Eastern Box Tortoise

The Eastern Box Tortoise is native to the eastern United States. They are a subspecies of the common box turtle. While technically they are not turtles, they are primarily terrestrial. They don’t spend much time in the water.

They crawl very slowly and live quite a long time. They mature rather slowly and have relatively few offspring each year. They are considered vulnerable. This may be due to their low reproductive rate. They tend to be hit by cars because of their slow moving speed. They are also vulnerable to being hit by agricultural equipment. They are highly susceptible to human-caused death due to their slow-moving nature.

Due to widespread and gradual decline, their status was lowered in 2011.


Quick Facts about Eastern Box Turtle

Type T. carolina
Family Emydidae
Treatment Level Low
Temperature 70 – 85 F
Temperament docile, shy
Color Shape Brown and Black with yellow or orange markings
Lifetime 25-35 years old
Size 4″x6″
Diet varied
Minimum Tank Size 75 gallons
Tank Setting open ground
Suitability Other turtle species

Eastern Box Turtle Overview

Eastern Square Turtle_JamesDeMers, Pixabay

As pets, the Eastern Box Tortoise is quite easy to keep. They don’t require much work and are fairly easy to maintain. However, they have a very long lifespan, so you should be prepared to care for them throughout their lifespan. You will probably care for them for most of your life.

They are very adaptable to the home environment, which makes them a good choice for many different owners. They are suitable for beginners and experienced reptile owners as well.

They usually have high domed shells and are bright yellow and orange in color. This makes them unique when compared to other turtles.

Due to their wide adaptability, they do not require a specific tank setup.


How Much Do Eastern Box Tortoises Cost?

eastern square turtle_mcahzeb, Pixabay

These turtles can cost anywhere from $140 to $360. This is largely due to their low reproductive rate. They don’t have many babies each year, which often causes their prices to rise substantially. We recommend meeting with the breeder before making a purchase. You may be able to purchase a tortoise from a pet store, although many don’t carry one.

Breeders can usually give the best advice about these turtles. Plus, they often know how to raise a baby properly. This ensures that the turtles are well cared for, which helps ensure that they are healthy.


Typical Behavior & Temperament

eastern box turtle on the patio_Jan Haerer_Pixabay

This turtle is active during the day. In the wild, they would naturally spend this time looking for food. Of course, in captivity, this is not necessary. They are not very fond of handling, as this causes stress. When really stressed, these turtles will retreat to their shells. This is their natural resistance to predators. If they are afraid that a predator will hurt them, they will hide.

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It is still important to encourage tame with frequent handling. It should be soft and mostly for the turtle’s benefit. You want them to calm down if they need more extensive treatment, such as an illness. It also helps minimize stress during cage cleaning.

Many owners report that these tortoises need to be social and don’t mind being watched by their owners. However, they also seem to have some unique personality traits, so not all turtles will be as friendly as others. Often, they will learn to recognize their owner or the person who fed them. Not infrequently they beg for food when they see people.

Some may play with toys, so you may want to equip them with small balls and similar toys.


Appearance & Variety

eastern box turtle_Piqsels

Its tall, dome-like shell defines this tortoise. They have total shell closure, which means their shell is completely closed on one side. Some color variations do exist, but only slightly. It is usually brown or black in color with a yellow or orange pattern. However, all turtles are unique, with a single shell pattern. Some males have blue patches on their cheeks and other areas. However, this is rare and only occurs in some turtles.

When frightened, this turtle can completely close its shell. They can pull the hinged part of their shell over the opening, which keeps it effectively closed within the bone. Their shells are not removable and are permanently attached to their bodies.

The shell does have some capacity to regenerate. Over time, the damaged area will fall off as new tissue grows. The shell continues to grow throughout the life of the turtle.


How to Take Care of an Eastern Box Tortoise

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Settings

aquarium plant_susemeyer0815_Pixabay

These turtles need very little space to roam. For hatchlings, a 20 gallon tank may be suitable. However, as turtles age, they will need many bigger tank. It must be at least 4 inches square and at least 18 inches tall. You can also store it outside if the climate is right. Outdoor enclosures are ideal if they can collect them.

If you keep your tortoise outside, make sure the enclosure is protected from predators and inclement weather. There should be a sunny place and a shady place. All crops should be safe for turtles, and pesticides should be avoided.

Turtles should have access to many hiding places on a regular basis. They like loose trash to dig, which they will often do. A shallow pot of water should be provided at all times. Remove soiled media weekly when you clean the tank.

Lighting & Temperature

These tortoises prefer a sunny place to bask between 85- and 88 degrees F. There should also be a shaded area around 75 degrees F. Temperatures should not drop below 70 degrees F, even at night. If it gets colder outside like that, you’ll need to get the tortoise out and bring it inside in a suitable enclosure.

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Some natural light outdoors is best for these tortoises, as it helps them make vitamin D. However, you can also use a UVB bulb indoors to fulfill this need. The bulb must be on for at least 10 to 12 hours a day. You may need to replace the bulb every six to nine months. Follow your light results for best results.


Eastern Box Tortoise_Mark_Kostich, Shutterstock

Humidity should be maintained at least 70% at all times. You can achieve this indoors by misting daily. This will help it resemble the forest floor more. Shallow water ponds should be provided to increase the humidity of the cage.

Use a bed that reflects the turtle’s natural environment. Mulch and moss-type substrates are best, as they help retain moisture. You can even mix two different substrates. The substrate should be deep enough to dig in, especially in shady areas.


Do Eastern Box Tortoises Get Along With Other Pets?

These tortoises can often coexist with other turtle species. But, apart from that, they will eat just about anything, including fish and amphibians. You can keep it with other turtles as long as all their needs are properly met. You should avoid placing them with turtles of any size, as this can cause serious problems with competition.

These tortoises are best kept separately, but you can keep them with other tortoises if you’re careful.

What Feeds Your Eastern Box Turtle?

eastern box turtle on grass_Deedster_Pixabay

In the wild, these turtles eat a variety of foods. They are opportunistic and eat anything that gets in their way. In captivity, their diet should be as close as possible to a healthy diet. They should eat about once every 24 hours. Half of their diet includes vegetables, fruit and grass. They tend to like things that are brightly colored, like red peppers.

Everything else in their diet should be a source of low-fat protein, such as earthworms, snails, slugs, and mealworms. They can eat low-fat dog food and lean meats, but these should be included only occasionally. Younger turtles usually need more protein because of their fast growth. Older tortoises don’t grow as much, so they need less protein.

Shallow water containers should be provided so that these turtles can wade through the water as they see fit. However, they tend to leave impurities in the water, so you will need to freshen them every day.


Keeping Your Eastern Box Turtle Healthy

Eastern box turtle crawling_Piqsels

These tortoises require little commitment due to their long lifespan. Regular vet care is essential to ensure that they are growing properly and eating the right foods. A vet visit should be made at least once a year with an exotic animal veterinarian. If your tortoise lives outside, a parasite check should also be done. This is the most common health problem these turtles face. Symptoms include abnormal stools, but no symptoms at all which is the typical pattern.

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Respiratory infections are also common, especially if the environment is too dry. Difficult breathing should be seen by the turtle quickly, because it can be severe. Cold can also cause this problem, although in a less severe way.

They can also experience problems with their shells, such as rot and ulcers. If the shell starts to smell strange, you should also have it checked by a veterinarian. Usually, this is due to a poor diet or unhealthy habitat.

Once these tortoises are comfortable, they are often less aggressive. They should be given plenty of hiding places to prevent them from feeling too exposed, which can lead to aggression. Aggression can be a sign of discomfort, and hence illness.


eastern box turtle_Pixabay

They usually breed in spring to fall. After heavy rains, males will actively look for females. They don’t mate for life, so they often mate with multiple females at once

In captivity, they reproduce in the same way. Keeping them outdoors is the best way to achieve this, especially if you live in the area. Breeding them in the wild must be done with full responsibility. They may not eat much when trying to mate and will likely devote a lot of their time to mating. These tortoises can be a bit anxious during breeding, so all must be kept calm.


Is the Eastern Box Tortoise Right for You?

These tortoises are generally fairly easy to care for, but they do require a lot of space. You should have plenty of space available to care for these tortoises, especially if you have to keep them indoors. Plan on having more space than you think they need. They can thrive in tanks when small, but they quickly grow larger and require little space.

For this reason, we recommend these turtles for beginners and experts alike, as long as you have enough space. They do need to be fed daily, but this shouldn’t take much time.

Featured Image Credit: Piqsels