How Much Do Turtles Cost?

how much do turtles cost

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How Much Does a Pet Turtle Cost?

Before you get a turtle or a tortoise, you need to consider the cost of acquiring one as well as its upkeep.

Unlike common pets (such as cats and dogs), turtles require a dedicated enclosure where conditions (such as temperature, humidity, and lighting) emulate that of their natural habitat.

These enclosures also protect them from the outside world. For instance, the turtle’s enclosure protects the turtle from dog attacks. Common household pets can cause serious harm.  

The initial cost of having a pet turtle can be as low as $500 or as high as $1500. It is important to be well-prepared before acquiring a turtle.

Tortoise vs Turtle Costs

As you may imagine, the cost of acquiring the turtle is nothing compared to the upkeep cost. Firstly, you need to consider the cost of setting up an enclosure, the cost of feeding, and finally medical costs (such as the cost of veterinarian check-ups). Enclosure needs include the enclosure itself, lighting, heating, a water filter and many more.

While both tortoises and freshwater turtles are both turtles (reptiles of the order Testudines), their needs vary wildly. Tortoises require dry enclosures, while turtles (apart from box turtles) require an aquatic set up. 

Tortoises are primarily herbivores and as such about 50-70% of their diet consists of weeds, greens, and other plant matter.

Turtles, on the other hand, are primarily carnivores and 50-70% of their diet should consist of proteins (such as fish, insects, crustaceans, and worms).

Of course, commercially available tortoise and turtle food can be purchased from most pet stores.  You will also need to supplement their diets with vitamins and minerals that can’t be acquired because of their captive lifestyle.

Let us examine both the costs of tortoises and turtles separately.

How Much Does A Tortoise Cost?

Turtle vs Tortoise cost

Tortoises, unlike turtles, are terrestrial creatures. They don’t require an aquarium or a pond. However, they generally require more space depending on their size.

Tortoises can and will use as much space as you can use. An outdoor enclosure is better than an indoor enclosure is.

However, unless the climate of your locale is similar to that of the tortoise’s native home, maintaining an outdoor enclosure all year round can be impossible.

The Cost Of Only The Tortoise

The upfront cost of a tortoise can be as low as $50 or as high as $2000. The price depends on many factors such as the species and breed of the tortoise, the age, and the seller. 

Factors to consider include

  • Age – Adult tortoises tend to be more expensive than hatchlings due to the amount of care invested in the tortoise. Babies are generally $50 to $100. Adults usually cost several hundred to several thousand dollars. 
  • Seller – You can acquire tortoises from breeders, retailers or even a tortoise keeper. Since tortoises grow to over 100 years, they usually have several keepers over their lifetime. Acquiring a tortoise from a private seller has its advantage as these sellers usually include the tortoise kits and such.
  • Species – Different species have different price tags. Below, I have listed some of the prices you can expect to pay for several popular species.

Breed/Species

Many tortoise species exist. The ones commonly kept as pets include sulcata tortoise, Indian star tortoise, leopard tortoises, and Russian tortoise.

Sulcata-Tortoises
Sulcata Tortoises

Sulcata tortoise /African spurred tortoise (Centrochelys sulcata) – This is the quintessential pet tortoise. They are probably the most kept tortoises. They are large and grow to an average length of 33 inches (this is almost 3 feet). Due to their large size, they require a tortoise run and not an indoor tortoise table. Expect to pay $50 to $600.

Greek-Tortoise
Greek Tortoise

Spur-thighed tortoise/Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca) – This species, also known as  Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoises, are popularly kept as pets as they are not very large – with an adult size of just 5 to 8 inches. They can grow to e 125 years. As such, you can acquire one from a private owner who wishes to pass theirs on. Expect to pay $125 to $150.

Indian-Star-Tortoise
Indian Star Tortoise

Indian star tortoise (Geochelone elegans) – This species grows to 6-15 inches. What makes this turtle popular is its highly ornate shell which is bright yellow with star patterns. These interesting tortoises are shy and are best left to their own devices. Expect to pay $300 to $600.

Hermanns-Tortoise
Hermann’s Tortoise

Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni) – This is another species popularly kept as pets. The moderately sized Hermann’s tortoise can grow to 5 to 7 inches. These turtles are very easy to keep and are quite gorgeous. Expect to pay  $200 to $600.

Cherry Headed Red-Footed Tortoise
Cherry Headed Red-footed Tortoise

Red-footed tortoise (Chelonoidis carbonarius) –A red-footed tortoise is a South American turtle that has an average carapace length of 12 inches. Since they are bred on a large scale, they are quite affordable. Expect to pay $100 to $150.

russian tortoise eating cabbage
Russian Tortoise

Russian tortoise (Testudo horsfieldii) – The average adult size of the Russian tortoise is 6 to 8 inches. They are easy to care for and can live to be over $50 years. Expect to pay $50 to $150.

Leopard-Tortoise
Leopard Tortoise

Leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) – The gorgeous leopard tortoises have markings and colors that resemble that of a leopard’s fur. Although they are generally medium in size, growing to about 12 inches, giant leopard tortoises can be as large as 28 inches. Expect to pay $100 to $500. Depending on the breed you can pay as much as $2500 for a leopard tortoise.

The Tortoises Enclosure

Since almost all turtles aren’t used to the climates of their keepers’ locale, specific conditions need to be met if the turtle is to survive and thrive. Indoor turtles for one require UVB lighting, as well as heating. Even if you have an outdoor run, the tortoise needs to be brought indoors on cold nights and during the winter.

Tortoise House

Indoor turtles are housed in tortoise tables. These give your tortoise a place to hide and also provide aeration and ample lighting and heating opportunities.

The cost of the tortoise table depends on the size of the turtle. Expect to pay $80 to $200 for a tortoise house. Smaller tortoises can also be kept in large terrariums such as the REPTI ZOO Reptile Large Terrarium. I recommend the Aivituvin Wooden Tortoise House.

Outdoors Enclosure

Housing turtles outdoors is a wonderful opportunity to provide the tortoise with room to wander and exercise in.  You don’t need a huge backyard. The enclosure needs a fence which pets and wild animals cannot break into. The turtle should also not be able to dig under the fence. Constructing an outdoor enclosure costs between $50 to $100.

Substrate

Many different types of substrates can be used as bedding for the turtle enclosure. Popular substrates include Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate, Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding, and Pangea New Zealand Long Fiber Sphagnum Moss.

Mix peat moss/coco coir with sphagnum moss or topsoil to create the perfect bedding.

Your initial substrate cost should be $20 to $30.  Expect to repeat that expenditure every 3 months.

Heat Lamp

Since tortoises are cold-blooded, you need to warm up their enclosures. Outdoor tortoises can receive the needed warmth from the sun. even outdoor tortoises need to be housed inside now and then. As such they too need a basking lamp.

  • The lamp itself should cost about $30.
  • The lamp fixture that holds the lamp should cost about $25.

I recommend the Zoo Med Repticare Ceramic Heat Emitters and the REPTI ZOO Lamp Fixture. Ceramic heat lamps are best as they last longer and do not emit light and as such can be during the night.

UVB Lamp & Reflector

In addition to a heat lamp, the tortoise needs a UVB lamp. Uvb light ensures that the tortoise synthesizes vitamin D, which is crucial for shell and bone development. The best UVB lamps are the ReptiSun 10.0 and the ReptiSun 5.0.

  • A UVB lamp will cost you about $15 at your local pet shop.
  • A UVB lamp reflector should cost you about $30.
Thermostat

To monitor the temperature in the enclosure, you need a dimming thermostat. This ensures that the temperature is never too high or too long. A thermostat offers peace of mind. Regardless of the thermostat, only have a thermometer to ensure the thermostat is working as it should.

A dimming thermostat should cost about $50 at your local pet shop. I recommend the Zoo Med ReptiTemp RT-600 Digital Thermostat Controller.

Tortoise Food Cost

Tortoises feed mostly on weeds, hay, grass, and leafy greens. They also do not need to feed daily. Adults feed every other day and juveniles feed daily. Avoid feeding the tortoise plants treated with pesticides. Also, place the tortoise’s food on loose substrate/soil as they can ingest the substrate.

A single tortoise’s monthly feeding cost should be around $30 or even less.

Learn more about what tortoises eat here.

Herp Vet Fees

An initial checkup is usually scheduled for 30 minutes to 1 hour. It is important to visit a reptilian and amphibian veterinarian also known as a herp vet.

The first part of the checkup involves discussing husbandry related issues such as diet, housing, temperature, humidity levels, and such.

This also includes a physical examination by the veterinarian doctor as well as husbandry recommendations. Diagnostic tests may also be done at an additional cost. If necessary, medications may be prescribed.

After the initial check-up, you must return with your tortoise every year.

Initial Average Tortoise Cost

The tortoise ~$150
Enclosure ~$110
Bedding(for the first three months) ~$30
UVB lamp & reflector ~$45
Thermostat ~$50
Ceramic heat lamp & lamp fixture ~$55
Food (for the first month) ~$30
First veterinarian check-up ~$55
Total ~$525

The cost discussed has to deal solely with the initial cost you will incur when you acquire a tortoise. This doesn’t include follow-up costs. The monthly expenses after the first month falls drastically.

Many of these costs don’t have to be incurred every single month. Heat and UVB lamps need to be replaced every six months. Also, veterinarian check-ups need to be done once a year. Regardless of this, illnesses and other health issues can increase costs.

How Much Does A Turtle Cost?

Turtles are semi-aquatic creatures and as such, they require an aquarium or a pond. The initial cost of acquiring a turtle is generally between $20 and $200 depending on the species and the age of the turtle.

The Cost Of A Turtle

The upfront cost of a turtle can be as low as $50 or as high as $2000. The price depends on many factors such as the species and breed of the turtle, the age, and the seller. 

Breed/Species

Popular turtles kept as pets include musk & mud turtles, map turtles, sliders, box turtles, snappers, and map turtles.

Texas-Map-Turtle
Texas Map Turtle

Map turtles (Graptemys)- Map turtles are so called because of the markings on their carapaces which resemble contours on a map.

These unique looking turtles are native to North America and are sometimes referred to as sawback turtles.

Common map turtle species include northern map turtle, false map turtle, and Mississippi map turtles. Expect to pay $20 to $60.

Razorback Musk Turtle
Razorback Musk Turtle

Musk turtles (Sternotherus)- Musk turtles spend most of their time in water. They hardly bask or leave the water. While musk turtles vary in size, they are small turtles.

Even the largest musk turtle, the razorback, has a carapace length of 6.3 inches.

Common musk turtle species include the common musk turtle, razorback musk turtle, and the flattened musk turtle. Expect to pay $20 to $60.

Striped Mud Turtle
Striped Mud Turtle

Mud turtles (Kinosternon)- Mud turtles are very similar to musk turtles. Not only do both turtles have similar dietary requirements, but also they have similar enclosure requirements.

Common mud turtle species include the eastern mud turtle, yellow mud turtle, and scorpion mud turtle. These North American turtles are easy to care for and are quite lively pets. Expect to pay $10 to $50.

Light brown spikey Alligator snapping turtle
Alligator Snapping Turtle

Snappers- Snapping turtles are large and require an outdoor pond to be comfortable. Alligator snapping turtles (Macrochelys temminckii) can reach lengths of 31 inches, while common snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) can reach lengths of 20 inches. Expect to pay  $15 to $50.

Red Eared Slider
Red-eared Slider

Sliders (Trachemys scripta)- Popular sliders include the Cumberland slider,  the red-eared slider (T. s. elegans), and the yellow-bellied (T. s. scripta). Sliders are colorful and lively turtles. Expect to pay $10 to $50.

Eastern River Cooter
Eastern River Cooter

Cooters (Pseudemys)- Cooters are known to be friendly especially towards other turtles. As such they make excellent community turtles. Cooters are large turtles, with some species reaching lengths of 20 inches. Common species include the River cooter, red-bellied cooter, and the Peninsula cooter. Expect to pay $20 to $130.

The Turtle’s Enclosure

Since turtles are semi-aquatic, they require an aquarium or a pond. However, they generally require more space depending on their size. The aquarium size that a turtle requires is down to the size.

Small 4 inch turtles can thrive in a 25-gallon tank. However large turtles, with carapace lengths of 10 inches, need a 75-gallon tank. You can also keep turtles outdoors.

Turtles native to North America thrive in outdoor enclosures if you live in a temperate region.

However, if you don’t want your turtle to hibernate (and you don’t want that), they need to be housed indoors during the autumn and winter.

Aquarium

The cost of an aquarium generally depends on the tank size. A 25-gallon tank costs about $100, while a 40-gallon tank costs about $280. Most pet turtles will do just fine in a 40-gallon tank. Large turtles may require a 120-gallon tank. I recommend the Tetra Glass Aquarium and the SeaClear Aquarium.

Outdoor Enclosure

If you plan on keeping a turtle outdoors, then you need a pond. Having a pond installed can be quite expensive. A pond can cost between $1000 to $3000. Box turtles are terrestrial and do not require a pond. As with tortoises, a box turtle’s enclosure costs between $100 and $200 to set up.

Substrate

A turtle’s enclosure doesn’t require substrates. Substrates can even make the tank harder to clean. If however, you must have substrate, I recommend river pebbles. This should cost you about $25. I recommend the Exo Terra Turtle Pebbles.

Filter

To ensure the aquarium water is always clean, you must install a filter. It is best to install a filter marked for at least double the size of the enclosure. A filter costs about $70 to $200. I recommend the  SunSun HW-302.

Water Conditioner

The chlorine in tap water makes it unsuitable for turtles. To neutralize the chlorine or chloramines in the water used for the aquarium, you must add a water conditioner like this one from Zoo Med. This costs about $10.

Turtle Ramp

In order to bask, the turtle must get out of the water first. A turtle ramp or basking platform provide the turtle with a place to bask and dry off. A turtle ramp cost about $30. You can also build a homemade platform if you have large specimens. Both the Penn Plax Turtle Tank Topper and OASIS Turtle Ramp are excellent choices.

Basking Lamp

Since turtles are cold-blooded, they regulate their body temperature by basking. A good basking lamp is a must.

  • The lamp itself should cost about $30.
  • The lamp fixture to hold the lamp cost about $25.

I recommend the Zoo Med Repticare Ceramic Heat Emitters and the REPTI ZOO Lamp Fixture. As with a tortoise’s enclosure, ceramic lights are best.

Aquarium Heater

If the water temperature is lower than the turtle can tolerate, you need to increase the temperature by installing a submersible heater. I recommend the UPMCT Aquarium Heater. A water heater should cost you about $40.

UVB Lamp & Reflector

In addition to heating, the turtle needs a UVB lamp. The best UVB lamps are the ReptiSun 10.0 and the ReptiSun 5.0.

  • A UVB lamp costs about $15.
  • A UVB lamp reflector costs about $30.
Thermostat

With turtles, you need a thermostat for the heat lamp and a separate thermostat for the water heater. Some thermostats can regulate several heating devices at the same time. However such thermostats are quite expensive

A dimming thermostat should cost about $50 at your local pet shop. I recommend the Zoo Med ReptiTemp RT-600 Digital Thermostat Controller.

Food Cost

As primarily carnivorous animals, a large portion of their diet should be made up of animal protein such as crickets(create a cricket farm), earthworms, feeder fish, chicken, and tilapia.

Acquiring the needed foods can be complicated. Rather, I recommend that beginners feed their turtles packaged commercial turtle diets. A pack will cost you under $20 and can last you the entire month. Additionally, they are supplemented with major nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D.

In addition to the commercial diets, they also accept greens such as pondweed, duckweed. Endive, escarole, kale, anacharis, and many others.

A single turtle’s monthly feeding cost should be around $30 or even less.

You can learn more here about what turtles eat.

Herp Vet Fees

(Refer to the same section under tortoises.)

Initial Average Cost Of Obtaining A Turtle

The turtle ~$30
Enclosure ~$280
Bedding(optional) ~$25
UVB lamp & reflector ~$45
Thermostat ~$50
Filter ~$100
Water conditioner ~$10
Turtle ramp/Basking platform ~$30
Aquarium heater ~$40
Ceramic heat lamp & lamp fixture ~$55
Food (for the first month) ~$30
First veterinarian check-up ~$55
Total ~$750

Conclusion

There are several factors to consider when adopting a turtle. Some of these factors include time commitment and expenses. Initial expenses can be as low as $450 or as high as $1500.

Expenses include the cost of the turtle, the cost of setting up the enclosure, the cost of food, and many more. Of course, initial expenses are usually the highest. Continuing expenses are much lower.

However, unplanned occurrences such as injury or illness can be problematic. You must factor in the unknown. I hope that this article gives you a ballpark number to work with.

If you have any questions or additional information, I encourage you to leave them in the comment section below.

About the author

Brock Yates

Brock Yates has a passion for educating people about turtles & tortoises. He manages several websites and has a goal of getting everyone the best and most accurate information to help them with their turtle & tortoise care.

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