Home » Is My Tortoise Growing Too Fast? [Normal vs. Rapid Growth]
how quickly does a tortoise grow?

Is My Tortoise Growing Too Fast? [Normal vs. Rapid Growth]

Watching a baby tortoise grow from the size of an egg to the size of your palm in a few months can make anyone proud. However, you may become alarmed by the rate your tortoise is growing.

Tortoises can grow too quickly if they’re fed too much food. How much a tortoise should grow in a certain amount of time is diet, genetics, and species-specific.

Pyramiding, obesity, renal disease, and other health problems can arise if the tortoise grows too fast.

These early warning signs indicate that a tortoise is growing too rapidly, enabling you to avoid the more common ailments that come from fast growth in tortoises.

Frequently measuring and restricting food can help when controlling tortoise growth rates.

How Quickly Does a Tortoise Grow?

How quickly a tortoise grows depends on its:

  • Environment
  • How much it eats
  • Species
  • Genetics

The most important factor in tortoise growth rates is the amount of food it eats. The more a tortoise eats, the larger it becomes and the faster it grows.

According to Herpetologica, juvenile tortoises that skip the first 2 years of brumation experience abnormal growth. Tortoises that spend that time eating grow more than those who spend it hibernating.

Another factor is the environment and the health of a tortoise. Illness, injury, and inadequate living conditions are all things that can delay a tortoise’s growth. Even after being taken out of a bad environment, the stress can cause enough damage to permanently hinder the growth of a tortoise.

Tortoises species grow at different rates, even those from the same clutch. So, even though we know how big a tortoise is supposed to be from the time it hatches until it reaches full size, it’s unknown how long it takes to get there.

Do Tortoises Ever Stop Growing?

Tortoises never really stop growing.

Tortoises are reptiles, and unlike mammals, reptiles can grow indefinitely. Their growth does slow down considerably once they reach sexual maturity, but it never truly stops.

According to The Herpetological Journal, captive tortoises grow much faster than their wild counterparts due to being fed better quality foods in higher quantities.

Because of this, you need to be careful of where you get your information on how much your tortoise will grow. Some studies may have documented the sizes of wild tortoises, which may not reflect the size your tortoise will be.

If you feel like your tortoise is growing too much, too fast, cut back on the amount of food you feed it. Excessive food intake is the defining factor in tortoise overgrowth.

What is the Fastest Growing Tortoise?

The fastest-growing tortoise species is the sulcata tortoise.

Sulcata tortoises aren’t only the most popular pet tortoise to own, and they’re also the third-largest. They do most of their growing during the first 5-10 years of their lives.

Sulcatas are the fastest-growing tortoise species, but it’s difficult to measure their growth rates. There’s so much variation in growth rate between a clutch of tortoises that it’s difficult to know what is too much growth. The most important thing to look out for when a sulcata is growing is shell size and obesity.

A shell that’s too small means that the tortoise has a calcium deficiency. The tortoise may be getting enough nutrients to grow its body, but not enough for its shell.

If the sulcata has excessive fat around its legs and neck, it is overweight and needs to eat less.

do tortoises ever stop growing?

When Do Tortoises Stop Growing?

Once a tortoise reaches sexual maturity, its growth slows down considerably, but it never truly stops growing. That’s why you’ll notice that even an old tortoise will still shed some of its skin and shell.

There comes a point in a tortoise’s life where the growth is so slow and unnoticeable, you could technically say it has reached its full size.

On average, different tortoise species will reach their full size within this timeframe:

Tortoise SpeciesReaches Full Size
Russian Tortoise20-30 years old
Egyptian Tortoise7-10 years old
Hermann’s Tortoise10 years old
Greek Tortoise2-30 years old
Sulcata Tortoise15-20 years old
Marginated Tortoise20 years old
Leopard Tortoises10-15 years old
Indian Star Tortoise10-15 years old

A tortoise’s growth fluctuates at certain points of its life. If you feel like your tortoise is growing at a rate that isn’t considered normal, take it to a herp vet. If the vet says that all is fine, you don’t have to worry.

Given how much growth variation there is among tortoises, a sudden growth spurt is expected. You should only worry if your tortoise has stopped growing before it is supposed to reach sexual maturity.

Do Male Tortoises Grow Faster Than Female Tortoises?

How fast a tortoise grows has little to do with its gender.

Tortoises grow depending on several features, such as:

  • Quality of food
  • Food intake
  • Humidity levels
  • Environment conditions
  • Genetics
  • Overall health

When owning more than one tortoise, many believe that the male grows the fastest. However, it’s difficult to know if a tortoise is male or female while they are still growing juveniles.

Once they have reaches sexual maturity, male and female tortoises will grow at a slower rate. You’ll be able to tell the sex based on other characteristics.

It was once believed that tortoises needed to be kept in arid environments. The lack of humidity severely stunted tortoise growth.

Now that we know that they need to be kept in tanks with the proper humidity levels, we see tortoises grow differently from what owners and breeders previously thought.

Do Male Tortoises Grow Bigger Than Female Tortoises?

Whether male tortoises grow faster than female tortoises depend on the species. Most male tortoises will grow bigger than females, but in certain species, the female grows bigger, such as:

  • Hermann’s tortoises
  • Russian tortoises
  • Leopard tortoises

Size alone is not a good indicator of a tortoise’s sex. The length of the shell, genitals, and shape of the plastron should also be considered.

Is It Bad If My Tortoise Grows Too Fast?

Rapid growth can negatively affect a tortoise. According to Zoo Biology, excessive growth is linked to health problems such as:

The best way to stop a tortoise from growing too much too quickly is to feed it less. It’s not normal for an adult tortoise to eat large quantities of food every day.

Juvenile tortoises should be fed daily, but they should only be fed 5 days a week once they’re old enough. It’s normal and healthy for a tortoise to have 2 starve days per week.