Are blueberries an acceptable addition to your box turtle’s diet?
What should your box turtle be fed daily?
Feeding your turtle a variety of fruits and vegetables is beneficial to its health, but what fruits and vegetables in specific are best?
Many people bringing home a box turtle for the first time will have questions such as these.
To know the effects of feeding your box turtle fresh fruits such as blueberries, we must first understand a box turtle’s proper diet.
Can Box Turtles Eat Blueberries?
Box turtle diets need to have a wide variety of proteins, fruits, leafy greens, and vegetables. Blueberries are a good fruit to feed your turtle in moderation. Blueberries have a 1:2 calcium (Ca) to phosphorus (P) ratio, and the ideal Ca:P ratio for a box turtle is 2:1.
Now we have clarified blueberries are, in fact, safe for pet box turtles to eat, let’s dive into why these berries need to be fed in moderation.
An adult box turtle’s diet should consist of approximately 50% protein, 30% vegetables, 10% leafy greens, and 10% fruits.
Since fruits should make up about 10% of a box turtle diet, they should only be provided as a treat or for dessert.
The calcium to phosphorus ratio of food is a critical nutrition factor for a box turtle.
Ideally, box turtle food should have twice as much calcium as it does phosphorus.
Although blueberries are safe for your turtle friend to eat, these berries have the opposite Ca:P ratio of what is recommended.
This type of food should be paired with other food items which contain a high amount of calcium.
Nutrition Facts of Blueberries
The following table outlines the nutrients found in 100g (0.5 cups) of blueberries.
|Total Carbohydrate||14 g|
|Dietary Fiber||2.4 g|
|Vitamin A||0.0162 mg|
|Vitamin C||9.7 mg|
The lower portion of the table above provides the various vitamins and minerals found in a blueberry.
The last two rows show those mentioned above Ca:P ratio is 6mg:12mg or a 1:2 ratio.
Since owners are only meant to provide fruits to this turtle species in small amounts, the low ratios are not overly concerned.
As long as your reptile is receiving a high amount of calcium from other food sources or calcium supplements, its health will not suffer from consuming this type of fruit.
Why Is Calcium Important?
Box turtles require a high amount of calcium in their diet for them to grow and maintain a healthy shell.
Feeding your turtle a variety of foods high in this nutrient will help with the absorption of calcium.
If your pet turtle’s diet lacks calcium, the turtle’s body will attempt to balance out its levels by taking calcium from its bones and shell.
This can lead to various health issues, including metabolic bone disease (MBD).
This vital mineral is found in a variety of plants, including fresh vegetables and dark leafy greens.
Since pet turtles do not have the same freedom to roam and forage for food as wild turtles do, it may be harder to ensure the turtle has a balanced diet.
An excellent way of avoiding nutrient deficiencies in pet box turtles is adding a multivitamin-mineral powder to low-nutrient foods.
For instance, when feeding your turtle a blueberry, sprinkle calcium powder on the fresh fruit.
To maintain a healthy ratio of calcium, be sure this supplement is free from phosphorus.
The diet of baby turtles is generally very high in protein, indicating its likely lack of calcium.
Since the turtle’s bones, spines, and shell are growing most in this life stage, it is imperative to add a phosphorus-free calcium powder to its meals.
As for adult turtles, well-balanced reptile calcium and multivitamin supplement should be added to meals several times per week.
Box Turtle Healthy Diet
If you are a first-time box turtle owner, make sure any questions you have regarding your pet’s diet be answered to keep your turtle at optimum health.
A varied diet high in nutrients is essential for this reptile.
Omnivores consume both plants and animals as food sources.
Since box turtles are omnivorous, it is essential to ensure these turtles are provided with appropriate servings of insects and vegetation.
Sources of Protein
Insects are an excellent protein source and, along with other animal-based protein sources, should make up approximately 50% of box turtle diets.
Wild box turtles often eat grasshoppers, crickets, slugs, snails, earthworms, wax worms, super worms, and mealworms.
It is not recommended to catch wild insects to feed to your turtle since this increases insecticides’ chance of entering its system.
However, if your box turtle lives outside rather than indoors, it will likely catch insects on its own.
Since many humans consume meat, some owners have questions about feeding their turtle foods like chicken and beef.
Cooked meats are safe to feed your turtle.
It may even enjoy ripping the meats with its beak.
However, veterinarians strongly advise against feeding your turtle raw meats.
Types of Vegetables
Since vegetables make up approximately 30% of a box turtle’s diet, you should feed them a large variety of plant matter.
Fresh vegetables are ideal, but you may need to steam or grate some vegetables if they appear too tough for your turtle to eat.
Regularly used vegetables include winter squash, summer squash, okra, green beans, grated carrots, and peas in the pod.
Broccoli, bok choy, and mushrooms are also common foods for these turtles.
Dark Leafy Greens
To ensure a box turtle eats enough vital nutrients, around 10% of its total diet should consist of dark leafy greens.
Some examples of these greens include collard greens, mustard greens, escarole, dandelion greens, and endive.
Spinach, beet greens, and swiss chard should be limited or completely excluded from your turtle’s diet.
These greens contain oxalates, which bind to calcium and other trace minerals, preventing the turtle from absorbing these minerals.
Types of Fruits
The final 10% of a box turtle’s diet should consist of a variety of fresh fruits.
Beneficial fruits include papayas, strawberries, blueberries, kiwis, bananas, oranges, and figs.
Papayas and figs have an excellent Ca:P ratio, making them good choices for your turtle’s dessert.
Blueberries are a safe food for box turtles and safe to feed to them in moderation.
When varying your box turtle’s diet, the most crucial aspect to keep in mind is the calcium to phosphorus ratio of their food.
If you decide to feed your box turtle a blueberry or two as a snack or for dessert, consider sprinkling a phosphorus-free calcium supplement onto them first.
After all, you want your turtle to grow to be a healthy and robust reptile.