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Top 8 Popular Pet Tortoise Types That Make Great Pets

There are a number of great pet tortoise types. Each tortoise species has its own requirements to live a long, healthy and happy life in captivity. It needs commitment and dedication to be a responsible keeper and owner of a tortoise or two. This is the kind of pet that will sometimes outlive its owner because its average lifespan is about 50 years.

One important thing to keep in mind in getting a pet tortoise is where to get one. Most of the tortoise population in the wild is already low in number. Do not buy tortoises that are caught from the wild. It is a must to get a captive-bred tortoise from responsible breeders. It will help to preserve their species to buy hatchlings from dedicated breeders.

Search online for these tortoise breeders and keepers. They will gladly help you out and teach you on how to take care of your pet tortoise if you are a beginner. They already have the experience and rest assured that all they want is what is best for your pet to live to its full potential.

Give your pet tortoise the right kind of environment to live in and food to consume. With proper care, love, and commitment as a keeper, your pet tortoise will definitely grow old with you through the years. It is the kind of companionship that will last for a lifetime. You can even pass it on to the next generation.

Listed below are some of the types of tortoises that can be made into pets.

  1. Hermann's Tortoise
  2. Greek Tortoise
  3. Russian Tortoise
  4. Leopard Tortoise
  5. Indian Star Tortoise
  6. Pancake Tortoise
  7. African Spurred Tortoise
  8. Red Footed Tortoise

Hermann's Tortoise

The Hermann's tortoise originally came from the Mediterranean. Its name is derived from Johann Hermann who was a French naturalist and physician. This tortoise is among the species of tortoises that are under the Mediterranean tortoises group. This species is a popular one in Europe that it has come to a point in history that almost all the households there have at least one Hermann's tortoise in their garden.

This tortoise has dark markings on its yellow shell. Its legs are strong and are covered with thick scales. Its upper jaw is faintly hooked. Its nails are strong and designed for digging. At its tail's end, there is a visible horny tip.

A Hermann's tortoise is active during the day especially when the sun is shining brightly and the temperature is high and the atmosphere is humid. This tortoise love to live in areas where there is thick vegetation, low shrubs, forest, rocky hillsides and scrublands. The ideal habitat for a Hermann's tortoise is a place where there are lots of sun, less rainfall, and many hot and humid days.

The adult size of a Hermann's tortoise is about 7.5 inches in body length. The expected life span is 50 years or more when taken care of properly in captivity.

Hermann's Tortoises

Hermann's Tortoises

Greek Tortoise

The Greek tortoise is usually found in southern Europe, southwest Asia, and North Africa. Its habitat varies greatly from forests, rocky hillsides, meadows, Mediterranean scrubs to fields.

The shell of a Greek tortoise is highly dome in shape. A thick bridge connects the shell to the hinged plastron. The colors of the shell are black, dark brown and yellow gold. This tortoise got its name from the patterns on its shell. The patterns are combinations of spots, rays, borders and flecks that look like those Greek mosaics.

Each thigh of the Greek tortoise has three spurs or raised scales. This is the reason why the animal is also known as the Mediterranean spur-thigh tortoise. Its head is not pointed. Its eyes are larger compared to other tortoises. There are large scales on its front legs. Its thick claws are strong.

An adult Greek tortoise' body length is about 5 inches to 8 inches. Female Greek tortoises are always bigger than their male counterparts. This tortoise species is reported to have a very long life span. When taken care of in the right way, it can live as long as 100 years or more thus outliving its keeper. This is the kind of tortoise that can be passed on from one generation of keeper to the next.

Greek Tortoise

Greek Tortoise

Russian Tortoise

The Russian tortoise is among the very popular pet tortoise types in the world. It is a small sized tortoise. It is perfect for keepers who do not have a large area to be used as an animal enclosure.

This tortoise is more active compared to other species. It is also a good eater and has a feisty attitude. It loves to burry itself underground especially if the temperature is too hot or too cold.

The ideal enclosure of a Russian tortoise should be situated outdoors. However, if it is an indoor enclosure, then make sure that the tortoise has an area in the enclosure where it can burrow comfortably.

An adult Russian tortoise will have a body length of about 8 inches to 10 inches. A female that is about 6 inches in body length is already capable of laying eggs. This tortoise can live up to 40 years or more if taken cared of properly.

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This tortoise loves to eat any leafy plants. However, eating grasses is the last resort of a Russian tortoise if there is nothing else left to eat but grasses. It is important that the plants within an outdoor enclosure should be double checked if they are safe to be eaten by tortoises.

Russian Tortoise

Russian Tortoise

Leopard Tortoise

The Leopard tortoise is one of the biggest tortoises that are found in Africa. Its adult size is about 10 inches to 18 inches in body length. Its weight is about 40 pounds to 50 pounds on average. Its life span is 50 years to 100 years either in the wild or captive.

It is named after the leopard animal because its patterns on its shell are similar to the coat patterns of a leopard. However, unlike the leopard that is a fast runner, this tortoise is on the opposite end because it is very slow in its movement. It is not aggressive and not a threat to a human being. When it is threatened, it chooses to hide away in the safety of its shell rather than snapping back. It is a gentle animal. It is not much of a climber or a burrower.

The Leopard tortoise loves to stay out in the sun. Therefore an outdoor enclosure is perfect for this one. It needs sunlight all day to keep its shell healthy and strong. It doesn't like to live in places where the climate is too cold. It won't survive in such temperature.

This tortoise is an herbivore and it loves to eat any greens and grasses that are high in fiber. Its most favorite green is alfalfa.

Leopard Tortoise

Leopard Tortoise

Indian Star Tortoise

The Indian Star tortoise is naturally found in southeast Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India. It is a beautiful tortoise. It is one of the popular pet tortoise types that many households love to keep.

It has a sparkling star pattern on its shell. The lines are yellow and the base color of the shell is black. It is very striking and attractive to look at.

This tortoise is a non-territorial one. Keeping together more than one male and female tortoises in an enclosure is not a problem. There will be no fighting incidents except during mating season which is normal for tortoises.

The female Indian Star tortoise is bigger in size than the male. A female will reach the body length of 8 inches while the male will only reach the body length of 6 inches. Under proper care, this tortoise will live from 30 years to 80 years in captivity.

Its regular diet is mainly composed of grasses and leaves of shrubs and trees. It also eats some fruits such as bananas, grapes, strawberries, mangos, watermelons, raspberries, cantaloupes, papayas, honeydews, apples, and tomatoes but only in small portions.

The Indian Star tortoise needs ample amount of sunlight daily to be healthy. It loves to bask under the sun for hours. Cold temperature is not good for this tortoise. It also doesn't burrow underground. It just loves to be out in the open absorbing all the sunlight that it could get for the day.

Indian Star Tortoise

Indian Star Tortoise

Pancake Tortoise

The Pancake tortoise is quite unique from other tortoises out there. It originated from Tanzania and southern Kenya. Its natural habitats are rocky outcrops and hills in scrub and dry savanna.

This tortoise is a great climber. It is important that its enclosure has a screen roofing to prevent the tortoise from escaping out.

The body length of an adult Pancake tortoise is about 6 inches to 7 inches. Its can live for more than 35 years in captivity especially if it is cared for properly.

The Pancake tortoise will usually run away from something that is threatening it instead of just hiding inside its shell. Since it is a great climber, it usually hides inside the narrow cracks in caves and rocky ledges and also in those small spaces underneath big rocks. It uses its strong front legs to hold on tight on the walls to climb and hide away.

Like other tortoises, it is also as herbivore. It eats on both dry and fresh grasses and sometimes fruits in moderation.

This tortoise is a species that is hard to breed in numbers. Its female will only lay five eggs or less once a year. That is why the total number of the species at present is somewhat low. It is one of the tortoise species in the wild that needs to be preserve to prevent total extinction.

Pancake Tortoise

Pancake Tortoise

African Spurred Tortoise

The African Spurred tortoise is another one of the popular tortoises that can be taken cared of as a pet. It has an outgoing personality and a happy character. The “spurred” in its name is taken from the big pointy scales that can be found on its front legs. Its other name is Sulcata tortoise.

This tortoise can be considered as the biggest tortoise that a person can keep. It can grow to about 36 inches in body length. The weight can go up to 200 pounds or more. Its lifespan can reach up to 70 years or more. This tortoise is a high maintenance one for a pet.

This tortoise is originally found in the Sahel region near the Sahara Desert. It loves to burrow deep underground. It can dig down to a depth of 20 feet. The usual length of its burrow horizontally can reach to 30 feet or more. The burrows of a Sulcata usually have a number of tunnels connected to different chambers underground.

The African Spurred tortoise is a very hearty and opportunistic eater. It eats whatever vegetation it can find like grasses, weeds, and fruits and leaves of bushes and trees. Whenever it can't find any leaves, its second food option is composed of tree bark, twigs, carrion, and animal poop.

African Spurred Tortoise

African Spurred Tortoise

Red Footed Tortoise

The Red Footed tortoise can be easily identified from other tortoises because of its striking red markings on the scales on its legs. It is a beautiful tortoise to look upon and it is also easy to take care of this creature. It originally came from South and Central America.

An adult Red Footed tortoise has a body length of about 10 inches to 16 inches. It can weigh to about 30 pounds on average. The expected life is 50 years or more if given proper care in captivity.

This tortoise breed is active and it will spend its day looking for food and burrowing for its shelter. It stays in its burrow for safety and to avoid the excessive heat of the sun.

Keeping more than one Red Footed tortoise in one enclosure is not a problem since they have good social behavior. They have the habit of food sharing and staying in groups. However, they are usually shy and hide in their shells when humans and other animals are around.

The Red Footed tortoise has a wide variety of food choices because it is an omnivore. However, it only eats meat very sparingly because too much animal protein is harmful to its overall health. It still prefers to eat leaves and fruits.

Red Footed Tortoise

Red Footed Tortoise

Tortoise Enclosure

The enclosure for a tortoise should be located preferably outdoors. Make it feel and look similar to its natural habitat as much as possible. There should be enough sunlight and humidity. The width and length of the enclosure should be at least three times the adult size of your pet tortoise. There should be a designated area for shelter like a turtle house for it to hibernate or to hide away when needed.

There should also be an area for basking under the sun because this is what tortoises love to do most of the day. A supply of fresh clean water should be provided daily for proper hydration. The water container should be shallow enough that the tortoise can easily dip its mouth in the water. It is a must to plant some vegetation like grass within the enclosure for the tortoise to graze.

However, if your area experiences cold winter months, it is best to set up an indoor enclosure so you can control the temperature that is most habitable for your pet tortoise.

You can use any plastic container that is big enough for the animal to move around as an indoor enclosure. The ideal substrate for the flooring is a mixture of peat moss or coconut coir and clean soil. If your tortoise loves to burrow under the soil, the ideal depth of substrate flooring should be at least 4 inches.

The enclosure should have the right amount of humidity. Putting some cypress mulch on top of the substrate will help maintain the humidity of the enclosure. There should also be a shallow water tray so the tortoises will have easy access to clean fresh water for hydration purposes. UVB-emitting light is also necessary for temperature control.

Tortoise Diet

Most tortoises are herbivores. Giving them different greens like leaves of trees and shrubs and grasses is good enough to keep them alive. Growing dandelions within the enclosure is great since all tortoise species consider this plant as their favorite food.

Avoid feeding the tortoises with supermarket produce as much as possible. However, if there is no other option, make sure to go for the organic ones. Opting for commercial tortoise feeds is also ideal since these are specifically formulated for a tortoise diet. They contain the needed vitamins and minerals to have a healthy and active tortoise.

Always provide a daily supply of fresh water. Water is important to tortoises to keep them properly hydrated since they are always out under the sun.


One thing is common with all of these pet tortoise types. A tortoise will stay with you through the years with proper care and nutrition. It is a fulfilling endeavor to know that your pet tortoise will one day outlive you because you were able to provide its needs to survive. It will be a wonderful heirloom to be passed from one generation to the next.


Cool Rare Animals (author) on January 13, 2019:

very nice name for your pet Ellison :)

Ellison Hartley from Maryland, USA on January 12, 2019:

I had a Russian tortoise named General Lee, we called him "the general" for short! Named after the car in the old show Dukes of Hazzard!

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