Can You Keep Tortoise In A Fish Tank?

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

You may think an aquarium would be ideal housing for your tortoise. When you’re not around to watch him, he’ll be safe and sound in there with his water bowl, substrates, and plenty of secluded spots to hide. The decision to put your pet tortoise in this type of setting is more complicated than it might first appear. 

Aquariums and glass tanks are not suitable habitats for tortoises. Tortoises can’t live in aquariums because they don’t get enough air and can’t roam about. Because they can see right through the glass, tortoises in aquariums or other similar enclosures feel imprisoned and anxious.

Many people now understand the significance of getting enough heat (both UVA and UVB), sunlight, and nutrients in their tortoise’s diet. While many people intend well while caring for their tortoises, they nevertheless make wildly wrong choices when it comes to their housing.

There are a number of suitable environments in which to house your pet tortoise. An aquarium is not an appropriate place for one. Alternate forms of housing are fortunately less expensive, more accessible, and simpler to establish. Let’s check out how it works.

What Is The Critical Difference Between Tortoises And Turtles?

It is essential that the distinction from turtles to tortoises be made clear since some individuals have a tendency to mix the two types of reptiles.

Although certain species of turtles spend longer on the ground instead of in the waters, all turtles require regular contact with water in order to maintain their aquatic lifestyle.

In contrast, tortoises have a common ancestor with turtles, but nowadays they live entirely onshore and are unable to swim. A tortoise wouldn’t survive in a vast pool of water, resulting in no point in allowing its accessibility.

This removes one of the primary reasons a tortoise parent could erroneously choose a tank as a suitable enclosed environment for their pet.

Can A Tortoise Live In A Fish Tank?

Tortoises can’t live in even the biggest fish tanks because the space is too confined and there isn’t enough ventilation.

Additionally, larger tanks are more challenging to carry and manage. Tortoises need a substantial quantity of surface area in order to search for food and navigate their surroundings.

The walls, on the other hand, need to be of sufficient height to ensure that the tortoise would not flee by trying to crawl up or above them.

It is possible that a huge glass tank that is permanently installed is the best answer. Yet, since glass does not allow warmth to leave, maintaining the correct temperature range in a glass tank may be challenging for a tortoise.

In addition, there is not going to be sufficient space to create a thermal gradient, which is necessary for the tortoise to be able to alter its temperatures.

Tortoises are more comfortable in enclosures with opaque walls since they are more likely to feel threatened and unprotected in glass-sided tanks.

They might invest a significant amount of time trying to break past the glass panels, which is why you would see a tortoise heading back and forward.

An Ideal Tortoise Habitat According To An Expert

An ideal habitat is large and spacious.  It has the correct UVB bulb and heat bulb.  There is access to fresh water daily, a cool side and a hot side. Sometimes you may want to cover part of the top (not by the light bulbs) to keep heat or humidity in. 

The best way is a piece of plexiglass.  It is best to keep the habitat away from the window or drafty areas.  It is also important to keep tortoises/turtles away from other pets especially dogs and cats since they are predators and can severely injure or kill them.

Patty Mesich

What Are The Dangers Of Keeping A Tortoise In A Fish Tank?

It is not a good idea to house a tortoise inside of a tank designed for fish. Because fish tanks are composed of glass, which is known to retain and accumulate heat, it may be challenging to keep the water in the tank at a constant temperature.

Additionally, respiratory problems and ill carapace and skin health may result from the decreased gas and air circulation that occurs inside glass tanks.

Because most tortoises reach a length of ten inches or over throughout their lifetime, it is essential to provide them with enough space to graze and roam so that they do not get anxious, angry, bored, or unhappy.

Although heat is progressively lost through the windows, fish tanks maintain a consistent temperature throughout the entire room.

Tortoises are ectothermic, which means that their internal temperature is controlled by their external area.  Therefore, when they start to feel too warm or overly cold, they ought to switch locations.

Because the glass walls of fish tanks are so tall, it might be challenging to affix the required lights in the appropriate locations for tortoises to thrive in their environment.

These rays are essential for the physiological development and maintenance of the tortoise’s body.

Is an Aquarium a Suitable Habitat for a Tortoise?

It’s only natural to ponder whether or not an aquarium would be a better option than a traditional fish tank.

In point of fact, there is not much of a variation among the pair in terms of how well they accommodate your tortoise.

Glass is used to construct aquariums as well, making them susceptible to the same dangers as fish tanks, including the following:

Inadequate Airflow

If you put the lid on the tank while the tortoise is still within it, it will be unable to get any oxygen and will eventually suffocate to death.

Fish may survive in aquariums since the water provides them with some of the oxygen they need to breathe. In circumstances like these, the use of an oxygenation generator is almost unavoidable.

Your tortoise is unable to swim or breathe underwater, so the addition of water to its enclosure won’t help it in any way.

Because tortoises are not the same as turtles, it is not necessary to have a water pool in their enclosure. In fact, they run the risk of drowning by mistake.

The air will move about a little bit, but ultimately it will become still and static. As a result of the tortoise’s requirement for a warm place, sunbathing regions may quickly become infested with pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, and parasites.

Maintainance of Humidity

The process of digestion is influenced by humidity, as reported in the Journal of Thermal Biology.

The moisture in an aquarium is challenging to keep stable. Although a number of kinds of tortoises are adapted to arid environments, they do not perform well in environments where the moisture content is subject to severe swings.

Shell rot may be the result of an abundance of dampness, while a deficiency in moisture might make it challenging to remove the skin.

Moving back and forth between two extremes increases the risk of developing diseases, as well as apathy and sadness.

When you refill the water bowl for your tortoise, the regular aquarium covers have a tendency to trap air within, creating what is known as a greenhouse effect.

Even while screens might be useful, the fundamental constraints they place on airflow can still cause problems with the amount of moisture in the air.

 this may result in decreased activity levels as well as behavioral issues.

Development of Unpleasant Odor

Because of the restricted circulation, microorganisms and scents that aren’t very pleasant will accumulate.

As a result of your tortoise urinating in the tank, ammonia levels will rise. Ammonia’s pungent odor may be mitigated to some degree by ensuring enough airflow, although this is less probable to occur in an aquarium.

Your tortoise’s lung mechanism will get irritated by the increased ammonia. which will eventually result in respiratory diseases. The stench may be diminished with consistent clearing, but it won’t go away totally.


Because tortoises have a very amazing memory, they will quickly get tired of doing the same loop over and over again.

They want to be able to hunt for food and water and try out new territory much as they would in the outdoors.

Lack of Physical Activity

Tortoises have a harder time getting the necessary amount of activity to maintain their health when they are confined to smaller spaces.

Even though they are sluggish creatures, tortoises nonetheless need to move, dig and climb in order to survive.

Anxiety and a sense of unease

Tortoises have a natural want to explore their environment and find new places to forage, so keeping them in a glass enclosure would likely cause them stress.

They are able to view the outside world and have the desire to investigate it, but they keep running against an unseen wall.

Tortoises are unable to comprehend glass, and as a result, your turtle will continually attempt to go to the new place, while running into the glass wall.

Your tortoise may become aggressive if it mistakes its own projection with another tortoise and attacks it as a result.

Lack of Space

Animals that live on land, such as tortoises, enjoy the freedom to roam and discover their environment.

They need a substantial amount of floor space in order to engage in the type of walking activity that is natural to them in the wild.

Finding a big enough tank to keep your tortoise in an appropriate manner may be challenging and costly. Even more compact species require multiple feet of space in which to move about.

There are a few issues with housing your pet tortoise in a used fish tank or an online-purchased second-hand aquarium, despite the fact that they may appear ideal at first. Your tortoise requires a roomy wooden habitat to call home.

What Are The Alternatives To Fish Tanks?

Your tortoise will be content and in good condition, if you use the most basic option of a glass aquarium.

Your tortoise needs a secure container that provides it with the advantages of room and sufficient air ventilation.

A plastic storage tote that is at least 50 gallons in capacity and preferably bigger would work well.

Because they lead to the same problems as aquariums, glass terrariums should be avoided at all costs.

Wooden housings or fences made of a mix of timber and wire netting are both acceptable choices for those who like to build their tortoise habitats.

If you are going to construct the enclosure yourself, you should aim for a width of at least 2 feet, a length of at least 4 feet, and a height of between 1 and 2 feet.

Closing Remarks

Tortoises shouldn’t be kept in fish tanks or aquariums because of the lack of room, inadequate ventilation, retention of foul smells, and subsequent bacterial development.

It’s stressful for the tortoises because they can’t see out of the glass and they can’t figure out who or what is the reflection on the glass wall. Keeping a temperature difference between the two areas would also be challenging.

A large, wooden tortoise cage is preferable since the turtle will be less likely to feel trapped and stressed out.

Lights and heat lamps are significantly simpler to install. They’re also simple to disinfect and provide enough ventilation, both of which are crucial for the well-being of captive tortoises.

About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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