What Should You Keep a Tortoise In?


What should you keep a tortoise in? Tortoises have many needs. Not only in their diet but temperature and enclosures. 

Most of what you need to know depends on the species you plan to have and how huge the tortoise will become. Remember, tortoises live a long time. They can live 80-150 years. So, how do you keep your tortoise healthy and happy?

The first thing you should think about is if you are going to keep your tortoise indoors or outdoors. This decision may come down to size and temperature. There are numerous options for tortoise enclosures: glass, plastic, wood or tables. 

What Should You Keep a Tortoise In

Exploring The Question: What Should You Keep a Tortoise in?

What should you keep a tortoise in? As we’ve already established it should be an enclosure, which come in a variety of options, including:

  • Glass
  • Plastic
  • Wood
  • Tables

Let’s explore each option along with some pros and cons below: 

Indoor or Outdoor Enclosures

Indoor enclosures are where you have the most choices. You should always choose the enclosure that gives your tortoise enough room to wander. 

Tortoises are known for wanting to roam. You also have to consider how many tortoises you will have before making a decision. 

For undersized tortoises or hatchlings, 2.5 feet long by 1 foot wide should be sufficient for 2 young adults. For medium-sized tortoises, you should consider an enclosure of 4 feet by 2 feet for one. 

If you are going to have 2 adults, then you would need a 6 feet long by 3 feet wide enclosure. If the tortoise is going to be larger than 4 feet long, then an outdoor enclosure would be warranted.

Outdoor enclosures need to be stable and designed in a way that protects your tortoise against potential predators such as: 

  • Dogs
  • Possums
  • Foxes
  • Birds
  • Rats
  • Coyotes

Additionally, some of the worst tortoise predators are fire ants, which are found in certain parts of the country. 

For outdoor enclosures, you want to make them as large as possible for such a giant tortoise. A shallow pool for drinking should be included in the enclosure. There are other considerations we will talk about in this article as well. 

What Type of Enclosure is Best?

As previously stated, glass, plastic, wood or tables are choices available for enclosures. But, what should you keep a tortoise in? 

There are some issues with each enclosure option, but there are many benefits as well. And, there are so many different types of enclosures, which means you shouldn’t have any problem deciding what is best for your pet.

1. Glass Enclosures

Glass enclosures are popular for several reasons. First, owners can observe their tortoise better. Also, glass helps keep in the humidity. 

If you live in a dry place or plan to house the tortoise where air-conditioning is being used, then glass creates a suitable enclosure as it doesn’t absorb water and retains heat.

Cons of Glass Enclosures

There is one problem with glass enclosures. Tortoises don’t understand glass. They can spot an outside area where they want to be, and they will typically try to get through the glass. 

The tortoise may struggle to get out and can hurt themselves by pushing against the glass. 

This is why, if you are going to use glass, you should place tape at least 4-6 inches above the substrate level to keep your tortoise from being confused and stressed.

2. Plastic Enclosures

Plastic creates a wonderful material for enclosures. Most plastic containers aren’t see-through, so this keeps the tortoise from being stressed. 

Additionally, plastic is lightweight, which allows the enclosure to be moved, if necessary. Plastic can hold in heat too. 

One remarkable thing about plastic is it’s cheap. And it can be used for small tortoises or as temporary housing until you have your permanent enclosure built. 

Cons of Plastic Enclosures

The problem with plastic is plastic shapes can’t be configured to your liking. Unfortunately, you’ll simply have to deal with this issue. 

You won’t be able to make it larger or add an addition onto a plastic enclosure.

3. Wood Enclosures

Wood enclosures are suitable for larger tortoises. The best thing about wood is you can modify it any way you want. 

You can build it large or small, but it should be attached to your house. With wood, you can allow slight spaces between the planks to allow sunlight in. 

Be careful though, you don’t want your tortoise to be hurt or get through the planks of wood.

Cons of Wood Enclosures

The unfortunate thing about wood is that it’s prone to warping due to heat and rain, but it’s also susceptible to mold. 

Mold can cause tortoises to become ill. With this in mind, you must treat the wood with something to help keep the wood from warping as well as protect it from mold. 

One thing you’ll want to be sure of is to let the fumes — from the chemicals you may use on the wood — disperse before placing your tortoise in the enclosure.

4. Table Enclosures

Lastly, let’s talk about the enclosure called a “table”. Tables are built out of wood, are typically smaller and are meant for tortoises that are going to be housed inside, at least partially. 

Tables can be constructed with their own legs to keep it off the floor. Some owners buy stands to place the table on instead of legs. 

Still, others will have stands with wheels so that they can easily be moved into another room or outside. 

Cons of Table Enclosures

The problem with tables is that they are constructed out of wood and have the appearance of the outdoor enclosures. 

So the same issues apply. And most tables are inside and don’t allow the tortoise to bask in the sun.

Other issues about enclosures deal with substrates, decorations and hides. So, let’s go over each of them.

Read more: Best Tortoise Enclosures

Other Things to Consider When Creating Your Enclosure

So what is substrate? The substrate is the material on the bottom of the enclosure. It is meant to simulate the ground a tortoise moves on in the wild. 

It can be composed of many materials, but mainly it needs to hold some moisture but not stay too wet. You need to control humidity and prevent mold.

Also, you want your substrate to be something that tortoises can’t easily mistake for food or a treat, so they don’t try to ingest it. Ingestion of some types of substrate can cause impaction in your tortoise which can be life threatening.

The substrate is one of the most vital decisions an owner can select for his tortoise. It needs to be inviting, healthy, and able to maintain moisture. The leading substrates are listed below:

  • Cocopeat: it’s made from coconut husks and not particularly for bedding. And it is difficult for your tortoise to wander on.
  • Organic Topsoil: If you want to go natural, then organic topsoil could be for you. It is an awesome substrate but needs to be free of chemical pesticides and be sterilized
  • Mulch: It is excellent for water retention, especially if mixed with cocopeat. But it’s toxic if eaten by your tortoise.
  • Long fibered Sphagnum Moss: It’s perfect for moisture retention and is a wonderful material for bedding

It is highly recommended you mix two together to get the best substrate for your tortoise. 

Other considerations are organic topsoil and mulch as they are perfect if you decide to plant vegetation in the enclosure.

Decorations are also a splendid idea. Plants and rocks form the enclosure in the likeness of a  natural environment in the wild. 

Just be sure the plants aren’t toxic to tortoises who decide to take a bite. Rocks are acceptable if they are in a place a tortoise can bask on, but beware. You don’t want your tortoise to knock it over and lay on his back for a while.

One material you don’t want to use as a substrate is sand. If sand is ingested by your tortoise, it can become impacted and die as it wreaks havoc on the digestive system.

Another item you want to consider for your tortoise is a hide. A hide is a place that a tortoise can retreat to, and be alone, or covered out of the rain or sun. 

Hides can be constructed out of screening or wood, but you want a limited amount of sunlight to get through. Hides are important so you can have a healthy tortoise. It helps the tortoise to relax and not be stressed.

There are so many issues to consider when deciding what type of enclosure you should use for your tortoise. You may need to investigate several to judge what works best for you and your tortoise.

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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