Do you know how to choose a tortoise table? What kind of things do you need to include? Are they suitable for all species? We are here to answer all of these questions and more.
If you are considering becoming a tortoise owner, there are many things you should take into consideration to ensure you provide your pet with the best care possible. One of those things is their tortoise enclosure and making sure they have everything they need in their new home.
Which Species Are Tortoise Tables Good For?
Before we get started on the ins and outs of tortoise tables, you should know that they are not suitable for all tortoise species. They’re perfect for those that stay relatively small in size and those that don’t require a humid environment. Here are some of the most commonly kept species and how they do in tortoise tables.
We recommend that all baby tortoises are kept indoors in a tortoise table until they are big enough to survive outside. Tortoise tables provide a stable and safe environment when they are at their most vulnerable.
Young tortoises have very specific needs for them to be able to thrive and grow at a healthy rate, and a tortoise table means you can give them the correct temperature, a stable source of UVB light, and you can closely monitor their diet.
A young tortoise is also very vulnerable to predators so it’s safest to keep them inside where they are protected from foxes and cats.
Mediterranean Spur-Thighed Tortoise
Also known as the Greek tortoise, they grow to be around 20cm in length, making them the perfect size for a tortoise table. They prefer a relative humidity of around 30-50% and can even be housed outside in the summer months, as long as it is warm enough.
Hermann’s tortoises are used to the Mediterranean climate therefore will do well in a tortoise table as long as the temperature remains in their desire range. They, too, remain relatively small at 20cm. If the temperature drops too low, be prepared for your Hermann’s tortoise to hibernate.
Marginated tortoises are the largest of the European tortoises, growing up to 35cm, so they will require an enclosure that is larger in size. We recommended buying the largest size necessary when they’re small so that you don’t have to upgrade later on. They are considered to be a particularly hardy species of tortoise so can also be kept in an outdoor enclosure once they get big enough.
Russian tortoises are also known as the Horsfield tortoise and can grow up to 25cm in size. Due to their larger size, make sure you give them enough space to grow, as well as a suitable temperature gradient for them to feel comfortable.
The African spur-thighed tortoise’s natural habitat is dry, therefore, doesn’t require high levels of humidity. They are the third-largest species of tortoise in the world; although their average size is around 45cm, it is not uncommon for them to grow up to 3-feet! Due to this, they will often outgrow a tortoise table and will eventually need a much larger space to live in.
Leopard tortoises are found in semi-arid environments, therefore, will need misting regularly to maintain a certain level of humidity. They also grow large, around 45cm in size, therefore be prepared to give them a large space when the time comes.
Indian Star Tortoise
These tortoises stay relatively small therefore should be happy to stay in an adequately-sized tortoise table. They, too, will need regular misting to simulate the humidity of their natural habitat.
These tropical tortoises prefer high levels of heat and humidity therefore a vivarium is a much more suitable enclosure for them. However, they have been known to be very adaptable pet tortoises so do well in a tortoise table as well, as long as you provide a suitable temperature gradient and regular misting.
What to Look For When Choosing a Tortoise Table
There are many aspects of a tortoise table that make them excellent indoor enclosures for your tortoise. From heat lamps and ultraviolet rays to materials and size, here are few things you should look out for when creating the best tortoise enclosure for your shelled friend.
You are going to want a tortoise table that is made from hardwood or treated plywood. With this being said, you want to make sure that any treated wood is safe for animals as many chemicals can be toxic.
Wood that is too soft will become damaged, especially if housing tropical tortoises that require high humidity. You don’t want your tortoise enclosure to begin to rot, decay, and warp under your tortoise’s water bowl, or due to damp substrate.
You won’t often find a tortoise table made from anything other than wood so make sure it is high quality – you may be inclined to go for something that is cheaper but this could mean you will have to replace it down the line.
If you choose to keep your tortoise indoors, then size is a very important aspect you need to consider. In the wild, tortoises will roam looking for mates, food, and shelter, therefore it is likely your pet tortoise will explore their entire enclosure. This means you need to give them ample space so that they don’t get bored and can do everything a wild tortoise should do.
Some general tortoise housing dimensions are based on their age:
- Under 5 years: 30 x 18 inches
- Over 5 years: 4ft x 24 inches
However, it’s much more suitable to base it on their species and size. We recommend looking at how big they will be when they are fully grown and then choosing an enclosure that will accommodate them for their entire lives. Of course, this may not be possible for the larger species, such as the sulcata tortoises, which will require a much larger space than what a tortoise table can provide.
If your tortoise’s enclosure is too small then your pet will become bored and can become stressed. A tortoise that is bored will likely eat more, leading to obesity, will try to escape, and will sleep too much or not enough, all of which can be unhealthy for a tortoise.
In general, we recommend getting the biggest tortoise table that you can fit in the space that you have and that you can afford.
If you plan on housing more than one tortoise then you should increase the size accordingly, too.
Some people choose to have a makeshift tortoise table made out of old, upcycled furniture such as an old wardrobe or bookcases. This is perfectly fine, but you’ll want to make sure it is sturdy and will maintain its structure when your tortoise starts knocking about.
Tortoises are a lot stronger and physically able than some people may consider. We recommend buying a specially built tortoise table but we know that this isn’t always an option for everyone.
The walls need to be at least 15cm in height so that your tortoises are not affected by any draughts within the house. Asides from that it is recommended that the walls are tall enough so that they cannot climb out.
Many tortoises are great climbers so don’t leave any rocks or shelters near the edges that could facilitate their escape.
You can opt for an open-topped tortoise table, or you can find one that has a cover built-in. The open-topped options provide better air circulation however is riskier if your tortoise is a daredevil that loves to climb. However, if the walls are tall enough and you are smart about where you place the furniture inside, either will work well, no matter the species you own.
If you opt for something with a roof, make sure that it is made of mesh and not plastic or glass, as your tortoise needs unfiltered UVB rays for it to have the same benefits.
Heating and Lighting
Naturally, tortoises live in warmer climates where they get lots of natural sunlight. Heat is vital for a tortoise to maintain an optimum body temperature which is required to aid their digestion, locomotion, and other basic processes which, in turn, enables them to survive. Different species will require different temperature ranges however all of them will require an additional heat source to your average central heating.
A source of UVB light is also incredibly important when setting up your tortoise enclosure. Your tortoise requires UVB rays to be able to metabolise calcium to be able to grow healthy bones and to ensure your tortoise’s shell grows the way it should. Without UVB light, your tortoise can develop metabolic bone disease which can have long term or even fatal effects.
Placing your tortoise table near a sunny window is not enough; a healthy tortoise requires direct sunlight that is not filtered through windows or plastic. Therefore, an indoor tortoise will need both a basking lamp and a heat lamp.
Consider how you will attach these lamps to your tortoise table whilst also keeping them a suitable distance from your tortoise; too close and they can burn or become dehydrated, too far and your tortoise will not reap the benefits from having the lamps in the first place.
Your tortoise table not only needs to be large enough that your pet can explore, but it also needs to be able to hold plants and additional furnishings to break up the space and encourage your tortoise to move around as much as possible. As we have mentioned before, a bored tortoise is not a happy one!
This includes providing a water bowl for your tortoises to drink and bathe, and various shelters for them to hide away if they need to.
Some purpose-built tortoise tables will come with a sheltered area built-in which not only provides them with a hideaway but also with a cooler area for them to go to if they get too hot. Both are important to provide for your tortoise.
You should spot clean your tortoise’s enclosure on a daily basis, but deep clean and change out the substrate every month, at the very least.
You should place a liner on the bottom of your tortoise table to make it easier to maintain cleanliness and make it easier to do a deep clean when needed.
Disadvantages of a Tortoise Table
Although tortoise tables are great for most tortoise species, as a tortoise keeper you need to consider if it is the best option for you and your pet. Here are some disadvantages of tortoise tables that you should be aware of:
- It can be difficult to maintain the correct temperatures due to the open-topped design – make sure you have a sufficient heat source and monitor the warm and cold ends of the table to ensure they are within range.
- If you have house cats then be sure that they don’t bother your tortoises; the open design means your tortoise is vulnerable to cats and children, but you can buy additional covers to provide additional protection.
- Not all tortoise tables include a means to connect your heat lamp so you may need to buy an additional stand for your basking lamp.
- Maintaining a suitable humidity can be a task in itself and your tortoise will require regular misting.
- Not all will include a suitable hide for your tortoise to shelter when they are scared so be sure to provide them with plenty of additional spaces to hide away if they need to.
- Tortoises love to climb and the open-topped design is risky if your tortoise manages to climb up and out; don’t place anything too close to the sides which could facilitate an escape.
- Tortoise tables are generally square in shape which means there are lots of corners that can harbour bacteria so you’ll have to keep on top of the cleaning; set a schedule and don’t miss it to make sure your tortoise stays healthy.
Although there are several disadvantages to tortoise tables, they are still considered the best option for your indoor tortoises and can be managed to provide a suitable space for your shelled friend.
Setting Up a Tortoise Table – How Much Does it Cost?
So how much should you expect to pay out when setting up your tortoise table? There’s a lot more to consider than you may think.
- Tortoise table – prices start at £30 for those designed for small tortoises or a baby tortoise, to more than £200 if you opt for a custom-built one for larger species of tortoise.
- Substrate – depending on what kind of substrate you go for, it starts at around £5-£10 for a bag but you’ll need several to cover the area of your tortoise table and provide sufficient depth.
- Heat bulb and basking bulb – making sure you get high-quality bulbs is of utmost importance. You can buy a combination bulb which costs £40-£50 and provides both UV light and the heat that your tortoise requires, or you can buy two separate bulbs that can cost around £10-£40 each.
- Furnishings – this is completely up to you and how much you want to place inside your tortoise’s enclosure. Plants may only cost a few pounds but you also need to consider additional shelters, rocks, and logs. Expect to pay upwards of £20-£40 to make the enclosure exciting for your tortoise. A bored tortoise is not a happy or healthy one.
- Thermometers – buy a decent thermometer to be able to monitor the temperature – we recommend buying at least two so that you can monitor temperature gradient and place one at the cooler end, and one directly underneath the heat lamp. High-quality digital thermometers will cost around £15 each, but you can buy simple ones for just £5. You may also want to choose a thermostat or timers that will automatically turn off the heat and UV light at the end of each day.
- Food and water – don’t forget to provide your tortoise with fresh water in a shallow water bowl for your tortoise to drink and bathe, these shouldn’t cost more than £10 for a decent one. You can also place a tile to put your tortoise’s food on so that your tortoise doesn’t ingest the susbtrate.
Overall, if you are looking to buy the bare minimum, and provide the smallest space requirements your tortoise will need, you will likely spend around £130. However, if you go for this option, be prepared to have to upgrade as your tortoises grow and pay a lot more moving in to the future.
Home & Roost Tortoise Table
The Home & Roost open-topped tortoise table is a great option for juvenile tortoises or a medium-sized tortoise. The generous size means that you can add your own plants and logs to encourage your tortoise to explore, while it also has a removable panel so that even if your tortoise is hiding, you can still check on it.
No matter the species of tortoise, this tortoise table provides a safe and sturdy construction that will hold up against any knocks and bumps from your tortoise’s shell.
A unique feature of this tortoise table is the integrated arm that you can easily hang the heat lamp off. What’s more, this indoor enclosure comes delivered fully assembled so there’s no need to worry about putting it together yourself; you can set it up and get your tortoise inside as soon as it arrives!
- Made from construction grade ply
- Made in England
- Removable top panel for easy access to your tortoise whilst also providing an in-built hide
- Plenty of room for additional furnishings
- Additional arm to install heat source or UV light
- Delivered fully assembled
- Includes fall guard
Picking the Right Home for Your Tortoise
Different species of tortoises have different needs, however, your tortoise table should be able to accommodate for most of them as long as you kit it out with the correct heat lamps, substrate, and furnishings. Adult tortoises will require more space than young tortoises so bear this in mind when you’re choosing the correct size as you may need to upgrade as your pets begin to grow.
Most tortoise keepers will buy something bigger so that their tortoise table can see their pets all the way through to adulthood. However, if you have a larger species then you may need to look for something custom made or consider keeping your tortoise outdoors once they get big enough.
We hope this guide has been useful to you, and that helps you find a tortoise enclosure that is perfect for your shelled friends. Let us know about your tortoise setup and what you included to make it home.