Tortoises for Sale
Tortoises are reptiles from the Testudinidae family of the order Testudines. Unlike other reptiles, tortoises develop a shell on the outside of their bodies to protect them from predators, which is actually a part of their skeleton. The shells are hard and difficult to penetrate, and like turtles, tortoises can withdraw their head, arms, and legs inside the shell to completely protect their soft bodies. Their pelvic and pectoral girdles are inside their rib cages instead of outside and are usually diurnal.
Tortoises display a wide variety of hues within the green, brown, and yellow color families. They have rough scales, beak-like faces and small, flat nostrils high up on their snouts. Their necks appear short at first when tucked into their shell, but can be extended quite a bit. Their feet have thick claws that help them dig into compacted dirt to burrow and in search of food. The markings on their shells vary but are generally in some type of geometrical pattern.
Tortoises vary greatly in size and can range from just a few centimeters long to as large as two meters.
Tortoises have earned the title of the longest living animal in the world. Most tortoise species live between 80-150 years, while exotic species such as the Galapagos tortoise and Aldabra giant tortoise have been recorded as living as long as 150 and 255 years, respectively. It’s difficult to know how long a pet tortoise will live, however, be prepared for the possibility it will live longer than you do!
Tortoises are some of the most docile reptiles and typically don’t show aggression, except for two males who are enclosed together. They tend to be shy and will retreat into their shells when picked up or moved, however, they may interact while being handled if you have a treat to offer.
The diet of a tortoise varies depending on species, but generally, tortoises as a whole are vegetarian. They do need a wide variety of foods to meet their nutritional needs, and tortoise owners should pay careful attention to the ratio of phosphorous and calcium in their diet as well as the amount of roughage provided. How much a tortoise eats also varies — some are quite voracious while others eat less. Provide your tortoise with as much fresh food as they’ll eat; tortoises typically will not overeat.
The Differences Between Tortoises and Turtles
Tortoises and turtles are commonly mistaken for one another, but there are a few key differences between the two:
Land vs. Water Creatures
Tortoises are exclusively land reptiles that live in both dry, arid conditions and wet tropical climates. They will drink water and sometimes bathe in it, but they typically don’t enjoy swimming. Turtles, on the other hand, enjoy primarily living in and around the water, coming up to bask on a rock for a short while before diving back in. If you see a tortoise swimming around in a fish tank at the pet store, it’s actually a turtle.
Although tortoises and turtles look very similar, they have some strikingly different anatomical features if you look close enough. Tortoises have a unique hind limb structure with elephantine (columnar) hind limbs and feet. Because they do not swim, tortoises don’t have flippers on the front of their bodies, nor are their feet webbed like a turtle’s to make swimming easier. Tortoises also have fewer than two phalanges, or “fingers,” on each digit in their feet.
Differences in Diet
Finally, one of the most significant differences between tortoises and turtles is their diets. Turtles are omnivorous, meaning they eat both meat and plants. Tortoises, on the other hand, are usually vegetarians and will refuse meat. If you can’t tell the difference between a tortoise and a turtle, try to feed it meat. If the reptile eats the meat, it’s most likely a turtle.
Keeping a Pet Tortoise
Like most reptiles, it’s important that you do your best to replicate the tortoise’s natural habitat in the wild. This can sometimes be challenging and with so many options available, it’s often hard to determine the best setup for your home. Keep the following in mind when preparing a space for your tortoise:
Tortoises can be quite large and will need a habitat that allows them to move about freely. Ideally, very large tortoises are housed in outdoor enclosures in areas with mild climates, but smaller tortoises can be kept at home in large enclosures. An enclosure that can be moved inside or out depending on weather is a great option. The enclosure should be strong enough to prevent predators getting in and a burrowing tortoise from getting out. A locked top is essential, as is adequate ventilation. Do not put small inedible objects, sharp objects, poisonous plants, or deep tubs of water in a tortoise’s enclosure.
Heat, Lighting, and Humidity
Like many other reptiles, tortoises need both UVA and UVB light to avoid developing metabolic bone disease and prevent lethargy, lack of appetite, and vitamin D deficiency. Purchase a florescent strip light that extends the length of the enclosure, but ensure it’s a reptile bulb or specifically notes on the packaging that it emits UVB light. Most traditional fluorescent bulbs for home and commercial use do not emit UVB light. Change bulbs every six months or so when they are no longer capable of emitting UVB.
Tortoises also need to be able to bask in 80-90 degree heat, so a heat bulb is ideal. Tortoises are diurnal, meaning they sleep at night, so switch to a purple, blue, or red heat lamp after dark. They also prefer very high humidity, in the 95% or greater range. You’ll need to balance the ventilation, substrate, enclosure size, location, and other factors to achieve optimal humidity levels. Humidity should rarely, if ever, be below 70%.
Feeding and Handling
Tortoises can be handled often, but it’s important to help new tortoises get used to being handled gradually. Start by picking your tortoise up a couple of times a day for just a few minutes. Offer a treat to help the tortoise associate handling with something positive. Over time, you can increase the amount of time you handle your tortoise. Be judicious and never handle your tortoise when it’s ill or if it becomes aggressive.
How to Keep a Pet Tortoise Healthy
It’s important to keep your pet tortoise healthy for the duration of its life in captivity. Make sure you’re covering these basics:
Spot clean your tortoise’s enclosure daily, ideally while the tortoise is taking its daily bath (older turtles may not bathe every day). Clean food and water bowls daily, and remove all substrate and sanitize the inside of the enclosure and all surfaces with a reptile-safe cleaning solution at least monthly if not every couple of weeks.
Tortoise Health Problems
Tortoises can easily develop respiratory infections, especially when their enclosures are not kept clean or at the proper temperature and humidity levels. They’re also susceptible to calcium and other vitamin deficiencies if not fed an appropriate, well-varied diet.
While tortoises are a relatively common pet reptile, not all veterinarians are skilled in providing medical care to them. Some vets don’t treat reptiles at all, so it’s important to find a veterinarian close by before you purchase your tortoise. If the only veterinarian that will treat reptiles is an hour away from you, it may be difficult to get there in time in the event of an emergency. Contact veterinarians in your area and ask if they treat reptiles and if so, which types. Make sure the vet you choose has experience treating tortoises specifically, and not simply turtles in general.
Indications of a Healthy Tortoise
Healthy tortoises will have clear, alert eyes, clean skin and a well-developed shell, and will be free of parasites and secretions from the eyes, nose, and mouth. The tortoise should not wheeze and should have an appetite and desire to bathe and move about its enclosure.
Where to Find a Tortoise for Sale
Make sure your new pet tortoise is acquired from a reputable breeder or reptile show. If you purchase a tortoise from an unscrupulous breeder or attempt to keep a tortoise you found outside as a pet, your chances of success are much lower. These tortoises may be ill or inbred, and buying your tortoise from a sketchy source encourages and provides financial support for poor reptile breeding practices. Here’s where you can find healthy, well-bred pet tortoises:
Many online breeders are reputable and take excellent care of their reptiles before shipping them to customers. Research potential breeders and look for websites that post a physical address and a phone number where you can get in contact with someone if needed. Make sure the breeder is legitimate and has a good reputation within the reptile enthusiast community.
Commercial Pet Stores
Some commercial pet stores have reptiles for sale, including tortoises. However, many pet stores purchase tortoises from mass breeders and fail to properly care for them in-store. It’s recommended that you seek a reputable breeder or reptile enthusiast to purchase or adopt your tortoise from.
Top 10 Most Unique Species of Tortoise
1. Radiated Tortoise
The radiated tortoise displays a “starburst” pattern on its shell, with lighter yellow markings at the center of each section of the shell that radiate out towards the edge of that section. Due to illegal poaching and habitat loss, this tortoise is on the endangered species list.
2. African Spurred Tortoise
The African spurred tortoise is an impressive figure with thick spines on the front of its legs. It boasts the title of third largest tortoise in the world, after the Galapagos and Pinta Island tortoises. Although not endangered yet, this species is at risk.
3. Ploughshare Tortoise
There are less than 600 wild ploughshare tortoises in the wild, a species characterized by bright pentagonal striations on their shells. This tortoise is frequently poached illegally and sold as pets, although they could become extinct in a matter of a couple of decades. This makes the ploughshare tortoise the rarest tortoise alive today.
4. Leopard Tortoise
The leopard tortoise gets its name from the leopard-like spots that decorate the outside of its shell. The shell is quite large compared to its overall body size, however, this tortoise doesn’t have any problems with movement. Long toenails and a quick pace make the leopard tortoise a formidable opponent to predators.
5. Galapagos Giant Tortoise
The giant Galapagos tortoise is considered the largest tortoise in the world, topping over 800 lbs. This species can easily live to be over 100 years old and one captive Galapagos tortoise has made it to 170! Concentrated rescue efforts have increased the population of these creatures, however, they still remain endangered.
6. Greek Tortoise
One of the most common breeds of tortoise is the Greek tortoise. It’s relatively small and easy to care for, making it an excellent starter reptile for novice owners. These creatures don’t increase in size much as they age, so owners often only need to purchase a single enclosure for the life of their pet.
7. Indian Star Tortoise
The Indian Star tortoise gets its name from the distinct star pattern on the outside of its shell, similar to the radiated tortoise but with fewer striations that are less randomized. Although shy, this tortoise can be handled and is also easy to care for.
8. Hermann’s Tortoise
Hermann’s tortoise is arguably the most popular pet tortoise available and is characterized by the horseshoe-like patterns on their shells. These tortoises often require a permit to own and must be kept in an indoor habitat as they do not tolerate colder temperatures. Unlike other tortoises, these creatures will hibernate throughout the winter.
9. Pinta Island Tortoise
The Pinta Island tortoise is similar in size and appearance to the Galapagos tortoise but became extinct when the last living tortoise of this species died in 2012. The Pinta Island tortoise was driven to extinction due to hunting, a threat that many other endangered tortoises face today.
10. Russian Tortoise
The Russian tortoise is also often kept as a pet, and lives to be 75 years old or more. Their hibernation schedule depends on their environment, so if kept indoors at a steady temperature, the Russian tortoise will be active year-round.
Find a New Tortoise at The Reptile Super Show
Reptile shows are one of the best places to purchase exotic reptiles. Where many pet stores and online breeders often only have one or two species of tortoises to choose from (or perhaps just one or two tortoises altogether!), reptile shows offer the widest variety of animals in a single place. Breeders that attend reptile shows have a true passion for their animals and can help both novice and advanced reptile owners improve their knowledge of caring for tortoises.
Reptile Super Show is the world’s largest reptile show and sale. Come visit us in California and browse the largest collection of tortoises, snakes, exotic lizards, and other reptiles for sale under one roof!