What Do Baby Box Turtles Eat? [Complete Feeding Guide]

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Box turtles tend to be more difficult to take care of than other turtles. This is largely due to their diet. Box turtles need a lot of nutrients and minerals to be healthy. If they’re lacking in minerals, they can develop problems like metabolic bone disease.

Once you know what your turtle needs fed, it’s not hard to take care of them. Many new turtle owners aren’t sure what foods and vitamins they need to provide their turtle, and unfortunately their new pets suffer.

Baby turtles and adult turtles need basically the same foods. Baby turtles are going to eat more than their adults, however, and they prefer some foods over others.

If you’re considering purchasing a baby box turtle, or even an adult box turtle, keep reading.

What Is A Baby Box Turtle?

Box turtles are one of the most common turtles species on the eastern coast of the United States. They are often seen in the wild in marshes, along ponds and lakes, and near rivers and streams.

They are hardy, long-lived animals that can live 30-60 years both in the wild and captivity. They are a bit more difficult to care for than other turtles. Still, if cared for properly, they can make great pets for many years.

Box turtles stay on the smaller side which is why they make such popular pets. Usually, they will reach sizes of about 2-6 inches and won’t weigh more than 1.5 pounds.

Box turtles are in the family Terrapene, and some species are more commonly kept as pets than others. If you plan to keep them as a pet, these are the species you’re most likely to get:

  • Eastern Box Turtle
  • Gulf Coast Box Turtle
  • Three-Toed Box Turtle
  • Western Ornate Box Turtle

All box turtles are omnivorous, meaning that they eat both plant and animal matter. Their diet stays relatively the same in the wild as in captivity. It’s pretty easy to provide them with many of the same foods as they would eat in the wild.

Baby box turtles eat many of the same foods as the adults do, they just eat smaller amounts. We’ll go over more of that later.

Besides age, the amount of food they eat also depends on what species of box turtle they are. Some species prefer more meat than others.

What Does A Baby Box Turtle Eat In The Wild?

In North America, there are six species of box turtles found in wooded areas. What they eat depends largely on which part of the United States they live in. Still, all box turtles are omnivorous, and they eat the same basic diet:

  • Berries
  • Mushrooms
  • Grass
  • Flowers
  • Leaves
  • Snails
  • Slugs
  • Earthworms
  • Spiders
  • Grasshoppers
  • Frogs
  • Crustaceans
  • Eggs

When box turtles are younger, they tend to be more carnivorous than when they grow older. As they age, they will slowly begin to incorporate more fruits and vegetables in their diet.

Best Baby Box Turtle Food: What To Feed Baby Box Turtles

Baby box turtles are more carnivorous than their adult counterparts. They require a more specialized diet and need more protein while they grow.

Some baby box turtle owners only feed their baby’s a meat-based diet. However, we recommend getting some veggies and fruits in their diet as well. They may ignore the plant-based foods when you offer them, and that’s okay.

It’s still a good idea to offer them because they offer great nutrients. It also gives you a chance to introduce the foods before they become adults so they’ll become used to seeing them.

Eastern Box Turtle
Eastern Box Turtle

What Is A Healthy Baby Box Turtle Diet?

In captivity, box turtles still prefer the same diet they would get in the wild. It is understandable, however, that you may not want to catch wild bugs for them, and you shouldn’t. Anything wild should be avoided because it may contain pesticides or disease.

Fortunately, many bugs are available for purchase at your local pet store. Insects that are widely available include slugs, snails, mealworms, earthworms, caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, and pinky mice.

If you feed them insects, it’s important to dust the insects with calcium carbonate, lactate, or gluconate.

Baby box turtles are more carnivorous when they’re young. As they age, they become more omnivorous, and you should make sure they’re receiving a good variety

The majority of their diet should be made up of animal matter. About 60% of their diet. About 30% of their diet should be made up of vegetables. The remainder can be made up of fruit.

You want to include more vegetables than fruit because they’re more nutritious. Box turtles prefer fruit, so if you give them too much, they might ignore their veggies.

While box turtles can eat a variety of vegetables, you should provide them with mostly leafy greens. Leafy greens like lettuce and spinach have more nutrients than other vegetables.

They love protein-packed eggs, and those can easily be bought at your local grocery store. You’ll likely only need to feed them a small portion of the egg unless you have multiple turtles. Also, it’ll be helpful for them if you cut the egg into pieces.

It’s easy to substitute their diet of natural fruits and greens with things you can get in the grocery store.

Rather than grass and leaves, you can feed your box turtle vegetables like broccoli, carrots, squash, mushrooms, green beans, and leafy lettuce and spinach. Although broccoli can be problematic. Read more here about broccoli and box turtles.

Fruits that you can buy from the store include raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, cantaloupe, papaya, and apples.

One thing to keep in mind when your feeding your box turtles is that their mouths are tiny. This is especially true for babies. Make sure to finely mince the fruit and veggies before feeding them to your turtles.

What Can Box Turtles Not Eat?

If you’re wondering what you can’t feed your box turtles, just ask yourself, “can this be found in the wild?” A good rule of thumb is that, if something is not found in the wild, you shouldn’t feed it to your turtle. There are some exceptions, of course.

Here is a list of foods you shouldn’t feed your turtles. Some of these go without saying, but we will include them anyway.

  • Bread
  • Baked Goods
  • Candy
  • Dairy Products
  • Poison Ivy (TOXIC)
  • Tobacco Plants (TOXIC)
  • Cat Food
    • Cats are strictly carnivores, while turtles are omnivores
    • Cats food is too high in protein, fat, and Vitamin D
    • Dog food in moderation is fine
  • Potato Leaves (TOXIC)
  • Rhubarb (TOXIC)
  • Tomato Leaves (TOXIC)
  • Avocado Plants (TOXIC)
  • Processed Foods
    • lunch meat, sausage, canned foods
SafeNot SafeTOXIC
Eggs
Carrots
Squash
Mushroom
Green Beans
Lettuce
Spinach
Poison Ivy
Tobacco Plants
Potato Leaves
Tomato Leaves
Avocado Plants
Raspberries
Blueberries
Strawberries
Grapes
Cantaloupe
Papaya
Apples
Rhubarb
Slugs
Snails
Mealworms
Eathworms
Caterpillars
Beetles
Grasshoppers
Crickets
Pinky Mice
Cat Food
Dog Food
Bread
Baked Goods
Candy
Dairy Products
Processed Foods
What Can Box Turtles Eat?

How To Feed A Baby Box Turtle

Feeding a baby box turtle can be a frustrating process because they tend to be quite picky. Although they need vegetables and fruits in their diet, they will often reject them. Instead, they focus on meaty and protein-based foods.

This is okay for awhile, but eventually they’ll need the nutrients from vegetables and fruits. Even if they continue to ignore them, keep including fruits and veggies in their food dish. Eventually they’ll warm up to them and begin to eat.

As with adults, make sure you include more veggies than fruits in your baby turtle’s diet.

How Often Should You Feed A Baby Box Turtle?

Box turtles love to eat, so you want to make sure that you don’t overfeed them. It’s best to only feed them once every other day. To keep them full and happy, you can feed them small snacks in between days.

This recommendation also changes with the age of your turtle and the time of year. Box turtles go into hibernation during the winter.

If your turtles live inside, they might not hibernate, but they’re still going to slow down. Rather than wasting food, you can decrease their feedings. Simply observe how much your turtles are eating at the time and decrease it to that amount.

Box turtles grow rapidly during the first five years of their life, so they’re going to need more food than when they reach sexual maturity. After five years of age, box turtles are still likely to grow, but they’ll do so much slower.

Baby box turtles need more nutrition than adults and they are pickier. They should be fed every day.

How Much Should You Feed A Baby Box Turtle?

Baby box turtles need more food than adults because they are growing and need nutrition. While adults should only be fed every other day, babies should be fed every single day.

Still, you should avoid overfeeding, and you can do that in a few ways.

One of the easiest ways is to provide a dish of food to your turtle and give them 15 minutes to eat it. Whatever they haven’t eaten in 15 minutes should be removed and saved for later.

Another foolproof method for feeding your turtles is the “head method”. Simply imagine how much food could possibly fit inside your turtle’s head if it were hollow. This is how much you should feed them every day.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Your Baby Box Turtle Need Vitamins And Supplements?

Vitamins and minerals are very important in any turtle’s diet, and box turtles are no exception.

Some common mistakes among new reptile owners is not feeding your turtle enough or too much Vitamin A. They also may be lacking in calcium.

Vitamin A is an important vitamin in your turtle’s diet. If they don’t have enough, it can cause your turtle to become malnourished, and they can become underweight. A good way to prevent this is feeding them Vitamin A rich foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, and spinach.

Calcium is a very important supplement to include in your turtle’s diet. They need it to keep their shells healthy. Although they need meat in their diet, worms can deplete a turtle’s calcium sources. If you feed them worms, you should sprinkle calcium supplements over them first.

Even if you don’t want to feed them worms, supplementing their vegetables with a calcium supplement is always beneficial.

You don’t need to include calcium supplements every single day, providing it every 2-3 days is enough.

A multivitamin made specifically for reptiles is great for turtles, but you should only provide them about once a week. Be careful not to over supplement your turtles though, because over supplementing can cause just as many problems as not supplementing them enough.

Particularly if a multivitamin contains vitamin D3, turtles shouldn’t get it more than once a week. In large amounts, it can be toxic.

Can Box Turtles Eat Bananas?

Box turtles can definitely eat bananas. However, they tend to not like them as much as other fruits.

Can Box Turtles Eat Apples?

Yes, box turtles can eat apples. Like the bananas though, they may not like them as much as berries and other fruit.

Can Box Turtles Eat Potatoes?

Potatoes and sweet potatoes are a good staple in your turtles diet. Just be careful to never feed them the leaves as they are toxic.

Can Box Turtles Eat Carrots?

Carrots are a great source of calcium and vitamin K in box turtles. They should regularly be fed carrots.

What Fruits Can Box Turtles Eat?

Fruits are very important in a box turtle’s diet, but they should be fed sparingly. Only about 10% of a turtle’s diet should consist of fruits. You’ll want to feed them more vegetables than fruits.

Vegetables contain more essential nutrients, but turtles tend to ignore vegetables when there’s too many fruits.

Conclusion

Baby box turtles need a variety of specific foods just like their adult counterparts.

Feeding baby box turtles and adult box turtles is very similar, but baby’s need more protein. They also need more food overall and should be fed every day.

Having a variety of animal products combined with fruits and veggies will keep your new box turtle happy and healthy for years.

Want to know more? Click here to read whether your box turtle needs water and here to read whether they can eat tomatoes. You can find all our turtle guides here as well as a guide to what baby turtles eat in general here.

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Jason Williamson

By Jason Williamson

Jason is a huge animal lover with many pets of his own. He loves sharing all his knowledge of all creatures here and learning more whenever he can.