Malayan Box Turtle
Cuora amboinensis

AKA: Malasian Box Turtle, Phillipines Box Turtle, Asian Water Box Turtle, Southeast Asian Box Turtle, Java Box Turtle and Asian Box Turtle. (The last one is not a very helpful moniker because there are a dozen other species that could also be called Asian box turtles, and they each require different care.) The Malayan Box Turtle has webbed feet, and is the most aquatic box turtle in the pet trade. It is a hardy and interesting pet. Its natural habitat and physical requirements are very different from other box turtles. But if correct conditions are provided, it is reatively easy to maintain. Unlike many North American box turtles, the Malayan is an eager eater and seldom presents health problems, if its basic needs are met. These basic needs include lots of water, heat, and high humidity.

How to Identify: The Malayan box turtle is easily identified by the distinctive yellow stripes on each side of the head. When viewed from above, the top two stripes form a "V" at the nose. Carapace (upper shell) is a solid dark color-- olive green, dark brown, or black-- without any striping or other markings (although a keel--raised ridge--may be present.) Unlike the box turtles from North America, the Malayan box turtle has fully webbed feet. All box turtles have a hinge on the lower shell, allowing the animal to close up completely.
Natural habitat: Malayan box turtles live in ponds, marshes and rice paddies in lowland, tropical rainforest areas of Southeast Asia. They have a very large range, from eastern India, through Thailand and Vietnam, and throughout the island nations of Malaysia, Indonesia and Phillipines. They range entirely within tropical regions, and at low elevations. They are tropical, aquatic, rainforest creatures. Their captive care must reflect this.
Size & Longevity: Adult females can reach 9" shell length. They mature in 5-6 years and can live 35-40 years.

·Minimum Care Requirements·

·Aquarium: Unlike many North American box turtles, Malayans are skilled swimmers.
A 20 gal.-long aquarium is the minimum size for one small turtle. Water in the aquarium should be at least as deep as the width of the turtle's shell. Shallow water is more dangerous than deep water, as the animal may have difficulty righting itself if it falls upside down in shallow water. This web-footed critter needs plenty of water.
·Humidity: Keep the humidity in the tropical range, 75-90%.
Dry air harms the eyes and lungs of tropical/aquatics. This can lead to pneumonia or chronic respiratory infections. Dry air also damages the shell which can lead to shell rot. Chronic dehydration can lead to kidney damage. Keep the aquarium partially covered to keep air moist.
·Land area: Create an area where the turtle can bask and completely dry off.
A raised land area (e.g. as shown below) provides more swimming area. It is easy to create with plastic covered kitchen racks. The author has sucessfully used this system for many years. It allows the turtle to swim the full length of the tank, and provides a sturdy place to bask.
·Heat & Light: Tropical turtles need the warmth and light of the sun.
Use an underwater heater to keep the water temperature at 79-84ºF. Use a basking light to warm the air. Use of both a UVB reptile light and a warming basking light is recommended. Keep the basking area about 80-92ºF. during the day.
·Diet: Feed a varied, omnivorous diet, that leans toward plant matter.
Diet may include a variety of water plants, grocery greens, veggies, fruits, turtle pellets, worms, bugs and fish. Use a wide variety of foods to prevent picky eating habits. Also keep cuttlebone in the water so the turtle can self-regulate calcium intake.

For more info visit the
Malayan Box Turtle website at:


© 2007 Mary Hopson