How to Care for a Pet Turtle

How to Care for a Pet Turtle

How to Care for a Pet Turtle: Let’s know about How to Care for a Pet Turtle. Tortoises are fascinating animals that, with proper care, have often been known to outdo their owners. In fact, some of the oldest animals on the planet are turtles! But tortoises don’t live long if they don’t get proper care. Many people get along with turtles without fully understanding their care needs and inadvertently shortening their lifespan. If you have a new turtle or are considering getting one, here are the things you need to know!

How to Care for a Pet Turtle

Turtle Facts

In 2010, evidence of one of the earliest turtles kept as a pet was found in the UK sometime in the 1800s. Ownership of turtles dates back to the 1600s, but it is believed that prior to the 1800s, tortoises were kept only as food animals. There are 49 species of turtles on the planet, (1) and they range in size from 4-6 inches to over 3 feet long. Turtles can weigh anywhere from 10 pounds to about 1000 pounds.

Turtles are known to be some of the longest-living animals on the planet and are considered to be the longest-living vertebrates. The youngest tortoise, the pancake tortoise, typically lives 30–50 years, while the giant Galapagos giant tortoise can live up to about 200 years. The oldest recorded life span of a tortoise was an Aldabra tortoise named Advaita which was about 255 years old. Harriet, the Galapagos giant tortoise, is believed to have been brought from the Galapagos Islands by Charles Darwin and was about 175 years old. Harriet died under the care of a famous family: Steve and Terry Irwin. (2)

In case you were wondering, a group of turtles is called a creep. However, turtles usually lead solitary lives and it is rare to see a group of them, especially in nature. You are most likely to crawl into the zoo.

Are turtles good pets?

Turtles make great pets…if you know what you’re doing!

Once they feel safe and comfortable with you, your tortoise may approach you for food or scratches (yes, they feel touch on their shell!) However, they are naturally solitary and generally They generally do not live long enough to cooperate with people or other tortoises, so don’t expect a particularly relaxed pet. (3) You can see your turtle outside and around during the day, however, especially when it is warm and sunny.

Turtles don’t require a ton of daily care other than fresh water and food. You will spend more time balancing your turtle’s diet to suit its nutritional needs and food preferences than providing direct care to your turtle. Depending on your enclosure’s setup, your tortoise may require daily enclosure cleaning.  (4) If your turtle has a large outer enclosure, it is unlikely that they will need daily cleaning.

Where can I get a pet turtle?

Depending on what type of turtle you are in the market for, you may have a really easy time or a really hard time. Many pet stores sell certain varieties of tortoiseshells, such as Hermann’s tortoises and Russian tortoises. Other types of turtles may be more difficult to come by and will probably need to be purchased directly from a specialty seller, online or from a breeder. The Sulcata tortoise is one of the most popular types of tortoise kept as pets, but is difficult to find in stores and must be purchased online. Interestingly, these popular turtles reach over 100 pounds and live long enough to outlive their owners. (5)

How much does it cost to own a pet turtle?

Your initial tortoise purchase will easily cost you $100-200 for the tank and food supplies such as the turtle and food. However, if you are buying a tortoise at the lower end of the cost spectrum. A few turtlenecks can easily cost you $1500 for a tortoiseshell. Your expenses will also vary depending on the size of the tortoise. You’ll probably buy a smaller sized tortoise, so your initial cost may be lower. However, tortoises that grow up will need large enclosures with open space and warm lighting, whether artificial or natural. Don’t forget that you will need to buy commercial turtle food, calcium supplements, and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables for your turtle.

How to Care for a Pet Turtle

Finding a vet who takes care of tortoises can be difficult, so it’s a good idea to check with veterinarians in your area before buying a tortoise. One advantage of tortoiseshells is that they don’t require regular vet visits like many other pets. However, it does mean that when you are taking your turtle to the vet, it is likely because they are sick or injured, which can easily cost you $100-1,000 or more.

What Kind of Home Does My Pet Turtle Need?


For smaller turtles, a reptile tank will likely suffice. Larger tortoises may need their own room or enclosed space. Ideally, all turtles should have a safe outdoor space to spend time in. To set up an outdoor enclosure, you will need to make sure it is secure from other animals and will keep your turtle safe. The last thing you want is to investigate your turtle only to find it’s missing!


The substrate you use for your tortoise should be absorbent so that your tortoise does not stand in the garbage. Coco coir, peat and clay are all acceptable. Reptile substrate bark and mulch and coconut husk chips are all good substrates if your choice is something chunky. For outdoor enclosures, your turtle needs grassy areas and will likely enjoy areas with dirt. Bermuda and fescue grasses are recommended but not required. Make sure any grass or weeds growing in the space are safe in case your turtle eats them.

light and heat

For indoor enclosures, your turtle will need light that provides UV rays. It helps in the production of vitamin D, which leads to the production of calcium. They also need a heat lamp that provides a warm place to maintain their body temperature. Ideally, you should have one light and one heat lamp, not one lamp for both jobs. Most of the enclosure should have UV light, but the heat should be concentrated in one spot, so your turtle has the ability to move in and out of space as needed.


Your turtle won’t really need toys, but they will appreciate an enclosure with different textures and things like caves and bridges or basking platforms. They may also appreciate plants or other objects to rub against to scratch any itch.

 food and water

Your tortoise will need a dish that holds their water and is easy to clean so you can prevent algae and waste buildup. A food dish isn’t required, but it’s a good idea because it will make cleaning up leftover food easier, allowing you to keep the enclosure clean.

What should I feed my pet turtle?

Almost all turtles are true herbivores, so their diet should reflect this. The basis of the diet should be fresh vegetables. On a daily basis, about 80% of your tortoise’s diet should be vegetables, mainly greens. They are partial to things like mustard greens, collard greens, and dandelion greens. They can also have foods like sweet potatoes, capsicum and cauliflower. The diet should include fresh fruits like strawberries, blueberries, cherries and melons. However, fruits should not be offered daily.

The rest of the diet should be supplemented with a commercial tortoise food, which should be kept in enclosures and kept fresh at all times. A calcium supplement should be added to your turtle’s food 2-3 times per week, depending on your turtle’s calcium needs, which vary from species to species. A reptile multivitamin can be added once or twice a month as needed, but talk to your vet to make sure it is an appropriate age for your turtle.

Your turtle should always have access to fresh, clean water. It is especially important to check water in outdoor enclosures to prevent evaporation and pests.

How do I care for my pet turtle?


On a daily basis, you should give your tortoise fresh vegetables and a commercial diet free of charge. Your tortoise will also appreciate fruits and weeds such as dandelion and clover. Just make sure whatever you choose is free of pesticides and wash it thoroughly. Fruits can be offered once or twice a week, but they should not be eaten in excess. Other foods offered as treats are things like alfalfa hay and calcium supplementation can be achieved with calcium powder, cuttlebone, or calcium blocks. If you have an omnivorous tortoise, such as a red-footed tortoise, protein should be introduced at least weekly.


It is unlikely that your turtle will appreciate being carried around, so this should only be done if necessary. Offering to scratches and pets, especially during meal times, will help build trust.

hell care

The most important aspect of shell care is to provide adequate calcium in the diet. However, the shells are part of your turtle’s skeletal system, so it is important to check it for cracks and other injuries. Any shell damage should be evaluated by a veterinarian.

one thing

Your tortoise will only need to be bathed on occasion or when it is particularly dirty. Bathing will help maintain health and hygiene, as well as improve hydration. A warm bath can also help a constipated turtle bring some relief.


Brumation is a form of inactivity that is not actual hibernation but a period of yearning. Not all turtles experience brumation, so check the needs of your turtle species. During brooding, activity levels and metabolism drop significantly, but your tortoise may be tempted to come outside for breakfast during some sunny and perhaps hot days.

enclosure care

Your turtle’s enclosure should be kept neat and clean. Absorbent or well-draining substrates should be replaced as needed and indoor enclosures should be wiped down regularly to prevent bacteria and waste buildup.

How do I know if my pet tortoise is sick?

How to Care for a Pet Turtle

respiratory diseases

Turtle will easily pick up respiratory diseases like pneumonia. If you notice a runny nose, labored breathing, swollen eyelids, or a low appetite or activity level, your turtle should be evaluated by a vet as soon as possible. Respiratory diseases can progress rapidly in severity.


Turtles that are not being provided with clean water or that are not consuming foods with water will quickly become dehydrated. The main symptom of dehydration is sunken eyes, but you may also notice a decrease in waste production. Mild dehydration can lead to constipation, but severe dehydration can lead to things like kidney problems and death.


If your turtle starts to appear swollen or bloated or if you notice sticky or liquid stools, they may be malnourished. If you think your tortoise may be malnourished, they should be evaluated by a vet. You will need to give detailed information about your tortoise’s diet to the vet so they can help you make adjustments and rule out diseases caused by nutrient malabsorption.

 shell disease

Malnutrition, lack of sunlight, or a poor calcium:phosphorus ratio can all cause tenderness and damage to the shell. It can also cause the shell to warp and deform. If you are unsure about the cause of shell problems, talk to your vet.


Outgoing turtles are at risk of parasites. Weight loss, abnormal stools and evidence of abdominal discomfort can all indicate parasites. There are over-the-counter parasite treatments, but it is a good idea to have your vet evaluate your turtle to identify the parasite and the appropriate treatment.


The main cause of disease and short life expectancy of turtles is improper care. Most people don’t do this intentionally, but they are uneducated on the needs of tortoises. Before you get a tortoise, make sure you are prepared not only for a turtle’s life expectancy, but also for the nutritional and environmental requirements needed to keep them happy and healthy. Turtles can make great, unique pets if you are educated and willing to provide them with the life they need and deserve.