The Best Greens for Your Turtle

Dark green veggies are important, especially for certain varieties of turtle. Wood and box turtles are a couple of examples of those that require some vitamin-rich roughage. How can you make sure that your turtle is getting enough calcium without taking in too much phosphorous? Here are some examples.

Maintaining the 2-to-1 Ratio

The optimal ratio for most pets is having twice as much calcium as phosphorus. That makes endives and radicchio two of your best options. Both are in the 1.9–2.1–to–1 range. A spring mix can also be beneficial since most will contain endives and chicory, which is also in the right range. While romaine is high in phosphorus, leaf lettuce is high in calcium, so they will even out in the blend. Kale is another good option, but be careful of the high-oxalate level.

What Are Oxalates?

Oxalates are an organic acid that binds calcium molecules. If you’ve ever had a kidney stone, it was likely the calcium-oxalate variety. While it is obviously bad to combine too much of these two elements, some oxalates are vital. One way to add oxalates to your turtle’s diet is with kale. Noted above for its calcium ratio, kale is also high in oxalates, so use it a little more sparingly. Mustard greens, watercress, dandelion greens, and escarole are also acceptable. You can use parsley on occasion. Parsley has a great calcium-to-phosphorus ratio but is a little higher in oxalates.

Foods like spinach, beet greens, and Swiss chard are very high in oxalates. They have 7–10 times the amount of some of the greens noted above. That means these greens should only be used occasionally, if at all.

For Picky Eaters

If your turtle isn’t into salad, you may have to get creative. Don’t feed your turtle junk just because it won’t go for the good stuff. Try putting a few mealworms on the salad to get your turtle’s attention. Or you can sparingly use some fresh berries like strawberries or raspberries; most red fruits are okay.

Is It Enough Calcium for Your Turtle?

Even if you can get your turtle to eat some salad, it may not be the right amount of calcium. Powdered supplements are available that you can sprinkle on your turtle’s meal a couple of times per week.