Can Turtles Eat Frogs?

brown frogWhile most turtles can eat frogs, there are some species that can’t. The turtle needs to be of a certain size, and the frog should be no larger than one-third the length of the turtle. It may hurt the turtle’s jaw to try to eat a frog that is too large.

There can be other, practical reasons that can make it unsafe to feed frogs to your turtle. For example, some frogs can have a skin secretion that can cause irritation or even infection in the mouth of a turtle and there are also certain types of toxic frogs, so it’s important to check with your veterinarian before feeding a frog to your turtle.

If you do choose to feed a frog to your turtle, remember these points:

  1. Only feed an amphibian once every few months. It has less nutritional value than crickets and can cause constipation if fed too often. The exception is new hatchlings or turtles that aren’t eating well – in this case they can eat several times a week until they’re established on pellets and can catch their own food.
  2. Choose a small frog, no larger than 1/3 of the length of your turtle (measured from head to tail.) In general, it’s not safe for turtles to eat anything that is longer than they are wide. A snake can swallow something larger because its jaws can stretch wider. This can be dangerous for turtles who can’t open their mouths widely enough or are hung up on something when they try to swallow a large prey item. Also, frogs can bite and scratch – if your turtle struggles or gets caught in an underwater snag while trying to eat a frog, it can get injured and stressed out at the same time!
  3. Feed live food only as an occasional treat – don’t make it a habit. If you want to feed live food, choose something small like crickets or earthworms.
  4. If your turtle eats the frog too quickly and seems unable to breathe, use tweezers to gently remove the frog from the turtle’s mouth until it can be swallowed safely. (This can also happen if your turtle tries to eat an aquarium plant and gulps down some of the spiky leaves.)
  5. Never leave frogs in reach of turtles unattended – especially hatchling turtles who are just learning about eating live foods! Frogs can hop out of water fast enough that a little guy can be gone before you can grab him back again.
  6. Be sure to rinse the frog well in clear water before feeding it to your turtle. Tap the bottom of the container on the sink or a paper towel until all loose pieces are dislodged. Feeding your turtle a mouthful of pebbles can injure his teeth and wear them down prematurely, leaving him unable to catch food for himself later on.
  7. When feeding a frog to your turtle, try holding it near the water first so your turtle can begin to associate this new prey with the pond. Then gently drop the whole thing in at once and don’t move it around or chase it with your turtle’s head (this can stress both of you out!) Watch closely for any sign that your turtle is having trouble breathing, swallowing or getting away from his prey before you help him by helping the frog along!