Box turtles need enough humidity to stay healthy. If their environment is not humid enough, they will look for someplace that is.
Even ornate box turtles, which live in desert areas, need humidity. That’s why they spend a lot of time burrowed into the soil. The humidity is higher there.
How is Low Humidity Bad for Box Turtles?
When box turtles don’t get enough humidity, they can develop health problems. Two common issues are swollen eyes and abscesses in the middle ear. These are usually caused by an infection. Air that’s too dry can also lead to respiratory infections, which can then travel to the inner ear. So a lot of times, these conditions are all related.
Just a note: Too much humidity can also cause problems, especially if the temperature is also too low. Cold, damp environments also stress the animal and can weaken its immune system. This can make your pet more likely to get an infection.
What is The Right Humidity for Box Turtles?
For the most part, the Terrapene carolina (common box turtle) subspecies do best with humidities in the 60 to 80 percent range.
Ornates are more used to desert climates, so keep the humidity at the lower end, around 60%.
Gulf Coast and Florida box turtles live in slightly more humid areas, so you can go up to 90% for them.
But to keep it simple, 60% to 80% should work no matter what kind of boxie you have.
How Can You Keep the Humidity High?
You have a few options, and you may have to experiment to see what works best for you. If you live in an area with low humidity, you’ll have more trouble keeping the humidity high than if you live where it’s always raining.
There are a few ways you can try to keep the humidity up in your boxie’s home.
The first thing to do is keep your turtle’s bedding moist. That will help raise the humidity in the whole enclosure. It’ll also give your pet a place to burrow if the overall humidity is a little to low for him.
But just moist, not sopping wet!
Putting a cover over one side of the cage will help trap humidity on that side. You don’t have to keep the whole enclosure within the optimal range. The important thing is for your pet to have someplace he can go to find humidity. So if you can just keep the humidity on the one side up, that’s fine too.
Keeping a dish of water in your box turtle’s home is important for many reasons, including giving him a source of drinking water and a place to bathe. A bonus is that as the water evaporates, it adds to the humidity. Just be sure to keep the water very clean! Otherwise bacteria can grow. And that’s a whole other problem.
If these ideas aren’t keeping the humidity high enough, you can try a little trick where you actually have a layer of water on the bottom of the cage (make sure the bottom is waterproof!). Put down a layer of pea-gravel (medium sized is best), then add water up to about half the depth of the gravel (if the gravel is one inch deep, add water to about one-half inch). Then put the substrate of your choice over that. You will have to replenish the water regularly.
If you do this, make sure you don’t overfill with water. You don’t want to get the regular substrate soaked. This can encourage bacteria to grow. It can also cause the substrate to mold.
In outdoor enclosures, low shrubs can provide areas of higher humidity. Daily misting helps, too. Setting up a mister on a timer can make an outdoor pen an almost hands-off option (although you do still have to keep it clean!)
Trying to maintain humidity can seem like a big job, but it’s important. Box turtles can die from the infections that are more likely when they live with too little humidity.