Is it safe to feed apples to your box turtle?
Do any other fruits and vegetables add nutritional value to your box turtle’s diet?
Feeding your turtle a proper diet is vital for their longevity, as well as preventing disease.
As omnivores, box turtle diets should consist of a healthy mix of 10% fruits, 40% vegetables, and 60% meat.
New turtle owners may be confused about which fruits and vegetables are healthy for their box turtle and which ones are not.
In this article, we break down the confusion and tell you which fruits and vegetables you should be feeding your box turtle and which ones you should avoid.
Table of Contents
Can Box Turtles Eat Apples?
Apples can safely be fed to your box turtle as long as they are cut into small pieces. However, apples and other fruits contain natural sugars, and they lack the nutrients vegetables provide. Because of this, fruits should be fed to your box turtle sparingly or as a treat.
A varied diet is essential for box turtles because they tend to taste fruits over more nutritious options such as vegetables and meats.
Limiting their fruit intake prevents box turtles from becoming picky eaters.
Healthier fruit options include:
- Watermelon (rind and flesh)
Figs are high in calcium, so they are a good choice over other fruits.
You should cut all fruits and vegetables into small pieces to make them easier for your box turtle to eat.
A variety of fruits may be fed to your box turtle once a week, in moderation, and you should alternate the type of fruit from week to week.
Flowers, such as roses, carnations, geraniums, and dandelions, may also be given to your box turtle as a treat.
Box Turtle Diet And Foods
What Vegetables Should be a Part of Your Box Turtle’s Diet?
Vegetables such as carrots, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, broccoli, bell peppers, yellow squash, and green beans should make up a large part of your box turtle’s diet.
You may also include corn, okra, asparagus, cucumbers, mushrooms, peas, Brussels sprouts, and squash to a lesser extent.
They do not provide as many nutrients as the vegetables listed above.
Dark leafy greens such as Swiss chard, beet greens, and spinach offer lots of nutrients, but they are high in oxalates, so feed them to your box turtle in small amounts.
Oxalates can bind to calcium and other minerals, which prevents these nutrients from being absorbed in the turtle’s stomach.
This can lead to calcium and mineral deficiencies, which can make your box turtle sick.
You should not feed light green vegetables such as iceberg lettuce and celery to your turtle because they mostly consist of fiber and water and offer very little nutritional value.
Never feed your box turtle rhubarb, avocado plants, poison ivy, or the leaves of tomato, potato leaves, or tobacco plants.
All of these are highly toxic plants to box turtles and could lead to death.
Cooked vegetables may be fed to your box turtle, but raw vegetables are best because many of the nutrients they offer are destroyed in the cooking process.
To avoid pesticides, be sure to thoroughly wash any fruits and vegetables before feeding them to your turtle.
Always offer a wide variety of chopped vegetables at every feeding, and be sure to mix them well to avoid your turtle eating only their favorites.
Place the vegetables in a shallow dish to prevent your box turtle from flipping it over on accident.
What Kinds of Meats Should You Include in Your Box Turtle’s Diet?
In addition to fruits and vegetables, a large part of your box turtle’s diet should be meat.
Healthy meat options should include different types of insects such as earthworms, mealworms, grasshoppers, crickets, slugs, and waxworms.
It is also safe to feed your box turtle sardines and small amounts of cooked chicken or beef.
Box turtles will eat raw meats, but it is best to avoid them because they contain harmful bacteria.
You may also be surprised to learn it’s safe to feed your box turtle dog food, as it is a good source of protein.
Choose canned, semi-moist, or dry dog food after it’s soaked in water.
Dog food should not make up more than 5% of your box turtle’s meat intake because it is high in calories.
Cat food is not a good choice because it contains too much protein, fat, and vitamin D for your box turtle.
You should never give your turtle processed meats such as hot dogs or lunch meats, as these are very high in sodium and offer very little nutritional value.
What Other Foods Should You Avoid Feeding Your Box Turtle?
As a general rule, you should never feed your box turtle anything it would not find in the wild.
This includes the following foods:
- Dairy products
- Baked goods
Not only is your box turtle unable to digest these foods properly, but they do not have the nutrition your turtle needs.
Should You Add Supplements to Your Box Turtle’s Diet?
Box turtles require calcium in their diet to grow and prevent metabolic bone disease, which is incurable and fatal to the turtle.
You should sprinkle their food with a calcium supplement 2-3 times per week.
Insects usually contain more phosphorus than calcium, so a supplement is necessary for proper metabolization.
While vitamin D3 is essential for calcium absorption, you should choose a calcium powder without D3, as it is toxic to box turtles in high doses.
Instead, choose a multivitamin supplement containing D3, sprinkle the turtle’s food very lightly once a week, or place UV lighting over their habitat.
Box turtles will naturally make vitamin D3 on their own when they are exposed to UVB rays, and this is a much safer option.
If you are unsure about whether or not your box turtle needs additional supplements, consult your veterinarian.
Box turtles thrive on a varied diet of animal and plant-based foods, including meats, leafy vegetables, and small amounts of fruit.
While it is difficult to replicate a wild box turtle’s diet, pet turtles will still have all of their nutritional needs met with careful planning and preparation.
In addition to a healthy and balanced diet, always provide your adult and juvenile box turtles with clean freshwater every day, as well as UV light and a well-maintained habitat.
A healthy turtle is a happy turtle, and you will enjoy your companion for many years.