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Why not to keep 2 tortoises together - a lesson learned the hard way

Alex Z

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 15, 2016
Messages
788
Location (City and/or State)
NYC
Glad I read this before tomorrow. Now I am not sure if I want to get the male rt...Ty for the info..
 

christykindness

Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2012
Messages
38
Location (City and/or State)
Fallon, NV
This is a copy/paste of an article I wrote on my blog last year. I've seen several new keepers ask the question of whether they should get a 'friend' for their tortoise, and so rather than keeping on linking to my blog (which feels kinda self-promoting, which is not my intent), I am creating a thread on the TFO that has the article. @Tom and others have been saying this for a long time - this is nothing new, I've just added fun pictures. :)

Today I would like to write about an important lesson that I learned the hard way a few years ago: it is not a good idea to keep 2 tortoises together (yes, there are exceptions).

When tortoise owners ask me if I think they should get a second tortoise, I tell them: only if they plan to get a second enclosure. Then I advise them to spend the money on spoiling their 1 tortoise first: build a big outdoor enclosure, enlarge the indoor enclosure, upgrade the lighting. Put some money into savings for emergency vet care (you'll need it at some point during your tortoise's 80 or so years of life!).

...."But she's so.... lonely!"

Believe me, I've been there. Humans seek companionship, as do many other mammals. We like to project our own feelings onto our pets, and so, we assume that our tortoise would be happier with a 'friend.' Please know that I am not judging you for wanting to get another tortoise. Getting a little 'friend' for a tortoise can be so tempting. The truth is: (except for a few species like redfoot torts, aldabras, or pancake torts), most tortoises are loners in the wild. They roam several acres, and only occasionally encounter other tortoises. If a tortoise encounters another, they will fight, mate, or both. Then they wander apart again (or one is chased away by the other).



If you are thinking of getting your pet tortoise a 'buddy' then I hope you read my story first, and put some serious thought into your decision after reading about my experience. Keeping 2 tortoises together (especially of the testudo species) is NOT a cake walk.


In reality, it will look like this... *BITE!* ... a lot of the time.

If you get a male and a female, after much biting and bullying, there will be plenty of mating too. More than there would ever be in nature. Enough mating to kill the female.



If the female can't get away from the male, he will seek her out again and again (more than in nature, since there she CAN get away). My friend rescued a tortoise female earlier this year whose vent was terribly infected and torn and chafed and ripped from all the mating. It took her a long time to heal.


The infected, oozing, puss-filled tail of my friend's rescued female that was mated too much.
(I'm posting a small picture just so it's not too gross)


Here is how I learned my lesson:

I started out with one female Russian tortoise, Timmy. After I had her for a few years, I decided I'd like to get a second tortoise. A few knowledgeable people on the tortoise forums advised against this. They warned me that tortoises, especially the testudo species (to which Russian tortoises belong) are very territorial. They told me that the tortoises would compete for food, for the basking spot, for space. They told me that they would bite and ram, and one would become stressed, hurt, and might die.


"Timmy needs a friend. My tortoises will be different and won't fight."

For some reason, I was convinced that 'my' tortoises would be different. I set up a my enclosure with lots of site barriers. I soon adopted a little male, Roz. For the first 18 or so months, everything went well. There were NO signs of aggression, both tortoises ate together, basked together, slept together. Yay! My tortoises were the exception!


Wait. What?! My male is biting my female?! Oh no!

Then one day, Roz matured. Roz discovered that he was a rapist little man-tortoise with needs and urges. Roz discovered that he didn't like sharing his food. Roz discovered that he could boss Timmy around, in spite of being half her size. Roz became a big, mean, bossy, biting bully. Timmy lost scales on her legs, and even got a bite wound on her face once. Roz got to spend a lot of time in the time-out bin until I separated him permanently.

Watch this video of Roz bobbing his head at Timmy (which is territorial behavior), and then circling her and biting her:

In the wild, this is 'normal' courting behavior. However, in the wild, the female can get away! In captivity, while both tortoises were kept in the same enclosure, Roz wanted to mate with Timmy 15+ times each day. He spent his spare time bullying her away from the food or the basking spot. Timmy started to become withdrawn, and wanted to hide and sleep all the time. I separated the two, and she started eating again, thank goodness.

Now, the 'easy' solution would have been to re-home Roz. This, however, was not an option for me. I had made a commitment to care for him, and did not want to break this commitment. The 'harder' solution was to a) separate my male, b) build a larger enclosure, and c) get a little harem of female tortoises for him. It took me nearly a year to find females, since in the pet trade, most tortoises are male. I finally got Mila and Jill, and then Lady.



I know that some people will advise that two female tortoises will get along fine. I disagree: one will always be the underdog. At least for testudo species, if you want to keep multiple females together, you should get 3 or more. This way they are less likely to fight, and the bullying will be divided a little among them.
During the Summer, the tortoises happily (and peacefully) lived outside in the large tortoise garden I built them. They will be divided over several indoor tortoise tables for the winter.


They spread out over the entire tortoise garden, except to eat.

IF you decide you want more than 1 tortoise, please avoid keeping 2 males together, or 1 male and 1 female. Either 3 females (with LOTS of space) or 1 male and 3+ females might work... but even then, you may find yourself needing a degree in tortoise diplomatics!

IF you decide to keep multiple tortoises, please remember that the enclosure size must adjust accordingly for multiple tortoises! If the absolute minimum size for 1 tortoise is 2'x4', then each additional tortoise will need at least that much more space. As always, larger is better when it comes to tortoise enclosures!
 

christykindness

Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2012
Messages
38
Location (City and/or State)
Fallon, NV
Great article! I do feel guilt of housing my guys separately, but it's been a week they are eating more , very active, and basking/soaking more now. They stay out when we approach, and just seem more content after all! And we learn right? I'm not too computer savvy, so I don't normally turn to one for answers, but I am so glad that I did! This forum has been a wealth of info! I'm still exploring, and learning how to navigate it, but I've spent hours reading, and am so happy to find I'm NOT the only tortoise freak out there!
 

dylangmurray

New Member
Joined
Aug 30, 2017
Messages
9
Location (City and/or State)
ontario canada
Thank you so much for posting this information. I have a horse field tortoise who is just about to turn 1 year old and was considering getting another so it wasn't lonely. I felt that doing it now would be better as it is still young- instead of it being older and being more territorial etc. After reading your post about your own experience it has opened my eyes and I don't think I will bother getting another any time soon. I may consider in the future to get another - but doing what you said and having separate enclosures. How did your tortoises react etc once you separated them? Do you think it would be OK if I was to have them in separate enclosures but let them out together for a little while every other day? Just to bond but not live together.

Thanks!
as sead thay do not need to bond but this wuld be okay evry now and then or if you want them to breed doing this wuld be a good idia in my experince at least
 

Tort dude

Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2018
Messages
55
Location (City and/or State)
United States
Maybe because it feels like a new territory to them so they once again have to sort out the hierarchy?
thank you for giving your input. I do think you are right, the enclosure is a lot bigger than they are used to and they have not had heat lamps which i always use for my reptiles. they previously had a heating mat that was very small and they are already looking a lot healthier due to the lamp. i sadly did have to split them up. the weird thing is they lived together for 9 years without any problems. the big male was biting and clawing the smaller one. i just did not want them to get hurt.!!!!
 

barrabuss

New Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2018
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
texas
Naturally males of many creatures are known to fight one another during mating season or for territory. Lucky for me, my 3 russians have lived together in harmony. Never have I seen them once bite the other. I have 2 males and 1 female. They stay together outdoors and indoors. All were purchased as adults from different breeders. Been a few humpings at times, but never have I seen any bite. I have had the 2 males for 4 years, the female for a little over a year. I did have a female prior to her for 6 years, but she died last year when I placed her alone in a nesting box. So as you said...there are circumstances and I was one of the lucky ones, lol.
 
Last edited:

TechnoCheese

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 20, 2016
Messages
3,758
Location (City and/or State)
Lewisville, Texas
My 3 russians have lived together in harmony. Never have I seen them once bite the other. 2 males and 1 female. They stay together outdoors and indoors. All were purchased as adults from different breeders. Been a few humpings at times, but never have I seen any bite.
Aggression isn’t just physical. Tortoises mainly bully mentally. You just described a potential form of bullying. Mounting is used to show dominance, and the female could be stressed by the amount of times the males try to breed her. There are other signs too, like “cuddling”, which is really crowding, “following”, which is really chasing, and others that we can’t recognize.
 

barrabuss

New Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2018
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
texas
Aggression isn’t just physical. Tortoises mainly bully mentally. You just described a potential form of bullying. Mounting is used to show dominance, and the female could be stressed by the amount of times the males try to breed her. There are other signs too, like “cuddling”, which is really crowding, “following”, which is really chasing, and others that we can’t recognize.
This is true, but the humping had only been a few times. I would love to have a few eggs to be honest. All 3 really keep to their own spot, never really bothering the other. They do get their personal time when its nice outside, roaming around exploring. My challenge right now are my 2 beautiful red foots Ive recently purchased. Trying to keep a steady temp, variety of food, and their daily dips in the water.....wouldn't change any of it for the world.
 

TriciaStringer

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Joined
Apr 11, 2018
Messages
1,120
Location (City and/or State)
Louisiana
Yeah I have two males, I never had the intent of keeping them "together", so I was prepared for them not getting along, which... they would I think if one wasn't so aggressive, Marshal is bigger and older but he is very mild and well behaved, whereas Thor... he is the perfect example of a tortoise in the wild lol He chases, bullies, bites, rams, and hauls *** over the grounds protecting his territory!

I never let him get to actually ram or bite the other tortoise, but in any situation where they are in the same vicinity, like a special outdoors fun day I have to stay with them and watch them like hawks, mostly just Thor, he would hunt Marshal to the ends of the Earth if I let him I think, he even tried to ram ME once when I was keeping him from Marshal hahaha.

Its no joke though, in all seriousness, GREAT post!

And just wanted to say George with that ornament is entirely way too cute lol
I’m th
Yeah I have two males, I never had the intent of keeping them "together", so I was prepared for them not getting along, which... they would I think if one wasn't so aggressive, Marshal is bigger and older but he is very mild and well behaved, whereas Thor... he is the perfect example of a tortoise in the wild lol He chases, bullies, bites, rams, and hauls *** over the grounds protecting his territory!

I never let him get to actually ram or bite the other tortoise, but in any situation where they are in the same vicinity, like a special outdoors fun day I have to stay with them and watch them like hawks, mostly just Thor, he would hunt Marshal to the ends of the Earth if I let him I think, he even tried to ram ME once when I was keeping him from Marshal hahaha.

Its no joke though, in all seriousness, GREAT post!

And just wanted to say George with that ornament is entirely way too cute lol
I’m thinking it should have been Thor and Loki.
 

Pattech

New Member
Joined
May 19, 2018
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
Denmark
Aw i have 2 Tortoises together they both are male so that means i need to sell one?
 

Pattech

New Member
Joined
May 19, 2018
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
Denmark

Bobby12345

New Member
Joined
May 18, 2018
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Virginia
This is a copy/paste of an article I wrote on my blog last year. I've seen several new keepers ask the question of whether they should get a 'friend' for their tortoise, and so rather than keeping on linking to my blog (which feels kinda self-promoting, which is not my intent), I am creating a thread on the TFO that has the article. @Tom and others have been saying this for a long time - this is nothing new, I've just added fun pictures. :)

Today I would like to write about an important lesson that I learned the hard way a few years ago: it is not a good idea to keep 2 tortoises together (yes, there are exceptions).

When tortoise owners ask me if I think they should get a second tortoise, I tell them: only if they plan to get a second enclosure. Then I advise them to spend the money on spoiling their 1 tortoise first: build a big outdoor enclosure, enlarge the indoor enclosure, upgrade the lighting. Put some money into savings for emergency vet care (you'll need it at some point during your tortoise's 80 or so years of life!).

...."But she's so.... lonely!"

Believe me, I've been there. Humans seek companionship, as do many other mammals. We like to project our own feelings onto our pets, and so, we assume that our tortoise would be happier with a 'friend.' Please know that I am not judging you for wanting to get another tortoise. Getting a little 'friend' for a tortoise can be so tempting. The truth is: (except for a few species like redfoot torts, aldabras, or pancake torts), most tortoises are loners in the wild. They roam several acres, and only occasionally encounter other tortoises. If a tortoise encounters another, they will fight, mate, or both. Then they wander apart again (or one is chased away by the other).



If you are thinking of getting your pet tortoise a 'buddy' then I hope you read my story first, and put some serious thought into your decision after reading about my experience. Keeping 2 tortoises together (especially of the testudo species) is NOT a cake walk.


In reality, it will look like this... *BITE!* ... a lot of the time.

If you get a male and a female, after much biting and bullying, there will be plenty of mating too. More than there would ever be in nature. Enough mating to kill the female.



If the female can't get away from the male, he will seek her out again and again (more than in nature, since there she CAN get away). My friend rescued a tortoise female earlier this year whose vent was terribly infected and torn and chafed and ripped from all the mating. It took her a long time to heal.


The infected, oozing, puss-filled tail of my friend's rescued female that was mated too much.
(I'm posting a small picture just so it's not too gross)


Here is how I learned my lesson:

I started out with one female Russian tortoise, Timmy. After I had her for a few years, I decided I'd like to get a second tortoise. A few knowledgeable people on the tortoise forums advised against this. They warned me that tortoises, especially the testudo species (to which Russian tortoises belong) are very territorial. They told me that the tortoises would compete for food, for the basking spot, for space. They told me that they would bite and ram, and one would become stressed, hurt, and might die.


"Timmy needs a friend. My tortoises will be different and won't fight."

For some reason, I was convinced that 'my' tortoises would be different. I set up a my enclosure with lots of site barriers. I soon adopted a little male, Roz. For the first 18 or so months, everything went well. There were NO signs of aggression, both tortoises ate together, basked together, slept together. Yay! My tortoises were the exception!


Wait. What?! My male is biting my female?! Oh no!

Then one day, Roz matured. Roz discovered that he was a rapist little man-tortoise with needs and urges. Roz discovered that he didn't like sharing his food. Roz discovered that he could boss Timmy around, in spite of being half her size. Roz became a big, mean, bossy, biting bully. Timmy lost scales on her legs, and even got a bite wound on her face once. Roz got to spend a lot of time in the time-out bin until I separated him permanently.

Watch this video of Roz bobbing his head at Timmy (which is territorial behavior), and then circling her and biting her:

In the wild, this is 'normal' courting behavior. However, in the wild, the female can get away! In captivity, while both tortoises were kept in the same enclosure, Roz wanted to mate with Timmy 15+ times each day. He spent his spare time bullying her away from the food or the basking spot. Timmy started to become withdrawn, and wanted to hide and sleep all the time. I separated the two, and she started eating again, thank goodness.

Now, the 'easy' solution would have been to re-home Roz. This, however, was not an option for me. I had made a commitment to care for him, and did not want to break this commitment. The 'harder' solution was to a) separate my male, b) build a larger enclosure, and c) get a little harem of female tortoises for him. It took me nearly a year to find females, since in the pet trade, most tortoises are male. I finally got Mila and Jill, and then Lady.



I know that some people will advise that two female tortoises will get along fine. I disagree: one will always be the underdog. At least for testudo species, if you want to keep multiple females together, you should get 3 or more. This way they are less likely to fight, and the bullying will be divided a little among them.
During the Summer, the tortoises happily (and peacefully) lived outside in the large tortoise garden I built them. They will be divided over several indoor tortoise tables for the winter.


They spread out over the entire tortoise garden, except to eat.

IF you decide you want more than 1 tortoise, please avoid keeping 2 males together, or 1 male and 1 female. Either 3 females (with LOTS of space) or 1 male and 3+ females might work... but even then, you may find yourself needing a degree in tortoise diplomatics!

IF you decide to keep multiple tortoises, please remember that the enclosure size must adjust accordingly for multiple tortoises! If the absolute minimum size for 1 tortoise is 2'x4', then each additional tortoise will need at least that much more space. As always, larger is better when it comes to tortoise enclosures!
 

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