While turtles cannot perform tricks, play fetch or like to be cuddled, they still make amazing pets. They can be funny and inquisitive little creatures with a strong personality. And you will have plenty of time to get to know them and help them get to know you. Most species of pet turtles easily live to the age of 20 years – some even up to 100 years.
If you are planning to get a pet turtle, keep in mind that there are dozens of different species available, and each has its own unique needs. One such species is the box turtle. Box turtles are amazing pets as they are long-lived and hearty and can live up to 50 years and more with proper care and maintenance.
Box turtles have a one-of-a-kind appearance and, unlike most other common pet turtle species, they are terrestrial animals. They do not need an aquarium setup but will spend their days on land.
Box turtles have a high dome-like shell with hinges on the bottom shell. This gives them the possibility to hide inside it completely. In the wild, they use this mechanism to protect themselves from predators live raccoons and predator animals. In many U.S. states, box turtles are a protected species. Therefore, you must make sure to buy from a responsible breeder who deals in captive-bred turtles. Do not remove box turtles from the wild.
Box turtles are solitary animals. When you get a new turtle, you will often see it hiding inside its shell since it may not fully trust you or its surroundings just yet.
As they grow up, they will slowly get used to their new surroundings and owners. Your box turtle will become more trusting with time and show you that it enjoys its surroundings. Although Box turtles make excellent pets, it is necessary that you do not buy on an impulse. They require intensive care. Some of them live up to 60 years and are therefore a life-long commitment.
Here is a detailed guide that will give you the basics of Box turtle care:
Setting Up The Habitat
You can keep a Box turtle both in a large indoor enclosure, as well as outdoors. Many people keep them in tiny aquariums, which is not at all advisable. Your pet turtle should have space to roam around and enjoy its surroundings. Since every turtle has its own personality, it will enjoy different parts of its habitat. Some like to hide more while others like to hang out in the open and enjoy the heat under its basking lamp.
However, Box turtles do the best in an outdoor setup with sufficient sun, shade, weeds, and a small and shallow pond of water where they can comfortably soak. Make sure to give them enough protection from predators such as raccoons and dogs.
Provide Clean Water
It is essential that you provide your box turtle a little pool with warm water as they enjoy soaking and wading in water. However, box turtles have a habit of defecating in the water; therefore, it is crucial to replace the water daily.
The Right Diet
Box turtles happen to be omnivores, so you can feed them a wide range of food. You can also feed them commercially prepared turtle food. However, it is best not to limit them to one specific diet. Feed them a variety of meat, fruits, and vegetables. Some of their favorites include bait worms, mealworms, crickets, and wax worms. Do not forget to check any live foods before buying them. They should be mold-free and lively. Box turtles also like to munch on strawberries, peaches, plums, bananas, plums, and almost any fruit. Avoid feeding citrus fruits.
You can also feed your box turtles green and leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, cabbage, and Romaine lettuce. However, do not feed them iceberg lettuce.
A great thing about box turtles as pets is that they all have a different personality. They also have different tastes in food. Some will love to munch on bananas while others won’t touch it. Others will prefer to live food and refuse anything else. It will be your challenge to make sure your box turtle gets a balanced diet. You can try creative feeding tricks like mixing live worms with chopped vegetables or serve meatballs with healthy blended ingredients.
Calcium is vital for box turtles as they need it for building strong shells and bones. Therefore, you can feed them oyster shell calcium, which is readily available at feed stores and is also quite inexpensive. You can also give them cuttlebones to munch on as they help in keeping the turtle’s beak pruned.
Proper Lighting And Temperatures
Good lighting is vital for reptiles both physiologically as well as psychologically. Turtles and any other reptile, for that matter, need access to direct sunlight, or a source of UVA and UVB rays. You should also provide a heat source to maintain the warmth of one area of the terrarium to about 85F. However, let the other section of the habitat cooler. Your box turtle will be able to choose its ideal temperature by moving around inside its enclosure.
Like humans, all box turtles are different. As you get to know your pet turtle better, you will be able to provide better habitat and lighting and temperatures for it. Some like it warmer while others will spend the most time in the cooler area of the enclosure.
How To Handle Box Turtles
You have to give your box turtle some time to let it trust you. Therefore, it is necessary that you act quiet and gentle around them. Moreover, they do not like a lot of handling and hence, may not be very safe around kids. Make sure that you always feed them at the same time and in the same place. This is a good way to condition them, and you will find them waiting for you at the same time every day. These are some of the heart-warming moments when you feel that your box turtle is waiting for and counting on you. Remember that box turtles can still bite hard. Therefore, refrain from feeding them with hands or a spoon. Instead, use a dish where you place food onto.
Even if you keep your turtle inside, it is nice to take your turtle outside on nice days as they enjoy outings. However, make sure to keep an eye on them as they are quite fast and often disappear in a flash. Also, make sure to keep your turtle away from areas where there might be predators like dogs and other animals.
Box turtles are lovely and incredibly cute creatures and make great pets if kept in the right conditions. Even though they do not like to cuddle and play fetch like other pets, most pet turtle owners love their box turtles unconditionally. They all have strong personalities and once you get to know them and their preferences, you will be able to provide them the perfect life. And, you will be able to feel that your good care is appreciated. Some box turtle owners even swear that their boxes are reacting to its name when called for food or a warm and enjoyable soak.