How to Care for a Pet Tortoise

By on August 9, 2021

Keeping a tortoise for a pet may not be up to everyone’s alley. But those who do own tortoises claim that these prehistoric-looking animals are adorable, calm companions. However, while it is true that tortoises can live very long, they are different from other pets. They require high maintenance and need proper care to survive. 

There are different tortoise species one can keep at home. When deciding which one to buy, it is essential to find out if they need specific types of care. That’s because different species have different behavior patterns.

With that said, here are some everyday things you should know about caring for a pet tortoise.

The perfect terrarium

You cannot keep a tortoise in a standard-sized terrarium as it will outgrow the tank eventually. An adult tortoise needs an enclosure with at least a 50-gallon capacity so it can roam around freely in there. A screened lid is a good idea as tortoises tend to stand upright, taking the support of the glass. If the terrarium is not tall enough, the tortoise may try to get out, resulting in an unfortunate fall.

Climate and lighting

Different tortoise species may need varied climatic conditions to survive. For instance, Russian tortoises need drier, warmer conditions, with about 50% humidity. In contrast, Greek tortoises can stay in wetter, cooler conditions, with about 80% humidity.

However, they all love to soak up heat from the sun and tend to be most active during the day. Ideally, you should try keeping at least half the terrarium exposed to sunlight. This way, your tortoise can move to the shady side when he’s had enough sun. Alternatively, you can get a particular bulb that can replicate the sun’s ultraviolet rays and use it for about twelve hours a day.

Tank decor

Decorate the terrarium with calcium sand, soil, coconut fiber, or bark, depending on the type of species you own. This will make your tortoise comfortable and feel at home. You can also add sticks or plants into the enclosure. However, make sure the plants you use are edible and won’t give the tortoise indigestion or other gut issues.

Ensure to clean the tank at least once a week. You can also change the bedding once every month.

Food and health

Tortoises can safely eat cabbages, lettuce, carrots, dandelion leaves, spinach (not all the time, though), and apples. Check with your veterinarian if the particular species you own needs any additional food care.

Also, even healthy-looking tortoises can be sick sometimes.  So, if you notice any of the below signs in your tortoise, schedule an appointment with the veterinarian immediately.

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Shell issues: discoloration, scaling, etc.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen joints
  • An increase in time spend inside the shell
  • Discharge from the eyes, mouth, or nose
  • Constantly runny droppings

Types of tortoises to keep

Although beautiful, many tortoises are categorised as endangered species. So, of course, you may not be able to keep just any species at home. But of those permitted to own as pets, popular ones include Greek Tortoise, Hermann’s Tortoise, Russian Tortoise, Pancake Tortoise, Egyptian Tortoise, and Gopher Tortoise, to name a few.

Remember to keep your tortoise safe and healthy, giving him the exact kind of care specific to his species.


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