Can Turtles Eat Mealworms? (All Species Answered)

Turtles are an exciting pet to have, and giving them the proper diet is essential for their growth. Turtles are mainly aquatic animals that are omnivorous in nature. Wild turtles feed on diverse animals and vegetables, but what about domesticated ones?

A common question among new turtle owners is, – “Can my pet turtles eat mealworms?”
– Should worms be a staple part of your turtle’s diet?

In this article, we examine what mealworms are, if turtles can feed on them, and the benefits of including them in your turtle’s feeding regime.

What are mealworms?

Mealworms are the larvae of the darkling beetle (flour beetle), also known as Tenebrio molitor. The insect has a four-stage life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The mealworm is the beetle in its larva form. Mealworms are usually honey-yellow or yellow-brown in complexion, and they serve as food for reptiles and birds. This worm is also used as bait for fish. It’s a choice majorly because of its high protein content.

These live worms can be purchased at pet stores, where they are sold in containers with oatmeal or bran, which serves as food and bedding for the worms. You can also choose to rear them at home as they are a fun and easy-to-do activity. They can be fed live, canned, dried, or powder form.

Can turtles eat mealworms?

In the wild, turtles feed on various insects and bugs like worms, larvae, snails, slugs, beetles, crickets, and grasshoppers. Most pet turtles like the red-eared slider or the box turtle are omnivorous, meaning they can feed on commercial food pellets, feeder fish, insects, and fruits and vegetables like watermelon and spinach.

So can your turtles eat mealworms? Yes, they can, as turtles need vitamins and minerals to grow, and mealworms are a great protein source though, they should be given in moderation. Aside from protein, mealworms are also rich in potassium, iron, and zinc. An essential nutrient for turtles is calcium for shell growth. It’s why you should supplement their feeds with calcium and mineral powder.


Types of mealworms

There are different types of mealworms that you can feed your turtles, and they include the following:

Dried mealworms

These contain more nutrients than live ones. They have a higher protein (33% more) and fat content than their live counterparts. You can find them in stores. Ensure you go for the non-GMOs with no additives or preservatives.

Live mealworms

Satisfy the carnivorous needs of mealworms by feeding them live mealworms. Most persons are careful with live worms as some may pose a risk of bacterial infection to turtles.

Dead mealworms

You can feed your turtles worms that are not alive. However, ensure they have not been dead for a long time and are not decomposing, as this may pose health issues to your turtle.

Freeze-dried mealworms

You can get these at pet stores as well. They contain the necessary nutrients for mealworms.

Benefits of feeding mealworms to turtles

There are some benefits attached to adding mealworms in your turtle’s feed, and they include the following:

Great Protein Source

One hundred grams of mealworms contain approximately 206 calories and 14-15gram of protein. This shows that they are super rich in protein which is an essential requirement for all animals, including turtles. Protein is necessary for muscle growth and development in turtles.

Turtles love them

The reason is unknown, but it may be due to the texture or taste. Because worms like mealworms are a staple part of the turtle diet, there’s a tendency for them to get addicted to them. If a turtle is not feeling well, try introducing mealworms into their feed to coax them to resume their feeding.

Rich in Micronutrients

Turtles require a varied diet plan, and so need food that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. The primary nutrient constituents are iron, fat, energy, and amino acids.

How many mealworms should I feed my turtle?

Turtles require 12-14% of proteins in their diet, and this is gotten from mealworms. The exact percentage required depends on the type of turtle and the condition in which it is living. The most important thing is to not overfeed your turtle with mealworms as they contain fat content and can cause obesity in them. Therefore, regularly or daily feeding your turtles with mealworms is not advisable.

Feeding them once or twice a week is advisable. Two or three mealworms on any of their feeding are best. Instead of making it a staple part of their diet, they should be given it as treats.

How do you feed live mealworms to turtles?

Remember that you’re only supposed to feed them occasionally and not every day. You can give them their treat either of two ways:

Float in the water

Here, you pour the live worms into the turtle water tank. The worms will float on the surface of the water, and the turtle will swim upwards to eat them. If the turtle doesn’t eat them, it’s a sign that it’s probably not hungry.

Place in a bowl

Turtles typically eat once a day, so consider placing the live mealworms in their food bowl with other food items. When the turtle leaves its habitat, it can then eat the worms.

Other kinds of worm turtles can feed on

Turtles are not picky eaters; they eat anything that is fed to them, so they will feed on any worm that they can get their claws on. Also, most worms are safe for your turtle to consume so long as it’s in moderation. Some of the worms include:

  • Blood worms
  • Earthworms
  • Silkworms
  • Superworms
  • Redworms
  • Hornworms
  • Waxworms
  • Grub
  • American Nightcrawler

Is There Danger of Feeding Mealworms to Your Turtles?

There are specific reasons why it is advised that you feed your turtles mealworms in moderation.


When turtles feed excessively on a high protein diet, it causes pyramiding which is excessive growth of the turtle’s shells. Pyramiding is an abnormal growth and it affects the turtle’s standard of life.

Risk of Addiction

Turtles can get addicted to mealworms if that is all they are fed with. With time, they will get used to it and refuse to eat anything else. Therefore, you must feed them with more than mealworms for a balanced diet.

Lack of Essential Nutrients

Aside from protein, turtles need other essential nutrients for proper growth and development. A turtle fed with a mealworm-only diet will suffer a deficiency of calcium, leading to Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). Turtles that suffer from this disease have stunted growth and poor life quality. They’ll have weakened bone and skeletal structure.


Insects are an avid part of turtle’s diet, and mealworms are a top feed choice seeing as they are rich in protein content. All breeds of turtles, both wild and domesticated turtles, can eat mealworms. Excessive mealworm intake can lead to pyramiding and metabolic bone disease in turtles.

However, since turtles are considered to be omnivorous, it is important you feed your turtles mealworms occasionally, as a treat and not as the main feed for them.