If you own or are thinking of owning a turtle or a tortoise, you owe it to the animal to learn as much as possible
about its habitat and dietary needs (beyond what you may be told at a pet store). We have the information you
need to make a truly informed decision on whether a hard-shelled pet is right for you and what you need to do to
get ready or advance forward in your animal husbandry skills.
Every species of chelonian (turtle and tortoise) has its own special habitat, climate, and dietary requirements.
These requirements are interlinked and affect an animal’s health, appetite, quality of life, and longevity.
There is no “beginner” or “easy” species, just the ones you know a lot about and can keep healthy and happy,
and the ones you have yet to become expert in keeping.
A chelonian's size is NOT limited by the size of its enclosure. As the animal grows, the space may become too small for the animal. All species require spacious, well enriched enclosures that allow for ample exercise and low-key exploration within a safe, predictable world free of predators. You can’t keep a turtle or tortoise in a small enclosure and get by with “outings” into the yard or house. When plopped down in a new area, what we view as “fun exploration” is really a stress-filled period in which the animal is trying to get is bearings, figure out where it is safe to rest and hide, and determine the location of key resources. What looks like a great day out isn’t necessarily so for your turtle.
Chelonians are not nutritionally wise; they eat what tastes and looks good, even if it is not particularly good for them. Diets should not based simply on what an animal readily eats, but on what is both palatable and healthy. In the wild, food resources may be seasonally variable and spaced out. In captivity, it is easy to overfeed animals, and feed them incorrectly, resulting in obesity and serious health problems.
Species-Specific Care Web Links
Desert Tortoise (Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum)
Red Foot Tortoises (Dr. Joe Heinen)
Russian Tortoise Care (The Russian Tortoise - Dr. Joe Heinen)
Star, Angulate and Golden Greek Tortoises (Star Tortoises)
Sulcata /African Spurred Tortoise (Sulcata Station - Steph Moore/Alan Kerr)
Sulcata Care Sheet (Sulcata Station)
Sulcata /African Spurred Tortoise & Leopard Tortoise (Dr. Joe Heinen)
Tortoises & Box Turtles
Hibernation Pit Design (RGTTC)
Wellness Checklist (RGTTC)
Supplies & Feed
While some of these websites sell chelonians, we list them here as
sources of quality feed and other well-priced supplies for your
hard-shelled pets. We encourage you to adopt, not shop, when
it comes to obtaining a turtle or tortoise.
Rio Grande Turtle & Tortoise Club
Semi-Aquatic (water) Turtles
Basic Aquatic Turtle Care Sheet (Katrina Smith)
Care of Water Turtles (Chadwell Animal Hospital)
Turtle Care Sheets (Austin's Turtle Page)
Box Turtle Diet (Sandy Barnett)
Box Turtle Diet Summary (Sandy Barnett)