What Do Baby Turtles Eat In The Wild?

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

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Both freshwater and saltwater baby turtles showcase carnivorous tendencies in the first few years of their lives. It’s hard enough to cater to their diet needs under surveillance. So, what do baby turtles eat in the wild?

Not all baby turtles make it in the wild as they either cannot find food or become food themselves. The ones with better survival instincts live on aquatic insects, larvae, algae, tadpoles, hyacinths, shrimp hatchlings, mollusks, etc.

A baby turtle’s diet in the wild consists of many other things, including animal carcasses and fresh vegetables. I’ll elaborate on their feeding nature in this article.

read all our guides on baby turtle feeding!

Key Takeaways

  • Baby turtles live on small fishes, plants, crustaceans, etc.
  • Freshwater turtles are mostly omnivorous or carnivorous.
  • Baby turtles love to munch on tadpoles & similar hatchlings.
  • Baby turtles are more carnivorous than adult turtles, needing more protein for muscle growth and body development.
  • Eagles, crocodiles, etc. predators prey on baby turtles.

What Do Baby Turtles Eat In The Wild?

After hatching, baby turtles first try to go towards the nearby water source.

Hence, they primarily rely on aquatic animals, insects, and plants to sustain their hunger. Here’s a brief overview of the common foods of wild baby turtles –

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Earthworms are protein-rich options for baby turtles. They’re abundant in fertile lands near rivers, ponds, etc. Baby turtles love to feed on mealworms and waxworms, including earthworms.


Grasshoppers can become turtle meal if they’re in the vicinity. Baby turtles have a lighter shell; hence, they’re faster on land and water. Their instincts allow them to hunt down grasshoppers efficiently.


Like grasshoppers, crickets are excellent protein sources for growing baby turtles. However, baby turtles can only hunt down small or medium-sized crickets.


Both adult and baby turtles are opportunistic feeders. They won’t hesitate to turn beetles, cockroaches, and other arthropods into food items if hungry.


If baby turtles hatch near stagnant water, they feed on different kinds of insect larvae, like mosquito larvae. Alternatively, if they hatch near freshwater ponds, they feed on waterbugs and frog larvae, i.e., tadpoles.


Baby turtles can hunt down tiny spiders alongside crickets, grasshoppers, etc. Many omnivorous turtle species, including box turtles, enjoy feeding on spiders.

Small Crustaceans:

Baby turtles eat small crustaceans and mollusks in the wild. For instance – shrimp hatchlings, miniature snails, clams, slugs, small crayfish, etc. As the baby crustaceans and mollusks have soft shells, baby turtles can swallow them whole and digest them quickly.


Baby turtles will eat algae and fungi near water bodies. They also like to feed on wild mushrooms.

Small Fish:

Alongside water bugs and fish eggs, baby turtles can hunt down and feed on small fish. Snapping turtles tend to be fiercer and go for medium-sized fish as well.


Baby turtles that live near vegetation feed on small creatures like centipedes, caterpillars, millipedes, etc.

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Plants & Greens:

Baby turtles can have aquatic vegetation alongside fresh vegetables and leafy greens. They can munch on duckweeds, water hyacinths, ferns/lettuce, etc.


If big fish or animal carcasses are nearby, baby turtles can express their scavenging tendencies and feast on the leftover meat on the carcasses happily.

Read More: What Do Newborn Turtles Eat?

Can Baby Turtles Hunt For Live Food?

Although not immediately, most baby turtles develop a natural hunting instinct to survive in the wild.

Snapping turtles, alongside red-eared sliders and painted turtles, hunt for live food from an early age.

As such, they’re also known as the predatory species, as they dominate the food chain in whichever ecosystem they live in. If red-eared sliders invade an ecosystem, they can hoard all the food and cause the local turtle species to go extinct.

Do Baby Turtles Eat Each Other?

Unfortunately, under dire circumstances, baby turtles can turn to cannibalism to survive. While it’s not a common occurrence, it can happen due to the following reasons –


If the ecosystem is overpopulated, baby turtles can become aggressive towards their siblings and resort to cannibalistic behaviors.

Resource Scarcity:

If the ecosystem can’t provide enough food sources, baby turtles can become stressed out enough to feed on each other to meet dietary requirements.

Hunting Instincts:

Some turtle species are naturally more aggressive than others. Snapping turtles, for instance. They’re fiercer compared to other turtle species.

Hence, baby snapping turtles can kill and eat their cousins from a different species or even their weak siblings to survive as the fittest.

See also  Are Indoor Turtle Pond Kits Really Necessary?

Read more: Why Do Turtles Eat Their Babies?

No-No’s Of Feeding Baby Turtles In The Park

Some people like to nurture wildlife at times. For instance, feeding bread to the ducks or birdseed to the birds.

But as far as baby turtles go, it’s recommended not to interrupt the ecosystem’s food chain — turtles in the wild need to learn to hunt independently for a better chance of survival.

So, if you want to leave some treats for the baby turtles, don’t go for the following items –

Raw Meat:

Baby turtles can struggle to digest raw meat directly. Plus, raw meat can harbor parasites, leading to intestinal problems in baby turtles.


While it’s a nice gesture, bread offers zero nutritional value to baby turtles. However, if it’s milk bread or sweetened bread, the turtles can have stomach problems as they can’t digest dairy products like milk and cheese.

Plant Leaves:

Azalea, Rhododendron, etc., are toxic to baby and adult turtles. So, refrain from feeding random leaves to the baby turtles in the local park.

Read more: What Fruits Can Baby Turtles Eat?

Before You Go

Baby turtles mainly live on insects and small aquatic plants in the wild. Most turtles develop instincts to hunt for food, while others grow up under the care of mother turtles.

To know more about the interdependency of mother and baby turtles, read up – How Do Mother Turtles Feed Their Babies?

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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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