The use of feeder fish for pet turtles (or other pets such as fish) is somewhat controversial. It is both encouraged and discouraged for several valid, not so valid, and even made-up reasons.

Some of the reasons for using / not using feeder fish include their nutritional value, health risks, hunting stimulation and exercise factors, cost, cruelty, pet store conditions for feeders, thiaminase and goldfish / rosy reds / fathead minnows, large bony pieces, and others.

Where do you stand on this topic?

Do you give your pet turtles feeder fish? If so, what kind?

Do you not feed your turtles feeder fish? Why?

Let us know in the poll below.

Based on 173 votes at the time of this writing, the following are the survey results for the question “Do you use feeder fish for your pet turtles?” This is a review of the answers provided (note: all percentages provided have been rounded up).

Respondents that do use feeder fish (as a percent of all respondents) answered:

  • 23% goldfish
  • 17% minnows / rosy reds / fatheads
  • 14% guppies
  • 3% platies
  • 6% other kinds of feeder fish

Respondents that do NOT use feeder fish (as a percent of all respondents) said that they do not because:

  • 7% it’s cruel
  • 4% due to health / nutrition reasons
  • 3% some other reason/s
  • 20% have never tried feeder fish

I also provided an “other” choice for the question, which received 8% of votes. I’ve no clue what the people who said “other” means, since the question is plainly straightforward “Do you use feeder fish for your pet turtles?” and the answer is either yes or no. If you answered “other”, please let me know what you mean in the comments section here.

It’s disheartening to read that almost half of respondents (40%) use feeder goldfish / minnows / rosy reds / fatheads. There is plenty of information out there (such as this: Thiaminase – what it is, why you care) about why they are not a good choice for a feeder fish in that they contain thiaminase, which is detrimental to a pet turtle’s health – unless of course feeder fish is a rare treat and not a diet staple – then a rare small amount is ok. Also, much has been said online (look up any pet turtle forum) about the spiny fins / bones of goldfish and how they are potentially hazardous as they may do damage to a turtles innards as it swallows them. Of course, I haven’t had any confirmation of this ever happening, but better safe than sorry. Also, feeder goldfish / minnows / rosy reds / fatheads are undoubtedly the most commonly available type of feeder fish available, which positively has a huge impact on why their use is so high.

Survey respondents that do not use feeder fish due to health / nutrition reasons, it being a cruel practice, and other are the minority at 14%. Health reasons are an important factor that should not be overlooked. Be sure to feed healthy, parasite/bacteria free feeder fish. Anything unhealthy that a feeder has will be eaten and digested by a pet turtle, so do please use caution.

So, do you use feeder fish for your pet turtles? Want to put your vote in? Let us know if you do or don’t use feeder fish for pet turtles.


  1. i use primarily goldfish and rosey reds as well as ghoast shirmp and crayfish
    sometimes my turtle leace the last 2 mostly alone so they work hard as part of the cleaning crew which is great

    chasing fish has made her a FAR stronger swimmer shes an african sideneck not always fantastic swimers

    additionaly IF you cant supply live fish or simply are to squiemish you can cut up fresh salmon into cubes and freeeze it and give them cubes as part of there diet

    1. feeder crayfish? Wow, I hadn’t thought of that or heard of that before! How affordable are the crayfish you give your pet turtles?

  2. I feed comets to my snapping turtle, soft-shelled turtle and musk turtle. But comets are a pain, and they bother me, too; there’s always such a high mortality in those I get from any pet store. Also, I transferred about 100 little dark comets from my outdoor pond last week, and 75% of them died within five days of being put in with the commercial fish. I figure the commercials had some sort of disease. This makes me reluctant to keep wasting money on them, and to wonder if they have anything that might harm my turtles. But my turtles seem to thrive extra-well with regular fish in their diets. Suggestions are welcome.

  3. I do use fish that result from breeding in my pond, but the season is so short here (Michigan) that I don’t get but a few weeks’ worth, if that. Then back to square one. I’m done with comets, and think I’m going to start breeding guppies indoors; they’re good enough for the softshell (whose growth rate is perceptibly affected by the addition of fish to her diet) and the musk turle, but the snapper needs something bigger. Probably he’ll have to be happy with commercial nightcrawlers, pellets and vitamin supplements.

    1. For my snappers I go to the bait shop and get chubbs and minnows and once every 4 to 6 weeks I feed it a crawfish or a mouse but I have alse given him some tree nuts

  4. Yes! I do feed my turtles with live feeder fish: most I feed them with rosy red minnows,where I buy them in the pets shop.Sometimes I substitute live feeders with dead ones.Turtles eat them big with appetite, as much as they eat live ones.I put dead feeders in the plastic bag and then put them in the freezer.Just before I feed my turtles,put them in the room temprature water for 20 minutes and feed as usually. Turtles eat live and dead matter, including human corps in India,where people burn and than trow love ones in the Gangi river,became favor food for turtles and crocodiles.(See National Geografic magazine)

  5. Yes! I read this artical in National Geografic.The story wasn,t about turtles and crocodiles eating dead corps,but it was about Gangi river,where Hindus buried their love ones.By Hindu religion they must to burn the body and than take the ashes and trow to Gangi river,but unfortunately some of those people are very poor and they don,t have enough money to buy wood. That,s why half burn body floating in the Gangi river, but Hindus belive that water so sacred ,so they drink and swim in those waters and never get sick.But for the turtles : they eat dead or live food.They are opportunistic feeders and they will eat almost anything ,they can find.In my case they will eat human corps flowting in the Gangi river.Thank you!

  6. I’ve fed my snapper pinkies occasionally. The first snapper I raised wouldn’t swallow them but this one does. He now gets a lot of minnows from the bait store. He won’t eat greens at all, but will take some fruit. I recently read about dozens of snappers somewhere who left their pond to gorge on fallen pears, but that tends to be messy in a tank. Now that it’s tadpole season in my homemade pond, the turtles will get more wild food.