How Long Do Box Turtles Live in Captivity?

Are you thinking about buying a pet box turtle? One of your first questions is probably how long do pet box turtles usually live?

How long do box turtles live in captivity?

Box turtles can live very long in captivity. The average box turtle in captivity lives for around 20 years. However, there have been some outliers that have lived in captivity for 30 plus years.

The key to a long life for a box turtle in captivity is to have the right box turtle enclosure.

Now your next question might be, how does this compare to box turtles in the wild?

Do turtles live longer in captivity or in the wild?

Well this is actually a tricky question. Turtles in captivity are much more likely to survive hatching and make it to adulthood. However, once both are mature adults, wild turtles have much longer life spans. 

A box turtle usually lives around 50 years in the wild. However, this is mostly new data, as the age of wild turtles used to not be completely accurate. This is because a turtle’s age was determined by counting the lines on the scutes of their shell. While this is the usual way of determining a turtle’s age, it is not 100% accurate since the number of lines on the scutes can be affected by the environment they live in. Scientists are now using digital tracking and monitoring to determine the life span of turtles in the wild.

Hatching in the wild

Unfortunately, by the numbers hatchlings in the wild don’t have great odds to survive. The majority of eggs laid by turtles die or are eaten before they even hatch. In fact, usually around 10% or less of the eggs that are laid make it to childhood. 

You should always make sure you feed your box turtle a balanced diet. Below are my favorite options for box turtle food:

Why do turtles lay so many eggs

This is why turtles lay multiple eggs, as laying more eggs increases the odds of a couple turtles surviving hatching. For example, loggerhead sea turtles lay up to 120 eggs at a time.

After hatching

If a turtle is able to survive hatching, they usually have a long life expectancy. As we mentioned earlier, a box turtle usually lives around 50 years in the wild. 

Why do turtles live longer in the wild?

There are many reasons why turtles live longer in the wild. Below are the main reasons.


A huge problem when it comes to pet turtles is maintaining their tank hygiene. While turtles are hardy animals, they still require a relatively clean tank. When owners get lazy and regularly ignore cleaning, it puts the turtle’s life at risk. Since a turtle is stuck in their tank environment, they are forced to withstand whatever conditions are present in the tank. Even a small increase in chlorine or fungus in a tank can kill a turtle in a couple days. This is the main difference between captive and wild turtles, as wild turtles have the ability to leave unsafe conditions and search for a healthier environment. 


One of the main causes of death for pet turtles is obesity. This is because many turtle owners overfeed their turtles.  It is a very common mistake, as many people can’t turn down a begging turtle. But they key to remember is that turtles are opportunistic eaters, meaning they will always try to get food whether they are hungry or full. I recommend checking out this turtle feeding guide on how much to feed your pet if you are interested.


Last of all, while we can try our best to simulate their natural environment, a turtle living in a tank is unnatural. There are many small things that are impossible to provide for a turtle in captivity. One of the main things is natural sunlight, as turtle owners usually have to resort to buying a uv light. This makes the process of basking harder for turtles in captivity. Additionally, turtles in a tank are unable to interact with other turtles, which can affect their mental state. 

Do turtles live longer in captivity?

While a turtle usually lives longer in the wild, there are many conditions and circumstances that make a turtle safer in captivity. Some of these include:

Absence of predators

One of the main causes of death of turtles in the wild is from predation. While turtles do have a strong shell protecting most of their body, they are still subject to predators such as alligators, foxes, and racoons. Aside from animals, there are other external threats to a turtle that is living in the wild. For example, one of the main causes of deaths for land turtles in the wild is death by automobile. Obviously, a turtle in captivity does not have to worry about these threats. 

Consistent food

While turtles in the wild are usually able to gather enough food, this is not always the case. Even though turtles can slow down their metabolism to where they barely need any food, turtles can still go hungry. This is common when there is a change to their environment such as weather or pollution. A turtle in captivity never has to worry about getting enough food. 


One of the main advantages that a captive turtle has over a wild turtle is constant temperature. Turtles that live in the wild are subject to the changing of seasons, and even the random day to day changes. Turtles that live in a tank are able to enjoy consistent temperature year around. This is possible because turtle owners can monitor the temperature with thermometers, and increase the temperature if needed with water heaters and lights. 


Another main cause of death for turtles in the wild is human trash. Even small items such as a plastic bag or candy rapper can kill a turtle if consumed. Luckily, this is something that a turtle in captivity doesn’t have to worry about. 


Last of all, a turtle in captivity has access to a vet. This is one of the biggest advantages for turtles that live in captivity. A vet can assess the illness of a turtle, and prescribe the proper medication if needed. Obviously, turtles living in the wild do not have this luxury.

Check out this article to see how long do red eared sliders live.

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