Choosing a tortoise over other animals as a pet may seem like a wise decision. They are calm, docile, and can adjust in small spaces. However, that doesn’t mean that anyone can own pet a tortoise. Why? Because one needs to consider the cost of maintenance among other important factors of owning these awesome pets.
Tortoises are wild creatures, and their natural habitat is very different from our living spaces. Their natural habitat not only makes a good home but also helps them meet their health and nutritional needs.
So to provide them with a sustainable life, you have to consider all the factors of well-being such as space, health, food, and nutrition. Doing so can take a lot of effort and at the same time, burn a hole in your pocket.
To help you understand better, we have combined a list of expenses that you can incur while keeping a tortoise as a pet.
How much does it cost to house a tortoise
Tortoises have several species, and their price can start from $50 and can go up to $1000. The price of a terrapin depends on the breed, age, and how or where do you buy them from.
The age of a tortoise can influence its price to a great extent. You can buy a baby tortoise for $50, but the older tortoises tend to be more costly and can go up to thousands. This price difference is due to the higher chances of health complications that occur in hatchlings. Whereas, older tortoises have a developed immune system that keeps them safe.
When it comes to the different breeds of terrapins, there are a lot of things that can affect the price. Here are some of the basic ones.
- Availability: If you are planning to buy a common tortoise that is readily available among captive breeders or at a local pet store such as a Hermann’s Tortoise the price will be at the lower range. On the other hand, breeds like Indian Star and Russian Tortoises are hard to find and have to be imported. Therefore they have a higher price.
- Aesthetic appeal: Most of the time people choose tortoises that look beautiful and can be a great addition to their house. Which is why, Red-Footed, Indian Star, and Leopard Tortoises are among the costly finds owing to their high demand.
- Life expectancy: While searching for a tortoise, at times people look for breeds that live an exceedingly long life. This hardly makes sense, as there is a fair chance that the tortoise could outlive the person buying it, and then it would be passed on to someone else. But, people still purchase such long-living tortoises out of sheer fascination that eventually fades away.
Where you buy the tortoise from:
There are different ways to buy a tortoise. The easiest way to get one is by purchasing them from a pet store. Pet stores can be an ideal place to buy a tortoise as you can also purchase the essential things that are required for their well being as well.
If you are looking for an exotic and imported tortoise, you can look for breeders who foster such tortoises in captivity. There are chances that you might find a private seller who wants to pass on the tortoise or sell at a lower price.
Price of tortoises:
As mentioned above, the price of a tortoise depends mainly on their breed. Here is a list of tortoise breeds and how much they can cost.
- Hermann’s tortoise: The Hermann’s Tortoise is the cheapest tortoise breed that you can buy from anywhere. Its hatchlings can cost you around $130-$170 while adults come with a hefty price tag of $500-$600.
- Cherry-head Red-Footed Tortoise: These are brightly-colored subspecies of the red-footed tortoise that are common in the forest regions of Brazil. The cherry-heads are a little more pricey as compared to the regular red-footed tortoise. A simple hatchling of a cherry head tortoise costs between $140-$170. You can get an adult tortoise for $500.
- Elongated Tortoise: These tortoises are found in the forests of Southeast Asia and even some parts of India. The hatchlings of Elongated Tortoise costs between $120-$140, and the adults can cost you around $250.
- Sulcata Tortoise/ African Spurred Tortoise: This is the third-largest tortoise in the world and is very docile. They are a great pet alternative and low maintenance. A Sulcata’s hatchling can cost you around $50-$100, but the adults can cost you a whopping $1,500-$2000.
- Greek Tortoise/Spur-Thighed Tortoise: Greek tortoises are small in size, even as adults they are not as big as the other options on this list. Their low maintenance nature makes them perfect for beginners. A Greek Tortoise’s hatchling can cost you around $50-$250. Since they are hard to find, adults can cost you in thousands.
- Leopard Tortoise: These tortoises are famous for their leopard spot markings on their shells, and they are named due to the same trait. The hatchling of a Leopard Tortoise can cost you around $160-$190. An adult Leopard Tortoise can cost you as high as $2000.
- Indian Star Tortoise: The Indian Star Tortoise is a widely coveted species around the world. Owing to the beautiful shell marking these terrapins make a pleasing spectacle. A hatchling of the Indian Star Tortoise can cost around $250-$400, and the adults cost around $2,200.
- Aldabra Giant Tortoise: These are the second largest tortoises in the world, and they are known to live for more than 150 years. Aldabras are famous for their beautiful jet-black shells. These tortoises are extremely rare, and owing to their size they can be hard to breed. The hatchlings of these tortoises can cost around $1,000-$2,500. On the other hand, the adult tortoise can cost around $20,000.
- Pancake Tortoise: There many great things about pancake tortoise that make them fun pets. They are small in size and can fit indoors easily. Their flat shells have an unusual color pattern that makes them even more desirable. Tortoise owners prefer these terrapins due to their active nature and ability to move fast. A pancake tortoise can cost you $499-$599.
What are the things needed for tortoise care?
Irrespective of species, when tortoises are out of their natural habitat, they need human intervention to survive. Your tortoise will depend on you for food, health, and shelter, which is why you will need the following things.
Whether you are planning on keeping your tortoise indoors or outdoors, you need to provide them with proper shelter. Enclosures are specifically-designed tortoise tables available in the pet stores and online shopping websites. Based on the size, you can purchase one starting from $80-150.
You can also build an enclosure by looking at the designs online and save a lot of money. It also gives you the freedom to make an enclosure that fits the dimensions of your home. The ideal size for an enclosure is 4ft by 2ft/1.2m by 0.6m with walls around 30cms high.
The tortoise will outgrow its initial enclosure unless it belongs to a smaller species.
In such a situation, a little foresight could help make things better. You can invest in a good outdoor enclosure that will provide your terrapin with space it needs to grow.
When installing an enclosure, you will need a substrate that makes the enclosure more habitable for the terrapin. You can consider options like sterilized topsoil, coconut fiber, mulch, or a combination of all three.
Depending on the type of substrate you choose, you will have to shell out $8-$15 per 8L bag, whereas specialized substrates get more expensive. An 8L bag of substrate easily lasts for 4-5 months. You need to remember that the more animals you keep in the enclosure, the more frequently you will have to change the substrate.
Heat and lighting:
The cold-blooded nature of tortoises makes them unable to produce their own body heat. Therefore, they need to bask in the sun and maintain a warm body temperature that will help in growth.
When tortoises are kept indoors, they are unable to get the heat from the sun. In such scenarios, a heating lamp works best. Heating lamps are bulbs or copper coils that produce heat that is equivalent to sunlight.
If you live in a tropical climate, you can just leave your tortoise outdoors for basking. However, you need to make sure that it is safe from predators.
Tortoise enclosures also need a UVB lamp as it helps them get vitamin D which fosters calcium metabolism and makes them healthier. You will also have to purchase a heat emitter bulb if you live in a place where the temperature falls dramatically during the night.
A heat emitter works just like a heating bulb but does not emit any light, making sure that your tortoise gets undisturbed sleep. Though you can control the heat manually, you can get a thermostat that makes the entire heating and lighting system automatic.
A good quality basking lamp can cost you between $10-$40. The price of the basking lamp depends on the style of the lamp and the clip style that can be used to mount it. Heat emitter bulb can cost you $6-$12, the price variation is a result of the difference in wattage. The higher the watts, the higher the price.
You can use the same lamp to hold the UVB bulbs that you are using with basking lights. However, the UVB bulb can cost you between $12-$50 per bulb based on the amount of emission they provide.
Heat emitters will also require lamps, as they are screwed in like the UVB bulbs and produce heat. The heat emitter bulbs can cost you $6-$15 based on the amount of wattage.
However, if you want to save yourself from the struggles of manual heat, light, and UVB adjustments, you can opt for a thermostat which will cost you around $20-60 depending on the model and the amount of control.
To sum it all, a good quality lighting and heating system for your tortoise, requires an investment of $75-$250. You can try products from different price ranges with varying capacities to save money or you can choose a bundle of products.
If you have a large enclosure or have one or more tortoises, you will need more such equipment which can result in a higher cost. Moreover, you will also have to replace the UVB bulbs every six months, even if they still emit light.
Dishes and optional items:
Even when tortoises are kept in indoor enclosures they need protection from the light and other things that can cause them discomfort. To help your terrapin friend in this situation, you can buy a hide which is a form of shelter that can be placed in your tortoise’s terrarium.
Depending on the material and size, a simple hide can cost you between $10-$40. There hides that feature built-in hygrometers and thermometers, that let you monitor the heat conditions of your tortoises’ hide.
If you are on a tight budget and don’t mind improvising, you can use old pots, plastic boxes, and other containers to create a hide. The only thing you need to keep in mind is that the opening of the tortoise should be wide enough for your tortoise to fit.
Food and water dishes are other essential things that need to be in your tortoises’ enclosure. These dishes keep the food and water from mixing in the substrate and prevent infection. There are different types of food and water dishes available in the market. You can buy one for your tortoise for $3-$10. You can get automatic feeders to avoid refilling the dishes every time. They work best with dry food like pellets and sticks.
Food dishes and hide might not be enough to make your terrapin feel at home. You will have to add more items in the enclosure such as fake plants, basking platforms, and decorative items that you tortoise can play with or interact with.
The price of decoration items depends on factors like size, material, quality, and usability. They can range between $5-$20.
All the bulbs and the lights need electricity to run and most importantly they have to run all day. All of this will surely impact your power bill by $10-$13 a month per bulb. You can turn them off in the night and keep just the heater on when the weather gets too cold.
You can also use an efficient thermostat that turns these systems on when there is a drop in the temperature.
Food is one of the necessities that are crucial for your tortoises. Buying tortoise food may seem expensive but is quite affordable when compared to other animals. Normally, a tortoise’s one month’s food supply can cost about $20.
It can extend a little more by $10 or $20 monthly per tortoise if you add calcium and vitamins.
As the tortoise grows bigger, it will need more food. Since you can keep feeding them all day, you can opt to keep them outdoors where they can eat weed and grass to quench their hunger. With lesser feeding frequency, you can save a lot of money.
The type of food you have to feed your tortoise varies according to the environmental conditions they face in the wild. Terrapins like Sulcata, The Greek Tortoises, and other Mediterranean species that are known to live in arid climates prefer eating weed and leafy vegetables.
They shouldn’t be fed fruits quite often as too much sugar can damage their kidneys. You can feed them fruits once a year as treats.
Elongated tortoise and Red-Footed tortoises are known to live in forests and since their natural habitat consists of fruits, you can feed them fruits once in 2 weeks. Most tortoise owners feed them fruits as a staple.
They are also known to eat meat 1-2 months. Their worm diet includes mealworms and other feeder insects. Due to this mixed diet, feeding forest and desert-dwelling tortoises are more expensive.
This is one of the important and essential expenses that a tortoise owner has to bear. The initial veterinary checkup can cost you around $120 per tortoise. And, the annual visits can cost you between $80 to $120.
These expenses can increase by at least $100 to $250 if some essential treatments are required, as they may require a lot of lab tests.
In instances, where your tortoise faces life-threatening situations, such as shell cracks or any severe injury, you might have to pay for surgeries, which can cost more than $4,000 or more.
A pet is a lifetime commitment and should be treated with proper care. The expenses can be thought of as an investment for the well-being of your lovely companion. It is also important to choose the tortoise according to your ability to provide it with essential care.
I hope the above information has helped you learn about the expenses of housing a tortoise. If you have any queries or suggestions, you can write them in the comments.