Why Is My Turtle Eating Rocks? Is It Okay To Eat Them?
So your turtle keeps eating rocks and you can’t seem to understand why? If that’s you, you’ll find this guide helpful. Turtles eating rocks is a common occurrence and many turtles have caught their turtles doing it at some point. But what’s the reason behind turtles eating rocks?
Why is my turtle eating rocks? Your turtle is eating rocks to fulfill its cravings for minerals such as calcium, iron, vitamin D3, and phosphorous which can be found in the small rocks at the bottom of your turtle tank. Your turtle can also eat rocks due to boredom or mistaking the rocks for food.
The following guide sheds more light on why your turtle is eating rocks and whether it’s healthy or unhealthy for them. You’ll also discover the dangers of turtles eating rocks and what to do to stop this behavior in your turtles.
Why do turtle eat rocks?
Turtles eat rocks because they crave certain minerals which can be easily found in these rocks. proper diet for turtles should be made of a variety of nutrients.
Minerals are an essential part of this diet, and if your turtle doesn’t get them (or doesn’t get enough of them), it will start looking for another source. And that source is usually those small rocks sitting at the bottom of their tanks.
Yes, those small rocks you put in your tank carry a variety of minerals that your turtle is looking for, including calcium, iron, vitamin D3, and phosphorous, among other minerals.
These minerals are essential for a turtle’s good health and well-being. For instance, they need calcium for healthy bones and shells and muscular function. Vitamin D3 enables them to absorb the calcium they ingest, and phosphors promote healthy shells and bones.
Your turtle biting and swallowing rocks is therefore a clear message that the diet you feed it is lacking in terms of calcium and other minerals.
The good thing is that this behavior is an easy way to let you know whether your turtle gets adequate nutrients or not.
If not, there are plenty of foods and supplements out there that you can start feeding to your turtle to ensure they get enough minerals and hopefully stop biting rocks.
Other reasons why your turtle is eating rocks:
Boredom: Keeping your turtle in its enclosure can make them easily get bored and start doing crazy things so they have something to do. One such thing would be to swim to the bottom of the tank and start biting the small rocks.
Mistaking rocks for food: Although the turtle has good eyesight, it may still mistake those little pebbles for food. This is easy to understand since these pebbles sometimes look like pellets. If you have pebbles smaller than the turtle’s head or mouth, they may appear as food to them and they’ll start feeding on them.
What to do if your turtle eats a rock?
If you have caught your turtle eating rocks or you suspect they’ve eaten rocks, then you should take a few steps to ensure your pet’s well-being.
Start by getting rid of all the rocks/gravel from your turtle tank. This is a necessary precaution to ensure your pet doesn’t eat more rocks and make the problem even more serious.
Next, you should closely monitor your pet turtle for the next few days and see whether its behavior changes. See if it continues to eat and poop. Inspect the droppings for the rocks as well.
If your turtle seems to be doing alright after the first few days, you’d want to continue monitoring it until it poops the rocks (note that this can take up to a week(s). You should only feel relieved once the stone has been passed!
However, if your pet doesn’t poop the stone and its overall behavior changes, loses appetite, and doesn’t seem to poop as it normally does, then you’ve got a serious problem and you should visit your vet immediately!
How do you stop your turtle from eating rocks?
The best way to stop your turtle from eating rocks is to eliminate them from your turtle tank entirely. Get rid of gravel and small rocks from your tank bottom and use aquarium sand in its place. Still, you can choose to not use any substrate at all.
If you still want to use gravel, be sure to use one that’s too big for your pet to eat. In simpler words, put pebbles that are at least your turtle’s head size. These will prove too big for your turtle to consume.
Can turtles choke on rocks?
Yes, turtles can choke on anything small enough to fit in their mouths and the small rocks in their turtle tank are no exception.
Intestinal blockage is an even more serious problem your turtles are likely to suffer by eating rocks. This is where the gravel gets stuck in the torte’s digestive system.
This will cause a blockage in the digestive tract, usually revered to as intestinal obstruction or impaction, prevent your turtle from digesting food, and even cause constipation.
If you have caught your turtle eating rocks and it refuses to eat, you should consult your veterinarian as soon as possible. This is a serious issue and may require surgery to remove the stuck rocks. Your turtle can die if not treated on time.
Why is my turtle biting a rock?
As we said earlier on, turtles eat rocks when they’re craving certain minerals which they may be lacking in the diet you feed them. Even turtles in the wild will occasionally eat rocks to get the minerals they need to stay healthy.
It could also be fighting boredom. If you have not enriched their tank with various items to keep them mentally stimulated, boredom can easily kick in and they may start biting anything they can find in the tank including the tank itself and the rocks.
if you don’t provide your turtle with enough food, he may also turn to inorganic objects in the tank to satisfy his hunger. Even though rocks aren’t food, the animal will still eat them to cure his hunger.
Do turtles like rocks in their tank?
Turtles like the rocks you put in their tank. However, they’re not essential for the survival of your turtle, so it’s completely optional whether to put them in your tank or not.
However, if you still want to add rocks to your tank, say for aesthetic purposes, then we advise against putting small rocks in your turtle tank to minimize their chances of eating them.
Likewise, larger pieces can be problematic as your turtle bites it and breaks it off into smaller pieces they can easily swallow.
Bottom line: Don’t put anything inedible that your turtle will be able to swallow easily in their tank.
If you have soft-shelled turtles, you may also want to avoid rocks in your turtle tank. This is because such turtles can get injured by these hard substrates.
Other types of turtles may also rub their shells and limbs against these pebbles and end up damaging their hard shells.
If your turtle eats rocks, it may still be ok and will likely pass the rocks in its poop. In a worst-case scenario, the rocks can get lodged in their digestive tract and stop food digestion. This can also make your turtle stop eating. This is a serious issue and requires immediate vet attention.
Some folks claim that turtles eat rocks to aid in the digestion of hard foods in their stomachs such as seeds and bones. This could be true to some extent as it has been observed in various birds and reptiles taking in the gastroliths or simply the stomach stones to aid in digestion. However, no scientific study is yet to be carried around this topic, so we can’t treat it as a myth for now.
No turtles cannot digest rocks as their system isn’t designed to do so. the acid in their stomach cannot break down the rocks they eat as they’re composed of hard material, unlike turtle food. The rock may therefore be passed out as poop. But in some cases, the rock may get stuck in your turtle’s digestive tract and cause them to stop eating or to constipate. if this happens, you should call your vet immediately!
You shouldn’t be puzzled again if you find your turtle eating rocks. The simple explanation for this is that it’s craving certain minerals and eating rocks will help them get these minerals. Other possible reasons your turtle eats rocks include boredom and mistaking the small rocks for pellet food.
If your turtle stops eating and defecating after swallowing the stone, then your turtle could be experiencing an intestinal obstruction and you should take it to your vet immediately. We advise against putting rocks in your turtle tank in the first place to keep your turtle from eating them as it can be life-threatening for your pet.