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Proper Care and Maintenance of


Box Turtles by Heather Leigh Wilkins

Zoo Med's Proper Care and Maintenance of

Box Turtles by Heather Leigh Wilkins

Table of Contents Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Background Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Selecting a Box Turtle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Where to Acquire a Box Turtle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Housing Your Turtle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Feeding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Hibernation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Breeding. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Species of Box Turtles. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Shopping List for Enclosure Supplies. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Shopping List for Fruits and Vegetables . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 List of Turtle and Tortoise Societies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

Copyright Š2002 Zoo Med Laboratories, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without the permission of Zoo Med Laboratories, Inc.

Introduction Box turtles are extremely interesting creatures. They are playful, animated, curious, and stubborn. They’re entertaining pets and can be very rewarding when properly cared for. Box turtles will learn to recognize their owners. This is very exciting, especially during feeding time. Box turtles are eager breeders and can lay several clutches of eggs during the breeding season. Box turtles have been known to live over 100 years! This means that a box turtle can outlive its owner, which is important to take into consideration before you purchase one. Keeping all this in mind, this book will guide you in providing basic care for your new box turtle. It will cover everything from proper diet, to breeding and hibernating. Over the years, box turtles have been falsely thought of as “easy animals to care for.” In reality, providing proper care for these animals can be quite difficult and expensive. A box turtle can be purchased for as little as twenty dollars, but providing an environment suitable for housing a box turtle can cost as much as ten times the purchase price (or more!). It’s very important to understand and provide for a box turtle’s needs. Due to the amount of care a box turtle requires, it is important to evaluate a box turtle’s suitability as a pet for young children. It is always recommended that you learn as much as you can about an animal before purchasing one. This book will discuss the basic needs and requirements of American Box Turtles and will include a list of suggested supplies as well as a list of turtle societies that are great resources for further information. Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles


©Zoo Med Laboratories Inc., 2010

Background information Box turtles are classified in the family Emydidae, which includes both aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles, and can be further distinguished in the genus Terrapene. Box turtles can be easily distinguished from tortoises (family Testudinidae) by their hinged shell that closes like a box, hence the name box turtle. Box turtles have different care requirements and characteristics than other turtle species and tortoises, so it is important to distinguish whether you have a box turtle or perhaps a tortoise. A full grown box turtle can weigh a couple of pounds, whereas some tortoises can reach over 200 pounds. Tortoises are usually strict vegetarians while box turtles are omnivores. Tortoises are generally found in dry areas while box turtles enjoy shady, humid areas with lots of fresh water. The box turtles we will be focusing on in this book are found in North America, with territories as far south as Mexico and as far north as Maine. Most species are found in the eastern part of the United States, where the land provides an ideal damp environment in which they can thrive. While most box turtles are wild caught, it is illegal in some states to capture wild specimens. Your state may also require you to register your turtle or obtain a license. You can check with your local pet retailer, animal regulations department, or reptile/turtle society for more information about your state’s legislation. Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles


©Zoo Med Laboratories Inc., 2010

Selecting a Box Turtle

When choosing your new pet, take a look at the enclosure the turtles are in and make the following evaluations: 1. Are the turtles being provided with the proper lighting and heating? 2. Is there adequate space for all the turtles in the enclosure? 3. Is the enclosure clean and well kept up? Look at the turtles themselves. Make the following evaluations: 4. A healthy turtle will look alert and its eyes should both be open and clear without discharge. 5. The nostrils should not have any discharge or bubbles. 6. The turtle’s beak should not be overgrown. 7. A turtle should feel heavy when picked up and not feel lightweight or hollow. 8. They should not look dehydrated and there should be no feces in the cloaca area. 9. In general, the turtle’s shell should be free of cracks and blemishes, however, this is not necessarily an indication of illness. Box Turtles are typically field collected. This means that they are taken from the wild rather than bred in captivity. While box turtles are relatively easy to breed in captivity, the cost to raise a box turtle to an age where they can be sold is much more expensive than gathering a wild turtle. This cost is reflected in the price of wild caught versus captive bred specimens. Most pet stores will sell wild caught specimens. Captive bred specimens can be purchased from turtle breeders. You may be able to adopt a turtle through your local humane society, reptile, turtle, or tortoise Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles


©Zoo Med Laboratories Inc., 2010

society. Always ask for the genus and species name when you purchase or adopt a turtle. This will aid in your research for proper care. When you bring a new box turtle home to an existing group, always isolate the new turtle for three to six months before introducing it. This is essential to good turtle husbandry and will eliminate cross contamination of disease and parasites between the turtles. Once the turtle has been isolated and is in good health, it can then be added to the existing group. Never introduce a turtle that is sick, not eating, or that has diarrhea.

Male or Female:

It can be difficult to distinguish a male box turtle from a female. Male turtles generally have red/orange eyes, longer thicker tails, and a concave lower shell (called the plastron). In some species, males may also be more brightly colored than females. Females generally have brown eyes and short thin tails with the cloaca closer to the shell. Eye color is not always a good indicator of the turtle’s sex; the author has one female three-toed box turtle with bright red eyes. As far as pets go, there is no benefit to one over the other, they are both interactive and fun to watch.

Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles


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Where to Acquire a box turtle Pet stores:

The easiest place to find a box turtle is a pet store. You should only purchase your box turtle from a pet store which has a good understanding of their special needs. Most box turtles available in a pet store will be wild caught specimens. Captive bred turtles may be available, but will be more expensive. Look at the enclosure the box turtles are in. Use the previous guidelines to check for healthy turtles. Do not purchase a turtle if it’s not in excellent health, you will only run into more problems.


Most breeders will have a healthy stock of box turtles for you to choose from. Again, look at the enclosures the turtles are in and check for any sick animals. Breeders may be able to give you more information on your turtle’s specific needs. Ask as many questions as possible and get the breeder’s contact information for any further concerns. Breeders should be able to recommend a good reptile vet in your area, and will know local laws governing turtle keeping.

Reptile / Trade shows:

Purchasing reptiles from a reptile show allows you to view many different animals before making a decision. Most dealers will know local laws governing turtle keeping, and will be able to give you advice on the turtles’ proper care.

Fairs and swap meets:

Be cautious when purchasing any animal from a fair or swap meet. Most people who sell animals here are not licensed. In addition, they may not know of any local laws governing the sale of turtles. Always be sure that the turtle is in good health. Never buy a turtlebecause it was a ‘good deal.’ It is better to pay a little bit more for a turtle you know is healthy, than have to care for a sick turtle. Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles


©Zoo Med Laboratories Inc., 2010

Housing your turtle One of the most important things to consider when deciding to purchase a box turtle is how you are planning on housing it. Box turtles will do well in indoor enclosures when they are provided with the proper set-up, but they really fare best when kept in large outdoor habitats. Outdoor habitats provide plenty of space and exercise while allowing them plenty of access to natural sunlight.

Outdoor Enclosures: Zoo Med’s Forest Floor Cypress Mulch

Zoo Med’s Habba Hut

While there are a few options for housing box turtles, the most practical from a care standpoint is an outdoor habitat. Choose a location that has access to direct sunlight for part of the day. Turtles are notorious diggers, so you will want to provide fencing for your enclosure that is buried at least 12 inches under the ground. Turtles also have the ability to climb relatively well. You should provide a fence that is difficult for them to scale and which is at least two feet high. Or, better yet, you can provide a fence with a lip or a hinged screen top. In a recent visit to a zoo, the author learned about a huge tortoise that scaled a six foot chain-link fence. Never underestimate the capabilities of your turtle! Railroad ties make a great fencing material for an enclosure. The area should provide at least three square feet per turtle, but the larger the better. The ground should be covered with a few inches of mulch, such as Zoo Med’s Forest Floor. This will provide burrowing areas. One side of the enclosure should have a shallow pool for bathing and drinking. It can be as simple as a cat litter pan or as elaborate as a water garden. While

Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles


©Zoo Med Laboratories Inc., 2010

box turtles can swim, there should be an area where the turtle can soak most of its body while keeping his head above water. It is important to provide hiding places with logs such as Zoo Med’s Habba Huts or with other safe objects. Providing a hide allows a turtle shelter from the sun and an area where they can escape and feel safe if they are threatened. Always make sure predators such as dogs and cats, even if they are your neighbors’, cannot gain access to the turtles’ home. This is where a screen top can come in handy. The enclosure should be sprinkled with water daily to keep the humidity high. There are several great books available on designing outdoor enclosures.

Indoor Enclosures:

Most box turtles fare well when kept indoors. A single box turtle can be housed in a 20 gallon (76 liter) terrarium, although I highly recommend using the largest terrarium you can afford. As with an outdoor enclosure, you will need to provide a borrowing material for the substrate, such as Zoo Med’s Forest Floor, or a combination of Repti Bark and Eco Earth. Providing a thick layer of substrate will allow the turtles to utilize more of the terrarium space by allowing them to engage in their natural burrowing behavior, and allowing them to gain closer access to both heat sources and UVB lighting. Sick, isolated, or young turtles should be housed on Cage Carpet, Odor Tamers, or newspaper. This will allow you to monitor the feces and health of your turtle more easily. A large dish, such as a cat litter pan, should be provided for bathing and drinking. The box turtle must be able to climb in and out of the water bowl without any problems. The water level should be no lower then the bottom of the turtle’s shell and no deeper than the top of the turtle’s shell. Always provide an area where the turtle can safely get in and out of the water. Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles


Zoo Med’s Odor Tamer

Zoo Med’s Repti Bark

Zoo Med’s Eco Earth

©Zoo Med Laboratories Inc., 2010


Zoo Med’s Ceramic Heat Emitter Zoo Med’s Reptitherm Under Tank Heater

All reptiles are exothermic, which means they rely on an outside source of heat to warm their bodies. It is very important to provide heat to your turtles both day and night. The ideal daytime temperature for box turtles is 78-85˚F (25-29˚C) with a basking area between 85-88˚F (29-31˚C). Nighttime temperatures should not drop below 65˚F (18˚C) when not in hibernation. Lack of heat can lead to respiratory and other health problems, lack of appetite, and death in some cases. An enclosure should provide a thermal gradient, where one side is warmer than the other side. This allows the turtle to move to the area of the terrarium where he/she feels most comfortable. Nighttime heat should only be provided with a heat source that does not produce visible white light. Excellent night and 24-hour heat sources include ceramic heat emitters, red reptile bulbs, and under tank heaters. Day time bulbs that produce visible light should only be left on for 8-12 hours per day.

Humidity: Zoo Med’s Nocturnal Infrared Heat Lamp

Humidity is a very important aspect of box turtle husbandry. A box turtle’s natural habitat provides a damp or wet area where the turtle can hide and remain hydrated and healthy. We must simulate this in captivity. Humidity levels should be within the 60-80% range. A box turtle that is not provided with proper humidity levels can develop swollen eyes and ear infections, among other health problems. Humidity is especially important when housing the very sensitive Ornate Box Turtle.

Lighting: Zoo Med’s Precision Analog Humidity Gauge

When reptile enthusiasts refer to lighting, they are generally talking about UVB (ultraviolet B) reptile bulbs. Lighting is different than heat and it is essential

Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles


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to provide both. In nature, the sun provides reptiles with UVA (ultraviolet A), UVB and heat. When we take a turtle away from their natural habitat, we need to provide these things for them. There is nothing more controversial and confusing in reptile husbandry than ultraviolet lighting. UVA and UVB are both wavelengths of light, but are not part of the visible spectrum. UVA wavelengths (400-320nm) are shorter than those in the visible spectrum (750-400nm), and UVB (260-320nm) has even shorter wavelengths than UVA. Beware of terms like full spectrum and daylight, because they do not necessarily produce UVB. In fact, full spectrum indicates that the bulb includes all wavelengths of visible light, not UVA or UVB. UVB is essential for completing a chemical reaction in many animals’ bodies. UVB enables an animal to convert vitamin D into a usable form within the body. The active form of vitamin D, also known as calcitriol or vitamin D3, is an essential part of calcium absorption. Lack of UVB will lead to vitamin D and calcium deficiencies. These deficiencies can cause a list of severe health problems like Metabolic Bone Disease or death. The author recommends using the ReptiSun 5.0

Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles


©Zoo Med Laboratories Inc., 2010

or the Power Sun UV for UVB. The Turtles must be able to get within 12 inches (30 cm) of the ReptiSun 5.0 bulb to receive the UVB benefit, while they should never be able to get closer than 12 inches (30 cm) to the Power Sun UV due to its high UVB output, but can be as far away as six feet. Any UVB light should only be on for a length of 8-10 hours a day. Most turtles that are housed outside where they have access to daily sunlight, will not require supplemental UVB lighting. Turtles that are wintered indoors will require supplemental UVB.

Zoo Med’s Iguana Light 5.0 UVB Reptisun 5.0 UVB and PowerSun UV

Reptiles have the ability to regulate the production of vitamin D3 in their bodies when exposed to UVB. This makes UVB lighting safer than using pure vitamin D3 powder and liquid supplements. Vitamin D3 is a fat soluble vitamin and is toxic in large quantities. A reptile cannot regulate vitamin D3 supplements and can easily be overdosed. An overdose of vitamin D3 can cause calcification of soft tissue, abnormal bone thickening, and death. UVA will help ensure mental well-being and help provide for the overall health of your turtle by stimulating things like appetite, breeding behavior, and alertness. Sources of UVA include Zoo Med's Repti Basking Spot Lamp, Daylight Blue Reptile Bulb, ReptiSun 2.0, ReptiSun 5.0, Iguana Light 5.0 and the Power Sun UV.

Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles


©Zoo Med Laboratories Inc., 2010

Feeding Box turtles should be offered a variety of foods. They’re omnivorous, which means they eat both animal and plant material. Providing a balanced diet with both plant and animal material is essential to the health and well-being of your box turtle. Young box turtles will naturally consume more protein and should be offered a diet of approximately 70% protein and 30% vegetable/plant. Good sources of protein include insects and meat. Adults will consume more vegetables. An adult’s diet should consist of approximately 30% protein and 70% vegetable/plant. Box turtles tend to be most active during dawn and dusk, and will generally eat during those times as well.


One of the box turtle’s favorite foods is snails. It’s amazing how fast the turtles charge towards them. Box turtles will also accept earthworms, crickets, mealworms, superworms, waxworms, butterworms, moths, slugs, and grasshoppers. We recommend feeding Zoo Med’s Can O’ products. These products make feeding insects easy and convenient. If you’re collecting insects from your yard, be certain that they’re not eating any pesticides or fertilizers from yours or your neighbor’s yard. These types of chemicals can be harmful to your box turtles if consumed. If you’re feeding live crickets, be sure the box turtles can catch them (you may need to remove the crickets’ back legs). Remove any uneaten live food items if they’re not eaten within a few hours.

Zoo Med’s Can O’Snails and Can O’Grasshoppers

Commercial diets:

There are several commercial foods available on the market, including Zoo Med’s Box Turtle & Tortoise Food, Zoo Med’s Box Turtle canned wet food, and Zoo Med’s Can O’ line of products. Processed foods, such as our pellet and wet foods, are Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles


©Zoo Med Laboratories Inc., 2010

developed to make feeding easy and convenient, while providing vitamins and a balanced diet. A processed diet can be fed as a staple or added to a varied diet. Avoid processed foods that have puffed or ground yellow corn as an ingredient or filler. Ground corn has very little nutritional value, is not very digestible to reptiles, and has a very high phosphorus to calcium ratio.

Vegetable, fruit and plant matter:

Zoo Med’s Box Turtle/Tortoise Pellet food

Fresh vegetables should be available to both juvenile and adult box turtles. Box turtles will eat a variety of vegetables and fruits including but not limited to apples (no seeds), collard greens, melons, and dandelion greens. When choosing a vegetable, those that are deeper in color, such as collard greens, have more nutritional value. Never feed iceberg or head lettuce; they have no nutritional value. A list of appropriate vegetation is listed on page 19 of this book.

Vitamin supplementation:

It is very important to provide your box turtles with a vitamin supplement, especially if they’re not eating a processed food. The author recommends supplementing Reptivite reptile vitamin two to three times weekly.

Troubleshooting feeding:

Zoo Med’s Reptivite

If your box turtle isn’t eating when you first bring it home, be patient. It may take a while to adjust to its new environment. You can coax your box turtle to eat by feeding him earthworms or night crawlers. Your turtle may not eat due to the following reasons: The turtle is wild caught. If the turtle is wild caught, it may not be adjusting properly to captivity. Solution: place the turtle outside in a secure location where it can receive sunlight.

You are not feeding the correct food. Ensure you are feeding the correct foods. Use the suggested food items listed in this section and in the index. Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles


©Zoo Med Laboratories Inc., 2010

It is time for hibernation. What time of year is it? Is he/she trying to hibernate? Solution: allow your turtle to enter hibernation. Refer to the hibernation section for precautions.

The enclosure is not clean and sanitary. The turtle may not be in an environment suitable for normal metabolic function. Solution: clean enclosure, and be sure you are providing proper cage requirements. The animal is sick. Solution: check the section on turtle health. Consult a veterinarian if the turtle is sick.

You are not proving the proper heat. A turtle cannot physically metabolize or digest food if they are not warm enough. They may refuse food until they are able to do so. Solution: heat the enclosure to the proper temperatures outlined in this book. You are not providing UVB (or UVA). A turtle may not eat if they are not receiving the proper amount of UVB. In addition, UVA will help stimulate appetite in your turtle. Solution: Place the turtle under reptile specific UVB lighting, such as the ReptiSun 5.0 or Power Sun UV, or outside where it can receive unfiltered sunlight.

Zoo Med’s Daylight Blue bulb and Repti Basking Spot Lamp


Water is so important to box turtles. Not only do box turtles drink water, but they also use it to maintain their health. Water allows them to keep their eyes and nostrils clean as well as aiding in waste elimination. It is essential that they are provided with fresh water daily and they should be soaked in water 30-45 minutes every other day. Box turtles will enjoy a large dish, such as a cat litter pan. The water should be one to two inches (2.5-5 cm) deep, reaching to the top of their legs. The turtle should be able to easily access and vacate the water dish. Keeping a large dish of water in the enclosure will also help with the humidity. The enclosure should be misted or sprayed with water as often as possible to increase humidity. Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles


©Zoo Med Laboratories Inc., 2010

Zoo Med’s Reptisafe

Hibernation Hibernation is important to a box turtle’s health. In the wild, box turtles will retreat into the ground for a period of three to six months depending on the environmental conditions and species of turtle. In captivity, we need to offer hibernation to our box turtles, especially if you are planning on breeding. If your box turtles are housed in an outdoor enclosure, they may hibernate on their own. If kept indoors, you may need to assist your turtle. In either case, food should not be given to your box turtle two weeks prior to hibernation. If your turtle is hibernated with food in its stomach or intestine, the food will rot and cause damage to the turtle. The turtle should be soaked for ten minutes several times a day to aid with waste removal and hydration for these two weeks. Do not hibernate a sick, unhealthy or underweight turtle. A hibernation box can be made with a large plastic storage container with a solid lid. You will need to drill holes in the top and in the side (above the fill line) for ventilation. Fill the hibernation box with a 12" or deeper layer of potting soil or peat moss. After the box turtle’s food has passed, it can then be placed in the box. The turtle should bury itself in the soil. If the turtle does not do so in 24 hours, they are not ready to hibernate. The hibernation box should be kept in an unheated room with temperatures of 40-55˚F (4-13˚C) where it cannot be disturbed or flooded. The hibernation box should remain humid, but not wet. If the temperature rises higher than 65˚F (18˚C), the box turtle will come out of hibernation. Ideally, the turtles should remain hibernated at 45˚F (7˚C) for three to four months. The turtle will emerge from hibernation naturally when the temperature gradually rises. Keep an eye on your turtle and listen for movement. Turtle and tortoise societies are great resources for hibernation questions and concerns. Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles


©Zoo Med Laboratories Inc., 2010

Breeding Most box turtles will breed on their own, provided you have a male and a female. Breeding begins a few weeks after hibernation ends. Hibernating your turtles will release hormones in the body that trigger breeding behavior. When a male box turtle is ready to breed, he will begin biting at the female for a period of 15-60 minutes. The male will raise himself on all four legs, raising his shell off of the ground while darting his head in and out. The male then climbs on top of the female and bites at her head. This signals her to prepare for breeding. The male will put his hind claws between the females top (carapace) and lower (plastron) shell. She then closes her shell trapping his claws inside. The male presses his tail against the female until their cloacas meet. He pushes off her shell, placing himself in a vertical position. Mating has now begun. Once mating is over, you should separate the two and re-introduce them every three to four days to ensure fertilization.


When the female lays her eggs, it is essential that the eggs are not rotated, turned or shaken. Rotating the eggs will prevent their growth. A female can lay three to eight eggs at one time and can lay a second clutch of eggs within a few weeks. The eggs should be incubated at approximately 80˚F (26˚C) with a high humidity between 75-80%. Eggs can take 50-100 days to hatch depending on species and environmental conditions.

Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles


©Zoo Med Laboratories Inc., 2010

Species of Box Turtles There are a handful of American Box Turtles found throughout North America. Turtles found in the wild and in captivity can be hard to identify due to overlapping territories and interbreeding. There are several identifying characteristics which can be used to distinguish between the species.

Eastern Box Turtle:

Terrapene carolina carolina (front book cover, bottom) Distribution: Eastern Box Turtles can be found in the northeastern United States, with a range stretching as far south as Georgia and northern Florida. They are at home in damp forests and woodlands. Size: 41/2 to 7+ inches (11.25-17.5+ cm) in length Distinctive features: The Eastern box has a domeshaped shell with a variety of colorations and patterns from olive green, orange, and yellow to black and various colors of brown. Both the upper and lower shell are marked. Males have a concave area in the lower shell and bright orange/red eyes. Males reach sexual maturity around age seven. Females have a flat lower shell and generally have brown eyes. Females will reach sexual maturity at age ten. Young specimens will all have flat lower shells, regardless of the sex, in addition to non-functional hinges. Eastern Boxes will have four toes on their hind foot. Eastern Boxes are active during dawn and dusk when they forage for food. They spend most of the day burrowing to take shelter from the hot sun. Eastern boxes will generally hibernate during winter months and emerge once the temperatures begin to rise. Once awakened, they will begin to breed. The female can hold the male’s sperm until the environmental conditions are ideal to fertilize her eggs. They begin laying an average of two to four eggs from June to July. Eggs take Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles


©Zoo Med Laboratories Inc., 2010

60-80 days to incubate. Eastern Boxes have been reported to live as long as 80 years when properly cared for.

Ornate Box Turtle:

Terrapene ornata ornata (back cover, bottom) Distribution: Ornate Box Turtles can be found from the central to south central United States. They are most often found in woody grasslands and prairies. Size: 4 to 5 inches (10-12.5 cm) in length Distinctive features: The Ornate Box has a flat topped shell with similar coloration and patterns of the Eastern Boxes, ranging from olive green, orange, yellow, black and various colors of brown. Males will generally have bright orange/red eyes. Often times, males will have green coloration on their front legs, where females’ front legs will appear more yellow. Ornate Boxes have a very difficult time adjusting to captivity compared to other species of box turtle. This species should be avoided, except by the most experienced herpetologist. It is very important to provide this species with adequate humidity and heat ranging from 85-88˚F during the day and no lower than 70˚F (21˚C) during the night with high humidity levels all at times. Misting daily is very important. In the wild Ornate Boxes will feed mostly on insect matter.

Florida Box Turtle:

Terrapene carolina bauri (back cover, top left) Distribution: Florida Box Turtles can be found primarily in Florida but can also be found in the southern part of Georgia. Size: 41/2 to 61/2 inches (11.25-16.25 cm) in length Distinctive features: The Florida Box Turtle has markings similar to that of the Ornate Box Turtle with radiated lines of yellow and white. The top shell (carapace) will usually have a yellow streak down the center in addition to being longer, narrower, and higher than that of the Ornate Box Turtle. The bottom shell (plastron) is usually brown without any distinct markings. Florida Box Turtles will also Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles


©Zoo Med Laboratories Inc., 2010

have yellow bars of color behind their eyes and will have three toes on their hind feet. It is not uncommon for Florida Box Turtles to cross breed with the Ornate Box Turtle, especially along the FloridaGeorgia border where the two territories overlap.

Three-toed Box Turtle:

Terrapene carolina triunguis (back cover, top right) Distribution: Three-toed Box Turtles can be found throughout the central and southern parts of the United States. Size: 41/2 to 6 inches (11.25-15 cm) in length Distinctive features: The Three-toed Box Turtle will generally have a plain brown top shell (carapace) and a yellow bottom shell (plastron). Three-toed Box Turtles may also have yellow spots on the carapace and red markings on their skin. Some Three-toed Box Turtles have three toes on their hind feet, but it is not a very good indicator of the species. Some Three-toed Box Turtles have four toes, while the Florida Box Turtle usually has three toes. Three-toed Box Turtles are generally smaller than other box turtle species.

Gulf Coast Box Turtle:

Terrapene carolina major Distribution: The Gulf Coast Box Turtle can be found in the southern regions of the United States from Florida to Texas. They can even be found on the St. Vincent Island off the Florida coast. Size: 5-8 inches (12.5-20 cm), the largest of all box turtles. Distinctive features: Besides being the largest of the box turtles, the Gulf Coast Box Turtle has an unusually large amount of flare along the side scales (scutes) of the carapace. This species can have markings resembling the Eastern, Florida, and Three-toed Box Turtles, but are generally darker in color ranging from dark brown to black. In captivity, Gulf Coast Box Turtles tend to spend more time soaking and wading in water than other species. Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles


ŠZoo Med Laboratories Inc., 2010

Shopping list for indoor enclosure:

Shopping list for Fruits and Vegetables

These are great choices for Box Turtles and other omnivorous/vegetarian animals. Best nutritional value:


Large Terrarium/Aquarium Substrate:

ReptiBark or Forest Floor Eco Earth Large Hide area:

Habba Hut Dishes:

Large Water Dish or Cat Litter Pan Food Dish Hood:

Zoo Med’s Combination or Slider Hood Light Fixture UVB lighting (ESSENTIAL) left on only during the day

ReptiSun 5.0 or Iguana Light 5.0 (10-12 hours) Power Sun UV (6-9 hours) Nighttime Heating Devices/24 hour heat

Ceramic Heat Emitter ReptiTherm UTH under tank heater Infrared Nightlight Nightlight Red Bulb

Daytime Heating Devices – use only during the day

Basking Spot Lamp Daylight Blue Bulb

Good Choices:

Apple- Raw (no seeds) Figs Grapes- American Grapes- European Spinach (can cause gas) Moderate choices – should not be fed as a staple food, only sparingly:


Thermometers: One for each side of enclosure to ensure gradient Humidity gauge

Alfalfa Sprouts Broccoli (can cause gas) Cantaloupe (or other melons) Chard-swiss Baby Carrots Jicama Looseleaf Lettuce Mango Pumpkins Pumpkin leaves Pumpkin Flowers Romaine Lettuce Strawberries Ripe Tomatoes


Zoo Med’s Box Turtle Food Zoo Med’s Can O’ Crickets, Worms, Grasshoppers or Snails Fresh Vegetables and fruits Vitamins:


Water Conditioner:


Hand Sanitizer:

Wipe Out 3 hand sanitizer Terrarium and cage cleaner:

Wipe Out 1 Wipe Out 2

Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles

Amaranth Chicory Collards Dandelion Endive Grape Leaves Kale Kelp Mustard Greens Pricklypear- fruit & Pads Watercress

Avoid the following:

Corn – Ca:P ratio too low Iceberg Lettuce – little to no nutritional value 19

©Zoo Med Laboratories Inc., 2010

Turtle and Tortoise Specific Societies.

For a list of general herp societies in your area, contact Zoo Med by mail or check our web site at

Turtle Homes P.O. Box 297 Merrick, NY 11566 Gulf Coast Turtle and Tortoise Society 1227 Whitestone Houston, TX 77073 Williamsburg Turtle and Tortoise Society and Rescue C/O St. Georges Hundred 230 Robertson St. Williamsburg, VA 23185-8309

Silver Spring, MD 20904

Palm Desert, CA 92261

National Turtle and Tortoise Society P.O. Box 66935 Phoenix, AZ 85082

California Turtle and Tortoise Club Morongo Basin Branch P.O. Box 2335 Yucca Valley, CA 92286

California Turtle and Tortoise Club Central Valley Chap. P.O. Box 727 Clovis, CA 93613-0727

California Turtle and Tortoise Club Orange County Chap. P.O. Box 11124 Santa Ana, CA 92711

California Turtle and Tortoise Club Chino Valley Chap. P.O. Box 1753 Chino, CA 91708-1753

California Turtle and Tortoise Club Santa Barbara, Ventura, Fillmore Chap. P.O. Box 60745 Santa Barbara, CA 93160

California Turtle and Tortoise Club Foothill Chap. P.O. Box 51002 Pasadena, CA 91115-1002

California Turtle and Tortoise Club San Luis Obispo Chap. P.O. Box 14222 San Luis Obispo, CA 93406

California Turtle and Tortoise Club High Desert Chap. P.O. Box 163 Victorville, CA 92392

California Turtle and Tortoise Club T & T Care Society Chap. P.O. Box 15965 Long Beach, CA 90815-0965

New York Turtle and Tortoise Society P.O. Box 878 Orange, NJ 07051-0878

California Turtle and Tortoise Club Inland Empire Chap. P.O. Box 2371 San Bernardino, CA 92406

California Turtle and Tortoise Club Valley Chap. P.O. Box 2896 Canoga Park, CA 91396

San Diego Turtle and Tortoise Society 13963 Lyons Valley Rd Jamul, CA 92035

California Turtle and Tortoise Club Kern County Chap. P.O. Box 81772 Bakersfield, CA 93380-1772

California Turtle and Tortoise Club Westchester Chap. P.O. Box 90252 Los Angeles, CA 90009

Ontario Turtle and Tortoise Society P.O. Box 52149 Oakville, ON L6J 7N5 Canada Reno Turtle and Tortoise Club P.O. Box 8783 Reno, NV 89507 Association for the Conservation of Turtle and Tortoises RD#4 Box 368 Sussex, NJ 07461

Turtle and Tortoise Club of Florida P.O. Box 239 Sanford, FL 32772-0239 Mid-Atlantic Turtle and Tortoise Society 12421 Galway Dr.

California Turtle and Tortoise Club Low Desert Chap. P.O. Box 4156

Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles


ŠZoo Med Laboratories Inc., 2010

More Zoo Med Box Turtle Products

NT-N41 40 Gallon Tortoise Kit

TT-40 Turtle Tub Kit

ZM-49 Can O' Snails

FS-C5 ReptiSun® 5.0 UVB

Powersun® UV

TTH-1 Tortoise House

RRB-12-XL Repti Ramp Bowl

RH-20 Reptitherm Habitat Heater

ZM-151 Papaya Tropical Fruit Mix-ins

TPP-1 Tortoise Play-Pen

CM-24 Forest Floor™ Bedding

RH-4 Reptitherm U.T.H.

Zoo Med’s Care of Box Turtles

ZM-21B Box Turtle Food

ZM-20 Box Turtle Wet Food

RI-10 ReptiBator® Digital Egg Incubator

WC-8 Reptisafe™ Water Conditioner

ET-40 Eco Carpet

EE-08 Eco Earth® Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate

CE-100 Reptitherm Ceramic Infrared Heat Emitter


©Zoo Med Laboratories Inc., 2010


ITEM #ZB-60 Zoo Med Laboratories, Inc. | 3650 Sacramento Dr. | San Luis Obispo, CA 93401 Phone: (805) 542-9988 | Email:

Zb 60 Proper Care and Maintenance of American Box Turtles  
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