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Can Two Tortoises Live Together?

(Last Updated On: January 17, 2023)

Many people wonder if tortoises get lonely when kept by themselves. Due to the nature of reptiles, it’s rarely wise to give a tortoise a companion.

Two tortoises can live together, but only if they’re female or have yet to reach maturity.

Two mature male tortoises will fight, and a male will become overly sexually aggressive if there’s only one female available. Male tortoises are happiest when alone or with several females.

Tortoises don’t need affection like other animals, so the tortoise won’t feel lonely.

If you care for two tortoises, informing yourself about the species’ preferences and ensuring that they have enough space is essential to their health and wellness.

Should You Keep Tortoises in Pairs?

Under the right circumstances, tortoises can be kept in pairs.

However, it’s better to have a single tortoise rather than many. Unlike most other animals, tortoises are solitary creatures that only come together to mate. Even female tortoises leave their hatchlings after a short period.

Because they’re not social creatures, your tortoise won’t feel lonely if it’s the only animal in the enclosure. Keeping your tortoise alone can improve its quality of life. Tortoises need to feel like they don’t have to compete for resources to be happy.

Unless you have a very big tank (80+ gallons), you should only have one tortoise per enclosure. A tank may look big, but it may not be enough for multiple tortoises, which evolved to live separately with miles between each other.

Putting two tortoises together without considering their age, species, and sex may lead to stress, injury, and even death of one of your tortoises. If you have to take care of two tortoises, keeping them in separate tanks is best.

keeping male and female tortoises together

Can Two Female Tortoises Live Together?

Two female tortoises are the pair that are most likely to get along.

This doesn’t eliminate the risk of aggressive behavior, but if you care for two tortoises in the same tank, interactions will be calmer between two females.

Two female tortoises can get along because they’ll not have to compete for anything as long as they have enough resources. However, it’s still possible for two female tortoises to fight.

When angry, female tortoises will engage in typical aggressive behavior, such as:

Scientific experts note that aggressive behavior between females is most likely to happen during the mating season in spring or early summer. Besides typical aggressive behavior, females also display avoidant behavior, including the following:

  • Running away when one tortoise approaches
  • Avoiding burrows
  • Retracting head and limbs
  • Avoiding feces left by the other tortoises

Even though this avoidant behavior doesn’t physically harm them, it does stress them out. Stress in tortoises can lead to loss of appetite and illness.

Can Two Male Tortoises Live Together?

Male tortoises shouldn’t be kept together, as they will eventually become aggressive toward each other.

No matter what species they are, how docile they may seem when alone, or whether or not they’re related, male tortoises should be kept apart.

Male tortoises that live together will always compete for space and resources, even if there’s plenty to go around. They fight until the dominant male is established, and the submissive male will be bullied.

Physical aggressiveness stops once a dominant tortoise has been established. However, it’s never a good idea to wait it out with tortoises.

A fight for dominance between two male tortoises can go on for days, with tortoises headbutting and knocking each other on their backs. During this time, your tortoises can hurt each other gravely.

Even after a dominant male has been established, the submissive male will live in fear of the other, and he will have to focus on avoiding his tank mate instead of enjoying his life.

The long-term stress that comes from being in an enclosed space with a bully will decrease the quality of life of the submissive tortoise.

Can You Keep a Male and Female Tortoise Together?

You should avoid keeping a male and female tortoise together long-term; it should only be done briefly if you want them to mate.

A sexually mature male tortoise will mate with the female to the point where it’s detrimental to the female tortoise. If she’s his only choice of mate, copious amounts of mating will ensue, and the female will get injured and may even perish.

In the wild, this kind of damage is avoided because male tortoises have many mating options. Likewise, the females can distance themselves from the males if they’re disinterested in mating. In an enclosed tank or enclosure, the female has nowhere to hide.

When tortoises are small hatchlings, it’s almost impossible to tell what sex they are. This is why it’s important to keep a close eye on them and keep track of their ages so that you know when it’s time to separate them.

If it turns out that one is male and one is female, you need to keep them in different tanks. If you want them to mate, you can place them together for a few days. Once they’ve mated, let the female tortoise build her nest alone.

Different tortoise breeds reach maturity at different ages:

Tortoise TypeReaches Maturity
Russian Tortoise10 years old
Pancake Tortoise5-9 years old
Egyptian Tortoise5-7 years old
Hermann’s Tortoise4-5 years old
Greek Tortoise10 years old
Sulcata Tortoise5 years old
Marginated Tortoise8-14 years old

If you’re getting tortoises that are already a few years old, the breeder or store you purchase them from should be able to tell you if they are male or female.

Can Two Tortoises Be Friends?

Two tortoises can get along under the right circumstance. Ideally, they would have to be two juvenile or two female tortoises.

Although many would say that male tortoises can get along after a dominant male has been established, this isn’t the case. The dominant tortoise will proceed to bully the submissive one.

Two juvenile tortoises will have no trouble living together, but you still need to ensure their environment is adequate. Just because they are not mature does not mean they don’t fight for space.

Even juvenile tortoises show signs of aggression if they feel there isn’t enough space for everyone. Chelonian Conservation and Biology stated that juvenile tortoises display aggressive behaviors if too many are in a burrow.

do tortoises need companionship?

Can Two Different Tortoise Species Live Together?

It’s not advised that you pair different tortoise species together because of differences in aggressiveness and the risk of disease. Different tortoise species have bacteria that won’t harm them but can cause diseases in other species.

It’s also risky to house different species together due to their physical differences. If the two tortoises are different sizes, the smaller one could get injured by the bigger one.

Different species have different shell hardiness. Even if you house two species considered docile, one could accidentally hurt the other because one has a softer shell.

There’s little compatibility between different tortoise species. You may hear that pairing different species works as long as you match their aggression levels, but this works only with careful supervision.

To keep your tortoise happy, you must match their environment to what they’d have in the wild. If two tortoise species don’t naturally interact in the wild, keep them apart.

How To Introduce Two Tortoises

If you’d like to introduce a new tortoise to an existing tortoise, you need to keep them apart for at least 4 to 6 months before they interact to ensure that neither tortoise has a transmissible disease.

Allow them to interact in a new environment for a few minutes a day. Be ready to separate them if they start to fight, and never leave new tortoises alone unsupervised.

After you slowly increase the time they spend together, you can house them together if they haven’t shown signs of aggression after a week.

If you house them in a tank that belonged to one tortoise, rearrange things so that the newer tortoise doesn’t feel like it’s imposing on another’s territory.

Creating a new environment for both pet tortoises allows them to choose their corners fairly. This is the best way to ensure two tortoises can live together, even if they can’t be friends.