How Do I Set up a Tortoise Vivarium?

C.B. Fox

When setting up a tortoise vivarium it is important to keep a few things in mind so that the tortoise remains healthy. The internal climate of the vivarium must be kept at the proper temperature and humidity for the particular species of tortoise. The vivarium must also be large enough to comfortably house the full-grown animal, though it is possible to house a growing tortoise in an enclosure that would not be a suitable size for an adult of the species. The tortoise will need a heat source, adequate ventilation, and access to fresh food and water at all times.

There are dozens of species of tortoises, and some will live up to hundreds of years old while others can weigh in the hundreds of pounds.
There are dozens of species of tortoises, and some will live up to hundreds of years old while others can weigh in the hundreds of pounds.

Many tortoise enthusiasts recommend keeping a tortoise in an enclosure outdoors or in a room that has been modified to be a suitable habitat for the pet tortoise. Many species of tortoise grow quite large and require a great deal of space, which may make a tortoise vivarium impractical for many species. The vivarium needs to be quite a bit larger than the tortoise to give the animal enough room to walk around and to provide proper air circulation. In general, each foot (0.3 meter) of tortoise requires about 10 square feet (3 square meters) of vivarium. Tortoises are also good climbers, so a tight fitting top that cannot be pushed out of place is essential.

Though it may not be possible to house a large adult tortoise in a vivarium, small species or young tortoises can be housed in properly outfitted vivariums. One of the most important features of a tortoise vivarium is that it have adequate ventilation. Vivariums specially made to house tortoises should come with ventilation options. Alternatively, a fan may be placed inside a vivarium that is not well ventilated. The fan will need to be secured in such a way that it cannot harm the tortoise.

The tortoise will also need a source of heat, which should be monitored with a thermometer. The heat source needs to be positioned over the tank in such a way that there are a variety of temperatures in the vivarium, allowing the tortoise to cool down or warm up as needed. Tropical tortoise species will also need the tortoise vivarium to be humidified, while desert species will require that the air remain dry.

A bowl of water that is kept full at all times is also important in a tortoise vivarium. Many tortoises graze on vegetation, which is why keeping them outside on a lawn is ideal. In a tortoise vivarium, the tortoise will need access to fresh food at all times. It will also need a place to hide away from people looking into the tank so that it doesn't become stressed.

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