How to Care for a Malayan Box Turtle

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A Malayan box turtle (Cuora amboinensis) might seem too intimidating as pets, but they are hardy creatures and easier to care for than most aquarium fish. These gentle and majestic turtles which can live for up to 35 years can grow up to 12 inches in length and have a characteristic three yellow stripes on their heads. They are also ideal for families who have had some experience with aquatic pets.

Housing for the Malayan Box Turtle

Often mistaken as primarily terrestrial, the Malayan box turtle spends more time in the water than other box turtles. They like warm, watery places, that is why their vivarium should have a pool with at least a 5-centimeter deep water, which should be increased gradually as the turtle grows older, and a constant temperature between 75° to 84° F. Once your turtle grows over 3 inches in length, however, you might want to consider moving it to a bigger area than a tank, if you haven’t provided that already.

Part of the tank should be allotted for a basking area with a dry surface and a clip light lamp and full-spectrum fluorescent lamp. This means that its enclosure should consist of 50% water and 50% land. A mix of live and plastic plants will provide extra food and protection for your pet, while proper drainage will make cleaning much easier, because the turtle needs frequent water changes to avoid diseases. Getting a filter is necessary to keep the water in excellent quality. Warm water is important not just because they like the temperature, but they also use it to empty their bowels.

Cypress mulch is the most recommended substitute for substrate. Avoid using gravel and pebbles in the vivarium, because the turtle might ingest them.

Diet for the Malayan Box Turtle

The most common problems with these types of turtles are diarrhea, shell rot, dehydration, and septicemia. Most of these can be avoided with a clean housing and healthy food. If you purchase a hatchling, it should be fed lightly once daily, taking care not to overfeed it.

A Malayan box turtle is an omnivore and most of its diet will consist of earthworms, insects, fish, duckweed, banana, apple, pear, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, squash, and some commercial food like aquatic turtle formula, small shrimp, and canned box turtle food. However, you should avoid feeding your turtle the following food: lima beans, spinach, and broccoli.

Your pet will also need calcium supplements if you cannot provide it with enough live food that you have raised yourself to ensure that the prey are gut-loaded and free from diseases. You should also watch out for tell-tale signs of health problems, such as lethargy, avoidance of water, flaking shell, loss of appetite, runny nose, swollen ears, puffy eyes, gaping mouth, injuries, and bleeding. Take your pet to the veterinarian if you see any of these symptoms.