The Ultimate Guide: How to Take Care of a Pancake Tortoise

How to Take Care of a Pancake Tortoise
Taking Care Of A Pancake Tortoise

Pancake tortoises may be small, but they have a unique shape that looks like a pancake making them an exciting pet to own. This unique tortoise species is native to the rocky regions of Africa and Madagascar. They have flat shells and we know for their ability to wedge themselves into tiny crevices in the rocks. Pancake tortoises can make excellent pets, but they require special care due to their unique needs. 

This article will explore how to properly care for your pancake tortoise so that you can keep it healthy and happy for years to come. From diet and housing to temperature requirements, read on to learn about the basics of pancake tortoise care.

How To Take Care of Pancake Tortoise Housing and Habitat

How to Take Care of a Pancake Tortoise
Pancake Tortoise Housing and Habitat

To keep your pancake tortoises healthy and happy, you should provide a suitable habitat for them. For instance, set a warm and humid environment, give plenty of space to move around, and prepare food and clean water regularly.

As Pancake tortoises are native to Africa, they prefer warm, dry climates. Therefore, they should live in an enclosure that replicates their natural habitat as much as possible. If you want to pet them, set the  enclosure with a basking area. You can add a heat lamp to provide the necessary warmth. 

Don’t forget to add a hiding spot under rocks or sand for the tortoise to cool down when it gets too hot outside. Not to mention, the enclosure should also have a water bowl for the tortoise to drink and soak in.

Moreover, Pancake tortoises are active creatures and need space to move around. Therefore, we recommend a minimum size enclosure is at least 4x 8 inches for one adult pancake tortoise. However,  larger enclosures are even better. If you are keeping multiple tortoises together, we suggest you prepare a larger enclosure. 

In addition, you need to provide enrichment items in the enclosure, such as climbing structures or hideaways. These items will  keep the tortoise active, stimulated and entertained.

Pancake Tortoise Housing

How to Take Care of a Pancake Tortoise
Pancake Tortoise Housing

When finding the perfect home for your pet pancake tortoise, there are a few key things you have to keep in mind. As pancake tortoises come from  dry and arid environments, you have to mimic their native housing. It’s all about setting a terrarium which replicates their natural habitat as closely as possible. 

For example, you can use sand and fine gravel as substrates. Remember that pancake tortoises are burrowers by nature, so they need deed substrats to dig. 

Moreover, adding some rocks and plants is also necessary for hiding places and basking spots. Pancake tortoises love to bask, but if it’s getting too hot, they can hide under the rocks. Don’t forget to ensure the house and hiding spot are well-ventilated!

And finally, because they’re such social creatures, it’s best to house them in pairs or groups rather than alone. Therefore, your pancake tortoises will be less stressed living in the enclosure outside their native areas.

Pancake Tortoise Habitat

How to Take Care of a Pancake Tortoise
Pancake Tortoise Habitat

The pancake tortoises’ habitat are mostly arid regions in East Africa. These small, flat-bodied tortoises usually spend most of their time hiding in the cracks, crevices of rocks, and boulders. Pancake tortoises go outside usually only for basking in the sun or foraging for food.

If you have pancake tortoises in captivity, we recommend you provide a large enclosure replicating their natural habitat. Mimic pancake tortoises’ place of origin as closely as possible. The enclosure should contain various rocks and boulders. These items allow tortoises to hide in and climb on, just like in their native region.

Not to mention, water and sunlight are also part of pancake tortoises natural habitat. So, always provide them a shallow dish of water for bathing and drinking. Remember to change the water daily to prevent bacterial contamination that will cause health issues. Finally, place the enclosure in an area with plenty of sunshine, so your pancake tortoises can bask properly.

How to Create a Pancake Tortoise Habitat in Your Backyard

How to Take Care of a Pancake Tortoise
How to Create a Pancake Tortoise Habitat in Your Backyard

If you are planning to adopt a pancake tortoise and want to replicate its habitat in your backyard, you can set up the enclosure in your backyard. Before creating the pancake tortoises’ habitat in your house backyard, there are some basics to understand. Let’s take a look at these key elements to consider:

1. Large & Dry Enclosure

First and foremost, you have to provide your pancake tortoise with a large and dry enclosure. By mimicking their natural habitat and humidity, your tortoise can feel ‘at home’. Remember to offer plenty of space to move around and explore their new habitat.

If you want to set the pancake tortoises enclosure, start by setting a simple wooden box or plastic tub. This is enough size for pancake tortoise enclosure. However, you have to line the bottom with several inches of substrate materials. We recommend you add a combination of sand, soil, and wood chips.

2. Basking Area

Place a basking area in a well exposed sunlight place. In case your tortoises can’t get enough sunlight during winter, we recommend you to add a heating lamp for the basking area in the enclosure.  In the basking area, your pancake tortoise can warm up under the heat of a lamp or sunlight.

We suggest placing the basking spot near the end of the enclosure. So, your pancake tortoises can easily get in/out of the enclosure after basking. Remember to set temperatures between 85-95 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Low Humidity Level

As pancake tortoises are native to arid environments, they enjoy relatively low humidity levels within their enclosure. Therefore, you should set the humidity of the enclosure low. 

The ideal humidity level for a pancake tortoise is under 50%. You place a hygrometer as a humidity control tool to monitor the enclosure’s humidity at the right level.

4. Enriched Environment

Finally, pancake tortoises need various enrichment items to play in their habitat. You can set up various hiding spots and burrowing places. Using overturned flowerpots, pieces of bark or small caves made from rocks.

Remember that pancake tortoises are great climbers, so you also must provide them with climbing spots! You can place some pile of stones in a safe area for pancake tortoises to climb. 

By offering these environmental enrichment items, your pancake tortoises will be happy and active!

Do Pancake Tortoises Like to be Handled?

Do Pancake Tortoises Like to be Handled?
Do Pancake Tortoises Like to be Handled

Pancake tortoises are generally docile and easy to handle. However, as with any animal, it is essential to approach them with caution and respect. Never pick up a pancake tortoise by the tail, as this can cause serious injury. Instead, scoop them gently from underneath with both hands. If you need to transport your pancake tortoise somewhere, it is best to do so in a secure container that will not allow them to escape or fall.

Keep in mind that, similar to other species of tortoises, pancake tortoises prefer to be handled less. Therefore, you should not pick them up when it is not necessary since it can cause lots of stress for them. If you want to interact with your pancake tortoise, you can offer them hand-feeding since they usually respond well. 

Can I Have a Pancake Tortoise as A Pet?

Can I Have a Pancake Tortoise as A Pet?
Can I Have a Pancake Tortoise as A Pet?

For beginners, pancake tortoises are not recommended as pets due to their small size and delicate shells. They are also difficult to care for, requiring a warm and humid environment. 

If you’re considering a pancake tortoise as a pet, thoroughly research its care requirements and consult a veterinarian before making your decision. Plus, you should learn how to take care of a pancake tortoise properly!

What Can a Pancake Tortoise Eat?

What Can a Pancake Tortoise Eat?
What Can a Pancake Tortoise Eat?

Just like any animal, healthy diet is essential for a pancake tortoise. Since they are herbivores, panacke tortoise diet should consist primarily of leafy greens and vegetables You can also offer various foods to complete all the nutrients your pancake tortoise needs. 

If you are interested in having pancake tortoises as your pet, then you have to understand what they like to eat. Let’s take a look at the diet of a pancake tortoise in the following points below:

1. Dark, leafy greens 

Like other species of tortoises, pancake tortoises are strict vegetarians. They require a high amount of fiber for a healthy digestive system.

So, you can offer grass and hay to your pancake tortoises. In addition, their best food is dark and leafy greens such as collards, kale, mustard, and turnip greens. This food is enjoyable for them and provides them with sufficient amounts of fiber they need.

2. Squash and other vegetables 

You can also feed greens with squash and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and green beans. It will give them various nutrients and textures, keeping them excited to eat. Other deserted types of plants, such as succulents, can also be an excellent food option for pancake tortoises since it is the type of food they would eat in their natural habitat. 

3. Fruits 

Occasionally, they can also eat fruits such as berries, melon, and mango. However, they don’t naturally eat a lot of fruits, so you need to take careful moderation and give the fruits as occasional treats. 

4. Calcium Supplement

In case your pancake tortoises do not consume enough calcium from their green food, you should add calcium supplement to their diet. Calcium supplements can fill up their nutrition intake easily. You can mix the calcium supplement with their feed. Please note that every single tortoise has different nutrient needs, so it will be best to consult your veterinarian to give them the right amount of food.

5. Reptile Pellet

To help them get sufficient nutrients, you can also add high-quality reptile food or supplements if necessary. This is especially important if your tortoise hasn’t obtained enough nutrients from their food. It may also be essential for younger tortoises in their development ages. To choose the best food pellet, make sure you get the one made specifically for tortoises and contains high nutrients such as calcium, protein, and vitamins. 


The pancake tortoise is a great pet and provides proper housing and habitat. Your pet can thrive in its new home for years with the correct setup. Following these simple tips, you should have no problem keeping your pancake tortoise happy and healthy. If you need any additional help or advice about setting up a perfect home for your pet, feel free to reach out to an experienced vet or local reptile expert who can provide more specific guidance on how best to care for your pet.

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