Box Turtle Lifespan: How Long Do They Live?

box turtle lifespan

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you are planning to take a box turtle as your pet, or already have one, you need to know the lifespan of it. See, I am not an expert, but as a turtle lover, I did some online and offline digging on this topic.

The average lifespan of a box turtle is almost 50 years. Most of them die between the age of 40 years to 50 years. Depending on care or treatment, it can live up to 100 years or more. Different subspecies have individual lifespan.

The lifespan of a box turtle depends on many factors including the different subspecies it belongs to, diet, health issues, etc. I’ll write about each of these factors and how they affect the lifespan in detail now.

Different Box Turtle And Their Lifespan:

  • Desert Box Turtle: A desert box turtle spends a lifetime of 10 years from up to 50 years.
  • Eastern Box Turtle: A eastern box turtle can live over 100 years, but the wild ones live a shorter life.
  • Ornate Box Turtle: It has been observed that an ornate turtle leads a life of 32 years to 37 years.
  • Florida Box Turtle: Florida box turtle live 50 years or more with proper care.
  • Three-Toed Box Turtle: A three-toed box turtle can survive 20 years to 30 years in the wild. Under care and treatment, they can live 50 years or more.
  • Gulf Coast Box Turtle: A study has shown that a gulf coast box turtle can have a lifespan of 100 years in the wildling.
  • Mexican Box Turtle: A Mexican box turtle lives above 50 years, and very few of them can survive over 90 years.
  • Yucatan Box Turtle: Yucatan box turtles live a long life. A study shows that Yucatan Box Turtles can have a 100 years lifespan in the wildling.

Do Health Issues Affect A Box Turtle’s Lifespan?

Like humans and other animals, a turtle’s health issues play a significant role in its lifecycle. Box turtles often fall sick, and without proper treatment and care, it’s hard for them to come round. Pet box turtles get maximum attention. So they tend to live a longer life than the wild ones.

Wild box turtles are at the edge of extinction. They are witnessing a rough time to cope up with the environmental change and pollution. They are falling sick, and without the proper treatment, most of them cannot survive over 40 to 60 years.

Pet Turtle Lifespan & Size Chart

pet turtle lifespan and size

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Diseases That Affect A Box Turtle’s Lifespan:

  • Abscesses
  • Shell Diseases
  • Respiratory Disorder
  • Metabolic Bone Disease or MBD
  • Organ Failure, etc.


Abscesses are also known as ear abscesses or aural abscesses. It can happen for the failings of Vitamin A or bacterial infection. The infection starts growing in the mouth and then reaches the box turtle’s ear canal. As turtles do not have an external ear canal, we can observe the condition as a pus.

When Does This Condition Happen To A Box Turtle?

  • If the box turtle anyhow experiences pesticides, it may fall for ear abscesses.
  • Vitamin A deficiency or failings of nutrients can cause abscesses to a box turtle.
  • Polluted environment can cause abscesses.
  • If the box turtle’s immune system gets infected or weak, it can suffer from abscesses.

Treatment For Abscesses:

 Treatment depends on the condition of the box turtle. If the situation is critical, you must take your pet to the vet. He may perform a surgery to remove the hard pus. After surgery, you should follow the instructions of the vet so that the wound heals fast.

In ordinary cases, the vets prescribe some antibiotics and a strict diet for your box turtle. If you stick to it, your turtle will come around soon.

Can We Prevent Abscesses?

As abscesses can occur to your turtle more than once, you should be careful in preventing it. There is no definite way of preventing the disease. Still, keeping your turtle in a clean environment, and providing it a healthy diet will help you to avoid the condition.

Shell Disease

A box turtle can suffer from many shell diseases, for example, shell rot, softshell, white spots on the scutes, shell cracking, etc. As shell is a sensitive part of a turtle, shell diseases can decrease the lifespan of a box turtle.

Common Reasons For Shell Diseases:

  • Fatal accidents can cause cracked shell condition to your box turtle.
  • A single cut on the shell can let the bacteria growing under a box turtle’s scutes. It can cause many severe shell conditions, like shell rot.
  • While growing, abnormal shedding can occur to a box turtle.
  • Unhealthy environment can also affect the shell condition of the box turtle.
  • Improper diet is another factor that is responsible for shell disease.

Treatment For Shell Disease:

A turtle’s shell protects the internal organs. So in both severe and minor cases, you should consult with the vet first. In critical conditions, a vet may perform surgery on your box turtle.

In minor cases, home-made remedies are best. You should provide your turtle with a healthy environment and diet. Moreover, give proper medication and care to your box turtle.

Respiratory Disorder

Respiratory disorder is a typical condition for box turtles. Sometimes the situation gets severe, and even your pet can die. So it is necessary as a pet owner to study it.

Reasons For Respiratory Disorder:

There are two reasons for this disease.

  1. Vitamin A deficiency can cause respiratory disorder to your turtle.
  2. Bacterial attack or infection is another reason for this disease.

Symptoms Of This Disease:

  • The box will become slow in moving and become less playful.
  • The box turtle will find it difficult to breathe and swim if it has respiratory disorder.
  • The turtle will have a gusty eye or a runny nose.
  • It will tend to snore, cough more than before.
  • The box turtle will lose its appetite.
  • Your pet will start avoiding water and spend more time in the dry area.
  • You may notice in its swimming style.

If you observe any of these symptoms, take your pet to the vet.


Though respiratory disorder is a common disease, it can get critical at any moment. Instead of home-made remedies, I suggest to take your turtle to a vet. The treatment of this disease depends on many factors.

The vet will note the heartbeat rate of the box turtle. He will also take an x-ray to find out the cause of the disease. Depending on that, he will suggest some meds. If you follow the vet’s prescription and do regular check-ups, soon, your pet will get rid of the disease.


You can prevent respiratory disorder if you maintain some minor changes.

  • Maintain a constant temperature in the water tank. Try avoiding cold temperatures.
  • Keep a clean environment.
  • Provide a healthy diet and a warm environment.

Metabolic Bone Disease or MBD

A box turtle often suffers from MBD. If the disease gets critical, it will have a grave impact on the turtle’s lifespan. The good news is, MBD is curable.

Why MBD Happens To A Box Turtle:

There are two reasons for MBD.

  1. Imbalance diet
  2. Inadequate light

Signs of MBD:

  • You may observe a softshell.
  • The turtle will get tired quickly.
  • It may suffer from constipation.

Treatment For MBD:

A minor change in the management and the turtle’s food will be enough for recovering.

  • Put sufficient calcium and phosphorous in the turtle’s diet.
  • Vitamin D helps the calcium to work accurately. So add Vitamin D to the diet chart.
  • Make sure your box turtle gets enough sunlight or UVB light.

Organ Failure

Organ failure can affect the lifespan of a box turtle. Kidney and liver failure have been observed in box turtles. High protein diet is mainly responsible for these conditions.

You cannot do much in these conditions. You have to take your box turtle to the vet, and follow the vet’s instructions. Keeping a clean environment and providing a proper diet to your pet will always reduce the chance of illness.


These diseases, more or less, affect a box turtle’s lifespan. If you are planning to get a box turtle, try implying the preventions for its long lifespan. I hope this article will help you in taking care of your pet.

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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