Turtles And Tortoises As Pets – Everything You Need To Know!

Turtles And Tortoises As Pets

Turtles and tortoises are trendy docile pets of the reptilian class. There are more than 460 species of both, and they vary a lot in physical appearance, size, and color. Some are really gigantic and enormous ones, including Leatherback Sea Turtles that can gain weight up to 1500 pounds and a length of 7 feet from head to toe. Obviously, they are challenging to maintain and have them at home unless you own a big house and have an adventurous nature. Others can be tiny cute versions that can extend on your palm and weigh up to 6 oz, such as speckled tortoises.

So, when we talk about these amazing creatures, their life cycle, and specifications, the first thing that comes into our mind, if we can have them as a pet. If yes, what are the primary considerations we need to follow? And what are the safety precautions that come under the topic? In this article, we are going to discuss all from very basic to advanced level. So, keep with us and continue reading till the end before having one of these fantastic creatures for you!

Can Turtles And Tortoises Be Kept As Pets?

Yes, you can have a turtle and tortoise as pets.

Turtles and tortoises are very popular for being docile, and many species are very human friendly. They only bite in order to protect themselves in absolute necessity. For example, if attacked by other animals or if the humans are too harsh on them. Otherwise, they love human handling. However, avoid touching a lot of their bare skin but pat them on their shell. The shell of a turtle and tortoise is thick and hard, but it can have tactile sensations. On the other hand, their skin, especially that of the turtle, is quite soft and sensitive, so handling a lot can irritate them.

Tortoises and turtles are pretty brilliant in reptilian class. They have much pet intelligence in a way that they can not only recognize their names and their pet owners but can also be potty trained, and food timing trained.

Classification For Tortoise And Turtle

Here is the general classification of a turtle and tortoise.

General Classification For Reptiles And Amphibians

NatureCold blooded
SubordersCryptodira and Pleurodira(side neck turtles)

Most tortoises and turtles are known for their extra ability to retract their necks straight into their calcium carbonate shells. The hardcore shells help them to camouflage, protect themselves from extreme weather and enemies.

Turtle vs. Tortoise – Is There Any Difference?

Both turtles and tortoises are recognized by their hard shells and beaked mouths at front. The curved mouths help them cut the preys and veggies into bite sizes. Let us discuss some fundamental differences between the two. However, none of them affect their quality of being a pet.

OmnivoresHerbivores(eat low growing grasses, shrubs, and even cactus)
Primarily Live in water ( but some live on land, e.g., box turtle, wood turtles, etc.)Primarily live on land including deserts to wet forests of tropics
Come out on land when they have to lay eggsIt goes in water for bathing or drinking
Have Webbed hind legs and foreleg flippers more commonly in aquatic turtlesStumpy feet like that of the elephant to walk on land and club-like forelegs
Thin, more regular water dynamic shell to reduce resistance in the waterRound and domed thick shells

Even if you cannot recognize them by their anatomical features, the easiest way is checking by feeding them. Feed your pet meat and see if it respond. Tortoises do not taste the meat!Let us sum it up in a single statement:

All the tortoises are turtles, but not all the turtles are tortoises

Getting Started With Pet Turtles And Tortoises

Before you make up your mind to bring a tortoise or turtle to your home, you have to look into both sides of the picture to understand better. Let us discuss a few in the later sections

Perks Of Having Tortoise Or Turtle As Pets

Tortoises and turtles are pretty famous and wise choices to be a pet. There can be multiple reasons for you to have them

  1. Tortoises and turtles live quite a long life. So, if you constantly fear losing your pet, that will not be the case with them. Especially it is true in the case of tortoises. They might outlive you! Pet tortoises and turtles can easily survive for 3 to 5 decades if taken care of properly. Some tortoises are also known to live up to 100 years!
  2. They are intelligent and easy to train
  3. They can recognize you and their names and show up with the excitement at the sight of food.
  4. Both tortoises and turtles are completely docile unless you aggravate them.
  5. Most of the tortoises are low maintenance.
  6. They do not fall into separation anxiety or other mental health problems as that of your furry fellows.
  7. They live pretty well with other pets.

Challenges Of Having Tortoises And Turtles As Pets

When looking at the perks of having these fantastic reptiles as pets, you must be excited to get them as soon as possible. However, wait for a moment and look into the challenges you can possibly face if you are going to have a tortoise or turtle as a pet.

  1. If your pet is going to live with you for a really long time, you need to be ready to commit for years and years ahead.
  2. It is not easy to find someone to take care of your pet turtle or tortoise when you go out for a vacation. Be prepared for that.
  3. Certain tortoises and turtles grow pretty heavy and oversized, so you must have really big enclosures to keep them. Otherwise, go for the species that do not grow in size much.
  4. Although tortoises and turtles are low maintenance, they need proper humidity, light, and food requirements. Also, you need to maintain an adequate supply of water and terrestrial environment for turtles and a constant supply of clean water. And do not forget about cleaning the tank, water, and other hygiene requirements.
  5. You should never share any kind of food or living space with your turtle or tortoise. Moreover, you will have to teach your children to wash their hands after every handling carefully. The skin of these reptiles harbors a large number of Salmonella bacteria which can be quite a health hazard for human beings.
  6. Tortoises and turtles are, though, completely fine to have under most national laws. However, they are illegal in some. Such an in Madagascar, it is unlawful to own a pet turtle and tortoise. Also, it is illegal for international trade as it falls under wildlife trafficking and trade.
  7. Turtles are usually messy, so you need to take care of certain things to make sure it stays healthy.

So, if you can manage all of these challenges, turtles and tortoises become the best possible pets anyone can have!

Following are the things you need to consider for the habitat and housing of your tortoise and turtle.

Enclosure Space Requirement For Aquatic Turtles

Maintain Water Quality

Turtles are messy, so you need to maintain the water conditions using a high power filter in the tank. Ideally, it would be best if you went for a filtered power that can clean up to two to three times the amount of water present in your turtle’s tank.

Moreover, you should use a water conditioner and change the water in the tank regularly in order to maintain good water quality.

Enclosure Requirement For Tortoises And Terrestrial Turtles

For tortoises and terrestrial turtles, you need to make sure to have an enclosure that is quite sturdy and has plenty of space to grow and more around easily and freely.Some tortoises grow pretty large and heavy. Therefore, they may need a customized enclosure or outdoor habitats. Remember, any kind of substrate you use in the chamber must be safe for your pet and is non-toxic and non-allergic.

Temperature Maintenance Forturtles And Tortoises:

For temperature maintenance of turtles and tortoises enclosure, you need to have a heat source. The heat source is to maintain the correct water or air temperature. Any kind of heater you are using, either in the water tank or tortoise enclosure, must be protected with guards so your pet does not nibble on the hot wires. The area must have places of cooler temperature, so the animal can maintain their body temperature themselves as they are primarily cold-blooded.

Lightning Source

Light plays the most critical role in maintaining proper health, sleep cycle, normal body metabolism, bones, and scales. So, it would be best if you kept an appropriate UVA/UVB lightning for your pet.

Additional Requirements

You need to add other decoration areas using rocks and driftwood. They are necessary to provide feeding spots, basking, and hiding spaces. Tortoises prefer warm temperatures, so always use a heating lamp for them to maintain the temperature. Provide your pet with a pleasant temperature gradient using these decorations to let them have warm and cool areas in the same enclosure.

What Do Turtles And Tortoises Eat?

Turtles Diet

Turtles are usually omnivores and can be on more carnivores as they spend much time under the water, so their diet primarily consists of tiny frogs, toads, tadpole larvae, fish, insects, and crustaceans. Turtles also love to have leafy greens, turtle pellets, berries, bananas, and other fresh vegetables and fruits.

Tortoise Diet

Tortoise is primarily herbivores and loves to binge on small shrubs on land, grass, herbs, vegetables, flowers, fruits, and other plant materials. Wild tortoises habitual of living in deserts also feed on succulent plants. All the food you provide to your tortoise should be clean and free from any pesticide or chemicals that can harm your pet. Moreover, avoid feeding low caloric nutrition deficient items, e.g., such as iceberg lettuce, to get the most of every bite your pet can have.


Vitamin D3 and enough calcium should always be provided regularly as they readily go on their depletion, especially tortoises. Both calcium and vitamin D3 are essential to maintain bone health and normal healthy metabolism. The dose of both of these supplements varies a lot according to the age, size, weight, health, and species of the reptile.

How To Safely Handle Your Pet Tortoise or Turtle

You can train a turtle and tortoise for multiple things. Most of the individuals of captive breeds usually have better pet intelligence so can be tamed with regular effort. Younger individuals have more potential to adapt to the environment and respond according to the guidelines of their human fellows. Whereas adult turtles, especially wild ones, are much more resilient, and it requires a lot of patience to train them and make them used to handle.

How To Handle A Turtle Or Tortoise?

Hold your turtle or tortoise close to the ground not to agitate your pet. Make sure your grip is firm but gentle to avoid any accident. Do not overhandle a newly acquired pet and hold it a lot. It will unnecessarily stress your little fellow, which will stress it at your sight. This tension can become the major hindrance in developing a solid bond between your pet and you. So, be gentle and careful with your new pet.

Most medium-sized and small tortoises and box turtles usually get used to being picked and handled by their owners if you stay calm. Do not stress your pet a lot if your pet is not very responsive to handling or like human interactions. Keep things slow and gentle, and handle your pet mainly at the time you feed it.

Moreover, if you have a giant tortoise or turtle, do not allow your children to pick them up in your absence. It gets dangerous when it comes to handling heavier fellows, so better play with them while you leave them on the group.Also, never forget to wash your hands and that of your child after handling your reptilian fellow. They have harmful bacterias on their skin, so be careful about it.

Types Of Turtles That Make Great Pets

Following are the types of turtles that are popular for being excellent pets:

  1. African Side-neck Turtle
  2. Musk Turtle
  3. Asian Box Turtle/ eastern box turtle
  4. Softshell Turtle
  5. Painted Turtle
  6. Common Box Turtle
  7. Spotted Turtle
  8. Mud Turtle
  9. Red-eared slider
  10. Diamondback Terrapin
  11. Reeve’s Turtle
  12. Map Turtle

Types Of Tortoises That Make Great Pets

Following are the types of tortoises that make amazing pets:

  1. Greek Tortoise
  2. Marginated Tortoise
  3. Star Tortoise
  4. Red-foot Tortoise
  5. Leopard Tortoise
  6. Russian Tortoise
  7. Pancake Tortoise
  8. Hermann’s Tortoise


So, the question is if I should get a tortoise or turtle as a pet at my home.

Turtles and tortoises are great pets with long lifespans. However, they are pretty lazy, especially when they get old. So, they can be boring for kids. Also, kids are not very careful about washing their hands regularly after handling. Therefore, we do not recommend you have them for children.

Moreover, it would be best to do thorough research about the species you will have to avoid surprise behaviors. Avoid exotic and new species as there is less available knowledge about them. And most importantly, check for the state and local regulations before having a tortoise and turtle as a pet.I hope this article helped you in having the introductory knowledge about having a tortoise or turtle as a pet Surf through our website to have the detailed knowledge of all the things you need to know about your pet. In case of any query, drop down the comment, or contact us. We would be happy to help.