Tortoise Table: A Complete Guide for Beginners

Tortoises are rather delicate creatures since they need close attention, especially during the first years of their lives. Therefore, an indoor enclosure will come in handy since you will be able to watch your pet, keep it safe, and control the living conditions. 

A tortoise table is a simple wooden enclosure to keep your small or medium-sized tortoise species indoors. The walls are usually of wood and high enough to prevent them from escaping and offer a solid seal around your pet. For better living conditions, you also need additional features like heating and lighting for warmth and UVB. You can either buy one at a pet store or construct a simple version and customize it. When you have it ready, it is best to set it up conveniently and keep it clean.

If you wish to purchase a tortoise table, this article will make it simpler for you. Read on for everything you need to know about tortoise tables, from selection to maintenance.

Tortoise Table

What Are Tortoise Tables?

Tortoise tables are structures used by tortoise owners to ensure that their hatchlings or growing pets have the most conducive living environment. They are tiny indoor enclosures that are perfect for small-sized tortoises that need special care. Most of them are simple wooden designs with open tops or a mesh cover to prevent pets from escaping. The open-top style is essential because it ensures unrestricted airflow and a clear view of your pet. 

Secondly, the table enables the owner to provide all the needs of a delicate tortoise. Here, you can control heat, lighting, and any other requirements to enhance your tortoise’s growth. Additionally, the solid walls of the enclosure shut the tortoise away from external disturbances to create a suitable environment where they feel safe. However, as your tortoise grows, it adapts to survive outside the setup. 

Types of Tortoise Tables

Tortoise tables usually come in different shapes and sizes, each specific to your tortoise. The best brands cater to all your pets’ needs, ensuring they feel safe but still have enough room to move around. Note that your tortoise will also need some space to play and stay fit; therefore, it is best to go for an option with a considerable size relative to your pet. 

Others also have fun features like staircases for your tort to climb or private rooms to retreat when scared or sleeping. There are also options with mesh covering on the side for easy access or at the top to prevent escaping or interferences with other pets in the house. When looking for a table, you will mostly find wooden setups because they are more solid, effectively shielding your pet from external interferences. 

You may also find glass or plastic designs, but they are not advisable. Plastic, for instance, isn’t very stable, while glass is pretty stressful as your pet will keep trying to pass through it. Other materials also tend to overheat, but wooden designs always maintain a favorable environment.

What’s the Right Size of a Tortoise Table?

The enclosure’s size is a crucial factor to consider before selecting one for your pet. It is imperative to compare it to your tortoise’s size because it shouldn’t be too cramped up or too wide, given that it is still an indoor setup. You can measure your pet’s size first, then look at the measurements of the structure, ensuring that there is enough room to walk around and play. 

We usually recommend going for enclosures ten times in length to your tortoise and five times your tortoise’s size in width. Secondly, consider the height of the walls because some reptiles are escape artists that tend to climb up and get lost in the process. If you have a small species like the Russian, a 20 cm height will do, but you may need a taller one for medium-sized species. 

Additionally, it is also advisable to find an enclosure that will still accommodate your tortoise as it grows. Doing so will save you a lot of money you would otherwise use in replacement. However, if your pet outgrows an indoor setup, it may be best to go for an outdoor enclosure. 

Does Your Tortoise Species Matter?

One of the first factors to help pick out the perfect tortoise table is your pet’s species because not every type would be comfortable in a particular setup. Therefore, it is best to consider how big your pet can get. If you have a small-sized one like the Russian or Hermann’s, you are confident that they will stay longer in the enclosure. 

Otherwise, medium or large-sized species may only need it for a few years after hatching. It will also guide you on the best size to go for, ensuring that they fit even as they get bigger. Secondly, note that the open design of the structure doesn’t necessarily help in controlling the humidity. 

Therefore, a table is primarily suitable for pets living in dry or semi-arid climatic conditions such as Sulcatas, Greeks, Marginated, Russians, Indian Stars, Leopards, and Hermann’s. It is easier to house arid tortoises, but if you have semi-arid species, you may have to mist them occasionally. 

On the other hand, subtropical pets find vivariums more favorable to live in, unlike tables that tend to get too humid, causing conditions like shell rot. Hence, living in a terrarium’s tropical environment would be safer if you have a red or yellow foot. However, the good news is that most species adjust quickly and may soon adapt to life in a tortoise table. 

Lighting Your Tortoise Table

When out in the wild, tortoises bask under sunlight to aid in vitamin D3 synthesis, a crucial mineral for calcium metabolism. These minerals are necessary for the reptile’s shell and bone development, and without them, your pet may suffer from complications like shell pyramiding. Therefore, natural light strengthens the shell and generally improves their quality of life, which is particularly critical for hatchlings and growing tortoises. 

Given that indoor enclosures don’t have such privilege of natural lighting, it is advisable to provide artificial UVB. Some owners consider placing the structure next to the windows where light enters the room. However, it may not be sufficient for a tortoise’s UVB needs, especially since the light cannot pass through the solid wooden structure. 

You can always find UV lamps in pet stores for lighting the enclosure. It may be on for around ten hours a day, which effectively mimics your pet’s natural habitat. However, note that the table doesn’t necessarily need lighting 24 hours a day because it must still maintain a normal day-night cycle, explaining the need for timers for auto-on/off. 

Temperature for Your Tortoise Table

Tortoises may seem hardy even by looking at their tough shells. However, these reptiles are pretty delicate, especially in their first years of life. Therefore, they need a regulated environment for their well-being. Although it may be challenging to maintain an optimum condition in the table, you can simulate a favorable environment if you have the best heating bulbs and basking lamps. 

Additionally, you may require a thermometer, which is a vital tool in monitoring the temperature levels. The heat source should be above the enclosure at around 45cm to avoid overheating your pet. You should also maintain a temperature of about 95F at the hottest part of the table. To save you the hassle, you can buy a thermostat to assist in regulating the levels.

The temperature in other regions of the enclosure can be a bit cooler for them to retreat to when it gets too hot. During winter, there are sure bulbs such as the red basking lights that will come in handy even at night. When the temperatures are too low, your buddy may hibernate, and the case may be fatal if you have a species like the desert tortoise. 

Substrate for Your Tortoise Table

The bedding type you put underneath your pet also matters. Numerous substrate materials in the market can suit your buddy. However, regardless of your choice, it is still advisable to ensure that their home is always clean and disinfected, although the usage period differs from one substrate to the other. 

Some may need to be entirely replaced at short intervals, while others only require the substitution of the spoilt part. The most commonly used materials are aspen substrates, soil-based bedding, pellets, and hay, provided that they are highly absorbent. However, plant barks and coconut husks are a go-to for most owners since they are long-lasting and don’t spoil quickly.

Thus, you wouldn’t be replacing them often. If you opt for a soil substrate, you may have to sterilize it first to kill organisms that may cause infections to your pet. Also, check for dampened spots, especially near the water source, and replace the soil to prevent bacteria growth. A liner would also come in handy to preserve the wood below the table.

It will save a lot of time when you want to replace the bedding and will block wetness from penetrating the wood, causing rotting in the process. You can purchase a unique plastic bag then place it carefully, avoiding loose hangings because the tortoise can nibble on it, which can be fatal. 

Hiding Places and Decorations for Your Tortoise Table

One impressive characteristic of tortoises is that each has its personality. You may have a timid pet that prefers to stay away from other humans. In such cases, you may need a hiding place that blends well with the setup for more privacy. This design will also come in handy when the heating becomes too extreme for your tortoise because it will be a colder spot.

Luckily, you can find an enclosure with a covered section on one end, and, if not, you can always buy or use a DIY object. Secondly, some owners also opt for ways to spruce up their tortoise’s home, ensuring that it closely resembles their natural setup. You can be creative with this idea by including anything your pet likes, including plants, climbing rocks, ladders, or other decorative pieces. 

You can also add toys for them to play around with as they exercise. However, it is best to avoid using toxic items since tortoises tend to chew whatever they find in their surroundings. Alternatively, you can go for decorative plants that are also edible. However, if you want a plastic option, it is advisable to place them away from their reach. Such materials can cause impaction when ingested, leading to grave complications or even fatalities. 

DIY Tortoise Tables 

One challenge when it comes to housing your pet is that some structures are pretty pricey. However, you don’t need to worry if you are handy because you can easily construct an elegant yet functional tortoise table for your pet. The best part about crafting one is that it enables you to customize it according to your pet’s needs, and you can add any cool feature you want. 

First, you will need wood that measures around eight inches high to prevent the tortoise from climbing out. The ideal setup size for most tortoise tables should be four by two by 8 inches, but you can enlarge or decrease the size depending on your pet. You will also need a heat lamp, a UV light bulb, and at least a two-inch-thick substrate.

You also require a food and water bowl. It can be a small plastic container but not so deep to drown your tortoise when it climbs inside. Finally, you can create a small hideout using a container to create a place for your pet to hide and sleep. You can also include a mesh on top to reduce interaction between the tort and other animals or humans. Remember that you can still improvise a tortoise table using boxes, old bookshelves, or even a large basin. 

How To Install the Tortoise Table

Table positioning is also crucial. It is best to place it strategically where you can offer all the conditions necessary for your pet. Putting the setup next to a power source is imperative because you need the electricity to light the bulbs that provide heat and the required UV light. Note that mimicking the pet’s natural habitat with adequate lighting and rays will help improve the tort’s overall health. 

Natural sunlight is also essential; therefore, you can consider placing the enclosure near the window if the sun rays can pass through into the room. You can also minimize the blinds in the room for increased lighting. Finally, always ensure to raise the table high enough from reach if there are kids or other pets in the house that may frustrate the tortoise.

The presence of other animals can cause anxiety and stress that may eventually lead to loss of appetite and other underlying issues. Besides, aggressive animals can also be a severe risk if they stage a fight and harm the tortoise. Similarly, it is prudent to keep your buddy away from loud noises and high traffic paths in the house, which can be risky. Most owners even prefer placing their pets in secluded extra rooms in the house for their safety. 

Advantages of Tortoise Tables 

The sole reason behind a tortoise table is to have a setup that will allow you to watch your tortoise as it grows. It has come in handy for new owners to deal with the delicate nature of hatchlings and provide the most conducive living environment for them. This structure lets you create a natural habitat for your pet to keep it as comfortable as possible. 

Once you know what your buddy needs, you can always set up the recommended living conditions in terms of lighting and heat. You can also include other additional features like decorations resembling features you can find naturally in the wild, like twigs and leaves.

Another advantage over other enclosures is that this design promotes maximum ventilation. Given that there is no top, air can freely flow in and out, a perfect condition for your pet. This clean, fresh air is vital for your pets’ health, and you will notice an improvement in their lives. For better aeration, some owners also add mesh on the sides. The open design also has the advantage of easy viewing of your pet. 

Besides, you can easily access your tortoise when you want to pick it up, and you will have an easier time maintaining and cleaning their home. The wooden material is also an advantage because, unlike glass, your pet won’t keep bumping into it, meaning life won’t be too stressful. It also makes your pet feel safe and helps lead a peaceful life.

Disadvantages of Tortoise Tables

Although tortoise tables are essential for hatchlings and juveniles, they also have their fair share of downsides. First, it is pretty challenging to create an ambient environment with the desired temperatures. Since the table is open, many find it hard to control the prevailing heat perfect for their specific species. 

If the temperatures in the enclosure fluctuate further below the standard 70-75F, your buddy is likely to suffer from certain health complications. It may range from poor digestion, excessive stress, unexpected hibernation, or other fatal issues. However, you can still create a basking spot that has the optimum temperatures and lighting. 

Furthermore, it is easy for other pets and your family members, especially children, to contact your pet in an open enclosure. They risk transmission of infections such as salmonella that are harmful to the elderly and younger individuals in your household. Other than diseases, the basking lamps also present a grave danger to your loved ones. 

Therefore, it is best to guard the table using a mesh cover to avoid contact. Lastly, tortoise tables don’t have a reasonable market size; therefore, the low customer base has made the market less competitive, leading to poorly constructed enclosures with low-quality products that wear out quickly within a few months of use. Fortunately, you can overcome this by making the table yourself or contacting a trusted expert to build you a durable setup.

What To Look for in a Tortoise Table

Before you buy a table for your pet, there are some critical considerations to make. For instance, instead of standard wood, you can go for long-lasting hardwood or a treated material that is damage-resistant. Wooden structures are susceptible to moisture; therefore, you can always paint a water-proof varnish layer to be safe. It prevents moisture damage and also makes the structure effortless to clean.

Secondly, it is vital to get the proper measurements relative to your tort’s size. Most of them are usually 900 squared centimeters fitting most juvenile tortoises. However, if yours is a fast grower, you can consider a larger structure or opt for a DIY version bearing in mind that your pet needs enough room to play. The way to go is to find a great size relative to your tortoise, provided that you have space for it and can afford it. However, a safe bet is one of 30 by 90 cm since it fits most species. 

Additionally, most owners go for enclosures with a hiding spot, usually located on one corner. This design is necessary for privacy or for your tort to retreat to when scared or trying to escape the extreme heat. Alternatively, if your choice table doesn’t have an in-built hideaway, you can buy or construct one and include it. Lastly, if you don’t want to place the enclosure on a tabletop, you can find an alternative to put it on the floor. However, for such cases, it is advisable to buy one with a mesh covering for extra security, especially if you have children or other pets in the house. 

Care and Maintenance of Your Tortoise Table

Proper sanitation helps improve your pet’s quality of life by maintaining excellent health. Therefore, it is critical to ensure that their table is always clean for your pet’s sake. You can do a spot check twice a day to identify and clear out any droppings, leftover food, or wetness on the floor lining; such material can cause contamination when your tortoise ingests them. 

We advocate for you to change the entire substrate when necessary and taking advantage of disinfecting the table to eliminate any lingering contaminants. If you have natural plants in the enclosure, you can trim them and remove any tiny unwanted bits. Your pet will also need food and water in their pen but be careful to provide them in clean bowls. 

Secondly, it is advisable to regularly check that the equipment like bulbs and heaters are working fine. You can also watch for wear and tear and repair the damage accordingly because destruction means that the structure will not be well-fortified for your pet. 


When you have a juvenile or a hatchling tortoise, you will find the tortoise table a convenient way to watch over your pet, given how delicate the stage is. The key is to find a great design and size that will fit your tortoise and serve you for a long time. You may also need additional fittings like lights, heaters, thermometers, hiding places, and decorations. You should also consider placing it near a socket for your electric fixtures and ensure that you maintain proper care and maintenance for your pet’s health.

Harvey Wells

I am an intense cool pets lover. I have tortoises, tarantulas and a few other exotic pets. And I would love to share what I have learned.

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