Feeder Fish For Turtles: Are They Good?

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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As soon as a turtle spots a fish, it will swim straight towards it in an attempt to capture and devour it. However, turtles are unaware of if the selected fish are suitable for consumption. Thus, it is our responsibility to restrict their diet to those species. They are known as feeder fish.

Turtles may safely eat feeder fish. Low fat and minimal bone content are two characteristics of a high-quality feeder fish. Bluegills, bass, crappies, guppies, killifish, platyfish, and mosquitofish are the top choices for turtles as food. However, not all feeder fishes are safe for turtles.

There are several feeder fish that turtles should not eat, and this is the most crucial thing to keep in mind.

Some of these will injure your turtle even if it doesn’t eat them, while others will do so even if it does. Now, let’s check out the list of feeder fish that are safe for consumption and which should be avoided.

What Are The Best Feeder Fish For Your Turtle?

The following qualities make up the perfect feeding fish:

  • Lean in terms of fat
  • Absence of thiaminase
  • Not a lot of bones, and no jagged ones either
  • Not so fast
  • Containing no bacteria

Here are a few examples of fish that meet that description:

  1. Bluegills
  2. Bass
  3. Crappies
  4. Guppies
  5. Killifish
  6. Platies
  7. Mosquitofish

Those fish are an excellent choice since they meet all of the requirements, making them a safe and nutritious diet for your turtle.

Now that we’ve established which fish are safe and healthy for your turtle, it seems like we need to talk about how to give them to your pet. You could just toss them in the container, but that’s not the most efficient solution.

How to Feed Your Turtle Feeder Fish?

One major drawback of merely dumping fish into an aquarium involves the ensuing chaos. This stems from turtles not having sophisticated feeding habits.

As they eat, small pieces of food shatter, saturating the aquarium and clouding the water. This results in a filthy appearance and unpleasant odor.

It’s a common issue with any turtle meal, but feeding fish exacerbates the problem significantly.

Fish, being raw flesh, start to produce a foul scent within a day or two.

Feeding your turtle in a separate container is the most foolproof solution:

  1. Prepare a new container: Use a container large enough to hold your turtle and the fish. Fill it with water to a level that allows the turtle to be submerged, but not higher.
  2. Add the fish to the container: First, fill the container with water, then add the fish.
  3. Transfer the turtle at feeding time: When it’s time to feed, move your turtle from its aquarium to the feeding container.
  4. Post-feeding care: After your turtle has finished eating, leave it in the feeding container for an additional 5 minutes to relax before returning it to the aquarium.
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This method prevents the aquarium from getting dirty and reduces the turtle’s need to chase the fish.

For those who prefer their turtle to get exercise by chasing the fish:

  • Remove the turtle from the tank before adding fish: This gives the fish a chance to familiarize themselves with the tank without immediate threat.
  • Allow fish to acclimate: Giving the fish about 10 minutes to explore the tank increases their chances of staying active longer than the usual 2 minutes.
  • Introduce fish to the tank in advance: If you aim for your turtle to chase the fish, introduce them to the tank a day or two before you plan to change the water.

How Often Should I feed My Turtle Fish?

Too much fish might lead to two undesirable outcomes for your turtle. It’s possible that overfeeding your turtle fish can cause it to reject other foods, including pellets.

That being said, you’ll need to monitor the amount and frequency of food you give your turtle fish carefully.

Despite the fact that fish is packed with healthy elements, eating too much of it might be detrimental.

Every month I like to feed each of my turtles three fish. Most of the time, I just deliver them all of the fish in one go, so they aren’t under the impression that they’ll be getting one every week.

If you attempt to feed your turtle over than four fish monthly, they may become fish-dependent and refuse to eat everything else.

Are Feeder Fish Bad For Turtles?

Some feeder fish may be harmful to your turtles because of their spiky bones, which can puncture the turtle’s esophagus and intestines.

You probably already know that turtles don’t regularly gulp down entire fish, especially not ones that are too big. They instead rip them apart, typically somewhat haphazardly.

In such a situation, arbitrary bones may get lodged against the victim’s windpipe and internal organs, posing a serious health risk.

While this is not a common occurrence, you should be prepared for it nevertheless. Feeder fish should be so little that they can be devoured in only 1 or 2 mouthfuls if you want to prevent this issue.

It doesn’t always imply that your turtle is completely safe just because it can consume your feeder fish entirely.

Which Feeder Fish Should You Steer Clear Of?

There is a widespread problem that the majority of turtle owners are ignorant of, and that is the fact that the fish that they feed their pets are really rather harmful.

Because there are many various explanations why certain fish cannot be eaten, I will divide this section of the article into five categories.

1. Fish that Have the Enzyme Thiaminase

Thiamine, often known as vitamin B1, is a necessary nutrient for maintaining proper metabolic function in your turtle.

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Thiaminase is an enzyme that may be found in a number of fish species, including goldfish and Rosy Red minnows, which are both often used in aquaculture as feeder fish.

An enzyme known as thiaminase prevents thiamine from being absorbed by the body (vitamin B1).

If this food is given to your turtles for an extended period of time, they will develop a long-term thiamine shortage.

If this happens to your turtle, it will become more sensitive to illness and infection, it will grow more sluggish, and it will acquire a diminished appetite.

In addition to this, they will have slowed digestion, as well as the possibility of developing muscle illnesses or perhaps passing away.

The following types of fish are particularly rich in thiaminases:

  • Bullhead Catfish
  • Fathead Minnows
  • Goldfish
  • Carp
  • Gizzard Shad
  • Spottail Shiners
  • Buckeye Shiners

Your turtles should not be given any fish that contains thiaminase because not only does it damage any thiamine that is present in the fish itself, but it will also inhibit and eliminate any thiamine that has been present in your turtle’s body.

2. Fish That Has High Fat Content

The majority of pet turtles need a diet that is anywhere between 30 and 40 percent protein, with the remaining 60 to 80 percent consisting of vegetables and leafy greens. There is no need for turtles to ingest a large quantity of meals that are rich in fat.

A lack of vitamin E may develop in turtles if they are given food that is too heavy in fat and is given to them on a regular basis.

There is a wide range of potential issues that might arise in a turtle that suffers from a persistent lack of vitamin E.

For example, brittle skeletons and shells, a delayed recovery period, and other similar issues. You may avoid falling into this trap by ensuring that the feeder fish you provide for your turtles are low in fat.

The following types of common fish have significant fat contents relative to their body weights:

  • Goldfish
  • Kribensis Cichlids
  • Rosy Barbs

If you accidentally fed your turtle 1 or 2  fish that are high in fat, you shouldn’t stress excessively about it since it will be alright.

You don’t have to worry about your turtle becoming sick from a small amount of additional fat, but if you continue to feed the same type of fatty fish, it will eventually start to have health issues.

3. Fish That Move Too Quickly

Some fish move much too quickly for a turtle to capture them, and if they are able to stay one step ahead of the turtle for a long enough period of time, they will begin to yield offspring.

If this happens, you could likely wind up with far more fish since you began within just a few short months. Although it may be hard to believe, this is indeed the case.

This is more likely to occur if the aquarium is adorned with ornaments that the fish may utilize to conceal themselves from the turtle.

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Even if this isn’t a major issue by itself, the fact that your turtle won’t be capable of eating the fish defeats the purpose of keeping feeder fish in the tank.

Some examples of fish that are tiny and quick enough to outrun your turtle are as follows:

  • Tetra fluorescent
  • Zebrafish
  • Tiger Barb

4. Fish That Are Packed With Bones

The majority of fish contain a significant number of bones, however, some of these bones are more hazardous than many others.

Some fish have sharp bones on the outside that may damage your turtle prior to they are consumed, while other fish have jagged and rigid bones on the interior that can injure your turtle once they have been devoured.

Both of these types of fish can be harmful to your turtle. The following are some examples of bony fish that you should steer clear of:

  • Swordtails
  • Angelfish
  • Bichir
  • Cichlid of the Cockatoo

The fact that the majority of these fish will cause internal harm rather than exterior damage makes them particularly hazardous since the damage they produce may be difficult to see.

If for some reason your turtle does wind up eating one of the fish that you find on this list, you should make sure to keep a careful eye on it and observe if there are any alterations in the manner that it behaves after eating the fish.

If that’s the case, you should get a checkup at the local animal hospital.

5. Fish from the Wild

No matter what kind of turtle you have, you should never introduce fish collected in the wild to their tank because of the risk of disease.

Fish that are offered in pet stores have been bred using stringent protocols and have been brought up in secure surroundings.

Pet turtles should not be given access to wild fish because they carry germs that may be fatal to an unvaccinated turtle.

Final words

Regarding the topic of feeder fish, this brings us to the end of our discussion. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you must only give your turtle fish that are low in fat, and do not contain thiaminase.

Moreover, they should not have an excessive number of bones or bones that are very sharp and do not move too quickly so that your turtle may capture them, and are purchased from a pet store rather than being captured in the wild.

Some of the finest types of fish that meet those requirements are Bluegills, Bluegills, Crappies, Guppies, Killifish, Platies, and Mosquitofish.

Feeder fish should only be given to your turtles once or twice a month at the most just to be on the safe side.

If you want to keep the water in your home aquarium neat and tidy and simplify the process for your turtle to consume the feeder fish, you should try to feed your turtles in a container that is completely isolated from the aquarium itself.

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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