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can a tortoise live in a greenhouse?

Can You Keep A Tortoise in A Greenhouse?

Last Updated on October 6, 2023 by Samantha Harris

Greenhouses offer protection from the elements, retaining heat and allowing sunlight to enter. Tortoises need warmth, humidity, UV-b rays, and protection from external threats.

Tortoises will enjoy exploring the extra space and benefit from the protection they get from snow, ice, rain, and wind. They’ll also thrive due to the natural sunlight without exposure to predatory animals.

While keeping a tortoise in a greenhouse has advantages, it carries risks. Not all greenhouses are suitable places for animals, especially during the summer and winter weather extremes.

Tortoises can enter an early brumation and become ill if the greenhouse gets too cold. Conversely, if the greenhouse gets too hot, it can lead to dehydration, heatstroke, and death.

Can A Tortoise Live in A Greenhouse?

A modern greenhouse’s humidity level and controlled temperature settings will keep tortoises warm and healthy, even during cold outdoor temperatures.

Even smaller greenhouses have sufficient airflow to prevent tortoises from getting respiratory infections. A greenhouse can make an ideal home, especially if it’s humidity and temperature-controlled.

If you want the tortoise to live outside, a contemporary greenhouse will shield it from the elements.

Older greenhouses may not have temperature controls and could be damaged somehow. If there’s wear and tear, the temperature could plummet, and predatory animals could enter.

Benefits of A Greenhouse To Tortoises

Keeping a tortoise in a greenhouse is ideal for its health and activity levels.

Here are some of the advantages:

Safe Habitat

A greenhouse will be constructed from robust materials that can handle strong winds and are insulated from the cold and rain. It’ll keep out predators and limit the number of harmful bugs.

You can keep tortoise-safe plants inside the greenhouse, so there’ll be no risk of poisonous plants and weeds being consumed by a foraging tortoise.

Adult tortoises require less care outdoors, but baby tortoises can get lost or picked up by predatory birds when unsupervised. If you’re concerned, a greenhouse offers more safety.

All-Weather Playground

Tortoises like to explore, climb, and burrow. So, keeping a tortoise indoors or in a heated vivarium during the winter may inhibit exercise and play, resulting in a bored and depressed tortoise.

A greenhouse accommodates foraging and exploration, as you can grow tortoise-friendly plants and create hills that the tortoise can visit and investigate.

A modern greenhouse provides a temperate environment, regardless of the weather forecast.

Sun Exposure

A greenhouse can allow more sunlight to reach a tortoise than a standard enclosure. If you keep the tortoise inside, windows can limit the UV rays that it receives.

A greenhouse is designed to give plant life optimal exposure to natural sunlight, but a tortoise can also benefit. Also, they allow you to control how warm the interior gets by using fogging systems.

The tortoise will still need a shaded area to retreat and a clean water supply.

Affordable Heating Costs

A greenhouse reduces the power needed to keep a tortoise warm during the winter. If you insulate the greenhouse properly, it can reach higher temperatures with minimal sunlight.

You can also increase the warmth of the greenhouse by adding thermal mass. This includes anything that can absorb heat, such as black plastic water containers.

The water will absorb the heat if you place it in areas that receive direct sunlight during the day. The dark containers keep the heat inside and release it at night or whenever the temperature drops.

can tortoises live outside all year round?

Can Greenhouses Be Harmful To Tortoises?

You’ll need to safeguard against various problems to ensure a greenhouse remains healthy for a tortoise. Here are some of the disadvantages:

Excessive Heat

Greenhouses are designed to conduct heat, which means the internal temperature can reach deadly ranges if tortoises are exposed to scorching sunlight during a hot summer day.

Excessive heat can be fatal if the tortoise has nowhere to hide away and cool down. This can lead to potentially life-threatening conditions, such as heatstroke and dehydration.

Depending on the species, too warm for a tortoise is usually above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and the temperature can easily exceed that upper level in a greenhouse setting.

To prevent this, monitor the greenhouse’s temperature. You can reduce the temperature by airing it out, using misters, or letting the tortoise stay in a cooler enclosure during the height of summer.

Overly Cold

Temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit are too cold for tortoises.

They won’t initially be harmed at this level but may start to brumate. If the tortoise is sent into brumation suddenly, it’ll be ill-prepared for this extended period of inactivity.

Many tortoise species don’t brumate, such as leopard and Indian stars, which is a problem in and of itself.

Also, tortoises shouldn’t eat food 2-4 weeks before brumation. Cold weather slows tortoises’ metabolism and digestive processes, meaning undigested food will rot in its stomach.

For this reason, avoid letting your greenhouse reach a sustained low temperature. The tortoise may become lethargic or brumate too early, making it susceptible to illness and disease.

Tortoises are cold-blooded (ectothermic) animals, so they can’t generate warmth or regulate their temperature internally. Thermoregulation in tortoises requires them to move in and out of the sun’s glare throughout the day, which means their temperature will fall during cold nights.

Insulating the greenhouse to retain warmth is highly recommended. You can also use a heat lamp to create a thermal gradient so the tortoise has somewhere to go when it feels cold.

Unsuitable Greenhouse Materials

Some greenhouses, especially those made from polycarbonate plastic, can block UV-b rays from reaching the greenhouse’s floor. UV-B rays are vital to a tortoise’s health, stimulating Vitamin D3 synthesis.

According to Berl Munch Tierarztl Wochenschr., Vitamin D3 is vital for calcium absorption. It promotes the development of stronger shells and skeletons, preventing metabolic bone disease (MBD).

Tortoises have lived and survived in the wild for millennia without any problems. However, pet tortoises will find it hard to survive outdoors in a greenhouse without a thermal gradient.

To be safe, keep the tortoise in its standard enclosure when the weather is especially hot.

Also, tortoises can be escape artists, so ensure the greenhouse is well-maintained with no means of escape. Tracking them down isn’t always easy once tortoises get out of their enclosure.