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Turtles/Thinking of getting a tortoise


Hi, I've had turtles whn I was a kid, I'm considering getting a tortoise.  What care do they need?  Can they carry salmonella like turtles can?  I won't get one for some time because I have a cat and a hamster, I don't want to give either of them less attention, so I'll wait until my 19 month old hamster passes.

Hi Jinene,

Tortoises can make great pets, but there are some specific things you should consider first:

1)  They need space.  Even a small tortoise should have a roomy indoor enclosure, as well as (if possible) a secure outdoor pen for the warmer months.  Pet stores will tell you to use a 20 gallon tank, but that's much too small for any tortoise and really very cruel.  So decide if you have the room for an indoor enclosure (minimum for an indoor only would be 3 x 5), and the money to put one together (substrate, lighting, etc.)

2)  They have specific lighting requirements.  You'll need a UVB bulb, which will cost about $45-50 a year.

3)  They need a specific diet.  You can't just buy pellets and keep them healthy.  Most are herbivores and need a good variety of greens/weeds.  So you need to be willing to learn about tortoise nutrition and make an effort to provide different foods.

4)  You need to have a good reptile vet.  If you keep your tortoise properly, it should stay healthy, but you never know.  I almost never have to take my tortoises to the vet, but every once in a while something happens, and you want to have a good vet available if you need one.

5)  They live a long time.  Don't get one if you're not willing to take responsibility for it for probably the rest of your life (and quite likely beyond that).  A lot of people get tortoises because they think they're cool, and then get tired of them after a few years.  Don't be like that!

Tortoises can shed salmonella, just like turtles and other reptiles (and dogs and cats, too, btw).  Just use proper hygiene around them, and you shouldn't have a problem.  I know many people who keep reptiles, and I can only think of one person who ever got salmonella (sloppy/no handwashing).  Wash your hands after touching a tortoise, and you won't have any problems.  

If I can answer any more questions, just let me know!


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Questions regarding husbandry of Russian tortoises and other Mediterranean species, sulcata, and redfoot tortoises; general tortoise and turtle care; box turtle care. If I can't answer a specific question, I can provide sources for further research. Disclaimer: My advice is not a substitute for vet care. If I think your tortoise/turtle has a specific medical condition or injury that warrants a vet visit, I'll tell you so, and if possible I'll help you locate a vet. It is neither legal nor ethical for me to provide veterinary advice.


I have kept and bred Russian tortoises for over ten years and have other Mediterranean species plus redfoots and box turtles. I've worked with other tortoise and turtle species while doing volunteer rescue work; mostly sulcata but some leopards, California desert tortoises, yellowfoots, all box turtle species, red-eared sliders, etc. I don't personally keep aquatic species, but have access to a wealth of information and research to help you with any questions you might have.

My knowledge is based on hands-on experience keeping, breeding, and working with tortoises and turtles.

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