Dolphins are carnivores and eat a wide range of sea creatures – small fish, shrimp, squid, turtles, crabs, even jellyfish, and octopuses. Their food habit depends on their habitat and species.

Coastal dolphins eat more fish and bottom-dwelling invertebrates. Offshore dolphins prefer fish, along with some deep-sea creatures and squid.

What Do Dolphins Eat?

Though fish is in abundance and remains the first choice, dolphins are known to consume what is available abundantly around them – like seaweed and other invertebrates. They have taste and individual preferences about the food they like.

Dolphins primarily use echolocation to search for food around. They use many techniques to hunt and catch their prey. They are known to hunt in bigger pods, small groups, or alone, depending on the species type.

Smaller dolphins eat fish like herring, cod, mackerel, plankton, krill, squids, other cephalopods. Larger dolphins prey on seals, sea lions, turtles, etc, with Orcas at the top of the food chain.

Baby Dolphins drink mothers’ milk until 2-3 years old, while they also learn to hunt from their mothers.

Here is a list of foods dolphins eat based on the species and habitats.

Bottlenose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins live in warm and tropical seas around the world. Their food habit differs based on their habitat. The ones in Scotland eat salmon when they are available in the spring and summer months. In winter, they eat herring and mackerel.

Bottlenose dolphins in other locations eat catfish, mullet, mackerel, or other locally available species.

Amazon river dolphins

Botos have an abundance of access to freshwater fish. Their primary diets are freshwater crustaceans and sweetwater fish. They are known to eat more than 40 different species of freshwater fish.


Killer whales or Orcas are apex predators and sit at the top of the food chain. They are the only predator of the great white shark.

Orcas’ are the largest dolphin species. Their favorite fish is salmon. They also prey on bigger ocean animals like seabirds, sea lions, etc. Orcas’ diet depends on what food is available to them locally. And whatever hunting techniques they have learned from their elders.

Spotted dolphins

These dolphins coordinate and hunt in groups at night. They circle their prey to prevent them from escaping They are good swimmers. Their usual food includes – small fish, invertebrates, squid, etc.

Spinner dolphins

Spinner dolphins live in the warm waters of tropical and subtropical climates. They prefer feeding in small fish. They can dive to 1000 feet deep hunting for food. This species also eats jellyfish, krill, shrimp, and squid.

Hector’s & Maui dolphins

These are one of the world’s smallest dolphins. Their diet consists of red cod, arrow squid, sprat, sole, stargazer, etc bottom-dwelling fish, cephalopods, crustaceans,

Irrawaddy dolphins

Irrawaddy dolphins transition between salt and freshwater. They generally hunt in a small group of seven, trapping their prey. They eat fish, cephalopods, and crustaceans.

Striped dolphins

Striped Dolpohins’ diets vary by region. Mediterranean striped dolphins usually eat squid and octopus. Atlantic striped dolphins mainly hunt fish such as Cod.

Ganges River dolphin

Ganges river dolphins feed on a large variety of fish and invertebrate animals. Their main food is Herring, common Carp, Gobio, Mahseer fish, and Catfish. They also consume prawns, clams, and shrimp, Some believe that they also eat turtles.