The Top 6 Smallest Tortoise Species For Your Home

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

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Why not start your tortoise-keeping journey with a small tortoise? With these pets, you do not have to stress managing the outdoor space. Moreover, they are easy to care for. Here are the 6 small tortoise breeds that stay small forever,

Tortoise SpeciesExpected Size
Egyptian Tortoise3 – 5 inches
Pancake Tortoise6 – 7 inches
Russian Tortoise5 – 10 inches
Hermann’s Tortoise5 – 11 inches
Greek Tortoise5 – 11 inches
Indian Star Tortoise5 – 15 inches

Find more on these small tortoise breeds below.

6 Small Tortoises That Stay Small Forever!

Of course, you should not buy a small tortoise because it is cute. Instead, you need to go through its overall profile, including the care sheet. Here I have added a brief caring guide on each of the small tortoise breeds, 

1. Egyptian Tortoise

Scientific Name: Testudo kleinmanni

Other Names: Kleinmann’s Tortoise, The Negev Tortoise, Leith’s Tortoise

Average Size: 3 – 4 inches (Male) & 4 – 5 (Females)

Average Weight: 105 – 350 grams

Average Lifespan: 70 – 100 years

Native Habitat: Libya and the South shore of the Mediterranean sea

Market Price: $250 – $4800

Conservation Status: Critically Endangered

Care Level: Beginner

Care Guide

Tank Size: The minimum habitat requirement for Egyptian tortoises is 2 by 2 square feet. Try upgrading the pen size if possible. Again, you need a bigger enclosure if you house more than one Egyptian tortoise.

Required Setups: A UB light, a heating lamp, substrate, small vegetation, smooth-edged rocks

Suitable Habitat Temperature: In the wild, Egyptian tortoises live in a desert-like environment. Considering this, the captive habitat temperature of this species is also high.

For example, the basking temperature is 90 – 95 F, and the ambient temperature is 70 – 80 F. Besides, the pen humidity level should be between 20 – 30%.

Diet: Egyptian tortoises are herbivorous. Their meals include grass, hay, vegetables, and fruit. You may catch the species eating insects occasionally.

Reproduction: The species gets sexual maturity at the age of 5. Its nesting season lasts from July to December.

A gravid Egyptian tortoise can lay up to 7 clutches every nesting year. Each clutch contains 1 – 5 eggs.

2. Pancake Tortoise

Scientific Name: Malacochersus tornieri

Other Names: Tornier’s tortoise

Average Size: 6 – 7 inches

Average Weight: Up to 500 grams

Average Lifespan: 30 years

Native Habitat: Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe

Market Price: $500 – $3000

Conservation Status: Critically Endangered

Care Level: Beginner

Care Guide

Tank Size: A 40-gallon tank or a 2 by 2 square feet enclosure is suitable for the pancake tortoises. It is better if you can afford a larger pen.

Required Setups: A UB light, a heating lamp, substrate, small vegetation, smooth-edged rocks

Suitable Habitat Temperature: Pancake tortoises bask at around 108 F temperature. Their preferable ambient temperature is 70 – 80 F. Finally, the tank humidity level should be at least 50%.

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Diet: The pancake tortoise’s meals contain dry grass and succulent vegetables. Of course, this species eats other veggies and fruits too.

Reproduction: A pancake tortoise reaches sexual maturity between 5 – 9 years. Tortoises from these species breed from January to February and nest till August. The gravid pancake tortoises barely lay 1 to 2 eggs in each clutch.

3. Russian Tortoise

Scientific Name: Testudo horsfieldii

Other Names: Russian steppe tortoise, Four-clawed tortoise, Afghan tortoise, Horsfield’s tortoise, and Central Asian tortoise

Average Size: 5 – 10 inches

Average Weight: Up to 1.5 kgs

Average Lifespan: Up to 50 years

Native Habitat: Southern Russia. India, China, Pakistan, and Iran

Market Price: $75 – $500

Conservation Status: Vulnerable

Care Level: Beginner

Care Guide

Tank Size: A 50-gallon tank size is perfect for young Russian tortoises. Upgrade to a bigger habitat when the pet grows into an adult.

Required Setups: A UB light, a heating lamp, substrate, small vegetation, smooth-edged rocks

Suitable Habitat Temperature: Russian tortoises prefer a daytime temperature of 85 – 88 F and a night temperature of 75 – 80 F. Basking temperature for these tortoises should be between 90 – 100 F, and the habitat humidity is preferred to be 40 – 75%.

Diet: The meals of Russian tortoises include grass, green leafy vegetables, hay, and fruits.

Reproduction: A 10-year-old Russian tortoise can participate in sexual tasks. The breeding season of this species is marked from May to June. A gravid Russian tortoise lays about 3 clutches each year, and the nest consists of 2 – 6 eggs.

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!

4. Hermann’s Tortoise 

Scientific Name: Testudo hermanni

Subspecies: Eastern Hermann’s tortoise and Western Hermann’s tortoise

Average Size: 5 – 11 inches

Average Weight: Up to 4 kg

Average Lifespan: 50 – 70 years

Native Habitat: Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Croatia, Serbia, Turkey, Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo, Romania, North Macedonia, Middle East, Southern Europe, and Eastern Europe

Market Price: $20 – $1000

Conservation Status: Near Threatened

Care Level: Beginner

Care Guide

Tank Size: Hermann’s tortoises can grow slightly bigger than other small tortoise species. A minimum of 2 by 4 square feet of housing is required for these tortoises. But if the tortoises cross 8/9 inches carapace length, place it in a bigger pen.

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Required Setups: A UB light, a heating lamp, substrate, small vegetation, smooth-edged rocks

Suitable Habitat Temperature: Hermann’s tortoises require a basking temperature of 90 – 95 F. The air temperature inside the enclosure ranges from 60 – 85 F. Similarly, a 40 – 60% humidity is perfect for the species.

Diet: Grasses and leafy vegetables are the main items of Hermann’s tortoise meals. The diet also includes hay, vegetables, and fruits.

Reproduction: Compared to other species, Hermann’s tortoises gain sexual maturity a bit late, at 12. Their breeding season lasts from May to July. Each depositing clutch of the gravid Hermann’s tortoise includes 1 – 9 eggs.

5. Greek Tortoise

Scientific Name: Testudo graeca

Subspecies: Ibera Greek tortoise, Libyan Greek tortoise, North African Greek tortoise, Tunisian Greek tortoise, and Golden Greek tortoise

Average Size: 5 – 11 inches

Average Weight: Up to 2 kg

Average Lifespan: 125 – 200 years

Native Habitat: Southern Europe, North Africa, and Southwest Asia

Market Price: $129 – $450

Conservation Status: Vulnerable 

Care Level: Beginner

Care Guide

Tank Size: A pen of 3 by 6 square feet for the smaller Greek tortoises will do just fine. The walls of this habitat should be at least 18 inches. But if you observe rapid growth in the pet, you will have to switch to a bigger enclosure.

Required Setups: A UB light, a heating lamp, substrate, small vegetation, smooth-edged rocks

Suitable Habitat Temperature: Preferable basking temperature for Greek tortoises is 95 F.

Similarly, the daytime ambient temperature is 75 – 90 F, and the nighttime temperature is 65 F. The humidity inside the enclosure ranges from 40 – 60%.

Diet: Greek tortoises crave a high-fiber and low-protein diet. Hence, their meal list includes all vegetables, grass, and hay.

Reproduction: The species become sexually active when they reach a carapace length of 3 – 6 inches. These tortoises breed and nest from May to July. The gravid tortoises lay several clutches, each consisting of 3 – 4 eggs.

6. Indian Star Tortoise

Scientific Name: Geochelone elegans

Other Names: Star Tortoise

Average Size: 5 – 15 inches

Average Weight: Up to 6.6 kgs

Average Lifespan: 30 – 80 years

Native Habitat: Indian, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka

Market Price: $300 – $38500

Conservation Status: Endangered

Care Level: Beginner

Care Guide

Tank Size: Generally, Indian star tortoises do not grow more than 8 – 10 inches. For this size, a minimum of a 55-gallon tank is mandatory. You need to increase the size if the tortoise grows unexpectedly fast.

Required Setups: A UB light, a heating lamp, substrate, small vegetation, smooth-edged rocks

Suitable Habitat Temperature: A 90 – 95 F basking temperature suits the Indian star tortoises. Similarly, the air temperature should be around the mid-80s temperature.

Compared to other species, the humidity requirement for the Indian star tortoises is higher. For example, babies and juveniles prefer 70 – 80% humidity. On the other hand, the adults like the humidity to stay between 40 – 75%.

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Diet: The species is purely herbivorous. These tortoises live on grass and weeds. Of course, the meals also include vegetables and hay.

Reproduction: The Indian star tortoises achieve sexual maturity between 6 – 12 years. While these tortoises breed in the summer, they nest from December to February. Each clutch of the Indian tortoise has 5 – 7 eggs.

Do Small Tortoises Make Better Pets?

Small tortoises always excel as pets. They are cute and easy to handle. Well, these small tortoises have other benefits over the giant tortoises. For example,

  • No Worry About The Space: We, city people, struggle most with managing the space for the tortoises. Though the babies can fit in small enclosures, you need a bigger pen when they grow up. However, with small tortoises, this issue will never arise.
  • Less Money On Enclosure: A 4 by 4 square feet pen is perfect for small tortoises. On the other hand, giant tortoises demand a bigger enclosure. The smaller the habitat, the less money you have to spend.
  • Indoor Setup Is Possible: When you buy a large tortoise species, you need to manage an outdoor space. It is because the hatchling will turn into a beast today or tomorrow. But with small tortoises, a corner in your apartment is enough.
  • Easy To Care: Of course, handling a 36-inch giant tortoise is not a cup of tea. But if you have an 8 – 10 inches tortoise on hand, it feels nothing like a struggle. Instead, you enjoy looking at the pet and watching it play.
  • Less Appetite: Small tortoises have a lesser appetite than big tortoises. Therefore, you can save money on the meals of these pets.

There are a few slopes for keeping small tortoises as pets too. For example, babies can unintentionally hurt these creatures when playing. Also, the tortoises can get injured by the pet dogs or cats in the house.

Moreover, small tortoises are comparatively more expensive than large pets. Also, these creatures are hard to find.

However, the advantages weigh more than the disadvantages. So, I always suggest beginners start the journey with these small pets.

What Is The Smallest Tortoise?

Speckled Cape tortoises are the smallest tortoise species in the world. The creatures also go by the name of Speckled tortoise or Speckled Padloper.

The Speckled tortoises grow up to 3.9 inches. While the female tortoises have a smaller carapace length, the males have a concave belly.

These tortoises are native to South Africa and South Nambala.

Though people have tried petting these tortoises, they failed. Apparently, the Speckled tortoises struggle to adapt to the captive environment and food habitat. Hence, it is wiser to let this species thrive in the wild.

How Long Do Mini Tortoises Live?

You can not assume the exact longevity of the mini tortoises. Their lifespan solely depends on their species, environment, and care sheet.

For example, pancake tortoises live up to 30 years. On the other hand, Greek tortoises are blessed with a lifespan of 200 years.

Before You Go

You may want to check the small turtle breeds that stay small forever. I have attached my previous write-up on the best small turtles for beginners.

Small turtle breeds you must keep in your house.

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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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