Will Tortoises Eat Fish? Exploring Their Natural Diet and Eating Habits

Tortoises are known for their herbivorous diet, but have you ever wondered if they would eat fish? The answer is not a straightforward yes or no. Some tortoises have been observed eating fish, while others have not shown any interest in them.

Tortoises are not natural predators of fish; their diet primarily consists of vegetation. However, they may consume small animals in the wild, including insects, snails, and worms.

They need protein and other nutrients not found in plants alone.

It is important to note that feeding tortoises fish is not recommended, as it may not provide them with the necessary nutrients in the long term.

Additionally, some fish species may contain high levels of thiaminase, which can break down thiamine (vitamin B1) in the tortoise’s body and lead to health issues.

Therefore, it is best to stick to a balanced diet of vegetables and occasional protein sources recommended by a veterinarian.


Will Tortoises Eat Fish?


Tortoises are known to be herbivores, and their diet mainly consists of plants and vegetables. However, some tortoise species have been observed to eat small animals, including insects, snails, and even small rodents. But will tortoises eat fish?

According to experts, tortoises are not natural fish eaters. They do not have the hunting skills or the physical adaptations to catch and consume fish.

Tortoises have a hard beak designed to cut and tear vegetation, not to capture and hold onto slippery prey. Additionally, their digestive system is not equipped to process animal protein efficiently.

It is important to note that feeding tortoises a diet high in animal protein, including fish, can lead to health problems such as kidney failure and shell deformities.

Therefore, it is recommended to stick to a plant-based diet for tortoises.

In conclusion, tortoises are not likely to eat fish as it is not a part of their natural diet. Providing them with a well-balanced diet of vegetables and plants is essential to ensure their health and well-being.


Dietary Habits of Tortoises

Herbivorous Species


Herbivorous tortoises are known for their strict plant-based diets. They feed on grasses, flowers, and leaves. They are known to consume a variety of plant species, including cactus, yucca, and clover.

Tortoises in this category have flat, broad, and curved beaks designed to help them grind their food.

They can also store water in their bladder, which helps them survive in arid environments.


Omnivorous Species


Omnivorous tortoises, on the other hand, have a more varied diet. They eat plants and animals, including insects, small mammals, and even carrion.

They have a more pointed beak to catch and eat prey. However, their diet still consists mainly of plant matter. Omnivorous tortoises are known to eat fruits, berries, and other vegetation.

Tortoises are generally known for their slow metabolism and can survive without food. They have a unique ability to extract nutrients from their food, which allows them to survive in harsh environments.

However, it is essential to note that not all tortoises have the same dietary habits.

Some species have specific dietary requirements, and it is essential to research the specific needs of each species before making any assumptions about their diet.


Health Implications of Feeding Fish to Tortoises


Feeding fish to tortoises is a controversial topic among pet owners. While some believe that fish can be a healthy addition to a tortoise’s diet, others argue it can lead to health problems. Here are some of the potential health implications of feeding fish to tortoises:

  • Thiamine Deficiency: Fish contain an enzyme called thiaminase, which breaks down thiamine, a B vitamin essential for nerve function. Feeding fish to tortoises can lead to thiamine deficiency, which can cause neurological problems, seizures, and even death in severe cases.
  • High Protein Intake: Fish are high in protein, and feeding them to tortoises can lead to an excessive protein intake. This can cause kidney damage, gout, and other health problems.
  • Contamination: Fish can be contaminated with bacteria, parasites, and other harmful substances. Feeding contaminated fish to tortoises can lead to infections, digestive problems, and other health issues.
  • Imbalanced Diet: Feeding fish to tortoises as a primary food source can lead to an imbalanced diet. Tortoises require a variety of foods to get all the nutrients they need, and fish alone cannot provide a complete diet.

In conclusion, while fish can be a tasty treat for tortoises, it is important to be cautious when feeding them to your pet.

It is recommended to limit fish intake or avoid it altogether to prevent potential health problems. A balanced diet of various foods is essential for a healthy and happy tortoise.


Alternative Protein Sources for Tortoises


Tortoises are known to be herbivores, but they can also consume some animal protein in their diet. While they may occasionally eat insects, worms, and snails, these are not the only sources of protein that they can consume.

Alternative protein sources can be added to their diet to provide them with a well-rounded nutrition plan.




Fish can be a good source of protein for tortoises. However, not all types of fish are suitable for them to eat. Some fish contain high levels of mercury, which can harm tortoises.

Choosing fish low in mercury, such as tilapia or catfish, is essential. It is also important to cook the fish before feeding it to the tortoise to avoid potential bacterial infections.




Eggs are another source of protein that can be added to a tortoise’s diet. They can be boiled, scrambled, or cooked in other ways.

It is important to note that eggs should not be the primary source of protein in a tortoise’s diet, as they are high in fat. However, they can be given as a treat or an occasional supplement to their diet.


Commercial Diets


There are also commercial diets available that are specifically formulated for tortoises. These diets typically contain a blend of plant-based proteins as well as some animal-based proteins.

Choosing a high-quality commercial diet appropriate for the tortoise’s age and size is essential.




In conclusion, several alternative protein sources can be added to a tortoise’s diet. Fish, eggs, and commercial diets can all be used to supplement their diet and provide them with the necessary nutrients to thrive.

It is essential to choose the appropriate protein source and ensure it is correctly prepared before feeding it to the tortoise.


Case Studies and Research

Aquatic Tortoises


Studies have shown that aquatic tortoises, such as the red-eared slider, eat fish as part of their diet.

They consume various aquatic animals in the wild, including fish, insects, and crustaceans.

However, it is essential to note that fish should not be the sole component of their diet, as they require a balanced diet that includes vegetation and other protein sources.

In a study conducted by the University of Florida, researchers found that red-eared sliders in the wild consumed a variety of fish species, including mosquito fish, bluegill, and sunfish.

The study also found that the turtles preferred smaller fish and that the size of the fish consumed was related to the size of the turtle.


Terrestrial Tortoises


While aquatic tortoises are known to eat fish, it is less common for terrestrial tortoises. Research has shown that some tortoises, such as the African spurred tortoise, will consume fish if available. However, it is not a significant part of their diet, and they primarily consume vegetation.

In a study by the University of California, researchers found that African spurred tortoises in the wild occasionally consumed small fish and other aquatic animals.

However, the study also found that vegetation made up the majority of their diet and that they only consumed fish sporadically.

Overall, while some species of tortoises eat fish, it is not a significant part of their diet and should not be the sole component of their diet. Tortoises need a balanced diet that includes vegetation and other protein sources.


Expert Opinions and Recommendations


Experts have varying opinions on whether tortoises will eat fish. Some argue tortoises are herbivores and will not eat meat, including fish. Others believe that tortoises will eat fish if given the opportunity.

According to Dr. Susan Donoghue, a veterinarian with over 20 years of experience treating reptiles, “Tortoises are primarily herbivores and do not require meat in their diet.

However, some species may occasionally consume insects or other small animals in the wild. In captivity, it is best to stick to a diet of leafy greens and vegetables to meet the tortoise’s nutritional needs.”

On the other hand, reptile expert and author Philippe de Vosjoli states, “Tortoises will eat fish if given the chance. However, it is not a natural part of their diet and should be avoided. Fish can be difficult for tortoises to digest and cause health problems.”

In general, it is recommended to avoid feeding tortoises fish. Instead, provide a balanced diet of leafy greens, vegetables, and occasional fruits. If you are unsure what to feed your tortoise, consult a veterinarian specializing in reptile care.




In conclusion, tortoises are not natural predators of fish. While some tortoises might eat fish, it is not a part of their natural diet. Tortoises are herbivores and mainly feed on plants, fruits, and vegetables.

It is important to note that feeding a tortoise a diet unsuitable to its natural needs can negatively affect its health. Feeding a tortoise a high-protein diet like fish can lead to kidney damage and other health issues.

If you are considering adding fish to your tortoise’s diet, it is recommended to consult with a veterinarian who specializes in reptile care. They can guide the diet for your tortoise and ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients.

While tortoises might eat fish, it is not a recommended or natural part of their diet. It is important to prioritize their health and well-being by providing a diet suited to their natural needs.

Mike Grover

Mike Grover is the owner of this website (Reptiles and Amphibians), a website dedicated to providing expert care and information for these animals. Mike has been keeping reptiles and amphibians as pets for over 20 years and has extensive knowledge of their care. He currently resides in the United Kindom with his wife and two children. Reptiles and amphibians can make excellent pets, but they require special care to stay healthy and happy. Mike's website provides detailed information on how to care for these animals, including what to feed them, what type of housing they need, and how to maintain their health. Mike's website is a valuable resource for keeping your pet healthy and happy, whether you’re considering adding a reptile or amphibian to your family or you’re already a pet parent.

Recent Posts