Ins & Outs of the Box Turtle Diet: Veggies, Fruits, Protein & More

Give your box turtle a buffet of different foods to keep them happy and healthy.

Updated December 8, 2023
box turtle walking over gravel

Box turtles can be finicky eaters when they're in captivity, and while the rest of their care is already a bit tricky, finding the right box turtle diet often is one of the toughest parts. As challenging as it may be, finding the right box turtle food is the most important thing you can do for your pet if you want it to live a long and healthy life.

Box Turtles Are Omnivores

Box turtles are omnivores, which means that they eat just about anything (psst, we're also omnivores), including vegetables, fruits, and meat. While they can eat a wide variety of foods, they should never be fed food that they wouldn't otherwise come across in nature. This means you shouldn't feed your box turtle things like hamburgers, hot dogs, potato chips, and other foods specifically for humans. Those are processed foods, and honestly, we shouldn't be eating those things either.

Your Box Turtle's Veggies

While a box turtle can eat a wide variety of foods, fresh vegetables should make up the majority of their diet, preferably the dark, leafy variety. Good choices of vegetables for feeding your box turtle include:

  • Alfalfa hay
  • Beet tops
  • Bell peppers
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli stems and leaves (feed sparingly)
  • Carrots (shredded and not chopped)
  • Collard greens
  • Corn (feed sparingly)
  • Dandelions (stems, leaves, and flowers)
  • Green beans
  • Pea pods
  • Romaine lettuce (not iceberg)
  • Watercress
Quick Tip

Look for organic veggies and don't forget to rinse them (and your fruits) under cold water before feeding. 

Safe Fruits For Your Box Turtle

Box turtle being fed strawberry by little girl

Box turtles will also eat many types of fruits, but surprisingly, they shouldn't eat too much of them because fruits do not provide the vitamins and minerals necessary for a turtle's health and wellness. The following fruits can be added to your turtle's diet:

  • Apricots
  • Apples (no seeds)
  • Bananas
  • Blackberries
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi
  • Mangos
  • Papaya
  • Peaches
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries (feed sparingly)
  • Tomatoes (sparingly due to acidity level)

Natural Proteins to Add to The Box Turtle Diet

Box turtles need a certain amount of protein for optimal health, though it shouldn't be a major portion of their diet. Including a variety of protein sources, such as insects and lean meats, can provide the essential amino acids and nutrients they need while maintaining the dietary balance vital for their health.

The best bet is to feed your box turtle forms of protein that they would normally encounter in the wild, including:

  • Beetles
  • Caterpillars
  • Crickets
  • Earthworms
  • Grasshoppers
  • Red worms
  • Slugs
  • Snails
  • Super worms
  • Wax worms

Cooked chicken or beef heart can also be part of your box turtle's diet, but only in small quantities. Stay away from feeding your turtle raw meat, as this can raise the risk of bacterial contamination. If your turtle shows interest and tends to eat them promptly, you might occasionally add a few minnows to their water dish as a treat.

How to Feed Your Box Turtle

There's a balance you need to have to make sure your turtle has the right variety in their diet. Generally, what's recommended is 80-90% veggies and flowers, 10% fruits, and 10% commercial diet or lean proteins. This may be adjusted slightly by your veterinarian or based on your turtle's preferences. 

Commercially Prepared Foods for Box Turtles

There are many brands of commercially made dry turtle food on the market, most of which claim to be "nutritionally complete," but these should not be the only thing you feed your turtle. They can be added to your turtle's diet as a supplement to fill in any gaps, but they're not recommended as a lone food source. Before feeding your turtle dry food, soak it in warm water for about 30 minutes to soften it up. 

Need to Know

If only fed store-bought turtle food, your hard-shelled buddy could become nutrient deficient. 

Vitamin Supplements for Box Turtles

It can be very difficult to come up with a diet that meets your turtle's nutritional needs and is also one that the little guy will actually eat. Therefore, many experts agree that vitamin supplements are beneficial to most captive turtles, especially if they are kept indoors. Sprinkle a good-quality reptile multivitamin supplement on your pet's food once per week. Calcium powder should also be added to your turtle's food 2-3 times each week. 

Quick Tip

Follow supplement instructions carefully to prevent your turtle from becoming ill due to excessive supplementation.

Feeding a Box Turtle

Box turtle with small boy in classroom

In nature, a box turtle will normally retreat into their shell and wait for better feeding conditions if food isn't available. This doesn't happen in captivity. If the captive turtle isn't fed regularly, they will start to deteriorate and eventually weaken and die, so making sure they have something they prefer to eat is super important.

Here are some tips to make sure you're feeding your box turtle properly:

  • Feed your box turtle in the morning or early afternoon, as this is the time of day when they're most active and they are warm. 
  • An adult box turtle should be given meals at least three times per week, with meals every other day. Consult with your veterinarian if you're not sure about the frequency.
  • Juvenile and baby box turtles should be fed daily and given vitamin and calcium supplements at least three times a week.
  • Offer a mix of foods at each feeding and remove any leftovers after 15-20 minutes, except for live insects, which can stay as long as they don't cause issues.
  • If you have a box turtle that hibernates, you will not have to provide food during their dormant months but they should always have access to water.
Need to Know

If your turtle is shy, you can feed them in their hide-away. 

Change Your Box Turtle's Diet Regularly

Ideally, the diet for feeding your box turtle should be adjusted often. If fed the same thing day after day, the turtle will grow tired and, in many cases, will go on a hunger strike. Mix up your turtle's diet so it eats different things on different days. This will help ensure that your pet stays interested in feeding time, and it will help ensure that it's getting a proper and balanced diet.

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Ins & Outs of the Box Turtle Diet: Veggies, Fruits, Protein & More