Box Turtle Hatchling Care Sheet

TortsNTurtles

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Yes, live plants transpire yielding higher humidity. Fake ones do not but will not lower humidity either. Try both & see what you prefer. Fake are easier to clean, don't usually get eaten and 'live' a lot longer. Live plants can provide a, usually short term, food source, grow naturally but may need maintenance and help balance the microecosystem created within an enclosure.

Thanks. I might take you up on trying both instead of one or the other,
 

terryo

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That's a 40 gal. breeder with plants on each side of the vivarium. No hides. The plants are real and are still in their little pots. To be honest, I never check the humidity. If it has condensation on the glass I know the humidity is high, if not I spray a bit. There are two hatchlings in that tank. When they get bigger, I replace the real plants with silk ones. I don't put them outside in the turtle garden until they are at least 3 years old. I put leaf littler all around the viv. and lots of pill bugs, which multiply and lots of worms. They have never eatten the plants but have messed them up a lot. Now the tortoises are a different story....they would eat certain plants.....not the box turtles. I would think that the real plants would hold the humidity better, and I do usually use them with the hatchlings.
 

TortsNTurtles

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That's a 40 gal. breeder with plants on each side of the vivarium. No hides. The plants are real and are still in their little pots. To be honest, I never check the humidity. If it has condensation on the glass I know the humidity is high, if not I spray a bit. There are two hatchlings in that tank. When they get bigger, I replace the real plants with silk ones. I don't put them outside in the turtle garden until they are at least 3 years old. I put leaf littler all around the viv. and lots of pill bugs, which multiply and lots of worms. They have never eatten the plants but have messed them up a lot. Now the tortoises are a different story....they would eat certain plants.....not the box turtles. I would think that the real plants would hold the humidity better, and I do usually use them with the hatchlings.

That sounds like a game plan. I am using all fake plants at this time and I am needing to spray every few hours to keep up with the humidity so I will try the live plants and late go to the fake.I wish I could find some pill bugs. The first day it warms up I will try to find some.
 

terryo

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All you need is a few pill bugs and they multiply like crazy. When I use real plants I use small house plants and I keep them in the little pot they come in. I just bury them right up to the top of the pot. Them I water them in the little pot. Just sayin what I do.
 

Sanchez

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Are CFL bulbs really blinding? This is the first I've heard of this. A quick google search didn't turn up much on the subject. I've been using a CFL uv bulb on my Florida box hatchling for the past two weeks.

This is the real Sanchez
 

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Sanchez

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Are CFL bulbs really blinding? This is the first I've heard of this. A quick google search didn't turn up much on the subject. I've been using a CFL uv bulb on my Florida box hatchling for the past two weeks
Ok so I'm now reading that the cfl issue was taken care of years ago. When they first came on to the market they caused eye problems but they are now safe.
 

Dean Wirth

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"It should be noted that there are some types of bulbs should not be used with boxies. First off, the spiral coil (CFL) UV bulbs. Do not EVER use these bulbs with any kind of turtle or tortoise. They can burn the eyes and cause severe eye irritation for your little ones, and have been linked to blindness. Secondly, MVBs - they are too hot for any box turtle, adult or hatchling. They also have an extremely drying effect and can effectively zap the moisture out of your enclosure. Reptile spot bulbs are also very drying and create “hot spots” that can be dangerous for your little one."

I use coils for adults and one i raised from young, if these are bad what uv lights should i use?
 

Dean Wirth

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"Ok so I'm now reading that the cfl issue was taken care of years ago. When they first came on to the market they caused eye problems but they are now safe."
Okay i skimmed and answered my own question, the first post is informative but should be edited as not to alarm any turtle keepers. Great thre
 

Yvonne G

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Yes, the manufacturers supposedly took care of the problem. Trouble is, the originals were never pulled from the shelves, so you might be buying one of the old, harmful ones.

In my opinion, the chance of harm is not worth taking the risk
 

Gordi

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We have had a lot of dodgy UVB coils coming into the UK from China mainly through eBay and traders selling them in kits. They have been found to produce either too much very little or none at all. So only buy a recognised brand if you are using them.
 

locolou

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I never cared for the under tank heater's. Hatchlings will dig toward the heat and stay there most of the time. I keep heat emitters on 24/7. Hatchling tank's, I put just enough soil to cover the little pots that I keep the plants in, and a lot of long fiber moss on one end, under and around plants where they hide. I cover most of the substrate with Irish moss or Scottish moss so they don't dig into the soil. I can find them easier that way and don't have to mess up the tank looking for them. Just saying what I do.
 

locolou

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Terryo,
Can you please tell me the name of plants in tank? Are they real? I have 4 Eastern Box hatchlings, they are 6 mos old now. They eat wrigglers, floating food sticks and moist puppy food. I see moist Cat food is mentioned, shud I change to Cat food?
I am moving them to a larger tank now, and want to add real plants, any suggestions? I use loose coconut fiber substrate. Use a Coconut Shell hide and water dish. When I change them to bigger tank tomorrow, they will get 2 water dishes and 2 .hides.
So far, So Good ?
I have 6 adult boxings in a big pen outside. One of the females is their mother. I have 2 males, one mates all the time and the other has never even tried. The other male is bigger and the Alpha.
 

terryo

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Sounds good to me. I start off hatchlings with the floating food sticks too and blood worms. I put them in a separate water dish to feed. As they get older I gradually add some ground venison with sweet potato (cooked sweet potato) and mashed carrots. As they get older I start adding chopped greens, and fruit to the mix. I buy Wellness venison and sweet potato (dog food) I have a little Gulf Coast that's just starting to eat the greens with the venison. I chop the greens (dandelion, grape leaves, kale ...spring mix (red leaf and green) etc. really tiny so when they eat the venison they will get some greens too. Just how I start them off..
 

terryo

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IMG_2304.JPG IMG_2295.JPG Here's the little Gulf Coast. He's 1 1/2 years old and still likes to eat in the water. I took out most of the plants to give him more room to roam now. I bring him outside during the day but take him in when it gets dark. IMG_2304.JPG IMG_2304.JPG IMG_2304.JPG IMG_2295.JPG IMG_2295.JPG IMG_2295.JPG
 

bokilink

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Hello, I am new here, and recently I obtained three baby Three toe box turtles they are about the size of a quarter. I now know after reading a little bite I totally went about this the wrong way and I should have done more research before obtaining them. however I am trying to do the right thing and make sure they have great care. I currently have a tiny heat pad in one corner of a 20 gallon long tank and a light bulb that is a uvb 60 w solar heat lamp thing, they have a clean water pool about 1/2 inch deep. and I have piled up eco soil for turtles in one side far away from the light, the water is in between, I plan to venture out to get mosses from the local organic nursery tomorrow and I will be laying that down, I need to up the humitdity and I want to put som plants in there for them to be adventurous around. what plants are ok for them to eat without being sick?

I also have been feeding a tiny meal worm every day, is that to much? I have the reptile with D3.

Thank you all in advance.
Rebecca
 

Pamela Rodela

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BOX TURTLE HATCHLING CARE

INTRODUCTION:

Box turtles are native to North America. They are also known as box tortoises, although box turtles are terrestrial members of the American pond turtle family, and not members of the tortoise family. The species commonly kept as pets in the US are the 3-toed Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina triunguis), Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina), Gulf Coast Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina major), Florida Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina bauri), and Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata ornata). Care requirements are virtually identical for all species.

Some basic things to keep in mind while reading this care sheet:
  • Box turtles, being a semi-aquatic species, need (and enjoy!) damp, humid, even wet conditions. For hatchlings, this is even more important; hatchlings dehydrate incredibly easily, and substrate needs to be kept moist at all times.
  • Box turtles prefer shade or filtered light. They also don’t like hot temperatures, and tend to retreat from anything over 90*F.
  • Box turtles can sometimes be skittish and easily stressed, especially as hatchlings when everything is viewed as a potential predator. They also like familiar surroundings; a wild turtle removed from his habitat will spend the rest of his time trying to return “home” and will often die in the process. This isn’t to say you can never redo a habitat or upgrade as your turtle grows, but it is something to keep in mind!
  • Box turtles are a threatened species in some states. Please check your local wildlife laws regarding owning a Box Turtle and what species you are allowed to keep in your area. Never EVER move/remove a Box Turtle from the wild, unless it is in immediate danger. Not only are you possibly breaking local laws, you may be hurting wild populations in doing so.

INDOOR HOUSING:
When selecting appropriate housing for a hatchling box turtle, it is important to consider two things: size of the enclosure and how well it can handle ‘wet.’ As discussed in the introduction, box turtle hatchlings are semi-aquatic and dehydrate easily. For this reason, I recommend against selecting enclosures made of materials that will not hold up well to moisture (such as wood) or enclosures that allow moisture to evaporate rapidly from the enclosure. The best enclosures are Rubbermaid containers, or glass aquariums, for their ability to retain moisture without rotting, etc. A single box turtle hatchling does not need much space while it is still very small; however, a growing turtle needs enough space in its enclosure to house the various “furniture” needed (discussed later in this care sheet) as well as enough room to get the exercise it needs. A single box turtle hatchling should be kept in nothing smaller than a standard sized 10 gallon aquarium; any more turtles than that would obviously need more space. A Rubbermaid bin also works well, especially one with opaque sides to minimize stress on the turtle (from outside motion, light, etc.). Enclosures should be upgraded as the turtle grows.


SUBSTRATE
Since box turtles need moisture, it is important to select substrate that can retain moisture well. Appropriate selections include coco coir, organic topsoil, fir bark (also known as reptibark or fine grade orchid bark), and cypress mulch. You can also create a mix of these; your goal is to make your substrate as close to a wet forest floor as possible. Providing an upper layer of sphagnum moss or leaf litter is also a good idea. Hatchlings in the wild will spend much of their first year or two under such cover to hide from predators. Substrate should be kept wet and be misted/watered regularly.
Do not use any of the following: sand, paper products, rabbit pellets or other rodent bedding, aspen, corn cob bedding, aquarium gravel or other rocky substrates, reptile carpet. All of these choices could be potentially fatal for your hatchling.
Some people like to add worms or pillbugs directly into their enclosure to encourage hunting behaviors. This is up to you. Coco coir or soil will work best if you choose to do this.


LIGHTING & TEMPERATURES
Box turtle hatchlings, like any chelonian, need UV to grow properly. Using a 5.0 UV fluorescent tube for about 8-12 hours, 4 days a week, should give them enough UV. Taking them outside when weather permits is also a good idea, to soak up natural UV. Studies have shown natural UV exposure during growth encourages color in box turtle shells, in addition to the health and growth benefits.

Regarding temperatures, box turtles prefer much cooler temperatures than most reptiles. Temperatures from 70-85 are in a comfortable range for box turtles. Anything above 90 is usually too hot for them, and you’ll notice them utilizing water dishes or hiding and burrowing to cool down. Regarding basking, you will find different opinions on whether or not to provide a basking spot for hatchling turtles. Some do not, provided their room temperatures are about at least in the low 70s. Some provide a low wattage incandescent bulb or “moonglow” (blacklight) bulb, positioned for a gentle heat of about 80-85 degrees on one end…some who do this have it on for 8-12 hours per day, while others prefer using it for an hour each day around midday. Personally, I recommend starting with no heat for the first year or using the one hour/day trick, unless you know your temps are around or lower than 70*F and you’re noticing a lack of activity, in which case you can bury a low wattage heat pad underneath a minimum of 6-8” of substrate. This will radiate a gentle heat upwards for your hatchling(s). Be careful not to bury the part where the cord meets the pad. Because hatchlings can dehydrate so easily, extra heat can sometimes cause them to dehydrate faster, so monitor your setup and hatchling(s) carefully and use your best judgment on what (if any) additional heat is needed.

It should be noted that there are some types of bulbs should not be used with boxies. First off, the spiral coil (CFL) UV bulbs. Do not EVER use these bulbs with any kind of turtle or tortoise. They can burn the eyes and cause severe eye irritation for your little ones, and have been linked to blindness. Secondly, MVBs - they are too hot for any box turtle, adult or hatchling. They also have an extremely drying effect and can effectively zap the moisture out of your enclosure. Reptile spot bulbs are also very drying and create “hot spots” that can be dangerous for your little one.


INSIDE THE ENCLOSURE

WATER
Providing a shallow dish filled with clean water for your hatchlings to soak themselves in is very important. This will allow them to drink the water they need to stay hydrated and soak some up through their skin. You may see your babies in it a little or a lot. You can trust them to do it as often as they need to. They may even just be shy and doing it when you’re not around. The water should be shallow enough that they are able to stand on the bottom of the dish and hold their head out comfortably. A terra cotta saucer (glazed or unglazed) works well for this. It should be buried so the edge is flush with the substrate for easy access. Surrounding your dish with moss or flat stones will help them wipe off their feet and track less substrate into the dish. Water should be replaced at least once each day, or more as you see it’s needed. If you have more than one hatchling, you should have at least 2 water dishes.

HIDES
They should also have hides in their enclosures…places they can hide and feel safe! Half logs, clay pots on their sides, or other reptile caves and hides from pet stores will all work well. I like to provide a couple in my enclosures so they can choose where they want to be. If you have more than one hatchling, you should provide more than one hide.

PLANTS
Plants are a great way to provide sight barriers/cover in your enclosure as well as make it more aesthetically pleasing for you! You can use live plants (which is also a great way to help keep things wet and humid by watering) or silk/plastic plants. Either is just fine. If you choose to use live plants, it is important that they are not fertilized, sprayed for bugs, etc. Organic is best, or grown from seeds. You should also check to make sure the plant is edible if your babies try to nibble it. If you’d like to include other decorations in your enclosure, you certainly can. Just make sure it won’t create a possibility for your hatchling to flip onto its back. Any decorations should be buried into the soil a little and securely placed.
thank you for sharing your expertise with us I have so much to learn, the one thing that came from you that has helped my donates is soaking in a Gerber baby food of half sweet potato and water, it had been a GOD send she is doing so so much better now we are working on her eyes to open after hybernating...again thank you
 

GIJohnny

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Help!

We never planned on being box turtle or any kind of turtle owners. Our daughters have asked for turtles over the years and we always said no as we already have 2 cats, a dog, a hedgie and bettas, besides, my wife is not a fan of reptiles.

This morning we took our middle daughter, who is 11, for major teeth extractions and brought her home in a post-anesthetic stupor. On the way down the walk from driveway to the house, she stops and says, "ooh, a urle" (her mouth is still stuffed with gauze). She bends over and picks up a tiny silver dollar sized turtle and proceeds to bring it into the house.

On the way in, we hear "'e're eeing it is ame is ael" (We're keeping it, his name is Bagel). I look at my wife and utter famous last words, "why not, how hard can it be"? I stay with my daughter while my wife heads off to Petco to get supplies. My daughter, who is supposed to be sleeping off the anesthesia is now completely awake and goes outside and finds a hole with eggshells at the bottom and two more tiny turtles outside of it! I text my wife, "and then there were three..." and she tells me later I almost gave her a heart attack.

My wife comes home after spending over $200 at Petco for supplies (time for my heart attack). She has a 15 gallon aquarium, a screen cover, a bag of substrate, a fancy water dish/pool that looks like it's made of rocks, a food dish, a half log hidey spot, a fake plant, a long flouresent looking UV light, a heat lamp looking light, a bag of 15 baby crickets and a container of 500 baby mealworms.

We built the environment to the best of our ability, put 10 mealworms in the food dish, set loose the crickets in the aquarium and placed the baby turltes (we looked at pictures online for close to an hour and have determined these little guys are ornate box turtles - one of the 2 species of box turtles here in Missouri). We then placed the little guys near the mealworms in the food dish thinking these must be starving. They all proceeded to burrow into the substrate and haven't been seen since.

Will they come out at some point?

Will they be able to find their food and water when they do come out?

Have we set up the habitat correctly? Is the substrate deep enough? Is the water pool accessible enough?

Should we dig them out tomorrow and place them in the water?

Can we clean them up and what is the safest way to do so? They are covered in mud from coming out of the ground.

Attached are 2 pictures, one of the habitat we built (the 3 hatchlings are in there just buried in the substrate) and one of the 3 hatchlings in a box top with a small saucer of water and some lettuce leaves - this was us guessing before my wife went to Petco. Interesting note, we found if the water was warm , they stayed in it, but as it cooled, they all booked for the corners of the box top.

We were clueless going into this and are now confused by conflicting info we find online with what the Petco people told my wife. WE find various opinions about diet, how long to give them light/heat (Petco says the UV light stays on 24/7 and the heat lamp for 12 hours a day, other sources including here have much different info).

We really want these little guys to survive their first days and thrive. Please help us figure out what is best for them.

Thanks in advance.
 

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jakskillz

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I have a desert ornate box turtle and I take him out of his dirt hiding spot. Fill a bowl with about an inch of tepid water and slowly rinse off the dirt. Then I empty the bowl and at first only placed one small waxworm or earthworm at a time. they get distracted by too much at once. They may not eat at first but will react more to moving food. Mine didn't quite like mealworms at first so maybe look for waxworms or earthworms. Eventually start mixing some veggies or pellet diet with the live food and be patient. It can take an hour or two for them to eat.
 
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