Things you wish you knew before getting a tortoise


New Member
Apr 29, 2019
Location (City and/or State)
Northern Ireland
Hi guys! :)

I'm new here and I don't have any tortoises (yet!). I have been doing my research for about half a year, but I want to as knowledgable as possible before bringing a tortoise into my life.

Title of the thread explains it all really. What are some things that you wish you knew before bringing a tortoise into your life? What are some unexpected things you faced, despite all your research?

Thanks for reading,

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Jan 23, 2008
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
Don't buy those small domed lights or Bakelite fixtures. Large dome and porcelaine only!
Don't use a curly shaped compact fluorescent bulb - UVB is minimal and they might burn baby eyes.
Russians might be small, but they need a LOT of space to live in.
Tortoises don't do well in pairs.
Sulcatas get BIG - FAST!

Cathie G

Well-Known Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Aug 9, 2018
Location (City and/or State)
Hello. The first thing you have to figure out is which species you want and if you have the space to accommodate your adoption. You're going to enjoy any tortoise that you can give a good home to. What species will better fit your ability to provide it the right diet, humidity, sunlight, etc...I do have to say I'm glad I have the CDR finally to contact for support from experienced and knowledgeable members. Have your enclosure ready first. Then adopt.


Active Member
Jul 14, 2018
Location (City and/or State)
Marshalltown IA
To get from a good place. I did my research and my decision wasn't super rushed. But I got too excited and bought from a bad store. And within 3 weeks my 1st tort died. And I was heart broken. So with my tort now I watch like a hawk and if I think something is strange I like and prod till I know he's ok.

And also buy a heat gun, that is life changing


The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Jan 9, 2010
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
  1. Closed chambers instead of open tops.
  2. Tortoises need huge amounts of room, much more than other types of reptiles or pets.
  3. No cfl UV bulbs.
  4. Pet stores usually sell unnecessary, sometimes detrimental and overpriced products and give terrible tortoise care advice. My apologies to the few exceptions, but you are a rare breed.
  5. No colored bulbs.
  6. No "spot" bulbs.
  7. Use a thermostat to control ambient temps.
  8. Avoid grocery store produce in favor of better items found for free.
  9. Using Mazuri as a supplemental food is good.
  10. Don't overdo the calcium supplementation.
  11. Too much time outside is bad for babies.
  12. The vast majority of tortoise species are NOT "desert" animals. They need water and at least moderate humidity. Especially as babies.
  13. Is will never be cheap or easy to house giant species in climates with freezing winter weather.
  14. Never mix species or allow them to have contact with each other, or each other's stuff, or each other's spaces.
  15. Tortoises should not be kept in pairs.
  16. Tortoises don't get lonely and other tortoises are not seen as "friends'.
  17. Tortoise do NOT get all their water from the food they eat. Babies of all species should be soaked daily.
  18. Letting tortoises roam free in the house or yard is a mistake. Eventually, it is likely to cause the tortoise's death or loss. It doesn't matter how close you intend to supervise. Use an enclosure.
  19. If the tap water is safe for you, its safe for your tortoise.
  20. Most breeders do not start babies correctly. When you find one that does, spread the word. Daily soaks, humid environment, mostly indoors, a WIDE variety of foods, etc... Don't support the ones who are doing it wrong.
  21. Be aware that most of the "research" you do will lead you to old, out-dated, incorrect info that has been parroted for decades and is based off of incorrect assumptions about how they live in the wild.


Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Feb 20, 2016
Location (City and/or State)
Lewisville, Texas
Your heating elements will not burn through the screen top of a tank. That was a fun period.

Clamp lamps are very dangerous. Curtis was named Lucky at first for a reason.

Go as big as you possibly can with the grow out enclosure for a Sulcata.

It is literally impossible to hold 80%+ humidity in a screen topped tank where I live.

Tortoise enclosure kits are stupid and shouldn’t be bought.

Lyn W

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Jul 22, 2014
Location (City and/or State)
I hadn't planned on having a tortoise and was clueless when I ended up rehoming a leopard, so you are sensible to research.
Some of the many things I have learned are -
  • there's more to tortoise keeping than people think.
  • different species have different care needs and you can't just throw some cheap lettuce or fruit in for them and expect them to be healthy.
  • torts digestive systems can't handle the sugars in fruit
  • weeds/plants must be chemical/fume free
  • they are not cheap to keep especially if you have a non hibernating species in a cold climate (like UK) - you need heat, light and uvb sources all year around.
  • even the smaller species need a decent space.
  • if you want holidays you will need a reliable tort sitter (I haven't been away in 5 years!!!)
  • pet shops know very little about tortoise care and will often sell unsuitable or unsafe equipment for the profit.
  • torts are solitary and territorial animals so they should not be kept in pairs
  • if looked after properly your tort will outlive you
  • torts don't like being picked up or petted, some may be more sociable than others but only usually because you provide their food.
  • don't get one yet if you are likely to be going off to college. The people you leave him with may not be as thorough as you are with his care - wait until you are settled, and have room for a decent indoor and outdoor enclosure.
  • you need a good herpetologist vet
Having a tort has changed my life and It can be expensive and difficult sometimes, but luckily I found this forum full of great advice and support when it's needed.
I wouldn't be without my tort now unless I felt I couldn't provide him properly anymore.

Big Charlie

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Jul 28, 2015
Location (City and/or State)
Tortoises don't go around things. They go through, over or under, whether or not they fit.

If you keep a sulcata in your backyard, be prepared for the lawn furniture to be dragged all over, sprinklers to be broken, bushes decimated, holes dug, poop everywhere...
Sometimes your tortoise will get himself in impossible situations, like wrapped up in the hose.

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