The Exotic Vet

May 9

This is a 15+ year old male Ornate box turtle,Terrapene ornata ornata. The turtle is at least 15 years old because that is how long ago it was found by the family that owns it.

He was captured from the wild and kept in a deli container without access to UV light and fed nothing but raspberries and lettuce. Just looking at the photographs you can see that his beak is very overgrown and the shell is misshapen. When you squeeze the carapace it is soft and flexible. After speaking with the owners for quite some time I finally convinced them to purchase a larger tank and a UV bulb along with a drastic change in diet and vitamin supplementation. There were many other recommendations made but these were all turned down. This turtle will never look normal and it is likely he will never fully calcify his shell. The absolute best place for him would be in the wild, the next best would be in an outdoor pen with access to natural sunlight.

The bottom photo shows a healthy male Ornate Box turtle, this is what the pet turtle should look like. These photos demonstrate why it is absolutely necessary to learn the proper captive environment for the species you wish to keep. It also shows just how important UV light is for proper development. You must have both UV light and calcium in the diet in order for the skeleton and shell to grow properly. This guy has other health problems related to improper husbandry like stunted growth, upper respiratory disease, and dry flaky skin.

Box turtles can make really interesting pets but they do take work. An outdoor enclosure is really best for these guys but they can be kept in an aquarium if it is set up properly. Talk to your herp vet and do research.




(Top photos by Me. Bottom photo from