Tortoises are a non-amphibious reptile found throughout the world. From marshes to deserts, they slowly and gracefully graze on their domains. Occasionally, they can even be found munching on flowers and other foliage provided by their human companions. If you are considering owning one of these scaly and thick-shelled companions, you may be asking questions like “how long do tortoises live as pets” or even “how do they get along with other animals”.
With this guide, we hope to set some expectations on what life with a tortoise can really be like. Hopefully, we can also clear up any misunderstandings you may have about these majestic reptiles.
How Long Do Tortoises Live?
Most tortoises have lifespans that rival or exceed that of humans. This is such a point of interest in the scientific community, in fact, that researchers frequently study the basis of this reptile’s knack for DNA repair and disease immunity.
Many tortoises also happen to live in areas where there simply aren’t many natural predators, such as the Galapagos islands. As you can imagine, these combined factors help many tortoises live exceedingly long lives. Even in the wild. At the time of this writing, Jonathan the Tortoise is the oldest known living tortoise at 190 years old. He is currently living out his golden years on the island of Saint Helena.
How Long Certain Tortoises Live as Pets
The lifespan of your tortoise will, naturally, be dependent on its species. Even if they are all quite long, lifespans vary between tortoises. This is why understanding your tortoise’s life expectancy is important. Especially before acquiring one.
To help give you an idea of what to expect, here is a rundown of the average lifespan for some of the more popular pet tortoises for sale in the pet trade.
Also known as the central Asian tortoise, the Russian tortoise’s average lifespan in captivity is on the lower end of the spectrum. Regardless, these tortoises can still live to an impressive 50+ years.
Like the Russian tortoise, these reptiles have a lifespan that can stretch over 5 or 6 decades.
This beautiful, unique looking tortoise sports an impressive lifespan of 80-100 years.
You can expect the Hermann tortoise to outlive several generations of humans with a lifespan that exceeds 100+ years in captivity.
With a lifespan that can reach over 150 years, the sulcata tortoise is an ancient gentle giant beloved by many pet enthusiasts around the world.
Preparing For Your Tortoises Long Life
All humans age. We also happen to have an average lifespan that’s shorter than many tortoises, meaning that there will likely come a time that you can’t care for your beloved pet on your own. Regardless of what tortoises you choose as companions, you are likely going to need to prepare for your pet’s long lifetime. One way you can do this is by seeing if any of your younger family members or friends can care for your reptile once you’re unable to. It is important to make sure that these potential caretakers are up to speed on how to properly care for your pet. Taking the time to review your pet’s care with this person may be a good idea. If this option is unavailable to you, there may be certain animal sanctuaries that will be able to take your pet in.
With that being said, preparing for your tortoise’s life span doesn’t just mean preparing to pass it down after a certain point. Ensuring that you have the proper space and resources for your pet decades down the line will be as important. Acquiring access to a quality exotics vet is also essential to planning for a long life with your pet. If your tortoise itself is on the older side or may have more complicated medical needs, you may want to acquire pet insurance.
Giving Your Tortoise a Quality Life
Of course, you are going to want to make sure that your pet has the quality to match that quantity. That means doing due diligence and ensuring that your husbandry is up to par. Some of the most important aspects of care for this animal that you’re going to want to keep in mind include:
As implied earlier, some tortoises get downright huge. Adult Sulcata tortoises, for instance, can reach around two feet in length and weigh in at a mighty 100+ lbs. Many owners of these reptiles or those of a similar size choose to keep them in a secure, safe outdoor enclosure. Of course, there are a variety of tortoises that are small enough to live and thrive in an indoor terrarium.
When asking “how long do tortoises live as pets”, one has to consider the environment they’re kept in. Factors such as UVA/UVB light exposure, temperature, and humidity can make a huge difference in the health and lifespan of a reptile. Materials such as heat lamp bulbs designed for reptiles, tank thermometers, and humidity gauge are all essential for your pet’s well being. Keeping your pet’s enclosure clean and sanitary is of course an important part of any animal’s husbandry.
Note: Every species of tortoise is unique. It is important to do research on both tortoises as a whole and your preferred pet’s species to understand its specific environmental needs.
It is important to provide any pet with a species appropriate, nutritionally complete tortoise diet. After all, your tortoises deserve to live off the best. While many tortoises are happy to munch exclusively on vegetables, fruits, and fungi, some are mildly omnivorous. In fact, some have bugs as a regular part of their diet. Remember, your pet’s size will impact how much food it’s going to need.
When planning your pet’s diet, it is best to avoid canned or processed foods that can contain harmful additives. You should also avoid feeding your tortoise random wild plants. Some garden staples, such as lupine and azalea can be toxic. Always do your research before adding to your pet’s diet.
Some people incorrectly assume that tortoises are totally hands off animals. While they may need less interaction than some pets, regular enrichment certainly helps their quality of life. After all, tortoises are complex animals that shouldn’t have to live in a boring environment.
Hides, dirt mounds, logs, and rocks are all great enrichment items. If you feel like being creative, you can even make food puzzles to help your pet work out its problem solving skills. A varying diet can also keep your tortoise entertained. Homemade fruit popsicles in the summer, for instance, are an easy treat that these guys go crazy over.
Can Tortoises Live Together?
Understanding how long tortoises can live, you may want to provide it with a friend to keep it company. Now, it’s true that tortoises are fairly solitary animals. They don’t typically interact with one another in the wild aside from mating. Indeed, these reptiles can be downright territorial at times. With that being said, they can certainly cohabitate if the conditions are right.
First off, you want to ensure that your enclosure is big enough for both of your tortoises. You also want to make sure that they are of the same species to prevent the spread of disease. Avoid putting males together with other males, or housing two animals of differing sizes. Otherwise, the larger animal will attempt to dominate the smaller and stress it out.
Even if your tortoises are theoretically compatible, it’s important to carefully observe them for a period. Having your tortoises live around those they don’t like isn’t advisable. Make sure that they can spend an extended period of time together without fighting or showing signs of aggression. If one reptile is suddenly showing aggression with another – even after a period of doing fine together – it is important that you separate them.
Can Tortoises Live With Other Animals?
Us pet lovers would love a world where all of our animals can love and cozy up to one another. Unfortunately, the fact is that many animals (like tortoises) would much rather be left alone. Unwanted interaction with another animal can cause unnecessary stress to one or both parties. Especially if the other animal is significantly larger or a predator.
With all that being said, it’s not impossible to keep your animals close together. With the right supervision and barriers, your pets can have a harmonious, healthy life together.
Owning a beautiful, gentle, majestic pet like a tortoise can be a wonderful adventure. However, asking certain questions like “how long do pet tortoises live” can be an important part of making sure that you’re a good caregiver. Tortoises for sale – like any animal – have a variety of unique needs to maintain their mental and physical health. These are going to have to be tended for its entire lifetime. When done right, you will have a wonderful, loyal companion to spend a lifetime with. For more information on which tortoises make good pets and why, check out “5 Best Pet Tortoise Types“.