Box turtles are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals.
They’re also opportunistic eaters in the wild, meaning they eat what they can find. This includes beetles, spiders, seeds, fungi and mosses. It just depends on what is seasonally available in their home range. This gives them a very varied diet.
You will need to provide your pet turtle with a similar variety, but you don’t need to run out and buy any special foods, although there is now quite a variety of prepared turtle food available on the market. For the most part, you can provide all the variety they need with the same foods you buy for yourself, along with a little foraging in the yard.
Types of Foods for Box Turtles
In general, the box turtle diet should be about 50% animal matter (meat), 40% plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, leaves) and 10% fungi (mushrooms). You can feed them a “salad” of items mixed in this ratio or offer different foods at each meal so that the overall diet equals roughly these ratios.
Baby turtles need more meat than adult turtles. Try to feed them about 75% animal matter.
It’s important to choose different meats and greens for each meal, too. Otherwise your turtle could turn into a picky eater. Some turtles will start to refuse anything other than their “favorites” if that’s all you feed them. Others will get bored with the same foods and just stop eating. Keeping him guessing as to what his next meal will be is the best way to avoid both situations.
One more thing to consider is the calcium (Ca) to phosphorus (P) ratio of the food. Too much phosphorus can cause health problems in box turtles. It’s not entirely clear exactly what ratio is best, but the consensus seems to be that sticking mostly with foods with a ratio of at least 2 (twice as much calcium as phosphorus) is best. Some sources suggest a ratio of 1:1 (equal amounts calcium and phosphorus). You don’t have to completely avoid foods with lower ratios, just use them as occasional treats rather than regular feedings.
Ca:P ratios for commonly fed fruits and vegetables (it’s near the bottom of the page).has a list of
How Often to Feed Your Box Turtle
Adult turtles in good health can get by with eating about twice a week. More than that and they can become overweight, which isn’t any more healthy for a turtle than for a human. Sick or underweight turtles may need food more often.
Young turtles, up to about three years, may eat three to four times a week.
Calcium Supplements for Box Turtles
Calcium is very important for your turtle’s health. Add calcium powder to meals weekly. If your turtles are housed inside, use a supplement that also contains vitamin D3 to help them use the calcium. Turtles can overdose on D3, so don’t use it more than once a week, and don’t give too much. A piece of cuttlebone gives them easy access to calcium and helps keep their beak trimmed, too.
Since box turtles do eat such a varied diet, it’s hard to mess up feeding them as long as you:
- Give them different foods at each feeding
- Make sure that overall about half the diet is animal matter
- Limit certain foods like spinach and broccoli
Also, although box turtles can eat almost anything, including some poisonous mushrooms, it’s best to avoid letting them eat toxic plants.