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Can A Tortoise Be Overweight?

Last Updated on October 9, 2023 by Samantha Harris

Weight gain or obesity occurs when a tortoise is fed too much food too frequently. It can also happen when the tortoise is inactive and doesn’t burn enough calories relative to its food consumption.

This often happens over a protracted period, so owners fail to notice the changes. As the shell covers the body, it isn’t easy to determine when a tortoise is getting fat.

Tortoises store excess weight outside their shells, particularly on the base of their limbs, neck, tail, and under their eyes. The fat will become visible as the tortoise attempts to retreat into its shell.

Becoming obese causes health issues, including hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, and kidney issues. Weigh your tortoise regularly to ensure it stays in a healthy weight range.

Can A Tortoise Get Obese?

As mentioned, weight gain in tortoises isn’t always detected until obesity. Instead of fat deposits accumulating around the tortoise, the shell disguises its growth.

An overweight tortoise will have rolls of fat rolls in the soft areas where the tortoise emerges from its shell, including the following:

  • Armpits.
  • Groin.
  • Legs.
  • Neck.
  • Under the eyes.

The shell prevents fat from being stored around the hips and belly. A fat tortoise will likely have thicker limbs, a chunky tail, and a more rounded face and neck.

am I overfeeding my tortoise?

Is Obesity Bad for Tortoises?

Excess weight isn’t just a matter of aesthetics for a tortoise, as becoming obese strains the body. The joints and vital organs will suffer, and stress will wear down the tortoise’s immune system.

An obese tortoise will experience joint pain, struggling to walk effectively and comfortably. This can eventually lead to a tortoise becoming less active, further exacerbating weight issues.

Also, overgrown fat deposits can prevent tortoises from fully retreating into their shell. Being unable to retract into its shell can leave a tortoise feeling stressed and afraid.

A tortoise that grows obese can develop a malformed carapace. Where the tortoise grows faster than its shell can keep up, it can become warped.

The Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine stated that Carapacial Scute Pyramiding (CSP) is common in captive-raised tortoises. This is where the individual scutes grow out of scale with the body, forming pyramids.

Unfortunately, a malformed shell can’t be reversed, only prevented from worsening.

So, obesity reduces a tortoise’s lifespan due to the strain it places on internal organs. As noted in the Annals of Animal Science, pet tortoises need to be monitored for changes to their body condition.

How Much Should My Tortoise Weigh?

The ideal weight of a tortoise is species-dependent, but females are usually heavier than males.

The females of smaller species weigh twice as much as the males. In larger species, females can weigh up to three times as much as males.

So, expect male tortoises to weigh in at the lower end of the weight spectrum.

Here’s the weight range of some of the most popular pet tortoises:

Tortoise SpeciesAdult Weight
Egyptian0.2 to 0.8 lb.
Russian3 lb.
Greek2 to 3 lb.
Hermann7 to 9 lb.
Marginated5 lb.
Red Footed20  to 30 lb.
Yellow Footed25 to 35 lb.
Indian Star2.2 to 14 lb.
Leopard29 to 40 lb.
Sulcata79 to 110 lb.

How To Weigh A Tortoise

Here are methods for weighing a tortoise, depending on its size:

Small Species

  • Use a digital scale and weigh the tortoise directly.

Average-Sized Tortoises

  1. Use a plant pot if your tortoise can’t fit on the scale.
  2. Put the plant pot on the scale with the bottom facing upward.
  3. Reset the weight to include the plant pot.
  4. Position the tortoise securely so that it doesn’t fall.

Large Tortoises

  • For really big tortoises, use a bathroom scale.
  • Alternatively, weigh yourself while carrying the tortoise and subtract your weight.

Other Pointers

Keep these tips in mind when weighing your tortoise:

  • Always weigh tortoises at the same time.
  • Pooping, eating, and drinking can change the weight of tortoises, especially smaller species.

Only place your tortoise on a scale that can accommodate its entire body.

How Much Should I Feed My Tortoise?

How much to feed a tortoise is species-specific, making it difficult to define a rule to follow. You must also consider the tortoise’s age, as juvenile tortoises need more food to fuel their growth and development.

You can measure food portions using the tortoise’s head as a guide. With most tortoises, the head is roughly the same size as the stomach.

A standard schedule for feeding tortoises is 5 days of feeding and 2 starve days. Starve days allow the tortoise’s digestive system to catch up, preventing issues with constipation.

how do I know if my tortoise is overweight?

Preventing Obesity In Tortoises

The most effective way to keep your tortoise at a healthy weight is by providing it with a balanced diet and keeping it active.

Tortoises can become overweight when their enclosure isn’t large or interesting enough.

Wild tortoises spend their days foraging for food. They’ll explore and dig, which keeps them active and engaged. Captive tortoises enjoy this activity, spending hours exploring their enclosures.

Tortoises kept in small, boring enclosures will be less inclined to explore. The limited physical activity and abundance of food mean that tortoises won’t burn enough calories.

Novice owners occasionally believe that tortoises are sedentary animals that spend their days sitting idly. In truth, tortoises are quite active animals.

Your tortoise will need a large enclosure full of enriching items, including ramps for climbing and a substrate where it can burrow. Also, add some toys and artificial plants for added color and interest.

Tortoises need a balanced diet and active lifestyle to avoid becoming overweight. Obesity in tortoises has various health complications to the heart, liver, kidneys, and immune system.

Unfortunately, this leads to a shortened lifespan. Being overweight limits a tortoise’s ability to move and can prevent it from fully retreating into its shell. Also, the shell can become permanently deformed.

Providing a tortoise with a large enclosure and an enriching environment helps it remain active. Also, a balanced, moderated diet will prevent it from becoming overweight.