What Do You Need For A Box Turtle?

Have you recently purchased a box turtle and are unsure what supplies to get? 

It is overwhelming when you start fresh with a new pet and need to stock up for them fully. 

Box turtles can make wonderful pets, but supplying them with the necessities can sometimes prove difficult. 

It doesn’t have to be if you know what you’re doing. 

Lucky for you, we’re here to help.

what do you need for a box turtle

What Do You Need For A Box Turtle?

When choosing supplies for your box turtle, keep in mind what their housing situation will be and what dietary needs they have. Turtles have a long list of supplies they need to live a healthy life. 

Turtles can live inside or outside, with the proper enclosure and necessary supplies. 

It’s essential to have everything laid out for your pet turtle from day one. 

Don’t just get a tank and put your turtle in it. 

Their needs go way beyond this. 

Keeping a Box Turtle as a Pet

While you may not realize it, a box turtle is a long-term commitment. 

In suitable living conditions, they can live for a few decades. 

Some have even lived to 100 years old. 

Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the needs of having a box turtle as a pet. 

Common box turtles are not necessarily the best pet for young children or if you’ve never owned a pet before. 

They are a lot more high maintenance than you may think. 

Your pet turtle will need some consistency in its surroundings, and too much change can cause stress in the animal. 

Your pet turtle can live in an inside tank or, ideally, an outside pen. 

If your box turtle lives outside, you want to make sure they are only in temperatures above 50° degrees Fahrenheit (10° C). 

So, if you live in an area with colder temperatures, you likely will choose to house your turtle inside. 

The needs are different for housing an indoor box turtle versus an outdoor box turtle. 

While turtles do better in an outside environment since it is more natural, keep them inside as long as you have an appropriate setup. 

Supplies Needed for Indoor Box Turtles

Indoor box turtles have a tendency not to thrive as well as those kept outside. 

If you choose to keep your pet inside, it’s essential to review all the supplies needed. 

For starters, you will need to get a tank or terrarium capable of holding at least 40 gallons. 

If you choose to purchase something like a kiddie pool or sandbox, be sure you are able to set it up with the necessary supplies listed below. 

One side of your tank should provide the heat, and the other should allow for a cooling area. 

Once you have the living space for your turtle, you are now able to begin supplying it to create the perfect home for your reptile. 

UVB Lighting

Your turtle will need UVB lighting to help metabolize the calcium they are getting in their foods. 

If an indoor turtle is not getting natural sunlight, they then require a light inside their tank.

The Reptisun is a high powered fluorescent light and can provide the necessary UVB lighting for your turtle. 

The light will help with both calcium and vitamin D3 absorption. 

Without getting the proper sunlight, turtles can develop metabolic bone disease (MBD), leading to an early death. 

MBD can affect your turtle’s bones, shell, and beak. 

Heat Lamp

Turtles thrive in warm weather, and if your turtle is kept indoors, it’s imperative you provide their tank with a heat lamp

A heat lamp provides a basking spot for your turtle, which is necessary for their health. 

The warm area should be around 85 or 90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C). 

While a proper humidity level is necessary for a healthy turtle, a drop in temperature to around 65° degrees Fahrenheit (18° C) at night is acceptable. 

Daytime temperatures should be at least 70° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C). 

At night, all lighting should be turned off. 

Turtles need darkness and a cooler temperature to sleep in. 


If you are having a hard time maintaining the correct temperature for your turtle, consider buying a quality thermometer to help monitor their environment. 

Using the thermometer both inside and out will help ensure they are always being kept at a suitable temperature. 

Some heating lamps come with a thermometer, so you might not have to buy an additional one. 


If your turtle isn’t eating a variety of foods in their diet, there is a chance they have a calcium deficiency. 

Providing them with a cuttlebone is an excellent way to help them get extra calcium in their diet. 

Logs and Rocks to Climb

Adding rocks and logs to climb on will give your turtle the opportunity for some exercise. 

Feel free to add any rocks you find outside your home as well. 

The climbing opportunity is also a chance for your turtle to dry off and take in some UV light. 

Turtles are cold-blooded and cannot control their body temperature. 

They rely on the sunlight to do this! 

Water Bowl

water dish should be shallow enough for your turtle to climb into but wide enough for them to soak in. 

A shallow dish is required to prevent drowning. 

The saucers underneath a terra cot flowerpot make great water dishes. 

Just ensure it’s the type without a hole in the middle. 

The saucers typically are sturdy and won’t easily get knocked over. 

You will need to change the water daily and provide them with clean water often. 

They should have a constant water supply available to them. 

Food Dish

A food dish should be placed in your turtle’s space only when they are eating. 

The food dish should be shallow, or you might consider just using a flat rock. 

The flat rock may be messier since it has no walls to hold in the food. 

Providing a proper food dish will help prevent food from falling into their substrate, which will help prevent them from eating it. 


Providing proper bedding or a substrate for your turtle is key. 

Having the wrong type can lead to illness in your pet. 

The bedding helps maintain a proper humidity level for your turtle. 

Insufficient humidity levels can lead to respiratory problems. 

You might notice mucus around their nose and mouth. 

The substrate should be able to retain moisture and allow for your turtle to burrow in it. 

Make sure it is at least 4″ inches (10 cm) deep, giving plenty of space for burrowing. 

Avoid using gravel flooring because not only will it dirty up your tank quicker, but your turtle may attempt to eat it if it is small enough. 

If you like the appearance of gravel, aim for something larger, like stones. 

Sphagnum moss is a great choice as it holds moisture and is similar enough to grass. 

If you choose to use soil, be sure it is 100% organic and does not have any added chemicals. 

Supplies Needed for Outdoor Box Turtles

There are some supplies listed above you will not need if your box turtle is kept outdoors. 

As long as they receive direct sunlight, you do not need to provide any additional lighting for warmth. 

The same water and feeding dishes and rocks and logs used inside are also appropriate for outdoor use. 

Outdoor Enclosure

The outdoor enclosure for your turtle should have walls at least 18″ inches (46 cm) tall and about 36′ square feet (11 square meters) around. 

You do not want your turtle to be able to get out of its outdoor pen. 

While I’m sure it’s hard to envision your turtle running away, it can happen. 

Well, maybe not the running part. 

There are several options when it comes to providing an outdoor enclosure for your turtle. 

If you decide to purchase an enclosure, be sure it provides adequate space for your turtle to move around. 

If you are handy, building an enclosure is a great idea. 

It gives you the creative freedom to make it exactly how you’d like it. 

Wood is a great insulator and can help provide more control over the temperature. 

Just get some plywood and create away! 

If you have children, you might have one of those kiddie pools lying around. 

It’s a perfect, easy solution to creating a living situation for your turtle. 

Hiding Area

As you are putting together an outdoor living space, keep in mind hiding spots for your turtle to stay away from predators.

Birds, like crows and ravens, are some of the main predators of turtles. 

Finding an appropriate hiding rock, like half logs, will help them feel secure while kept outside. 

This is especially important if the enclosure they are kept in isn’t covered. 

Proper Box Turtle Cleaning

A large part of caring for your turtle is cleaning their environment. 

You want to do a basic cleaning once a week and a thorough cleaning, where you change out any appropriate filters, about every two weeks. 

It’s important to wash your hands after handling your turtle or cleaning their aquariums. 

Most turtles can carry salmonella, which has the potential to be a severe illness in humans. 

What to Feed Your Pet Turtle

Box turtles are omnivores and have diets consisting mostly of vegetables, insects, and fruit. 

A proper diet consists of minerals and vitamins to ensure a healthy life for your turtle. 

Some of the best vegetables for your turtle are collard greens, bell peppers. 

Minimize the consumption of leaves, like iceberg lettuce and romaine, as they are not as nutritionally dense as other leafy greens. 

Feeder insects, such as crickets, grasshoppers, and earthworms, are a great source of much need animal protein for your pet. 

Turtles can eat fruit on occasion, like strawberries or a banana; just don’t feed too often. 

They likely will begin to turn their nose up to a vegetable to eat fruit instead. 

Commercial pet food is available online and in pet stores, but you should supplement it with fresh foods as well. 

Commercial pet food is often sold as pellets. 

If your turtle is reluctant to eat the pellets, moistening them some should help. 

Do not feed your turtle chocolate, candy, avocadoes, potato leaves, or poison ivy. 

These are very harmful to your pet and lethal if ingested. 

Box Turtle Hibernation

Your turtle will likely hibernate if they are kept outdoors and the temperature drops below 50° degrees Fahrenheit (10° C). 

Do not let your turtle hibernate if they do not appear healthy. 

Indoor turtles don’t necessarily hibernate. 

If you believe your turtle might be hibernating, but you aren’t certain, gently poke them around a little. 

To attempt waking your turtle up from hibernation, bring them into a warm space for a few hours. 

They likely will be dehydrated when they wake, so be sure to have a bath ready for them. 

Can Box Turtles Cohabitate?

You might wonder if adding another turtle to your enclosure will prevent your pet from being alone. 

Two turtles can live together, as long as they are not the same sex and you have plenty of room for the two of them to co-exist. 

If the turtles begin fighting, you will have to separate them. 

In the wild, turtles are fairly solitary, and while you may see several together in a pond, they aren’t social animals. 

If you attempt to put two turtles together, make sure they have their hiding spots and logs to climb on. 

You might notice they get along to begin with but start fighting over time. It’s something to monitor. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you decide to keep your box turtle inside or outside, it’s crucial to have the proper setup with all the necessary supplies. 

Before you decide to get a turtle as a pet, be sure you are ready for the commitment it brings. 

Your pet can easily have a long life ahead of them with proper care.