Box Turtle Care 101: A Pet Parent’s Handbook [2023]

Are you ready to discover one of Earth’s most fascinating and unique creatures?

Meet the box turtle!

These incredible creatures are not only stunning to look at, but they’re also incredibly intelligent, with some people believing they can even think like humans.

But as with any animal, box turtles require proper care to stay healthy and happy.

The good news is that their basic needs are easy to meet and not too expensive.

By caring for your box turtle, you can help ensure it lives a long and healthy life while also doing your part to protect its habitats from threats like pollution, poaching, and habitat destruction.

Whether you’re considering getting a box turtle or already have one, we’ve got you covered.

Stick around for all the information you need to become a pro at caring for these amazing creatures.


Eastern Box turtle
Eastern Box turtle

A box turtle is a small, terrestrial turtle with a shell with a hinged upper section and all four feet on the bottom.

They are omnivorous, eating vegetation and invertebrates like insects, snails, and worms.

Box turtles have existed for millions of years – Europeans first discovered them in North America in the 1600s.

Today there are six recognized species from North America to Asia:

  • Eastern Box Turtle
  • Gulf Coast Box Turtle
  • Ornate Box Turtle
  • Chinese Red-footed Tortoise
  • Black Wood Tortoise
  • Burmese Star Tortoise

Choosing the Appropriate Enclosure for Box Turtles

A box turtle enclosure should be large enough to allow your pet to move freely but not so big that he can escape.

The minimum size of an indoor enclosure is 12 square feet, while outdoor enclosures should measure at least 2 feet by 4 feet.

A heated and humidified environment is essential for a box turtle’s health and well-being since they are native to arid environments where humidity levels are low year-round.

In addition to providing heat through lamps or other methods (such as placing them near windows), you should also mist the enclosure once daily during spring through fall when outdoor temperatures reach above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Note: This will help maintain proper humidity levels in your pet’s habitat.

Type of substrate, humidity, and temperature needed

To provide a suitable substrate, you should choose something organic and non-toxic.

The box turtle will eat some of this substrate, so it mustn’t have any chemicals or toxins.

You also want to make sure your substrate is easy to clean.

The less time spent cleaning up after a pet turtle means more time for play!

The best material for this purpose is sand or soil from the outside because these are natural materials with no harmful chemicals added during manufacturing.

Avoid using gravel as a substrate because its shells are too abrasive.

Instead, try something like coconut fiber bedding (available at most pet stores), which has been shown not to harm turtles but help them grow faster by providing extra nutrition through its high fiber content!

If you decide against using organic materials, make sure whatever brand/type chosen does not contain harmful additives before using them on your pets’ enclosure(s).

Importance of outdoor and indoor space for box turtles

You’ll want to give your turtle plenty of space to move around.

A good rule of thumb is that they need a minimum of 10 gallons per inch of shell length, so if you have a 4″ box turtle, you’ll want at least 40 gallons.

They also need an indoor tank large enough to feel secure (at least 30 gallons) because they will use it as a refuge if they feel threatened by anything outside their habitat or when hibernating.

The substrate should be sand or gravel with enough depth so they can bury themselves if necessary.

You can also place rocks around the perimeter to protect from predators and threats like overheating during summer.

However, ensure none are sharp enough so as not to cause injury during digging activities!

Also, ensure there aren’t any pieces sticking above ground level because these could cause harm too!

Box Turtles Diet

Box turtles are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. A box turtle’s diet should consist of the following:

  • Insects (e.g., crickets)
  • Worms
  • Other invertebrates, such as snails, slugs, and earthworms
  • Fruits and vegetables (e.g., greens like kale)

The ideal ratio of protein, vegetables, and fruits

The perfect ratio of protein, vegetables, and fruits for your box turtle is as follows:

  • Protein should be the primary component of its diet.
  • Vegetables should be the second component of its diet.
  • Fruit should be the least essential component of its diet (only if you’re willing to give up something else).

Specific Foods You Should Avoid

You should never feed your box turtle any fruit or vegetable not listed in the diet guidelines. This includes:

  • Fruits (e.g., apples, oranges)
  • Vegetables (e.g., carrots, spinach)

You can mix small amounts of unsalted nuts (walnuts, pecans) to give your pet an extra flavor. However, these should not exceed 10% of their daily food intake.

Water needs of box turtles

Box turtles can get their water requirements from food but still need to drink.

Therefore, a shallow dish of fresh water should always be available.

The depth of this dish depends on how much your box turtle drinks.

If you notice that your turtle is regularly drinking and is not dehydrated, it’s safe to say it doesn’t need a deep water bowl for soaking.

Box turtles don’t need bathing as often as other reptiles because they have leathery skin that helps keep them hydrated and cool when out in the sun or under high temperatures.

However, if your pet becomes dirty (from eating something messy), you can gently wash its underside with warm water and soap once or twice weekly.

If necessary, make sure not to leave any soap residue behind!

Appropriate water dish size and placement

When choosing a water dish, it’s important to remember that turtles are opportunistic and will drink from any source they can find.

Therefore, the water dish should be shallow so that the turtle doesn’t accidentally drown in it;

However, it should also be large enough to submerge your box turtle.

If you have multiple box turtles living together or one is smaller than another (for example, an adolescent), you’ll want to ensure they all have access to fresh water by placing multiple dishes throughout their enclosure.

The placement of your turtle’s water bowl is also essential: place it low enough on the ground to quickly get into and out of any risk of falling into its pooling urine/excreta!

Also, try not to put anything else near this area.

It’s best if nothing else blocks access between where you’ve placed your box turtle’s food dish(es) and where they drink from regularly (which should never change).

How to ensure proper hydration for box turtles?

You should provide a shallow water dish with fresh water.

Box turtles are more prone to dehydration than others, so they must drink regularly.

You should change the water every few days, or at least once a week, if you notice it becoming cloudy or smelly (which can happen if you’ve had the same bowl for too long).

Common Health Issues in Box Turtles

Box turtle
Box turtle

Box turtles are susceptible to a wide variety of health issues.

The most common include respiratory infections, skin infections, and eye infections.

The turtle’s shell may also become infected with bacteria or fungus, leading to shell rot.

The box turtle’s digestive system is also vulnerable to parasites such as roundworms and protozoans (like Giardia).

How to prevent and detect health issues?

You can help prevent health issues by providing a clean environment, giving your box turtle plenty of time to exercise, and providing a balanced diet.

If you notice any changes in your pet’s behavior or appetite, take it to the vet as soon as possible.

Importance of taking box turtles to a veterinarian

You should take your box turtle to the veterinarian if:

  • You have noticed unusual symptoms in your turtle, such as excessive sneezing or coughing.
  • The skin around its mouth is swollen or inflamed.
  • It has difficulty moving around and seems to be in pain when touching it.

How to properly handle box turtles?

  • Be gentle. Box turtles are very fragile, so you should always use two hands to handle them. Never pick up a box turtle by its shell–this can damage the animal’s spine and cause it to become paralyzed.
  • Avoid sudden movements and loud noises around your pet, as these may frighten them (and you don’t want to give them any reason for being afraid).
  • Do not pick up your pet if they are out of its enclosure; wait until he returns on his own accord before attempting to pick him up again!

The ideal frequency of interaction with box turtles

  • Box turtles are not social creatures. They do not need to be handled or played with, and it’s better for the turtle if you interact with them as little as possible.
  • If you have a box turtle, the best way to interact with that animal is by letting it come to you when it wants attention rather than forcing an interaction on them by picking them up or holding them down against its will.

If your box turtle does decide he wants some time out of his enclosure for some reason (like if he’s sick), then by all means, let him roam around freely within his enclosure space!

Just make sure there aren’t any hazards nearby, like sharp objects or hot surfaces, before letting him loose.

Otherwise, they might find another way out of their cage later on down the road- and then we’ll have more problems than just one escaped pet!

How to encourage natural behaviors in box turtles?

Box turtles are naturally curious creatures and should be allowed to explore their environment.

In addition, box turtles enjoy basking in the sun and hiding under logs or rocks, so providing them with these opportunities is essential.

Box turtle enclosures should also be kept at a temperature that would be comfortable for people, around 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 65 degrees Fahrenheit at night (or even cooler if you live in an area where it gets freezing).

If you keep your box turtle indoors, ensure no drafts are coming from open doors or windows; this can cause stress for your pet!

Importance of Protecting and Conserving Box Turtles

Some species of box turtles are endangered, and protecting them is crucial.

Here are some ways you can contribute to their conservation:

  • Don’t collect wild box turtles for your collection or as pets. These gods’ creatures should be left in the wild where they belong.
  • If you find a sick or injured box turtle, contact a wildlife rehabilitator who can help care for it until it recovers enough to return home safely.

What are Some threats to box turtles and their habitats?

Box turtles are threatened by habitat loss due to development, pollution, and poaching.

Habitat loss significantly threatens box turtles because their natural habitats are alarmingly destroyed.

Box turtles also face several other threats attributed to human activities, such as pesticides and herbicides on crops, which can kill them if they eat the plants sprayed with these chemicals.

How to contribute to box turtle conservation efforts?

Eastern Box turtle
Eastern Box turtle

It’s deeply concerning to know that the eastern box turtle, a species that has been a part of our natural world for centuries, is not considered endangered on a national level.

As a lover of these remarkable creatures, this news is disheartening to say the least.

It’s especially distressing to learn that in states such as Michigan, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, the box turtle is considered a species of special concern.

In Maine, the situation is even worse, with the turtle being listed as endangered.

This is a clear indication that we need to act fast to protect these beautiful creatures from the perils of habitat loss, traffic accidents, and illegal pet trade.

It’s our responsibility to ensure that the eastern box turtle is not just preserved, but also thrives for generations to come.

But how can you help?

You can also help to contribute to box turtle conservation efforts by donating or volunteering at a box turtle conservation organization.

It’s important to note that many people purchase exotic pets without realizing their impact on their environment, so be sure not to be one of them!


In conclusion, taking care of a box turtle may seem like a big responsibility, but with the right approach and a little bit of love, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

Following our shared guide, you can create a safe and comfortable environment for your shelled friend to thrive in.

So what are you waiting for?

Get out there and show your box turtle the care and attention it deserves – you won’t be disappointed!

Leave a Comment

error: Content is protected !!