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tortoise space requirements

How Much Space Does A Pet Tortoise Need? [Size Requirements]

(Last Updated On: January 29, 2023)

While a backyard enclosure isn’t mandatory, tortoises still need lots of space to move around, explore, forage, soak, relax, and sleep.

A tortoise’s enclosure should be at least 3 times the length of its shell and 4 times its width. Large species, such as the 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, basking areas, climbing apparatus, and burrowing is essential.

Baby tortoises need less space but always get a tank that’ll accommodate the tortoise as it grows.

How Much Room Do Tortoises Need?

Although tortoises are laid-back animals that move slowly around their enclosures, they still need space to explore. Without enough room, they can become stressed, aggressive, depressed, and unhealthy.

Tortoises need an enclosure that’s 3 times the length of their shell and 4 times the width. However, various factors can change this formula.

To ensure your tortoise has enough room, consider these factors:

Size of The Tortoise

It would be beneficial if you considered how big your tortoise might 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 be adapted to its growth rate.

For example, a desert tortoise takes over a decade to reach its maximum size, while a leopard tortoise grows rapidly at 4 inches every 12 months.

how big should an indoor tortoise enclosure be?

Number of Tortoises

Tortoises can live alone as they’re not social animals. Also, different species shouldn’t be mixed.

Consider how many tortoises you’ll add to the enclosure, as the territory will need to be divided. If you own several torts, it’s wise to start with a much bigger enclosure.

Double the enclosure size for each animal you add, as this will give each tortoise room to explore and dig its burrows. Tortoises, especially males, can be territorial and fight when crowded.

Brumation Behavior

Some tortoise species need to brumate (hibernate). To do so healthily, they need ample room to burrow where they can nestle in and rest peacefully for 8-12 weeks.

The tank must be large enough for you to control the thermal gradient. Likewise, the bedding material used in the enclosure must balance the conditions.

If you own several tortoises, they’ll each need enough space to brumate at around the same time.

Burrowing and Digging Habits

Tortoises burrow to regulate their body temperature and hide from threats, such as dangerous predators.

According to Herpetologica, all tortoises, such as the desert tortoise, are well-adapted to burrowing.

Smaller tortoises need much less digging and burrowing space than adults.

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 an enclosure measuring 2 x 2 feet is considered cruel, even if it’s a small species.

A tortoise’s indoor enclosure should be large enough for the following:

Lighting and Heating Fixtures

Indoor tortoises need heat lamps and UV light sources in their enclosure.

While keeping the enclosure inside a room with a suitable ambient temperature is recommended, it’s not always possible. Some homes need air conditioning throughout the year or during the summer.

For example, say you can’t keep a tortoise’s enclosure inside a room with a consistent temperature of 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. In that case, you should add a heat lamp.

This can raise the temperature to 78 degrees in the coolest part of the enclosure and 95 degrees in the basking area at the opposite end.

Water Sources

An enclosure needs a clean water source, so get a water bowl deep enough to accommodate the tortoise for a long soak but shallow enough to get in and out of easily.

If you have hatchlings, ensure that the water isn’t deep. Should a hatchling decide to soak, the water level should never be above chin level.

Substrate

The substrate must mimic the earth that tortoises move through in the wild. Depending on the tortoise’s species and preferences, this can range from peat moss to coconut coir to topsoil.

A good substrate retains humidity. According to Functional Surfaces in Biology III, tortoises can absorb moisture from the substrate through their skin, improving hydration levels.

Decorations

While decorations are optional, they add aesthetic appeal to the enclosure, are a source of enrichment, and provide additional areas for a tortoise to hide.

Tortoises can interact with these objects and have fun when the mood takes them. Rocks and plants are the best decorations for tortoise enclosures, making the enclosure look more natural.

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 BreedSpace Requirements

Russian Tortoise:
At least 4ft by 3ft Sides: At least 12 inches high.

Hermann Tortoise:
At least 4ft by 2ft Sides: At least 18 inches high.

Sulcata Tortoise:
At least 10ft by 10ft Sides: At least 24 inches high.

Desert Tortoise:
At least 6ft by 3ft Sides: At least 18 inches high.

Horsefield Tortoise:
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.

Leopard Tortoise:
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.

The enclosure should have sides at least 12 inches high, so the tortoise can’t escape. Anything less would be too small for adult Russian tortoises since they also like to dig.

How Much Space Does a Hermann Tortoise Need?

Hermann tortoises are a small species that grow 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?

Sulcata tortoises are giant, slow-moving tortoises. They can grow up to 2-3 feet long and have 18-inch-long shells.

Because these tortoises are so big, you’ll need an enclosure measuring at least 10 x 10 feet with 24-inch sides to prevent escape.

how much room do tortoises need?

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 one adult red foot.

How Much Space Does a Leopard Tortoise Need?

The leopard tortoise is the 4th largest tortoise species in the world.

An average adult measures 16 inches in length. Leopard tortoises aren’t fond of digging, except when creating 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?

This depends on how many baby tortoises you own.

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.