How to Take Care of a Tortoise

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

If you want a pet but don’t have a lot of time to take care of them, a tortoise can be an ideal pet for you. It is cute and considered low maintenance, hence won’t take too much of your time. However, you still need to care for them properly to keep them healthy.

This article will discuss all the basics you need to know, so you will be ready and well-informed once you get your tortoise home with you. So without further ado, the following is all the information you need to know on how to take care of a tortoise. 

Are tortoises easy to take care of?

Tortoises are relatively easy to take care of and considered low maintenance. However, this can also depend on the type and size of the tortoise. Some species may need more attention than others, so before you get a tortoise as a pet, you must educate yourself on this topic. Ask an expert or staff at the pet shop about the type of tortoise you’re about to adopt. You then need further research on how to properly care for that specific tortoise. 

How do you take care of a tortoise for beginners?

After gathering all the information you need, you can start from the basics: preparing a home for the tortoise. You need to step back here if you think of getting one of those cages in pet shops. Those cages aren’t suitable for tortoises since they are usually made of clear acrylics or wires, which can cause anxiety in the tortoise.

The ideal way to prepare an adequate cage is by creating it independently. To properly set up an enclosure for tortoises, you need to understand that tortoises need a secure habitat so no other animals can get in the chamber and harm their tortoise. It should be large enough, so your pet has enough space to exercise and carry their natural behavior to prevent stress. You also need to ensure the cage is at the proper temperature. They also need enough sun exposure. If it is impossible to create the enclosure in a space exposed to the sun, you can fit a UV light into the cage to keep the tortoise healthy.

After you prepare a suitable cage, you also need to learn about proper feeding. The appropriate diet for tortoises should include leafy greens, fruits, and pellet food. Consult your trusted veterinarian to make sure your pet gets enough nutrition.

What do I need to keep a tortoise?

What do I need to keep a tortoise?
What do I need to keep a tortoise?

The first thing you need to keep any pet is a strong will. Adopting a pet is a full-time commitment. Even though you may pick a tortoise because they are low-maintenance and easier to take care of, you still need to take some time taking proper care of them and ensuring they are healthy and happy.

You also need patience because taking care of a tortoise means you need to nurture them, and it will take a lot of patience. Once you are sure you can take care of them, you need to prepare a proper place and cage, as mentioned in the previous point.

Most importantly, you must also prepare the expected cost of taking care of them. Get to know the average cost expectation for a tortoise, including feeding, vitamins, and vet visits. You can consult a professional or people who already own a pet to get the estimated cost to prepare.

Do tortoises need a heat lamp at night?

It depends on factors, including the tortoise type, age, and the room in which you place the cage or enclosure. Baby tortoises naturally need more sun exposure and heat to keep them warm and maintain their growth. So you will need to place additional light on their enclosure to fulfill their needs. However, adult tortoises also need sun exposure to stay healthy and avoid stress. If you put the cage in a room with little to no sun exposure, then additional UV light is a must to maintain their health.

Keep in mind that the light exposure should be in the right amount. Too little light may make the tortoise depressed and unhealthy, but too much light can also be dangerous due to an effect called overheating danger that can lead to discomfort or even injuries. The color of the light is also another thing to consider. Some tortoises are more sensitive to bright light. Take closer attention to the tortoise’s condition. A blind, sick, or injured person should never be put in direct sunlight or UV light because it can intensify the pain. 

How do you play with a tortoise?

There are many creative ways you can play with a tortoise. The best time to play with them is feeding time since tortoises love food. You can even make the food as toys or a reward to motivate them to move more. You can try different creative ways to serve meals to them. For example, you can place the food all over the enclosure so they can chase the food scavenger hunt way. You can also stick food to a rolling ball, so they’ll have to track it to complete the meal.

Besides food, you can also provide them with playing facilities such as hiding spots, digging spots, and climbing spots. The more stimulants they get, the more they will move their body so they can be healthier and avoid problems such as obesity. 

What do tortoises need in their cage? 

Tortoises need some basic needs in their cage. The basic requirements include but are not limited to food and water bowl, hiding cave, UV light, bathing tub, water mister and moss to help maintain humidity, thermometer, and overnight heating lamp if necessary.

On the cage’s base, you can mix soil and sand substrate. This mixture is ideal for tortoises because it is comfortable, allows them to move smoothly, and can even dig when needed. On top of that, you can add some texture, such as rocks or wood, for them to climb. 

How do I know if my tortoise is happy or stressed?

Based on its behavior, you can tell if your tortoise is happy or stressed. Happy tortoises love to play, move a lot to explore the cage, climb, and have a healthy appetite. Meanwhile, depressed tortoises may do the opposite, such as hiding in their hiding spot for a long time, lack desire, and even going on a hunger strike. They also tend to hide inside their shell and refuse to come out. They will stay in a corner and will barely move. 

If you find those symptoms on your tortoises, you need to take them to the vet to see if they experience physical sickness aside from depression. You also may need to change things up and provide them with a better environment to help them get better and healthier. 

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How to Take Care of a Tortoise

1. Bathing 

How to Take Care of a Tortoise

Tortoises need to soak in water to rehydrate themselves. Hence, let them soak in water for at least 20 minutes per week. You can scrub their shell using a soft toothbrush to clean their shell. But it is not mandatory; do this only when they are dirty. Afterward, you can take them out of the bath and pat them dry before putting them back in their cage. Only use clean water and avoid any kind of soap or detergent since it can harm the tortoises. 

2. Temperature and humidity

How to Take Care of a Tortoise
Temperature and humidity

Tortoises must alternate between low and high heat and low and high humidity. This is why an ideal tortoise tank usually has a basking light bath for higher temperatures and a hiding cave that is lower in temperature and usually more humid. The perfect temperature under the basking area should be around 30°C (86°F) at tortoiseshell height and approximately 20°C (68°F) at the other end of the enclosure. The ideal air humidity should be 50-60% in the enclosure. 

3. Tortoise feed and nutrition 

Tortoise feed and nutrition 
Tortoise feed and nutrition 

Feeding for tortoises is relatively simple. They need a mix of green leaves, fruits, and pellets designed for tortoises. You can occasionally give them insects such as crickets and dubia roaches to fulfill their protein needs. You can also throw some worms into their meal bowl. You can dust some protein powder into their power green mixture if necessary. Maybe even some multivitamins if your veterinarian said so. 

4. Medical Care

Medical Care
Medical Care

To maintain your tortoise’s best health, you must regularly take them to the vet for a medical examination. If they are relatively healthy, you can take them to the vet once to twice a year. Your veterinarian may suggest you take an annual fecal analysis or blood test if they find something wrong with your tortoise. You need to go to the vet, an expert in handling exotic pets, to get the best result. 

5. Shell Care

Shell Care
Shell Care

To keep the shell in mint condition, you need to clean your tortoise’s shell occasionally. For this routine, you will need soft washcloths, lukewarm water, a soft brush, and a tub for them to soak. First, let them soak for around 20 minutes, then you can start to brush their shells gently. Pay extra attention to small spaces where dirt is usually trapped between the scutes. After you get all the dearth out, take your turtle out of the tub, rinse it with clean water, then let them dry. You don’t need any kind of oils or moisturizing products unless their shells are drying and the vet prescribes some ointment. 

6. Enclosure Care 

Enclosure Care 
Enclosure Care 

Besides taking care of the tortoises, you also need to take proper care of their habitat. Clean and well-maintained habitat ensures the tortoise’s health and happiness. To do this, there are some routines you need to follow daily and weekly. The most basic thing is to remove any excess food from the enclosure to prevent them from rotting. You also need to change the water bowl daily. Every two to three weeks, you need to do a complete cleaning involving changing the bedding and wiping down the cage with disinfectant. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly before and after you handle the enclosure.


Tortoises are pretty easy to deal with and take care of. But you still need to pay attention to their overall well-being, including their physical and environmental health. Taking them to the vet regularly is very important because it can help you better understand their health condition. If there are some health issues they’re facing, they can be dealt with efficiently and more quickly. And finally, just like other pets, tortoises need your time and attention, so make sure to make time for them after you adopt them. 

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How do you bond with your tortoise?

You can bond with your tortoise by playing with them. The best time to play and bond is when you’re feeding them. Feeding them directly from your hands will strengthen the bond and allow you to connect better with your pet. It can also train them to know their owner better. 

Do tortoises recognize their owners?

Not all types of tortoises can recognize their owner. However, some tortoises will identify you as the owner once you have a strong bond with them. To make this happen, you need to make time to interact and play with them. Along with time, the tortoises will finally recognize you through scent, sound, and behavior. 

Do tortoises like to be held?

Tortoises are generally not enjoying being held, so you may want to limit your desire to hold them. However, sometimes, you need to hold them for some reasons, such as cleaning them. Make sure you do it gently, so you don’t make them uncomfortable. You also need to be careful, so you don’t accidentally drop them. 

What do tortoises need to survive?

Tortoises need some essential things to survive. Proper food and nutrients are the most basic and vital things. You also need to provide them with fresh water and a basking area. Don’t forget to place them in a clean and healthy environment made for tortoises so they can live happily and healthily.

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