Box turtles make great pets to keep at home for yourself as well as young children. They are relatively simple to care for and don’t grow to be very large, which makes housing them easy enough. They may not require too much over the top care, but what care they do need is important to know about.
Sometimes referred to as a “box tortoise”, the box turtle is in fact not a tortoise but does resemble a tortoise remarkably. This common misconception is important to be aware of so that you are using the correct information to care for your new pet box turtle.
Creating a Comfortable Enclosure for Your Box Turtle
The first and most important step in caring for your new pet box turtle is to create a comfortable enclosure for them to live in. An outdoor enclosure is best, but a well assembles indoor enclosure can work just as well.
Creating an Outdoor Enclosure
For an outdoor enclosure, it is important that a temperature of 75-80 degrees is maintained while not exposing your box turtle to temperatures below 50 degrees. This means that if you are expecting nighttime or daytime temperatures that will drop to or below 50 degrees you will want to bring your box turtle inside until the weather becomes warmer.
A 4x2 foot sized enclosure is a good size to home up to two box turtles outdoors. The enclosure should be in an area where an adequate amount of shade is provided throughout the day. Whether that be from the branches of a tree or from a strategically placed umbrella.
A wire mesh over the top of your outdoor enclosure is a good way to protect your pet box turtle from other animals who may want to hurt your pet. Their shells are incredibly protective but only against certain animals.
Creating an Indoor Enclosure
If you’d rather keep your pet box turtle indoors with you, an enclosure that’s 3x1 feet will work great for one box turtle. You’ll want a slightly bigger enclosure if you want to own more than one box turtle.
Keep in mind that box turtles, just like most other turtle breeds, require a humid environment. This means that the enclosure that you choose will need to be waterproof to hold in all of the moisture. For the bedding on the bottom of the enclosure, potting soil with some wood chips mixed in is a good choice to help your box turtle to feel more at home.
A few materials that you will want to avoid using as the bedding in your box turtle’s enclosure include silica sand or aquarium rocks. These materials can be harmful to a turtle’s shell, wearing it down and potentially leading to infections.
In either an outdoor or indoor enclosure, a form of shelter and warmth are both crucial. Turtles love to be able to hide out in a safe shelter of their own every once in a while. Since they are ectotherms (Cold-blooded) heat and proper temperature regulation is a priority.
Feeding Your Box Turtle
What to feed your box turtle depends on a few different factors. For one, their age is a big component that influences their diet. If you have a baby boxy turtle or juvenile box turtles it is more likely that their diet will be more carnivorous than omnivorous at these stages. They should be provided with a good mix of both animal-based foods and plant-based foods.
There are also certain nutrients that your box turtle should be getting a moderate amount of in each meal. These important nutrients include calcium and phosphorous. These nutrients are especially important for your turtles to bone an shell health.
It’s recommended that you feed your turtle calcium and phosphorous at a 2:1 ratio. This will help their shell grow healthy and strong while also helping to prevent metabolic bone disease. This disease is common among reptiles, especially those that are kept as pets. It can be avoided by maintaining a proper diet that has good amounts of calcium and phosphorous.
Your box turtles’ diet should already include fruits and vegetables in addition to any animal-based food that you give them. There are certain fruits and vegetables that are especially good for providing high calcium and phosphorous levels for your box turtle. These foods include cabbage, raspberries, leafy greens, and squash, among many other fruits and vegetables that are high in calcium and phosphorous.
Raising a box turtle and keeping it as your pet can be a great experience for you and your family as you learn how to care for this funny little reptile. You can keep their enclosure inside or outside, although having one of each isn’t a bad idea either so that you can stay on top of helping them regulate their temperature.
Understanding their diet and essential nutrient needs is also crucial when keeping a box turtle as a pet. Once you learn how to provide a balanced diet that is consistent in calcium, phosphorous, and all other nutritional needs, you will be on the right track to raising a happy and healthy box turtle.