A baby tortoise may be the size of your hand now, but it’ll grow bigger with time.
Before it grows, you may have to get a larger enclosure, but the final size of a tortoise will be based on several factors.
A baby tortoise’s growth rate depends on its species, food consumption, and living environment.
Even within the same species, growth rates vary for each tortoise. Tortoises usually grow until they reach sexual maturity, at which point their growth rate slows down considerably.
If you have a baby tortoise, 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 that it reaches its full 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 growth rate will slow.
There should be a visible change in how big a tortoise is every 6 months. If it looks like a tortoise isn’t growing, change how you care for them.
Baby Tortoise Average Growth Rate
There’s no average growth rate for tortoises because there are too many variables. All species have different growth rates, and even among the same species, there will be differences between each clutch.
All breeders have a different answer to what is 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.
Weight and size determine when a tortoise reaches sexual maturity. So, instead of going on the growth rate per month, guide yourself by how long it takes for tortoises to mature.
|Tortoise Species||Reaches Maturity||Average Carapace Length Upon Maturity||Average Weight Upon Maturity|
|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 to the rest of the clutch in size when it’s supposed to mature.
This makes it difficult to determine what’s normal and abnormal as the baby tortoise grows.
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 show themselves.
Take your tortoise to the vet if it is injured, especially if the wound is on the 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. Take a look at how your tortoise is living and see if there’s anything you can change to make things 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.
This could be because they’re both male tortoises and one is territorial, or it could be that the male tortoise has matured early and is now harassing the female tortoise and stressing her out.
Stress can be caused by being in a new environment. If you have moved your tortoise to a different enclosure, it may have stopped growing.
Once your tortoise adjusts to the new environment, it should start growing again.
Some tortoises are born smaller than others, even from the same clutch.
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 of them 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 a good environment, so anything that prevents the one tortoise from growing is out of your control.
Tortoises don’t always grow steadily and continuously.
Even if their diet and environment never change, their growth can still stagnate for months until going through a sudden growth spurt.
When handling slow growth periods between growth spurs, measure your tortoise weekly and take pictures to make a quick visual comparison.
As long as your 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?
If you feel like your tortoise isn’t growing because something is wrong, focus on ensuring that the tortoise has what it needs, including:
- Healthy diet
- UV exposure
- Sufficient space
- Annual vet visits
- Humidity and temperature optimization
Even if you feel like you’re giving a tortoise everything it needs to grow, you should still look toward how to make things better. Taking care of a tortoise adequately is difficult because they’re reptiles.
Unlike mammals, you need to do more than provide your tortoise with food and a place to live. Keeping the humidity and temperature inside the enclosure stable takes constant monitoring, so there may be some adjustments you need to make that you aren’t aware of yet.
According to the Journal of Zoology, the temperature is especially important since it is the most likely factor determining size variation among adult tortoises.
Because tortoises are exotic animals that haven’t been in the pet trade as long as other animals, there’s still a lot to learn about what they need.
How Big Should a Baby Tortoise Enclosure Be?
Typically, the size of a tortoise enclosure should be 10 times the tortoise’s size. Most beginner enclosures for multiple baby tortoises are 20 gallons.
A 20-gallon tank or 4×2 foot enclosure will suffice if you have one baby tortoise. This may seem like a lot for a single pet, but your tortoise will grow in a few years, so starting with a 20-gallon tank or a 4×2 foot enclosure is acceptable.
There’s no such thing as too big for a tortoise enclosure. Some say that baby tortoises have trouble finding the heat source in a big enclosure, but this is unlikely.
Tortoises are natural foragers, so exploring big spaces is good for them, even when they’re young. If you notice that your tortoise is having trouble finding the heat source, this can be remedied with a barrier so that the tortoise stays close to it.