Eastern Box Turtle Hatchling


New Member
Jun 18, 2016
Hello everyone,

After doing some research for the past few days I am hoping to share my findings and hopefully get some advice.

First and foremost, I am interested in getting a little Box Turtle for myself. I have looked over the internet, and was initially going to purchase one from backwater reptiles but upon further research I have discovered that several people have had problems with them. I then discovered that Arizona Tortoise Compound seems like a reputable source of these little guys (and, extra bonus, they're much cheaper). I was interested in getting a hatchling as their is a greater likelihood that (s)he will be a guy. Don't know why, but I wanted a little boy turtle instead of girl.

For enclosure, I was planning on getting a Zoo Med enclosure. I don't have time or the resources to build one myself, and I think this would look a little better than a rubbermaid box. When I initially started researching, I was considering getting a russian instead of a box turtle. I decided to change because I wasn't sure if that enclosure would fit him when he reached adult size. (Any suggestions/thoughts on this?) Even though that will be several years from now, I don't know what my future situation will be and if I can even upgrade that. From the reviews, it seems like a good enclosure and fairly big.

Here is a picture of what I plan on including in the enclosure: (excuse the MS paint-ness of it)


For the hides, I plan on using just the typical half wooden-log type thing. I'm not sure on size but I think a small or medium will fit them.

For the water bowl, I think I will use a Zoo Med water dish. These seem to have a border all around the sides so the guy can sit in there if he wants. I'm not entirely sure the medium size will do, but if I have to I will order the large.

For food dish, I was yet again going to go with the Zoo Med rock food dish. One of the reviews say that they also use this for their box turtle. They also said that the worms do get out, but I'm hoping that it will be able to chase them before they get too far away.

For calcium, I was going to add a cuttlebone in the middle of the water and food dish. I'm not sure if this will be enough or if I will also have to do some calcium powder, but hopefully one of y'all can help me with that.

Next, for the rocks I was going to use a stone stack. I'm thinking I will only use two of these when it's still a baby, as I don't know how much they'll be able to climb. I'm also not sure if this is a good position for the rocks, as they may not want to climb on the rocks in order to get their uvb/heat.

For the uvb and basking light, I went back and forth several times. I finally landed on this which I'm hoping I can just lay on top of the enclosure. I read several reviews that said this was okay, and since the bulbs are 100 watts, it won't be too hot for them. Again, if this is the wrong thinking for this please let me know. I'm thinking I will leave this on for 12 hours a day. For scheduling, I'm thinking of having it on during the day so I won't have to look at it during the night. I figure I'll put it on at 5-6 am and then turn it off at 5-6 pm. It doesn't get dark until around 8 here at the moment, but that should change in the fall months.

For the thermometer, I wasn't exactly happy with the placement of this but I can't be bothered to change it now. I am thinking that I will place it in the middle of the hide and the rocks, on that wall. The thermometer also includes a hygrometer so I can monitor the humidity in the cage. Also, to check the temperature every now and again, I plan on using this to read it instantly.

For substrate, I was considering doing a combination of three things: cypress mulch on the bottom, coconut fiber in the middle, and sphagnum moss on the top in order to keep the humidity up. Also, to keep the humidity up, I was planning on spraying the substrate twice daily (once when the lights turn on, and once when the lights turn off) in order to keep the humidity as high as possible. I read that hatchlings need lots of humidity so I'm hoping this will do it.

For feed, I was planning on using a combination of mealworms and various vegetables as StarSapphire22 says here:

"Plant and fruit matter: Spring mix salad blend, various lettuces (no iceberg, and romaine only in moderation), raddichio, collard greens, mustard greens, kale, dandelion leaves/flowers, hibiscus leaves/flowers, grapevine leaves, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, banana, apples, cantaloupe, watermelon, pure pumpkin, squash fruit/leaves/flowers, etc."
I plan on alternating between mealworms every other day and vegetables. For the vegetables, I was going to sprinkle some dried foliage mix on it in order to add some more variety to the little guy's diet. I know hatchlings are often resistant so vegetables at the start, so I'm thinking I'll alternate the mealworms with some boiled eggs or something. My question for this part is, I give him just the egg itself, correct? I read that the shells can provide calcium but I'm not entirely sure on this. Also, would the cuttlebone itself be enough for calcium?

Currently, I'm mostly concerned with temperature. I am planning on leaving the gentleman inside all day (I don't have any outdoor room unfortunately). My house is always at 78 or 79 degrees, the AC or heat automatically turning on if it gets too hot or cold. Do I need to have the basking light on? Star states that:

"Temperatures from 70-85 are in a comfortable range for box turtles. "

I'm not sure what the basking light will make it. The lighting kit that I plan on using has an on/off switch for both, so I figure I can just keep the basking light off while the uvb light stays on. Also, I'm not sure if the temperature in the closed off portion will stay warm enough. It should though, correct?

I also read that the they have to stay very wet while they're still young. I was planning on getting a small rubbermaid container that I can soak the guy in every day for about 10 minutes.

I think that about covers it. If you have the time, please check to see whether everything I planned is compatible and will work okay. I also have some overall questions:

  1. Will my temperature be okay? Will I need a heating pad or something in the closed, dark section of the enclosure?
  2. Do I need to soak him everyday? Or will he be able to get enough water simply from his bowl?
  3. Do I need to have the uvb light on 24/7? Or was that only for the basking light?
  4. Should I keep the basking light on (or the 12 hour cycle?). I'm still not sure how hot the light will make it.
  5. Is that diet okay for him? I read that they could get addicted if you feed them one thing every single day of the week. I also read that many hatchlings will eat their vegetables. I'd rather stick to buying from either ATC or Amazon, and ATC only sells mealworms, superworms, and crickets (which I'm not comfortable with). Superworms are stated to be twice the size of mealworms so I'm not sure if this will be good for him.
  6. Adding on to number five, how big of portions should I give him? If I stuck to just mealworms, will he be good on one or two? Or do I have to give him multiple?
And again, that covers it. Thank you so much if you managed to get to the bottom of this. I may not have been coherent all the ways through (as I'm writing this at 3 AM and I was working all day) but hopefully it still makes some sense. And thank you so much again if you even manage to answer everything. I am new to the whole turtle/tortoise theme and I would hate for anything bad to happen to the little gentleman.



Well-Known Member
Jan 19, 2016
Location (City and/or State)
Lehigh Valley Pa
Mealworms are not a good food source, as their ratio of Calcium to Phosphorus is backwards, and as an occasional snack, they are ok, but not very often. Earthworms are a better option. i would try reading thru the forums in this section, and go back quite a ways, there is a ton of useful information. As for ATC, i had a very bad experience with them. http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/strange-day-with-unwanted-outcome.140839/


Feb 9, 2016
Location (City and/or State)
In my situation with a three toed hatchling I too had ordered a zoo med enclosure which was fine for time being. He was small and had plenty of space but that little guy grew before I knew it. So the zoo med enclosure wasn't as big as it had first seemed. You might want to think about the future and the space you might have available. They really need as much as you can give them. I advise anyone who is already short on space not to get a Russian. People purchase them as hatchlings thinking they are so cute( which they are)but they don't think about how big they will become and how they are going to care for them when they grow up. Like I have told my friends in the past its like taking on the responsible of a child except with children they are usually out of house by 18 lol. You have much longer with a turtle if provided the right life.

New Posts