It’s best to give your box turtles a soft floor in their home, but not all materials are safe to use with them. Some can even be toxic.
Here’s a brief overview of safe substrates and substrates to avoid.
Soil, leaf mulch and wood chips are good choices for your turtle’s floor. The choice is up to you, but here are some things to keep in mind about these materials.
Choose plain potting soil or topsoil. It should not contain any:
- Perlite: A type of volcanic rock that looks like small pebbles
- Vermiculite: A type of mica that has been treated to expand
- Styrofoam: A polystyrene (plastic) foam
Some box turtles will seek out and eat these additives, which can cause digestive problems and even impaction (blocked intestines).
Other substrates that can cause gut impactions include gravel, silica or calcium sand.
Avoid anything too coarse, which can scratch your turtle. Scratches can lead to infections, including shell infections.
Wood chips or shavings are ok, as long as they are not pine bark or cedar. These woods contain aromatic oils that are toxic and can cause respiratory problems in reptiles. Some turtles may even die from them.
Box turtle experts also recommend avoiding commercial products like:
- Recycled newspaper
- Walnut shells
- Aspen shavings
- Rodent pellet bedding
- Cat litter
Also, reptile carpet is not suitable for box turtles. It doesn’t stay moist, and your turtle can’t dig into it to hide.
A plain floor without a substrate is better than an unsafe substrate. That’s not a good long-term solution, of course, but if you can’t find a suitable substrate right away, your turtles can do without for a little while.