A baby tortoise (hatchling) may be the size of your hand now, but it’ll grow bigger. Before it grows, you may need a larger enclosure, but its final size will be based on various factors.
A hatchling’s growth rate depends on its species, food consumption, and living conditions. Even within the same species, growth varies for each tortoise.
Tortoises usually grow until they reach sexual maturity, at which point their growth rate slows.
If you have a hatchling, measure it regularly. Measuring a baby tortoise as it grows will give you an insight into its health and what you could do differently to ensure it reaches its maximum size.
How Long Does It Take for a Baby Tortoise to Grow
Regardless of species, it’s normal for baby tortoises to grow 1 inch or more per year until maturity. Once a tortoise reaches maturity, its rate of growth slows.
There should be a visible change in how big a tortoise is every 6 months. If it looks like a tortoise isn’t growing, modify how you care for them based on your findings.
Baby Tortoise Average Growth Rate
There’s no average growth rate for tortoises due to the number of variables. All species have different rates, and each clutch differs, even among the same species.
All breeders have a different answer to what’s normal for a tortoise in terms of growth. However, each breeder has different ways of caring for tortoises, and that’s partially why.
Also, tortoises go through growth spurts, making it harder to know what’s normal and abnormal.
Weight and size determine when a tortoise reaches sexual maturity. So, instead of basing things on the monthly growth rate, guide yourself by how long it takes for tortoises to mature.
|Tortoise Species||Reaches Maturity||Average Carapace Length||Average Weight|
|Russian Tortoise||10 years||7-10 in||3-4 lb|
|Egyptian Tortoise||5 years||4-8 in||1-2 lb|
|Hermann’s Tortoise||3-7 years||6-8 in||7-9 lb|
|Greek Tortoise||2-5 years||4-6 in||2-4 lb|
|Sulcata Tortoise||5 years||12-18 in||85-110 lb|
|Marginated Tortoise||4-6 years||8-12 in||9-11 lb|
|Leopard Tortoise||12-15 years||14-16 in||25-45 lb|
|Indian Star Tortoise||6-12 years||7-10 in||1-4 lb|
|Horsefield Tortoise||10 years||5-10 in||3-17 ounces|
It’s common for tortoises to go through growth spurts, which means that a baby tortoise could stop growing for 2 years and suddenly catch up in size when it’s supposed to mature.
Why is My Baby Tortoise Not Growing?
Here are factors that can stop a baby tortoise from growing:
Early Injury or Illness
Even if the tortoise looks and acts fine, there could be a problem that stops the tortoise from growing before other symptoms manifest.
Take the tortoise to a herp vet if it’s injured, especially if the wound is on the upper shell (carapace). Shell injuries are serious because tortoises have blood vessels and nerves under their shells.
Even if the surface seems to have healed, the inside of the tortoise’s shell could still be damaged.
If a tortoise is physically healthy, consider its stress levels.
The hormones and chemicals produced by stressed tortoises can inhibit growth. Consider how the tortoise is living and see if there’s anything you can change to make life more comfortable.
If you have two tortoises in the enclosure, the one that has stopped growing could be getting bullied by the other, especially if it’s larger or more dominant.
Although tortoises don’t mark territory, they are territorial animals. So, you may observe behaviors like head bobbing and shell ramming.
This could be because they’re both male tortoises of breeding age or because the male has matured early and is harassing the female tortoise and stressing her out.
Stress can be caused by being in a new environment. If you have moved the tortoise to a different enclosure, it may have stopped growing.
Once a tortoise adjusts to its new home, it should start growing again.
Some tortoises are born smaller than others, even from the same clutch of eggs.
Just like human genetics determine our height, hair color, and immune system, tortoise genetics can determine how fast a tortoise grows.
If you’re caring for several tortoises from the same clutch and only one seems to be growing slowly, it’s likely due to genetics.
Barring illness or injury, the growth of the other tortoises indicates that you provide them with the right environment. Anything that prevents one tortoise from growing is likely out of your control.
Tortoises don’t always grow steadily and continuously. Even if their diet and environment never change, their growth can stagnate for months until they have a sudden growth spurt.
When handling slow growth periods between growth spurs, measure the tortoise weekly and take pictures to make a quick visual comparison.
As long as the tortoise isn’t losing weight, there’s no problem, even if its growth seems slow. Once a tortoise reaches maturity, ensure it doesn’t go over its species’ average adult weight.
How Can I Make My Tortoise Grow Faster?
As tortoises grow, new keratin layers are added underneath the current layers, resulting in growth rings (pale-colored bands between scutes). If a tortoise isn’t growing, consider these factors:
- Natural sunlight (UV exposure) for basking.
- Space to explore and get exercise.
- More varied diet plan, including leafy greens.
- Protein for muscle development
- Calcium for the bones and shell, like cuttlebone.
Even if it seems like you’re giving a tortoise everything it needs to grow, consider how to improve things. Unlike mammals, you need to do more than provide a reptile with food and a place to live.
Keeping the humidity and temperature inside the enclosure optimized takes constant monitoring, so there may be some minor adjustments to make that you aren’t aware of yet.
According to the Journal of Zoology, temperature is especially important since it is the most likely factor determining size variation among adult tortoises.
How Big Should a Baby Tortoise Enclosure Be?
Usually, a tortoise’s enclosure size should be approximately 10 times its size, even for the smallest tortoises. Most beginner enclosures for multiple tortoises are 20 gallons.
A 20-gallon tank or 4×2-foot tortoise table will suffice if you have one baby tortoise. This may seem like a lot for a single pet tortoise, but it’ll grow in a few years.
There’s no such thing as a tortoise enclosure that’s too big. Some owners believe that baby torts experience difficulty finding a heat source in a large enclosure, but this is unlikely.
Tortoises are natural foragers, so exploring vast expanses of land is good for them, even when they’re young and developing. If you notice that the tortoise is having trouble finding the heat source, this can be remedied with a barrier so that the tortoise stays closer to it.