Will tortoises thrive in an indoor enclosure?
Are specific enclosures favored over others?
What should you know about buying a tortoise?
There are special considerations to keep in mind when looking at a tortoise for an indoor pet.
It is essential to understand the care requirements for various tortoise species to determine which one is best for you.
Size is usually an essential factor when it comes to keeping a tortoise inside of your home.
Larger tortoises are generally unsuitable for indoor living as they simply require too much space to be comfortably housed.
Miniature tortoise breeds are easily kept indoors, but keep in mind they also need a large enclosure to thrive.
We’re going to have an in-depth look at specific species of tortoises, including their behaviors and temperaments, so you will be able to decide which one is the best indoor tortoise for you.
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Best Indoor Tortoise
Miniature tortoise breeds are the best species of tortoise to live and thrive in an indoor enclosure. These miniature breeds include the Russian, Egyptian, Greek, Hermann’s, and Indian star tortoises.
These miniature breeds of tortoise stay very small, with the smallest growing to only 5″ inches (12.7 cm) long and the largest reaching less than 11″ inches (28 cm) long.
If small tortoises are what you’re interested in the most we have a post dedicated to mini tortoise breeds you’ll love.
A tortoise is a lifelong commitment, and while it may seem challenging to care for them at first, once you establish a routine with your tortoise taking care of it becomes easy and fun.
Most indoor tortoise enclosures measure around 6′ square feet (1.8 sq m) and are made of wood.
Aquariums and other glass enclosures should be avoided, as the glass will confuse the tortoise into thinking it is able to go beyond its enclosure.
The tortoise may become depressed when it realizes it is unable to go beyond the glass barrier.
The enclosure will need to be at least 12″ inches (30 cm) tall to ensure your tortoise is not able to climb out and escape.
You will also need to provide proper UV lighting and a warm basking area for your tortoise.
Proper substrate depth is vital for burrowing tortoises, and a variety of rocks should be included for climbing tortoises.
Providing a hide box in the enclosure is also crucial for tortoises to escape the heat and for shy tortoises to have a place where they feel safe.
These miniature tortoise breeds all have similar diets, consisting of a variety of leafy greens and vegetables.
Some acceptable foods include Romaine lettuce, collard greens, carrots, dandelion greens, clover, squash, bell peppers, and mustard greens.
All species of tortoise will benefit from adding calcium and multivitamin supplements to their diet as well.
Clean, fresh water should be provided daily, and you may need to change it more than once during the day as tortoises may decide to soak themselves in it.
These pet tortoises require more care than other reptiles, but with enough research and education, even a novice reptile owner will be able to care for them with ease.
Types Of Indoor Tortoise
The Russian Tortoise
The Russian tortoise grows to around a maximum of 10′ inches (25 cm) long and has a lifespan averaging 40 years.
Males average 5-6″ inches (15 cm) in length, while females are slightly larger at 6-10″ inches (25 cm) in length.
It is one of the best indoor tortoise breeds and is very energetic and active.
A UVB light with a warm basking area is all the Russian tortoise needs to be comfortable.
The basking spot should have a temperature of about 95° degrees Fahrenheit (35° C), and the overall ambient temperature should never drop below 75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C).
Russian tortoises usually hibernate during winter when they are in their natural environments.
However, due to the ability to maintain a warm temperature within an indoor enclosure, there is nothing to trigger this hibernation, and the tortoise will stay active all year round.
The optimal humidity for a Russian tortoise enclosure should be between 30%-50%.
Ensure the substrate is at least 3-4″ inches (10 cm) for burrowing and include rocks of varying sizes for climbing.
Not only does the Russian tortoise love to climb, but the rocks will also aid in naturally filing the tortoise’s nails.
The Egyptian Tortoise (AKA Kleinmann’s Tortoise)
The Egyptian tortoise is considered to be one of the smallest tortoise breeds in the world.
Males only grow to a length of 4″ inches (10 cm), while females grow up to 5″ inches (12.5 cm).
The tortoise’s basking area’s temperature should be close to 90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C), and the ambient temperature should not go below 70° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C).
The optimal humidity should range from 20%-30%, as Egyptian tortoises come from an arid environment.
Because of these low humidity requirements, you should soak your Egyptian tortoise several times during the week to avoid dehydration.
Hides should be provided so the tortoise has a place to escape from the heat.
A substrate mixture of sand and soil with a depth between 2-3″ inches (7.5 cm) is ideal.
The average lifespan of the Egyptian tortoise is between 70-100 years, so this is definitely a lifelong pet.
With this breed, you should avoid foods high in oxalates, as the Egyptian tortoise is particularly susceptible to kidney and bladder stones which are often fatal.
Egyptian tortoises have a calm personality and tend to be shy.
The only drawback to owning this breed is they are on the highest classification of endangered species, so finding a reputable breeder may be difficult, and the tortoise will be very expensive.
The Greek Tortoise (AKA Mediterranean Spur-Thighed Tortoise)
An adult male Greek tortoise’s average size is between 5-8″ inches (20 cm) long, with females being slightly larger.
Greek tortoises have a median lifespan of 50 years, and with proper care, they may live to 100 years.
The temperature of a Greek tortoise’s basking spot should be between 95-100° degrees Fahrenheit (38° C).
The average temperature of the enclosure should range from 80-90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C), and the ambient temperature should not dip below 75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C).
The optimal humidity of the enclosure should be around 40%-60%.
Greek tortoises like to burrow, but they are not good at climbing.
A substrate with a 50/50 mix of soil and sand is an excellent choice, with a depth of at least 2-3″ inches (7.5 cm) for burrowing.
UVB lighting should be provided in the enclosure for 12 hours a day.
The Greek tortoise is not a social animal, and housing two males within the same enclosure will result in aggressive behavior and fighting.
Greek tortoises are very friendly and have a mellow attitude, only becoming aggressive if kept in too small of a space.
The Hermann’s Tortoise
The average size of the Hermann’s tortoise depends on whether it is of the eastern or western variety.
Western breeds tend to be smaller than the eastern breeds, with males reaching up to 5″ inches (12.5 cm) long and females up to 6″ inches (15 cm) long.
By contrast, eastern males grow up to 7″ inches (17.5 cm) long, while the females range from 8-9″ inches (23 cm) in length.
The average lifespan of the Hermann’s tortoise is between 50-100 years old.
The Hermann’s tortoise should have a basking spot with a temperature between 90-95° degrees Fahrenheit (35° C).
The cooler end of the enclosure should have a temperature range of 80-85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C), and the ambient temperature should not go below 70° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C).
The Hermann’s tortoise needs a humidity level of at least 25%, and humidity should never go above 70%.
Improper humidity levels will lead to respiratory illness, so invest in a hygrometer to monitor the humidity levels in your tortoise’s enclosure in the same way you would monitor the temperatures.
A substrate mixture of sand, soil, and cypress bark will help maintain proper humidity levels.
The Hermann’s tortoise loves to dig, so the substrate needs to be at least 3-4″ inches (10 cm) deep for digging.
Hermann’s tortoises generally have a passive and calm personality, but they will become aggressive toward’s members of the opposite sex.
Because of this, it is essential not to keep a male and female together unless you are planning to breed them.
Male Hermann’s tortoises will also become aggressive towards another male if they are trying to court the same female, so it is advisable to keep these tortoises alone.
The Indian Star Tortoise
The Indian star tortoise is known for its bright yellow star-like patterning on its carapace.
Males will grow to only 5-6″ inches (15 cm) long, while females are slightly larger and will grow from 7-8″ inches (20 cm) long.
The lifespan of the Indian star tortoise ranges from 30-80 years, and sometimes even longer.
Their indoor enclosure should have a basking area with a temperature of around 95° degrees Fahrenheit (35° C), and the ambient temperature should not go below 75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C).
Optimal humidity levels in the enclosure should be close to 80%, and it is vital to keep the temperatures stable to prevent mold or fungus from growing.
A substrate of soil, peat moss, or coconut coir is excellent for retaining moisture and keeping the humidity stable.
Because of their high humidity requirements, Indian star tortoises are more prone to respiratory infections, so you should monitor your tortoise for any symptoms of illness.
The Indian star tortoise is also a shy creature, so you should provide them with a hide to escape when they don’t feel like being social.
Due to its endangered status, it has become illegal to import the Indian star tortoise.
This has caused the tortoise to become one of the most expensive breeds to purchase, with prices ranging from $500-$4,000.
Indian star tortoises do not enjoy being handles, so it is best to keep them away from small children.
Even though the Indian star tortoise tends to be shy, it will warm up to its owner after a couple of feedings.
If you like this tortoise here’s our guide on Indian star tortoise care.
The Pancake Tortoise
The pancake tortoise will grow from 6-7″ inches (17.5 cm) long and only reach a height of about 1″ inch (2.5 cm).
This is due to their most unique characteristic, which is their flat, flexible shell.
The basking area in the enclosure should reach temperatures between 95-100° degrees Fahrenheit (38° C), while the cooler end of the enclosure should have a temperature range of 75-80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C).
The optimal humidity in your pancake tortoise’s enclosure needs to be 40%-55%.
A substrate mixture of sand and soil is ideal, and it will need to be at least 3″ inches (7.5 cm) deep to allow for digging.
Pancake tortoises are very active, and they are excellent climbers and runners, which sets them apart from most tortoise species.
You will need to have a screen top on their indoor enclosure so they are unable to climb out and escape.
Provide them with plenty of rocks in various sizes to satisfy their climbing needs.
If a pancake tortoise wants to climb, it will do so, and they are even known to climb a vertical wall if they decide to.
This tortoise breed will also run and hide if it feels threatened, so be sure to give them a hiding spot within their enclosure.
Pancake tortoises have a friendly personality, and their running and climbing behaviors are fun to watch.
Once your pancake tortoise has warmed up to you, it will even run to you for food.
What Should You Know Before Buying an Indoor Tortoise?
Always purchase your tortoise from a reputable breeder, and be sure to ask them questions about anything you do not understand.
This also eliminates the chance of purchasing a wild-caught tortoise, which is often in poor health and usually infected with parasites.
Inspect the tortoise you want to purchase very carefully for any signs of illness such as respiratory infections or shell rot.
A healthy tortoise will have clear eyes, and its shell will be free of any damage.
It is also a good idea to ask to see the tortoise during its feeding time.
This will help you gauge its health, as a healthy tortoise rarely refuses to eat.
You should also educate yourself on proper care habits such as cleaning the enclosure and properly feeding your tortoise.
Be ready for the time commitment proper care will require of you.
A tortoise is a lifelong commitment, so you need to prepare to care for your pet for the rest of your life.
Lastly, ensure your budget will allow for the purchase and care of an indoor tortoise.
Some miniature breeds are very expensive, and you will also have to budget for a proper enclosure, heating and lighting bills, food costs, and veterinary visits.
Miniature tortoise breeds are the best indoor tortoise breeds due to their smaller size and smaller housing needs.
Purchasing a tortoise makes you a lifelong pet owner, so you need to do your research and find the best indoor tortoise for you.
By understanding your tortoise’s needs, you will be able to give your tortoise the proper care it requires and ensure your new pet lives a long and happy life.