Can A Box Turtle Survive In A Fish Tank?

can a box turtle live in a fish tank

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

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Like all other pets, turtles need a suitable environment to live. Often the new pet owners get confused about where to put his pet box turtle, and the first thing pops up in their head is a fish tank as a habitat of the box turtle.

So can a box turtle survive in a fish tank? Yes. A fish tank can be the most comfortable habitat not only for a box turtle, but also for many other turtle species.

If you are a new box turtle owner, you may need some additional information about a box turtle’s habitat. In this article, I will discuss the indoor and outdoor habitat of a box turtle. If you are new and puzzled, this article may help you a lot.

And for others, like I always say, it’s fun to know about turtles.

Box Turtle And Fish In The Same Tank?

As you know, the box turtle does not live in water except one or two subspecies. You can keep both fish and those subspecies of box turtle in the same tank, but you must meet some conditions:

  • Choose those fishes which are larger. Genetically, box turtles have the rush to hunt for fish. So if you are not careful while choosing the fish, you may end up losing them all.
  • Some fish produce a lot of waste products, which pollutes the tank environment. A box turtle may fall sick due to a harmful tank environment. So choose those fishes which prefer cleanliness.
  • You have to keep in mind the box turtle’s growth. So while choosing a tank, you have to pick up a bigger one.

What Is The Ideal Tank Size For A Box Turtle?

The tank size of a box turtle depends on the turtle’s size. Two size tanks are available for a box turtle:

  • A 36″ x 18” size fish tank, which can hold 40 gallons of water
  • A 48” x 18″ size fish tank, which can hold 75 gallons of water

The bigger the tank, the better it is for the box turtle to move. Many people use 80 gallon fish tank for their pet turtle. Before buying a fish tank, you have to keep in mind that a box turtle grows until it reaches its adulthood. So a smaller container may hinder its free movement.

While choosing a tank for your box turtle, do not buy those with average glasses. It is because

  1. A box turtle can see right through the glass. It may try to move but fail, which can be stressful for it.
  2. The box turtle may suffer from anxiety issues because of it. Anxiety can reduce the turtle’s lifespan.

Supplies To Make A Fish Tank Perfect For Your Box Turtle

A fish tank is not enough to make a habitat for your box turtle. You have to customize some supplies to make the place perfect and comfortable for your box turtle.

  • Substrate Elements
  • Heat Source
  • Hiding house
  • Large Bowl
  • UVB Light or wavelength

Substrate Elements

 These elements are used for making a comfortable house. For example,

  • Clay
  • Coconut Fiber
  • Moss
  • Mulch
  • Leaf
  • Rock

Substrate is necessary for making both indoor and outdoor habitat for a box turtle. You gave to set up the layers with perfection.

  • Put a 3-4 inch layer of clay and coconut fiber at the bottom of the tank.
  • Keep it the layer soggy.
  • Put some moss, mulch, leaf, and rock over the layer.

Heat Source

Heat pad and heat lamp can work as a heat source in the tank. The heat pad is fitted under the tank. Heat lamp stays on the top of the tank.

Always stay careful while choosing and placing the lights. Do not forget to read the instructions.

Hiding House

A hiding house is necessary for a box turtle. Though it is a friendly creature, sometimes it prefers to stay alone. You can make artificial hiding spots for your pet. A hollow log, plant, or large rock will be perfect hiding spots for a box turtle.

Large Bowl

Large water bowl is necessary because the box turtle needs to soak its body from time to time. Do not put an oversized bowl.

UVB Light

To synthesize vitamin D from calcium, a box turtle needs a sufficient amount of UVB light. Moreover, without adequate UVB light, a box turtle may suffer from many diseases. So you should provide enough light as per its need.

How To Set Up A Tank For Box Turtle

To make the perfect indoor habitat for a box turtle, follow the instructions given below:

  1. Select a large enclosure according to the size of your box turtle. You can use a wooden waterproof turtle table as an enclosure. Plastic containers can also work as an enclosure for your pet.
  2. Get a long piece of solid paper and paste it around the tank so that your box turtle can’t see through the glass. It is extremely important as box turtles can really get stressed in a see-through glass environment.
  3. Now make the enclosure escape proof because a box turtle can climb up the wall. Do not use a cage as an enclosure.
  4. Put the substrate elements.
  5. Provide a heat source. You can use 75-100 watt bulbs as a heat source.
  6. Set up a heating pad under the tank.
  7. Provide a source of UVB lights.
  8. Make proper arrangements for keeping the humidity of the tank constant.
  9. Create the hiding spots and put other accessories.
  10. Make a swimming area for the turtle.

Can A Box Turtle Live Outside?

A study shows that outdoor habitat is always preferable to a box turtle. There are some obvious reasons for it.

  • Outdoor habitats give a box turtle larger space to move.
  • A box turtle can get natural light and air.
  • The natural environment gives wildlife experience to the box turtle.

Though an outdoor habitat is preferable, it is challenging for the pet owners to choose a perfect space. If you have a small house, then it is more complicated. Moreover, outdoor habitat has some drawbacks too.

  • You will have less control over your pet box turtle.
  • You won’t be able to keep it under observation all the time.
  • Sometimes an artificial habitat can harm a pet box turtle’s health.
  • There is always a risk of the attack of any predators.

From my point of view, only if you have enough space in your house, and you can manage to reduce the risk of the drawbacks, you can make an outdoor habitat for your box turtle. If not, then an indoor fish tank or turtle tank is perfect for it.

Which Will Be Better For Your Box Turtle: Outdoor or Indoor tank?

That depends on many factors. If you have a large backyard where you can build a safe, large enclosure for your box turtle, definitely go for that. Box turtles love to be in the wild. However, if you are living in New York in a tiny apartment, then you are bound to go for an indoor habitat.

Also, temperature plays a crucial role here. If you are living someplace where it gets freezing temperature in the winter, then you’ll have to have a backup plan for your box turtles. During the winter, you’ll need to keep your box turtles in a temporary indoor enclosure.

So, think carefully and long-term before choosing the place of your box turtle enclosure.


Well, fish tank is always good as an indoor habitat. Moreover, it gives you proper control over your box turtle. I hope now it will be easier for you to set up a habitat for your pet box turtle according to its need.

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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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