What You Need to Know When Keeping a Three-Toad Box Turtle

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The three-toad box turtle is a subspecies of the common box turtle. It was named as “three-toed” due to its rear feet that have 3 toes. The three-toad box turtle is very interesting. It is shy, quiet, and gentle.

Its calm personality has made it a nice choice of pet for people who want to add have a different kind of pet in the family. However, the three-toad box turtle is a solitary animal. likewise, it must be protected from other animals like dogs. It is sensitive to its environment until such time it gets used to its surroundings and feels comfortable.

If you have decided to keep a three-toad box turtle, then you need to know these things to succeed.

Caging Requirements

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Box turtles are at their best if you leave them outside in big naturalistic pens. External enclosures must be made on well-draining soil with the rot-proof walls that should be at least 20” tall. The barrier must extend to 10” underground in every perimeter wall. This will prevent the turtles from digging out.

Access to sunny and shaded spots must be available so that your three-toed box turtle can thermoregulate. Dwarf fruiting trees, tiny shrubs, tiny logs, and ground cover offer hides, shade, and sight breaks for your pets. Huge shallow water pans must be given so that the turtles will have a source of clean water for soaking and drinking.

The tiny size of these box turtles makes them quick to keep indoors. For as long as you provide them with proper temperatures, adequate space, complete spectrum radiation, and humidity are given, you will succeed in keeping the box turtle healthy and active.

Indoor habitats must be as big as possible, so the heat and light fixtures, including the sight breaks, hides, and water dishes, could be positioned correctly. A digital hygrometer and thermometer must be installed so that you won’t be worrying a lot about the ideal humidity and temperature levels.

Young turtles could develop shell abnormalities when housed in dry conditions. Turtles are not prone to eye and ear infections if kept in humid environments. Adding milled peat moss or coconut coir with topsoil or sphagnum moss will result in a nice substrate that can effectively retain moisture and give digging opportunities.

Don’t use pine, play sand, or cedarwood carvings, clay-based bedding, or paper because these products are harmful to box turtle habitats. Put shallow water dishes inside the habitat for soaking and drinking, including the flat rocks for turtles to walk through to help in keeping the claws well-trimmed.

If your pet’s claws or beak are overgrown, you might be able to cut them yourself after talking to a veterinarian for the correct cutting technique.

Temperature and Lighting

A temperature gradient is also necessary for the enclosure of your three-toad box turtle. One side of the enclosure should be warm at 80 degrees Fahrenheit or 27 degrees Celsius while the cooler side is around 10 degrees or less. An incandescent light bulb or heat lamp will supply heat and also a basking spot with a temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

A mercury vapor bulb gives ultraviolet B wavelength radiation and heat. If you can’t find an MVB, you can use a full-spectrum or compact fluorescent bulb to give light the necessary UVB radiation for proper vitamin D3 synthesis. Vitamin D3 is important for calcium uptake and is crucial for proper bone and shell development and maintenance.

Heating sources and lights must be not too near to the animal to prevent eye damage and overheating. Follow the recommendations of the manufacturer for safe positioning. Keep the lights switched on for 12-14 hours each day. A drop in the temperature in the evening is normal, but it should not be lower than 75 degrees Fahrenheit during winter to overcome the urge to rest and hibernate.


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Captive three-toad box turtles can be picky when it comes to food. The greatest preventive way for this is providing a wide array of foods in every meal. A range of foods can help ensure that your pet receives all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. A mature three-toad box turtle can be fed twice or thrice a week. Hatchlings and juveniles can be fed 4 times a week.

Your three-toad box turtle accepts a range of plant and animal matter. For animal matter, your choices are nightcrawlers, super worms, earthworms, bee moth larvae, mealworms, and cooked lean beef or poultry. Occasionally soaked or canned, dry cat or dog food can be used. Commercial turtle food is an excellent source of protein and could be used with dark and leafy veggies, fruits, occasional live insects, and fungi to give a complete diet.

Turtles can be fed with most kinds of vegetables, fungi, and fruits. Choices of fruits include grapes, apples, bananas, cantaloupe, persimmons, strawberries, mulberries, and cherries. Vegetables like lightly steamed winter squashes and sweet potatoes, spine-free Opuntia, carrots, zucchini, corn, tomatoes, peas, and green beans. Excellent options for the leafy greens are kale, red leaf lettuce, and arugula.

You can also use spinach with high oxalic acid content could be used occasionally for as long as cuttlebone and calcium supplements are provided. The danger with food items is to use one to two exclusively. Always give a cuttlebone to your pet. A few times every week, a reptile nutritional supplement containing vitamin D3 and calcium must be sprinkled on the food at the suggested dosage.

Feeding your pet on a hard and flat surface will help in keeping the beak trimmed. Remove uneaten food right away to avoid pests and ants.


The three-toad box turtle needs a stable water source, whether you house it indoors or outdoors. Dehydration is a typical cause of diseases in this animal. Clean water must be given in the shallow containers like plastic roller paint pans and plant saucers. These materials are easy to clean. Also, turtles won’t hesitate to get into them. You can also put a water dish parallel to the ground or substrate just in case your pet refuses to use those pans.

A juvenile three-toad box turtle needs to be in the water. Soak the hatchlings and juveniles in tepid water for 10 to 15 minutes. Do it several times a week to ensure proper hydration.


Cold temperatures and the lack of food and water prompt the three-toad box turtle to look for shelter to survive the opposing conditions. Through brumation is normal for the turtle; still, your pet may end struggling to breathe and survive if it hibernates in the water. It should hibernate at the ideal location – the one that gives it protection against floods, cold, and predators.

It should be fed in good health so it will not succumb to illnesses throughout the winter season. A captive three-toad box turtle relies on its owner to give them proper care to ensure good health and the right kind of hibernaculum.

Temperament and Handling

A three-toad box turtle appears to recognize its owner’s voice and touch and will be okay with gentle handling. Some species of box turtles do not want to be touched but remain as good pets. Even the shy box turtle will show up once it learns that you have a treat for it.

Box turtles should not be allowed to move freely inside your home. They may get lost or get harmed. In the long run, this will make them suffer from low humidity and temperature levels. Regardless of how endearing your pet becomes, always remember that its biology requires a specialized setting, care, and diet.


Box turtles are known for their sturdiness. With proper housing and diet in captivity, they will easily stay healthy. However, if they deal with dehydration, poor diet, overcrowding, and sub-optimal housing, the turtles may become sick. Common diseases associated with box turtles include external and internal parasites, mouth rot, shell rot, inner ear abscess, eye infections, and upper respiratory diseases.

Injuries that are due to animal attacks will require the care and supervision of a licensed veterinarian. If your pet is injured, bring it as soon as possible to an exotic pet specialist to diagnose and treat systemic blood infections and shell rot. These conditions are frequent complications of the woods incurred from animal attacks. The recently documented infection in three-toad box turtles is caused by Ranavirus and may quickly decimate a group of turtles.

When you buy a box turtle, you should quarantine it for a minimum of 6 months and prevent keeping the turtles in the open cage to reduce the chances of cross-contamination. Any deviation from normal behaviors can be an indication of illness and must encourage the owner to seek help from an experienced veterinarian.


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They might not be showy like dogs and cats, but the three-toad box turtles became good pets in their unique ways. Their calm nature is already one of the reasons why they deserve to be your top option if you’re considering to keep a turtle.

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