Top 10 Best Beginner Pet Tortoises

I bet you didn’t know that there are some tortoise species that although would make great pets, cannot be confine in homes as pets? Well, the article “Top 10 Best Beginner Pet Tortoises” promises to give you a list a such pet tortoises you can keep as pets without worrying about anything.

Tortoises are slow land dwellers, and many people usually confuse them with turtles because of their similar appearance. According to estimates, more than 350,000 households keep tortoises as pets in the US.

Tortoises are magnificent reptiles that you can keep as a pet, even as a beginner. However, tortoises have unique personalities and special care requirements, making keeping them a tricky affair. You will need to research before you choose the right tortoise that will suit your lifestyle.

This is why we came up with this article to help list some of the best tortoises suitable for beginner hobbyists.

Cute Reptiles as Pets
Cute Reptiles as Pets

Things to Consider Before Choosing A Tortoise As A Pet

Here are some of the things that you need to consider before choosing a tortoise as a pet.

Enclosure Requirements

Even smaller species of tortoise need a large enclosure whether you are keeping them inside or outside. This is why you need to know the proper enclosure requirement to help keep them healthy and happy.

You will also need to provide ultraviolet (UV) rays to keep your tortoise indoors to keep them healthy.

Research On The Species You Want

It is not all tortoise species that have the same care requirement. As a beginner, it is important that you know everything about the tortoise you are interested in before you even make any plan to buy it. 

This will help to provide the necessary care the tortoise needs to help keep them healthy. You can research online or ask pet stores staff about the varieties of tortoise species available before deciding which one will suit your lifestyle.


Unlike conventional pets like dogs and cats, tortoises have a long lifespan. You need to understand that tortoises are a lifetime commitment and should be ready for this. 

It is best to know your tortoise’s lifespan as a beginner to help plan how to take care of it properly, as some tortoises can even outlive their owners.


You should keep in mind that tortoises are not going to be as friendly as conventional pets. A pet tortoise may not be suitable for you if you seek a pet that you can interact with. However, you will find some quite interactive tortoise species.

As a beginner hobbyist, it is best to opt for a more interactive tortoise species.

Costs Over the Years

Tortoise has a long lifespan, and you should keep in mind that the cost of a tortoise species will be the least money you will spend on it. You will spend more money on setting up their large environment, food and vitamins, heating, lighting, humidity, and lots more.

That can easily add up and be a lot of money since you are keeping them on a long-term basis.

Care Level

Tortoise has different care levels, which means you will face different difficulties when keeping different tortoise species. As a beginner hobbyist, it is best to go for a tortoise with an easy-care level to help make your experience keeping a tortoise worthwhile.


Keeping some tortoise species is illegal in some areas. It is best to check whether it is legal to own a tortoise as a pet in your area before you even decide to buy or rescue a tortoise.

The 10 Best Beginner Pet Tortoises

Here are some of the best tortoises that beginner hobbyists can keep as a pet.

Best Beginner Pet TortoiseSizeCost
Greek tortoise5-8 inches$200
Indian star tortoise5-10 inches$689-$3850
Egyptian tortoise5 inches$1000
Marginated tortoise14 inches$300-$450
Russian tortoise8-10 inches$80-$200
Sulcata tortoiseAbove 30 inches$50-$200
Hermann’s tortoise4-11 inches$200-$800
Leopard tortoise10-18 inches$350-$2000
Redfoot tortoise14 inches$150-$400
African pancake tortoise6-7 inches$650-$1700
Size and price comparison chart of best beginner pet tortoises
Best Beginner Pet Tortoises
Indian Star Tortoise and Greek Tortoise

Greek Tortoise

Greek tortoises are one of the most popular tortoise species in the reptile trade. You can identify them by their rich tan and dark black scutes. They get their name from the arrangement of the scutes that look like Greek mosaics.

Greek tortoises are small and tolerant tortoise species that can live in different living arrangements without any issue. It is also very easy to care for them, making them a perfect choice for beginners and experienced hobbyists.

Greek tortoises usually grow to about 5-8 inches, and you don’t need a massive enclosure to keep them. However, you need to ensure their enclosure is natural-looking by putting edible plants, hide boxes and tortoise-safe substrate.

Although Greek tortoises are known to be quite peaceful creatures, they don’t do well with handling. You should also avoid keeping them in a cramped enclosure.

Indian Star Tortoise

Indian star tortoises are medium-sized tortoises commonly found in dry scrub forests in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and India. They got their name from the star-like design of their carapace. 

Furthermore, they are among the most commonly kept tortoise species due to their lovely appearance. Indian star tortoises can grow to around 5-10 inches long and usually weigh around 3-5 pounds. 

Unlike most tortoise species, they are social animals, and you can easily keep them in groups without any issue. They are suitable for beginners because they are friendly and it is easy to care for them.

Another great thing about Indian star tortoises is that they do not climb or dig. This means you can keep them in an enclosure with an 8-inch tall wall to help provide a barrier.

Note: Indian star tortoises are threatened species in the wild, and you should only buy captive-bred hatchlings from a reputable breeder.

Egyptian Tortoise

An Egyptian Tortoise
An Egyptian Tortoise slepping under a rock

Egyptian tortoise is also called Kleinmann’s tortoise and is commonly found in the deserts of Libya, Egypt, and Israel. Furthermore, they are among the smallest breeds of tortoises as they grow to about 5 inches long.

The Egyptian tortoise is an ideal tortoise for beginner hobbyists that don’t have enough space for housing larger breeds of tortoises. You can easily keep them in a 4 square feet enclosure. 

However, they do better indoors as you can easily control the temperature and humidity in their enclosure. They have a long lifespan and can live for around 70-100 years under optimal conditions.

Note: they are considered critically endangered in the wild, and you should only buy them from authorized breeders.

Marginated Tortoise

The marginated tortoises are usually found in high elevations, about 5,200ft in a cold and dry region. They are called marginated because of the saw-like scutes that project from the back of their carapace

Furthermore, they are known as the largest European tortoise as they can grow to about 14 inches long. They are hardy creatures and can easily survive cold weather by absorbing sunlight to raise their temperature. 

They are suitable for beginner hobbyists and can comfortably keep them in an outdoor enclosure. However, you will need a 2 feet wide by 4 feet long enclosure to keep an adult tortoise.

You will also need to build a 12-18 inches high wall and be buried 6 inches deep underground to prevent them from escaping.

Russian Tortoise and Marginated Tortoise
Russian Tortoise and Marginated Tortoise

Russian Tortoise

Russian tortoise originates from Southeast Russia to the Middle East. They are considered among the most popular pet tortoises in the United States and can live for over 40 years under optimal care.

Although the Russian tortoise prefers a warm outdoor enclosure, it can adapt to several temperatures. They are also very hardy, which makes them a perfect tortoise for beginners. 

They can grow to about 8-10 inches long and need an enclosure of 8 square feet to secure them. They are great burrowers and can dig the corners of their enclosure to escape. Unlike some tortoise species, they can hibernate when their enclosure is too cold. 

Although Russian tortoises are friendly, they do not like to be handled.

Sulcata Tortoise

Sulcata tortoise is also known as the African Spurred Tortoise and originates from the Sahara Desert. They are among the largest tortoise species globally as they can grow to about 30 inches in length. Although they are big in size, they are suitable for beginners.

They are intelligent tortoise breeds and love human interaction. However, you will not be able to handle them once they reach adult size as they can weigh more than 100lbs. Furthermore, you will need an 80 square feet outdoor enclosure to keep a sulcata tortoise.

They love burrowing, and you should try to provide them with a space to do that. They can live between 50-100 years in captivity under optimal care.

Hermann’s Tortoise and Sulcata Tortoise
Hermann’s Tortoise and Sulcata Tortoise

Hermann’s Tortoise

Hermann’s tortoise is a small tortoise breed that originates from the Mediterranean Basin. They usually have a brown and yellow shell with lovely patterns. You can identify them by their single, horn-like claw on their tail’s tips.

They can grow to about 4-11 inches long. Hermann’s tortoise has a docile temperament which makes them suitable for beginner hobbyists. However, you will need to house them in a warm outdoor enclosure of about 16 square feet. 

You will need to place high walls in their enclosure because they are very active and love climbing. 

However, you can place large rocks, décor, hideouts, and nontoxic plants in their enclosure to keep them occupied. Hermann’s tortoise can live for over 75 years under optimal care.

Leopard Tortoise

Leopard Tortoise
A resting Leopard Tortoise

The leopard tortoise is considered the fourth largest tortoise breed in the world. They can grow to about 10-18 inches long. They are among the most popular tortoises in the herpetology community because of their unique shell with distinct patterns.

Their shells have a tan or light brown color with splotches of black, which makes them similar to that of a leopard’s fur. You will need a sizable enclosure for a leopard gecko to keep them healthy and happy.

They have a tall shell with the center of their carapace steep and rounded. This can make it hard for beginners to set up a suitable habitat for them. The best thing about leopard geckos is that they don’t like climbing, and you don’t have to worry about preventing them from escaping.

However, you will need to ensure their enclosure is relatively warm and there is a basking spot that is about 95 degrees Fahrenheit to keep them happy.

Red-Footed Tortoise

Redfoot tortoise is a medium-sized tortoise that originates from South American and lots of Caribbean islands. Their legs are usually red which is why they are called red foot tortoises. They are also called cherry heads, as you can find some species with red heads and tails.

They are curious in nature and are not expensive, which makes them perfect for beginners. They can grow to about 14 inches long, and you will need to provide a 50 square feet enclosure with 80℉ to keep them healthy and happy.

They are omnivorous animals which makes them quite different from other tortoise breeds. Redfoot tortoises are known to be very social and can live in a group.

the African Pancake Tortoise and Red-Footed Tortoise
African Pancake Tortoise and Red-Footed Tortoise

African Pancake Tortoise

The African pancake tortoise is a fascinating reptile that originates from Southern Kenya and some areas in Tanzania. You will find them in rocky hills and scrub forests. They are a popular tortoise species and are flatter than most tortoise species.

Unlike other tortoises with tall shells, they are known for their broad and flat shells. Due to their popularity, they are rare species in the wild, and you can only get them from a breeder. Due to their small size and relative ease to keep, they will make a perfect reptile for beginners.

You can easily keep them in an indoor or outdoor enclosure. However, you should ensure there is no space for them to escape. This is because they are good climbers and can also slip under narrow cracks. 

They can grow to about 6-7 inches in length and live for about 25 years in captivity.

Wrapping Up

There is a wide range of tortoise species out there, and you should only choose one that matches your budget, lifestyle, and location. This is because adopting a pet tortoise is a lifetime commitment, and many can live for more than 50 years in captivity.

We hope this article helps to give you a better idea of some of the best tortoises suitable for beginners and helps shape the choices you make.