Tortoise Care Sheet

Pet tortoises can be an excellent pet for people who enjoy the convenience of a pet that doesn’t seek cuddles and attention. It’s important that you do a bit of research about tortoises before committing yourself to caring for one. This guide is going to point out the most important aspects of caring for pet tortoises so that you can gain a better understanding about the responsibilities in store for you.

A common misconception that many people make is that caring for a tortoise is the same as caring for a turtle. Many pet tortoises have found themselves thrown into a watery environment when most species are in fact land animals. The first thing you need to understand about pet tortoises is that while they may have been bred to be a pet, they are still wild animals and are available in many different species—some of which have different requirements than others. Some tortoises stay quite small while other can grow to be massive and weigh as much as a bag of cement! The best way to prepare yourself for your responsibilities is to find out as much as you can about the species of tortoise you are going to get (particularly how large it will grow to be and what foods it favors).

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Having a pet tortoise is a wonderful experience, but you’ve got to have the right tortoise house to keep him safe.  There are several different ways to build a tortoise house.  It really just depends on whether you want to keep your tortoise indoors or outdoors.  Obviously, the smaller the tortoise is, the easier it is to keep it inside, so keep this in mind when you’re planning a home for your tortoise.  Many varieties of the tortoise get very large, so you need to plan ahead for a larger pet, even if you get the tortoise when it’s still small.

Whether you’re building the tortoise house inside or outside, it’s important that you keep the habitat as close to the animal’s natural home as possible.  The easiest way to keep a tortoise is in an outdoor pen, but you may not be able to do this if it gets cold outside often.  You may wish to set up an outdoor pen even just for part of the year, as this will make caring for your tortoise very easy.

If you want to keep your tortoise inside, then the first problem you’ll have to solve is floor space.  This is easily solved while the tortoise is young, but you need to have a go-to plan for when the tortoise begins to get very large.  You should not use an aquarium for your tortoise house.  This is because many tortoises will now only outgrow the space, but they also need room just to roam around, and an aquarium does not provide the ability for them to do this.

Your tortoise house won’t need to be very tall because tortoises can’t climb very high walls.  It just needs to be high enough so the tortoise can’t step over it.  The reason you would rather have shorter walls rather than taller is to make sure you’ve got the right amount of ventilation for your pet.  The tortoise needs plenty of air, and having high walls around an enclosure can prevent air from circulating enough to keep your tortoise safe.  The tortoise house should also have opaque sides.  This is because this type of animal likes to hide.  They don’t like feeling exposed like a glass enclosure often makes them feel.

One of the best methods for indoor housing of a tortoise is a turtle table.  This is a wooden enclosure that offers lots of floor space and short walls.  You can easily build a turtle yourself with old scrap wood or by purchasing wood from the lumber yard.  You’ll also need heat lamps and UVA/UVB lighting to suspend over the enclosure.  Tortoises need the light and heat to keep warm, so it’s an important aspect of any tortoise house.  You’ll also want a good floor that’s easily removed and cleaned.  You might consider a plastic tray if you can find one large enough for the pen.

For your outdoor pen, you probably won’t need any special lighting.  All you’ll need outside is the wooden enclosure, assuming the weather gets warm and sunny enough to suit your tortoise’s needs.


On the surface, finding the right kind of tortoise food to feed your pet or pets doesn’t seem like much of a problem. The tortoise is somewhat of an opportunistic feeder, so there are a very wide variety of food items that will make good choices. In fact, a healthy tortoise is one who eats a variety of food items, not just a few. If your offering of tortoise food consists of the same few items day after day, the tortoise will soon develop the habit of eating only those items and won’t touch anything else. That might be all right if the items chosen give the tortoise all the nutrients it needs, but providing a wider variety of tortoise food is a better approach.

There are a few rules of thumb one can follow to help in giving your tortoise a well balanced and healthy diet. Remember, this is an animal that could in some cases outlive you, and you want it to have a quality life and not suffer chronic ailments due to a substandard diet. Feeding young tortoises the right food is especially important, as it is needed to promote healthy shell growth.

Lots Of Calcium – Healthy shell growth means calcium, and plenty of it. That’s the first rule of thumb. A tortoise can usually get the calcium it needs from a diet of vegetables, and almost certainly from commercial tortoise food. In some cases a calcium supplement may be needed, usually provided by sprinkling calcium powder or calcium carbonate on the tortoise’s food.

Minimize Protein – The second rule of thumb is to avoid protein. Vegetables contain protein of course, but usually in small amounts that won’t harm the tortoise. Too much of any high protein vegetable is best avoided however. We get most of our protein from dairy products and meat, which the tortoise doesn’t need and should not have. The reason for keeping the amount of protein ingested low is that protein interferes with the tortoise’s ability to absorb calcium. Too much protein can result in poor growth of a young tortoise, and is a cause of soft shells or misshapen shells in both young and mature tortoises. A misshapen shell is almost a guarantee that a tortoise will not enjoy a high quality life.

“Normal Food” Only – The third rule of thumb – if it won’t grow in the wild, don’t feed it to the tortoise. Most vegetables we have in the garden will grow in the wild. Some may be a bit undersized or scrawny, but they will grow, and the tortoise will eat them. Dog food, cat chow, corn chips and Oreo cookies don’t grow in the wild, so don’t belong in a tortoise’s food dish. Meat and fish don’t either.

A few sea-going turtles eat jellyfish and other fish, but you terrestrial tortoise does not and should not.

It’s Mostly About Vegetables – These then, are some of the main things, which if you keep them in mind, will help in maintaining your pet’s health. Though a variety of food items should be fed a tortoise, the animal is not a waste dump, and should not be a solution for getting rid of table scraps. A diet of 95% vegetables is best. Lettuce and cucumbers are fine but low on nutrition. Dark leafy green vegetables are preferable. Look for vegetables high in fiber, rich in calcium, vitamins and other minerals. Avoid or minimize high protein vegetables such as peas and sweet corn.

Fruit OK, Just Not Too Much – Fruit is fine, your tortoise will love you for it, but it can be addictive, especially bananas. Too much fruit can cause fungal problems in the gut which can be detrimental to a tortoise’s health. No more than about 5% of the diet should be fruit, so save it for a special treat. There are a number of wild plants that are good for the tortoise. Clover and dandelions are especially well liked. In the wild, the tortoise will normally avoid anything that is toxic. A little knowledge combined with some common sense (no corn chips) should make it easy to provide your tortoise with a tasty and healthy diet.

Treating Common Diseases

Tortoise are unique and great pets that you can learn to love. It is also easy taking care of it too. A healthy tortoise can survive outdoors without a problem. But if your tortoise is inflicted with a disease, you would have to take care of it. Here are some of the common diseases on tortoises and some tips on and curing it.

The first common disease on tortoise is constipation. The tortoise can get this disease because of an improper diet. Getting too much of fiber can also direct to to constipation. If your tortoise experiences this, all you have to do is to soak the tortoise in the bath of tepid water in about 30 minutes. The water level should cover the plastron.

Diarrhoea is the common result of having too much fruits to eat. You have to change its diet with foods that are less hydrated. You should also add alfalfa on its diet.

Pneumonia in tortoises can be caused by unclean surroundings, over populating, and inaccurate temperature. Once your tortoise gets sick with this illness, you must go and meet up with the veterinarian.

Eye infections can infect a tortoise when it lacks Vitamin A. The first thing you should do is to use eye drops especially made for tortoises. To prevent eye infections, add foods rich in Vitamin A.

Injuries and ticks are the most common causes of shell rot. You must remove loose shields and clean the tortoise daily and including Betadine as you clean it. Getting the tortoise exposed to the air helps in curing the illness.

These methods of curing illnesses are great but sometimes can be useless. When there is no signs of improvement on the tortoise after using the methods mentioned above, quickly take your tortoise to the veterinarian.

I am the editor-in-chief at I have been a reptile enthusiast for over a decade, and during this time I have kept and bred a variety of different reptiles such as bearded dragons, geckos, and chameleons. I am passionate about sharing my knowledge and experience with others to help them provide the best care possible for their pet reptiles.

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