apples, berries, and melons can be fed a couple of times a week.

The foods mentioned above should contribute at least 50% of your turtle diet. The remainder of the diet can consist of feeder fish and insects.

Commercial pelleted food can also contribute to a healthy turtle diet, but not more than 20% to 25% of its total diet.

Are Box Turtles Omnivores?

Box turtles have the same eating habits as pond turtles.

This is because box turtles are members of the American pond turtle family!

So make sure to feed your box turtle plenty of leafy greens, protein-filled insects, and worms.

Related Further Reading:

Which Turtles Are Gelatinivores And Spongivores?

Did you know there’s more than just omnivores, carnivores, and herbivores?

The leatherback turtle is a sea turtle that eats mostly jellyfish and other soft-bodied invertebrates such as squids. This is why the leatherback turtle is also sometimes referred to as a gelatinivore.

The hawksbill turtle also has a very different diet compared to other turtles. It eats mainly sea sponges and is therefore categorized as a spongivore.

Are Sea Turtles Omnivores?

There are so many different types of sea turtles, and they all have their own dietary preference. Most of them are born as omnivore hatchlings and then gravitate towards their desired diet as they grow older.

Given below a helpful table of the most common sea turtles and what they primarily eat.

Type of Sea TurtleClassificationExamples of Food
GreenHerbivoreAdults eat seaweed, seagrasses, and algae. Hatchlings are omnivores as they eat small fish, eggs, etc.
LoggerheadCarnivoreEats conchs, crabs, whelks, and horseshoe crabs. Hatchlings are omnivores.
Kemp’s RidleyCarnivoreThis turtle eats crab, fish, jellies, shrimp, and different mollusks.
Olive RidleyOmnivoreThese omnivores eat fish, crabs, algae, lobster, urchins, and many other plants.
HawksbillSpongivoreThese turtles eat almost only sponges of the sea.
FlatbackOmnivoreConsumes sea cucumbers, soft corals, shrimp, crab, fish, mollusks, and fish.
LeatherbackGelatinivoreEats gelatinous prey like jellyfish and other soft-bodied invertebrates.

Related Further Reading:

Turtles With Different Types Of Mouths Have Different Diets?

The shape of the turtle mouth plays a big role in how the turtle selects its food.

Green sea turtles have beak-like mouths with serrated edges to help them easily tear and chew seaweed and grass. This is the mouth type of an omnivore. This is also very similar to the mouth of a herbivores turtle.

Other carnivores turtles have massive jaws and hard mouths to easily bite into hard sea life like crabs and lobsters.

Leatherbacks have sharp pointy teeth on their jaws so that they can easily capture and eat jellyfish and other soft-bodied ocean life.

Interesting Facts

Green sea turtles keep coral reefs clean from algae that would otherwise overgrow.

Many turtles who hunt jellyfish will accidentally try to consume plastic bags, which can lead to death in most cases.

Turtles are known to travel great distances when hunting for food, from Asia to the US West coast in some instances.

Interesting Further Reading:

Final Takeaway

There are many different turtle species out there, over 350 in fact! Most of them are indeed omnivores, especially in the hatchling phase. But as you’ve learned today, some turn out to be carnivores or herbivores once they grow up.

The turtles that do turn out to be omnivores eat mostly plants and just enough insects, eggs, worms, and other living things to get their daily dose of protein.

It turns out, turtles aren’t only limited to carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores. The leatherback sea turtle eats only jellyfish and other soft-bodied sea creatures, making it a gelatinivore. The hawksbill can be referred to as a spongivore because it eats various types of sea sponges.

It’s also very important to note which plants are toxic for your turtles. Refer the above table of toxic plants in this article and keep your turtle far away from those plants. If you have a turtle roaming in your yard, check your yard and remove any toxic plants that you find.