Can Turtles Eat Mealworms? + Risks & Benefits

Did you know that mealworms aren’t even worms? They are the larval stage of the yellow beetle, the second stage in the four stages before maturing to adulthood. They have a hard body that allows them to burrow. Interesting facts, right?

Turtles can eat mealworms as they have a high nutritional value and are tasty. However, you need to regulate the amount your turtle feeds on, as too much can affect its metabolism. They can lead to obesity, too much waste in the tank, are addictive, can lead to pyramiding, and lack some nutrients.

Sharing some mealworms with your pet turtle provides it with the right nutrients and allows you time to bond. In this article, we explore the benefits your turtle will get from mealworms and any dangers they pose.

Can turtles eat mealworms?

Turtles can eat mealworms either in the live or dried form. Mealworms are highly nutritious, and as such, they come in handy in boosting the turtle’s health and overall well-being.

Live mealworms will awaken your turtle’s hunting skills as they move around. This is important as it makes it flexible and active instead of remaining inactive.

When introducing the mealworms to the turtles, do it moderately so you can observe any negative impact it may have on the turtle. 

Additionally, mealworms have a high-fat content, and feeding too many could lead to the turtle becoming obese.

Here’s a breakdown of the mealworm’s nutritional content:

Mealworms nutritional content


In addition to these nutrients, mealworms contain minerals that help boost the turtle’s health. Below are some of the main minerals found in the mealworms:

  • Magnesium – 600 Mg/Kg
  • Calcium – 100 Mg/Kg
  • Iron – 20 Mg/Kg
  • Zinc – 50 Mg/Kg
  • Phosphorous – 2600 Mg/Kg
  • Sodium – 220 Mg/Kg

All these nutrients play a role in boosting the overall health of your turtles. For instance, zinc plays a key role in strengthening the bones while phosphorus helps in the shell and bone formation.

What are the benefits of mealworms to turtles?

Some of the benefits of mealworms to turtles include:

1. Source of Proteins

Mealworms have a high percentage of protein, approximately 50%, which helps the turtles in different ways. For instance, turtles require proteins to help them strengthen their shells. 

In every stage of their development, turtles require proteins to help in their bone formation and building up the shell.

2. Variety of Nutrients

Mealworms are a whole meal, and the different nutrients they carry are useful in a turtle’s development and overall health.

The micronutrients, including minerals, fat, and amino acids, play a critical role in your turtle’s health. The success of your turtle in regards to health largely depends on what you feed it.  

Sharing mealworms with your pet boosts its growth and development, ensuring that it doesn’t suffer from malnutrition or stunted growth.

3. Boosts the Turtle’s Appetite

Turtles love mealworms. If your turtle is a poor feeder, you can occasionally feed them on mealworms as they will awaken the urge to feed.

Turtles find mealworms tasty and will feast on them immediately. If your turtle is recovering from an ailment that has altered its feeding pattern, you could serve it the mealworms to hasten its recovery.

4. They Have Valuable Amino acids.

Mealworms are rich in amino acids that are valuable for a turtle. Among the acids in mealworms are cysteine and methionine.

Cysteine is critical in the growth and development of the turtle right from a tender age to old age. Methionine helps repair damaged tissues in case of an injury which hastens the healing process.

How to feed mealworms to turtles

There are three main ways you can feed mealworms to turtles, floating them in water, sticking, and serving them in a bowl.

1. Floating in Water

Some turtles love it when they can have their feeds directly in the water. If that’s the case, you need to throw the live mealworms into the tank and allow the turtle to swim upwards and feed on the mealworms.

Once you throw the mealworms into the tank, stick around to observe how your turtle will react. If it doesn’t come to the surface to feed, it means it’s not hungry, or it prefers having them differently.

2. Serve in a Bowl

If you wish to serve the dried mealworms to your turtle, have them on a tray or a bowl so that the turtle won’t strain to access and fill in the mealworms and serve.

You could mix the mealworms with other feeds to encourage the turtle to have a variety and ensure they have a balanced diet.

Some turtles will have a meal a day. Therefore, on the day you want them to feed on the mealworms, do it during mealtime so that it cooperates. 

Since mealworms are tasty and turtles love them, avoid feeding them too much as they have a high-fat content which could lead to obesity in the turtles.

Avoid making mealworms your turtle’s staple food. Adult turtles can have mealworms twice a week without developing problems, while younger ones should have them once weekly.

3. Twirl on a Stick

If you have the time, you could twirl the mealworms on a stick and hold them out for the turtle to reach out. Although this method could take more time, you’ll be able to monitor how well the turtle feeds.

Using this method allows you to control how much your turtle feeds. You can tell when they’ve had enough, so they don’t overfeed or underfeed.

This method also allows you time to bond with your pet. Your presence around the tank during feeding time gives your turtle confidence and calmness.

Dangers of feeding mealworms to turtles

Some of the dangers of feeding mealworms to turtles include:

1. They Could Decline Other Meals

Mealworms are tasty, and feeding them to your turtle regularly could lead to the turtle getting addicted and refusing to feed on other feeds.

It’s therefore advisable to alternate the mealworms with other feeds to ensure they don’t get too used to them.

2. Could Lead to Pyramiding

Excessively feeding mealworms to your turtles means that they have a high protein content in their body which could lead to the excessive growth of their shells.

Pyramiding in turtles comes with its share of challenges. It could alter the overall functioning of your turtle, including how it moves around. It also affects the functioning of some internal organs, such as the lungs.

Female turtles find it hard to lay eggs due to pyramiding which alters how you populate your turtles.

3. Excessive Weight

Mealworms have a high-fat content that ranges at approximately 30%. If you regularly feed mealworms to turtles, they could add weight rapidly and develop into obesity.

Overweight turtles find it hard to be active or even move around. Obesity also leads to internal organ failure, which could make you lose your pet.

Sometimes, turtles like to hide in their shells by retracting their head and limbs into the shell. When they are overweight, it becomes hard for them as these parts won’t fit in the shell.

4. Mealworms are Low on Some Essential Nutrients

For your turtle to grow into a healthy adult, you need to incorporate all the essential nutrients in its meals.

For instance, mealworms are low on calcium which is an essential component as the turtle grows to strengthen the body muscles and aid it in exercising.

Calcium is critical in preventing the turtle from developing metabolic bone disease, which leads to other health complications like stunted growth.

To avoid health complications, avoid having mealworms as the only feed for your turtles, instead, balance it off with other feeds to avoid addiction and have a healthy turtle.


Healthy turtles require a balanced diet coupled with exercise just like human beings. While turtles enjoy eating mealworms, there is the risk of addiction, obesity, pyramiding, and other complications which require that you regulate how much of the worms you feed to your turtle.

Leave a Comment