Ornate wood turtles are among the easiest of semi-aquatic turtles to care for. Their captive care is identical in many ways to that of the eastern box turtles (Terrapene) and the North American wood turtles (Glyptemys).
Although I highly recommend R. p. manni to the turtle enthusiast, it cannot be emphasized enough that an outdoor enclosure, at least for the summer months, is the best way to provide proper captive care for this turtle. Although ornate wood turtles are highly aquatic, especially while young, they are not true pond turtles and require a large land area in which to roam and hunt for food. And although R. p. manni is drought tolerant, it is also best that enclosures include a large body of shallow water (5 to 6 inches deep) in which the turtles can and will soak.
A suitable enclosure (indoors or outdoors) will measure around 6 feet wide by 8 feet long and 8 inches tall, with an easily accessible freshwater pond area about one-third of the enclosure's size. Substrate should consist of approximately 8 inches of loose, sandy soil. Plant the enclosure with tropical or tropical-looking plants, such as broad-leaf cannas or pokeberry, which will give these non-basking turtles adequate escape from the heat of the day and the privacy that helps them to thrive. They enjoy the darkness of tropical forests, and this atmosphere should be replicated in captivity as best as possible.
Ornate wood turtles love to dig for food and, like eastern box turtles, they have been documented as listening for invertebrates beneath the soil. As omnivores, they also feed on fresh fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, melons and collard greens, as well as small mammals, such as mice and invertebrates such as grubs, beetles and earthworms. Allowing your turtles to dig for some of their own food is enriching to them and will make for much healthier specimens.
If you keep your turtles outdoors, be sure you have a backup enclosure indoors, in which to keep your turtles, even if just for the night, if winter weather becomes severe. Comfortable temperatures for the ornate wood turtle are between 76 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Slight fluctuations of temperature by a few degrees are expected and are typically tolerated well at night. Humidity should be around 60 percent.
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