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Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina and T. ornata) Care >> Amphibian Care

Widespread Names

Box turtle, three-toed box turtle, japanese box turtle, gulf coast field turtle, ornate field turtle, desert box turtle.

Measurement and Look

Box turtles are named so as a result of they’ve a hinged plastron (the underside part of the shell) that they will move to utterly conceal themselves. There are two species of field turtle in North America, Japanese and Western, and they’re divided into the following subspecies:

Japanese Box Turtles:

Terrapene carolina bauri – Florida field turtle
Terrapene carolina carolina – Japanese box turtle
Terrapene carolina main – Gulf Coast field turtle
Terrapene carolina Mexicana – Mexican field turtle
Terrapene carolina putnami – No widespread identify, now extinct
Terrapene caorilina triunguis – Three-toed field turtle
Terrapene carolina yucatana – Yucatán field turtle

Western Box Turtles:

Terrapene ornata luteola – Desert Box Turtle
Terrapene ornata ornata – Ornate Box Turtle

Japanese box turtles usually grow to between 5 and eight inches (13 cm and 20 cm) while Western box turtles are smaller, and often mature at between four and 6 inches (10 cm and 15 cm).  Each subspecies has a unique look and people differ in coloration as properly. It is very important determine which species of field turtle is being stored because their care necessities—especially most popular temperature and eating regimen—aren’t the identical.

Distribution and Habitat

Japanese field turtles vary over a lot of the japanese United States, from the Gulf Coast up into New England. Western field turtles are distributed from Arizona and New Mexico east to the Great Plains and some Midwestern States.

Box turtles are primarily terrestrial and reside on land. The 2 species occupy several types of habitat. Japanese field turtles are associated with deciduous forests and woodlands whereas Western field turtles inhabit prairies, open plains, and even the sting of desert. Particular person turtles have distinct territories that they often stick with within these habitats. Each Japanese and Western box turtle populations are in decline as a result of habitat loss.


Three-toed, Japanese, Gulf Coast, and Ornate field turtles are all obtainable regularly from sellers, breeders and pet stores. Unfortunately, wild-caught field turtles are still repeatedly bought and are most often discovered for sale at pet stores. Keep away from buying turtles caught within the wild and as an alternative search for captive-bred people instantly from a breeder, or alternatively present unwanted pets. Box turtles have been recognized to stay for more than a century in captivity and are a long-term dedication, so with some looking at reptile rescues and animal shelters it’s typically potential to find a field turtle. Reptile expos and trade exhibits where captive-born individuals may be inspected earlier than purchase may be the most effective place to purchase one.


An typically ignored facet of field turtle care is the enclosure and its measurement. In the wild, box turtles occupy relatively giant areas and offering an enclosure that gives plenty of room is important. Outside turtle pens are greatest if the climate the place you live is appropriate for retaining them outdoor. Turtle pens usually are not troublesome to construct and are cheaper than establishing an indoor enclosure.

See Turtle and Tortoise Pen Development: Step-by-step to discover ways to build an outside enclosure on your box turtle

Regrettably, not every setting is appropriate to deal with box turtles outside yr spherical. In areas outdoors of their pure range it might be essential to deliver the turtle inside throughout chilly or scorching climate, and in some regions, it won’t be suitable to keep box turtles outdoors in any respect. In these situations, an enclosure indoors shall be mandatory.

An outside pen for a box turtle. Housing field turtles outdoors is one of the simplest ways to offer them with the best surroundings.

Avoid housing box turtles in glass aquariums if attainable. As an alternative, giant plastic tubs comparable to cement mixing trays, giant storage containers, or inventory ponds are higher. A 50 gallon plastic bin that measures 43 inches long by 22 inches vast by 18 inches high (109 cm by 56 cm by 46 cm) is enough area for one adult, though extra room is all the time higher.

Use a substrate the turtle can burrow in. In indoor enclosures, coconut husk fiber is a perfect substrate. Giant bark chippings, moss and/or sand might be combined into the coconut husk fiber. Different potential substrates embrace cypress mulch or prime soil combined with sand. Gravel, newspaper, sand alone, reptile carpeting, and indoor/outside carpeting don’t work properly long-term as a result of turtles can’t simply burrow in them and they do not hold moisture nicely. When substrates don’t maintain moisture, humidity ranges can easily fall too low and respiratory and other well being problems might develop in consequence.

Most captive box turtles are pretty secretive and choose to stay hidden through the day. To accommodate this, a couple of disguise areas ought to be offered. These can embrace items of cork bark, commercially out there reptile cover spots, driftwood, damaged pieces of flower pot, or cardboard shelters with an entrance gap reduce in them.

Box Turtle Enclosure - Indoors

An indoor enclosure for a box turtle. If the local weather isn’t applicable for holding a turtle outdoor, plastic bins make better enclosures than conventional glass aquariums.


Box turtles which are stored indoors want two qualities from their mild supply to stay healthy. They must be exposed to UVB radiation to metabolize calcium in their food regimen in addition to heat to manage physique temperature.

Choose a light-weight source designed for reptiles that produces no less than 5% UVB radiation or the equivalent in one other index. Place the UVB emitting mild bulb over a display part of the duvet or open space of the cage as a result of glass and plastic filter out UVB rays. The amount of UVB radiation that is produced by bulbs slowly decreases over time, so UVB emitting mild bulbs must be replaced a few times per yr no matter in the event that they burn out or not.

Incandescent mild bulbs can be utilized to heat the cage to an applicable temperature. With both kinds of lighting, present a photoperiod of around 12 hours per day. Infrared incandescent mild bulbs can be used to warmth the cage at night time without disturbing the turtle if wanted.

Temperature and Humidity

The temperature vary to offer for a field turtle is dependent upon the species that’s stored and the place it’s from. It is very important have each a heat and a cool aspect inside the enclosure in order that the box turtle can regulate its personal physique temperature. Box turtles from the northern finish of their vary might do better when stored cooler than box turtles from the southern a part of their vary.

Usually the warmest a part of the enclosure should strategy 90°F (32°C). The opposite elements of the enclosure can stay between 65°F-75°F (18°C-24°C). If the temperature falls too low for long durations of time some wild-caught box turtles might attempt to hibernate. In the event that they aren’t conditioned earlier than they start hibernating the turtle might get sick so it is very important monitoring the temperature in all elements of the cage with a thermometer, shifting it around to totally different areas and taking the temperature during both day and night time and at totally different occasions of the yr.

Japanese box turtles spend much of their time in the leaf litter of forests and woody grasslands and choose greater humidity than Western box turtles. To accommodate this, mist the cage a few times every day for Japanese box turtles, particularly if the humidity within the room it is stored in is low. Western field turtles will not be as delicate to durations of low humidity but it is nonetheless a good suggestion to offer a part of the cage a radical misting every morning. Including an area of moist moss or wetting the soil substrate in the part of the enclosure completely each day may also assist hold humidity levels excessive.


Most box turtles take day by day baths in water so it is very important present a big easily-accessed water area. It must be deep sufficient in order that the turtle and almost submerge itself and large enough to fit the whole turtle. Change the water dish once a day, extra typically if wanted. To make sure that captive field turtles keep hydrated it can be useful to soak them in lukewarm water for up to an hour as soon as every week.

Eating regimen

Each Japanese and Western field turtles are omnivores. Japanese box turtles ought to be provided with a weight-reduction plan that consists of round 60-70% plant matter, whereas Western box turtles ought to be fed a weight loss plan cut up extra evenly.

A primary box turtle salad can include finely chopped leafy greens combined with fruites and veggies. Use a spread together with apples, pears, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, mangos, bananas, zucchini, squash, carrots, sweet potato, and snap peas. Spinach, beets, rhubarb, broccoli, cauliflower and kale ought to be prevented or utilized in moderation. Some field turtles might refuse to eat leafy greens, which is ok, offered that their weight-reduction plan is diversified and supplemented appropriately.

It is very important chop up the fruits and vegetables nicely before providing them to a turtle. Box turtles typically develop robust preferences for certain meals gadgets and might keep away from eating the ones that they do not like if the salad isn’t chopped and combined nicely. Feeding just one or two varieties of vegetables or fruits, or only a box turtle’s favourite meals, will result in dietary deficiencies or imbalances. Supply a small, low-lipped dish of fruits and vegetables day by day.

Animal based mostly foods for box turtles can consist principally of stay invertebrates like crickets, earth worms, night time crawlers, wax worms, super worms, silk worms, horn worms, and meal worms. Out of that record, earthworms and crickets ought to be fed most often, up to a number of occasions per week for Western box turtles. Sometimes, box turtles can be provided small pre-killed pinky or fuzzy mice or boiled hen.

Ensure that to remove previous, uneaten food once the field turtle looses curiosity in it. Business diets and pellets may be provided together with a raw weight-reduction plan but usually aren’t as well-rounded as they declare to be and should not be the one meals used. Do not forget to use a top quality reptile vitamin and mineral dietary supplements as soon as each two to 3 feedings for adult box turtles and at virtually every feeding for juvenile turtles. That is key to ensure health problems associated to vitamin are prevented.