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Chinese Box Turtle Facts (Yellow-Margined Box)

The Chinese box turtle is an endangered Asiatic box turtle native to China, Taiwan, and Japan. This species is also known as the Yellow-margined box turtle, shìshéguī (which translates to snake-eating turtle), or Golden-headed turtle.

Although this is a hardy turtle, which is quite easy to care for, it is endangered. As such, they are not easy to find. This semi-aquatic turtle spends as much time in water as it will out of water. It is essential that the turtle enclosure is 50% aquatic and 50% terrestrial.

Chinese Box Turtle Facts and Information

Yellow-margined box turtle (Chinese Box Turtle)
Yellow-Margined Box Turtle

Many binomial names have been assigned this turtle over the years. However, according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), the binomial name of the Chinese box turtle is Cuora flavomarginata.

This species belongs to the genus Cuora (which includes all other 12 Asian box turtle species), and the family Geoemydidae which includes about 70 other turtle species.

As with other box turtles, the Cuora flavomarginata is highly domed. The distinctly golden brown colored head of this species sets it apart from other Asian box turtles.

The carapace is dark brown, so is the plastron. The carapace has yellow and red stripes, which fades with age. The limbs are dark brown. The head, which is brown, has a pale green coloration atop it.

There is little difference between the appearance of the male and the female. However, males have larger, broader tails and are generally small as compared to the females.

The average carapace length of the Cuora flavomarginata is 5.5 to 6.5 inches (140 to 165 mm). Individually, they weigh 14.1 to 26.4 ounces (400 to 750 grams) on average. They have been known to reach weights of 35.3 ounces (1000 grams) and lengths of 7.48 inches (190 mm).

The lifespan of this turtle is unknown but since it is similar to the Asian Box Turtle you can expect it to live for 100+ years.

A comparable species includes the Malayan box turtle. As with the Chinese Box turtles, the Malayan box turtle is vulnerable to extinction.

Chinese Box Turtle Diet

Chinese Box Turtle (Yellow Marginated Box Turtle)
Chinese Box Turtle

The Chinese box turtle is an omnivorous species and will feed on vegetation, berries, worms, slugs, and snails in the wild. In captivity, a diet of vegetables, fruits, and animal protein is best. As you may already have guessed, variety is key.

Although you can provide them with leafy greens, the Chinese box turtle tends to ignore them. Instead, they prefer vegetables such as squash, corn on the cob, and grated carrots. They will also eat fruits such as pawpaw/papaya, cantaloupe, banana, and strawberry.

Animal protein is an essential part of their diet. They will eat mealworms, slugs, snails, deforested frozen pinkies, crickets, trout chow, phoenix worms, butterworms, and earthworm. Chinese box turtle also eats cat food, although this tends to contain more fat that is healthy for turtles.

Another dietary source to look into is commercially made turtle food such as Gourmet Aquatic Turtle Food.

Unlike other aquatic/semiaquatic turtles, Asian box turtles feed both in water and on land. Turtles should be fed every other day.

Ensure there is always potable water available.

Chinese Box Turtle Habitat

Cuora flavomarginat (Chinese Box Turtle)
Cuora flavomarginata

The enclosure for this semiaquatic turtle needs to be 50% land and 50% water. Although housing this turtle in a spacious outdoor enclosure with a pond is best, this is quite impractical for places where the temperature falls below 75 degrees (24 °C).

If you seek to build an indoor enclosure for this turtle, then you must ensure that the water capacity of the turtle tank is 30 to 60 gallons. The turtle tank can be decorated with wood stumps, aquatic plants, and rocks.

The water level should be 3 to 8 inches (70 to 200 mm). The temperature of the water needs to 75 degrees to 80 degrees (24 to 26 °C). You must ensure that the water temperature never falls below 75 degrees.

The basking area has to have a temperature of 86 to 90 degrees (29 to 32 °C). A UVB lighting is also important as it enables the turtle to synthesize vitamin D3. The substrates that are ingestible such as walnut shells, sand, and millet must not be used.

The humidity level of the turtle tank must be 60 percent to 70 percent.

 Chinese Box Turtle Breeding

The incubation temperatures needed to breed this species is 83 degrees (28 °C). For a successful breeding season, incubation humidity levels need to be high (90 to 100 percent).

Nesting season is between March and August. Females usually lay 3 or 4 clutches a year with each clutch consisting of 1 to 4 eggs. The time between mating and hatching of eggs is about 68 to 101 days. Eggs need to be properly aerated.

Chinese Box Turtle Health

Chinese Box Turtle with all limbs retracted into shell looking suspiciously at the camera
Chinese Box Turtle with all limbs retracted into shell looking suspiciously at the camera

Ensure the turtle tank is clean at all time. Common health problems include loss of appetite, vitamin deficiency, metabolic bone disease, eye lesions, shell pyramiding, dehydration, lethargy, bladder stones, constipation, and breathing difficulties. Most problems can be avoided with a proper diet, a feeding schedule, and a clean enclosure.

If you notice anything off about the turtle, it is advisable to call a veterinarian.

Chinese Box Turtle Predation

While there are no known predators of adult Cuora flavomarginata, the eggs of Chinese box turtle are preyed on by colubrid snakes (Formosa kukri snakes), birds and Iriomote cats (a subspecies of the leopard cat).

Humans also collect the Chinese box turtle for food and to prepare traditional medicine.

Chinese Box Turtle Endangerment

The Cuora flavomarginata is an engendered species on the IUCN Redlist. The population of this species is declining. This is mainly down to habitat loss caused by land development. Harvesting by humans for consumption, traditional Chinese medicine, and the pet trade is also a cause for their population decline.

In Taiwan and Japan, the wild population is protected by law. Since July 2000, the species has been on Appendix II of CITES and as such, this species is protected by international laws.

Chinese Box Turtle Overview Video


As with most endangered species, the Chinese box turtle is hard to find. If you wish to acquire a Chinese box turtle, make sure you do so from a reputable breeder.

The turtle also needs to be captive bred and not taken from a wild population. Don’t forget to leave any questions or comments in the comment section below!

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Friday 6th of March 2020

Poor turtles! :(

Sarah Drisko

Thursday 4th of July 2019

I have had a Chinese Box Turtle for the past 28 years. It makes me sad to think that she was probably wild caught, but I bought her at a pet store and didn't know any better at that time. She has been my classroom pet all these years and is very friendly.

I say she, because the pet store told me it was female; but I don't actually know.

I always thought that it would be lovely for her to join a Chinese Box Turtle colony in a zoo or conservation area. What do you think about that? And, how would I find such a good place for her?

Thank you, Ms. D.