Getting Ready for Your First Box Turtle


Get a few basic supplies to be sure you're ready for your new box turtle.

Your new addition may not be this small, but no matter the size, there are some things you’ll want to get for your new box turtle
Photo by lavandarfields @ Flickr; licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0


Before you get your first box turtle, you’ll need to have some basics for his or her new home. You can find lots of information on things to include to keep your new box turtle healthy, happy and interested in life.

Of course you want to do all these things, but buying everything at once can get overwhelming, not to mention expensive. Just getting the minimum basics is not cheap either. So where do you start?

With this list.

Basic Supplies For Your New Box Turtle

Enclosure. Obviously an important first step to creating a welcome habitat. You can build a box, use a large plastic storage tub or buy a kit, like the Zoo Med Tortoise House.

UVB light source. For outdoor turtles, that’s the sun! For indoor turtles, make sure the bulb you choose provides both UVA and UVB rays. We review a few options here.

Heat source. Again, the sun provides all the heat your outdoor turtle needs. Indoors, an incandescent or ceramic heat lamp is a good basic choice. We’ve reviewed a few heat bulb options here.

Thermometer. Not strictly necessary outside, although you may want to have one to make sure the shady area of your pet’s home (you are providing shade, right??) is cool enough to let him escape the sun’s heat. Inside, put it at turtle level and make sure you have a good heat gradient in the habitat.

Substrate. Outside, this can be the soil, as long as it’s loose enough to dig into. Or a layer of leaf litter if the soil’s too clayey or hard. Make sure the area you choose for your boxie’s home is not treated with chemicals.

Inside, you can also use soil, or a mix of soil and sand to make it loose enough. You can also buy substrates like Eco Earth or Forest Floor. Terrarium moss can help keep the humidity levels high in the habitat.

Hiding area. Outside, half logs or a half-buried flower pot works well. In the Tortoise House, there’s a covered area that functions as a hide. For other habitats, you may want to consider something like the Turtle Hut from Zoo Med.

Rocks and logs. These give your pet exercise when he climbs on them and add enrichment to his life. Use logs and rocks from your yard, or buy artificial ones.

Water dish. Shallow enough to easily climb in and out of. Deep and wide enough to soak (up to about half the turtle’s height). Read more about water dish size here.

Feeding dish. Pretty much any shallow dish or plate is fine. A flat rock also works, and this can also help keep your pet’s beak trimmed, since it’s rough and will “file” the beak as your turtle eats. But it can be a little messier than a dish, since it doesn’t have sides to keep the food from spilling off it.

Box turtle eating strawberryAnd that’s about it. With these items, you’re well on your way to giving your new box turtle a good home. You’ll figure out what else she needs as you get to know her.


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