Do Fish Eat Turtles? These Ones Do…

The aquatic ecosystem is a fascinating place where many different animals co-exist. One intriguing aspect is the diets of these creatures, and how they interact with each other in the food chain.

People often have perceptions about who eats whom underwater. This article dives into the question: do fish eat turtles?

Quick Summary:

  • Certain fish species do prey on turtles.
  • Known turtle predators include large catfish and alligator gar, among others.
  • Size, age of the turtle, and other factors can influence fish preying on turtles.
  • Turtles have evolved defensive mechanisms like hard shells to deter predators.

Turtle Predators

Turtles, while being well-armored, have a list of predators that includes some species of fish. There have been instances and studies that show predatory fish hunting turtles, highlighting an interesting predator-prey dynamic.

Related article: Do Snakes Eat Turtles?

Types of Fish That Prey on Turtles

When it comes to fish preying on turtles, two species stand out – large catfish and alligator gar. Let’s delve deeper into these two:

Large Catfish and Channel Catfish

large catfish

Large catfish, particularly in regions like the Amazon, have been known to prey on turtles. With their strong, capable jaws and sheer size, they can handle the hard shells of smaller turtles. They usually reside in slow-moving or stagnant waters where they come across turtles.

Channel catfish are among the common types of fish that feed on turtles, having sharp teeth that can easily slice through turtle flesh. They are also known as opportunistic feeders, indicating that they might eat a turtle if they come across one in their habitat​​.

Alligator Gar

alligator gar

The Alligator Gar is another fish that has been known to prey on turtles. Their long, sharp teeth and powerful jaws, coupled with a robust body, makes them a formidable predator. They often inhabit freshwater environments alongside turtles, leading to predatory interactions.


tiger shark

Sharks, specifically hammerhead and tiger sharks, are known to prey on sea turtles. The softer shells of sea turtles in comparison to their land counterparts make them vulnerable to the powerful jaws and sharp teeth of these predatory fish​​.

Killer Whales

killer whale

Killer whales or orcas have been known to eat leatherback turtles. Their size, power, and sharp teeth enable them to prey on turtles, and they have even been observed playing with their food or possibly teaching their young how to hunt using turtles​.



While not a primary prey, dolphins have been known to prey on sea turtles occasionally. Large dolphins, in particular, have been observed preying on other large sea creatures besides turtles​.

Bass and Northern Pike

smallmouth bass fish

Turtles share waters with predatory fish like bass and northern pike, and these fish will prey on turtles if they are small enough​.


bullhead fish

Bullhead fish are known to commonly eat turtles. While not considered a delicacy, they are a common food for turtles, showcasing a two-way predatory relationship​​.


man holding bluegill fish

The relationship between bluegill fish and turtles is debatable. Some argue that bluegills will scavenge on dead or dying turtles, while others believe they do not consume turtles​​.

Black Crappie

black crappie fish

There have been reports of black crappie eating turtles, but it’s unclear if this behavior is common or an isolated incident​.

Groupers, Barracudas, and Muskie

grouper fish

Groupers and barracudas are also known to prey on turtles. Similarly, muskie, a species closely related to northern pike, is also a potential predator of turtles​.


common carp
Keimzelle, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s a belief among some people that carp eat turtles due to their shared features like scavenging behavior and capability to dive to great depths, but there is no solid evidence supporting this claim​.

Circumstances Under Which Fish Eat Turtles

The likelihood of a fish preying on a turtle can be influenced by various factors. The size and age of the turtle are significant, as smaller, younger turtles are easier targets compared to larger, adult turtles. The availability of other food sources also plays a role; when food is scarce, fish may be more likely to attempt preying on turtles.

Defensive Mechanisms of Turtles

turtle walking in the desert

Turtles have their own set of defenses to ward off predators. Their hard shells provide a significant level of protection, making it difficult for predators to get to their soft flesh. Retractable limbs also help them minimize exposed body parts, making it harder for predators like fish to make a successful attack.

In conclusion, while there are several species of fish that consume turtles, they are not generally a primary food source for fish.