While a backyard enclosure isn’t mandatory, tortoises still need lots of space to move around, explore, forage, soak, relax, and sleep.
The size of 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 might necessitate a larger enclosure. Room for heat lamps, basking areas, climbing apparatus, and burrowing are essential.
Baby tortoises need less space but get a tank that’ll accommodate the tortoise as it grows.
How Much Room Do Tortoises Need?
Although tortoises are considered laid-back pets that move slowly around their enclosures, they still need space to explore. Without enough space, they can become depressed, aggressive, and decline in health.
Tortoises need an enclosure that’s 3 times the length of the 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 help if you considered how big your tortoise might grow in the future.
Most tortoises grow steadily, giving you time to adjust. However, you need to prepare for the final adult size of the tortoise by getting an enclosure that can be adapted to its growth rate.
For example, the desert tortoise takes over a decade to reach its maximum size, while the leopard tortoise grows rapidly at 4 inches every 12 months.
Number of Tortoises
Consider how many tortoises you’ll add to this 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 tortoise 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.
Some tortoise species need to brumate (hibernate). To do so healthily, they need ample room to burrow where they can nestle in and sleep 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 into the soil 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 digging and burrowing.
Smaller tortoises need much less digging and burrowing space than adult torts.
How Big Does a Tortoise Enclosure Need to Be?
There’s no such thing as an enclosure being too large. Remember that tortoises explore vast expanses of land in the wild.
The more space your tortoise has to move around, eat, bathe, explore, relax and sleep, the better this will be for its health and well-being.
However, the real problem arises 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 tiny 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 best, it is not always possible. Some homes need air conditioning throughout the year or during summer.
For example, say you can’t keep your pet’s enclosure inside a room that has a consistent temperature between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. In that case, you should add heat lamps.
They 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.
An enclosure needs a clean water source, so get a water bowl that’s deep enough to accommodate your 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.
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.
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, as they’ll make the enclosure look more natural.
Tortoise Enclosure Space Requirements by Species
Decorations, substrate, and adult size influence how big your tortoise enclosure needs to 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 measures around 6-8 inches, so it needs an indoor enclosure that measures at least 4 x 3 feet.
The enclosure should have sides at least 12 inches high, so the tortoise cannot 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 and are known for their mild temperament.
However, they also love 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 Space Does a Desert Tortoise Need?
Desert tortoises can grow 4-6 inches in height and measure up to 15 inches in length.
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.