It can be tempting to feed a pet turtle whatever’s lying around or even scraps from the table. Feeding a turtle by hand is fun, and as a result, many pet turtles wind up obese because their owners easily fall into the amusement of overfeeding them. Turtles can also be greedy and eat even when they aren’t hungry, often fighting against other turtles for food.
You can feed turtles popcorn but it is not recommended because it’s a dangerous choking hazard. Popcorn always has a few very hard kernels that remain unpopped or half-popped and stuck to the fluffier popped kernels. Because turtles can’t chew and must swallow food whole, these kernels can become lodged in their throats.
The hazards of choking aside, most turtles are omnivores, meaning that in order to grow big, healthy, and strong, they need something more than junk food. Turtles need to eat fruits, vegetables, and meat. Read on to learn more.
Why Shouldn’t You Feed Turtles Popcorn?
You may be wondering what the harm is in giving your turtle a little “treat” every once in a while.
You shouldn’t feed your turtle popcorn because it isn’t very nutritious, even though it’s made from corn kernels. Though it may be tasty, popcorn is a high-starch food. Plain popcorn contains some nutrients, but once you add butter and salt, it’s just high-carb junk food and not good for turtles.
You might as well feed your turtle potato chips with salsa (which would be just as lacking in proper nutrition and just as dangerous).
Nutrition aside, there’s a more alarming reason why you shouldn’t feed a turtle popcorn. As mentioned before, turtles are greedy and eat very fast, so they tend to choke very easily on food. Aquatic turtles especially need water to swallow their food, but even terrestrial turtles will choke on food given how eager they are to snap up whatever they’ve been offered.
Turtles eat through a “beak” and can’t chew, so whatever you feed them is swallowed whole. Because reptiles are related to birds, the two species have physical similarities. This is why turtles have “beaks” and can’t chew their food, leading them to (like birds) choke easily on food and get caught in plastic and other garbage while in the wild.
When it comes to popcorn, hard kernels can quickly get stuck in the turtle’s throat, especially if they manage to swallow more than one kernel at a time. And let’s say you picked all the kernels out and made sure the turtle didn’t get any. Even without the danger of kernels, popcorn itself, while fluffy and seemingly soft, is still hard enough to get lodged in a turtle’s throat.
Remember, the turtle can’t chew and has to swallow the popcorn whole! Could you swallow a scratchy piece of popcorn whole? That would hurt, wouldn’t it?
What Can Turtles Eat Instead of Popcorn?
So now that we’ve covered why a turtle shouldn’t eat popcorn, what can a turtle eat?
Instead of feeding your turtle popcorn, feed it a balanced diet well-suited to its omnivorous nature. What a turtle eats specifically depends mainly on its species and whether it’s a terrestrial turtle or an aquatic turtle.
Let’s explore this further!
As their name suggests, freshwater turtles are the sort of turtles you’d find in ponds and rivers. Such turtles include the ever-popular red-ear sliders or the very large (and kind of scary) common snapping turtle.
Freshwater turtles eat a variety of meats and fruits, including worms, algae, insect larvae, and even snails. Some larger species, such as snapping turtles, also eat mice and rats, frogs, fish, snakes, and even other turtles!
Because their environment is the ocean, sea turtles naturally have an ocean life diet. Sea turtles eat lots of things, including:
- Sea cucumbers
However, green sea turtles, as they are so aptly named, are herbivores that only feed on seagrass and algae.
Terrestrial turtles, such as box turtles and tortoises, live primarily on land. They tend to live in woodlands and deserts and are the most popular turtles to keep as pets, given how much easier they are to care for than a freshwater turtle or a sea turtle.
Terrestrial turtles enjoy eating earthworms, beetles, caterpillars, berries, mushrooms, and even flowers! They also sometimes eat carrion (dead flesh) when available, adding much-needed meat to their diet.
How Can You Make Feeding Your Turtle Fun?
Because terrestrial and freshwater turtles are so commonly kept as pets, they’re often fed commercial turtle pellets and fish pellets, as well as store-bought mealworms and crickets to supplement their wildlife diet. But ideally, captive turtles should be fed fresh fruits and vegetables (and fresh fish in the case of freshwater turtles) as often as possible.
Feeding your turtle fresh food rather than commercial isn’t only more nutritious but can also prove a lot of fun.
There are several creative things a turtle owner can do to make feeding their turtle more fun, including feeding them fresh fruits and veggies, making a “turtle pizza,” or simply recording your turtle’s reactions when you feed it something new.
In this video, YouTuber The Fish Whisperer creates a “turtle pizza” from fresh watermelon, carrots, kale, and shad fish. The “pizza” is then fed to red-ear sliders, who come running from the water to eagerly snap it up. Watch the YouTube video here:
Notice how the pizza is made of solids that are easy for a turtle to swallow. Watermelon is a very mushy fruit, the carrots in the video are very soft, the kale is naturally soft, and turtles are experts when it comes to swallowing fish.
Red-ear sliders also have an incredible sense of smell. It’s likely that they smelled the “pizza” before they even saw it!
And in this video by turtle enthusiast GoHerping, several box turtles are fed different fruits and vegetables, and their reactions are recorded. The video features strawberries, corn, mushroom, peppers, beets, carrots, raspberries, and blueberries. What a great turtle dad! Here’s the YouTube video:
So, can turtles eat popcorn? It should be avoided as it can clog up their digestive system and it is a choking risk to them.
It’s far safer and more nutritious to feed turtles according to their natural diet. For most turtles, that’ll include fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and fresh meat!
Additional Information On Animals Eating Popcorn
Are you curious about what animals can eat popcorn? Click here for an animal overview or click on an animal below to find out specific details: