The Eastern box turtle, is a fascinating species of terrestrial turtle native to the United States and Canada. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced reptile enthusiast, this guide will provide you with essential information on how to properly care for Eastern box turtles in captivity. From creating the ideal enclosure and providing appropriate lighting and heating, to ensuring proper humidity levels and meeting their dietary needs, we will cover all aspects of their care.

Join us as we delve deep into helping you provide a happy and healthy life for your shelled companion.

Terrapene Carolina Carolina

Terrapene Carolina Carolina, commonly known as the Eastern Box Turtle, is a species of terrestrial turtle native to the United States and Canada. It is an omnivorous species that can be found in both deciduous forests and grasslands. These turtles are relatively easy to care for in captivity if their needs are met properly.

When caring for Eastern Box Turtles, it is important to understand that as you are keeping them in their non-native habitat, it’s your job to provide them with everything they would find in nature to live a prosperous life.

That includes:

  • an appropriately sized enclosure
  • lighting and heating conducive to their particular needs
  • correct humidity levels
  • substrate
  • food & clean water

At a minimum, the enclosure should be large enough to allow the turtle adequate space to move around comfortably while also providing sufficient hiding places or shelters. The “hides” are where they can feel safe from potential predators that they are hard wired to be on the lookout for.

A minimum of 10 gallons per turtle should be what you aim for when housing two or more individuals together; however, larger enclosures may be necessary depending on how many turtles you plan on keeping together.

Lighting fixtures such as UVB bulbs should also be installed along with basking lamps so that your pet can receive essential vitamins that they would naturally acquire from natural sunlight exposure. They also help regulate its body temperature.

Additionally, proper humidity levels must be maintained within the enclosure by using a hygrometer. This will help prevent respiratory illnesses that can occur due to improper dry air conditions.

Substrate materials such as peat moss or coconut fiber bedding can should also be used for burrowing purposes. These can also help tomaintain moisture content within the habitat itself.

Finally, when it comes feeding these animals it is important that their diet consists of mostly plant-based foods supplemented with some animal proteins like worms or insects every once in awhile; this helps ensure that your pet receives all essential nutrients needed for optimal health growth and development over time.

Offering fresh vegetables such as carrots or kale, in addition to commercially prepared pellets designed specifically for box turtles, will help ensure balanced nutrition without causing any significant deficiencies either in terms of nutrition or behavior.

Now that we’ve covered everything in general terms, it’s time to get more specific.

What Type of Enclosure Will You Need?

When creating an enclosure for your new pet, it is important to consider the natural habitat of these box turtles. Eastern box turtles are found in woodlands and fields with plenty of leaf litter, logs, sticks and other debris that they can hide under or climb on. The basics of a suitable enclosure should provide enough space for them to roam around while also providing cover from predators.

It should have plenty of hiding spots such as logs or rocks and areas where they can bask in the sun. Pet shops sell many different versions of the “hides” and basking platforms, sometimes combined into one accessory, so you should not have any problem finding them.

The substrate should be made up of soil, peat moss and sand so that it mimics their natural environment as closely as possible.


First and foremost, he size of the enclosure for a Terrapene Carolina Carolina is important to ensure optimal health and well-being. Generally, an outdoor pen should be at least 8 feet by 8 feet, with walls that are at least 18 inches tall. This will give them enough room to move around freely without feeling cramped or constricted in their environment. An indoor terrarium can also be used if you prefer; however, it should also provide ample space for the turtle to roam comfortably. The minimum size recommended for an indoor habitat is 30 gallons per adult box turtle.

It is important to note that while these turtles do not need water deep enough to swim in in order to thrive, they can still benefit from having access to shallow pools of water when kept indoors. It provides them with additional humidity and helps keep their skin moist which aids in shedding old skin cells properly. Therefore, providing a shallow pool of clean water can help keep your pet healthy and happy!

Lighting & Heating

Providing an appropriate environment that mimics your new Eastern box turtle’s natural habitat is the main goal here. The enclosure should have both UVB and UVA rays to ensure proper metabolic functioning. To achieve this, a full-spectrum light bulb made for reptiles should be used in combination with direct sunlight when possible.

It is also essential to provide basking areas with temperatures ranging from 85°F – 90°F (29°C – 32°C). This can be done by using either an incandescent or ceramic heat emitter depending on the size of the enclosure. Keep in mind that the amount of additional heat that you’ll need to provide differs from household to household. If you live in FL you will need to supplement heat a lot less than someone who lives in MI. Additionally, box turtle bedding such as cypress mulch or sand can help retain some warmth during cooler periods in order for them to thermoregulate efficiently.


The Eastern box turtle is native to the southeastern United States and prefers humid climates. As such, it is important that the enclosure you set up for this species be kept at a high humidity level in order to ensure its health and longevity. The ideal range of humidity should be between 60-80%, with occasional spikes up to 90% being acceptable.

This can easily be achieved by misting the enclosure daily or using an automated mister system that will provide consistent levels of moisture throughout the day. Additionally, adding live plants (consider building a bioactive box turtle enclosure) can further increase humidity levels as well as providing additional hiding spots and enrichment opportunities for your turtle.

In terms of maintaining adequate humidity levels long term, there are several options available depending on your budget and preferences.

One option is to use soil substrates such as sphagnum moss or peat moss which help retain moisture within the environment for extended periods of time without needing frequent misting sessions from owners. Another option would be to install a small water feature inside the enclosure which can also help maintain higher relative humidity while providing visual stimulation for your pet reptile.

You can use a combination of both methods in order to ensure optimal environmental conditions within their habitat setup and maximize their lifespan potential. A well kept per box turtle has an average lifespan ranging anywhere from 20 up to 60 years when cared for properly!


When it comes to creating a healthy enclosure, substrate is very important. A suitable substrate must have enough moisture retention while still allowing good drainage and air circulation. It should also be easy to clean and low maintenance, as well as being aesthetically pleasing. That’s quite a few boxes to tick.

Two popular options for box turtle enclosures are cypress mulch and pine bark nuggets. These substrates are natural looking thus aesthetically pleasing. They help create a more realistic environment for your pet than alternative substrates such as newspaper or paper towels do.

Additionally, these types of substrates can help control odors better than other options by absorbing excess moisture from feces and urine quickly, which helps prevent bacterial growth that causes unpleasant smells in enclosures with poor ventilation systems.

If for some reason you choose not to use wood-based products, then sand or soil mixtures may be used instead though they are not recommended. They require more frequent cleaning due to their higher levels of dust particles when disturbed. These can cause respiratory issues if inhaled over time by your pet turtle.

When using either type of substrate it is important to make sure that there are no sharp edges on any pieces that could potentially injure your pet’s feet or shell. So, always inspect new substrate carefully before placing them into the enclosure.

Feeding & Dietary Needs

The Eastern box turtle, is an omnivorous species that can be found in the wild in North America. It has a varied diet consisting of insects, fruits and vegetables. They will also consume earthworms and slugs if they are available. In captivity it is important to provide them with a variety of food sources to ensure their nutritional needs are met.

In captivity, it is recommended to feed your turtle a combination of commercial turtle pellets along with fresh vegetables such as collard greens or dandelion leaves. You can occasionally work in treats like meal worms or wax worms too. Fruit should only be given once every couple of months due to the high sugar content; however, their allure makes for great enrichment activity when offered sparingly. Additionally, calcium supplements should be provided regularly in order for the turtles’ shells and bones to remain healthy and strong throughout its lifespan.

Providing your new pet turtle with a balanced diet is 100% essential if you want it to both survive and thrive; this includes including both commercially prepared foods containing a broad spectrum of required vitamins and minerals supplemented by fresh produce items like dark leafy greens and occasional treats like meal worms. Furthermore, ensuring adequate calcium supplementation on a regular basis will help keep your turtle’s shell strong over time while promoting overall well-being of the animal itself.

Frequently Asked Questions

Looking for some answers to very specific questions? Check out our F.A.Q.

What is the best general tank setup for an Eastern box turtle?

The best general tank setup includes an enclosure of at least 24-30 inches in length, with a temperature range between 78-82 degrees Fahrenheit, a humidity range of 70-80%, a substrate of a combination of spaghnum moss, soil, and leaf litter, and a diet of earthworms, snails, slugs, and other invertebrates.

What type of lighting is recommended?

A basking light should be used to provide an area of warmth within the enclosure, while a longer-lasting UVB light should be used to provide the turtle with adequate UVB exposure.

How often should an Eastern box turtle be fed?

It should be fed every 1-2 days. A variety of invertebrates should be offered to provide a complete and balanced diet.

How often do you need to clean their enclosures?

The enclosure should be cleaned regularly, with a full deep-clean of the substrate and furnishings being done every month.


This Eastern box turtle care guide has provided you with a wealth of information to ensure the well-being of your new pet in captivity. By understanding their natural habitat, enclosure requirements, lighting and heating needs, humidity levels, substrate choices, and dietary considerations, you are equipped to provide a suitable and enriching environment for your pet.

Remember to monitor their health, have regular veterinary check-ups and continue learning about these fascinating creatures to provide the best care possible. With proper care and attention, your turtle can live a long, happy and fulfilling life in your care. Enjoy the journey with your shelled companion and create a bond that will last for years to come.