The Box Turtle, also known as the Box Tortoise has become a popular pet over the last several years. These little creatures are everywhere!
About the Box Turtle
Box turtles are some of the most popular pet turtles not only in North America but in the rest of the world.
Some important points related to their care:
- They have a relatively small size.
- They are typically not good swimmers, so tank division is a concern.
Common Name: Box Turtle
Scientific Name: Terrapene
Size: 4 to 7 inches
Distribution: North America
Unique Feature: Boxlike shell
A lot of the popularity is due to the fact that they are pretty docile but still considered to be a wild animal. They are fascinating and independent little creatures.
There are four species of Box Turtles: the Common, Coahuilan, Spotted, and Ornate box turtle.
Acquire your new turtle responsibly.
- Find a reputable breeder or store that has turtles that have been bred in captivity. There are many problems for you and the turtle by taking one out of the wild. You could be bringing home a turtle with a disease or parasite.
- You could also cause harm to the turtle by removing it from its natural habitat or you could be bringing home a species that is near extinction.
- If you see one out in nature, enjoy watching him in his natural habitat, and let him stay at his home.
Box Turtle Physical Characteristics
So is your turtle a boy or a girl? There a few ways you can tell which gender your turtle belongs to.
- The female Box Turtles typically have yellow to brown eyes and males will typically have red or orange eyes.
- Another way to determine the sex of your turtle is to look at the turtle’s plastron (underside of the shell). Males will usually have a concave plastron and females will have a convex plastron.
Box turtles retract their legs, head, and tail to protect themselves. When they do this they also pull their top and bottom shells together to lock themselves up for safety. Their body is attached to their hard shell at multiple points although there is a gap between the two halves of the shell until they decide to lockdown.
They will retract when they feel threatened and stay that way until they feel the threat is gone. This is the primary way they protect themselves against predators. Although your turtle can also bite.
Box Turtle Natural Habitat
The natural habitat of the box turtle is relatively quite diverse, spreading over nearly the entirety of the eastern United States. This section is then further divided into four sections, each representing the four types of box turtles natural habitat.
Unlike red eared sliders, box turtles are not particularly good swimmers, so it’s unlikely that you will ever see one swimming about in a large pond or lake. Instead, they can be found in moist dirt or under leaves, in open grass fields or deciduous forests. They are also extremely fond of mud, often burying themselves in it for days or even weeks at a time.
Creating a Suitable Tank Environment
When bringing your new turtle home, it is important to make their environment as close to their wild environment as possible. This will reduce stress on the turtle and help them live longer.
If you are planning to keep your turtle inside than a decent sized tank should do the job. A larger tank would be needed if you are making the living space for multiple turtles.
You will also need a light that replaces the natural sunlight that the turtle needs.
Provide a shallow bowl (at least two inches but not much deeper) of freshwater for drinking or soaking.
Make sure the water container has a shallow area for them to enter and exit. They are not the best swimmers and you may find yours only takes a short dip while others will swim for hours. The water also helps to keep the humidity level up which is vital for your turtle
You can make a ground cover for your turtle by combining potting soil, sand, leaf mulch, and sphagnum moss. By misting this daily you will be creating the humid environment your turtle needs. Give him enough that he can dig and burrow a bit.
Some logs or something to create a bit of a hiding place will help your turtle feel more secure. Also adding a flat rock in one corner will help keep his little toenails filed. This is also the ideal place for his meal as it creates a more natural environment than a bowl and it can help keep the beak from overgrowing.
It is important to keep your turtles home clean. Freshwater should be provided daily, the bedding cleaned weekly, and the entire environment cleaned at least monthly.
Your indoor turtle may also like an outing in your yard on a warm sunny day. Transport him carefully, secure an area and watch him closely as he can move faster than you might think.
What should you feed your new turtle? Well, a Box Turtle is Omnivores and will eat almost anything. It’s Important to provide your turtle with a varied diet to ensure proper nutrition. Your turtle’s health and growth will be directly related to the type and amount of food they receive as well as the access to clean water.
Their primary diet in the wild is a mixture of invertebrates, worms, insects, vegetables, and fruits. You should try to mimic this for your turtle as much as possible. Some believe that younger turtles are more carnivorous while adult turtles are more herbivorous.
Provide your turtle a varied diet and let him gravitate to what he likes. Just make sure he has lots of options. It’s important to provide many types of food that will provide a balanced diet over time.
Also, try to not feed the same food twice in a row. Some turtles will get accustomed to a particular food, become picky eaters and this can affect their nutrition. If you find your turtle is being a bit picky try feeding bright red, yellow, and orange foods or occasionally some live food to perk up their interest. It is best to develop a regular feeding time for your turtle. They are most active in the early morning and late afternoon and these are the best times to feed them.
For recommendations for good brands of food, check this link here.
Other Things to Consider
If you are considering getting Box Turtles as pets, here are some things to keep in mind. One very important fact is that Box Turtles have a very long life span. The average life span is 50 years with some reaching 100 years old. This turtle will be part of your family for a very long time.
Turtles require regular exposure to sunlight, whether it is natural sunlight or an appropriate artificial light that can be found at most pet stores. He should get 12 -14 hours of this light daily. A lack of sunlight and a poor diet can both stunt their growth and weaken their immune system.
Also, consider what other animals are in the household. Turtles can be injured or killed by other pets such as Cats and Dogs.
Although Box Turtles can be a great pet for beginners or children since they stay relatively small. They typically only grow to between 5 – 8 inches long. However, this is not the ideal pet for younger children. Box Turtles can become overstressed by too much handling or rough handling. It’s best to enjoy watching your turtle and avoid picking him up unless needed. When you do pick him up try putting one hand under his legs to make him feel more secure.
If your turtle becomes sick, stops eating for a period of time, or becomes injured you will need to take him to a vet. However, this will usually not be the same vet that your dog or cat goes to.
You will need to find a vet that specializes in Reptile or exotic pets.
Box Turtles are sensitive when it comes to temperatures. Depending on where you live you may need to use some additional heating for the environment at night or during winter. Care also needs to be taken that he does not get too hot in his home.
Box Turtles can make a wonderful pet as long as you know how to care for them and can provide the right environment for them to be healthy and happy.
For more specific information on tanks, food, lighting and more check out this in-depth guide here.