Best Pet Tortoises

best pet tortoises

Best Pet Tortoises

Tortoises are wonderful pets, especially for reptile lovers. Of course, tortoises are very different from other pets such as cats and dogs. While these mammals can be easily interacted with, most tortoises are best left alone.  

However, these magnificent creatures have their perks. They are generally exotic looking and make great display pets. Here are the best pet tortoises in the world. These are easy to care for and are loved by millions all over the world.

1. Red-Footed Tortoise

Redfooted-Tortoise
Red Footed Tortoise

Quick Facts

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Testudinidae
  • Scientific Name: Chelonoidis carbonarius
  • Common Names: Red-footed tortoise
  • Average Adult Size: 11 to 14 inches
  • Lifespan: 50 years+
  • Average Price Range: $100 to $150

Quick Care Requirements

  • Food: Vegetables, fruits, and insects
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Temperature Range: 60 – 86F
  • Basking Spot Temperature: 90 F

These tortoises are very easy to keep and interesting looking. They are moderately sized with an average carapace length of 12 inches. The red spots on the feet of the species give it its common name. Although native to South America, they have been successfully bred on a large scale in North America.

These lovely tortoises are best housed outdoors. The species is most active in warm environments with a temperature range of 81 to 86 F. When kept indoors, a basking lamp with temperatures of 88 to 90 F must be installed.

The enclosure needs to be slightly humid. They need UVB radiation which helps the tortoise to metabolize calcium and helps regulate the pineal gland. These pets eat plant matter and insects such as grub, earthworms, mealworms, and superworms.

One of the reasons for their popularity is the curious nature of the species. Generally, they do not shy away from human contact. The red-footed tortoise can live to be over 50 years.

Check out the Red-Footed Tortoise Care Guide for a more!

2. Greek Tortoises

Greek-Tortoise

Quick Facts

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Testudinidae
  • Scientific Name: Testudo graeca
  • Common Names: Spur-thighed tortoise, Greek tortoise, and Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise
  • Adult Size: 5 to 8 inches
  • Lifespan: 125 years
  • Average Price Range: $125 to $150

Quick Care Requirements

  • Food: Weeds, herbs, and greens
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Temperature Range: 65 to 90 F
  • Basking Spot Temperature: 95 to 100 F

These relatively small tortoises are long-lived and have a lifespan of 125 years. As most Greek tortoises would outlive their keepers, you can adopt a Greek tortoise instead of paying for one.

As with the other tortoises in this article, they are best housed outdoors. As a Mediterranean species, they do well in dry warm enclosures. Greek tortoises tolerate night temperatures of 65 F. During the day, they are most comfortable in temperatures of 75 to 85 F.

The Greek tortoise grows to a modest size of just 5 to 8 inches. As herbivores, they generally feed on weeds, and edible grass. You can supplement their diet with commercial tortoise food if you want them to gain weight.

These curious tortoises love to interact with their human keepers and explore their enclosure. They are particularly active during the day when they graze.

Their small size and active nature make them an excellent pet for both novice and experienced keepers alike. Since they are long-lived, adopting one requires long term commitment.

Check out the Greek Tortoise Care Guide for a more!

3. Indian Star tortoise

Indian-Star-Tortoise
Indian Star Tortoise

Quick Facts

  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Testudinidae
  • Scientific Name: Geochelone elegans
  • Common Names: Star Tortoise, Indian Star Tortoise
  • Adult Size: 6 to 15 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 to 80 years
  • Average Price Range: $300 to $600

Quick Care Requirements

  • Food: Grass, greens, and vegetables
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Temperature Range: 80 to 90 F
  • Basking Spot Temperature: 90 F

As a protected species, ensure that you acquire a captive-bred star tortoise if you wish to acquire one. Their conservation status, as according to the IUCN Red List, is vulnerable.

While many of these gorgeous tortoises are illegally collected and sold as pets, they are successfully captive bred in the States. As such, there is no reason to acquire a wild specimen. 

These gorgeous tortoises have interesting star markings on their shell which is where they get their common names. As herbivores, they generally graze on grass and vegetation.

You can include greens, vegetables, and succulents in their diet. The tortoises are best housed outdoors. The pen needs to be at least 6 sq. ft. in size.

These tortoises are generally shy and do not appreciate being handled. While some keepers have had trouble caring for the species, their care is simple and straightforward. It just takes time for the Indian star tortoise to warm up to you.

Check out the Indian Star tortoise Care Guide for a more!

4. Sulcata Tortoise / African spurred tortoise

Sulcata-Tortoises
Sulcata Tortoise

Quick Facts

  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Testudinidae
  • Scientific Name: Centrochelys sulcata
  • Common Names: African spurred tortoise, sulcata tortoise, African spur thigh tortoise, and spurred tortoise
  • Adult Size: 33 inches
  • Lifespan: 70 years +
  • Average Price Range: US$50 to US$500

Quick Care Requirements

  • Food: Grass, weeds, and flowers
  • UVB Lighting: Needed (Sunlight is best)
  • Temperature Range: 50 to 100 F
  • Basking Spot Temperature: 100 F

The African spurred tortoise is probably the most popular tortoise kept as pets in North America. Although native to sub-Saharan Africa, this tortoise is surprisingly adaptive.

While hatchlings are extremely tiny about 1.5 to 2 inches in length, adults are massive attain carapace lengths of 33 inches and weighing as much as 200 pounds.

These gorgeous tortoises are best housed outdoors in a big yard where it can explore. As massive reptiles, housing them indoors is not advisable.

The walls around their enclosure should be at least 2 ft. tall and 2 ft deep so they don’t burrow underneath the walls. Don’t use see-through mesh fences or walls, as the tortoise will try to go through the wall.

This can lead to injuries. Hides, shrubs, and cover should be provided. Also, the tortoise should have access to sunlight. These African tortoises are known to survive temperature drops as low as 20 F.

Although with temperatures below 45 F check on the tortoise regularly or better still bring them indoors until the temperature rises again.

While they may not be as long-lived as other turtles, expect them to live to be 33 years. Make sure you are ready to care for a turtle before getting one. Additionally, if you must abandon one ensure you find a suitable home for it.

Tortoises are long-lived so unless a species have been popular as pets for a least a century, it is hard to determine their lifespan. They can easily live to be over 70 years though.

Check out the Sulcata Tortoise Care Guide for a more!

5. Marginated tortoise

Marginated-Tortoise
Marginated Tortoise

Quick Facts

  • Experience Level: Beginners
  • Family: Testudinidae
  • Scientific Name: Testudo marginata
  • Common Names: Marginated tortoise
  • Adult Size: 12 to 15 inches
  • Lifespan: 100 to 140 years
  • Average Price Range: $150 to $400

Quick Care Requirements

  • Food: Commercial diet and leafy greens
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Temperature Range: 65 to 80 F
  • Basking Spot Temperature: 95 to 100 F

These precious tortoises are native to Italy, Sardinia, and Greece. Their moderate size and docile nature make them excellent pets for many.

As a species that likes to roam over large areas, a large outdoor enclosure is perfect.

If you have a large backyard and the temperatures are right, you can let this curious tortoise explore.

While these tortoises prefer to live outside, you can provide a suitable indoor enclosure especially if your locality is too cold. As far as night temperatures don’t fall below 60 F, the tortoise will be fine outside.

This tortoise eats commercially produced diets as well as leafy greens. For added roughage, you can include cacti in their diet.

To prevent hybridization, house Marginated tortoises only with their kind. These long-lived tortoises can live to be 100 to 140 years. Their activeness and small size make them an excellent pet for many.

Check out the Marginated tortoise Care Guide for a more!

6. Hermann’s Tortoise

Hermann-Tortoise
Hermann’s Tortoise

Quick Facts

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Testudinidae
  • Scientific Name: Testudo hermanni
  • Common Names: Hermann’s tortoise
  • Adult Size: 5 to 7 inches
  • Lifespan: 50 years
  • Average Price Range:

Quick Care Requirements

  • Food: Weeds and greens
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Temperature Range: 75 to 85 F
  • Basking Spot Temperature: 95 to 100 F

If you want a low maintenance pet, then the Hermann’s tortoise is one for you. This species is very similar to other Mediterranean tortoises such as the marginated tortoise and the Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise. (Both of which are included in this article.)

The Hermann’s tortoise is quite an attractive tortoise. It has a colorful yellow and brown carapace that has made it a popular pet tortoise species.

As with most tortoises, the Hermann’s tortoise thrives best in an outdoor setup. Since the species are best housed in a large enclosure, try to build an enclosure with a minimum length of 16 feet and a minimum width of 8 feet.

Hatchlings and juveniles can be kept indoors. Feed the Hermann’s tortoise a diet high in fiber, calcium and low in protein. Feed them a lot of weeds such as mulberry leaves, catsear, plantain, clover, and dandelion.

Greens to feed them, in case you have no access to edible weeds, include turnip greens, endive, radicchio, mustard greens, and collard greens.

The lifespan of these tortoises is hard to determine as information on the topic is scarce but we can safely assume that they will usually live to be at least 50 years when taken care of properly.

Check out the Hermann’s Tortoise Care Guide for a more!

Conclusion

Tortoises are among the best and most popular pet choices for many all over the world. These docile creatures usually grow to be over 100 years and as such require commitment.

As with any pet, it is always best to acquire a captive-bred instead of a wild tortoise. When getting a tortoise, try to get one that matches your personality as well as your lifestyle.

You have many species to choose from. We created this best pet tortoises list with the aim of simplifying the selection process. If you have any comments or information regarding tortoises, kindly leave a comment.

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