Tortoises and box turtles

Can tortoises and box turtles cohabitate?

  • Yes, no problem.

    Votes: 1 5.9%
  • No, never.

    Votes: 9 52.9%
  • Sometimes, it depends.

    Votes: 5 29.4%
  • I don't know.

    Votes: 2 11.8%

  • Total voters
    17
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GeoTerraTestudo

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As many of us know, it's not a good idea to house different species of tortoise together. This is because they might have different environmental requirements, they could fight or hybridize, and they could spread diseases to each other.

However, recently the question has come up as to whether it's okay to mix tortoises and box turtles. One good say that, for the same reasons above, it's not a good idea. On the other hand, although tortoises and box turtles are both chelonians, they are in different families. Therefore, they can have similar environmental requirements, they might get along, and they can't hybridize. What's more, it's not clear whether they can share diseases or not.

So what do you think? Is it okay for tortoises and box turtles to cohabitat? Please vote on the poll and share you opinion below. Thanks!
 

StudentoftheReptile

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I'm going with "No, never" just to deter novices from doing it. The few success stories (mostly with box turtles & redfoots) are exceptions to the rule, and seem to be influenced by experienced keepers with good QT practices. Do I agree with it? Not really, but I will acknowledge that some folks are lucky in spite of the odds.
 

GeoTerraTestudo

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Yes, that person has successful kept three-toed boxies with redfoots for a long time. Both species come from moist forests, and seem to be doing well together. My question is this: is the risk of disease transmission reduced because this person is an experienced keeper, or is it just that the biological barrier between boxies and torties is greater than we thought? I don't know.

In another thread, somebody was keeping an ornate boxie with a Russian tortoise. This is essentially the same situation, except in a drier habitat. The two seem to get along okay, and have stayed healthy. So maybe the risk of disease contagion between torties and boxies is lower? I don't know. After all, we're mammals and we can catch bird flu. Anybody have horror stories of torties and boxies making each other sick?
 

jaizei

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I see it as no different than mixing species of tortoises. Depends on the person doing it and the animals involved.
 

wellington

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StudentoftheReptile said:
I'm going with "No, never" just to deter novices from doing it. The few success stories (mostly with box turtles & redfoots) are exceptions to the rule, and seem to be influenced by experienced keepers with good QT practices. Do I agree with it? Not really, but I will acknowledge that some folks are lucky in spite of the odds.

I totally agree with the above.
 

Team Gomberg

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This is interesting. Hmmm.

May I add aquatic turtles to this mix?

Why can a pond have RES, painted turtles, cooters, etc. and it is considered ok? Or maps and musks? Isn't that mixing species?

I'll be honest that has confused me big time. I keep my Russians separate from the Leopards and always will. I am fine with it, set up for it and have no desire for them to mix ever. But when I started a tank for aquatics no one could tell me why mixing aquatic turtles is considered ok. ??

Heather
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johnsonnboswell

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All those times my boxies are dancing in the rain and the RTs are sulking lead me to say no. The boxies are happier in a wider range of temps and in a softer more nutrient rich soil. It's in the summer when they are outdoors that their requirements seem to diverge most.
 

GeoTerraTestudo

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Team Gomberg said:
This is interesting. Hmmm.

May I add aquatic turtles to this mix?

Why can a pond have RES, painted turtles, cooters, etc. and it is considered ok? Or maps and musks? Isn't that mixing species?

I'll be honest that has confused me big time. I keep my Russians separate from the Leopards and always will. I am fine with it, set up for it and have no desire for them to mix ever. But when I started a tank for aquatics no one could tell me why mixing aquatic turtles is considered ok. ??

Heather
Sent from my Android TFO app

Heather, please allow me to clear up a few things. The reason it's not a good idea to mix tortoise species, is because you run the risk of introducing diseases to animals that are not adapted to them. For example, if you keep a South American tortoise and an African tortoise together, the South American one could get a virus or bacterium from the other side of the planet that it's not equipped to fight, and it could succumb. Ditto for the African one.

In contrast, it's not the same thing with freshwater turtles from the Southeastern US. Many of these species co-occur in the same waters in nature, so they should all have some level of immunity against the same, common pool of diseases. Ditto for the numerous turtle species living together in Southeast Asia. However, if you were to keep American freshwater turtles with Asian freshwater turtles, then they could swap diseases and get sick, because they are related but don't normally co-occur.

That's why I wonder about box turtles and tortoises. They may be from opposite sides of the world, so they may carry different diseases. However, since they're not closely related, they might not be a high contamination risk. Just a thought.
 

Millerlite

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I see where your coming from, and I do see some people housing box turtles with tortoises in an outdoor setting and had no problems, not saying I would do it personally I found box turtles to like lower cut grass and lots of rain moisture and soil. Redfooted tortoises I can see and mt. Tortoises as closer to what a box turtle would need as far as habitat and being close to each others care as far as humidity and such.

Going on the turtle route, how about people that house and I've seen ponds that's why I mention the species with these together. African sidenecks with res and cooters. Or reeves with mud and musk... They are from opposite sides of the world and seem to do alright on pond setting, even tank if big enough
 

Baoh

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Box turtles and tortoises can be hosts for several of the same species of parasitic worms and protozoans as well. I am not sure how far all of the viral jumps go. There are some in some species of tortoises, but not necessarily all. Heck, Chelydra have STDs if I am remembering that correctly. Responses ranging from mild "live with it" infections to devastating depend on the individual animals, the organism(s) infecting them, and the environmental parameters. A cooler animal can succumb more easily. An animal with a really poor diet can succumb more easily. An animal that does not have a large space through which it can roam to avoid continuous self-reinfection and increased parasitic load can succumb more easily. They can infect each other. It comes down to the quality of execution and either pure luck without quarantine or a decent quarantine period and process to allow a person time to evaluate whether or not animals are infected. It is much easier to maintain the quality of a mixed keeping setup when dealing with captive born animals that may not have had particular exposures. If pathogenic exposure and infection does take place, CB status counts for jack.

Of course, if neither animal has anything infectious to either species, it will not matter. There will be no spontaneous generation of an infectious agent.

Pretty much the same for this as it relates to mixing different tortoise species. I find it kind of funny when folks take it super-far, too, with sympatric species, but human behavior provides me with most of my instances of amusement. I have seen carbonaria in the vicinity of denticulata in the wild now. I have observed graeca, hermanni, and marginata in the same wild locations countless times (although mostly marginata and hermanni) on land my family owns in Greece.

Water turtles work the same way, too. Some farms segregate species (not that this really matters if a member of the same species is also infected in that kind of scenario). Some do not. That includes wildly different species from far removed continents. If they would be so easily wiped out, farms employing mixed ponds would fail quickly. However, they do not.

Naturally, if a keeper has a group of one species that is running "clean" and some new animals (regardless of whether it is the same or a different species) are brought in with an infectious agent (protozoa can be especially nasty in less spacious tub/bin/viv setups that hold more moisture and waste) and cross-contamination takes place (regardless of mixed housing or separate), things can potentially go very badly very quickly.

Every time someone complains on the internet about this, I make a hybrid. Kidding.

101_2575.JPG


Or am I?
 

Terry Allan Hall

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GeoTerraTestudo said:
As many of us know, it's not a good idea to house different species of tortoise together. This is because they might have different environmental requirements, they could fight or hybridize, and they could spread diseases to each other.

However, recently the question has come up as to whether it's okay to mix tortoises and box turtles. One good say that, for the same reasons above, it's not a good idea. On the other hand, although tortoises and box turtles are both chelonians, they are in different families. Therefore, they can have similar environmental requirements, they might get along, and they can't hybridize. What's more, it's not clear whether they can share diseases or not.

So what do you think? Is it okay for tortoises and box turtles to cohabitat? Please vote on the poll and share you opinion below. Thanks!

OTOH, because it's not clear whether they can share diseases or not, the possibility of sharing disease remains.

Also, I've noticed that one of my Hermann's torts, Ptolemy, is VERY interested in what my daughter's Ornate box turtles eat, and that's entirely too much protein for a European on a regular basis.

For a redfoot, which prefers more animal-based protein, it might be fine, and I know there are some folks who keep their redfoots and box turtles together w/ no problems, so far.


Team Gomberg said:
This is interesting. Hmmm.

May I add aquatic turtles to this mix?

Why can a pond have RES, painted turtles, cooters, etc. and it is considered ok? Or maps and musks? Isn't that mixing species?

I'll be honest that has confused me big time. I keep my Russians separate from the Leopards and always will. I am fine with it, set up for it and have no desire for them to mix ever. But when I started a tank for aquatics no one could tell me why mixing aquatic turtles is considered ok. ??

Heather
Sent from my Android TFO app

I've wondered about that, too.
 

IBeenEasy

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Baoh said:
Box turtles and tortoises can be hosts for several of the same species of parasitic worms and protozoans as well. I am not sure how far all of the viral jumps go. There are some in some species of tortoises, but not necessarily all. Heck, Chelydra have STDs if I am remembering that correctly. Responses ranging from mild "live with it" infections to devastating depend on the individual animals, the organism(s) infecting them, and the environmental parameters. A cooler animal can succumb more easily. An animal with a really poor diet can succumb more easily. An animal that does not have a large space through which it can roam to avoid continuous self-reinfection and increased parasitic load can succumb more easily. They can infect each other. It comes down to the quality of execution and either pure luck without quarantine or a decent quarantine period and process to allow a person time to evaluate whether or not animals are infected. It is much easier to maintain the quality of a mixed keeping setup when dealing with captive born animals that may not have had particular exposures. If pathogenic exposure and infection does take place, CB status counts for jack.

Of course, if neither animal has anything infectious to either species, it will not matter. There will be no spontaneous generation of an infectious agent.

Pretty much the same for this as it relates to mixing different tortoise species. I find it kind of funny when folks take it super-far, too, with sympatric species, but human behavior provides me with most of my instances of amusement. I have seen carbonaria in the vicinity of denticulata in the wild now. I have observed graeca, hermanni, and marginata in the same wild locations countless times (although mostly marginata and hermanni) on land my family owns in Greece.

Water turtles work the same way, too. Some farms segregate species (not that this really matters if a member of the same species is also infected in that kind of scenario). Some do not. That includes wildly different species from far removed continents. If they would be so easily wiped out, farms employing mixed ponds would fail quickly. However, they do not.

Naturally, if a keeper has a group of one species that is running "clean" and some new animals (regardless of whether it is the same or a different species) are brought in with an infectious agent (protozoa can be especially nasty in less spacious tub/bin/viv setups that hold more moisture and waste) and cross-contamination takes place (regardless of mixed housing or separate), things can potentially go very badly very quickly.

Every time someone complains on the internet about this, I make a hybrid. Kidding.

101_2575.JPG


Or am I?

lolll "or am i? " i bet you struck a nerve with some people on that one :D lolll
 

GeoTerraTestudo

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Baoh said:
Every time someone complains on the internet about this, I make a hybrid. Kidding.

101_2575.JPG


Or am I?

That's really messed up! :p

Anyway, your comment about Greeks, Hermanns, and marginateds co-occuring in Greece is really interesting. I've often wondered if that happens, because that's where those three congeneric species' ranges meet (as you said, this is like redfoots and yellowfoots in South America). How often have you seen that? Is it rare, uncommon, or pretty common? I doubt if they'd hybridize in the wild, but from a disease standpoint, they probably have resistance to the same pathogens if they're sympatric, much like the case with sympatric species of freshwater turtles.

Yes, quarantining is of course an important practice, but resistant animals might be asymptomatic. That's why it's not a good idea to mix species that don't normally co-occur in nature. It's okay if they're all resistant (same species or unaffected), but when mixing species, you run the risk of asymptomatic animals infecting vulnerable animals that have no history with a given pathogen.

Good point about some pathogens being transmitted more easily than others. Just because boxies and torties don't share all diseases, that doesn't mean they can't share some. I'd really like to hear from folks with experience in this, good or bad. I've heard of this working, but when has it failed?
 

Baoh

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IBeenEasy said:
lolll "or am i? " i bet you struck a nerve with some people on that one :D lolll

lol

GeoTerraTestudo said:
Baoh said:
Every time someone complains on the internet about this, I make a hybrid. Kidding.

101_2575.JPG


Or am I?

That's really messed up! :p

Anyway, your comment about Greeks, Hermanns, and marginateds co-occuring in Greece is really interesting. I've often wondered if that happens, because that's where those three congeneric species' ranges meet (as you said, this is like redfoots and yellowfoots in South America). How often have you seen that? Is it rare, uncommon, or pretty common? I doubt if they'd hybridize in the wild, but from a disease standpoint, they probably have resistance to the same pathogens if they're sympatric, much like the case with sympatric species of freshwater turtles.

Yes, quarantining is of course an important practice, but resistant animals might be asymptomatic. That's why it's not a good idea to mix species that don't normally co-occur in nature. It's okay if they're all resistant (same species or unaffected), but when mixing species, you run the risk of asymptomatic animals infecting vulnerable animals that have no history with a given pathogen.

Good point about some pathogens being transmitted more easily than others. Just because boxies and torties don't share all diseases, that doesn't mean they can't share some. I'd really like to hear from folks with experience in this, good or bad. I've heard of this working, but when has it failed?

I spent most of my time in the South, but I have origins from several areas areas in the North, too, and have spent some time there. In the South, I come across primarily hermanni and marginata to a less frequent extent. In the North, I come across all three species I mentioned. I have seen hermanni in the same area as marginata maybe a hundred or more times. I have seen all three species in the North together only around a handful of times. I do not think the hermanni are hybridizing with anyone that I can tell. I know the graeca and marginata have, but I do not know if they have in the natural settings I have observed. At a few monasteries, I have seen some marginata x graeca looking animals in surrounding garden areas, but I think this is more about having a limited number of available sexual partners (that is just my opinion, though).

That said, there is a different between innate and acquired immunity, and they can pass on things like parasites easily. It is usually the roaming and fiber consumption that keeps the load manageable. Oh, and the wild ones tend to be heavily infested with ticks. I spent many an hour removing them from every tortoise I would find as a child before I would send it on its way or put into my summer enclosures (where I would keep mainly hermanni and occasionally a marginata, but not graeca, as my enclosures were in the family land in the South on Evia).

Re: quarantine and asymptomatic animals. Granted, but the same thing can be said for members of the same species, in which case one would never even match up members of one species from differing sources. Quarantine alone does not rule out disease absolutely. It simply builds increasing confidence in favor of a state of wellness or good health over time and prevents transmission during this period. That said, I mentioned evaluation. This goes to the issue I have spoken about regarding how this (species mixing) is not necessarily something just anyone should do. I typically take a neutral stance and usually only respond to absolutism, but I discourage it for some scenarios as much as I am okay with it -but not an advocate- in others. The quarantine, for a person with resources, is also a good time to more deeply examine the tortoise. Testing can be done during this time. Viruses are typically out of scope because of the difficulty of testing, but anything intestinal is game. Worms and protozoans can be observed easily enough, symptoms or not, and especially over time. This standard of evaluation has an equal value regardless of species in preventing disease transmission as well as in determining the value and options of a treatment plan if an animal is found to have an infection. While a foreign pathogen may be more virulent in one new host situation due to a lack of immunity, evolution can also favor adaptation of the pathogen that is more familiar with its host such that it can more specifically infect. It is kind of a mixed bag argument with positive and negative aspects regardless of one's approach.

For same or mixed:

I advocate quarantine across the board. I advocate behavioral observation across the board (this becomes a bigger issue in closer confinement than in a huge enclosure). I advocate testing if possible across the board. I do not think people should just toss animals together. I think, with some thought and work put in, people who approach this in certain ways have a much better chance of success than those who exercise pure luck. I know, as I have seen, same species mixing without reasonable precautions fail as spectacularly as mixed. There are tons of instances of successes and failures with both, but conversations with a number of individuals who have had success with carefully performed mixing have ended with them telling me that they would rather not make mention because they do not want to get a headache over explaining their stories to people who have made some prejudgments.

I really prefer that newbies NOT entertain species mixing for the sake of the animals' well being, but I also acknowledge that it can be done well by certain individuals. A problem might be that folks are overly confident when starting out, though, and that could end badly for their animals.

I would say that, most of the time, pairing a WC Russian with a CB adult male sulcata is going to end with a very bad result in at least one direction (behaviorally or in terms of disease). However, I have seen this exact scenario play out well to the tune of decades of harmony. However, due to the high probability for failure and the exceptionally infrequent likelihood and nature of success in this scenario, you would never see me saying this is a very good idea.

However, putting a female denticulata with a female carbonaria with the precautions and provisions I have mentioned just now and before is not unreasonable and has an incredibly high chance of success. If done, I would say not to skimp on the measures taken to ensure success just because it has a better chance. I still would say it would be wiser for newbies to institute the same measures and STILL work with just one species.
 

Baoh

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Because I had forgotten to mention it, that female denticulata refuses male denticulata (as well as male carbonaria). But she is sweet on my male ivory sulcata for whatever reason...and he is sweet on...everybody. lol

I am fortunate in that he extremely docile in general behavior and breeds readily. Many males are either aggressive in multiple domains or are "lazy" breeders, neither of which would be a good fit for my program(s).
 

johnsonnboswell

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On a practical say to day level, unless they share the same dietary needs, someone's health will suffer. Box turtles are omnivores and need to eat a lot of things most tortoises should avoid.
 

Baoh

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Are you forcing them to consume the same diet or are they free to self-select from a variety? What does a box turtle need to eat that a tortoise should avoid?
 

johnsonnboswell

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Box turtles are omnivores. They eat fruits and vegetables and mushrooms and live foods such as bugs, worms, slugs, snails, eggs, meat, fish... Given a chance, they'll eat carrion and pinky mice, too.

I would not trust my RTs to self select a diet that is good for them and ignore berries or banana or sweet potatoes, etc. Pretty much everything they are supposed to avoid is on the BT menu.
 

terryo

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I've kept my Cherry Head's with my Box turtles for years with no problems. I have friends who do the same. I think if you acquire them from breeders who have clean animals, and they are hatchlings when you put them together, and they require the same environment, and eat the same kind of foods, why would you have a problem? The only thing I do different, is when feeding them I omit the protein from the Cherry Heads food dish. There was an old lady that my Father knew that kept her tortoises with her box turtles in the same yard for over 50 years, never having any sick or dying. The tortoises came in for the Winter, and the box turtles hibernated outside.
As for having different water species together....I've kept Yellow Belly Sliders, Eastern Painted, and RES in the same pond for over thirty years with no problems. My friend has RES and Diamond Backs in his pond for years too.
But, as some have said, it isn't good to advocate this because new keepers might think it's OK to keep a 10 year old Box Turtle with a 3 year old Russian, etc.. Mine were all hatchlings from a breeder I knew, and all needed the same type of environment.
 
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