Curious tortoises need ample space to move around to explore. So, a tortoise’s enclosure size should be at least 3 times the length of its shell and 4 times its width.
Large species, like Sulcata tortoises (10 x 10 feet), desert tortoises (6 x 3 feet), red-foot tortoises (8 x 4 feet), and leopard tortoises (10 x 8 feet), need additional room.
Plants, decor, and enrichment activities will likely necessitate a larger enclosure. Room for heat lamps, wooden ramps, small rocks, and burrowing is essential.
Baby tortoises need less space but always get a tortoise table that accommodates their growth.
How Much Room Do Tortoises Need?
Although tortoises are laid-back animals that move slowly around their enclosures, they still need ample space to explore. Without enough room, they become stressed, depressed, and unhealthy.
To ensure your tortoise has enough room, consider these factors:
Size of The Tortoise
Always consider how big a tortoise species will grow.
Most tortoises grow steadily, giving you time to adjust. However, you need to prepare for the final adult size by getting an enclosure that can accommodate its growth.
For example, while a desert tortoise takes over a decade to reach its maximum size, a leopard tortoise grows quickly at 4 inches every 12 months.
Number of Tortoises
Consider how many tortoises you’ll add to the enclosure, as the territory must be divided. If you own several torts, starting with a much bigger enclosure is recommended.
Double the enclosure size for each animal you add, giving tortoises room to dig their burrows. Tortoises like to explore, especially males, which will become territorial in crowded conditions.
Some tortoise species need to brumate (the reptile equivalent of hibernation). To do so healthily, they need ample room to burrow where they can nestle in and rest for 8-12 weeks.
A tortoise shouldn’t eat in the weeks leading to brumation, as the food will turn rotten in their digestive system. Then, a tortoise can be hibernated in a fridge or other temperature-controlled location.
Burrowing and Digging Habits
According to Herpetologica, all tortoises are well-adapted to burrowing. Tortoises burrow to regulate their body temperature and hide from perceived threats.
Without enough space to burrow, tortoises will grow stressed.
How Big Does A Tortoise Enclosure Need to Be?
There’s no such thing as an enclosure being too large, as wild tortoises explore vast expanses of land.
The more space a tortoise has to move around, eat, bathe, explore, relax, and sleep, the better this will be for its health and well-being.
However, problems arise when an enclosure is too small for a tortoise. Keeping a fully-grown adult in a small enclosure is considered cruel, even if it’s a small tortoise species.
A tortoise’s indoor enclosure or tortoise table should be large enough for the following:
Lighting And Heating Fixtures
Pet tortoises need warmth, humidity, and UV lighting in their enclosures to regulate their temperature (as they’re ectotherms) and keep their skin, shells, and skeletons healthy.
While keeping a tortoise table in a room with an optimal ambient temperature is health-critical, it’s not easy to achieve in an air-conditioned environment without adding a heat source.
The nighttime temperature can be maintained at around 90-95 degrees by putting a heat lamp at the basking end. At the same time, the cool end can be kept at 70-75 degrees.
Add a thermometer and a hygrometer to the enclosure to verify everything is correct.
An enclosure needs a clean water source, so add a water bowl to accommodate the tortoise for a long soak. The bowl must be shallow enough to get in and out easily, as tortoises are poor swimmers.
If you have hatchlings, ensure that the water isn’t deep. Most experts recommend setting the water level where the shell’s plastron meets the carapace.
The substrate must mimic the earth that tortoises move through in the wild. Depending on the species and preferences, this can range from peat moss to coconut coir to topsoil.
A good substrate retains humidity, which is essential for skin and shell health.
While decorations are optional, they add aesthetic appeal to the enclosure, are a source of enrichment, and provide additional areas for tortoises to hide.
Tortoise Enclosure Space Requirements by Species
Decorations, substrate, and adult size influence how big a tortoise’s enclosure must be.
Here are the average space requirements for tortoises:
|Tortoise Breed||Space Requirements|
|At least 4ft by 3ft Sides: At least 12 inches high.|
|At least 4ft by 2ft Sides: At least 18 inches high.|
|At least 10ft by 10ft Sides: At least 24 inches high.|
|At least 6ft by 3ft Sides: At least 18 inches high.|
|At least 4ft by 3ft Sides: At least 12 inches high.|
Red Foot Tortoise:
|At least 8ft by 4ft Sides: At least 12 inches high.|
|At least 10ft by 8ft Sides: At least 18 inches high.|
How Much Space Does a Russian Tortoise Need?
An adult Russian tortoise is around 6-8 inches, so it needs an indoor enclosure of at least 4 x 3 feet.
How Much Space Does a Hermann Tortoise Need?
Hermann tortoises are a small species that reaches 5-8 inches long.
However, they also like to dig, explore, and forage. That’s why they need an enclosure measuring at least 4 x 2 feet and standing 18 inches high.
How Much Space Does a Sulcata Tortoise Need?
Sulcatas are large, slow-moving tortoises that grow up to 2-3 feet and have 18-inch-long shells. As these tortoises are so big, you’ll need an enclosure measuring at least 10 x 10 feet with 24-inch sides.
How Much Space Does a Desert Tortoise Need?
Desert tortoises can grow 4-6 inches in height and measure up to 15 inches. They like to dig and can burrow 3-6 feet into the ground, so they need an enclosure at least 6 x 3 feet and 18 inches high.
How Much Space Does a Horsefield Tortoise Need?
Horsefield tortoises grow to 5-10 inches. If you bring a horsefield tortoise home, provide an enclosure that measures at least 4 x 3 feet and is 12 inches high.
How Much Space Does a Red Foot Tortoise Need?
Red foot tortoises are medium-sized, measuring 11-13 inches in length.
They aren’t keen on digging or burrowing, so they don’t need deep enclosures. A habitat that measures at least 8 x 4 feet and is 12 inches high is suitable for an adult red foot.
How Much Space Does a Leopard Tortoise Need?
The leopard tortoise is the 4th largest tortoise species. An average adult measures 16 inches in length. Leopard tortoises aren’t keen on digging, except when preparing a nest for egg-laying.
Leopard tortoises need an enclosure that measures at least 10 x 8 feet and is 18 inches high.
How Much Space Does a Baby Tortoise Need?
Get an enclosure measuring 8 x 4 feet for a tortoise hatchling of up to 4 inches. Up to 10 hatchlings can be housed comfortably in an enclosure of this size.