Tortoises make fantastic pets due to their calm temperament, which is why they are kept as pets in more than 350,000 households in the US alone. They don’t make noise or break things or occupy a large space like other animals. Though many don’t know which species make the best indoor tortoises for pets.
Tortoises are very low maintenance and with basic care, they can live for a pretty long time. But choosing a pet tortoise is not easy, they come in different subspecies and have unusual looks and behavioural patterns that can influence one’s choice.
To make it easier for you to choose an indoor tortoise, we have compiled a list of terrapins that are easier to care for along with the information of essential things that are needed to help them lead a long and healthy life.
Best Indoor Tortoises
This is the most popular species of tortoise that is found in the Mediterranean and the Middle Eastern region. Their iconic domed shell with black colored pattern makes it easy to identify them among other tortoises. You can buy one for $200 from your local pet store.
They are alternatively known as the ‘Mediterranean Spur-Thighed Tortoise’ as they have ‘spurs’ on both sides of its tail. Greek tortoises can grow to a length of 10 inches and have a lifespan of 50 years.
The tortoise of this species loves to spend most of their day soaking up the sun and hence require spacious enclosures. If you are planning to get one for your home, you will need an enclosure that is more than 18 square feet or more.
Greek Tortoises are terrestrial in nature and are unable to climb the walls of the enclosure due to their heavy bodyweight. To keep them indoors you need to create an environment in their terrarium with the heat at 75 degrees -90 degrees Fahrenheit, a UVB light, a hot basking area, and 40%-60% humidity.
These tortoises are herbivorous, and you can feed them leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, and other vegetables. If you take care of the basic things, you will not have any problem keeping them as pets.
- Price: $200
- Size: 10 inches long (many tortoises stop growing at 5 inches)
- Lifespan: 125+ years
The Russian Tortoise:
These tortoises are a perfect option for beginners. They are affordable, small in size, and look incredible. Russian Tortoises bond with humans very quickly and are easy to care for. Their lifespan is more than 40 years, and they prefer living in warm temperatures.
However, you can keep them indoors too. All you need to do is modify the terrarium according to their physical needs. To live a healthy life, these tortoises need room temperature heat, a hot basking area, UVB light, and 30%-50% humidity.
Russian tortoises are resilient and excellent adaptors. They can adapt to different temperatures with ease. It is one of the basic qualities that make them an excellent option for beginners.
You will need an 8 square feet enclosure to keep them safe. These tortoises are excellent burrowers and often try to dig at the corners of their enclosures. When the temperature shifts to too hot or cold, they dig holes to go underground and hibernate. Hence, it is essential to keep a note of the temperature in their enclosure.
In terms of size, they are similar to most tortoise species, and they can reach a length of 8-10 inches. You can buy a Russian Tortoise for $80-$200 but always keep in mind that they don’t like to be handled.
- Price: $80-$200
- Size: 8-10 inches in length
- Lifespan: 40+ years
Indian Star Tortoise
These tortoises are very beautiful and are loved by tortoise owners for the star-like pattern on their shells. It also accentuates their name. They are found in the regions of India and Sri Lanka. Importing these tortoises has become illegal these days, as their numbers have reduced significantly in their native habitat.
Even though they make great companions for beginners, the cost of exporting them can be mind-blowing. It can cost you a whopping $500-$4000 to import an Indian Star Tortoise. If you are still keen on buying them, we recommend you to buy them from a trusted, captive breeder.
Indian Star Tortoises are the same size as Greek Tortoises, and they can grow up to 12 inches. Their ability to adapt to the different humidity levels make them an ideal option for beginners.
This commendable ability to survive in different humidity levels comes from the diverse Indian weather that consists of both monsoons and dry periods every year.
You need to keep them in a 36-square foot enclosure to make sure that they have enough space for movement. They are very social with the tortoise of the same species, which means you can have more than one.
- Price: $500-$4,000
- Size: 12 inches long
- Lifespan: 35 years
Sulcata tortoises are revered around the world for many reasons. However, one of the most common reasons that people pick or avoid sulcata tortoises is their size. They are among the few terrapins that can grow up to astounding sizes.
Owing to their massive stature, sulcata tortoises are mostly kept outdoors, but if you are planning on housing them indoors, you need to make certain arrangements beforehand. They need an enclosure that is around 80 square feet and a substrate that they can burrow and dig into.
These giant terrapins can reach a height of 30 inches in length and gain 100 pounds when raised in good health conditions. Even though they are large, they can be housed indoors only if you have extensive experience in housing tortoises. But they should not be handled frequently.
Just like Russian Tortoises, Sulcatas also like burrowing and digging. Their diet mainly consists of grass, lettuce, and leaves. When raised in the right conditions, Sulcatas can live for 50 years. Their intelligence and docile behavior make them great pets.
If you have made up your mind to buy a Sulcata Tortoise, we recommend you to buy them good captive-bred terrapins. A healthy Sulcata Tortoise can cost you around $50-$200 based on age and size.
Size: 30 inches in length
Lifespan: 50 years
These are huge tortoises with massive shells that are covered in beautiful designs. They are usually found in the Mediterranean Basin, and the smallest Hermann’s tortoise can measure are around 8 inches in length.
Hermann’s tortoises are known for their single, horn-like claw that is found on the tips of their tails. They usually prefer an outdoor warm environment but even when indoors they should have at least 16 square feet of space.
To live healthily indoors, they need to have an enclosure that has a temperature of 70 degrees-80 degrees Fahrenheit, UVB light, and a basking spot. Due to their highly active nature, you will need enclosures that have very high walls as they tend to climb them.
You can add hideouts, large rocks, nontoxic plants, and decorations to its enclosure to encourage them to be active and prevent boredom. You can scatter food around the enclosure too.
Hermann’s Tortoises are docile and gentle which makes them excellent pets for beginners. Just like every other tortoise breed, they enjoy leafy greens like kale and dandelions. They also eat fruits occasionally.
These tortoises are known to live for more than 75 years and can cost you anywhere between $200-$800 depending on their age.
- Price: $200-$800
- Size: 8 inches in length
- Lifespan: 75+ years
There are many things about this tortoise that people find interesting and make them wish to get their hands on it. This was the first species of tortoises that were native to the South American and Caribbean Islands.
As the name suggests they have red legs but some of them have red tails and heads too. This has also earned them the name ‘Cherry head’. These tortoises are medium-sized in the terrapin species, and they can grow to a maximum of 14 inches long.
The Red-Footed Tortoise comes at an affordable price and has a curious nature that makes them perfect for beginners. In order to house a Red-Footed Tortoise, you need to provide them with a cumulative space of 50 square feet.
Apart from the area, they need a specific temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit all year round. They need UVB light for vitamins and calcium metabolism, while the humidity levels in the enclosure should be around 70% to 80%.
The Red-Footed tortoise has a peculiar diet that makes them stand out among other tortoises. It consists of leafy greens and fruits, but they enjoy insects or small mice.
These terrapins can live for more than 50 years and can cost you around $150-$400 based on their age.
- Price: $150-$400
- Size: 14 inches long
- Lifespan: 50 years
If small and medium-sized tortoises don’t impress you, a Leopard tortoise can be an ideal option. These tortoises are the second-largest subspecies native to Africa, and they stand as the fourth largest in the world. They can grow up to 17 inches long and weigh 40 pounds.
Normally, these terrapins are housed outdoors, but if you are planning to keep them indoors, you need to know that these terrapins need at least 80 square feet of space and can take a whole room.
To live indoors healthily, they need an average enclosure temperature around 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit. You need to keep the air dry as they are intolerant to moist conditions.
Owing to their massive size, their enclosure can be pretty high-maintenance to set up initially, but once you get used to it, things become much easier.
These tortoises come in colors like black, yellow, and brown with unique blotchy-pattern on their shell. Even though they are herbivorous in nature their diet is different from all the other tortoises. They prefer eating forbs such as seeds, grains, and nuts rather than greens and grasses.
In the wild, they spread these seeds all over their home territory, which helps grow these plants.
A Leopard Tortoise has a beginner-level temperament. Their behavior is slow, docile, and they don’t dig. If cared for properly, they can live for more than 50 years. You can buy a Leopard Tortoise for a price of $200-$300.
- Price: $200-$300
- Size: 17 inches long
- Lifespan: 50+ years
The name Pancake may sound funny, and due to their active nature, they can make fun pets. These tortoises are commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa and they have sea turtle-like shells. Most of the pancake tortoises have high rounded shells.
Their shells do not protect them from predators, so they avoid them with their commendable speed and flexibility. You can have a lot of fun with their ability to move fast. They belong to the small species of tortoises and grow up to 7 inches long.
Since they have a small stature they don’t need much space to live and can stay happily indoors. You can keep them in a 40-gallon terrarium or a 4-square foot tortoise table with a basking spot, UVB light, a temperature gradient of 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit, and 60-75% humidity.
If you are planning on getting a pancake tortoise, you need to look for an enclosure with high walls, as they are known for climbing the walls very well. Just like other tortoises, pancake tortoises feed on vegetables and grasses.
These tortoises are not as popular as other species due to the stringent restrictions on their export and they do not breed in captivity. Due to the export regulations, a pancake tortoise can cost you around $400-$600.
- Price: $400-$600
- Size: 7 inches long
- Lifespan: 30 years
These tortoises are native to Greece, and they are named after the flared rear marginal scutes which make them unique among other tortoises. Young Marginated Tortoises have rich and bright colors on their body.
Marginated Tortoises are the largest species in Europe and can reach a length of 12-14 inches long. The male tortoises are shorter as compared to the females that can reach full size.
When outdoors, these terrapins tend to spend most of their time digging especially when it’s warm and sunny. If you wish to keep them indoors, you will need an enclosure of around 16 square feet that has a temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
The enclosure must have a UVB light with a heated basking spot at 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit and air humidity of 50-70%. These tortoises grow well when they are well hydrated and get enough food.
The Marginated Tortoises have a varied diet of weeds, leaves, and flowers. Just like other tortoises on this list, they have a pretty long lifespan of 35 to 50 years old. When taken care of correctly these terrapins grow healthily and develop a docile and friendly behavior.
You can buy a Marginated Tortoise for $200-$500 from your local pet shop.
- Price: $200-$500
- Size: 12-14 inches long
- Lifespan: 35 to 50 years
These tortoises are known for their beautiful shell and long life. They are commonly found in the regions of Egypt, Libya, and parts of Israel. They are the smallest tortoises known to humans, and they can grow up to 5 inches in length.
In recent years the population of these tortoises has declined drastically, and to protect them their sale has been regulated. In such cases, you can buy the tortoises from authorized breeders.
These tortoises make ideal home pets due to their size, similar to pancake tortoises; they can fit in a 4 feet table for their enclosures. The tortoises grow better indoors when they are given perfect living conditions. They are used to the hot and dry environment of the Egyptian desert.
When kept indoors their enclosure needs to have UVB light, a UVA basking light, an average tank temperature of 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit, and 20-30% humidity. These conditions can improve the tortoises’ health and help them live longer.
In suitable conditions, the tortoises can have a lifespan of 70-100 years. Their scarcity has affected price massively and made them a tough find. However, you can get them at $1000.
- Price: >$1,000
- Size: 5 inches long
- Lifespan: 70 to 100 years
What are the things that you need to consider when getting a pet tortoise?
Tortoises perform best in the habitats that are beneficial for their health. Since every tortoise has different abilities, without the right information it can be difficult to provide them the care they need for growth.
Here are some of the important things you need to know before getting a pet tortoise.
Food and care:
As mentioned above every tortoise is unique and needs special care along with a carefully curated diet. Sometimes tortoises can eat a lot but feeding them general food may not be an ideal solution.
Moreover, general foods might not carry the nutritional value required for a tortoises’ growth. Some food items can be dangerous for terrapins, therefore, you must check for any kind of food allergy that your tortoise may have.
Space and cost:
Before you get a tortoise, you need to consider the size of the tortoise and your house. If you live in a small house or an apartment, an Egyptian tortoise can be a better option, but if you have a big house you can opt for a sulcata.
Apart from the size, the decision of the kind of tortoise you buy also depends on price. If you have a small budget, you can choose an affordable and common tortoise.
On the other hand, if you can shell out a massive amount of money and spare a large space for your tortoise, you can get the bigger and the expensive ones.
Most people forget or neglect this important aspect when purchasing or rescuing a tortoise. You need to be careful in such a situation as buying an illegal tortoise can land you in a lot of trouble. To avoid this, you can check with the local authorities and get information on tortoises that you can keep as pets in your locality.
Commonly Asked Questions About the best indoor tortoises:
Is a sulcata tortoise a good pet?
A sulcata tortoise has amazing qualities that make them incredible pets. In addition, they have docile and interactive behavior. However, to keep them at their best, you need to make sure that their basic needs of space, temperature, humidity, and substrata are met in the kind of habitat you provide them.
You have to consider factors like climate and diet that can have a massive influence on their behavior.
Can a tortoise live in my backyard?
Some tortoises can be kept outdoors ergo your backyard but only if the conditions are favorable for them. Tortoises need decent space irrespective of their size such as a Russian tortoise. You also need to keep in mind that tortoises tend to burrow which can be very effective against fences. Therefore, relying on fences to keep them safe might not be the right thing to do.
You need to add a shelter or shaded area to protect them from extreme weather in your absence. Young tortoises can be kept indoors in an enclosure with the right equipment needed for care.
Is it possible for me to create a self-sustaining food source for my pet tortoise?
Yes, you can but only for herbivores. And the best way to do this is by growing a vegetable garden. However, you need to make sure that the vegetables have no pesticides on them. You can cultivate vegetables like
lettuces, arugula, cabbages, carrots, and squashes considering the size of the enclosure.
In the offseason, you can get creative and make a small greenhouse with lights to grow the vegetables. With a little planning, you can grow food for your tortoise all year long.
Carnivorous food can be a problem as hatching insects puts you and your house at the risk of infestation.
Conclusion Best Indoor Tortoises:
Owning a tortoise sure sounds fun but before you finalize on a particular type of tortoise, you need to consider the essential factors that can affect your and the tortoise’s life. You also need to get the essential equipment such as enclosure/terrarium, heaters, UVA light, and a basking platform for the well-being of the tortoise.
We hope you enjoyed our guide to the best indoor tortoises, if you have any questions regarding this guide or any of the tortoises on it please be sure to reach out in the comments below.