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What Do Terrapins Eat?

| Updated September 26, 2017

Terrapins are small marsh-dwelling turtles commonly found in the eastern coast of the United States. When in the wild, terrapins commonly only feet on live prey, and mostly live fish and insects and meat actually comprises a majority of a terrapin's diet. However, when these animals are kept as pets there are numerous types of foods they can be fed to ensure they are given a nutritious, well-balanced diet .


Terrapins prefer to eat oily fish such as tuna, shellfish, sardines and mackerel whenever they can find them in the wild. It is important that terrapins get efficient amounts of these fish in the wild as they contain high levels of Vitamin D, which is an essential component of the terrapin's diet. If you have a captive terrapin, these fish are available for purchase and can be given to a terrapin in very small, easy to chew pieces. You can also feed your terrapin simply the insides of the fish, such as liver and intestines. Other animals, such as whitebait, mussels, prawns, and bloodworms may be more difficult for terrapins to find in their native habitats, but are all foods the terrapins can eat, and can be given to if kept as a pet.


Terrapins, unlike other breeds of turtles, are not herbivores and actually enjoy and need to eat meat as part of their diet. In the wild, terrapins mostly get their meat supply from water snails and earthworms. Both of these creatures can be purchased at a local pet supply store and given to a pet terrapin as food. Terrapins that are kept in captivity will generally also enjoy small chunks of raw meat. Raw meat should be served to terrapins instead of cooked, as the animals generally do not like cooked meat.


Although terrapins generally prefer to eat fish and meats, they do also eat some green plants, found in marshy areas while in the wild. They prefer green leafy vegetables and grass. When in captivity they particularly value relish lettuce, watercress and fruit. Terrapins who enjoy fruit can eat apples, pears, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and strawberries. These fruits are all healthy for terrapins, but it depends on the individual terrapin's preference. Make sure to cut these fruits into very small, easy to chew pieces prior to serving.

Commercial Foods

Although commercial foods are not available to terrapins in the wild, captive terrapins can be given commercial foods to eat, as they will provide the turtles with the well-balanced diet they need. These commercial foods should be given to the terrapin daily but not replace his diet completely. Other items such as meats, fruits and fish should also be used to supplement his diet in accordance with the commercial foods. Commercial foods can be found in a local pet store, as are dietary supplements that are essential to providing terrapins with extra vitamins and minerals. These supplements are generally full of calcium to keep the terrapin's shell healthy and other minerals that will fill in deficient areas in his diet. These supplements generally come in small tablets that can be given to terrapins as a snack or added to his normal feeding.