Do Turtles Eat Rocks?

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Do Turtles Eat Rocks

As long as the item in question fits in the turtles mouth, everything can look like food for him, including rocks.

As the saying goes, curiosity killed the cat.

And in this case, it might be curiosity that kills turtles too.

Turtles are often seen eating rocks and pebbles because they’re looking for a source of calcium or salt to supplement their diet.

But while they may not know any better, you should know that what they’re doing can seriously hurt them!

First of all, if your turtle is eating sand on land instead of just drinking water with sand suspended in it then there’s a chance he could have an intestinal blockage that would require immediate medical attention.

Second, even though many people think that rocks and pebbles look like food to turtles (and indeed some types do resemble certain edible plants), the truth is that many of them are also indigestible and can actually cause damage to their digestive tracts.

If your turtle ends up with an intestinal obstruction, it could lead to death if not treated properly.

So make sure you do all you can to prevent this from happening.

Why Do Turtles Eat Rocks?

Turtles eat rocks and pebbles for the same reason they like to eat plants: because they’re trying to get something that’s missing from their regular diet.

Specifically, calcium and salt.

Turtles need a lot of calcium because they use it to build strong bones and shells.

As for salt, it’s lost in their urine, so they need to replenish this element regularly.

Humans use salt, but turtles don’t have the same biological process that we do.

So how can you prevent your turtle from eating these two things?

RELATED READ: What Do Turtles Like to Play With?

How to Prevent Your Turtle From Eating Rocks

turtle on a basking rock

First, make sure your turtle’s habitat includes a place where they can both dig down into the soil, as well as shallow water to drink.

He will also need a basking area with heat lamps in order to stay warm and dry when the sun is not out.

Make sure you inspect your turtle’s habitat regularly for the following:

  1. Feces should be well-formed and usually green in color, with occasional white streaks.
  2. Urine should be clear and sometimes even white.
  3. Food should be well chewed and water only drunk with sand suspended in it, not lapping up the water.

And most importantly, if the rocks are large, you might want to remove them from your turtle’s habitat.

If they can’t eat rocks, they really don’t need them.

Otherwise, removing larger rocks and replacing them with pebbles, small to medium rocks or stones is a good way to go.

Just make sure not to remove all the rocks at once, as they might need them for protection.

Can Turtles Poop Out Rocks?

Turtles can’t actually “poop out” rocks.

However, if they’ve eaten rocks, they may release small stones or gravel through their poo.

If you see a lot of these in your turtle’s poo, you might want to take him in for a check-up by your veterinarian.

Your turtle could have a serious intestinal obstruction and the rocks could even puncture holes in his intestine if left untreated. This can cause internal bleeding and death.

So it’s important to know what’s normal and what isn’t when it comes to your turtle.

If you see blood in the poo or he has trouble walking, you should pay a visit to your veterinarian immediately.

Reasons Turtles Eat Rocks

  • To supplement their diet
  • To find a source of calcium or salt
  • Out of curiosity

RELATED READ: Do Red Eared Slider Turtles Hibernate?

How Long Do Wild Turtles Live?

One reason why wild turtles live less than captive turtles could be that they eat a lot of stuff that’s not good for them, including rocks and small pebbles.

As mentioned above, they try to get calcium or salt from these rocks, which can cause intestinal issues and death.

If they also eat plants that are not good for them and don’t get enough sunlight, it’s not hard to understand that wild turtles don’t live as long as captive turtles.

All of these contribute to a shorter lifespan than their captive counterparts because they don’t get the care and diet that captive turtles do.

So if you want your turtle to live a long and healthy life, make sure you do all you can to provide the proper care, diet, and habitat.

What Happens If A Turtle Eats A Rock?

  • If they are big rocks, it can cause an obstruction in their digestive tract
  • Damage to the intestines or shell
  • Death if untreated

What Should I Do If My Turtle Eats Rocks?

Find out why he’s eating rocks and remove them from his habitat.

Monitor your turtle over the next few weeks to make sure he’s eating properly.

Check the poo to see if he’s passing stones or gravel, and take him to your veterinarian immediately if you see blood in the poo or he has trouble walking.

Is Turtle Tank Gravel Safe to Add?

red eared slider in aquarium

Absolutely not.

Turtles are known to eat gravel, probably because they crave calcium or salt, which are found in gravel.  

However, gravel is abrasive to their digestive tracts and may cause intestinal obstructions.

What’s even worse, they might choke on the gravel and die.

So only use sand as a substrate in your turtle’s habitat.

Also, make sure that you replace it often, as turtle waste can cause ammonia levels to skyrocket in the tank. This is not good for your turtle’s health.

Can You Put Rocks in a Turtle Tank?

As long as they are bigger than your turtle’s mouth, the answer is yes.

However, you should never use small rocks as a substrate in your turtle tank because turtles eat rocks and might choke or develop intestinal blockages.

What Rocks Are Safe For Turtles?

The best types of rocks you can use for your turtle tank are small pebbles, river rock, or large aquarium stones.

Large rocks can even be used as basking platforms for your turtle.

Just make sure that the rocks are larger than your turtle’s head when he stretches his neck out.

RELATED READ: Do Turtles Fight and Why?


If you are a turtle owner, it is important to know that they eat rocks and other things.

They may be eating the rocks out of curiosity or in order to supplement their diet with calcium and salt, but sometimes this behavior can lead them down a dangerous path.

If your turtle has been eating too many small stones or gravel, he might have an intestinal obstruction which could lead him to bleed internally if left untreated; so it’s always best to take them in to see the vet ASAP if any signs of trouble arise.

The article also discusses how wild turtles live less than captive ones because they do not get as much care for their health (such as proper food) or protection from predators like humans who hunt these animals for sport.

One way you can help them is by not using small rocks as a substrate for your turtle tank because it could cause intestinal problems.

Keep these things in mind if you are considering the purchase of a turtle.