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What Are the Different Pet Tortoise Species?

C.B. Fox
C.B. Fox

There are dozens of species of tortoise in the world, and in the pet trade, many species of tortoise are kept in private collections. The most common pet tortoise species are the Russian tortoise, Hermann's tortoise, the leopard tortoise, the red-footed tortoise and the sulcata tortoise. Each of these tortoise species has different care requirements, so a person looking to adopt one should carefully consider whether the particular species of tortoise will make a good pet.

One of the more common pet tortoise species is the Russian tortoise. This type of tortoise remains small, never growing larger than about 10 inches (25 cm). If properly fed and cared for, the Russian tortoise will live 100 years or more. Members of this species eat many different types of plants and should be fed a variety of fresh greens. These tortoises require housing that provides air circulation and controlled temperatures.

There are dozens of species of tortoises, and some will live up to hundreds of years old while others can weigh in the hundreds of pounds.
There are dozens of species of tortoises, and some will live up to hundreds of years old while others can weigh in the hundreds of pounds.

Another pet tortoise species is the Hermann's tortoise. These tortoises also remain small and do not get larger than 10 inches (25 cm). Like the Russian tortoise, the Hermann's tortoise requires warmth and humidity and eats green, leafy plants. This species of tortoise does well when kept outdoors in warm climates.

The leopard tortoise is a species known for its striking coloration, reminiscent of a leopard's spots. A large tortoise, the leopard tortoise often grows to a length of 1.5 feet (45.7 cm) and can weight 50 pounds (28.7 kg) or more. They do best when kept outdoors in large pens, though they can suffer from breathing problems in cool or humid climates. In the wild, these tortoises are found in grasslands, and the bulk of their diet in captivity usually consists of hay.

Red-footed tortoises are a pet tortoise species that grows to be about 14 inches (36 cm) long and is commonly kept in terrariums indoors. In the wild, these tortoises are omnivorous, and captive members of the species need to be given a protein source, such as dog food, regularly. They are a tropical species of tortoise and do well in tanks that are kept warm and moist.

The very large sulcata tortoise is another of the commonly kept pet tortoise species. These tortoises grow to be 1.5 feet long (45.7 cm) and often weigh about 80 pounds (36 kg). Native to desert regions, these tortoises have adapted to reach their full size rather quickly, so a person looking to keep one as a pet will need to be prepared to house a full-sized reptile within a few years. This species does best when allowed to graze outdoors for food.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some common species of tortoises kept as pets?

Popular pet tortoise species include the Russian Tortoise, known for its manageable size and hardiness, and the Hermann's Tortoise, which is favored for its docile nature. The Sulcata Tortoise, also known as the African Spurred Tortoise, is appreciated for its impressive size and longevity. The Red-footed Tortoise is another common choice, recognized for its colorful markings and interactive behavior.

How long do pet tortoises typically live?

Pet tortoises are renowned for their longevity, with many species living for several decades. For instance, the Russian Tortoise can live up to 50 years, while the Sulcata Tortoise can surpass 70 years with proper care. It's essential for potential owners to understand this long-term commitment before adopting a tortoise as a pet.

What size enclosure does a pet tortoise require?

The size of the enclosure for a pet tortoise depends on the species and its adult size. Generally, tortoises require spacious enclosures that allow for normal behaviors such as roaming, burrowing, and basking. For example, a Russian Tortoise needs a minimum of 8 square feet, while larger species like the Sulcata may require an outdoor space of 100 square feet or more.

What do pet tortoises eat?

Pet tortoises are primarily herbivores, with diets consisting of a variety of leafy greens, grasses, and vegetables. Some species may also enjoy fruits in moderation. It's crucial to provide a balanced diet rich in calcium and fiber to prevent nutritional deficiencies. Commercial tortoise food can supplement fresh produce to ensure a well-rounded diet.

Are there any specific health concerns to be aware of with pet tortoises?

Common health concerns for pet tortoises include respiratory infections, shell diseases like pyramiding, and metabolic bone disease due to inadequate UVB light or dietary imbalances. Regular veterinary check-ups and a proper habitat with the correct temperature, humidity, and UV lighting are vital for preventing these issues.

Can tortoises be kept with other pets?

Tortoises can sometimes coexist with other pets, but caution is advised. Dogs and cats may see tortoises as prey or toys, which can lead to injury. Additionally, tortoises should not be housed with other tortoise species due to the risk of disease transmission and stress. Always supervise interactions and consider the individual temperaments of your pets.

Discussion Comments


@QuirkyMango- You can add pets to your will to make sure your wishes for them are carried out. However, you may have to find someone who is willing to take the pet when you die.

I've heard of people who have pets that live a long time, like parrots and tortoise species, and they find someone who they can name in their will to care for the pet when they die. If not, pets probably go to shelters or something.


If you adopt a pet tortoise that lives 100 years or more, it will outlive you. Does this mean you need to find someone to care for the tortoise, such as leaving it to someone in your will, to make sure it has a good home when you die?

I know this sounds silly to some people, but I am an animal lover, and I think people need to consider pets when making end-life arrangements.

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    • There are dozens of species of tortoises, and some will live up to hundreds of years old while others can weigh in the hundreds of pounds.
      By: mgkuijpers
      There are dozens of species of tortoises, and some will live up to hundreds of years old while others can weigh in the hundreds of pounds.