Box Turtle Care Sheet

CourtneyG

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This was typed up with the intent for the care of Eastern Box Turtles with them being the primary box turtle I have had the experience of working with over the years. Box Turtles all have enough similarities that this guide will cover them. This is just meant to set up a frame work on how to take care of a Box Turtle, you your self will have to adjust to your own animal’s specific needs.

Indoor Housing

Box Turtles can be kept in many types of containers, tubs, glass tanks with the bottom half “blacked out”, which means they cannot see through the glass or over the border, kiddie pools, or a converted book shelf. Box Turtles are used to having large areas to walk around in, so a nice sized container for an adult is necessary, a hatchling can have something smaller, and the enclosure upgrades with their growth. Enclosures need to be deep enough that the boxy has soil to dig around and hide in, and they cannot escape. boxies need both a dry side and wet side. The wet side should be misted on a daily base to help keep humidity up. Babies should be kept inside primarly for a few years of their life, once they have reached a good 3 or so inches you can start to keep them outside more, any habitat that they are given for outside should have a nice chicken wire top so they are not predated on by larger animals.

Hides should be put in the enclosure for the boxie to go in when they want to, I have only one on the cool dry side of my tank since the wet warm side is cover in a deep layer of sphagnum moss that mine loves to hide in.

Lighting/Humidity should provide ample heat and proper light waves, I prefer the Mercury Vapor Bulbs, 100watt is what I have, they provide both the necessary light waves, and the right temps for the basking spot and over all tank temps. I keep my lamp about 6 or so inches from the substrate over the sphagnum moss on the wet side of my tank, it helps keep the humidity nice and high(preferably in the 65%-80% range). My little boxie climbs on top of her sphagnum moss when she wants to bask, and then hides herself underneath when she wants to be warm but not hot. Warm side should be in the 80F, basking about 100F, cool side needs to be in the 70F.

Substrate should be a mix of top soil, peat moss, and mulch. Focus the mulch more on the dry side, but still put some on the wet side for a bit of roughage to the wet side. Sphagnum moss on the wet side helps keep that side wet and it also provides a nice area for the boxie to hide in when they want to. Substrate should be changed out at least once a month, and the sphagnum can be baked in the oven to help re-sterilize it.

Fun Note you can mix worms in the substrate to provide entertainment for your little boxie and extra food.

Outdoor Housing

Should be a nice sized enclosure as well that again has a high enough wall that the boxie cannot escape from. If you are not doing a closed bottom outside enclosure you will have to dig down into the ground for a few inches and put a wall to prevent them from digging out and under. You can use kiddie pools, custom made outdoor wooden enclosures, a brick wall, ect the internet if full of wonderful examples on what you can do with your budget. The one at my Ecology preserve is a wooden box that is half buried into the ground with a chicken wire top.

Feeding

Boxies need a nice mixed diet of greens and protein. To much protein can cause shell and muscle problems later down the road, so it needs to be nicely mixed. Mine get feed spring green mix every day and insects (worms, crickets, wax/meal worms) every other day, fish and gastropods(snail, slugs) also make a nice source of protein, fruit on occasion (seeds removed). About once to three times a week I like to mix up a mush of Mazurie tortoise food, Zoomed Grassland tortoise food, and T-Rex Box Turtle dry pellets, this gives them extra protein, fruit, and some calcium. Food should be dusted at least once a week with a calcium powder. Food should be put on a terracotta dish to help trim the beak, mine have their in a zoomed food bowl, the whole leaves and eating the rough insects help keep the beak trim. Food bowls should be removed when they have finished eating their food to prevent a mess, you can put the bowl back with some greens if they wish to eat again later, mine eats once a day, but this will vary from turtle to turtle.

Water

Baby boxies can dry out real quick, so they always need a source of clean drinking water. A big, shallow water bowl with clean water should always be provided. Adults also need clean water as well. A warm soak once to twice a week also does not hurt, can let you have the chance to observe the health of your animal. Bowls of clean water should be provided for both outside and inside, big enough for a soak. Mine always soaks herself in her bowl every day, so I have to clean it out daily.

Health

Babies can be very difficult to get them to eat a proper diet, so they must always be watched that they are eating correctly. Dehydration is also an issue with these guys. Their nails also grow very quickly, if they do not like to dig, or do not dig enough, the nails will have to be trimmed. This is a two person job, take a nail clipper and while someone holds the foot of the boxie, gently clip the tip of the nail off, try not to take to much off since their nails are dark and the quick (the vein that runs down the nail) can be hard to see. If your boxie is ever sick move them to a hospital tank, a very warm tank(ambient temp should never drop below 82F) in a quiet room, keep humidity up for boxies. Provide more info on what ails your boxie here on the forum for more help, but this is the basic start to getting them healthy again. Shell damage should be seen to by a vet.

Pyramiding

Pyramiding is not really an issue with boxies as long as you provided the correct lighting, diet, and humidity. If you receive a boxie that has pyramiding or a soft shell, just get them set up with the proper tank and diet to try and fix what damage that can be recovered from. Always start the boxie off with low levels of calcium, calcium can be a shock to the system if they are not used to having it in their diet, and can kill them.
 

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Stickied! For additions/corrections please PM me and the mods
 

Maro2Bear

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Greetings. I was thinking that since this is a primer for newbies with boxies, it might be good to add a footnote and briefly explain "pyramiding" so the newbie understands what this issue is. Thanks for putting this care sheet together, lots of good plain need-to-know information.
 

Saleama

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I forgot to mention hibernation(for the species/owners that do it), but here is a good website on what to do and not do.
http://boxturtlesite.info/hib.html
It has been my experience that the little ones will go into a semi-hibernation even when kept indoors. I had 15 (adopted one out a few months ago) indoors and all of the coastals and three toed dug in and stayed under ground all winter long. The only ones that did not were my 3 ornate juveniles and they got really sick with swollen eyes and labored breathing. One big vet bill and a full set of forced feeding and daily shots for three weeks and they are fine and growing like weeds. Anyway, I am not sure if they didn't hibernate because they were sick or what, but my temps never changed, nor did I change their lighting schedule, but they somehow knew it was winter and they surfaced at the end of march within days of the outside turtles emergance. has anyone else had this experience with their indoor turtles or tortoises?
 

CourtneyG

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It has been my experience that the little ones will go into a semi-hibernation even when kept indoors. I had 15 (adopted one out a few months ago) indoors and all of the coastals and three toed dug in and stayed under ground all winter long. The only ones that did not were my 3 ornate juveniles and they got really sick with swollen eyes and labored breathing. One big vet bill and a full set of forced feeding and daily shots for three weeks and they are fine and growing like weeds. Anyway, I am not sure if they didn't hibernate because they were sick or what, but my temps never changed, nor did I change their lighting schedule, but they somehow knew it was winter and they surfaced at the end of march within days of the outside turtles emergance. has anyone else had this experience with their indoor turtles or tortoises?
My pancakes did that over winter, but only for about 2months. The box turtles I have had experience with have always stayed awake since they are recovering or did a weird thing where they refused to sleep.
 

Saleama

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My pancakes did that over winter, but only for about 2months. The box turtles I have had experience with have always stayed awake since they are recovering or did a weird thing where they refused to sleep.
Only my sick ones stayed awake this year. The past two years, all the healthy ones seemed to sense the winter and dug in. I dug them up every two weeks or so for a soak and tried to feed them but they went right back under.
 

StarSapphire22

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I'm not so sure I agree with the MVB part of this care sheet. Box turtles don't like 100* temps, even for basking. Not to mention the way they zap humidity and moisture from an enclosure. A low wattage incandescent of blacklight bulb to provide a gentle heat (not exceeding 85 or so) would be a better choice, I think.
 

Yvonne G

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I just use a regular 60 watt incandescent bulb in my baby box turtle habitat. And then I have the whole thing planted with different type plants to provide plenty of shade. As soon as the weather is good, I take the whole baby box turtle habitat outside.

10-25-13.jpg
 

Saleama

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I'm not so sure I agree with the MVB part of this care sheet. Box turtles don't like 100* temps, even for basking. Not to mention the way they zap humidity and moisture from an enclosure. A low wattage incandescent of blacklight bulb to provide a gentle heat (not exceeding 85 or so) would be a better choice, I think.
Some people love them and just adjust the height to adjust the temps when using them. If I use over a 60 watt normal bulb I jst raise it up until I am getting the right temps.
 

StarSapphire22

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Some people love them and just adjust the height to adjust the temps when using them. If I use over a 60 watt normal bulb I jst raise it up until I am getting the right temps.

Yes, but with an MVB raised up that high, the UV effects would be minimal, if any. So at that point, what's the point of buying a $60 light bulb?
 

Saleama

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Yes, but with an MVB raised up that high, the UV effects would be minimal, if any. So at that point, what's the point of buying a $60 light bulb?
Lol, I don't do it myself. I was just saying, if you already have it, you can still use it. I bought about 20 boxes of 60 watt regular light bulbs when Wal-Mart had them on sale for $1.19 for a four pack. I even use them for my Sulcata and Leopards basking area.
 

StarSapphire22

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I just think, looking at this thread from a beginner's standpoint, recommending them to buy a MVB is not only impractical but possibly dangerous if they don't raise it high enough...and if they aim for the temperatures stated in this sheet, that is much too hot...

It's a good, basic caresheet overall, but the lighting/heat part...not so much.
 

lisa127

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I just think, looking at this thread from a beginner's standpoint, recommending them to buy a MVB is not only impractical but possibly dangerous if they don't raise it high enough...and if they aim for the temperatures stated in this sheet, that is much too hot...

It's a good, basic caresheet overall, but the lighting/heat part...not so much.
I agree. I wouldn't use an MVB for a box turtle.
 

johnsonnboswell

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Do you think a box turtle will eat any mushrooms?
Depends on the turtle and the mushroom. In the wild, it would be a large part of their diet.

One of my turtles liked a particular sort of mushroom that grew wild in front of one house the neighborhood, but the others didn't eat them.
 
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