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10 Best Tortoise Species for Keeping as a Pet

Whoever said that tortoises are boring pets doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Tortoises can be extremely friendly, fun, and amazing pets. And it’s not only me saying this.

According to AVMA, approximately 350,000 homeowners in America keep a pet tortoise at home. So, why do people keep tortoises as pets if they’re uninteresting? The truth is that these land-dwelling creatures are quite fun, dynamic, and fascinating.

But enough of that. I’m here to give you a list of the 10 best tortoise species you can keep as a pet. Getting side-tracked is not part of the list, sadly. Keep reading to find out which species is a fit for your home!

Greek Tortoise

A Greek Tortoise is just as popular as the Russian one. Due to its spurs on the sides of the tail, people often call it a “Mediterranean Spur-Thighed Tortoise.” The golden-black stripes on the domed shell give it a unique appearance. Maybe that’s why people are in love with it, eh? Its friendly and very calm nature is another reason why the Greek Tortoise is the best buy!

It doesn’t grow longer than 10 inches (25cm), though. You’ll only need an 18 feet-square enclosure to keep it happy. The Greek Tortoise prefers the outdoors because of the warm sun, so you’d best take it outside often. Preferably, build its enclosure outside, but include a UVB light that maintains the temperature at about 75-90 degrees Fahrenheit (24-32 Celsius).

A Greek Tortoise doesn’t climb so there’s no need for tall walls. Moreover, if you feed it greens, carrots, broccoli, and other vegetables, it’ll be a happy tortoise. Its natural lifespan is above 50 years, and it can even go up to 100 years sometimes. So, you may need to make arrangements for it if it outlives you. Just saying.

Russian Tortoise

As one of the most popular tortoises in the US, a Russian Tortoise costs around $80-$200, making it one of the cheapest on our list. It prefers a warm outdoor environment with 30-50% humidity and good UVB light. An 8 feet-square enclosure is enough for this 10-inch-long tortoise. However, Russian Tortoises also enjoy burrowing and digging around. So, make sure they don’t escape the enclosure.

If the temperature in the enclosure gets too hot or too cold, your tortoise may burrow underground to hibernate. So, if you wake up with a missing tortoise, this may be the reason. Russian Tortoises generally live around 40 years with the right nutrition and care.

Sulcata Tortoise

This is a gigantic tortoise. The Sulcata Tortoise weighs about 45 kg and reaches 30 inches in length (76 cm). This means you’ll need a whopping 80 square feet of space to enclose it. Unless you’re living in a mansion, I recommend keeping the tortoise outside, where it can burrow and dig. Despite its intimidating size, the Sulcata Tortoise is one of the friendliest pets you can have.

Still, keep the fondling to a minimum because they don’t like that. You can feed them lettuce, leaves, and grass to keep them healthy. If you take good care of your Sulcata Tortoise, it can easily live past 50 years.

Its intelligent and sociable nature makes it a great pet, but only if you have enough space to keep it happy. For $50-$200, you can get the best pet you never thought you’d want.

Indian Star Tortoise

An Indian Star Tortoise has a star-shaped pattern on its shell because why not? It’s native to Sri Lanka and parts of India, and it prefers drier climates. It can grow up to 12 inches (30cm), so an enclosure of 36 square-foot is necessary for optimal living conditions. I recommend setting it outdoors because it’ll take a lot of space otherwise.

At present, exporting Indian Star Tortoises is illegal because they’re a threatened species. Coincidentally, this leads to sky-high prices that can even reach $4000. That’s a bit excessive even for such a friendly and gentle turtle. However, the Indian Star Tortoise is quite a sociable animal, so you can have more than one in a single enclosure.

That is if you can afford to buy two of them. If you have bad luck and the prices are on the steeper end of the spectrum, you stand to spend $8000 on two of them. That’s significantly more than I’m willing to spend on a pet, but the Indian Star Tortoise is otherwise a great companion.

Hermann’s Tortoise

This Mediterranean tortoise measures only 8 inches long (20cm), and it has a unique horn-like claw on the tips of its tail. The shell has yellow-brown patterns, and just like the Pancake Tortoise, it loves to climb high surfaces. You need a 16 feet-square enclosure with high walls, rocks, hideouts, and even plants. Hiding food around will motivate the tortoise to remain active.

Hermann’s Tortoise needs a basking spot with about 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit (21-26 Celsius). If you feed it leafy greens and fruit, Hermann’s Tortoise will live beyond 75 years. Thankfully, this tortoise has a very good temperament, and it’s quite docile and gentle. You can touch it all you want and it won’t mind unless you’re annoying it too much.

Due to their small size and docile behavior, Hermann’s Tortoises are great as beginner pets. I fully recommend getting one, though you may find the price a little steep. It costs between $200-$800 to buy one. For many people, it’s entirely worth it, though!

Red-Footed Tortoise

Curious by nature and nicknamed “cherry head”, the Red-Footed Tortoise is a perfect pet. It’s native to South America and a couple of Caribbean islands, so it’ll need 70-80% humidity and about 80 degrees Fahrenheit in its enclosure. You’ll need to make a bigger enclosure of about 50 square feet because this tortoise grows to 14 inches long (35cm).

The Red-Footed Tortoise has red legs and, sometimes, a red tail and head. Hence the “cherry head” nickname. It’s half-herbivorous and carnivorous, so you can feed it leafy greens, fruits, insects, and small mice. They don’t require a lot of maintenance, and their curious nature makes them perfect companions.

One such tortoise costs around $150-$400 and it often lives past 50 years. They’re really good with children and quite docile, as well. Though, if you annoy them, they may shut off and refuse to come out of their shells. Even that’s a cool thing!

Leopard Tortoise

This blotched-patterned turtle reaches 17 inches long (43cm) and weighs up to 18kg. It’s the fourth-largest turtle in the world, actually. You’ll need a bigger enclosure this time around, with about 80 square feet. I recommend keeping a Leopard Tortoise outdoors because it’ll take up a lot of space inside.

They don’t like moistness at all, so keep the humidity at a minimum. Also, you should keep the basking spot at about 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit (26-23 Celsius). This tortoise requires more maintenance at first but it gets easier in time. As for their diet, they mostly eat seeds, nuts, and grains. They’re not very keen on greens and grasses.

A Leopard Tortoise is very docile and friendly, and it doesn’t dig at all. It has a slow pace, which is why it’ll live past 50 years old. The price for one of these tortoises is acceptable, as well. It costs about $200-300 if you buy it from a professional seller.

Pancake Tortoise

I didn’t make the name up, alright? It’s called a Pancake Tortoise because its shell is flat. Tortoises with completely flat shells are beyond rare, just so you know. Unfortunately, their flat shells bring a massive disadvantage – insufficient protection from predators. Care to guess how they deal with predators? They run away from them. That’s right, they outrun their predators with speed.

This species has a nickname, as well. Pancake Tortoises are often called “hiders” or “sprinters” because of their running speed. They grow to about 7 inches long (18cm), so a 4-square foot turtle table is enough. You’ll also need a basking spot with a UVB light of 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit (21-24 Celsius). The humidity should be around 60-75% for the best conditions.

If you’re still stuck at the “running from predators” part, then you’ll also love this. Pancake Tortoises are also able climbers. So, their enclosure should be taller, with a screen top, so they don’t climb over the edges. In case you’re starting to have doubts if this is a tortoise or not, it is. Trust me! One such tortoise costs between $400-$600, though.

Marginated Tortoise

This tortoise comes in a bigger package, at around 12-14 inches long (30-35cm). Its rear marginal scutes are flared, hence its name. It makes its home around the breezy seas of Greece, where it digs around in the warm sand. When the sun comes up, you’ll see the Marginated Tortoise playing outside. That’s how fun it is as a pet!

Keep the humidity around 50-70%, with a UVB light at around 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit (32-35 Celsius). Also, make sure their enclosure is at least 16 square feet so they have enough space to move and play. Keep them on a flexible diet, with leaves, weeds, and even flowers, to maintain their health optimal.

Typical Marginated Tortoise live between 35 to 50 years and they’re very friendly if you care for them. Children are also safe around them. Though, you should mind their bite. While not at all aggressive, they may prickle you if you’re trying to piss them off. You can expect to pay about $200-$500 for a Marginated Tortoise.

Egyptian Tortoise

Egyptian Tortoises come from Egypt and the surrounding areas. You’ll often find them roaming about, looking for food or a sunny spot. When I first read about this species, I almost couldn’t believe how small it is. It grows to about 5 inches long (12.7cm), and it’s an endangered species, in fact. Only authorized breeders can sell them to the general populace.

An Egyptian Tortoise is a good pet because of its small size, primarily. If your apartment is tiny, this tortoise won’t mind. A 4-square feet tortoise table is enough for its enclosure. It’s also a good thing that this species fares well indoors where the humidity is kept under control. After all, they’re used to being scorched by the Egyptian sun.

Their lifespan is 70-100 years, so they’ll most likely outlive you. However, it’s quite pricey for a house pet, going for at least $1,000 with all authorized breeders. Is it worth the money? It might be, depending on your preferences. As for me, I’d rather stick with something less expensive.

Conclusion

In conclusion, having a pet tortoise can be a wonderful experience as long as you have enough space for it. Tortoises are also different from cats or dogs, so don’t expect your tortoise to be just as sociable. Either way, a tortoise can be a great pet!

Tortoises - Updated: July 22, 2021
avatar I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets.

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