What are the 10 Best Tortoise Breeds to Keep as Pets?
- Indian Star Tortoise
- Kleinmann’s Tortoise
- Hermann’s Tortoise
- Red-Footed Tortoise
- Greek Tortoise
- Leopard Tortoise
- Marginated Tortoise
- Egyptian Tortoise
- Sulcata Tortoise
Tortoises are friendly creatures and can be fun to have as a pet. Nearly 350,000 households in the U.S alone keep different species of the tortoise as pets. A slow land dweller. People often mistake tortoises for turtles because they may look similar.
The biggest difference between these species is that turtles live mostly in water, and tortoises live on land. Keeping one for a pet is a major commitment, and different breeds have unique care needs.
In this article, you will learn about the ten best pet tortoise breeds and how to pick the right one for your home.
The Indian Star Tortoise
If you are looking for a small breed, the Indian Star is a smart choice. They are known for the stunning star-shaped patterns adorning their shells. They are incredibly gentle creatures that mix well with the same or similar breeds. This breed is a bit shyer than others, so you need to approach them calmly.
Their shyness will fade once they have a routine and will be especially social when you feed them. Their native homes are in arid climates and brush forests in India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.
Indian stars can live from 30-80 years or longer, making them ideal forever pets. Males can grow to 5-6 inches and females 7-8 inches. Varieties from Sri Lanka and the northwest are known to be even larger, up to fifteen inches long. What makes them ideal beginner pets is their adaptability to various climates.
This is because India and Sri Lanka have monsoons and arid seasons throughout the year. They are also incredibly social with each other, so you could have two or more if you want. Outdoor enclosures of at least three feet by two feet are ideal for this species. You should use dense materials and large tubs for housing the Indian star tortoise.
Just make sure there is enough space left for these tortoises to comfortably move around. Because they are naturally desert dwellers, temperatures in home habitats need to stay at 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 80% humidity. Plants and spongy substrate will help keep temperature and humidity levels steady.
Never let temperatures reach below 75 degrees, particularly if you live in an area that is humid or damp. You will need a UVB bulb that covers the entire closure and a sunbathing spot covering half of the space. This helps the tortoise get enough UVB so their bodies can properly regulate temperatures. This breed also loves to soak, so keep a dish with water nearby.
The Kleinmann’s Tortoise
Also known as the Egyptian or Leith’s tortoise, this is a highly endangered species. You should purchase them from a breeder or dealer who works in the U.S. If you choose to buy from another country, be sure all documentation is properly filled out and updated accordingly. Kleinmann’s Tortoises can live between 70 and 100 years.
When they are fully mature, they weigh three hundred grams. They are one of the smallest species. Males grow to four inches and weigh 105 grams, while females can grow up to 5 inches and 400 grams.
Kleinmann’s should be kept in a tortoise table measuring 2 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 2 feet tall, to start. Temperatures should be kept at 75-85 degrees and UVB light is needed. You should also create cool and mossy hiding spots for young ones to take a break from the heat. Adults need a basking spot that reaches 90 degrees.
Keep your Kleinmann’s tort hydrated with a soak in a bath or humid hiding place. You can use a sanitized plastic container or tub filled with Sphagnum moss and mist with water until it feels damp. They don’t dig too much, so you can use a mix of soil and sand as bedding.
The Pancake Tortoise
Usually, tortoises have large, rounded shells. Pancake tortoises, on the other hand, have a flat, flexible shell. This unique feature helps them fit in jagged crevices so they can avoid predators high in the mountains, their natural home. They come from Southern Kenya and areas of Tanzania and can live from 25 to 35 years if kept in the right conditions.
They will be 6-7 inches long as adults and one inch tall. They come in varying shades of yellows and light browns and have wild, wonderful shell patterns. These little guys love to climb, so keeping them in an enclosed habitat can be hard.
You can have an indoor or outdoor habitat, just make sure there is a screen top with an overhanging lip on the inside, so the tortoise doesn’t climb out. For indoor homes, a 40-gallon vivarium or tortoise table should work fine. Temperatures should be cool, around 70-75 degrees, with a sunbathing spot at 90-100 degrees and 60%-75% Humidity.
Pancakes are especially fast and flexible, allowing them to escape predators in the wild, and making for a fun pet. They eat leafy greens and dry grass.
The Hermann’s Tortoise
This is one of the most popular tortoise species to own as a pet. They have entertaining personalities and beautiful shell patterns. Hermann’s tortoises have a single claw on the tip of their tale that looks like a horn. They can live up to 50 years. The oldest on record lived to be 110!
There are eastern and western varieties, and you can typically find them in the rock-strewn hillsides and vibrant evergreen forests of the Mediterranean basin. Western Hermann breeds grow to five inches and females six inches long. Eastern Hermann males grow to seven inches and females 8-9 inches.
Hermann’s Tortoises have oval or round shells with pale yellow shades and golden or orange colorations. Their shells are flat and broad with yellow, tan, and dusky hues. These shades get mixed with dark patterns of broken blotches or bars. It is important to replicate their natural environment as accurately as possible at home.
You should put rocks and plants in their enclosure, and make sure there is a place for them to hide. Hermann’s tortoises do best indoors in 70-85-degree temperatures and a basking area of 95 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, these tortoises can handle temperatures as cold as 60 degrees.
You’ll need to supply a UVB light on a twelve-hour cycle (twelve hours on, twelve hours off). They enjoy eating leafy greens, especially dandelions and kale, and sometimes eat fruit.
The Red-Footed Tortoise
This is an excellent pet for beginner and experienced tortoise keepers. Native to Central and South America and the Caribbean Islands, this species has rich red teardrop-shaped scales on their feet and legs. They may also have red areas around their tails and heads and are sometimes nicknamed “cherry heads”.
Adult females usually reach four feet long six feet wide, and fourteen inches long. Their habitat needs to be above ground and at least sixteen inches tall. When you take your tortoise outdoors, give them an enclosure that extends 2-3 inches below ground to keep your pet from digging out.
Keep the enclosure at 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. and don’t let temperatures fall below 70 degrees at night. Keep a sunbathing spot at 95 degrees. Red-footed breeds like humidity, especially babies since it keeps them hydrated. They are extremely curious. They eat leafy greens and fruit like most breeds.
Red Foots need protein and may eat insects and small mice or chicks if offered. You can keep them happy with substrate they can burrow in and hide boxes in their home. Red-foots love to explore their surroundings and enjoy contact with humans.
The Leopard Tortoise
The second-largest species from Africa, and the fourth largest in the world, the Leopard tortoise may live 50 to 100 years. They come in black, yellow, and brown shades with gorgeous blotchy patterns on the shell. There is a variety of subspecies. They can grow 10-18 inches as adults.
Somalian, Ethiopian, and other subspecies of this tortoise can reach thirty inches or more, and take them outside occasionally so they can soak up the natural sunlight. Leopards enjoy socializing with their owners and when the days are hot. they prefer to be outside soaking up the sun. Another fun fact about leopards is they don’t hibernate, so you can interact with them all year.
Because they can grow to a considerable size, it is ideal to keep them outdoors, in a wooden or opaque enclosure at least ten feet by ten feet by eighteen inches high or eighty square feet. Temperatures in their homes should be kept at a minimum of 75 degrees and a maximum of 90 degrees with a sunbathing spot at 95 degrees.
Use a UVB light and keep humidity low for adults. Unlike other breeds, leopard tortoises eat forbs, aka seeds, grains, and nuts. They spread the seeds over their territory, which helps grow plants. They are excellent beginner pets, being slow docile, and non-diggers.
The Greek Tortoise
The Greek Tortoise is a popular pet breed that lives across the Mediterranean and Middle East. This breed can live up to one hundred years or longer. Also known as the Mediterranean Spur-Thighed Tortoise.
Greeks are sweet-natured and enjoy socializing with people and exploring their domains. Greeks even approach people on their own, making them one of the most interactive breeds.
Plus, they live for a long time, so you can pass them on to the next generation. Females may reach 5-8 inches long, while males are a little smaller. Their main living quarters should be 75-90 degrees, humidity needs to stay between 40% and 60% and their basking area should stay between 90 and 100 degrees. Add UVB light if you keep them indoors.
There are a vast number of subspecies that live in a broad range of climates, so you should check for specific requirements for each. Greek tortoises have tall, deeply curved shells with vivid tans and dark black hues. These look like Greek mosaics, giving this breed their namesake. Enclosures should be three feet by six feet and made of plywood or opaque plastic.
Greek tortoises have difficulty understanding barriers, so their home should not be see-through. Males tend to fight often, so keep them separate if you have more than one. Greek tortoises sometimes live happier on their own and spend summer days outside in the warm sunshine.
Be careful though, because too much handling could make them cranky. They have a mild temperament and love to eat leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, and similar vegetables.
The Marginated Tortoise
This species sports vivid pearlesque colors when they hatch that slowly fade to gray and black with pale highlights and spectacular flaring on their rear scutes. Ranging from 1 to 15 inches (females may be a bit bigger), these are a wonderful middle ground breed to have as pets. You can find them across Southern Greece and Italy in isolated groupings.
Large, outdoor enclosures are the best bet for adults. Keep babies indoors at a table or bin until they reach four inches. This species lives in rocky areas and loves to climb and dig, so their enclosure should have walls buried at least 6 feet underground and at most 18 inches above the ground. This is an especially hardy species that can adapt and survive harsh conditions.
Marginated Tortoises enjoy a diet of weeds, leaves, and flowers. They are extremely docile and friendly. They love being outdoors during warm, sunny days.
The Egyptian Tortoise
This is one of the smallest breeds, growing to five inches long as adults. They are a highly endangered species. Governments and organizations in the U.S. and around the world supply protection for this breed. Importation of Egyptian Tortoises is illegal. You can buy them through authorized, established breeders only.
They are ideal pets for people who have limited space. Egyptian tortoises became household pets around the year 2000 and have become a favorite ever since. One of the best reasons to keep the Egyptian tortoise as a pet is they are easy to house (like pet tarantulas). You only need a four-square foot table enclosure for them.
Since they live in severe desert environments where water and vegetation are scarce, this breed has a limited comfort range. Plus, they may get cranky if the climate isn’t just right. You’ll need a UVB light for sunbathing and UVA light. Keep enclosures between 75-85 degrees and make sure humidity stays between 20%-30%.
They can live from 70-100 years old. Indoors works better for this species because you can better control temperature and humidity levels.
The Sulcata Tortoise
Sulcatas are a large breed of tortoise from East Africa. You can see them in zoos and conservatories all over the world. They are also extremely popular to adopt as pets, can live 70 years or longer. They are an excellent choice for beginner owners. They are incredibly adaptable, being able to thrive in almost any environment.
Adult females can grow 24-30 inches and males are a bit smaller. They are one of the largest species, weighing up to one hundred pounds, and do well in large, roomy backyards. Sulcatas are intelligent and love to interact with humans.
They can live in most climates if you supply a warm place to hide during cold months, shaded areas during hotter weather, and substrate so they can burrow or dig. They enjoy a diet of leafy green veggies and lettuce. Sulcatas are avid explorers and are often move around their habitat, so confined spaces won’t work for them.
If you live in an area with high humidity, have a place with water nearby to keep your Sulcata hydrated. This breed is like a tank or mini bulldozer. They will knock down whatever is in their path like lawn furniture. Walls need to be extra sturdy (concrete is the best material to use) and stand twenty-four inches above the ground.
They also love to dig. climb, burrow, and are incredibly strong, so walls not only need to be tough but also tall, extending 12 24 inches below ground. Sulcatas can live in temperatures as low as 70 degrees and as high as one hundred degrees. This species is known as a gentle giant that allows you and your family to grow and learn with them.
Would A Tortoise Make A Good Pet?
Tortoises can make excellent pets for older children and adults, as they are typically quiet and gentle creatures who are fairly simple to care for. Not only are they visually interesting, but they are also curious, and no two have the same personality. While some are more reclusive and shy, others are charismatic and seem to enjoy interacting with their owners.
Because they thrive in consistently sunny weather and require a sizable outdoor enclosure, tortoises are best kept as pets in warm climates. As omnivores, their diet is quite varied and should include store-bought turtle food, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens. Many veterinarians also recommend supplemental powdered calcium.
It is important for potential tortoise owners to understand that tortoises are quite hearty creatures and have an extremely long lifespan. Depending on the breed, they can live for fifty to one hundred years or more.
Tortoises come in a wide variety of breeds, each with unique colors, sizes, and shell shapes. The best part is that so many breeds live a long time, so your children can grow with them. Certain breeds are easy to care for and others have specific needs, but overall, tortoises make wonderful pets for people of all ages and experiences.
Please leave a comment if you have any questions about the ten tortoise breeds discussed above. If you have the space and proper materials to care for them, your pet tortoise will become a beloved member of your family.