Terrapene carolina carolina et al
The common box turtle, a popular pet in the southern areas of the USA
due to its commonality in the wild. There are many varieties:
- The Common Eastern Box Turtle: 4-6 inches long w/high domed
shell. Coloring is orange and red splotched over brown--males with
colorful heads and forelegs. Found all along the East Coast of the
USA, Maine to Florida and as far west as Michigan, Illinois, and
- The Three-Toed Box Turtle: Slightly smaller than the Common
Eastern at 3.5-5 inches, with the same high domed shell. Coloring is
olive or yellow brown with possible yellow lines or dashes.
Usually have three toes but sometimes have four. Found from
Missouri south to the Gulf of Mexico.
- The Gulf Coast Box Turtle: 5-7 inches long w/domed shell. Much
more common in the South than in the North. Much more drab than its
smaller Common and Three-toed cousins, sporting a basic brown.
- The Western Ornate Box Turtle: 4-5 inches long with a flatter
shell. Dark brown or black with a starburst pattern.
- The Asian Box Turtle: 5-8 inches long, depending on species (Chinese
or Malaysian). The Malaysian is semi-aquatic. These introduced
species are from China, Malaysia, and other southeast Asian countries.
Housing: Your box turtle should be kept outside.
If you live in an area that is not healthy for cold-blooded animals or in an
apartment, you should probably consider a different pet. A protected, high-sided
planter (they're good climbers, so be careful) with bark chips or soil base is
probably your best bet for housing. Be sure to use only nonpoisonous,
edible plants such as strawberry plants, collard greens, parsley, and
clover, and include a hide of some sort. The larger the planter, the
better. No, glass tanks are not an option. If you want to have
more than one box tortoise, either maintain an equal number of males and
females, or an all-female group. Make sure you don't mix species. Also,
provide plenty of water and a fairly constant temperature gradient from 75-85
Feeding: Box tortoises are omnivorous. In the
wild they eat grubs, worms, insects, small plants, fruit, berries,
and mushrooms. In your home you can feed your turtle a diet consisting
- 50% protein such as earthworms, slugs, beetles (my turtle
ate Ringo!), grubs, boiled chicken (chopped), small fish, or beef
heart. Occasionally, you can feed soaked dog food. DO NOT
feed your turtle raw, fatty, or processed meats.
- 30% starchy veggies such as squash, peas in the pod, sweet
potatoes, grated carrots, and okra, with occasional mushrooms or tomatoes.
- 10% fruits--grapes, figs, assorted berries, apples, and
cantaloupe, with occasional chopped bananas or watermelon.
- 10% leafy greens such as collard greens or mustard greens, with
occasional Romaine lettuce. It's best to simply grow them in the pen
in which your turtle lives
You should also provide a cuttlefish bone for additional calcium.