How To Choose The Best Tortoise Enclosure (Indoor & Outdoor Alternatives)

by Carl Crane | Updated: September 7, 2021

When it comes to choosing a tortoise enclosure it’s circumstantial, because it depends on the species of tortoise you have, if it’s an adult or a baby tortoise, and what gender it is.

Many tortoise species have different habitat needs, so that means various size enclosures.

Knowing the type of species and gender of your tortoise will tell you whether you need a big or small tortoise enclosure

Deciding where you want the tortoise enclosure to be, indoor or outdoor is also an important factor when choosing the best tortoise enclosure.

Some species of tortoises like Sulcata tortoise, tend to do better outside because they do grow quite a lot, and other species like Russian tortoises do fairly well inside too.

The Best Tortoise Enclosure For Indoors

Zoo Med Tortoise House

Our Top Pick

Zoo Med Wood Tortoise House

Size: 37″ x 25″ x 13″ | Weight: 26 pounds | Includes Kit: No Material: Wood

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The Zoo Med Tortoise House is specifically designed for a tortoise having a place to call his home and adds privacy plus is preferred by professional tortoise keepers.

Even though this is only suitable for a smaller species of tortoises, you have the option to buy two of these tortoise houses and combine them by removing the detachable wall that slides up.

It can also be used outdoors when it’s not too cold outside to provide natural sunlight and beneficial UVB.

Features separate weatherproof sleeping area and lockable wire safety cover.

Pros

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The Best Tortoise Enclosure For Outdoors

Our Top Pick

New Age Pet Ecoplex Sonoran Tortoise House Pen

Size: 21.82″ x 24.02″ x 13.35″| Weight: 8.38 Pounds

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This New Age Pet Ecoplex Sonoran Tortoise House Pen provides your tortoise with extra room to wander around and enjoy the comforting warmth of the sun.

It’s crafted from NeveRust stainless steel wire and Ecoplex, a proprietary composite blend of reclaimed wood fiber byproducts and recycled polymers, creating a moisture-resistant material that’s durable, doesn’t retain odor, and is easy to clean.

Pros

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Things To Consider When Buying a Tortoise Enclosure

There are many choices to be made from today’s market.

From the simple ones to the ones that can get over complicated.

So getting to know the most important elements before buying your next tortoise enclosure, will take you a step further as a tortoise keeper.

Different Habitats for Different Tortoise Species

As mentioned in our introduction, before buying anything enclosure-related, you need to research the type of species of your tortoise, from what type of habitat does it originate from, and its environmental needs.

Tortoises are solely terrestrial reptiles and befall on all continents except for Antarctica and Australia. 

They also populate many islands, although numerous island populations and species are now gone because of human occupation. 

Tortoises live in a variety of habitats, ranging from deserts to wet tropical forests, meaning that each newly established enclosure will need to be adjusted to reflect the natural habitat of the tortoise.

Size Of the Tortoise Enclosure

With so many species of tortoise (about 49 species), they vary in several sizes, with small shells lengths of 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm), to giant ones, with shells over 3.3 feet (1 meter) long. 

Tortoise SpeciesSizeWeight
Egyptian Tortoises4 – 5 inches (10 – 13 cm)105 – 400 grams
Spider Tortoise5 – 7 inches (13 – 18 cm)200 – 400 grams
Aldabra Tortoise3 – 4 feet (91 – 122 cm)350 – 550 pounds
Sulcata Tortoise3 – 4 feet (91 – 122 cm)80 – 100 pounds
Burmese Mountain Tortoise2 feet (61 cm)100 pounds
Leopard Tortoise10 – 18 inches (25 – 46 cm)44 pounds
Red- & Yellow-Footed Tortoises10 – 18 inches (25 – 46 cm)20 – 24 pounds
Radiated Tortoise16 inches (41 cm)35 pounds
Marginated Tortoise12 – 14 inches (30 – 36 cm)9 – 11 pounds
Indian Star Tortoise7 – 10 inches (18 – 25 cm)4.9 pounds
Elongated Tortoise12 inches (30 cm)7 pounds
Hermann’s Tortoise7.5 inches (19 cm)7 – 9 pounds
Russian Tortoise8 – 10 inches (20 – 25 cm)3 pounds
Greek Tortoise6 – 7 inches (15 – 18 cm)2 – 3 pounds

When measuring a tortoise turtle enclosure, it goes by how much floor space they have, with enough height just enough so that they won’t be able to escape their enclosure.

It is hard-wired into them to roam a lot so try to provide as much space as possible for tortoises over four inches with enough care given to the size, number of tortoises, and the total space available.

Smaller tortoise enclosures can be used for hatchlings temporarily such as when a tortoise owner would like to give the indoor tortoises outdoor time so a movable 4ft by 4ft enclosure is suggested for this purpose.

The height of the habitat should be enough that the lights or heaters cannot hurt the tortoises, and they cannot climb on anything in the habitat to escape.

Housing should be measured depending on the size of the tortoise, and the bigger the better in most situations.

Here are a few basic sizes for tortoise enclosures:

There is no absolute size requirement for tortoise housing, but some countries have guidelines or policies regulating the size.

Another guideline is to give about 100 square inches (or cm) of space for every inch (or cm) of the shell. 

The numbers listed above are guidelines and not absolutes.

It really depends on the type of tortoise you own and if they feel comfortable enough with the space given.

Many will say that smaller indoor enclosures are enough as long as they have access to larger outdoor spaces much of the time.

Type of Tortoise Enclosure

Tortoise enclosures vary hugely in size, shape, and materials and many people will ask themselves “Do I need a terrarium?” or “Should I build a tortoise table?” 

And my honest opinion is that there is no real blueprint when it comes to housing a tortoise.

They all serve the same purpose, and that is to keep your tortoise safe, provide healthy habitat and shelter them during nasty weather.

1. Terrariums and Vivariums 

If you are looking to buy a glass enclosure, you need to figure out a way so that they can’t see through it.

Tortoises generally don’t grasp the concept of a clear barrier since none exists for them in nature, so when they see something they will spend their time pacing the glass, trying to go through it.

I suggest that if you fancy buying a tortoise glass enclosure, you will need to create a visual barrier on the sides.

You can either leave the front panel visible so you can at least see the turtle or if the enclosure sits on something that’s not too tall, you can have the top panel opened and cover all sides.

Our Top Pick

Carolina Custom Cages Terrarium

Size: 36″ x 18″ x 24″ | Weight: 57.5 pounds | Includes Kit: No Material: Glass

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Pros

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2. Tortoise House

Small tortoise houses are excellent if you just have 1 small to a medium-sized tortoise. 

Although they provide shelter they aren’t large enough for your tortoise to roam a lot and you will need to accommodate him outdoors from time to time.

Our Top Pick

New Age Pet Ecoplex Sonoran Tortoise House

Size: 36.03″ x 24.02″ x 13.51″ | Weight: 38 pounds | Includes Kit: No

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Pros

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3. An open-topped tortoise table

A tortoise table is the best form of housing you can provide for your tortoise indoors, as it has an open-top that allows for good airflow and plenty of ground area for exercise. 

Purpose-built tortoise tables can be purchased, but they can also easily be homemade. 

An old bookcase turned on its back with the shelves removed, wardrobes, and large drawers, all of which can make a perfect home for your tortoise.

Our Top Pick

VINGLI Heavy Duty Raised Garden Bed

Size: 48.5″x22.5″x30″ | Weight: 37 Pounds

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Pros

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4. Greenhouse

Greenhouses are very popular with keepers who have many tortoises as they provide a bright environment

You may already have one in your yard that could be used as a tortoise enclosure with just a few adjustments.

During the warmer periods, please remember that greenhouses heat up fast so you will need to leave the door open for ventilation and prevent them from over-heating which can be fatal for small tortoises.

Having windows for the greenhouse will spare you of this problem.

Our Top Pick

Quictent Portable Cloche Mini Greenhouse

Size: 71″ x36″ x 36″ | Weight: 7 Pounds

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Pros

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5. Cold frames

For small tortoises, a cold frame is another ideal solution. 

They work well if placed on a course of bricks, leaving a brick out to use as a doorway for the tortoises to access their enclosure. 

Natural predators are always a threat, so make sure your greenhouse/cold frame is securely closed during the night to keep your tortoises safe. 

Our Top Pick

Gardman 7650 Large Wooden Cold Frame

Size: 35″ x 31″ x 35″ | Weight: 16 Pounds

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Pros

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6. Raised Garden

A raised garden can also be easily and cheaply adapted to tortoise enclosures safely and securely. 

You may need an additional wire mesh cover at the top to prevent natural predation, and also a safe type of material so that it won’t get overheated in the natural sunlight.

Best Choice Products Raised Enclosure

Our Top Pick

Best Choice Products 96x24x10in Outdoor Wooden Raised Garden

Size: 96″ x 24″ x 10″ | Weight: 25.6 Pounds

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Pros

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7. Plastic Tubs

Plastic tubs can make for a good tortoise enclosure as they are generally good for their structural construction that resists weathering and cracking for long use.

Even though this might seem to some like an unusual housing idea, it can easily house a tortoise and give him enough space for him to feel happy.

The tubs can also be easily moved in case you change your mind about their location.

Works excellent for tortoises in general since they are pliable with plenty of space even with their basking area.

Our Top Pick

Rubbermaid Commercial Structural Foam Stock Tank

Size: 51-2/3″ x 31″ x 12″ | Weight: 10.7 Kilograms

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Pros

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The material of the Tortoise Enclosure

If you are interested in buying wood made tortoise enclosure you should also be aware of the type of wood that it’s made from and if it’s toxic or not.

Essentially you should avoid using any type of cedar or pine wood as they are toxic for your turtle pet.

Cedar, which is the most commonly used in these types of products, gives off fumes that repel bugs and these same fumes are toxic in a closed space 24/7, whether it would hurt your tortoise in an open-air outdoor pen is questionable, but I wouldn’t take the risk.


Housing Tortoises Outdoors

The catchphrase says it all “The bigger, the better”, and that applies really well for any type of tortoise.

Some people say that tortoises are easy to keep indoors, while others feel very strongly that tortoises are just plain not suitable indoor pets because of their housing needs.

I believe that tortoises should spend as much time as possible outside, and when indoors, every effort should be made to provide the sort of housing they need, making this not a cheap option.

Some of the indoor enclosures on the market are not the best option because most of them are just too small and that’s not good for a tortoise.

So many times people want to know the minimum size for their tortoise enclosure but they should be asking themselves instead what is the maximum size.

By the time people finish putting all the accessories in a typical indoor tortoise enclosure, there is hardly any room left for them.

Tortoises need lots of room to roam and explore and if you happen to live in a warm area with a calm climate you should have the tortoise placed into an outdoor enclosure.

After looking at various tortoise enclosures, I noticed that there aren’t that many enclosures that are specifically made for tortoises, and if there are any, they don’t provide enough space and flexibility.

Usually, tortoises like to burrow, so you can add a wire mesh below the ground level of the barrier to keep your tortoise protected.

People will start resorting to DIY tortoise enclosure guides but not everybody has the right tools and time to build such enclosures.

Setting Up The Tortoise Enclosure

The most essential thing for a tortoise is that he has enough space to move, cause they are very mobile, they like to move around quite a bit.

So adding too many decorations in the enclosure will prevent his movements and I advise against it.

The tortoise only needs a couple of necessary things that will make him more than happy.

Adding a Substrate

First of all, they need your standard tortoise substrate since tortoises like to burrow a lot.

There are a lot of options in what type of bedding you can use, but just be sure to not use sand, it’s a huge no-no.

No matter your best efforts to prevent it from happening, your tortoise will ingest the sand while eating.

UVB light

UVB light is normally acquired from the ultraviolet rays of natural sunlight. 

The tortoise requires UVB to produce vitamin D3, which in turn enables it to absorb and convert the calcium in its diet into a healthy shell and bones.  

Although natural sunlight is still by far the best form of supplying UVB, it is not always achievable naturally, but it can be supplied via artificial lights, and these should be available for 12 hours per day.

Water and Food Dishes

Let’s not forget about the feeding dishes since we don’t want to feed the tortoise by throwing them food in the bedding.

A nice deep dish should be perfect here and then giving them water and food will be an easy task.

Decorations and Furniture

When it comes to decorations you really need to take care, because usually when tortoises see something green, they will think it’s turtle food and will try to eat it and start chewing on them.

A variety of furniture should be placed in a tortoise enclosure, including plants for shade, rocks for climbing on, and different textures of a substrate, which may include garden soil, large pebbles, and stones. 

Also, wood, shells, old chimney pots, terracotta pots turned on their side, (these make good hides) and slate tiles add to the interest for the tortoise.

Our Top Pick

Zoo Med Habba Hut, Giant

Size: 11″ x 9.5″ x 5.5″| Material: Wood

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Adding a Basking Area

There are many different types of heating when it comes to heating your tortoise enclosure and these include the heating mat, ceramic heater, and light bulbs.

An ideal temperature for the tortoise when he is basking is somewhere between 89.6˚F – 100.4˚F.

You will also need a hiding area for the tortoise as they need to get away from the heat and cool off a bit.

Ideally, the hiding area should be somewhere between 59˚F – 71.6˚F.

Having a hydrometer and a thermometer will also be helpful for you to determinate where your temperature stands in the tank as well as the humidity.

Our Top Pick

dojobkinb Reptile Basking Platform

Size: 15.75″ × 10″| Material: Natural Rock

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1. Heating Mats

The heating mats are probably the most common way to heat different enclosures and for good reasons, because they work with a lot of different animals.

The biggest plus when using the heating mats is that it gives your animal belly heat and for some animals, this is really important.

They are mostly used when using turtle tubs or rack systems because it’s a bit difficult to have lighting, especially on tubs and rack systems.

Even though they are really nice to have for certain things, they do have some cons and one of which being that they don’t work for wood enclosures, and in case you have a wood enclosure for your tortoise, you are going to have to look for different ways to heat your enclosure.

Our Top Pick

Tikaton Reptile Heat Pad

Size: 18.5″ X 8.5″| Rated Voltage: 120V | Waterproof: IPX67 | Frequency: 60Hz

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2. Ceramic Heater

The ceramic emitters or ceramic heater whatever you want to call it is made out of ceramic and it just goes into a usual light socket so you can use them with the heat lamps.

These ceramic heaters can get really hot depending on the wattage you get, so having a thermostat to keep the temperatures in check is advised.

The ceramic heater can be easily used in the basking spot together with the UVB light bulb.

These can also be great at night because they don’t let off light and a lot of different reptiles are going to need specific nighttime temperatures.

Just be careful when using the ceramic heater since they can affect the humidity because of how much heat they can emit.

Our Top Pick

Wuhostam 2 Pack 100W Infrared Ceramic Heat Lamp

Size: 2.95 x 2.95 x 3.94 inches | Wattage: 50 Watts | 2 Pack

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3. Heat Bulbs

The heat bulbs aren’t too different from the ceramic bulbs, the main difference being that they can let off actual light so it can be good if your enclosure doesn’t have any light in it.

These have basically built-in UVB and heating so you can do it all in one bulb

Our Top Pick

Mega-Ray Mercury Vapor Bulb – 100 Watts (120V)

Size: 7.5 x 5.5 x 5.5 inches | Wattage: 100 Watts | Voltage: 100 Volts

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Control the Enclosure Humidity

While it may be difficult to produce the high humidity we aim for if the air in your tortoise enclosure is dry, the overall concept is simple.

Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air meaning that if there is a lot of water vapor in the air, the humidity will be high. So the higher the humidity, the wetter it feels outside.

Most of the pet tortoises tend to originate from areas of high humidity and usually do best in captivity at the right levels of humidity, at least in some places.

Some species of tortoises, such as the Yellow-foot, prefer very high humidity at around 95% or more.

Others do quite well at 80% or more, but can often endure lower levels as long as there is a place for them to hide in a more humid area.

Animals need to take in water by drinking, getting it in from their food, breathing it in, absorbing in it, or whatever.

Forest tortoises think that they can get plenty of moisture by just breathing, eating juicy foods, and finding water easily, so they do not control their water stores as efficiently as grass or dry soil species do.

Low humidity can also lead to dehydration.

Aiming for approximately 70% to 100% should be the standard, often settling at around 70% overall with some higher ratios in specific parts of the tortoise habitat.

Some species want more humidity, and baby forest tortoises appear to favor the higher levels of humidity.

A good layer of condensation on the glass of a warm habitat is a great sign that the humidity is roughly right. 

This can be measured more precisely with a humidity gauge or hygrometer. 

Our Top Pick

Zoo Med Labs Digital Thermometer Humidity Gauge, Single (TH-31)

Digital read out | Quick and easy to read | Waterproof probe

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Ways to increase the humidity in the tortoise enclosure:

Commonly Asked Questions About Tortoise Enclosures

How Big Should A Tortoise Enclosure Be?

The tortoise enclosure should be about 1 square foot of every square inch of tortoise is what we generally recommend.

Do Land Turtles Need Water In Their Enclosure?

Of course, they will need a clean source of water for them to drink.

It’s also not advised to have a water source that it’s too deep for them since they cannot swim.

The most natural thing to do for them is to spray them with some water as this will imitate the rain in nature.

Do I Need A Heat Lamp For A Tortoise?

Yes, every tortoise needs a heat lamp.

They are cold-blooded animals and that means they get heat into their body using natural sunlight.

Do Tortoises Need A Heat Lamp At Night?

If you keep the substrate damp, then yes they will need a night heat source so your tortoise can move to that spot if he feels like it.

Can A Tortoise Live Outside?

Yes definitely, the best place for your pet tortoise is actually outside.

Just be careful if you want to keep your tortoise outside, you will need to seal their enclosure, as natural predators will try and snatch your tortoise.

Conclusion

When it comes to tortoise enclosures you can get really creative here as there is no real blueprint on how to create or improve them.

And here you have it, the best tortoise enclosures available in the market.

You can keep your pets happy and stress-free with these products and save help them exercise by providing the largest enclosure possible.

Whatever your choice is, you will get the best because all products here are listed with the comfort and health of your pet in mind.

Carl, the reptile-obsessed creator of this website, got his first turtle years ago and he made a ton of mistakes along the way. His goal now with TheCritterCove is simple: help others to not make the same mistakes that he did!