Marginated Tortoise – Habitat, Care, Diet, Facts

Marginated Tortoises are some of the best pets you can find. Although not too friendly or sociable, these tortoises are still great. Their behavior becomes more sociable in time, though. Feed it, take good care of it, be mindful of its preferences, and the little scaly lizard will start liking you.

In this article, we’ll talk about Marginated Tortoises – what makes them tick, how they look, what they eat, and so on. If you want to get a pet tortoise, you’re going to want to read this article!

Marginated Tortoise Appearance

This tortoise species belongs to the southern parts of Greece and Italy, and share many features with Hermann’s Tortoise. Adult Marginated Tortoises have a distinct and vivid flaring on the back of their shells.

The color palette of the shell goes from black to white, with even a hue of gray sometimes. Younger tortoises have black skin most of the time, with some pearly-white dots on the top of their heads.

Marginated Tortoises are the biggest tortoises among their European brethren, with an adult reaching 14 inches (35 cm) in length and weighing 11 pounds (5 kg). Its shell is generally thicker around the middle part and has an oblong shape, unlike many other tortoise species.

Many people love the Marginated Tortoise for its interesting and mysterious appearance. The shells are especially gorgeous to look at!

Marginated Tortoise Behavior

I recommend keeping your Marginated Tortoise housed with other individuals of its species. Try not to put two different tortoise species together because hybridization is not exactly good. It’s also a good thing to place your tortoise in a group setting, rather than raising it alone. This way, it’ll develop a stronger social sense and get along better with the individuals of the group.

Marginated Tortoises may start bickering from time to time but that’s natural. They won’t hurt each other. Seasonal fighting will become a thing until the tortoises establish who’s boss. Yeah, tortoises do that too. In any case, these small events won’t be a problem in the future.

Most Marginated Tortoises are quite friendly and sociable, considering most tortoises are known for their non-friendly behavior. You shouldn’t expect too much because a tortoise is still a tortoise.

Though, I have to mention that this species becomes especially friendly when it’s basking in the sun. During the daytime, they’ll move around like a spin-top, only slower, much slower. This dynamism makes them explore their surroundings all day long.

They want to see what’s what, so they’ll go all over the enclosure to smell, touch, and see their limits. I recommend keeping your flowers away from them because tortoises are herbivores. They’ll devour anything that’s green and looks pretty!

Marginated Tortoise Lifespan

Most tortoise species have a maximum life expectancy of 100 years. But that doesn’t mean they’ll get to that age. In fact, Marginated Tortoises averagely live over 20 years but not more. Some specimens go above that limit but the average is still 20 years. It’s the same with humans. Technically, we can live to 100 years but not many of us do. In general, 60-70 years is an average for both men and women.

If you take good care of it, including food, temperature, humidity, and a good enclosure, your Marginated Tortoise may live more than 20-30 years. Captivity lowers an animal’s lifespan, though. But it doesn’t mean it can’t be happy.

Its owner is the most important factor when it comes to pet happiness. Happier tortoises live for longer, especially if they don’t become sick during their lifetimes.

Marginated Tortoise General Care & Housing

Care and housing requirements are different for every tortoise species. Though, the same principles apply – you need to build a spacious enclosure, with a basking spot, a UV light, and enough humidity. Marginated Tortoises need specific conditions to live happily and for a longer time. Optimal health comes with the right cage size, temperature, humidity, and lighting.


Tortoises kept in captivity as pets need lighting to simulate the conditions in their natural habitat. This is how they remain active and healthy. With mercury vapor bulbs, among other options, you can provide a good environment for your Marginated Tortoise. Usually, UVB lighting is best for tortoises, at a temperature of about 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit (35-38 Celsius). But this is only directly under the light bulb, which is also called the “basking spot” of the tortoise.

In other parts of the enclosure, the temperature should be lower. Another heat source isn’t necessary since these tortoises can face the cold. During the night, the temperature should be around 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit (18-21 Celsius). However, if the humidity is very high, you’ll need a higher temperature range to prevent any respiratory problems. Tortoises aren’t fans of cold and humid environments.


Marginated Tortoises prefer a high humidity in their enclosure, at around 60-70%. Baby tortoises are especially prone to dehydration without enough humidity. Heat and dryness are deadly for any baby Marginated Tortoise.

Even adults are uncomfortable in this type of environment. The substrate should be moist, with the additional option of a hide box that has a humidity of over 80%. This works great for raising baby tortoises. But adults don’t need this much humidity.

All Marginated Tortoises need a body of water to drink from. This is the best source of humidity needed, most times, other than the leafy greens they eat. After going for a wash, most adults bask in the “sun”, the artificial UVB light you’ve set up.

If the weather outside is warm enough and they have access to natural sunlight, tortoises will prefer that to artificial light sources. Either way, a humid and cool environment is very unhealthy for tortoises, as I said. If the enclosure has high humidity, make sure it’s warm in there!

Enclosure Size

Marginated Tortoises need a minimum enclosure of about 16×16 feet and 2 feet high, which can easily house two adults. That is if you plan on having two pet tortoises. The bigger the enclosure, the more your tortoise will like it.

After you finish constructing the enclosure (plywood), add a substrate of natural dirt. Consider planting leafy trees in their enclosure. This way, it’ll be sunnier during the cold months, when the leaves fall off, and cooler during warm months, when the leaves grow back.


Do you keep the tortoise indoors or outdoors? If you keep it outdoors, it’ll only need an artificial light source during the cold winter nights. Marginated Tortoises are very happy staying in the sun and absorbing those tasty rays of warm sun.

If you keep your pet indoors, you’ll need a UVB light that offers that much-needed heat. Keep the light on for at least 12 hours per day, to simulate a daylight cycle.

Marginated Tortoise Food & Nutrition

To keep your Marginated Tortoise healthy, you need to feed it properly. Foods rich in calcium and fibers are ideal. Usually, a tortoise’s lifespan is greatly determined by its diet. If its diet is poor, unbalanced, and unvaried, it’ll live a lot less than a properly-fed tortoise.


Marginated Tortoises absolutely love leafy greens. Fruits, not so much, though you may feed them low amounts of fruits sometimes. But leafy greens are the bread and butter for every Marginated Tortoise. And variety is the spice of life, so don’t feed your tortoise the same thing every day. They eat dandelion, catsear, clover, thistle, mulberry leaves, collard greens, endive, turnip greens, and more.

They even like commercial food like Mazuri LS which gives them lots of calcium and Vitamin D3. Low-protein, high-fiber foods offer the best nutritional value to a Marginated Tortoise. Avoid sugary or high-protein foods because they may cause diarrhea and even renal failure.


Adult tortoises get most of their hydration from their diet. More specifically, from leafy greens. But I recommend you bring a water bowl to their enclosure if they ever need extra hydration. If you plan on keeping baby tortoises, make sure the water bowl is shallow.

A big cause of baby tortoise mortality is drowning in deep water. Baby tortoises need a good soak every now and then because they need more humidity than adults. Soak them in shallow water individually for 15 minutes every day.

I don’t recommend feeding your tortoise with dry food because it can’t hydrate itself enough. Many tortoises live in dry natural habitats, and they rely on food for proper hydration. They absorb the most water from their food, so make sure you keep this in mind when preparing their meals.

Marginated Tortoise Breeding

When a male and female Marginated Tortoise live together, mating is inevitable. No need to encourage them since it happens naturally, most times.

If the enclosure is properly arranged, the specimens are healthy, and the conditions are good, they will mate. But to prepare for this, you should build a mating box big enough for the female tortoise to turn around fully. That’s where she’ll be laying her eggs after the act.

Put a layer of soil mix inside the box to simulate conditions in the wild. In the wild, female Marginated Tortoises dig holes to lay their eggs. They can even lay up to 13-15 eggs at once. After the tortoise has laid her eggs, you should place them in an incubator at a temperature of around 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 Celsius).

Skip-forward two months and the eggs will start hatching. Good job, you’re the proud parent of baby tortoises now!

5 Interesting Facts about Marginated Tortoise

  • A group of Marginated Tortoises, or any other tortoise species, is called a creep.
  • The Roman military created a warfare formation based on a tortoise’s shell. They called it the “testudo formation.”
  • The shells of Marginated Tortoises are sensitive to the touch. This applies to all tortoises out there
  • Tortoises can hold their breath for quite a long time. Every tortoise needs to empty its lungs before retreating into its shell.
  • Marginated Tortoises can smell through their throats. In fact, their sense of smell is very keen


That’s about everything I can tell you about Marginated Tortoises. They’re very friendly and sociable if you don’t pet them too much. No tortoise likes being petted too much. But when you do, it’ll be a special moment shared between the two of you.

Preferably, you should have two specimens, one male and one female (if you want baby tortoises). Tortoises are healthier when in groups, especially if they can mate. Be careful of its diet and enclosure, and a Marginated Tortoise will be your best friend!

avatar William
William is a respected pet enthusiast with expertise in reptiles and birds. With extensive experience caring for these animals, he shares his knowledge through engaging and informative articles in various publications. He is an active member of pet-related organizations, volunteering regularly at shelters and promoting animal welfare and conservation. read more...

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