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How Much Space Does A Pet Tortoise Need?

Last Updated on October 6, 2023 by Samantha Harris

Curious tortoises need lots of space to move around to explore. This means 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 may necessitate a larger enclosure. Ensure there’s room for heat lamps, wooden ramps, small rocks, and burrowing.

Baby tortoises need less space, but get a tortoise table to accommodate them as they grow.

How Much Room Do Tortoises Need?

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

To ensure a tortoise has enough space, consider these factors:

Tortoise Size

Always consider how big a tortoise species will grow.

Most tortoises grow steadily, giving you time to make adjustments. However, you must prepare for their final adult size by getting an enclosure to accommodate growth and development.

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

how big should an indoor tortoise enclosure be?

Number of Tortoises

Tortoises can live alone because they aren’t social animals. Also, different species shouldn’t be mixed. Consider how many tortoises you’ll add to the enclosure because the territory must be divided.

Double the enclosure size for each tortoise, giving them territory and room to burrow. All tortoises like to explore, especially males, which will become more territorial in crowded conditions.

Brumation Behavior

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 rot in the 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 threats.

Without sufficient space to burrow, tortoises will grow stressed.

How Big Does A Tortoise Enclosure Need to Be?

There’s no such thing as a too-large enclosure because wild tortoises explore vast expanses of land. The more space a tortoise has to move around, eat, bathe, explore, relax, and sleep, the better.

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 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 temperature is health-critical, it’s not easy to achieve in an air-conditioned environment without 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.

Water Sources

An enclosure needs clean water, so add a bowl to accommodate the tortoise for a long soak. The bowl must be shallow enough to get in and out easily because tortoises are poor swimmers.

If you have hatchlings, ensure 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 suitable substrate retains humidity, which is essential for the tortoise’s 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.

Tortoises can interact with these objects and have fun. Rocks and plants are the best decorations for tortoise tables, making the space 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 and at least 12 inches high.

Hermann Tortoise:
At least 4ft by 2ft sides and at least 18 inches high.

Sulcata Tortoise:
At least 10ft by 10ft sides and at least 24 inches high.

Desert Tortoise:
At least 6ft by 3ft sides and at least 18 inches high.

Horsefield Tortoise:
At least 4ft by 3ft sides and at least 12 inches high.

Red Foot Tortoise:
At least 8ft by 4ft sides and at least 12 inches high.

Leopard Tortoise:
At least 10ft by 8ft sides and at least 18 inches high.

How Much Space Does a Russian Tortoise Need?

To house a fully grown Russian tortoise, which reaches 6-8 inches in size, an indoor enclosure of at least 4 x 3 feet is needed.

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, measuring 5-8 inches long.

They enjoy digging, exploring, and foraging. Therefore, they require an enclosure that’s at least 4 x 2 feet in size and stands 18 inches high.

How Much Space Does A Sulcata Tortoise Need?

Sulcatas are large, slow-moving tortoises that reach 2-3 feet with shells up to 18 inches long. They’re so big that the enclosure must be at least 10 x 10 feet with 24-inch sides.

how much room do tortoises need?

How Much Space Does A Desert Tortoise Need?

The height of desert tortoises ranges from 4 to 6 inches, with a length of up to 15 inches.

They enjoy digging and can burrow up to 6 feet underground, necessitating an enclosure of at least 6 x 3 feet and 18 inches in height.

How Much Space Does A Horsefield Tortoise Need?

The average size of a Horsefield tortoise is 5-10 inches. For a horsefield tortoise, the enclosure should be a minimum of 4 x 3 feet and 12 inches high.

How Much Space Does A Red Foot Tortoise Need?

The length of red foot tortoises ranges from 11 to 13 inches, making them medium-sized.

Deep enclosures aren’t necessary since red foot tortoises have no interest in digging or burrowing. To ensure the well-being of an adult red foot, provide a habitat of at least 8 x 4 feet and 12 inches high.

How Much Space Does A Leopard Tortoise Need?

The 4th largest species is the leopard tortoise. The average adult measures 16 inches in length. Leopard tortoises aren’t enthusiastic about digging, but they will do so to create a nest for laying eggs.

An enclosure measuring 10 x 8 feet and 18 inches tall is necessary to house leopard tortoises.

How Much Space Does A Baby Tortoise Need?

For a tortoise hatchling up to 4 inches, get an 8 x 4 feet enclosure. Up to 10 hatchlings can be comfortably housed in this space.