Turtle experts generally recommend you quarantine sick box turtles (or injured ones) from any other turtles you may have. This helps prevent spreading infections and gives the injured turtle time to heal without being harassed.
You can easily do this using a quarantine tank (or hospital tank, as Tess Cook calls it in her book Box Turtles). This is a small aquarium tank or plastic tub set up with just the basics to keep a turtle comfortable for a few days or weeks. You would keep it inside.
If you only have one turtle living inside, you don’t necessarily need this. But if your turtle lives outside or you have multiple turtles, it can be an important tool for helping your pet heal.
Setting Up a Quarantine Tank
In her book, Tess Cook recommends using either a 20 gallon glass tank or a 31 gallon plastic tub. These are smaller than the normal recommendations for a habitat, but that’s okay, because it’s intended to be used only short term. It’s also easier to control the temperature and humidity in the smaller space. And keeping the tank warm enough is especially important for a sick animal.
For an injured turtle, you need a substrate you can replace daily (to minimize the chances for infection). A towel and shredded newspaper work well.
For a sick, not injured, turtle you can use sphagnum moss instead. Just be sure to rinse it out often.
Make sure you also have:
- UV light
- Hide box at one end of the tank
- Heat lamp at the end opposite the hide
- Water dish
The temperature gradient should range from 85° F under the heat lamp to 75° F on the hide side of the tank. Measure the temperatures with a thermometer placed at turtle-level in the tank.
Change the water and clean the water dish at least daily. Change it more often if you see your turtle has pooped in it.
A screened cover is important to keep flies away from any open wounds. If your pet doesn’t have open wounds, you can skip the cover.
When to Use a Quarantine Tank
Use this quarantine tank for any turtle showing signs of respiratory illness or diarrhea as well as one with open wounds.
It’s best to have this set up and ready to go before you need it. Of course, you hope you don’t have to use it often (or ever), but knowing you’re ready if something happens can give you peace of mind.