How long do tortoises live?
Tortoises just like turtles are known for their long lifespans. Giant tortoises are known to have lifespans of 100 years.
Even common pet species such as sulcata tortoises can live to be 100 and have an average lifespan of 70 to 100 years. As such, it is important to be committed before adopting a tortoise.
Luckily, tortoises are relatively easy to care for as long as you are committed. As primarily herbivores, you should make sure they are fed nutritious plant matter such as grass and weeds like as rye, and Bermudagrass.
Also, make sure their enclosures are large enough and environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, and UV exposure is right.
Quick Reference Section
Lifespans of Popular Tortoise Species Commonly Kept as Pets
The sulcata tortoise (Geochelone sulcata or Centrochelys sulcata) also known as the African spurred tortoise is one of the most popular tortoises kept as pets. These tortoises grow to be very large.
As a matter of fact, the sulcata tortoise is the third last tortoise species in the world and the largest mainland tortoise species in the world. These large tortoises are gentle and surprisingly easy to care for.
The tortoise has an average lifespan of 54.3 years in captivity. Sulcata tortoises can live to be over 70 years.
Learn more about the Sulcata (African Spurred) Tortoise here.
Greek tortoises (Testudo graeca) are popularly kept as pets although they have an IUCN Red List status of Vulnerable. They are relatively small to average in size with an adult length of 5 to 8 inches.
While greek tortoises accept lettuce, feed them weeds and dried herbs exclusively if you want them to be healthy and live a full life.
There are at least 20 subspecies of the Greek tortoise in existence. Some of these are T. g. graeca endemic to North Africa and southern Spain, T. g. zarudnyi native to Iran and Azerbaijan, T. g. whitei endemic to Algeria, T. g. terrestris endemic to Israel and Lebanon, T. g. soussensis found in South Morocco, T. g. nabeulensis, known as the Tunisian tortoise, and found in Tunisia, T. g. marokkensis found in North Morocco, T. g. ibera endemic to Turkey, T. g. floweri native to Jordan, T. g. cyrenaica found in Libya, T. g. buxtoni endemic to the Caspian Sea, and T. g. armeniaca known as the Armenian tortoise and found in Armenia.
Greek tortoises are very long-lived and can live to over 125 years in captivity and the wild. Anecdotal reports claim that greek tortoises can live up to 200 years.
Learn more about the Greek Tortoise here.
The red-footed tortoise (Chelonoidis carbonaria) is a South American tortoise with a large geographical range which extends over Columbia, Guianas, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and northern Argentina.
These tortoises are called red-footed tortoises because of the red spots on their feet. Several red-footed tortoises are known to be kept in captivity. These omnivorous tortoises are best kept outdoors in a warm humid enclosure.
Red-footed tortoises have been recorded to reach a lifespan of 49 years in captivity. There is no information on the wild lifespan of the red-footed tortoise.
Learn more about the Red-footed tortoise here.
Indian Star Tortoise
The Indian star tortoise (Geochelone elegans), also known simply as the star tortoise, is native to India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
The star tortoises are so-called, because of the star patterns on the star patterns on their carapace. The tortoise is popular in the exotic pet trade. International trade of the Indian star tortoise is illegal without the right authorization.
The adult length of the star tortoise is 6 to 15 inches.
In captivity, the Indian star tortoise has a lifespan of 25 years on the high end. In the wild, the Indian star tortoise is believed to live for 35 to 80 years.
Learn more about the Indian Star Tortoise here.
The marginated tortoise (Testudo marginata) is native to Italy, Sardinia, and Greece. Interesting fact, the marginated tortoise is Europe’s largest tortoise reaching lengths of 14 inches.
The marginated tortoise also hibernates during winter. If you keep this tortoise as a pet you should keep their hibernation cycle in mind and prepare for it.
The marginated tortoise has a lifespan of 21.2 years in captivity. Data on their lifespan in the wild is unknown, however, they are believed to live between 100 and 140 years.
Learn more about the Marginated Tortoise here.
The Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni) is another very popular tortoise species kept as pets.
In the wild, the tortoise can be found along the Mediterranean Sea in western Europe from Romania and Greece to southern Spain. There are two known subspecies of the Hermann’s tortoise, namely T. h. hermanni and the T. h. Boettgeri.
While the lifespan of the tortoise is yet to be established, it is important to keep in mind that other species of the genus Testudo can live to be over 120 years.
Learn more about the Hermann’s Tortoise here.
The Kleinmann’s Tortoise is also known as the Egyptian tortoise and is endemic. The Egyptian tortoise Tortoise is known as the Egyptian tortoise because it is endemic to Egypt (and Libya).
The Egyptian tortoise Tortoise is critically endangered. The species is almost extinct in its native Egypt. The Egyptian tortoise is also known as Leith’s tortoise. Although the Kleinmann’s tortoise is critically endangered in the wild, they are successfully bred in captivity.
Because of their critically endangered nature, little is known about their lifespan in the wild. In captivity, an Egyptian tortoise has been recorded to live up to 21 years. With proper care, it is accepted that the Egyptian tortoise can live up to 70 yo 100 years.
Learn more about the Kleinmann’s (Egyptian/Leith’s) Tortoise here.
Russian tortoises (Agrionemys horsfieldii or Testudo horsfieldii ) are quite popular in the pet trade and are known as good pets.
This is because Russian tortoises are gentle and simple to care for. In the wild, Russian tortoises have a threatened status which is down to human activities.
Regardless of their vulnerable IUCN Red List status, Russian tortoises have been successfully bred and can be acquired from reputable breeders.
The Russian tortoise has an average captive lifespan of 40 years. However, this species can live to 100 years.
Interesting fact – the Russian tortoise was the first earth species to travel to the moon.
Learn more about the Russian Tortoise here.
The leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis or Psammobates pardalis) is a beautifully marked African tortoise. The young leopard tortoise is marked with black spots and marks on a yellow background. This pattern resembles that of a leopard, thus their common name. As they age, the spots fade.
The leopard tortoise has a lifespan of 100 years in the wild. In captivity, the leopard tortoise is believed to have an average lifespan of 50 years.
Learn more about the Leopard Tortoise here.
Lifespans of Giant Tortoises
The giant tortoises include the Galápagos giant tortoises (Chelonoidis nigra and related species) and the Aldabra giant tortoises (Aldabrachelys gigantea).
All giant tortoise species are threatened with most critically endangered due to human exploitation and since giant turtles reach sexual maturity late (40 years in the wild), they cannot easily recover from exploitation.
Giant tortoises have an estimated lifespan of over 100 years with an average captive lifespan of 177 years.
Best Practices For Attaining Long Lifespans
Regular vet visits can ensure that your tortoise is always healthy and that you are providing the tortoise with the needed care.
A healthy diet is essential to the well being of the tortoise. Many captive-bred tortoises never attain their maximum lifespans because they are not properly fed.
First of all, it is important to research and find out the best foods for your tortoise. You cannot rely solely on commercially made tortoise foods. These should be used to supplement a diet of grasses and other foods high in fiber.
Vitamin D3, vitamin A, and calcium deficiency leads to several health complications. To prevent this, you can supplement the tortoise’s diet with these essential nutrients.
Tortoises housed outside don’t require vitamin D3; however, tortoises housed indoors do. Feeding your tortoise with foods high in calcium such as kale, spinach, and collard greens help ensure that they do not lack this essential nutrient.
While different species require different foods, all tortoises require foods high in fiber such as bermudagrass, rye, and alfalfa. Other foods to feed them include dandelions, opuntia cactus, mulberry leaves, clover, timothy hay, and many more.
Getting The Enclosure Right
Keeping a clean and large enclosure is essential if you want your turtle to live a long and healthy life. You can either go with a tortoise table or a fenced outdoor enclosure.
This is partially determined by the tortoise’s size. For large tortoises such as the sulcata tortoise, you have no choice but to house it outdoors. Small tortoises such as the Egyptian tortoise can be housed in a tortoise table.
Low humidity can lead to all types of life-threatening health complications such as shell pyramiding. Even for tortoises native to arid and semi-arid regions, keep humidity levels between 65 to 70 percent.
Here are some ways to maintain a consistently high humidity level.
- Invest in a hygrometer to track the humidity levels in the enclosure.
- Use moisture-retaining substrates such as coco coir.
- Spray mist the enclosure regularly or install a humidifier.
- Pace a humid box in the enclosure
- Soak the tortoise in a shallow warm bath for an hour, three to four times a week.
For tortoises housed indoors, you need to install a UVB light that needs to be changed every 6 months. There are many brands on the market, but the best, in my opinion, is the Reptisun 10.0.
Interestingly enough, the tortoises kept as pets are endemic to several different geographical locations from all over the world. Mediterranean tortoises such as the Greek tortoise and the marginated tortoise need relatively high temperatures while tortoises endemic to temperate zones such as the Russian tortoise require relatively lower temperatures.
A basking temperature of 85 to 100 F should suffice for most species. For temperate species, night temperatures should not fall below 55 F. For other tortoises, nighttime temperatures should not fall below 65 F.
Tortoises are long-lived creatures, with some giant tortoises attaining ages of over 200 years. An Aldabra giant tortoise that died in 2006 at the Alipore Zoo was over 250 years.
Despite their long lifespans, caring for tortoises is relatively easy. The most important need of a captive tortoise is long term commitment. Before you adopt a tortoise, it’s necessary to find out the age and to know its species lifespan.
If you have any interesting information on tortoise lifespans or questions, leave a comment.