Snapping Turtle vs. Box Turtle [15 Differences]

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

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My friend called me last week as he could not decide which turtle to buy. He had two turtles on the list, a snapping turtle and a box turtle. I helped him, pointing out the key differences between these two turtles. After that, he made up his mind within a minute. So, I decided to share those parameters with you.

A snapping turtle is bulkier in size and has an aggressive nature. However, it is omnivorous but prefers a protein-rich diet. On the other hand, the box turtles are cute, petite, and love interacting. Besides, they are truly omnivorous and munch on plants most of the time.

Give this article a quick read to find more details on the comparison of snapping turtle vs. box turtle.

Snapping Turtle Vs. Box Turtle: Summary

FactorBox TurtleSnapping Turtle
Scientific NameChelydra serpentinaTerrapene
SizeUp to 12 inchesUp to 32 inches
WeightUp to 2 kgsUp to 110 kgs
Native RangeNorth AmericaGulf coast of Mexico, Florida, Iowa, Georgia, etc.
HabitatGrasslands, and damp lands.Marshes, ponds, bogs, streams, etc.
LifespanUp to 100 yearsUp to 80 years
DietOmnivorous, mainly herbivoresOmnivorous, mainly carnivores
Sexual MaturityBy 10By 15
Egg clutch7 – 9 eggsUp to 100 eggs
CostLower to expensiveLower to expensive
Care LevelBeginnerIntermediate to expert

Snapping Turtle vs. Box Turtle: 15 Differences

Many of you know the differences between a common snapping turtle and an alligator snapping turtle. Both of these are the main subspecies of the snapping turtle species.

When being from a similar root, two turtles carry contrasts, then imagine how dissimilar two turtles of different species will be. Get a complete comparison between common snapping turtle vs. alligator snapping turtle from here.

Yes, box turtles and snapping turtles are very different from each other. Let it be the look, habit, or lifestyle. But, of course, there are similarities. But the differences are more pronounced.

An overall comparison of snapping turtle vs. box turtle is attached below,

1. The Basic

If we start with the basics, the box turtles belong to the Terrapene genus from the Emydidae family. On the other hand, the snapping turtles come from the Chelydridae family and fall under the Chelydra genus.

Also, the number of subspecies differs for the box and snapping turtles. For example, the box turtles are divided into 12 – 13 subspecies, whereas the snapping turtles have 2 main subspecies.

2. Compare The Look

Clearly, the box turtles do not look the same as the snapping turtles. While the box turtles have a boxy appearance, the snapping turtles are beast-looking.

Diving into more details, the box turtles have a domed shell hinged at the bottom. In addition, the carapace and plastron of this species have patterns and markings. Not only that, you will notice colorful spots and lines on their skins too.

Box turtles are called so because of their ability to retract their limbs, head, and limb entirely into the shell. In addition, these turtles have short legs with claws.

In summary, box turtles are cute.

On the other hand, snapping turtles have a rugged look. In most cases, the skin and shells of these turtles are tanned black or dark olive. The carapace has a rough surface, and the skin has tiny scales.

See also  Can A Snapping Turtle Bite A Finger Off?

The head of a common snapping turtle is oval-shaped, while the head of the alligator snapping turtle is triangular. Their eyes are carved on the sides. Besides, the tail of this species is long and pointy.

Also, unlike box turtles, snapping turtles can not retract their body inside the shell completely. As a result, their necks always rest on the side, exposed. No wonder why the snapping turtles feel vulnerable.

In short, the snapping turtles look like small beasts.

3. They Belong To Different Places

Snapping turtles have a wider distribution. For example, the native habitat of the common snapping turtle ranges from southeastern Canada and goes all the way to Florida.

Similarly, the alligator snapping turtles are mostly found on the Gulf Coast of Mexico. However, these turtles also live in Iowa, west Texas, Georgia, and Florida.

So, you will find snapping turtles all over the USA.

On the contrary, box turtles are a North American species. Depending on the subspecies, the native range of these turtles is distributed all over northern America and Mexico. So you will also find this species in Florida, Mississippi, Texas, the Gulf Coast of Mexico, and many other states.

4. Have You Noticed The Size?

Box turtles and snapping turtles have huge size differences. For example, the average size of box turtles is between 4 – 7 inches. The largest subspecies is the Asian bigger box turtle with a 9 – 12 inches length.

When I said box turtles look cute, I didn’t only mean the appearance but also the size. These small creatures make the perfect pet for any beginner.

However, snapping turtles are giant looking.

The common snapping turtles are medium and have an average size range of 8 – 14 inches. However, some of these subspecies experience growth up to 22 inches.

Alligator snapping turtles are one of the largest turtles in the world right now. The average size of these turtles is 16 – 26 inches. Also, there are records of spotting alligator snapping turtles with 32 inches of carapace length.

Are you wondering about the growth rate of snapping turtles? You will find a growth chart of these turtles in my previous write-up.

So, compared to the box turtles, the snapping turtles are larger and bigger.

5. Can You Pick Up The Turtle?

Box turtles are smaller in size, and so, they weigh less than snapping turtles. However, the owners suggest that even the healthiest adult box turtle does not weigh over 1 – 1.5 kgs.

Snapping turtles, on the other hand, is medium to giant sized, so they weigh much. For example, the common snapping turtles can weigh up to 34 kgs. Again, the bulkiest alligator snapping turtle weighs 110 kgs.

6. Focus On The Habitat

As box turtles and snapping turtles are from different native ranges, their habitat requirements are not the same. While the snapping turtles love swimming and water, the case is the opposite for the box turtles.

Box turtles do not swim or spend time in the water like the other turtles. Instead, these creatures prefer staying on the land. Hence why, box turtles are also tagged as terrestrial turtles.

See, box turtles can swim but not for long. Reports and evidence indicate that a box turtle can not survive in water. Unlike the snapping turtles, the anatomy of box turtles is not suitable for those long soaks in the water. Therefore, these creatures live on the land.

In the wild, box turtles live near the swamp, stream, or pond or in meadows, marshes, and pastures. They settle in the damp lands and come to the water bodies to soak their shells and drink. However, some subspecies of box turtles live in deserts and are programmed to endure that arid environment.

See also  Why Is A Box Turtle Not A Tortoise?

So, if you have a box turtle, consider the habitat requirements while building it an enclosure. You can get a complete guide to set up a box turtle’s tank by clicking here

Unlike box turtles, snapping turtles are in love with water. These creatures spend most of their time swimming and playing in the water. They only come to the land when basking.

In the wild, the creeks, marshes, ponds, swamps, bogs, pools, rivers, streams, etc., are the perfect spots for snapping turtles. So, in captivity, you have to cover 2/3 of the habitat with water. You can cover the rest with rocks or a dock.

7. Other Habitat Requirements

Box turtles and snapping turtles live in different types of habitats. So, it is obvious that the setup will vary from each other. For example, box turtles prefer more land area and shallow water portions.

Also, the box turtles only need basking light and a heating lamp to survive. As these turtles do not depend on water, you do not have to invest in the water heater and water filter. But yes, you have to put up rocks and other hiding spots to entertain these creatures.

Again, the snapping turtles live in the water, So water quality matters significantly to them. Hence, you have to install a water filter and water heater into the pool. Besides, a basking dock, a heating lamp, and a UV light are also necessary for this species.

8. Lifespan Varies

Box turtles live a fulfilling life. The average longevity of these turtles is 40 – 50 years. But wait! According to many reports, box turtles can live up to 100 years with proper care.

Again, the common snapping turtles live up to 50 years. But the alligator snapping turtles have a longer lifespan of 70 years. Like the box turtles, some snapping turtles may live up to 100 years.

You know the wild box turtles and snapping turtles do not live as long as the captive ones. It is because they have no access to quality care and treatment. However, this is not always true. Some wild turtles can outlive the captive ones.

9. Diet Is Not The Same

Snapping turtles have 2 subspecies, each with a different diet habit. Take the common snapping turtles as an example. These turtles start their life as carnivores. But with the growing age, these creatures start depending on vegetables.

Unlike them, protein sources take up the bigger portion of an alligator snapping turtle’s diet. They prey on frogs, snakes, mice, fish, shrimp, and other small mammals and turn them into a meal.

Box turtles, on the other hand, prefer vegetables, plants, and leaves. Besides plant matter, they also eat insects, worms, fish, and other proteins. But if you ask me, these box turtles are totally vegetable-dependent.

For a newbie, it can be confusing to draft a proper diet chart for a box turtle. However, for your convenience, I have come up with a meal plan for box turtles. You can find the box turtle food routine here

10. Who Attacks Who?

While the pet turtles are safe from predatorial attacks, the wild turtles are not. Though the box and snapping turtles have other dissimilarities, they share the same predators. Such as crows, eagles, raccoons, dogs, coyotes, foxes, ants, etc.

Snapping turtles are bigger, and so the predators do not attack them directly. Instead, they feast on the egg clutches of this species. If the predator is bigger, it tries to take a bite from the snapping turtle’s shell or flesh.

As the box turtles are not as big as the snapping turtles, they have to face severe predatorial attacks. But here, the smaller size works in their favor. They can run and hide faster. Also, the box turtles can retract to the shell entirely and shield themselves.

See also  How to Determine Box Turtle Age?

11. Who Is Better At Defense?

Snapping turtles have a reputation for being aggressive. As a result, the keepers often get injured handling these creatures.

Yes, snapping turtles are shy and only snap when they feel vulnerable. But unlike many species, these turtles are not docile and prefer living in solitary.

It goes without saying that snapping turtles are better at defense. Have you not seen the sharp, hooked jaws of these creatures? The alligator snapping turtles can chop off your finger with a snap.

Compared to the alligator snapping turtles, the common snapping turtles are not that ferocious. Yet, their bites are enough to make you bleed and leave a bruise for years.

However, with box turtles, you do not have to fear biting. It is because box turtles are social and interact with their owners. Therefore, the box turtles will rarely snap or act aggressively. This is why parents allow their kids to grow a box turtle.

Do They Hibernate?

Hibernation is a part of every turtle’s life. The creature looks for a heat source to function its body properly. If there is a lack of heat, it will go into a deep sleep to cope with the cold. This state is called hibernation.

Box turtles in the wild hibernate in severe cold. They will burrow into a hole or under the leaves and spend the winter there.

Snapping turtles also hibernate when in the wild. But some reports suggest that these turtles prefer not to hibernate and move to a warm zone.

It is not recommended to hibernate your pet turtles. You can lose your turtle if the process goes wrong. However, feel free to read this article for a clear conception of box turtle hibernation.

12. What About Reproduction?

Snapping turtles get sexual maturity by the age of 15. They mate after coming out of hibernation. After a successful copulation, the female turtle looks for a nesting area within a few weeks.

The clutch of a common snapping turtle contains up to 100 eggs. Again, a gravid alligator snapping turtle can lay up to 50 eggs.

Box turtles become sexually active sooner than snapping turtles by the age of 10. The female box turtles nest only once a year, and their clutches contain 7 – 9 eggs. As there are few eggs, the egg survival rate is also lower. You can read more about box turtle hatchling care in this article.

13. Money Matter

Both species are available at a lower price if you are talking about a usual box turtle or snapping turtle. With $50 in your pocket, both these species are available to you.

But box turtles and snapping turtles get expensive if you want an exotic species. For example, the McCord box turtles cost around $8000. Again, you have to pay about $5000 for an Albino common snapping turtle.

14. Community Housing

The best advantage of the box turtles is that they can live together. Yes, there will be fights and bullying. But you can always control those incidents by selecting a compatible pair and considering the basic requirements.

But it is almost impossible to house two snapping turtles together. Moreover, as these turtles are aggressive, they will be on each other’s throats the whole time, making the enclosure a war battle.

15. Better Pet?

Both the snapping turtle and the box turtle make excellent pets. But, of course, snapping turtles are not for everyone. As you know, snapping turtles are a bit aggressive and require special care.

So, if you are an experienced keeper and love challenges, you can try your luck with a snapping turtle. Remember, snapping turtles are not for beginners,

On the contrary, box turtles are docile and love the interaction. Also, the care sheet for these turtles is not rocket science. As a result, you can recommend this species to anyone thinking of starting the turtle-keeping journey.


Box turtles and snapping turtles share fewer similarities and more dissimilarities. But in the end, both creatures are unique in their own ways. If you can not decide which one to get, go through each point again and again. The answers will help you make a logical decision.

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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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