Home | Frank's Creatures | Tortoise Habitats – Glass Aquariums Are Not Suitable Tortoise Homes – Part 2

Tortoise Habitats – Glass Aquariums Are Not Suitable Tortoise Homes – Part 2

Hermann’s TortoiseTortoises have long been immensely popular pets, and with good reason.  We know a good deal about their needs, but misinformation as to a proper enclosure abounds.  In Part 1 of this article I discussed the general unsuitability of glass aquariums and the usefulness of outdoor enclosures.  Today we’ll take a look at indoor cages that can be purchased or (if you are more skilled than I!) built.

Plastic-Based Animal Cages

Plastic-based wire animal cages are preferable to aquariums for small tortoises.  Please bear in mind, however, that all except the Egyptian Tortoise (Testudo kleimanni) and the Speckled Padloper (Homopus signatus) will outgrow most available cages (please see Part 1 for further information). 

As many tortoises will attempt to climb wire or screen cages, you’ll need to check that your pet cannot reach above the plastic cage base and latch onto the wire.

Heat provision will be a bit more complicated than is the case for aquariums, since heat quickly escapes from screen enclosures, but the incredible array of bulbs and ceramic heaters that are available will enable you to solve any heating dilemma (please write in if you need assistance).  The extra work on your part is essential, as it’s nearly impossible to provide a proper heat gradient for tortoises in an aquarium (please see Part I).

Cages worth your consideration include the Pets International Rabbit Cage, My First Home and the Pointer Hill Ferret Cage. Marshall’s Small Animal Playpen is a fine exercise enclosure, but check that your pet does not try to scale the wire.

Wire Cages

CageWire rabbit cages are another option, but you will most likely need to install a plastic border around the base of the enclosure to prevent climbing; a very simple solution is to place an appropriately-sized cat litter box within the cage to serve as a base.

Building the Perfect Tortoise Home

The Table Top Tortoise Terrarium featured on the Tortoise Trust website is the best indoor tortoise environment I know of, especially considering that it can be built to your size specifications.  I lack (completely!) the skills to construct one, but a more competent friend of mine made a similar model with little trouble.

Further Reading

This excellent article by Dr. Kevin Wright illustrates the space needed by even small tortoise species, along with host of other factors that must be considered in designing an enclosure.


Hermann’sTortoise image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Orchi

About Frank Indiviglio

Read other posts by

Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
Scroll To Top