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Tortoise Housing

Tortoise Housing:  The Ins and Outs of Reptile Habitation

As a tortoise can grow to enormous proportions and, in rare cases, can live up to 175 years of age, providing adequate tortoise housing is a must for responsible reptile owners.  Although most species of this spectacular turtle are not available for purchase, several varieties can be found in exotic pet stores around the world.  While owning a tortoise isn’t for everyone, many people enjoy the experience of raising these slow moving, shelled reptiles.  If you are considering buying a tortoise as a pet, there are some things you should know before you adopt.

How to Care for a Tortoise

As a child you may have at one time or another found a wandering tortoise and kept it as your very own.  Taking care to provide your newfound friend with a habitat fit for a king, it is likely that you provided ample water, some lettuce leaves, and a rock all in a small aquarium or box.  While this may have seemed adequate at the time, your little friend probably needed a bit more care.  Below is some helpful information to understand concerning the proper care of a tortoise:


Reptile experts suggest that each variety of tortoises requires a personalized diet.  With this in mind, be sure to consult with your seller concerning particular nutritional needs for the turtle you are interested in.  Most tortoises do best on a diet of leafy green vegetables such as cabbage, kale, cut grass, and clover.  Added supplements of dandelions, meal worms, and minimal amounts of fruit should also be offered to land dwelling turtles.

As a side note, it is very important that you not offer an abundance of high protein foods to your tortoise.  Foods such as tortoise pellets, dog or cat food, liver, and raw chicken should only be used on occasion and in small amounts to prevent deformity, disease, and possible death.


Tortoise housing can be as simple or as intricate as an owner desires and can be used indoors or outside, but there are some things to keep in mind when buying or building.

  1. Know what type of tortoise you have.  This will make a huge difference in the type of tortoise housing you will need.  Some turtles require much more space than others.
  2. Be sure that any enclosure you use offers your turtle a sense of privacy.  It isn’t unusual that a turtle that has no place to hide will exhibit strange behavior and can possibly harm themselves.
  3. Take care to ensure that your turtle is safe from predators.  Both indoor and outdoor habitats should be completely enclosed to keep other pets, wild animals, or children from gaining access to your tortoise.


While there are several purchasing options available to reptile owners regarding housing, many turtle enthusiasts prefer to build their own.  Constructing a tortoise habitat typically requires little know-how and can be done on a small budget.  Here are two examples of simple environments that can be done in no time:

Indoor Habitat:  Note that most tortoises are not suited well to indoor environments, but some smaller varieties will do fine inside.

  1. Nail together (4) 6 foot 2×4’s to form a rectangle.  These will form the walls of your turtle pen.  Repeat this process, stacking each rectangle on top of the other until you have reached a height of at least twice your turtle’s length.   Take apart and go to step 2.
  2. Situate your first rectangle over a sheet of linoleum, turn the entire project over and nail flooring to wall.  Next, place your cage in an area where there is little traffic and abundant sunlight.
  3. Once you have found adequate placement, you will again layer your ready made wall pieces on top of one another.  After the appropriate height has been reached, use a drill to penetrate the walls from the top down on both ends of all four pieces.
  4. Using landscape spikes or screws long enough to reach the distance from top to bottom of your walls, connect all rectangles together.
  5. Spread a layer of dirt along your containers floor bottom; add a water bowl, rocks, grass, and any other natural elements inside.
  6. Attach a heat lamp to the top and let your tortoise enjoy his or her new home.

Outdoor Habitat:  The same process applies for outdoor habitats as with indoor construction, but there is no need to include the use of flooring.

  • Choose the area in which you would like to house your tortoise.  Be sure there is ample sunlight and that there isn’t too much moisture that accumulates in the desired location.
  • Use step 1, 3, and 4 above to construct your habitat.
  • Use step 5, but there is no need to add excess dirt as the earth will provide flooring.  Do put in additional rocks, grass, and water containers.
  • A heat lamp should not be necessary, but it is highly important that during inclement weather your turtle be brought inside or given a heat source to keep him or her warm.
  • Finish your project by covering the habitat with small wire mesh.

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