What To Put In A Box Turtle Tank: A Complete List

Do you know what to put in a box turtle tank?

Have you gotten your box turtle tank but are clueless on what supplies to add to it? 

Ensuring you have a proper tank setup will aid in giving your turtle a healthy living environment. 

Proper box turtle care is imperative if you decide to welcome one of these reptiles into your home. 

what to put in a box turtle tank

What To Put In A Box Turtle Tank

You want to mimic a box turtle’s natural environment. Turtles need to live in a habitat with the appropriate lighting, heat, and humidity. The best setup for your turtle is outdoors, but this isn’t to say it’s impossible to have a proper home for them inside

If you’re overwhelmed by what goes in your turtle’s tank, don’t fret. 

Keep on reading to learn what you need to provide the ideal turtle habitat. 

We have you covered on all the basics! 

Why Is The Box Turtle Tank Setup Important?

Without a proper tank setup, you may inadvertently cause ill effects on your pet turtle. 

Turtles in the wild have access to what they need, so if you decide to have one as a pet, it’s essential to provide the proper environment. 

You will need to decide whether your turtle will live inside or outside.

While turtles do better living in an outdoor enclosure, it’s possible to keep them inside as long as you have the proper setup. 

Indoor Enclosure

A common indoor enclosure is a glass aquarium. 

It’s possible to have a bigger enclosure indoors if you have the room. 

An aquarium should ideally be at least 40 gallons, but in reality, they should be closer to 75 gallons. 

If you don’t want to use an aquarium, large plastic bins will work for a box turtle enclosure. 

Make a point to clean your indoor enclosure weekly thoroughly. 

A box turtle habitat should be an inviting place for your turtle to live. 

Outdoor Enclosure

Regardless of the type of outdoor pen you have, you must ensure it is escape-proof. 

Believe it or not, your pet turtle can run or walk away if not fully secured. 

To keep your pen escape-proof, be sure to have the proper fencing around your outdoor enclosure. 

Turtles are very good at digging and can even climb over their enclosure, so it’s essential to have it secure. 

Kiddle pools or sandboxes make great outdoor pens. 

If you’re the creative type, get some plywood, and build your own!

Aim for a space at least 36′ square feet (11 sq m) in area. 

Plan on having your enclosure in a spot where it has direct access to sunlight in the morning. 

Keeping your box turtle habitat safe from predators is vital. 

Wild animals, like raccoons, prey on turtles. 

Provide rocks and branches for your pet turtle to hide behind. 

What Goes Into A Box Turtle Tank?

Having the appropriate supplies in the tank is key in setting up an appropriate box turtle habitat. 

While some aren’t necessary for outdoor enclosures, it’s essential to understand what your box turtle enclosure should have. 

Heat Lamp

If you are keeping your turtle indoors, you must provide them with a heat lamp

An indoor box turtle cannot rely on direct sunlight to keep warm, so you must provide it for them. 

You run the risk of your turtle going into hibernation or becoming ill if their body temperature goes too low. 

Their enclosure should not get below 70° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C) at night. 

During the day, temperatures should be around 70-80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C) with a basking spot of around 90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C). 

Invest in a quality digital thermometer to easily identify the temperature in your tank or enclosure.

UV Light

If your turtle is kept in an outside enclosure, they can have direct access to natural sunlight. 

The sunlight provides much-needed vitamin D3. 

However, an indoor box turtle will need a UV light added to its tank. 

The light aids in calcium absorption, which is vital to keep your turtle healthy. 

When choosing the proper light, you can either use two separate bulbs or a single mercury vapor bulb covering the entire tank.  

Without light, your indoor box turtle is at a higher risk of developing certain illnesses, like metabolic bone disease (MBD). 


There are several options when it comes to providing a substrate, or bedding material, for your box turtle. 

The box turtle substrate you choose should be deep enough to allow for burrowing. 

Plan for at least 4″ inches (10 cm) of bedding. 

Use a spray bottle to keep the substrate moist. 

This will aid in achieving a desirable humidity level for your box turtle habitat.

Always ensure the bedding you use is non-toxic in case your turtle decides to snack on it. 

Here is a list of common bedding choices for turtles:

  • Sphagnum Moss
  • Stones
  • Peat Moss
  • Reptile Carpet
  • Peat Based Potting Soil
  • Zoo Med Eco Earth

Feeding Dish

It’s important to have a proper feeding dish for your box turtle. 

You can either provide a regular dish or a flat rock.

A flat rock may get messy because it has no sides to keep the food in, but it will help keep your turtle’s beak down. 

It’s important to remove any leftover food after about 15 minutes. 

If not, it may start attracting ants, which can lead to even bigger problems. 

Ants have the potential to eat hatchlings. 

Water Dish

Your turtle will not only use their water dish for drinking from, but they also will bathe in it. 

Therefore, you want to find a dish big enough to hold your turtle. 

The saucer under a terra cotta flower pot is an excellent choice for a water dish.

Be sure only to fill up the water a few inches. 

If you overfill, you risk the chance of your box turtle drowning. 

Make a point to give them clean water daily. 

Fresh water should always be available to your pet turtle. 

Hide Box

Providing a hide box is especially important if your box turtle is kept outside. 

They are prone to predators, and it’s vital they have a safe spot to go. 

In addition to their hiding box, give them some rocks and logs to hide behind. 

Turtles are not typically social and enjoy having their private space. 

Water Filter

If you are keeping your turtle in an aquarium, it’s highly recommended you invest in a quality water filter. 

The filter will prevent you from having to clean the tank daily. 

Turtles go to the bathroom often, and their tanks can get quite messy. 

A dirty tank is a breeding ground for bacteria and can sicken your turtle. 

What to Feed Your Box Turtle

The best things to feed your pet turtle are foods they could find in the wild. 

They do best when their natural turtle habitat is replicated.

A proper diet is a healthy balance of insects and plant matter. 

Foods to offer your box turtle include:

  • Grasshoppers
  • Crickets
  • Baby Mice
  • Frogs
  • Slugs
  • Snails
  • Strawberries
  • Bananas
  • Carrots
  • Mushrooms
  • Edible plants (Ensure you are only providing non-toxic plants)

Cohabitating Box Turtles

If you’ve thought of adding another pet box turtle to your tank, you might wonder if it’s a good idea. 

It’s possible to have an additional turtle, but you need to ensure they each have their own space. 

A large outside enclosure can house two turtles. 

However, if you have an indoor 20-gallon aquarium, you may re-think having more than one turtle. 

While you may see turtles in groups in the wild, they prefer their privacy. 

If you decide to have another turtle, be sure they each have their hiding spot. 

It’s advisable not to have all male turtles. 

Go with two females, or one male and a female. 

Keep a watch on their behavior. 

While they might get along, to begin with, it can easily go the other direction from one day to the next. 

Types of Box Turtles

Knowing which type of box turtle you have will aid in providing them with the best habitat and food resources. 

Again, you want to duplicate their natural habitat as much as possible. 

Eastern Box Turtles

Also known as the common box turtle, eastern box turtles are often found in shrubby grasslands, ponds, streams, and near areas recently hit by heavy rainfall. 

An eastern box turtle’s diet consists mainly of mushrooms, fruits, plants, and protein-rich insects. 

Baby turtles will feast on mostly insects until they are about 5 or 6 years old. 

Florida Box Turtles

Florida box turtles are found throughout the state, including along the Gulf of Mexico. 

You likely will find these turtles in marshlands and near swamps. 

They mainly feed on fruit and leafy vegetation. 

For protein, they feast on insects and crustaceans. 

Ornate Box Turtles

Ornate box turtles are used to living in drier areas. 

Also known by their scientific name, terrapene ornata, they are used to much hotter climates but can dig a burrow to keep cool. 

Ornate box turtles tend to feed on insects like grasshoppers and beetles. 

If keeping one as a pet, it’s essential to keep their pen extremely clean to avoid the risk of bacterial infections. 

Final Thoughts

A box turtle can live for several decades if given a proper living environment. 

Before you decide to bring home a box turtle for a pet, it’s important to have the proper setup in their tank. 

An idea box turtle enclosure mimics what their natural habitat is like. 

The better you do this, the higher likelihood of your pet box turtle living a long life. 

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