Box and wood turtles are well-known for both their suitability as pets and the unusual degree of intelligence that they display. Unfortunately, they often put their brain power to use in thwarting their owners’ efforts to provide them with a balanced diet. More so than most other species, box turtles (and, to a lesser degree, wood turtles) very often become fixated upon certain foods, and can be very stubborn about switching. As a result, they sometimes end up living on inappropriate diets composed of 1 or 2 favored items, such as strawberries and cooked chicken.
Prepared Box Turtle Diets
Prepared foods formulated specifically for box turtles, supplemented with a variety of natural foods, provide the best means of assuring that captive box turtles are consuming a balanced, nutritious diet. Zoo Med’s Canned or Pelleted Box Turtle Food, or Bug Company’s Box Turtle Pellets should form the bulk of your pet’s diet. Taste is a big factor with box turtles, and each of these foods has a different fruit-base and taste, so be sure to experiment a bit.
Tricking Your Turtle
Keeping turtles a bit hungry is useful when attempting substitutions, but most captives carry plenty of reserve fat and so can usually wait out their owners. There are a few tricks that can be used to increase the palatability of prepared box turtle diets.
Especially effective is spreading blueberry or strawberry jelly over the prepared diet. The fruits themselves can also be used, but turtles tend to be very good at picking out only what they want and leaving the rest…covering the food with jelly forces the turtle to consume everything.
Canned Snails and Insects
Canned insects and invertebrates offer an excellent means of increasing dietary variety while adding to the attractiveness of commercial turtle foods. We’ll take a look at using canned and live invertebrates, as well as the importance of fruits and vegetables, in Part II of this article.
Please see my article Providing a Balanced Diet to Reptile and Amphibian Pets for further information on reptile and amphibian nutrition.