complete guide to indoor tortoise enclosures cages and habitats

Indoor Tortoise Enclosures – What You Need To Know [2022]

Keeping a pet tortoise indoors is possible, but do you know how much space they really need?

As a rule, a tortoise enclosure should be at least 10 times longer than the length of the tortoise’s shell, 5 times wider than the length of the shell, and 12 inches taller than the length of the shell. For example, an 8-inch long tortoise needs an enclosure that is 80 inches long, 48 inches wide, and 20 inches deep. (Formula examples: 8 * 10 = 80″ length | 8 * 5 = 48″ width | 12 + 8 = 20″)

Let’s review enclosure specifics for tortoise breeds, and what to look for in the size, shape, type, and other considerations.

If you’re thinking about bringing a tortoise into your home, you’ll need to create a suitable indoor enclosure. This can seem like a daunting task, but don’t worry – we’re here to help!

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about indoor tortoise enclosures. We’ll discuss considerations like size, shape, and materials, as well as lighting, environmental conditions, and substrates. We’ll also provide a list of common tortoise breeds and their enclosure size requirements.

By the end of this article, you’ll feel better equipped to decide on an indoor tortoise enclosures for your breed of tortoise.

Can Tortoises Be Kept Indoors?


Tortoises can be kept indoors, but they need a large enclosure. In fact, many argue that tortoises should spend most or their time outdoors rather than indoors in a vivarium setting. If you choose to use an indoor tortoise enclosure, there are several considerations including size, materials type, shape, lighting, humidity and temperature.

An indoor enclosure should provide plenty of space for walking and also provide a temperature gradient so that your tortoise can thermoregulate.

A basking spot should be provided with a basking lamp to create a warm basking area. The basking spot should be around 95°F (35°C). The cool side of the enclosure should be around 75°F (24°C). A nighttime drop in temperature is normal and not a cause for concern.

The enclosure should also provide hiding spots for your tortoise to feel secure. Hiding spots can be created with overturned flower pots, cardboard boxes, or plastic storage bins.

In general, tortoises do not do well with other animals and should be kept as single pets. If you must keep multiple tortoises together, be sure to provide enough space so that each tortoise has its own hiding spot and basking area.

Considerations

When choosing or building a tortoise enclosure, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, make sure the enclosure is escape-proof. Tortoises are notorious escape artists and can squeeze through the smallest of openings.

Second, the enclosure should be safe from predators. If you have an outdoor enclosure, make sure it is enclosed with a fence that is tall enough and buried deep enough to deter predators.

Third, the enclosure should provide plenty of space for your tortoise to roam, hide, and explore.

Lastly, the enclosure should have a basking area where your tortoise can soak up some rays.

Building or finding the perfect tortoise enclosure doesn’t have to be difficult. Just keep these things in mind and you’ll be sure to find the perfect home for your pet tortoise.

Size

The size of your tortoise enclosure will be determined by the size of your tortoise. A general rule of thumb is that your tortoise should have 10 times as much space as the length of its shell and 5 times as wide.

So, if your tortoise has a 10-inch shell, it should have an enclosure that is at least 100″ long X 50″ wide. If you have the space, it is always better to err on the side of too much space rather than too little.

The height of the enclosure walls are also important. Some species, like the Russian tortoise, are known to climb if given the chance. Therefore, the general rule is to ensure the walls are at least 12″ taller than the length of your tortoise.

So for our fictious 10″ long adult tortoise, our walls should be 22″ tall at a minimum.

Let’s look at this handy table that describes the minimum enclosure size for the typical adult tortoise by breed. Just remember that these are approximations to help give you a sense of what you’ll need.

Tortoise BreedMinimum Enclosure Size (sq. in.)Minimum Enclosure Size (cm)
Egyptian Tortoises50″ X 25″ X 17″127″ X 63.5″ X 43.18″
Spider Tortoise70″ X 35″ X 19″177.8″ X 88.9″ X 48.26″
Greek Tortoise70″ X 35″ X 19″177.8″ X 88.9″ X 48.26″
Hermann’s Tortoise75″ X 37.5″ X 19.5″190.5″ X 95.25″ X 49.53″
Russian Tortoise100″ X 50″ X 22″254″ X 127″ X 55.88″
Indian Star Tortoise100″ X 50″ X 22″254″ X 127″ X 55.88″
Elongated Tortoise120″ X 60″ X 24″304.8″ X 152.4″ X 60.96″
Marginated Tortoise140″ X 70″ X 26″355.6″ X 177.8″ X 66.04″
Radiated Tortoise160″ X 80″ X 28″406.4″ X 203.2″ X 71.12″
Red Footed Tortoise180″ X 90″ X 30″457.2″ X 228.6″ X 76.2″
Leopard Tortoise180″ X 90″ X 30″457.2″ X 228.6″ X 76.2″
Burmese Mountain Tortoise240″ X 120″ X 36″609.6″ X 304.8″ X 91.44″
Indoor tortoise enclosure size by tortoise breed (length x width x height)

Wait, what about Sulcata and Aldabra tortoises? They are not on the list.

You’re right! In fact, the larger tortoises should not be kept indoors. They are just too big for the average person. We are talking about needing 1/4 to 1/2 an acre of space for them so I don’t consider indoor enclosures as possible for the sake of this resource.

Shape

The shape of your tortoise enclosure is also important. Tortoises are natural explorers and love to wander, so plenty of walking area is needed.

A tortoise enclosure should ideally be rectangular, oval, or kidney-shaped in order to give a tortoise the most space to roam and explore. If the enclosure is too small, the tortoise will feel cramped and restricted.

If the enclosure is too large, the tortoise may have difficulty finding food and water, although indoors, this will not be a problem.

Types Of Materials

The type of enclosure you choose will depend on your tortoise’s needs, as well as your budget and personal preferences. Typically we discuss three types of tortoise enclosures: wood, plastic, and metal.

Wood

Wooden tortoise enclosures are the most popular type of indoor enclosure. They are typically made from pine or cedar, and they can be found in a variety of sizes.

Wooden tortoise enclosures have several advantages. They are attractive, they blend in well with most home décors, and they are easy to customize. You can add shelves, ramps, and other features to a wooden enclosure to make it more tortoise-friendly.

The main disadvantage of wooden tortoise enclosures is that they are not as durable as other types of enclosures. Wood is susceptible to moisture and rot, so it is important to make sure that your wooden enclosure is well-sealed and that you clean it regularly.

Plastic

Plastic tortoise enclosures are another popular type of indoor enclosure. They are typically made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and they come in a variety of sizes. One example is a plastic stock tank available in many feed stores.

Plastic tortoise enclosures have several advantages. They are durable, they are easy to clean, and they are often less expensive than wooden enclosures.

The main disadvantage of plastic tortoise enclosures is that they are not as attractive as wooden enclosures. They also tend to be less customizable than wooden enclosures.

Metal

Metal tortoise enclosures are the least popular type of indoor enclosure. They are typically made from aluminum or stainless steel, and they come in a variety of sizes.

Metal tortoise enclosures have several advantages. They are durable, they are easy to clean, and they do not absorb odors the way that wooden or plastic enclosures can.

The main disadvantage of metal tortoise enclosures is that they are not as attractive as wooden or plastic enclosures. They are also less customizable than wooden enclosures.

Types of Enclosures


There are many different types of indoor tortoise enclosures that you might have considered using, including glass aquariums, plastic storage bins, wooden vivarium, and custom-built tortoise tables. Choose wisely.

Vivariums

A vivarium is a glass or plastic enclosure that is used to house reptiles and amphibians. Vivariums come in a variety of sizes and can be custom-made or purchased pre-made. Vivariums are typically taller than they are wide and provide a more naturalistic environment for reptiles and amphibians.

However, they typically do not make a good tortoise enclosure because of their smaller sizes and the higher sides are not great for ventilation and environment control.

Aquariums

Aquariums can be used to house tortoises, but they are not ideal. Aquariums do not provide adequate ventilation and can be difficult to maintain the proper humidity levels.

Additionally, most common aquariums are just way too small to keep an adult tortoise.

Plastic Storage Bins

The largest plastic storage bins can be used to create temporary indoor tortoise enclosures. However, it is difficult to get the space needed without modifying the bins and connecting several together.

Remember ventilation and microclimates are important. Do not use the included storage bin lids. Doing so prevents adequate airflow and ventilation.

Which plastic storage bins make good indoor tortoise enclosures?

Here is one example for smaller tortoises.

Rubbermaid Commercial Products Structural Foam Stock Tank, 50 Gallon Capacity

Approx. 63.25 x 69 x 12.08 inches

Wooden Enclosures

Wooden enclosures are a popular choice for indoor tortoise enclosures. Wooden enclosures can be custom-made or purchased pre-made. Tortoise tables are typically constructed out of wood.

Be sure to choose a non-toxic wood.

Sometimes a bookshelf laid down and the shelves removed can make an inexpensive indoor tortoise enclosure. Just be sure to brace the structure and add a bottom surface.

Building (DIY) vs. Buying A Pre-made Enclosure

There are many factors to consider when it comes to choosing the right enclosure for your tortoise. One important factor is whether you want to build or purchase the enclosure.

If you choose to purchase an enclosure, there are many things to consider such as the size, shape, and type of enclosure. If you choose to build an enclosure, you will need to consider the same factors as well as the materials you will use to build the enclosure.

There are many benefits to both building and purchasing an enclosure.

If you choose to purchase an enclosure, you will save time because you will not have to build the enclosure. You will also have peace of mind knowing that the enclosure is the correct size and has the correct features for your tortoise when built by a competent and quality vendor. Purchased enclosures may also have more aesthetically pleasing trim and finishes than some DIY projects.

If you choose to build an enclosure, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you built the enclosure and you will be able to customize the enclosure to fit your specific needs. You will find that you can accommodate the larger size requirements of 8″+ size tortoises better than the limited selection of pre-made enclosures that are limited by shipping size and costs.

Building An Enclosure (DIY)

There are many benefits to building your own tortoise enclosure. One benefit is that you can customize the enclosure to fit your specific needs. Another benefit is that you can save money by building the enclosure yourself. You can build a 5′ x 2.5′ x 12″ enclosure for around $150.

The size of the enclosure will depend on the size of the tortoise. For example, a baby tortoise will need a smaller enclosure than an adult tortoise. But, remember that babies grow into adults and will have the space requirements of an adult in time.

Do you want to create an indoor enclosure for their current size and then build a new one in a few years once they’ve outgrown the original enclosure? Perhaps it is a good idea to build one that they can grow into over time. There is no right or wrong answer, but one to consider for your situation.

To be successful in building a DIY indoor tortoise enclosure, you will need the right tools and some basic skills. Safety should always be a top priority. Given that most DIY tortoise enclosures are made of wood, here are some basic tools you will likely need

  • Saw (Skill saw or table saw)
  • Screwdriver (Or drill with screw bit)
  • Drill
  • Staple gun
  • Sandpaper
  • Metal snips

In the skills department, we suggest you be comfortable with:

  • Working with power tools
  • Measuring
  • Mounting hardware (screws, hinges)
  • Following diagrams/plans

Pre-Made / Commercial Enclosures

There are many benefits to purchasing an enclosure. One benefit is that you do not have to build the enclosure. Another benefit is that you can save time by purchasing an enclosure that is already built.

When purchasing an enclosure, there are many things to consider such as the size, shape, and type of enclosure. The first thing you need to do is decide what size enclosure you need.

Size is where pre-made enclosures for purchase become difficult. At some point, enclosure get so large that shipping is not viable which means you have to find someone within driving distance to purchase from. This limits your options.

Additionally, shipping of heavy items becomes extremely costly. You can quickly find yourself in a situation where shipping costs more than the product itself. Yikes!

Finding a premade tortoise enclosure that is large enough is a bit tricky. Tortoises are not the most popular pet, but we are a helpful bunch of folks. Check out tortoise forums and Facebooks groups to see if there is someone in your area that makes them.

If not, both eBay and Etsy have a few vendors who make and sell tortoise tables/enclosures.

Lastly, find a local carpenter in your area. Let them know what you are wanting and send them some pictures and dimensions. See how much they would charge to make it for you. They can deliver it or bring the supplies to your location and build it onsite.

Environmental Conditions

Creating a microclimate is important for tortoises because they are ectothermic animals. This means that they rely on the environment to regulate their body temperature.

A microclimate is a small, specific area that has different environmental conditions than the surrounding area. For tortoises, a microclimate can be created by using a basking lamp to create a warm basking area and an area without any heating to create a cooling station.

In order to create these microclimates, they need to be far enough away from the walls of the enclosure so that the tortoise can move between the warm and cool areas easily.

The basking area should be large enough for the tortoise to move around in and should be located on one side of the enclosure. The cool side of the enclosure can be created by using a fan to circulate the air or simply removing all heat sources from that area. The cool side should be large enough for the tortoise to move around in and should be located on the opposite side of the enclosure from the basking area.

The basking area and the cool side of the enclosure should be separated by a temperature gradient so that the tortoise can thermoregulate.

Temperature

Tortoises are ectothermic animals, which means that they rely on the environment to regulate their body temperature.

In the wild, tortoises will bask in the sun to warm up and will seek shelter in the shade to cool down. In captivity, it is important to provide a temperature gradient so that the tortoise can thermoregulate.

The basking spot should be around 95°F (35°C). The cool side of the enclosure should be around 75°F (24°C). A nighttime drop in temperature is normal and not a cause for concern. However, these are general rules. The exact temperatures for your tortoise will be specific to their breed.

Humidity

Tortoises come from a variety of habitats that have different humidity levels. Some tortoises, like desert tortoises, come from arid environments with low humidity levels. Other tortoises, like red-footed tortoises, come from tropical environments with high humidity levels.

It is important to research the natural habitat of your tortoise and try to recreate those conditions as closely as possible. A desert tortoise will need a drier environment with a lower humidity level than a red-footed tortoise.

The humidity level can be measured with a hygrometer. The ideal humidity level will vary depending on the species of tortoise.

Lighting

Tortoises need access to both UVB and UVA lighting. UVB lighting is necessary for the tortoise to produce vitamin D3, which is essential for calcium absorption.

UVA lighting is necessary for the tortoise to see colors and patterns.

Both UVB and UVA lighting can be provided with a fluorescent bulb or a mercury vapor bulb. The bulb should be placed on the cool side of the enclosure so that the tortoise can move away from the light if it gets too warm.

The light should be on for 12-14 hours per day. A timer can be used to turn the light on and off automatically.

Location

When selecting a location in your home for your indoor tortoise enclosure, you want to consider a few things: climate, cleaning, people, and pets.

For climate, you want an indoor tortoise enclosure in an area of your home that is comfortable for you. Not too hot and not too cold. You’ll need to provide a basking lamp to improve the ambient temperature and provide a basking spot.

NOTE: Placing one end of the tortoise enclosure near a window can be fine but it will not provide the UVB light that the tortoise needs. UVB light does not penetrate window glass so, separate UVB lights are always required indoors for your tortoise.

You’ll also want to consider cleaning. Tortoises are messy, and their enclosure will need to be cleaned often. Choose a location that is easy to clean and won’t be disrupted by the cleaning process.

People and pets are also important considerations. Tortoises are not social animals and do not do well with other pets. Tortoises are slow-moving and can be easily injured by other animals. They should be kept as single pets.

Finally, the enclosure should be placed in an area that has enough space for you to walk around it. This will make it easier for you to clean the enclosure and give your tortoise some exercise. You should also avoid placing the enclosure in an area where it will be in the way of housekeeping. This can lead to accidents and injuries

Substrate

The substrate is the material that lines the bottom of the enclosure. Some common substrates include soil, mulch, and most popularly, coconut coir.

We’ve also been fans of EcoEarth although for larger tortoise enclosures we can see how this becomes very expensive.

The substrate should be at least 2-3 inches deep to allow the tortoise to burrow. Although, we recommend substrate depth up to 1.5 times the height of the tortoise in spots for an indoor enclosure.

The substrate should also be absorbent to help regulate the humidity level in the enclosure.

It is also important that the substrate be replaced every 6-12 months to prevent the build-up of bacteria and fungi.

Our tortoise enclosure cleaning schedule provides details to ensure a healthy environment.

Enrichment

Enrichment is anything that you can add to the enclosure to stimulate the tortoise’s natural behaviors.

Enrichment can include hiding spots, climbing structures, foraging opportunities, and anything else that will help the tortoise stay active and healthy.

Hiding spots can be created with overturned flower pots, cardboard boxes, or plastic storage bins.

Climbing structures can be created with rocks, logs, or branches. The tortoise should be able to get on and off the climbing structure easily.

Foraging opportunities can be created by hiding food in the substrate or by placing food in different areas of the enclosure.

We’ve found that our tortoise loves to investigate so placing large objects that they cannot see around encourages them to walk and check out the other side. Sometimes there is a treat waiting for them. Rocks that are secure can be an easy opportunity.

Enrichment should be changed regularly to keep the tortoise interested and engaged.

Ventilation

Ventilation is important for an indoor tortoise enclosure. That is one of the benefits of a tortoise table style enclosure and why a vivarium is less desirable.

All of our indoor tortoise enclosures have included an open top. This helps ensure adequate ventilation and air flow.

Ventilation is not just about making sure their is plenty of oxygen in the enclosure, but it also helps prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi.

Many first-time tortoise keepers may not realize that even with an open top, ventilation can be severely compromised when the sides of a smaller enclosure are too tall.

For example, a 30 sq. ft. enclosure with 36″ high walls may prevent maximum airflow. In contrast, a tortoise table-style enclosure with shorter walls, or walls with screening or mesh, will allow for much better airflow.

Water

Tortoises need access to fresh water at all times.

The water dish should be large enough for the tortoise to soak in if it wants to. BE careful, the dish should also be shallow enough so that the tortoise can easily get in and out of it.

As part of maintaining a healthy environment for your tortoise, the water dish should be cleaned regularly to prevent the build-up of bacteria and algae.

What’s inside the indoor tortoise enclosure?

Every tortoise enclosure should include a few important items inside the enclosure:

  • One or more substrates
  • Water dish for drinking and soaking
  • Ceramic tiles for feeding area
  • Basking area
  • Cooling area
  • Hiding spots
  • Live Plants (optional)

The substrate is the material that you will use to line the bottom of the enclosure. There are many different substrates that can be used, but the best substrates for tortoises are ones that retain some moisture and do not hold too much heat.

Peat moss, cypress mulch, and coco coir are all good substrates for tortoises. although a good topsoil is inexpensive and works well. Be sure to avoid substrates that are dusty, such as sand, or that hold too much heat.

If you have the space, it is not unheard of to have two or three different areas with different substrates. Just keep in mind the natural environment that is native to your tortoise species and replicate it within reason.

A water dish should be provided for your tortoise to drink and soak in. The water dish should be shallow enough that your tortoise cannot drown, but deep enough that your tortoise can fully submerge its body.

Embedding the water dish in the substrate can help make it easier to get in and out of. However it will also increase the need to clean the dish.

A ceramic tile can be placed in the enclosure for a feeding area. This will help to keep the substrate clean and free of food debris while also helping to prevent ingestion of substrate while eating and helps keep the tortoise’s beak trim.

The basking area should be provided with a basking lamp to create a warm basking area. The basking area and cooling area should have a difference of about 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hiding spots can be created with overturned flower pots, cardboard boxes, or plastic storage bins.

Live plants can be added to the enclosure, but be sure to only use tortoise-safe plants. Some good tortoise-safe plants include alfalfa, clover, dandelion, and grass.

Tortoise Friendly Live Plants

Tortoises will eat just about any plant they can get their mouths on. When choosing plants for your tortoise enclosure, be sure to select plants that are safe for tortoises to eat. Some tortoise-safe plants include:

  • Aster
  • Boston Fern (love these)
  • Cone Flower
  • Dandelions
  • Friendship Plants
  • Mind Your Own Business (groundcover)
  • Oat grass
  • Oregano
  • Peperomia
  • Pansies
  • Spider Plant (my favorite)
  • Wheat grass
  • Zinnia

Check out our friends at The Tortoise Table and their ultimate tortoise plants database to see what other plants might be safe for your tortoise.

We’ve found that live plants work best when they are kept potted and then the pots placed in the substrate.

Where is a good place to buy a hamster cage for cheap?

There are many places to buy hamster cages, both new and used. New cages can be found at pet stores, online retailers, or specialty stores. Used cages can be found at garage sales, flea markets, or online classifieds.

Some specific places to find new and used hamster cages for cheap include:

However, one of the least expensive hamster cages can be built from large plastic containers as a DIY project.

Another way to find discounted hamster cages to talk to local pet stores about any cages they have that are damaged or used as display models. Many times, these pet stores will sell these cages at a discount.

Buying a new cage has some benefits:

  • Cages are less likely to have been used by other animals, so they are less likely to be contaminated with diseases.
  • New cages are often made from higher quality materials and are more durable than used cages.
  • They typically come with a warranty in case there are any defects.

Of course, buying a new cage can be more expensive than used cages and it can be difficult to find a new cage that is the right size for your hamster. Most commercial cages from the big box pet stores are way too small, despite what the sales associate may tell you.

Some benefits of buying a used cage include:

  • They are usually less expensive than new cages.
  • You can often find used cages that are the perfect size for your hamster. Especially if they are customized or custom-built.

When buying a used hamster cage keep these things in mind:

  • Cages may be contaminated with diseases from previous occupants. Be sure they get a thorough cleaning and dry before use.
  • They may not be made from high-quality materials and may not be as durable as new cages. Look to rust on metal cages.
  • They do not come with a warranty. It’s obvious but once you buy it, you own it. Make sure it meets your hamster’s needs well.

What type of tortoise is best for indoor living

There are many different types of tortoises, but not all of them are suitable for indoor living. Some tortoises, like the Sulcata tortoise, can grow to be very large and need a lot of space. Other tortoises, like the Russian tortoise, do well in smaller spaces.

When choosing a tortoise for indoor living, it is important to consider the size of the tortoise, the needs of the tortoise, and your own personal space limitations.

Resources

If you think your pet is ill, call a vet immediately. All health-related questions should be referred to your veterinarian. They can examine your pet, understand its health history, and make well informed recommendations for your pet.

903pets.com Staff

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