Home » What Tortoises Stay Small Forever? [6 Tortoises That Don’t Grow Big]
what is the smallest pet tortoise breed?

What Tortoises Stay Small Forever? [6 Tortoises That Don’t Grow Big]

Small tortoises are adorable and easy to keep. You won’t need much space for their enclosures, and they don’t eat as much food. A miniature tortoise is a cute pocket pet that never seems to grow up.

The Egyptian tortoise is the tiniest, at about 3-5 inches. That’s followed by the Indian star tortoise, at 5-8 inches, and the Greek tortoise, at 4-9 inches.

Pancake tortoises have flat shells and never grow longer than 6-7 inches, and Russian tortoises and Hermann’s tortoises get to 5-9 inches. Females are usually larger than males.

Are There Miniature Tortoises?

Some miniature tortoises never grow beyond 10 inches, even as adults. Like the Egyptian tortoise, some species will cap out at 5 inches.

If you want your tortoise to remain forever small, these miniature tortoise species are ideal:

Small Tortoise SpeciesSize
Russian (Horsefield) Tortoise5 to 9 inches
Egyptian (Kleinmann’s) Tortoise3 to 5 inches
Hermann’s Tortoise5 to 9 inches
Greek (Spur-Thighed) Tortoise4 to 9 inches
Indian Star Tortoise5 to 8 inches
Pancake Tortoise6 to 7 inches

Are Mini Tortoises Good Pets?

From a practical and aesthetic perspective, you can benefit from a tortoise that’ll:

  • Stay cute forever: A mini tortoise won’t grow beyond its adorable size, no matter how old it gets.
  • Be easy to handle: You won’t struggle to hold a little tortoise, and there’s less risk of dropping it.
  • Small enclosure: Mini tortoises won’t take up much space, even in studio apartments or bedrooms.
  • Eat very little: Tortoises don’t have big appetites, but mini tortoises require even less to eat.

Some negatives could make a larger tortoise a better choice:

  • Less safe for children or pets: Excited children may hurt this tiny pet by accident, and their shells are less resilient against a playful cat or dog.
  • Safest indoors: The smaller the tortoise is, the more vulnerable it will be to weather changes and predators. So, you may need to keep your tiny pet tortoise indoors.
  • Expensive to buy when very small: Common species, like Russian tortoises, may cost a few hundred dollars, while extremely small Egyptian tortoises will cost thousands of dollars.
  • Hard to find: Super mini tortoises are exotic pets, so they may not be available at all pet stores.

What Kind of Tortoises Stay Small?

Tortoises vary in size when they reach adulthood, and they can range from over 6 feet long to a tiny 3 inches in length.

Let’s look at the kinds of tortoises that stay small forever:

Russian Tortoise

The Russian tortoise is commonly known as the Horsefield tortoise. It’s popular for beginners since it bonds quickly and is fun to play with.

Most of all, it’s beloved for its small size. A male Russian tortoise measures 5-6 inches long when fully grown, and a female can grow to 9 inches long.

Russian Tortoise

Russian tortoises require a medium-sized tortoise table (4 x 2 feet). They’re tolerant to different temperatures and survive well in various climates.

Keep the humidity levels balanced between 30%-50%. Excess moisture isn’t good for their skin and shell and could increase the risk of fungal infections and shell rot.

Hermann’s Tortoise

The Hermann’s tortoise is a small Mediterranean species. It comes in two forms, both differing in size and color:

  • Eastern Hermann’s: Found in Albania, Romania, Serbia, and Turkey.
  • Western Hermann’s: Found in Corsica, Italy, and Spain. 

The Eastern Hermann’s will grow to lengths of up to 7 inches for males and 9 inches for females. Meanwhile, the Western Hermann’s can reach a maximum length of 5 inches for males and 6 inches for females.

Hermann’s Tortoise

Eastern Hermann’s tortoises appear flatter and broader than their Western counterparts. They come in various colors, such as yellow, light tan, and muddy brown. On the other hand, Western Hermann’s are more oval and rounded, and their colors range from yellow to golden and orange.

Aside from their color patterns and small stature, Hermann’s tortoises are prized for their docile and playful personalities. This species thrives indoors and outdoors, as long as the enclosure is spacious and well-secured. Ideally, it should measure about 16 x 10 feet to allow enough space to roam freely.

Emulate the Hermann’s natural Mediterranean environment as closely as possible. This involves maintaining a temperature of between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. The enclosure should also have UV lights and a basking area.

Since Hermann’s tortoises are an active species, include items such as:

Greek Tortoise

The Greek tortoise is a tiny species found throughout the Mediterranean region, and it’s commonly referred to as the spur-thighed tortoise due to the signature spurs on either side of its tail. You can instantly recognize a Greek tortoise by its domed shell and color, ranging from golden to black. 

On average, Greek tortoises reach 5-9 inches for females and 4-6 inches for males. Some females have been observed to grow up to 11 inches in length, but this is uncommon.

Greek tortoise

These tortoises are avid explorers. They do best when housed in a spacious outdoor enclosure measuring about 18 square feet. Their basking area should be maintained at 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Like many species, the Greek tortoise is herbivorous. So, it requires a diet of leafy greens, broccoli, and other vegetables. This species can live for 125 years when fed and properly cared for. Unfortunately, according to PLOS One, the population in North-Western Africa is declining rapidly due to natural fires.

Egyptian Tortoise

What is the smallest tortoise you can keep as a pet? Look no further than the Egyptian tortoise. Known as Kleinmann’s tortoise, it’s the world’s smallest tortoise species. Males can reach a length between 3-4 inches, with females growing to up to 5 inches.

This species is critically endangered and rarely found in the wild. Nevertheless, it’s still popular and widely sought after by enthusiasts due to its diminutive size. Because of its critically endangered status, you should get this tortoise only from a licensed and recognized breeder in your country.

Egyptian tortoise

If you get one from a foreign country, ensure that all the shipping records and documentation are valid and up to date. Otherwise, you risk having your tortoise confiscated and possibly serving jail time for wildlife trafficking.

Owing to its small size, you can place an Egyptian tortoise in an enclosure of 4 cubic feet. Just keep in mind that this species has strict requirements when it comes to heating.

You should maintain a temperature of 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. Unlike many species, Egyptian tortoises thrive indoors, where the humidity levels can be artificially controlled. You should maintain 20-30% humidity in the tortoise’s enclosure.

Indian Star Tortoise

The Indian star tortoise is a tiny species, identifiable by the golden star patterns on its shell. It’s found in India and parts of Sri Lanka. It grows to 5-6 inches for males and 7-8 inches for females.

According to Nature Conservation, the Indian star tortoise is still widely traded in parts of Asia. This is illegal since the species is designated critically endangered by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES). Exporting this tortoise is prohibited by law. As such, the only way to get it legally is through purchasing from a trusted and recognized breeder in your country.

Indian star tortoise

The Indian star tortoise is a favorite for beginners due to its adaptability to different climates. This species can thrive in different humidity levels, as it’s characteristic of its native habitat in India. The country experiences monsoons and intermittent dry seasons every year.

Indian star tortoises do well in outdoor enclosures. Just ensure the temperature is maintained between 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit. They can also be housed indoors, with tanks at least 3 square feet to ensure plenty of room.

Pancake Tortoise

The pancake tortoise is a small species native to Sub-Saharan Africa. Its name is based on its naturally flat shell, which contrasts the dome-like shape of most tortoises. A full-grown pancake tortoise measures 6-7 inches, with its tail measuring only 1 inch. It’s also lightweight due to its flat shell, making it more agile.

Pancake tortoises don’t need much space when kept as pets. An enclosure measuring about 4 square feet will comfortably house this species.

pancake tortoise

Pancake tortoises are good climbers by nature, owing to the rocky terrain that they explore in the wild. Their enclosures should have high walls to prevent them from escaping.

Pancake tortoises also have similar heating and lighting requirements to other species. Their enclosure should have a basking area, UV light, a temperature gradient of 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit, and humidity of 60%-70%.

What Is The Smallest Pet Tortoise Breed?

The smallest pet tortoise breed is the Egyptian tortoise (also known as Kleinmann’s tortoise). When fully grown, males can measure 3-4 inches, and females can measure up to 5 inches.

They’re easy to keep and care for, but tortoise enthusiasts love this species due to its curious personality. As mentioned, they are designated as critically endangered.

How Much Does A Small Tortoise Cost?

The cost of a small tortoise can range from as low as $50 to as much as $5,000.

This depends on the following:

  • Species
  • Age of the tortoise
  • Endangered status level
  • Where you get the tortoise

Older tortoises will cost more than hatchings, and exotic species will always be the most expensive. If your tortoise is on the endangered list, its price will skyrocket (if you can even find one legally for sale).

Here are some price estimates:

  • Exotic species like the Indian star tortoise and Egyptian tortoise may cost $1,000-$6,000.
  • Hermann’s tortoises can range from $300-$800.
  • Greek tortoises cost around $200.
  • Pancake tortoises range from $600-$1,500.
  • The least expensive is the common Russian tortoise, at around $100-$200.

When buying a rarer small tortoise species, you may have to obtain certain licenses and pay additional fees.

If you want to keep these breeds, you can still buy tortoises that stay small forever legally from trusted local breeders. However, they’ll cost more than more common species.