Malayan Box Turtle

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Species group:

Other common names: Northeast Asian Box Turtle; Ambo; Amby; Asian Box Turtle

Scientific name: Cuora amboinensis

The basics:
The Malayan Box Turtle is strictly found in slow moving waters and marshes in the tropical rainforests of Southern China and into Indonesia. They are listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN, a result of over collection as a food and for the pet trade.

Appearance / health:
Malayan Box Turtles have a dark brown, olive, or black carapace without any markings. The shell may be round or oval depending on the subspecies. Younger individuals will have 3 obvious ridges along the carapace. The top of head is dark with bright yellow stripe that run above the eye from nose to neck. The chin and underside of the neck is yellow with dark stripes. Their rear marginal scutes are flared and the plastron is yellow with brown markings.


AVERAGE ADULT SIZE: 6 – 8 inches

Behavior / temperament:
The Malayan Box Turtle is energetic and full of life. They are very adaptable and hardy if kept in an environment that meets their needs.

Unless your climate is hot and humid these turtles do best in an indoor aquarium. One adult should have at least a 30 gallon tank with half of the area dedicated to land space and half to water. One area of the water environment should be only 8-10 inches deep so they can stand on the bottom and reach their head above the water same time. They will need a highly efficient filter and weekly water changes. They will appreciate live plants that they can eat. Other requirements include full spectrum light for proper calcium absorption and moss on the land area to help maintain high humidity levels. There is no need for substrate in the water but you can use large rocks that can’t be swallowed. In the right climate, adults can also be housed outdoors in a garden pond. Housing outdoors can allow you to provide them with a nicer habitat, deeper water areas up to 20 inches for swimming and naturally planted land areas. Hot and humid is the key to setting up a Malayan Box Turtle’s habitat.

When researching the care of the Malayan Box Turtle you’ll find that there is a lot of contradictory information on how to best care for them, even experts will give different information. When in doubt, look to their natural habitat and behaviors for guidance on setting up a proper habitat where they can thrive.

LIFESPAN: 30 – 40 years

TEMPERATURE/HUMIDITY: Water Temperature: 75 - 84° F, Basking: 82 - 90° F, Ambient Air Temperature: above 70° F, Humidity: 75 – 90%

HIBERNATION / ESTIVATION: This turtle does not hibernate. Their habitat conditions must be maintained year round.

HEALTH CONCERNS: Unfortunately most pet Malayan Box Turtles available are wild caught and do suffer from the capture and transportation process. These wild turtles often suffer from dehydration, a high parasite load, and shell rot. They will need weeks to months of intensive care by their owner and reptile veterinarian to nurse back to health and help them thrive as a pet. Other common causes of health problems are poor water quality and overall improper habitat. They can suffer from respiratory illnesses and shell peeling if their environment is too dry. Symptoms that your turtle is not healthy are a lack of activity or burrowing, never or rarely entering the water, and not eating.

The Malayan Box Turtle is technically an omnivore, although adults eat more vegetation than meat. In the wild most of their adult diet are aquatic plants. They can be fed a commercial turtle pellet supplemented with duckweed, mealworms, crickets, live feeder fish, fruit, dandelions, or mushrooms. If their aquarium is well planted with edible plants they only need to be fed once or twice a week.

These turtles are mature at 4 -5 years of age. Mating occurs in the water and the eggs are laid on land, hatching 2 -3 months later.

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