Eastern box turtles are omnivores and eat a variety of foods in the wild. Their diet in captivity should come as close to their natural one as possible. Feed them roughly every 24 hours. Approximately half of their daily diet should be vegetables, some fruit, and hay or grasses. They tend to like brightly colored produce, such as tomatoes, carrots, and red bell peppers.

The remainder of their daily diet should come from low-fat protein sources. Whole live foods are ideal (e.g., earthworms, slugs, snails, mealworms, crickets, and grasshoppers), but cooked lean meats and low-fat dog food can be added as a supplement. Young turtles typically need more protein than adults for growth. Consult your veterinarian for the exact quantity your turtle should eat, based on its age and size. A shallow pan of fresh water should be provided at all times. Although they’re not aquatic turtles, they do have a tendency to wade in their water dish. So it’s important to watch out for droppings in the water, and refresh it as needed throughout the day.

As a guideline, your box turtle’s diet should be about 50% plant-based material and 50% animal-based material. Different breeds of box turtles have slightly different nutritional needs. There are many different opinions regarding exactly what box turtles should eat in order to have a nutritionally balanced diet; speak to a veterinarian familiar with box turtles to determine specifically what to feed your box turtle.

How Often Should I Feed My Eastern Box Turtle?

Most young turtles eat daily, while older turtles can be fed daily or every other day, depending upon the pet’s individual appetite, body weight, and overall health.

What Types Of Plants Can I Feed My Eastern Turtle?

Most (80-90%) of the plant material fed to box turtles should be vegetables and flowers, and only 10-20% should be fruit. As a rule, dark, leafy greens should make up the largest part of the diet. Yellow, red, and orange vegetables can also be included. Avoid light green vegetables, including iceberg or head lettuce and celery, as they are composed mainly of fiber and water with few nutrients. The inner, light-colored parts of some vegetables are less nutritious than the darker green outer leaves, so they should not be offered.

Acceptable vegetables that should represent a high percentage of the box turtle’s diet include collard greens, beet greens, mustard greens, broccoli, turnip greens, alfalfa hay, bok choy, kale, parsley, Swiss chard, watercress, clover, red or green cabbage, savory, cilantro, kohlrabi, bell peppers, green beans, escarole, and dandelion. A lesser percentage of the diet can include cactus, various squash, sprouts, cooked sweet potato, parsnips, okra, cucumber, asparagus, mushrooms, carrots, peas, and corn. Swiss chard, spinach, and beet greens should be fed sparingly, as they contain oxalates that can bind to calcium and other trace minerals, preventing these nutrients’ absorption in the turtle’s intestine. Diets composed primarily of these vegetables can ultimately lead to nutrient deficiencies. Caution should also be exercised when feeding cabbage, kale, or mustard greens in excess, as these vegetables contain goitrogens; excessive consumption of these items may lead to hypothyroidism.

Fruit should be fed more sparingly than vegetables, since they are often preferred by box turtles over vegetables and tend to be less nutritious. Fruits to offer include apples, pears, bananas (with skin), mango, grapes, star fruit, raisins, peaches, tomato, guava, kiwis, and melons. Fruits that are particularly healthy include figs (which are high in calcium), apricots, dates, raspberries, and strawberries. As a treat, flowers such as geraniums, carnations, dandelions, hibiscus, nasturtiums, and roses may also be offered.

“Fruit should be fed more sparingly than vegetables, since they are often preferred by box turtles over vegetables and tend to be less nutritious.”

Vegetables and fruit can be offered cooked or raw, although raw tends to be more nutritious, as cooking can destroy many nutrients. Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables before feeding them. Flowers can be home-grown or purchased from floral shops. Often, floral shops throw out older, wilting flowers. While these may be unacceptable for sale to the public, some store owners are willing to offer them at reduced cost for pet food. Be sure that no chemicals have been applied to the flowers or water before offering them to your turtle.

Food should be presented to box turtles in a shallow, clean dish that is not easily flipped over. Vegetables should be finely chopped and mixed together to discourage the turtle from eating only preferred food items.

What Animal-Based Protein Foods I Can Offer My Turtle?

Depending on the age, breed, and health status of your box turtle, your veterinarian may or may not recommend feeding animal-based protein sources. When offered, some appropriate animal-based protein sources include grasshoppers, crickets, mealworms, wax worms, silkworms, moths, slugs, earthworms, and hard-boiled eggs. Commercially available reptile pellets provide an excellent protein source. Live prey, such as crickets and various worms, should either be raised inside by the owner or purchased from a pet store, bait store, or reptile breeder. Collecting insects from outside to feed pet turtles is generally not recommended, as fertilizers and insecticides on insects can be toxic to turtles.

The key is to feed a wide variety of healthy items, including both plant- and animal-based protein sources, to provide your box turtle with balanced nutrition.

Do I Need To Give My Box Turtle Vitamins And Minerals?

Like most reptiles, turtles require more dietary calcium than phosphorus. Most veterinarians recommend lightly sprinkling the vegetable matter offered to the box turtle with a calcium powder (calcium gluconate, lactate, or carbonate) 2-3 times per week. In addition, a light sprinkling of a multivitamin-vitamin mineral powder made for reptiles is also recommended weekly, especially if it contains vitamin D3 which can be toxic to turtles if over-supplemented. The best way to ensure reptiles are consuming the supplements is to  dust them onto small portions of their vegetables, and feed those dusted portions first.

“Turtles require more dietary calcium than phosphorus.”

A common problem seen in pet box turtles is over-supplementation with vitamins (especially vitamin D3) and minerals. Check with your veterinarian about the need to supplement your pet’s diet with any kind

Diet

Box turtles are omnivores. Diet in the wild includes insects, grubs, worms, snails, slugs, crustaceans, eggs, carrion, mushrooms, flowers, fruit and other plant material.

Captive box turtles may be fed a diet that is 50% mixed fresh vegetables with some fruit, and 50% low fat protein like canned low-fat dog food. Ideally the protein should be whole live foods like earthworms, mealworms, beetles, grubs, crickets, slugs and snails.

Are attracted to brightly colored fruits and vegetables: tomato, squash, carrots, red bell peppers, strawberries, cantaloupe.

Dark, leafy greens such as romaine, kale, collards, dandelion, mustard greens, and broccoli are preferred over iceberg lettuce.

Variety is the key to a healthy appetite and good health.

Supplement the diet with a weekly dusting of a phosphorus-free calcium powder such as RepCal or ground cuttlebone.

To prevent ingestion of cage substrate/bedding, all food should be placed on a plate, flat rock or brick paver.

Fresh food and water should be provided daily.

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