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Asian Box Turtles (Cuora spp.)

The southeast Asian box turtles, genus Cuora, are tropical and live in semi-aquatic habitats. However, the different species have significantly different requirements. 

More information: http://www.tortoise.org/archives/cflavo.html 

Cuora flavomarginata (yellow-margined box turtle) 

 High-arched shell and distinct vertebral yellow stripe. Well-marked growth annuli on scutes may be present. Carapace is usually dark brown with bright vertebral stripe. There may be reddish-brown splotches along the outer border of each marginal (my turtle does not have this). Plastron is dark brown to black. Underside of marginals is yellow. Head is gray to greenish with broad yellow stripe running from the eye to the neck. Forelimbs are covered with large scales. Yellow on backside of legs and back-heel. Occurs in from southern China, Taiwan, and the Ryukyiu Islan land. Males can be rather aggressive towards each other and females. My male, for lack of another victim, often tries to court me and punds. Usually occurs in ponds and rice paddies, but has been reported in gentle upland streams. Fond of basking and spends lots of time osh me over and assert his territory. He also follows me around for food. Pretty smart turtles. Diet is omnivorous, though they seem to be picky eaters with special preferences for favorite foods, even if offered a variety. 

Also called: Yellow-margined box turtle
Description: High-arched shell and distinct vertebral yellow stripe. Well-marked growth annuli on scutes may be present. Carapace is usually dark brown with bright vertebral stripe. There may be reddish-brown splotches along the outer border of each marginal (my turtle does not have this). Plastron is dark brown to black. Underside of marginals is yellow. Head is gray to greenish with broad yellow stripe running from the eye to the neck. Forelimbs are covered with large scales. Yellow on backside of legs and back-heel. 
Occurs in from southern China, Taiwan, and the Ryukyiu Islands.
Usually occurs in ponds and rice paddies, but has been reported in gentle upland streams. 
Fond of basking and spends lots of time on land. Males can be rather aggressive towards each other and females. My male, for lack of another victim, often tries to court me and push me over and assert his territory. He also follows me around for food. Pretty smart turtles.
Diet Notes: Diet is omnivorous. They like worms, insects, and snails a lot. They will eat fruit in abundance if available. Mine have never eaten greens except when hacked and mixed with fruit. They have eaten tomato, tofu, avocado, and cooked egg, which should all only be fed rarely, if at all. They love banana; I use it as a carrier for vitamins, calcium powder, and medications as they will eat it voraciously if available. I supplement calcium and vitamins once a week each. They will eat commercial turtle foods, but this is never recommended more than occasionally. A happy flavo will eat voraciously and not be too picky. How well they eat is an exellent indicator of their well-being. They will chew on cuttlefish bone if available.
Setup Notes: If the climate allows it, these turtles do best outdoors all year for through the warm season. They like moist, heavily overgrown enclosures. They love rain!
I’ve kept these turtles in a variety of environments from shallow pond to terrestrial. Their preference seems to be a very moist terrestrial environment with shallow water for soaking, plenty of vegetation, and places to hide. They like to climb. They bask. They can swim. 
Many of the captives I’ve seen have overly developed and heavy shells which makes them sink in deep water. So, I now only provide shallow water.
Temperature Notes: These turtles like to be warm.
Hibernation: Their habitat spans a wide range of temperature. I live in CA (SF Area) and leave mine outtdoors all year. When it gets cool, they will bury into the ground and hibernate. I pile leaves on top and cover the whole enclosure if temperatures might fall below freezing as I don’t think they tolerate very cold temperatures. 

Cuora amboiniensis (Malayan box turtle)

High-arched carapace with or without medial keel in adults. Dark olive or black color. Plastron yellow to light brown with large dark-brown or black spot toward the outside of each scute. Head is olive dark, towards black on side, towards olive or yellow towards neck. On each side, a black-bordered yellow strip runs anteriorly from the neck, passing above the eye to the tip of the snout. Two more stripes are on the side of the head. Distribution is from Nicabar islands, Bangladesh, Assam, Burma, Thailand, Kampuchea, Vietnam, Malaysa, east Indonesia all the way to the Philippines. Lives in lowland water bodies with soft bottoms and slow currents, such as marshes, swamps, ponds, and rice paddies. Gentle, shy species. In the wild, this turtle is decidedly herbivorous, but captives soon learn to take animal foods, too.

High-arched carapace with or without medial keel in adults. Dark olive or black color. Plastron yellow to light brown with large dark-brown or black spot  toward the outside of each scute. Head is olive dark, towards black on side, towards olive or yellow towards neck.  On each side, a black-bordered yellow strip runs anteriorly from the neck, passing above the eye to the tip of the snout. Two more stripes are on the side of the head.
Distribution is from Nicabar islands, Bangladesh, Assam, Burma, Thailand, Kampuchea, Vietnam, Malaysa, east Indonesia all the way to the Philippines.
Lives in lowland water bodies with soft bottoms and slow currents, such as marshes, swamps, ponds, and rice paddies.
Setup Notes: Very aquatic. I’ve kept mine in a shallow kiddie pool with lots of plants, such as water hyacynth. They didn’t bask outright but semi-hidden in shallow water under plants for most of the day. They like warm water. They do best outdoors.
Diet Notes: Mine have accepted snails, worms, insects, floating greens, and commercial turtle food.

Cuora galbinifrons (Indochinese box turtle, flower turtle

 Recently, I've also started to see this in pet shops. High-domed carapace; no vertebral keel in adults. A narrow, yellow to cream-colored stripe runs along the vertebrals. On each side of this, covering the rest of the vertebrals and the upper portion of the pleurals, is a wide, darkbrown to olive stripe, often containing a mottled pattern of dark marks. The lower 2/3 to 3/4 of the pleurals is usually plain white, cream, or yellow, but there can be mottles and dark interruptions in that, too. The marginals are dark and mottled, again. Plastron is dark brown or black. This is a very distinct turtle, and once you see one, you'll know it! Occurs in Vietnam, China, Hainan Islands. The least aquatic Cuora species that likes water but mostly lives in bushy woodlands at rather high elevations. Very shy. Carnivorous. 

Cuora trifasciata (Chinese three-striped box turtle) 

Brown with 3 keels marked by black stripes. Underside of marginals are bright orange or pinkish or yellow with possible black spots. Head is olive to black. An olive-colored, black-bordered stripe runs backward from the nostril through the eye. Behind this is a black-bordered spot. The upper jaw is yellow, and a yellow stripe extends from the corner of the mouth through the tympanum to the side of the neck. Lower jaw an chin are yellow. Top and sides of neck are olive and covered with small scales. ventrally there is a wide orange or pinkish-yellow medial stripe. Limb sockets and undersides of the limbs are bright orange or pinkish yellow. Very attractive turtle! Northern Vietnam, southern China, Hong Kong, Hainan Islands. Inhabits clear mountain streams and other habitats. Basks frequently and is quite terrestrial. Males can be rather aggressive. Carnivorous. Like fish. There are a few other species, but they are, to my knowledge, not available in the pet trade and not described here. 

Setup 

  • Use a basic box-turtle with the following modifications: Asian box turtles, specifically the Chinese Box Turtle (Cuora flavomarginata), the Malaysian Box Turtle (Cuora ambionensis), and the Three Striped Box Turtle (Cuora trifasciata) are harder to keep than regular box turtles. Asian box turtles love to wade and are able to swim for short distances. For Asian box turtles, about an inch or two of water are best; make it so the turtle can comfortably stick its head out. You must take Asian box turtles indoors--they do not hibernate and will die outdoors if the temperature drops too low. You can go with the same basic setup with the following changes: 
  •  About 1/4 to 1/2 of the enclosure should be water deep enough for the turtle to submerge halfway. A cat litter box is about the right size. These turtles are semi-aquatic. Their natural habitat is rice paddies and forest streams. Asian box turtles love to be in the water! * The diet is more carnivorous. Vegetables are rarely taken, but fruit are. You should still offer a variety of fruit and veggies. I found that one of my Chinese box turtles likes peas, the other one likes corn. Try banana as a magic food! They will also take egg, tomatoes, melon, blueberries, strawberries.
  • Coolest temperature should be around 75F. These turtles do not hibernate and will not eat if too cool. Make sure some part of the enclosure is always nice and warm.
  •  If your turtle is a finicky eater, try earthworms, pinkies, and banana. They are favorite foods. Mine also likes avocado (feed rarely, since high in fat!), tomato, tofu (low fat), egg (don't feed often), any kind of meat, strawberries.
  • To get my Cuora to eat greens, I mince the greens, mostly butter lettuce, then mash it together with a little banana. 
  •  Loves to chew on cuttle fish bone.
  •  Either feed a vitaminized dry food, or use a supplement powder; for example mashed in with a bit of banana once a week.
  •  For more information, please, get the care sheet No. 013 from the San Diego Turtle and Tortoise Club listed in the references. 
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