Is it possible to create a sufficient habitat indoors for a box turtle?
Will they be happy with their indoor enclosure?
While box turtles do best in an outdoor enclosure, we understand why one would desire to keep them inside.
They are away are predators; they can’t escape, and you are able to keep an eye on them better.
We are here to assist in everything you need to know to create a box turtle habitat indoors.
Table of Contents
What You’ll Need
- Plywood for building an enclosure or buy a box turtle enclosure
- Box Turtle Substrate
- Heat Lamp
- UV Lamp
- Hide Spot
- Water Dish
- Food Plate
How to Create a Box Turtle Habitat Indoors Video
How to Setup a Box Turtle Habitat Indoors
Step 1) Build a Large Enough Enclosure
While they aren’t huge animals, box turtles do need a sufficient amount of space to survive.
You ideally want at least a 4′ x 4′ foot (1.2 m) enclosure; however, a 4′ x 8′ foot (1.2 x 2.4 m) is best.
Since you are building your set up inside, the larger size may be harder to achieve.
When building indoor enclosures, be sure your sides are a minimum of 1.5′ feet (.46 m) high so they can’t escape.
Once you are finished putting together your box turtle enclosure, you will need to waterproof it all over with a water sealant.
If you are unsure you are able to build your box turtle enclosure, there are several available on the market.
While durable, they aren’t as big as the ideal requirements.
However, if you go this route, I recommend the Aivituvin Wooden Tortoise House.
It is made of solid wood and provides two separate areas for your box turtle.
As you will read, box turtles require several supplies in their enclosure.
In addition, your turtle should have the chance to roam inside its enclosure.
Step 2) Add Your Substrate
Your box turtle pen requires a substrate, or bedding, on the floor of their habitats.
A 3 to 4″ inch (10 cm) substrate is ideal to ensure turtles have a proper amount of space to dig.
I recommend mixing a regular substrate with soil.
Suitable substrates include peat moss, sphagnum moss, and coconut husk fiber.
The substrate should retain moisture to keep humidity levels at 80-85 percent humidity.
A gauge thermometer will help keep the proper humidity level.
Substrates to avoid are sand, gravel, wood chips, and anything potentially toxic to your box turtle.
Step 3) Install a Heat Lamp
When turtles live inside, they need assistance in regulating their body temperature.
An outdoor box turtle will move from hot spots to cooler ones to help with this.
A heat lamp provides a necessary basking spot for box turtles.
The temperature should be between 85 and 90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C).
In general, daytime temperatures should be between 70 and 80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C), and at night the temperature can lower to between 65 and 75° degrees Fahrenheit (24°C).
Heat lamps should be on for 10-14 hours a day.
In the summer, 10 hours a day is plenty to keep your turtle warm.
Step 4) Add UV Lighting
Wild box turtles get to rely on natural sunlight to receive the appropriate amount of UVA and UVB rays.
UVA rays are necessary to keep up your turtle’s appetite, and UVB rays provide your turtle with Vitamin D3, which is needed for healthy shell development.
Without it, they are at risk for metabolic bone disease (MBD).
Make sure to change any bulb in your enclosure every 6 months.
Even if it hasn’t burned out yet, it will still lose some of its power to emit the proper amount of UVA and UVB rays.
Step 5) Provide a Water and Food Dish
While you might not catch your box turtle drinking from their water bowl frequently, they will bathe in it.
Ensure your water dish is not to deep to prevent your turtle from drowning.
In addition, the dish should be wide enough for them to fit into.
A sturdy dish is best, so it doesn’t tip when they get in or out of it.
You should give clean water daily since their baths can dirty up their dish quickly.
Since their water dish can dirty easily, consider using a water filter to keep the water clean.
Some water bowls have steps to make it easy for turtles to enter, but it’s unnecessary so long as the sides aren’t too tall.
A flat rock is a great source for a feeding dish.
As they eat, it also trims their beak.
Since there are no sides to the rock, you likely will be cleaning up just spilled food.
The forest-dwelling reptile will eat a variety of proteins, plant material, and some fruits.
Providing a varied diet is crucial in keeping your pet healthy.
Step 6) Add Necessary Accessories
Once you have everything listed above set up, it’s time to add a few last accessories.
Box turtles require exercise and mental stimulation, and adding items like rocks and logs can help provide this for them.
In addition, your turtle is a private reptile, and therefore adding a hiding spot is a great opportunity for them to cover themselves.
Having a commercial hiding spot will also help your turtle cozy.
Homes should be a welcome place for the reptiles and should give your turtle plenty of space to roam when they please.
Grab some logs or branches you find to make for climbing opportunities.
Keep in mind your pet turtle’s size, as babies will need smaller branches; otherwise, they will have a hard time climbing.
Questions About Creating a Box Turtle Habitat Indoors
Is it Healthy for a Box Turtle to Live Indoors?
While box turtles do best outside in their natural environment, a turtle can live a perfectly healthy life inside as long as they are given the proper setup.
If you live in an apartment, an outdoor enclosure isn’t an option, so clearly, you should keep your pet inside.
You should still have space for either a turtle table or turtle box.
Hatchlings should live inside for the first six months, and then you are able to decide if you want to move them outside.
Are There Any Other Types of Suitable Enclosures?
There are other choices when it comes to finding the right enclosure for your pet.
If you aren’t on the crafty side or don’t want to spend a lot on an enclosure, you have other options, like a kiddie pool or a large plastic container.
While an aquarium tank can work for indoor box turtles, they aren’t ideal since all the sides are glass.
Turtles enjoy their privacy.
To ensure turtle safety, do not put your box turtle in a wire cage.
It can potentially injure them. While a screen on top is ideal, the sides should not be wired.
To reduce the chance of infection, be sure to thoroughly clean any enclosure type to decide to keep your turtle in.
This is especially important if you get an enclosure second-hand.
What Do Box Turtles Eat?
Part of being a box turtle owner is keeping your turtle healthy with the appropriate diet.
The foods you give your pet will dictate how healthy they become as they age.
As a note, turtles like to eat first thing in the morning.
Box turtles are omnivores and therefore have a diet consisting of 50% protein matter and 50% plant material, with some fruit mixed it.
You are able to add live potted plants to your enclosure as well, pending they are non-toxic plants.
This includes strawberry plants, clover, and other edible plants.
It allows them to snack on them inside their enclosure.
Your box turtle should be getting its protein from insects like crickets, worms, and even low-fat dog food.
Vegetables your box turtle will enjoy include bell peppers, alfalfa hay, squash, tomatoes, kale, dandelions (flower, stem & leaves).
Fruits suitable for box turtles include strawberries, banana, mango, raspberries, and oranges.
As a note, you should not give your turtle lettuce.
Can Multiple Turtles Live Together Inside?
If you are considering bringing home additional turtles, it’s important to provide them with additional box turtle housing.
While a single box turtle will be content in a smaller space, you will need to upgrade your enclosure size once you start adding more turtles in.
Plan on having one hiding spot per turtle to ensure each one has a place to feel secure.
In addition, you shouldn’t keep males together as they can become aggressive towards one another.
If you have a male and female, know there is always a chance they may mate.
Baby box turtles should live alone until they are adults.
Did you enjoy this tutorial on creating a box turtle habitat indoors?
We hope you did!
Setting up the proper indoor habitat will ensure you have years to come with your pet box turtle.
With the proper box turtle care, your reptile friend can live for several decades!