Eastern box turtle...hates water?

newboxiemama

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Hi everyone!

I am new to the box turtle community - I recently adopted a box turtle from someone that I met at work. They *think* that the turtle is about 10 years old but aren't certain. It does not sound like she has received very good care, but seems to be in pretty good shape. Slightly overgrown beak and nails, but besides that appears to be pretty healthy and happy. She was never provided with substrate that allowed her to dig...no protein in her diet...I've spent the past month getting her back on track -- she is such a character!

One question - she seems to ABSOLUTELY HATE WATER. So much. I can't figure it out.
She will happily dip her head in and drink from time to time, but she does NOT want to soak - she will not soak on her own in her bowl, and she will DEFINITELY NOT soak in her external tub. I have tried various temperatures, depths and approaches to bath time...she just starts flailing and kicking and does not calm down no matter how long I leave her in the water. She acts like I am trying to kill her! I'm hoping someone could give me some tips on how to handle this! I even put a camera on her tank to see if she was swimming in her bowl while I was away or asleep!!! Wondering if this is a big concern?

Thank you so much for the help!
 

PJay

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Soaking in water could be new to her or she just might not like it. Most of my box turtles like a good soak but I have a couple that never really seem to settle down and flail around the whole time. Soaking is very important for a captive box turtle to ensure they stay hydrated. Try covering the soaking container with a towel or a non airtight lid. That may allow her to feel more secure while in the water.
 

newboxiemama

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Thank you so much for your reply!! I really appreciate it. I will give that a shot today and see how she responds :)
 

Moozillion

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Hi everyone!

I am new to the box turtle community - I recently adopted a box turtle from someone that I met at work. They *think* that the turtle is about 10 years old but aren't certain. It does not sound like she has received very good care, but seems to be in pretty good shape. Slightly overgrown beak and nails, but besides that appears to be pretty healthy and happy. She was never provided with substrate that allowed her to dig...no protein in her diet...I've spent the past month getting her back on track -- she is such a character!

One question - she seems to ABSOLUTELY HATE WATER. So much. I can't figure it out.
She will happily dip her head in and drink from time to time, but she does NOT want to soak - she will not soak on her own in her bowl, and she will DEFINITELY NOT soak in her external tub. I have tried various temperatures, depths and approaches to bath time...she just starts flailing and kicking and does not calm down no matter how long I leave her in the water. She acts like I am trying to kill her! I'm hoping someone could give me some tips on how to handle this! I even put a camera on her tank to see if she was swimming in her bowl while I was away or asleep!!! Wondering if this is a big concern?

Thank you so much for the help!
Check the temperature of the water you are trying to soak her in. Aim to have the water at the temperature they would normally want to bask at.
When I first got my Hermann's tortoise, I would try and soak her in a rubbermaid tub of lovely warm water, but she HATED IT! Would flail and pace frantically the whole time. Then someone suggested I check the temperatures: Hermann's tortoises like to bask at about 95* F, but the water I had her at was over 100*! It felt really nice to ME but was WAY TOO HOT for her!!! When I changed her soak water temperature to 95*, she settled down and now she sprawls out in the water and really enjoys her soaks! I would NOT like to soak in 95* water because that is BELOW OUR BODY TEMPERATURE, so it feels COOL to us.
My tort also dislikes having water poured over her, regardless of the temperature.

So, aim for basking temperature and see if that helps! Also, if you soak her in a transparent or translucent tub, she'll try to get out as long as she can SEE out. If haven't tried an opaque tub (like a gray Rubbermaid tub) give that a try, too. :)
 

Pastel Tortie

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Some of these suggestions are going to seem like a hassle, or overly complicated, but since you've tried so many variables already, I hope some of this helps. Take the ideas you like and run with it. Have fun with it.

I agree on the opaque soaking tub. Ideally the inside plastic surface won't be too reflective, or it may look like there's another turtle in the water with her. If the surface is too smooth or glossy, you can scratch it up with a rough-edged rock, the bottom of a tile, emory board, sandpaper, etc. Consider doing that on the entire inside surface, or at least the bottom. Traction matters, as does texture.

My boxie trained me early on to surround at least part of her soaking tub with plants (real or artificial) so she would feel better protected. Once I realized that her favorite colors are reds, oranges, and yellows, I started decorating with those colors... I'd temporarily attach artificial autumn leaves from the fabric/craft store to the plants or other surfaces on the far side of her pool... At some point, their curiosity does get the better of them. My boxie would notice the pretty colors and go investigate.

Make sure you give her some underwater "islands" to stand on where she doesn't have to worry about swimming to keep her head above water, and she doesn't have to worry about floating away because she can keep her foot in contact with something solid. Large rocks or stacked tiles work well. Make sure they aren't going to shift on her. Try putting a fake plant close by an island to make it feel more welcoming.

You can float romaine lettuce and other greens in the water, too. My two-year-old boxie still thinks lettuce is for hiding, vs. eating. She enjoys being able to hide under stuff floating on the water's surface, just as much as my mud turtles enjoy it in their tank. If your turtle has a favorite fruit like banana or strawberry, try floating thin slices on the water. It may distract her long enough to realize it isn't so bad.
 

Pastel Tortie

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I mentioned texture in the previous post, but I want to elaborate. Give her a bottom surface in her pool that will reassure her. Roughing up the surface of the container may be enough. Personally, I try to keep an assortment of small-ish natural stone tiles around, in case I have to build a quick underwater island, or a ramp, or a feeding surface my boxie can swim up to, or in case I have a notion to line part of the bottom of her pool with a surface that might feel more natural under her feet.

Just like with eating, my boxie often changes her preferences about her soaking environment, so I find myself experimenting a LOT. Sometimes it's the material, sometimes even the color of the container. Maybe it's the way the wind is blowing, even if it's blowing outside and the soaking is going on inside. :) It could be the weather, it could be the time of day... It could even be something as subtle as it being time to replace your UVB.

Those boxies... We love 'em. But they sure do keep us guessing sometimes!
 

newboxiemama

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I am so grateful that I found this community! All of your advice helped immensely. We had our first (mostly) successful bath yesterday! I took the temperature of the water this time to make 100% sure that it would be to her liking...this time, I used an opaque tub and took your advice to add different materials to the bath. I put a few large stones in there with her that she could step on, some floating strawberry slices, and some chunks of her sphagnum moss...I think that helped more than anything! She seems to really, really LOVE moss - any time there is new moss in her home she spends quite a while frolicking in it. She was distracted by the strawberries momentarily, but once the moss was added the flailing stopped for about 7 full minutes, which is a record for her!!! How long do you all recommend soaking your boxies for? Not sure what an 'idea' soak length would be!
 

newboxiemama

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P.S. - I am definitely going to make a trip to the craft store - if I am waking by her holding anything remotely brightly colored, she is completely mesmerized...even if she is busy digging or in her cave, her head pops out within a minute or two. Thanks again for the great tips!!
 

Pastel Tortie

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If your boxie decides she really enjoys her soaks, you can soak her for as long as you both can stand! :)

I've had a conversation or several with my boxie that went something like this...

ME: Are you ready to come out of your bath? And go back into your enclosure?

JUNIOR: I'm an aquatic today! Come back tomorrow! [Pulls head underwater.]

ME: Okay... A few more minutes...
 

Moozillion

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With my Hermann's tort, I check the water temperature after about 10-15 min, and sometimes add a bit more warm water if it's cooling off a bit. :)
You sound like a GREAT turtle parent!!!!!:):tort::<3:
 

Moozillion

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If you have a Michael's near you, ours always has a "sale" section which has tons of plastic plants and plastic plant GARLANDS that are SSOOO much cheaper than the plastic plants at the pet stores! Just sayin!
 

newboxiemama

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Hey everyone! It has been about a month since the creation of this post, and I wanted to share an update! Bath time is now 99% stress-free! Very occasional flails towards the end, but she will paddle around and enjoy her bath for at least 25 minutes before she is done with it. She is also finally comfortable getting in her water bowl by herself She was SO SHY when I first got her and spent most of her time buried...now, she is constantly watching what I'm doing, no longer runs when I come near her, and just seems generally happy. It seriously makes me so happy to see this transformation. Her skin was dry and peely because her previous owners kept her in a VERY dry home, and her beautiful colors are now shining through!!! Thank you all so much for your help :)
 

Moozillion

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Hey everyone! It has been about a month since the creation of this post, and I wanted to share an update! Bath time is now 99% stress-free! Very occasional flails towards the end, but she will paddle around and enjoy her bath for at least 25 minutes before she is done with it. She is also finally comfortable getting in her water bowl by herself She was SO SHY when I first got her and spent most of her time buried...now, she is constantly watching what I'm doing, no longer runs when I come near her, and just seems generally happy. It seriously makes me so happy to see this transformation. Her skin was dry and peely because her previous owners kept her in a VERY dry home, and her beautiful colors are now shining through!!! Thank you all so much for your help :)
WONDERFUL to hear this!!!!:):<3:
It's got to feel GOOD to see the successful results of your efforts!!!!
 
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