15 Most Popular Pet Tortoise Breeds For Beginners

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

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Taking intermediate or advanced-level tortoises requires extensive attention. The newbies often struggle to keep those pets alive. Therefore, you should start your journey with easy-to-maintain tortoise breeds at the beginning of your journey.

Almost 15 tortoise breeds match the newbie profiles. Some popular tortoise species for beginners are:

  • Greek tortoise
  • Russian tortoise
  • Sulcata tortoise
  • Indian star tortoise
  • Pancake tortoise
  • Chaco tortoise
  • Elongated tortoise
  • Egyptian tortoise, etc.

Catch a full list of the beginner’s tortoise along with a short profile in the following article.

15 Most Popular Pet Tortoise Breeds For Beginners

Of course, all the tortoise breeds are wonderful, and most make amazing pets. But it does not mean that you can take in just any species. So, go through their profiles to test your compatibility with the breed.

Here are the brief notes on the 15 most popular pet tortoise species for beginners:

1. Marginated Tortoise

Marginated tortoises have a unique appearance. The yellow or orange blotches on the carapace and triangular markings on the margin make these tortoises look attractive. These flare-like scutes on the margin are why this species has been named so.

The native habitats of the Marginated tortoise include Greece, Sardinia, Italy, Albania, and Balkan Island. These tortoises feel most comfortable in woodlands and hillside areas.

Coming to the size, Marginated tortoises can grow 16 inches and more. So, of course, the species will require more space than average.

If you consider the size, an outdoor habitat is preferable for these tortoises. Also, an outdoor setup satisfies their other requirements. For example, marginated tortoises enjoy burrowing and a warm environment.

The longevity of the marginated tortoises is 100 – 140 years. In captivity, the lifespan gets reduced, and the pets live up to 50 years. Compared to many species, this life expectancy is decent.

The market rate of a marginated tortoise is $200 – $500. You may have to pay more if you have specific demands.

Marginated tortoises act friendly with humans. But of course, disturbing them constantly will make these pets snap at you.

The marginated tortoises are a good option if you think about the price and other characteristics. But for some people, space can pose an issue. However, go for this tortoise if you can manage an outdoor habitat.

2. Pancake Tortoise

Pancake tortoises have a really flat plastron and a carapace. No wonder why these tortoises are named after pancakes.

Though the flat, pancake-like shell makes the species unique, it is also responsible for their vulnerability. Because of the shell type, predators often hunt these tortoises down.

However, the lesser shell weight makes the pancake tortoises fast. So they can run away from danger quickly.

Native to East Africa, the pancake tortoises are found in Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Tanzania. So, their favorite habitat is arid regions and rocky hills.

Most adult pancake tortoises grow 7 inches, which is a medium size. So you do not have to stress over the enclosure space. But yes, you can not put them in a small pen either.

Again, this species has a lifespan of 30 years. Therefore, these tortoises are only for those ready for a long-term commitment.

Pancake tortoises are mid-budget pets. You can afford one by spending $400 – $600. Though it can be a little expensive for a few people, the species is totally worth it.

These tortoises are lovely pets. They interact with humans and spend their days playing around. It is really a delight watching pancake tortoises doing regular stuff.

3. Leopard Tortoise

Leopard tortoises are a total pleasure to the eyes. You can easily spot this species because of its domed carapace with yellow and black markings.

Coming from the African savannah, leopard tortoises prefer a dry and hot habitat. Besides, their enclosure must include a small amount of vegetation.

Compared to many species, Leopard tortoises are bigger. A healthy adult can easily grow more than 17 inches. Thus, this species is not suitable if you have a space issue.

Though these big tortoises have a life expectancy of 100 years in the wild, they live for up to 75 years in captivity. Yes, almost a century-long commitment.

I have met owners who get this species only because of its beauty and price. The leopard tortoises are more available and cost around $200 – $300. But of course, you should consider all the aspects, not just the price.

Leopard tortoises make good pets not because of the low rate or the unique appearance. Instead, keepers love this species because of their quiet, slow and non-hostile nature.

4. Red Footed Tortoise

Red footed tortoises have a tanned and bumpy carapace. These tortoises are named red footed because of the red markings on their legs. Of course, this is one of their distinguishing characteristics.

Red footed tortoises are comfortable in grasslands and dry and wet forests. Originally, this species is native to South America.

You must have an outdoor setup or a spacious indoor space to welcome the red footed tortoise. These tortoises grow more than 14 inches. So, make sure you can afford at least a 50-square-foot enclosure.

The red footed tortoises live a moderate life of 50 years. Compared to other species, this longevity is quite decent. Yet, you should not get this species unless you are ready for this relationship, mentally and financially.

These tortoises are really easy-going and docile. They only get aggressive when rough-handled or disturbed constantly.

Price is a big factor in the popularity of this species. The red footed tortoises are available at $150 – $400. So, these tortoises are definitely budget-friendly.

5. Yellow Footed Tortoise

As the name suggests, the yellow footed tortoises have yellow marks on their limbs. Only add this species to your wishlist if you are ready for a big tortoise.

Apparently, a yellow footed tortoise can grow up to 36 inches and 100 pounds. So, you must require an outdoor space to raise the pet.

Unlike many beginner tortoises, yellow footed tortoises are cheap. Owning a yellow footed tortoise costs between $200 – $650.

Moreover, these tortoises are actually fun to keep. The pets interact with the humans and develop a bond quickly.

Furthermore, the yellow footed tortoise has a decent lifespan compared to many other species. Yes, many beginners are not ready for a 50 – 60 years commitment.

But remember. Tortoises live longer than many other animals. Therefore, your options will be limited to a few if you go after a short lifespan.

6. Hermann’s Tortoise

Hermann’s tortoises are blessed with a lifespan of 100 years. But in captivity, the species only live up to 70 years. So, you should cancel this option if you are not looking for a long-term pet.

Though it looked ordinary, Hermann’s tortoise is wonderful as a pet. They are gentle and calm. However, they will not think twice before attacking the opponent when they feel threatened.

Another advantage of getting Hermann’s tortoise is that it is low maintenance. I agree the market rate of these tortoises is a bit pricey and ranges from $200 – $800. But there are no high demands for raising this species.

On top of that, these tortoises grow about 8 inches. Therefore, a medium-sized pen works for them.

I asked a tortoise expert named Patty Mesich for her opinion on the best tortoise species for beginners. Here’s what she replied:

I have always been a fan of the Russian tortoise or Hermann tortoise. They stay relatively small and are very friendly.  Don’t get me wrong, every tortoise is very friendly and you can develop a nice bond with them given time and patience. Picking the right species for you is based on how much time and space you can give them.  For example, so many people get Sulcata tortoises not knowing how large they get.  They can get over 100 pounds and live many decades.  In my opinion sulcatas are extremely overbred and too many wind up being given away since they get so large.  It also seems like they are most prone to MBD since most keepers cannot meet their space requirements. Please do your research!

7. Indian Star Tortoise

From the name, you can guess the native habitat of the Indian star tortoises. Yes, the species comes from Asian countries like India and Pakistan. These tortoises are quite unique because of the star marks all over their carapace.

Indian star tortoises grow up to 12 inches and even more. So, managing a suitable space is the main concern for these tortoises.

Also, they have a long lifespan of 35 to 80 years. Therefore, this species is not recommended to all people.

Another thing to notice about the Indian star tortoises is their market. The species is unexpectedly pricey. Depending on the condition and requirement, a healthy Indian star tortoise costs around $500 – $4000.

Of course, you can get an Indian star tortoise if space and budget are not an issue. This species makes excellent pets. But yes, you have to provide them with a suitable care sheet and avoid frequent touching.

8. Sulcata Tortoise

The Sulcata tortoise is the 3rd largest tortoise species. An adult Sulcata tortoise can have a carapace length of up to 32 inches.

Though experts tag this tortoise as a beginner’s pet, I do not agree. Yes, the species is docile and interacts with people. But considering the size, the newbies will often struggle to handle this beast.

Sulcata tortoises also do not like to be handled. Frequent touch can stress these pets and make them bite their owners. Yes, Sulcata tortoises can bite.

Sulcata tortoises can live up to 70 years in captivity. A beginner is often not ready for that long commitment.

However, you can still get a Sulcata tortoise if you are confident enough. These tortoises are not that costly. You can purchase one from the store for $50 – $200.

9. Russian Tortoise

Though native to Southeast Russia and the Middle East, Russian tortoises are also popular pets in the USA. Because of the availability, these tortoises are cheap and come at $80 – $200.

Russian tortoises have a carapace of 5 – 10 inches. So, it is possible to raise them in a small house too. In fact, all you need is a 40 – 50 gallon tank to keep the Russian tortoise. You may have to upgrade to a 75-gallon enclosure if the pet shows fast growth.

Russian tortoises are friendly to their owners. You will spot them following the owners as a sign of affection.

You can not complain about the lifespan, either. These Russian tortoises live up to 50 years, which is decent longevity compared to other species. Overall, these tortoises will be an integral part of your family once you welcome them home.

10. Greek Tortoise

Greek tortoises are found on different continents, including North Africa, Southern Europe, and Southwest Asia. In the wild, these tortoises prefer a rocky hillside, meadow, forest, and scrub as habitats.

The species is also called Medetrrean Spur Thighed tortoises because of the spurs on the tail.

Greek tortoises are the number one choice for most beginner keepers. Why? Of course, the petite size of this species is one of the reasons.

Greek tortoises grow up to 8 inches. Therefore, the pet can fit in an 18-square-foot habitat.

Moreover, the price of Greek tortoises is also reasonable. You can get one for under $200.

The best reason to get a Greek tortoise is its lifestyle. This pet is low maintenance and demands almost nothing. Also, a Greek tortoise is very easy to handle.

However, the longevity of this species can be a turn-off for some beginners. Apparently, Greek tortoises are blessed with a 125 – 200 years lifespan. It means the tortoise will be in your family for almost two centuries.

11. Egyptian Tortoise

The name of the species suggests its natural habitat. Yes, the Egyptian tortoises are found mostly on the Mediterranean coasts from Libya to Nile Delta, Egypt. These creatures are also seen along the North American coasts.

Egyptian tortoises are tiny. The males are 3 – 4 inches, while the females are 4 – 5 inches long. Hence, these tortoises are suitable for those who crave a small pet.

Considering the size, you do not require huge space to raise this species. Thus, you do not have to wait until you rent a large house to get a tortoise. You can welcome the Egyptian tortoise in your small home.

Though small, Egyptian tortoises are blessed with a long life. The expected lifespan of this species is 70 – 100 years. So, make sure you are ready for the commitment if you get this tortoise.

Again, Egyptian tortoises are friendly and make the best pets for children. But of course, you need to supervise the kid and the pet when playing.

One more thing.

Like most tortoise species, Egyptian tortoises also hate frequent handling. Yet, these will be the best pets if you ensure gentle touch and fulfill the habitat necessity.

The only downside of the Egyptian tortoises is the price. You have to pay around $1000 to get your hands on these beautiful creatures. For most keepers, the budget is the only obstacle to owning this tortoise.

12. Elongated Tortoise

The elongated name tortoise totally suits this species. These tortoises have narrow and elongated shells. Hence, you can instantly recognize this tortoise.

Elongated tortoises grow more than 12 inches. The females are wider than the males and have rounded shells. So, because of the sex dimorphism, you can also distinguish male and female elongated tortoises.

The species has a curious nature. Hence, it is a pleasure to watch these tortoises play in pen.

On average, an elongated tortoise lives 40 – 50 years. As the creature is native to Asia, it requires a warm and tropical environment to thrive.

As a newbie, you can definitely start your journey with this easy tortoise. It is easy to handle and can be a friendly companion for your kids.

However, the budget can be an issue for a few. The lowest price of an elongated tortoise is $500, which can go up to $6500.

13. Chaco Tortoise

Many of us are unaware of this Chaco or Argentine tortoise. Though unpopular, the Chaco tortoise actually makes excellent pets for beginners.

These Argentine tortoises are not bigger than 10 inches and perfectly fit in a medium-sized habitat. Moreover, they have a lifespan of only 20 years in captivity.

Therefore, this is the perfect species if you lack space in your house. Also, you do not need a long-term commitment to this tortoise.

The only downside of this tortoise is the price. You have to spend a minimum of $750 to get a Chaco tortoise.

But if budget is not an issue, you should definitely shortlist this tortoise.

14. Burmese Mountain Tortoise

Originating in Burma, Myanmar, Burmese mountain tortoises are of giant sizes. An adult Burmese mountain tortoise has a carapace length of more than 2 feet. No wonder why the species requires a pen of 20 square feet.

In the wild, the Burmese mountain tortoises live a long life of 150 years. But in captivity, the lifespan seems to be reduced to 20 years. Therefore, this tortoise is perfect for beginners who are not ready for long commitments.

Considering the charm and elegance the Burmese mountain tortoises carry, they are not pricey. The average market value of this species is $400 – $900.

Though the Burmese mountain tortoises are friendly, I do not recommend this species to everyone. It is because the tortoise can be demanding about the surroundings.

For example, the creature can not withstand dry and hot weather. Therefore, you have to maintain a shady and humid pen.

Hence, only go for this tortoise if you are okay with the space, budget, and habitat demands.

15. Aldabra Giant Tortoise

As the name suggests, the Aldabra giant tortoises are more than 4 feet long. In fact, this is one of the largest tortoises in the world.

From the size, you can already guess that you need a huge outdoor space for this tortoise. Well, not just space. You would require a handsome amount of cash to own this species too. Though a baby Aldabra tortoise is available at $500, the bigger ones cost thousands.

Moreover, the lifespan of the Aldabra tortoise may not fit the requirements of the newbies. Generally, the species lives for more than a century. In most cases, beginners are not ready for such a relationship.

Finally, Aldabra tortoises are docile and act gently to anyone. But you may struggle to handle this giant if it is your first tortoise. That is why I often do not recommend this species.

Things To Consider Before Buying Your First Tortoise

Buying a tortoise should not be a two-minute decision. Instead, you must consider every possible aspect linked to the pet. After all, the tortoises can feel pain, stress, or other basic emotions.

I have been keeping turtles and tortoises for years now. Yet, I go through the following questions every time I think of taking in a new tortoise or turtle,

1. Are You Ready?

Do not get a tortoise just because you find them cute for a day or your friend has one. But make sure you really have an interest in this animal, and you can handle them gently.

Once you know you really want a tortoise, move to the financial side. Owning a tortoise can cost you $200 to thousands of dollars. Consider your financial state and whether you can support the pet for years.

2. Location Is Important

Tortoise species come from different locations. As a result, their surrounding requirements differ from each other. Well, of course, all of them need UV light, heating bulb, substrate, etc. But the temperature and humidity percentage will vary.

Therefore, consider the native habitat of the tortoise before taking it in, especially if you plan for an outdoor pen. In this case, only buy the tortoise if your region has a similar weather conditions. However, the environment is secondary when you raise the tortoise in an enclosed habitat.

3. Manage space

Depending on the species, tortoises can grow up to 36 inches. Of course, the bigger tortoises require a bigger pen than the small ones. Hence, consider how much space you can afford before welcoming the pet.

The small and medium-sized tortoises can fit inside the house. However, you need to manage an outdoor habitat for the big tortoises.

4. What About The Commitment?

Many of us do not have the gut to get into a 100-year commitment. You have to calculate the financial aspect as well as the emotional attachment.

I suggest not jumping into this hobby with a tortoise of 80 – 100 years lifespan. Instead, start with the short-lived tortoises and then go for the other ones.

5. Legal Issues

Before buying a tortoise, make sure the creature is legal in your region. Also, do not buy from the black market because of the discount.

Picking up the tortoise from the wild is not wiser either. Both are illegal. Hence, select a licensed breeder or pet store.

Before You Go

You may struggle to find an authentic shop to buy your first tortoise. Considering this, I have attached the shop address of one of the trusted online tortoise stores. You can talk to the salespeople and proceed with the purchase.

Exotic Tortoise Species For Sale

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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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