DIY Tortoise Enclosure: Tips and Inspiration

Tortoises make for excellent pets, but their unique needs require a habitat that can accommodate them adequately. Whether you’re looking to save money or simply want to create a custom home for your shelled friend, building a DIY tortoise enclosure is a great way to meet your pet’s needs while unleashing your creativity. With a little bit of inspiration and the right tools, you can create a habitat that’s both functional and visually stunning. 

diy tortoise enclosure
DIY Tortoise Enclosure: Tips and Inspiration

In this article, our experts will reveal some tips and inspiration you should consider while building your own DIY tortoise enclosure. We will also provide various DIY tortoise enclosure ideas that will keep your shelled pet happy and healthy for years to come. 

Research on the Specific Needs

Tortoises have specific needs when it comes to their enclosure, and it’s essential to create a habitat that meets these requirements to ensure the health and well-being of your pet. According to LLLReptile, tortoises need ample space to move around, so the enclosure should be large enough to allow them to walk, climb, and explore. A general rule of thumb is to provide at least 10 square feet of space for every inch of tortoise shell length.

diy tortoise enclosure
Research on the specific needs

In addition to size, you will need to consider the type of substrate used in the enclosure. A substrate is a material that lines the bottom of the enclosure and can range from soil, sand or a combination of both. The substrate should be at least 4 inches deep and should be changed out at least every three months.

Don’t forget that tortoises require both UVA and UVB lighting to properly metabolize calcium and maintain healthy bones. A basking spot with temperature control of around 90-100°F is also necessary to promote digestion and overall health.

Size and Location

When determining the size of the enclosure, consider the size of your tortoise. A small enclosure will not be suitable for larger tortoises, and vice versa. According to TortoiseOwner, smaller tortoises can be housed in 8ft X 4ft cages. Walls should be at least 12 inches higher than your tortoise while standing on its hind legs. Tortoises that are anticipated to get large as adults require more room and higher walls. This will ensure that your tortoise has plenty of space to explore and carry out their natural activities.

diy tortoise enclosure
Size and Location

The location of the enclosure is also important. It should be placed in a warm, dry area of your home. This will help to maintain the temperature and humidity of the enclosure, which is vital for the health and well-being of the tortoise. Avoid placing the enclosure in direct sunlight, as this can cause the enclosure to become too hot. Additionally, make sure to put the enclosure in a quiet location, away from any loud noises. This will reduce stress on the tortoise.


If you’re looking for materials for your tortoise enclosure, our experts recommend choosing materials that are safe for your tortoise and can withstand outdoor conditions. The materials you choose should be non-toxic, durable, and able to provide adequate insulation. Here are some materials to consider when building your tortoise enclosure:

Concrete blocks

Concrete blocks are an excellent choice for the base of your outdoor enclosure, as they’re sturdy and can withstand the weight of your tortoise. They’re also resistant to moisture and pests, which is essential for maintaining a healthy environment for your pet.


Plywood is an excellent material for tortoise enclosures. It is non-toxic, durable, and can provide adequate insulation. However, please make sure to choose plywood that is weather-resistant and treated to resist rot and insect infestations.

diy tortoise enclosure

Wire Mesh

Because it is sturdy, long-lasting, and non-toxic, wire mesh makes an excellent material for cages for tortoises. It is also easy to install and can provide adequate ventilation and visibility. To keep your tortoise from escaping, you must pick a wire mesh that is rust-resistant and has tiny enough openings.

Natural stone or slate

Natural stone or slate can be used to create a natural-looking habitat for your tortoise. These materials are durable and can withstand outdoor conditions, but they may require occasional cleaning to prevent the growth of algae or other organic matter.

diy tortoise enclosure
Natural stone or slate


PVC pipes and fittings are durable, weather-resistant, and easy to work with, making them a popular choice for outdoor enclosures. They’re also lightweight and easy to clean, which is vital for maintaining a healthy habitat for your tortoise. 

Moreover, we also suggest you avoid pressure-treated lumber for your tortoise enclosure. In fact, pressure-treated lumber is a popular choice for outdoor enclosures because it’s resistant to rot and insects. However, some types may be treated with toxic chemicals which are harmful to your tortoise.

What is the best material for a tortoise enclosure?

The best material for a tortoise enclosure will depend on a number of factors, including the size and species of your tortoise, your budget, and your personal preferences. Typically, wood fencing or chain link fencing is the most sensible and cost-effective option. The least expensive material will be wood, but it must be renewed every several years.

In addition, you can go with sturdy plastic or PVC for the second best option. These materials are strong, durable, and easy to clean and maintain. Plastic or PVC enclosures are also non-toxic and safe for the tortoise. They also provide an escape-proof enclosure, as they are seamless and have no gaps or holes that a tortoise can squeeze through.

Design and Function

When designing a tortoise enclosure, you should consider both the aesthetics and the function of the enclosure. In terms of function, your tortoise enclosure should provide a secure environment that is free of potential predators. Here are some design and function considerations for your tortoise enclosure:


As mentioned earlier, the size of the enclosure should be appropriate for the size of your tortoise. The enclosure should provide ample space for your pet to move around and exercise, as well as room for hiding spots and basking areas.

Lighting and Basking Area

Tortoises need access to UVB lighting to synthesize vitamin D and maintain healthy bones. The enclosure should be designed with proper lighting and basking area in mind, either through natural sunlight or artificial UVB lighting.

diy tortoise enclosure
Lighting and Basking Area

Hiding Spots

Tortoises need access to hiding spots to feel safe and secure. The enclosure should be designed with plenty of hiding spots, such as caves, logs, or plant cover.


The substrate of the enclosure should be appropriate for your tortoise species and should allow for natural behaviors such as burrowing. Popular substrate options include coconut coir, cypress mulch, or organic topsoil.

diy tortoise enclosure


The enclosure should be designed with safety in mind to prevent escape and protect your tortoise from predators. This may include sturdy walls or a secure roof, as well as locks or latches on doors and windows.


While function is necessary, the enclosure can also be visually appealing. This may include adding natural elements like plants or rocks or incorporating different textures and colors to create a more natural-looking habitat.

What kind of plants can I put in a tortoise enclosure?

Tortoises need a variety of plants in their enclosure to provide them with adequate nutrition. The most important thing to consider when selecting plants for a tortoise enclosure is that the plants must be safe for the tortoise to consume. Here are some plants that are safe and beneficial for tortoises:


Grasses like Bermuda grass, fescue, and Timothy grass are excellent choices for tortoise enclosures, as they are low-maintenance and can be easily grazed on by your pet.


Succulents like aloe vera, prickly pear cactus, and hens and chicks are good choices for tortoise enclosures, as they are easy to care for and provide a source of moisture.

diy tortoise enclosure

Edible plants

Many types of edible plants can be grown in a tortoise enclosure, including clover, dandelion greens, and plantain. Just be sure to research which plants are safe for your specific tortoise species.


Herbs like thyme, basil, and parsley can be grown in a tortoise enclosure, as they are safe for tortoises to eat and can provide added nutrition.

diy tortoise enclosure

Shrubs and trees

Small shrubs and trees like hibiscus, grape vines, and mulberry trees can be grown in a tortoise enclosure to provide shade and natural habitat.

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Substrate affects the health and well-being of your tortoise in many ways. The material can help to control humidity, maintain a healthy temperature, and provide a place for your tortoise to bury and forage for food. Tortoises are also prone to respiratory infections, which can be prevented by having the proper substrate. Additionally, the substrate needs to be kept clean and free from debris, which can be a health hazard for your pet.

diy tortoise enclosure

The ideal substrate for a tortoise enclosure should be one that your pet can dig and burrow in, as well as absorb and retain moisture. This will help to keep the enclosure free from odors and bacteria, as well as provide a comfortable place for your tortoise to live. It is crucial to choose a substrate that is not too deep, as this can make it difficult for your pet to maneuver and can also increase the risk of respiratory infections.

What kind of substrate should I use in a tortoise enclosure?

For smaller tortoise species, the substrate should be a mixture of soil and sand. The soil should be well-draining, either purchased or collected from outside, and the sand should be organic, not play sand. This substrate should be 2-3 inches deep and should be changed regularly, depending on the amount of wear and tear it gets from the tortoise.

For larger tortoise species, the substrate should be a mixture of soil, sand, and organic matter, such as mulch, bark, or cypress mulch. This should be at least 6 inches deep and should be changed periodically to ensure the environment is healthy.


Tortoises are ectothermic, meaning they rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature. In the wild, tortoises will move to different areas of their habitat to find the ideal temperature for their particular species. In captivity, owners need to provide the correct temperature in their enclosure to ensure their pet tortoise is comfortable and healthy.


The ideal temperature for a tortoise enclosure varies depending on the species. However, generally, most species prefer a temperature range between 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit. Moreover, we suggest you provide a temperature gradient in the enclosure so that your tortoise can move between warmer and cooler areas. This can be achieved by using basking lamps, ceramic heaters, or a combination of both. 


Tortoises are amazing animals that require specific care and maintenance to ensure their enclosure is clean, safe, and secure. Proper tortoise care and maintenance of its enclosure are essential to ensure your pet remains healthy and happy. Here are some tips for the successful maintenance of a tortoise enclosure.


Regularly clean the enclosure by removing any uneaten food, feces, and other debris. Replace the substrate as needed and clean the enclosure with a pet-safe disinfectant.


Water features are essential for your tortoise. Provide fresh, clean water for your tortoise at all times. Clean the water dish daily and replace the water frequently.



Replace the UVB bulb and other lighting fixtures as needed, and clean the fixtures regularly to prevent dust buildup.


Monitor the temperature in the enclosure regularly and adjust the heat source as needed to maintain the appropriate temperature range.


Provide a varied and balanced diet for your tortoise that meets its specific nutritional requirements. This may include fresh vegetables, fruits, and commercial tortoise food.


Health Check

Regularly inspect your tortoise for any signs of illness or injury, such as weight loss, lethargy, or unusual behavior. Consult with a veterinarian if you have any concerns.


Provide opportunities for your tortoise to engage in natural behaviors, such as digging, climbing, and exploring. This can be accomplished by adding rocks, logs, and other natural materials to the enclosure.

Best 5 Ideas for a DIY Tortoise Enclosure

If you’re looking for a fun and creative way to house your pet tortoise, then look no further than a DIY tortoise enclosure! Not only do DIY tortoise enclosures provide your pet with the perfect habitat, but they also give you the opportunity to express your creativity and customize your pet’s home. Here are the top five tortoise habitat ideas that will make your pet feel right at home!

1. DIY Tortoise Table House with Mulch

DIY Tortoise Table House with Mulch
Source: Pinterest (@Everything Turtles)

For those who want to create comfortable homemade tortoise house designs, we suggest you try this idea. You can create a DIY table house using plywood. Measure the right table frame size that is suitable for your tortoise. After that, assemble the table frame by connecting the legs to the sides with wood screws. Later, you can design the enclosure with various plants, rocks, and mulch. Layer the soil with mulch aesthetically to create a fantastic visual and color contrast.

2. Kiddie Pool Tortoise Habitat

Kiddie Pool Tortoise Habitat
Source: Pinterest (@Everything Turtles)

Do you have an old kiddie pool that hasn’t been used for a long time? If so, why don’t you turn it into a fantastic tortoise enclosure? This is a smart DIY tortoise house idea for those who love upcycling. Simply fill the kiddie pool with the ideal substrate, such as organic topsoil and coconut coir. After that, you can put natural elements such as plants or rocks to add a genuine vibe.

3. Rocky Terrain for Tortoise Table Enclosure

Rocky Terrain for Tortoise Table Enclosure
Source: Pinterest (@Everything Turtles)

If you want to put several tortoises in the same house, we suggest you create a rocky terrain in the spacious enclosure. This habitat design lets your tortoises explore, walk, and climb freely. You can also put decorative elements such as wood and plants to mimic its natural habitat. Don’t forget to create a basking area in your tortoise enclosure using heat lamps in the corner.

4. Natural Outdoor Wooden Enclosure

Natural Outdoor Wooden Enclosure
Source: Pinterest (@Todays Tortoises)

What a charming tortoise enclosure! The backyard is an ideal location to create an outdoor enclosure for your tortoise. Simply build wooden fencing around the enclosure to keep your tortoise safe and secure. Decorate the enclosure with flowers and greens to add more colors and give a natural feel. You can also make a hiding spot from wood and rocks to keep your tortoise entertained.

5. Wire Mesh Wooden Enclosure

Wire Mesh Wooden Enclosure
Source: Pinterest (@Ship Shup Shop)

In case you are afraid that your tortoise will escape from the enclosure, the wire mesh will be a solutive option. Create a DIY tortoise enclosure from wood frames and wire mesh walls. Build a secure door you can lock from the outside. Don’t forget to decorate the enclosure with grasses, flowers, and green plants to mimic its natural habitat. Adding rocks and wood is also beneficial for tortoises to play. 


Building a DIY tortoise enclosure can be a fun and rewarding project that provides a safe and comfortable home for your pet. By researching your tortoise species’ specific needs, selecting appropriate materials, and creating a functional and attractive design, you can create a beautiful and enriching environment for your tortoise to thrive in. With the right materials and some patience, we are sure you can create the perfect enclosure for your pet.

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Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)

How big does a tortoise enclosure need to be?

The size of a tortoise enclosure will depend on the size and species of the tortoise. As a general rule, the larger the enclosure, the better. An enclosure with a volume of at least 50 gallons will be ideal for a fully grown adult tortoise, as they need room to roam. The enclosure should also be secure, with no gaps or holes that a tortoise could escape through. 

Should I put rocks in my tortoise enclosure?

Yes, you should put rocks in your tortoise enclosure. Rocks provide a secure hiding place for your tortoise and can also help to stabilize the temperature in the enclosure. This is especially important if your tortoise is a species that requires higher temperatures. Rocks can also help to create different levels and add visual interest to the enclosure.

Can I keep my tortoise in a plastic container?

No, you should not keep your tortoise in a plastic container. Tortoises need enough space to move around, and plastic containers do not provide adequate ventilation or insulation. Furthermore, plastic containers can become too hot or too cold for your tortoise, leading to health issues.

How often should I clean my tortoise enclosure?

It is recommended that you clean your tortoise enclosure at least once a week. This is important to keep the habitat clean and free from disease-carrying organisms. Additionally, cleaning the enclosure regularly helps to keep the environment healthy for your tortoise, as well as ensuring that it has a clean and comfortable living space.

What materials are safe to use in a tortoise enclosure?

Wood is safe to use in a tortoise enclosure. Any of the more common woods are safe. This is because it provides a place for the tortoise to climb and hide, and can also help create a more natural environment. Moreover, sand and soil are safe to use in a tortoise enclosure because they provide a natural substrate and help maintain humidity levels.

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