What Does a Box Turtle Eat?

When it comes to owning a box turtle, many individuals may think that, due to the size and simplicity of this reptile, that their diet would be rather black and white. However, box turtles require a very diverse diet. With that being said, what exactly does a box turtle eat? 

Box turtles are omnivores, therefore their regular diet in captivity should include a mixed diet that consists of a 50/50 split of different fruits and vegetables with low-fat proteins. A well-rounded diet is essential to their overall health, their ability to achieve a long life and to help avoid various diseases. 

Box turtles may look simplistic in nature, but when it comes to their diet, they are anything but. This can be a point of stress for some pet owners as they may prefer a more singular diet, but for others, the variety of foods their box turtle can consume can be an area of fun and exploration. Continue reading to find out the best foods to feed your box turtle, other supplements that are needed, and how often juvenile and adult box turtles should be fed. 

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What is an Omnivore? 

Before getting into exactly what to feed a box turtle, you must first understand why you are asked to feed it such a wide variety of different foods. Many people are inclined to believe that box turtles can live happily on lettuce leaves and a few worms here and there, but they need much more than this to be able to remain healthy and ultimately, to thrive within their environment in captivity. 

Box turtles are omnivores and an omnivore is a type of animal that eats both plants and meat. Being so small, it may seem almost impossible that such a reptile would like a salad before their steak, but due to their biological make-up, they are in need of both plants and meat to achieve a diet that is conducive to their typically very long life-span. A box turtle’s diet is one of the main reasons they live well past 50 years. 

What Types of Food Does a Box Turtle Eat? 

With box turtles being omnivores, there are so many options to mixing up their day-to-day diet. Not only does this help to keep them healthy and break up any monotony within their does, but it also is a great way for pet owners to get to know the preferences of their box turtle. Every box turtle is going to have their own likes and dislikes and figuring out what exactly they can eat is a great way to try to get to know your pet more personally. 

© Pixabay

What Types of Fruit Can a Box Turtle Eat? 

When it comes to the fruit (and vegetables) that you feed your box turtle, the most important thing to pay attention to is the calcium and phosphorus base within each item. This is not always easy to find, but take time to look up the items and even make your own chart so you can refer back to it when feeding time comes around. These levels are important because a balance between the two is what helps to prevent metabolic bone disease. 

With the different fruits that you feed your box turtle, the goal should have a ratio of around 1.5:1 or a 2:1 ratio of calcium to phosphorus. Now, this level does not have to be mimicked in each item that you feed your box turtle, but should always be noted in order to have a good overall balance for your turtle’s diet. Even more specifically, food items that are higher in calcium (greater than 1.0) are great to help balance your box turtles diet  

Moving onto the specific fruits that your box turtle can eat, there are a plethora of options. You can feed your box turtle strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, grapes, apples with skin (the skin holds lots of nutrients), watermelon, banana, and tomatoes. Not all of these are super nutrient-dense, so it is important to make sure you know what they contain so that you are not always feeding them a less nutritious option as regularly as those with higher densities.

© Image by MW from Pixabay

What Types of Vegetables Can a Box Turtle Eat? 

Just as with fruits, it is extremely important to know the ratio of calcium and phosphorus for the vegetables that you feed your box turtle. There are many vegetables out there that may seem like they would be just fine for your little reptile, but looks can be deceiving. Some of these vegetables lack dense nutrients which can lead to diarrhea in your box turtle. Therefore, always look to their ratios to ensure you are giving them exactly what they need. 

Dark leafy greens like parsley, beet tops, spinach, collard greens, and kale are fantastic options for vegetable options when it comes to feeding your box turtle. Some leafy greens do have high oxalates though so you should be aware of their levels so that you can disperse them properly so as to not cause calcium build-up in your turtle. The biggest note here is that most foods are ok in moderation and that no one food should be the only food fed. 

Other great vegetables include a different assortment of cabbage like Chinese and green cabbage, butternut squash, green beans, broccoli, cucumbers, and romaine lettuce. Broccoli, cucumbers, and romaine lettuce are all fine to feed in moderation, but do not contain the greatest levels of calcium to phosphorus ratios and therefore should be offered in combination with other foods to help level out the overall balance of your box turtles diet. 

What Types of Protein Can a Box Turtle Eat? 

If you think about a box turtle in the wild, it is easy to picture them eating different insects and other types of prey items within their natural environment. Wild box turtles are happy to mix up their fruit and greens diet with meatier options that are oftentimes more available to them than items like strawberries and cabbage. Due to their natural preferences, even box turtles within captivity need a variety of protein in order to thrive. 

Box turtles are more than happy to either consume natural options for their protein intake options and do just as well with those that are store-bought. This gives you the option to find their snacks from your own backyard when in a bind or pick them up in town at a local pet store or bait shop. You can even go as far as cooking them up a few options on your own stove at home depending on what you have available on hand. 

The best types of proteins that you can feed your box turtle include slugs, snails, mealworms, wax worms, super worms, red worms, beetles, earthworms, caterpillars, and crickets. These are all typically well-liked by most box turtles and are great to add in with various vegetables and fruits. You can even cook small pieces of meat within your home like chicken and beef heart and use them as another protein option when you don’t have live options on hand. 

Do Box Turtles Need Vitamin and Mineral Supplements? 

Due to the need for box turtles to have a balanced diet that includes quite a few different components, it can be difficult to always give them exactly what they need. No matter how consistent you are, there is likely going to be a time when your box turtle simply needs more than it is getting through its diet. Many other reptiles require this extra boost and box turtles are no exception. This is where the use of vitamin and mineral supplements comes in. 

Although box turtles that are housed outside fare quite a bit better than those kept indoors as far as their vitamin and mineral balance goes, there is still no harm in giving them a little boost of these from time to time. If you have a box turtle indoors, offering them supplemental vitamins and minerals is essential to their well-being. This is not a complicated process, but one that can be given a couple of times a week without them knowing the difference. 

Reptile calcium and multivitamins are easily purchased either online or within your local pet store and should be dusted on your box turtle’s food a few times a week. Oyster shell calcium is also great to have on hand to ensure that your turtle’s bones and shell remain strong throughout their lifetime. These supplements are inexpensive, but are the cherry on top when it comes to a balanced diet that is full of everything your box turtle needs.  

How Often Should a Box Turtle Be Fed? 

Box turtles have very diverse diets, but these diets change depending on their age as well as how often they are fed. It is important to pay attention to the age of your box turtle because this is what dictates what they need nutritionally as well as will be a big indicator of what they will and will not eat. This helps to keep their health and development a top priority, but also helps to avoid food waste due to uneaten morsels. 

If you have a juvenile box turtle, they will likely need to be fed every 24 hours. At this age, they are growing rapidly and are also very active. Due to this, they need more nutrients to fuel their growth and actively. Juveniles also tend to need more protein and should be given this three or so times a week with a vitamin and mineral supplement at least three times a week as well. 

If you are housing an adult box turtle, they do not need to be fed as often as a juvenile. Adult box turtles should be fed every other day, or at the very minimum, three times a week. They typically prefer a diet that is denser in vegetables and fruits, therefore, they can stand less protein than a juvenile. They should also be given a vitamin and mineral supplement to assist in their overall health and aid in their longevity. 

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