How To Take Care Of Wood Turtles? | Beginner’s Guide

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

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Taking care of wood turtles is nothing complicated nor a cup of tea. Raising these turtles becomes manageable with proper guidelines. Otherwise, lacking knowledge of this species can make your journey challenging. Notes that you should remember on how to take care of wood turtles are:

  • Housing: 75 – 100 gallon tank, dock, lights, water filter, and tank heater
  • Basking temperature: 85 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Water temperature: 60 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Diet: Fish, shrimp, insects, worms, carrot, green leafy vegetables, apples, supplements, etc

Of course, there is more to the care sheet of a wood turtle. Dive into the following article, and you will definitely have an insight into what a pet wood turtle needs by the end.

How To Take Care Of Wood Turtles?

It will not be a lie if someone tags wood turtles as a class itself. The species includes about 9 subspecies, each with individual characteristics. Though they have differences in appearance or habitat range, the care sheet for all wood turtle subspecies shares certain similarities.

You will get a detailed cheat sheet on wood turtles in the upcoming sections. But first, allow me to introduce you to this unique species.

Wood Turtle: The Species Summary

The title wood turtle originated from their wood-like appearances. However, these turtles went through a different name-changing ceremony and finally got this official tag. The wood turtles also go by the labels red-legged tortoises, sculpture tortoises, and red legs.

Again, wood turtles share noticeable similarities with the bog turtles.

People often generalize the North American wood turtles as wood turtles. But in reality, the name is the umbrella term for almost 9 different subspecies. Such as,

  1. North American wood turtle
  2. Central American wood turtle
  3. Furrowed wood turtle
  4. Blackwood turtle
  5. Maracaibo wood turtle
  6. Spot legged wood turtle
  7. Brown wood turtle
  8. Large nose wood turtle
  9. Colombian wood turtle

These freshwater turtles are a bit rare and pricey. Yet, the species is low maintenance and perfect for beginners.

Wood Turtle Care For Beginners: Infographic

Click here to get a printable version of this infographic!

Wood Turtle Appearance And Physical Characteristics

Wood turtle appearance will vary from subspecies to subspecies. But generally, these turtles have rough and sculpted scutes. In addition, the carapace is tanned and can range from grayish brown to pure brown colour.

Each scute of the wood turtles contains patterns of yellow and black lines. Sometimes the whole carapace of these turtles appears as a carved piece of wood. This unique design justifies the name of this species.

Again, keels run down at the center of the wood turtles’ carapace. These ridges often have a patterned shape of grooves or pyramids. Moreover, their bottom shells or plastrons are yellow and carry dark black patches.

Furthermore, the head characteristics of the wood turtles are also unique. Head colour ranges from tan ash to black with littered yellow speckles.

Wood turtles have spots all over their body. Likewise, their necks, legs, and chins have yellow stripes covered with red and orange patches.

In short, you can spot a wood turtle by observing its carapace, plastron, head, and body appearances. Go through my turtle species identification guide if you still have any doubts.

Wood Turtle Native Habitat: Where Do Wood Turtles Come From?

The native habitat of wood turtles ranges from Southeastern Canada to Northeastern USA. A statistic shows that around 30% of the wood turtle population lives in Canada and the rest in the USA.

In the United States, the wood turtles’ habitat stretches from Nava Scotia to Minnesota. They are also found in Virginia, Indiana, and Michigan.

The semi-aquatic wood turtles always prefer freshwater sources with slow moving streams. Water bodies with sandy bottoms, vegetated banks and rivers with banks or logs are suitable homes for these turtles. The river banks, logs and logs provide these creatures with a basking spot.

Again, you will find wood turtles roaming in the wetlands in the middle of the vegetation. The plants and leaves are excellent foraging sources for these turtles.

Wood Turtle Size: How Big Do Wood Turtles Get?

The wood turtles can get between 5 to 8 inches (12.5 – 20 centimetres). However, the species has the potential to grow even more. For example, the largest wood turtle recorded in Virginia was 8.5 inches (21.5 centimetres).

Again, the biggest North American wood turtle was 9.8 inches (25 centimetres). Furthermore, an adult wood turtle weighs 1 – 1.5 kgs on average.

The growth of wood turtles depends on,

  • Subspecies
  • Diet
  • Environment
  • Care level
  • genetics

Theoretically, a captive wood turtle receives more care and attention than the wild one. Hence, the chances are that the pet turtles will experience a healthier and flourishing growth.

However, it is totally okay if your pet wood turtle does not exhibit the expected physical development. There is nothing wrong with the creature as long as it eats and does its daily activity. Yet, you can consult a vet for assurance and safe play.

Many beginners get confused about sexing their wood turtles. Let me make the gender identifying process easier for them, as wood turtles exhibit extreme sex dimorphism.

Usually, the male wood turtles are 3 – 5 centimetres larger than the females. Not only that, these males have larger claws, bigger heads, and thicker tails. Again, the female wood turtles have a flat plastron. On the other hand, the male bottom shells are concave.

Furthermore, there are differences in the appearances of the male and female wood turtles. While the males have more vibrant spots all around their bodies, the females’ markings are dull.

I do not think you would need more directions to sex your turtles. But remember, the hatchlings and young turtles show no gender distinguishing signs. So you have to wait a few years to let the babies turn into young adults.

Also, always compare two turtles of a similar age and notice multiple sexing indications to tag the gender of your pet. Otherwise, you may end up doing it all wrong.

Wood Turtle Lifespan: How Long Do Wood Turtles Live?

North American wood turtles are blessed with a long life. This species can live up to 58 years in captivity and more than 50 years in the wild. Central American wood turtles, on the other hand, have short longevity of 20 to 30 years.

Wood turtles have a healthy growth relative to their age. In the first 5 years, the babies grow about 4.5 inches, and they will reach 6 – 8 inches at the age of 15 – 16. Experts suggest that these turtles gain their sexual maturity around 14 – 16 years.

Though the development phase of pet and wild wood turtles have similarities, their lifespan often does not match. Surrounding, care level and emergency medical attention are always to blame.

Generally, the wild turtles have to hunt and collect meals all by themselves. Moreover, they survive the scorching heat and harsh winter in the open environment, which can be distressing. On top of that, these creatures have no medical access and heal naturally in case of an accident.

On the contrary, pet turtles are always at the center of attention in a household. They get regular meals and medical care and live in a well-decorated tank. Hence, there can be no question why captive wood turtles have a longer life expectancy.

Wood Turtle Behavior And Temperament

Wood turtles are exceptional due to their intelligent and friendly nature. In addition, these turtles have a curious side and problem-solving quality.

Studies have been done on the intelligence level of wood turtles. These turtles have surprised the scientists with their maze decoding or other reward-gaining games. I am sure no other species show this kind of characteristic.

These turtles are also very cautious about their surroundings. They happen to recheck everything before making themselves home.

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Moreover, wood turtles are interactive with their owners. Whenever they see their master coming closer, they swim to the surface, expecting meals. So you can indeed play with these creatures for hours.

However, the wood turtles prefer living alone apart from this docile side. These turtles get competitive when it comes to swimming areas, basking zones, and food. The stronger turtles try to dominate the weaker tankmates. You might notice the turtles teasing each other while housed together.

Nevertheless, the wood turtles will bite their owners if the situation demands. You know, turtles get stressed out in a chaotic environment and while touched roughly. Wood turtles are no different and will do anything to save themselves.

How Do You Build A Wood Turtle Habitat?

The natural blessing is enough for wood turtles to live a complete life in the wild. However, while in captivity, the owners have to arrange several pieces of equipment to provide comfort to these pets. Any wood turtle requires the following supplies to live a healthy life,

  • Properly sized tank
  • Basking dock
  • Lighting arrangement
  • Water filter
  • Tank heater

Catch more details below.

Wood Turtle Tank Size

Wood turtles are comparatively medium-sized than most other turtle species. The babies are born 1.1 – 1.5 inches with an average 8.5 – 10.5 grams weight. These turtles grow up to 9 inches and weigh around 1.5 kgs at adult age.

Though the wood turtles are medium-sized, you can not compromise the tank size. Experts suggest accommodating the hatchlings in a 20-gallon aquarium and adults in a 75 – 100 gallon enclosure.

Many turtle hobbyists prefer raising their wood turtles in an outdoor habitat. In that case, a 5 feet x 5 feet x 2 feet pool will suit the adults.

On the other hand, small rubber made containers or plastic tubs can be used as a home for babies. But remember, this will not be a permanent home for your wood turtles. These pets grow fast, and hence, you have to move them to a bigger and permanent enclosure soon.

The capacity of a wood turtle tank can increase in case you house multiple turtles or fish. But, generally, you have to expand the enclosure size by half the base amount every time you add a new turtle to the aquarium.

Basking Dock: Do Wood Turtles Bask?

Basking is a common practice for wood turtles. The species is semi-aquatic, and thus they spend a considerable amount of hours soaking heat on a log or platform.

In an outdoor arrangement, logs, rocks, and any dry land area would work as a basking dock. But for an indoor habitat, you have to manage either a commercial station or DIY one dock for your wood turtles.

People often overlook the significance of basking platforms in the wood turtles’ life. However, the docks serve several purposes for the turtles. For example, after a long swim, the creatures come to the platform to dry their wet bodies and rest.

Thus, the absence of a dock means the wood turtles will stay in the water for long. Such habits can cause bacterial infection and cold diseases in pets.

Again, the wood turtles soak in heat and UV rays while basking besides resting. Both the elements are mandatory for the healthy growth of the turtles.

Therefore, a basking dock is a necessity for wood turtles.

As I have mentioned, you can buy a commercial platform or make it yourself. The store-bought docks are sturdy and well fabricated. Look at the best budget-friendly basking stations for wood turtles from this article.

It is totally okay if you do not want to spend that much on a basking platform. For example, converting metal sheets, foams, plastics, and ceramics into docks is an easy task. You will find many detailed videos online relevant to this topic.

However, in any type, make sure the basking station can take the weight of the pets and have no sharp edges. Also, the dock should be reachable to the wood turtles as they are not very good at jumping. Moreover, do not buy an excessively bigger platform. Instead, follow a proper portion of 3:1 of water and land area.

Lighting Arrangements

Two lights, a heating lamp and a UV bulb, are necessary for indoor wood turtles. The sun fulfills this basic necessity for wild and outdoor wood turtles.

The heating and UV bulbs play significant roles in a wood turtle’s health and development. First, take the example of a heating lamp.

You already know wood turtles are cold-blooded and totally dependent on environmental heat. So when they get on the basking dock after a swim, they look for heat to dry their body. An installed heating bulb can satisfy their need for warmth.

While buying a heating lamp, you have to consider the bulb wattage. Going for more powerful lights can lead to excessive heating in the enclosure, which is equally harmful to the pets.

Again, maintaining a minimum space between the lamp and basking dock is necessary to control the temperature rise. Have a look at the bulb wattage with ideal distance,

Heating Lamp WattageDistance Between Dock And Heating Lamp
50 watt6 – 8 inches
75 watt7 – 9 inches
100 watt9 – 11 inches
100 watt++11 – 14 inches

Again, the wood turtles require UVA and UVB rays from the sun to stabilize their mental health and growth. In addition, professionals suggest UVA exposures impact their activity level, appetite, and even how they experience the colours.

Similarly, the UVB rays can influence wood turtles’ digestive and physical activity. However, the most significant role the UVB exposures play in developing these creatures’ bodies. How?

The food these turtles eat has vitamins D and calcium, besides other nutrients. But their system can not always process the calcium. So for the complete absorption of calcium, the turtles require enough vitamin D3, which is insufficient in the diet.

However, the UVB lights can produce this vitamin D3 in the turtle body and increase calcium absorption. Hence, the pets will have a sturdy and developed body structure and immune system.

Then again, what will happen if you do not install a quality UV lamp in the turtle enclosure? Your turtle might die. Yes, and I am not exaggerating.

Experts have concluded that newborn hatchlings deprived of UV lights have a higher death rate in the first year. However, even if the babies do not die, they will grow up with a weak posture, growth, and immune system.

Thus, setting up a quality UV source is essential in the wood turtle enclosure.

Like the heating lamp, the distance between the UV lamp and the dock also plays a vital role in deciding a wood turtle’s health.

Here is the ideal distance chart of UV lamp and dock depending on the wattage,

UV Bulb WattageDistance Between UV And Dock
2.5% UV12 inches
5% UV18 inches

Hence, the heating lamp and UV light are necessary for indoor wood turtles.

However, there are different quality lights available, and of course, not all of them suit your turtles. People often buy low-quality bulbs due to the heavy discounts. But let me warn you. Those lamps do no good to your wood turtles.

Instead, buy quality lights to ensure good health for your pets. Remember, UV lamps degrade the quality with the usage of hours. Therefore, you must replace the bulb every 6 – 12 months. Otherwise, your wood turtle will be at the risk of suffering from MBD.

Again, installing two lights in the enclosure might seem messy for a few owners. The lamps with 2 in 1 feature can be a great addition for them. Get the primary idea on turtle lighting systems and budget bulbs from my previous write-up.

Water Filter: Do Wood Turtles Need A Water Filter?

Wood turtles can definitely live without a water filter, but that is a curse for their health. In the wild, the water body refines itself naturally. But while in an indoor or outdoor set-up, a tank filter is very much mandatory to keep the water quality top notch.

Wood turtles lead a messy lifestyle. Hence, water filters are convenient for maintaining hygiene in the tank.

Many turtles prefer eating in water. There, they leave the foodscapes behind, making the water hazy. Moreover, turtles also urinate and poop in the same water body. If you force your turtle to live in that condition for long, it will develop infectious diseases.

Installing a filter takes in the used water, extracts and separates the filth, and recirculates fresh water. The whole system is automatic and seamless. Therefore, you do not have to worry anymore about water hygiene.

However, though a tank filter can eliminate the filth, you must replace 25% of the water every week. Not to mention the monthly cleaning of the whole enclosure and changing the water completely.

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Some owners think changing water more frequently might help the turtles. But no. The idea mostly backfires, resulting in a cloudy tank.

If you are struggling with a cloudy wood turtle tank, do not forget to go through these causes and solutions.

Here is another thing you need to consider. Tap water often includes chlorine, ammonia, and other harmful elements that cause itchiness in the turtles’ eyes and skin. In such a situation, the store conditioners can stabilize the water.

Are you stressing over choosing the perfect tank filter for your wood turtle? Check out the canister filter list that I have been using for years. The insight will definitely help you make a better decision while making the purchase.

Tank Heater: Do Wood Turtles Need A Tank Heater?

Wood turtles are ectothermic species, so the outside temperature sources play a significant role in their lives. In the wild, turtles get the heat from the sun. Hence, these creatures have to hibernate in a fast-flowing stream in winter.

In the wild, turtles hibernate naturally. But while in captivity, it is an extensive process of almost 2 months. So again, a small mistake can cause severe health damage to the turtles.

Therefore, owners advise installing a tank water heater to keep the wood turtles warm and minimize the chances of hibernation. The warm water also prevents the bacterial spread and cold disease in the wood turtles.

Water heaters for wood turtles come in various models and sizes. You can use a submersible or substrate heater in single or multiple arrangements. Each heater has its advantages and limitations, which you must consider before buying.

Owners often install the old model tank heaters because of the discounted rate. But these devices often malfunction and raise the water temperature beyond the safe range. For such reasons, setting up digital or automatic heaters is always advisable.

Are you confused about which model would satisfy the heating requirements of your wood turtles? Click here to get a detailed tank heater buying guide for beginners.

Do Wood Turtles Live In Water?

Wood turtles are semi-aquatic and demand both land and water. While these creatures use water bodies for swimming, eating, breeding and sleeping, they come to the ground only to bask, rest, forage, or burrow.

As wood turtles love burrowing, many experts recommend raising them in an outdoor place. This way, layering the ground with suitable peat or sphagnum moss substrate gets easier. Generally, such land zones are a bit moist and dump, whereas the dock is totally dry.

Compared to spending time, the wood turtles prefer water areas over land. Though professionals suggest keeping the basking lights on 10 – 12 hours a day, the pets pass only a few hours on the dock. These creatures love swimming in the water and prefer doing most of their activities there.

How To Replicate Wild Environment For Wood Turtles?

Putting a wood turtle in a well-decorated habitat will do no good if you can not make it at home. The only way to do that is to regulate the temperature and give the enclosure a touch of nature.

Here are the three things I always tell the newbies to focus on while building an indoor ecosystem for wood turtles,

1. Temperature

I have already discussed the significance of temperature in the wood turtles’ life. But do you know the suitable temperature range for these turtles?

Here take a look,

Air TemperatureWater TemperatureBasking Temperature
70 – 80 Degrees Fahrenheit60 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit85 degrees Fahrenheit

The turtles feel stressed physically and mentally if the temperature fluctuates from this temperature zone. For example, the turtles slow down their metabolism if the temperature drops to 40 – 50 degrees Fahrenheit and might even enter into a hibernating state.

On the contrary, the turtles tend to swim deeper into the water source to find the chill when the temperature rises. The pets will manage to escape the habitat if both the water and land area temperature hits the ceiling.

2. Humidity

Low humidity often poses a health hazard for wood turtles. A dry environment can make their skin and shell flaky. Again, excessive moisture in the air invites bacterial infestation in the enclosure.

Therefore, it is advisable to maintain moderate humidity inside the habitat. Misting the tank every day works to contain the moisture in the turtle enclosure.

However, do not wet the dock as the turtles like it dry.

3. Substrate

Unlike many turtle species, wood turtles actually prefer substrate but not in the water. It is because they require a land area for burrowing.

Topsoil, sphagnum, peat, and dry leaves are the top substrate choice in a wood turtle enclosure. The ideal mix proportion is 4:1, clean topsoil: play sand.

However, the water area demands no substrate. But you can put a bottom layer if you intend to add plants to the enclosure. Moreover, gravel and medium-sized pebbles can enhance the aesthetic appeal of the terrarium.

4. Decoration

Wood turtles spend equal hours on land and water. Though these turtles have a friendly side, they prefer living a solitary life. As a result, frequent interaction, rough touches, and chaotic surroundings can easily stress them.

While panicked, wood turtles search for a place to hide. Therefore, building visual barriers is a must in the turtle enclosure. But, again, these spots also pay off when the pets are involved in a fight.

You can put broken pots or use commercial pieces as turtle hiding spots. However, adding live or plastic plants to the enclosure creates a visual barrier for the pets. Not only that. The broad leaves also enhance the beauty of the terrarium.

You can choose either live or plastic plants to serve the purpose. However, taking care of live plants and turtles can be challenging for newbies.

Nevertheless, putting live plants in an enclosure has its benefits. Go through your available plant options for wood turtles and a guide to executing your plan from the attached link.

What Do Wood Turtles Eat?

Wood turtles are omnivores as they eat everything. Their diet includes animal protein, plant matter, fruits, supplements, etc. However, these pets’ meal plans and appetites change with their growing age.

The wood turtle meals contain both animals and plants as long as they are safe. Here, take a quick look through the available food options for these creatures,

Animal Protein

  • Crickets
  • Bloodworms
  • Dubai
  • Earthworms
  • Fish
  • Grasshoppers
  • Grubs
  • Krill
  • Mealworms
  • Pink mice (store-bought)
  • Silkworms
  • Shrimps
  • Snails
  • Slug
  • Sowbugs
  • Tadpoles
  • Waxworms

Animal proteins are mandatory to add to a wood turtle’s meal. Otherwise, the pet will not undergo the expected growth and development.

Plant Matter

  • Algae
  • Carrots
  • Collard greens
  • Dandelion greens
  • Duckweed
  • Endive
  • Flowers
  • Green beans
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Green lettuce
  • Mushroom
  • Red lettuce
  • Roaches
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Squash
  • Sweet potato
  • Water hyacinth
  • Water lettuce
  • Yams

Vegetables and plant leaves contain the necessary vitamins and minerals. These nutrients build a strong immune system in the wood turtles and prevent potential diseases. Hence, removing veggies from the diet list will not be wise.


  • Apple
  • Pear
  • Berries

Fruits are sweet and can be used only as treats. Your wood turtles might love feasting on berries, but this food option has no proper nutritional value. Hence, feeding the pets these sweet treats will cause vitamin deficiency. Also, the excessive sugar in fruits can actually pose harm to their health.

Commercial Items

  • Canned invertebrate
  • Canned snail
  • Frozen shrimp
  • Frozen krill
  • Pellets

Many people resent canned foods, and I agree with them. The frozen items or the pellets can never replace the natural objects in a wood turtle meal. However, these are the only options for you when you are in a rush.

Again, experts claim that limited consumption of frozen foods and pellets does not harm your turtles. So, adding them to the turtle diet plan can be an easy option for the owners. But exceeding 45 – 50% is never suggested.


  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D
  • Multivitamin

The supplement is another essential item for wood turtles that you do not want to miss. Statistics suggest that pet turtles have a higher risk of suffering from mineral and vitamin deficiency even with a balanced diet. Adding supplements to the meals cancels that possibility.

What Do Baby Wood Turtles Eat?

The well-established meal ratio for wood turtle hatchlings is 50% animal matter and 50% plant matter. However, the baby wood turtles are often tagged as carnivores due to their preferences toward meat. Many professionals argue on this topic and suggest even these little turtles require enough vegetables to build a solid structure.

Baby wood turtles have more appetite and need more nutrition than the young or adult ones. It is because the early development of the turtles decides the later physique of these pets.

Not only that. The hatchlings are vulnerable and more exposed to diseases. A balanced and nutritious meal plan can aid in developing a strong immune system in these turtles.

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As the babies have more appetite, feeding them every day is mandatory. You have to provide them with food either early in the morning or evening.

Animal protein, pellets, and vegetables are everyday meals for the baby wood turtles. Besides, supplementing the diet with multivitamins once a week and calcium flakes thrice a week is also recommended. Again, you have to add fruits or live insects to the feast once in a while. It boosts these pets’ taste.

Wood turtle hatchlings might not show interest in vegetables at all. In such a case, you have to experiment with different plants and leaves to track their preferences or make the meals more appealing to them.

What Do Juvenile Wood Turtles Eat?

Wood turtles over 6 to 12 months can switch to a slightly different diet plan. For example, instead of daily meals, the feeding schedule of once every other day suits them well. However, the animal and vegetable proportion remains the same.

Moreover, like the baby wood turtles, the juveniles also require vitamin and calcium supplements. Besides, a fruity treat once a week increases these young turtles’ appetite and keeps them happy.

What Do Adult Wood Turtles Eat?

The wood turtles lose their hunger and taste as they grow old. For example, while the baby and young wood turtles love chewing on meat, adults prefer eating veggies. Hence, their meal includes 75% vegetables and 25% animal protein.

Again, as these turtles have less appetite than before, a thrice a week feeding schedule works fine for them. However, no matter how little your pets eat, you have to ensure a balanced diet for them. Otherwise, they will suffer from health conditions and low immunity issues.

How Much Should You Feed A Wood Turtle?

I have seen newbies struggling to decide how much to feed their turtles. But honestly, the task is not that difficult at all. Two well known and popular techniques to determine turtle food quantity are,

  1. The head method
  2. The 15-minute rule

Each of these two processes has benefits and a few limitations. Take the head method, for example. All you have to do is to take a bowl similar to the size of your pet wood turtle. Now fill the container with protein, veggies, and pellets to deliver the turtle a perfect meal.

Most professional turtle hobbyists follow this process to feed their pets. However, for newbies, it can be a bit confusing.

The latter method is simpler than this one. Here, you need to leave more than enough food in the enclosure for precisely 15 – 20 minutes. Experts suggest that turtles can have a full tummy in that time frame. After 15 minutes, remove the foodscapes or leftovers and you are done!

The 15-minute rule seems compatible with most level turtle owners. But there is always a chance of wasting food.

Determining the food quantity is essential because overfeeding the turtle is a curse. It can cause obesity, kidney stones, liver failure, and many more health complexions.

Wood Turtles Potential Health Issues

A balanced diet with hygienic surroundings and a well-decorated enclosure keeps the wood turtles healthy and immune from most diseases. On the contrary, improper meal charts and enclosure arrangements make these turtles vulnerable and exposed to several health issues.

Here are the most common wood turtle health issues with possible treatments,


Vitamin A plays a significant role in protecting the turtles from infectious attacks and keeping the skin healthy. Hence, the lack of this mineral leads to hypovitaminosis in wood turtles.

As symptoms of the vitamin deficiency, the creatures might experience lethargy, appetite loss, swelling of the eyes or ears, pit formation on the eyes, etc. However, hypovitaminosis can become more severe if it goes untreated for long. For example, a respiratory infection.

Usually, a balanced meal plan that includes vitamin A can cure this disease in wood turtles. However, doctors often suggest antibiotics or shots for quick healing.

Shell Rot And Shell Conditions

Shell rotting condition is a curse for wood turtles. It starts with only a cut or scratch on the scute. Then, bacteria or fungus make their way into the turtle’s body through the injury and make the pet suffer. In severe cases, the scute plates might fall off from the structure.

Apart from the rot, wood turtles are exposed to many more shell diseases. For example, shedding, white patches, red or black spots, etc.

Home treatments are effective in healing the primary shell conditions. The vets suggest keeping the turtles in a dry enclosure and wiping their shells with antibacterial antibiotics to cure this condition. However, prevention is always preferable to medication in such shell diseases of wood turtles.

Metabolic Bone Disease

The improper proportion of calcium and phosphorus can be responsible for metabolic bone diseases in wood turtles. Usually, insufficient UV rays are at the root of this sickness.

For example, a low-quality UV bulb means a lack of UVB exposure. Therefore, it results in lesser vitamin D conditions, leading to inadequate calcium absorption in the turtles. In the end, the pets end up diagnosed with MBD.

Wood turtles with metabolic bone diseases show the following symptoms,

  • Swollen legs
  • Bumps in the leg or bones
  • Trouble walking
  • Bumpy scutes
  • Softening of jaws or shells, etc.

MBD can cause tremendous pain to your pet turtles and take time to go away completely. A balanced diet and good quality UV light are essential to fight back this disease.

Organ Failure

Many of us do not know, but wood turtles can suffer from paralysis or organ failure. While accidents or genetic complexions cause paralysis, overfeeding is usually responsible for organ failure.

You can not help your pet turtles in such conditions, and they might experience a premature death. But never compromise, offering them better treatments to lessen the physical pain.

Respiratory Illness

Wood turtles have a fair possibility of getting a respiratory illness. Generally, prolonged vitamin A deficiency, cold, and direct bacterial attack in the lung lead to respiratory infection.

Nasal discharge, trouble breathing, sideways swimming, floating in the water, lethargy, weight loss, etc., are the symptoms of this disease. Antibiotics and intensive care can heal the respiratory infection in turtles. However, scientists suggest that turtles are never cured of this illness completely.

Infectious Diseases

Apart from shell infection and respiratory illness, wood turtles are vulnerable to other diseases. Mouth rot, ear infection, swollen eyes, and puffy eyes are also the results of bacterial attack.

Antibiotics, proper meals and maintaining cleanliness can improve these conditions in wood turtles. However, a balanced diet and hygienic enclosure can easily save your pets from trapping any diseases.

Parasite Attack

Wood turtles are curious by nature. Unfortunately, their inquisition of things can sometimes backfire, making them sick. For example, these creatures can have parasites by taking a bite of everything that comes in their way. Generally, filthy soil, dirty enclosures, and rotten animal protein cause parasites in wood turtles.

The creatures lose weight exponentially when they have worms. Not only that, vomiting, diarrhoea, parasites or blood coming out with poops are common signs of this condition. Deworming the turtles at least once a year can keep them away from parasite attacks.

Wood Turtle Breeding Care

Breeding of wood turtles in captivity is done in a controlled way. These turtles get involved in copulation in spring and fall. Generally, the breeder puts a compatible turtle pair in an enclosure for a few days during the season and separates after successful copulation.

The wood turtles prefer mating in water to land areas. Usually, the male turtle influences the female by giving sexual hints. For example, swimming around her in a loop, fanning her, or mounting her from behind. Such a couple will dive into deep water once the female gives a green signal. The mating of wood turtles lasts for several hours.

The female turtles lay their eggs within a few weeks after the copulation. During that time, the behaviour and routine of the mother turtles can change, and they require special attention from the owners.

The gravid wood turtles need a nesting area containing soft and moist soil for laying their eggs. When the time comes, the mothers dig a deep hole and deposit their eggs there. Laying eggs often takes hours for these turtles.

Once the mothers are done with this task, they close the hole with loose soil and dive back into the water to retrieve energy. But unfortunately, the female turtles never return to their eggs. In the wild, nature decides the fate of these eggs, but in captivity, the breeder takes the responsibility.

However, the breeders must know about hatching eggs and should not try this to get the experience only. A small mistake can ruin the whole wood turtle clutch.

Taking care of wood turtle eggs is nothing complex. Using a quality incubator can be the easiest way of hatching these turtle eggs.


Wood turtles are for everyone. These cute, intelligent turtles have an entertaining side, which most people enjoy. However, unfortunately, this species is at the threat of extinction. We, as turtle lovers, can help in the conservation of the wood turtles by boycotting black markets and ensuring excellent care of our pet turtles.

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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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