A tortoise can make an amazing life-long pet. Most tortoises will live as long or outlive their owners because pet tortoises can live for 50-100 years. Sounds like a great investment, right? But, like any investment, it’s important to ask ‘how much does a tortoise cost?’ Let’s take a look…
Tortoise costs can vary greatly, and it can be confusing for hopeful tortoise owners that want to work out their fixed costs. In this article, we take a deep dive into the initial cost, maintenance, etc., about tortoises that hopeful tortoise owners should know.
How Much Does a Tortoise Cost?
Buying a tortoise and some of their basic equipment may initially cost $250-$2,000, with a maintenance cost of around $50-100 a month. However, the cost of a tortoise varies based on the breed, age, shipping, etc. Additionally, tortoises can be a costly investment because of their needs.
Keep in mind that tortoise prices greatly vary. Each breeder will price the tortoise differently depending on how rare they are, the age, etc. Moreover, owning a tortoise will also involve an initial investment because pet owners will need to get a proper indoor and/or outdoor enclosure for their tortoises. Plus, tortoises will have recurring costs like food, electricity bills, replacement parts for the enclosure, vet visits, etc.
What Is a Tortoise?
A tortoise is a type of reptile that lives on land. Tortoises can live in many types of climates, like in a tropical rainforest or in a dry desert, but they will always stay on land. Tortoises also come in a variety of sizes. Some tortoises will only be 4-5 inches, while others will be 3-4 feet. All tortoises are also herbivores, so they eat grass, fruits, veggies, flowers, etc.
All tortoises are turtles, but not all turtles are tortoises. The tortoise is part of the turtle family, but a turtle is not the same as a tortoise. Turtles are omnivores (eats plants and animal matter), while tortoises are strictly herbivores. Turtles can be semi-aquatic or fully aquatic, but tortoises only live on land. Moreover, most turtles have slightly webbed feet, while tortoises do not have webbed feet.
How Much Different Breeds of Tortoises Cost
There are many breeds of tortoises that people can get. The cheapest tortoise that most people can own is the African Spurred tortoise, also called the Sulcata. These tortoises are pretty affordable because many people breed this tortoise. Plus, they lay about 15-30 eggs per clutch, so they are very easy to find. They are also great for people who want a medium tortoise because they can get up to 18 inches long.
The Red-Footed Tortoise is a popular breed from South America, and they are medium-sized tortoises. The hatchlings can go for $120-150, depending on how rare they are in the area. An adult Red-Footed Tortoise can cost about $200-300.
Another popular tortoise breed is the Russian tortoise, and they come from anywhere in the Middle East to southeast Russia. These are relatively cheap tortoises because the hatchlings cost $50-100. Even the adults are affordable because they will go for $130-180.
The Hermann’s tortoise is a small tortoise from the Mediterranean. These are excellent beginner tortoises because they are very docile. These tortoises can live for 75 years or longer. Depending on their age, they can go for $200-800.
An Indian Star Tortoise is a tortoise from Sri Lanka and India. Many breeders love this tortoise because of the beautiful star-like design on its shells. However, exporting the Indian Star Tortoise is now illegal since they are currently threatened in the wild. There are still captive breeders that breed this tortoise, but they will cost $500-4,000. Moreover, it is crucial to purchase this breed from an ethical breeder.
A friendly tortoise that people also like is the Greek tortoise. These tortoises come from the Middle East and the Mediterranean. They are small tortoises that can live for around 50 years. Common hatchlings will range from $50 to 250. However, there are rarer subspecies of the Greek tortoise that will go for more.
For people that want bigger tortoises, they can take a look at the Leopard tortoise. It is the second biggest tortoise found in Africa and the fourth biggest tortoise in the world. They can weigh up to 40 pounds and be 17 inches long. A leopard tortoise can cost around $200-300. They tend to be more costly than other tortoises because they need a big enclosure because they are large, so their enclosures are somewhat high maintenance.
Another huge tortoise that people can get is the Aldabra Giant Tortoise, which is the second biggest tortoise in the world. They have a gorgeous jet black shell, weigh around 550 pounds and be up to 4 feet long. The males are a lot bigger than the females. However, it is tough for breeders to mate these tortoises in captivity successfully. Hatchlings can easily cost $1,000-2,500, and adults can go up to $20,000.
For those that want a unique tortoise, they can opt for the Pancake tortoise. They come from sub-Saharan Africa and are fairly small tortoises that grow up to 7 inches long. They are unique because their shell is more flat, like a turtle, unlike a tortoise’s typical high and round shell. However, they are more difficult to breed in captivity and are hard to export. So, they can easily go for $400-600.
Other Factors That Affect Tortoise Prices
The breed of tortoise is not the only factor that determines how much a tortoise will cost. There are other important factors to take into account, like age. An older tortoise is likely to be more expensive than a baby tortoise. For instance, a baby tortoise might cost $50, while an older tortoise can be $300-1,000.
Older tortoises are more expensive because they have a lower risk of dying. Some people enjoy the idea of raising a tortoise as a hatchling and watch them grow. However, there are a lot of complications that can occur as a tortoise develops. Therefore, a mature and “established” tortoise will cost more.
Where a person buys their tortoise will also affect the price. Pet shops may have “set prices” for their tortoises, but it would be best for potential buyers to be wary. Some pet shops get their animals from backyard breeders, which is bad for the parent animals. Moreover, the babies of backyard breeders have a higher risk of being sickly.
Professional and ethical tortoise breeders are the best place to buy a tortoise. They might charge a bit more than pet shops, but their tortoises were bred under better standards. That way, the parents and babies will not face cruelty. Some tortoise “dealers” may state that they are breeders when they are simply sellers, so be careful of them. Tortoise dealers may not care much about the tortoise’s health and potential new home.
What Is the Cheapest Tortoise?
Generally, the Sulcata tortoise or African Spurred tortoise is the cheapest tortoise. They usually only cost about $50-200, which is a lot cheaper than the other tortoises. The Sulcata will only cost as much as $300-1.000 if they are older. Female Sulcatas are also more expensive than males. If the Sulcata is albino or ivory, a hatchling can cost $300-750.
Raising a Sulcata is also relatively affordable compared to other breeds. The enclosure costs will depend on what the pet owners choose, but most pre-made tortoise tables may only cost $100. The total cost of their enclosures plus the other items inside the enclosure may only cost $150-300. However, their needs can change quickly. A Sulcata can be fully mature by the time they are 15-20 years old.
How Much Does It Cost to Take Care of a Growing Tortoise?
How much it will cost to take care of a tortoise can greatly vary. Each breed of tortoise will have different needs, so each one will cost different amounts to own. Tortoise owners should get the basic items for their tortoise kit before they get their tortoise.
Firstly, tortoises need a place to stay, and many pet owners get a tortoise table, which is an enclosure with an open top. A tortoise table can cost $100 or more, depending on the type. These can be 3-4 feet wide and long, and they are ideal for baby tortoises. Juvenile tortoises will need slightly bigger ones.
However, a fully-grown tortoise will need a much bigger space. A tortoise table is only suitable for younger tortoises. It is likely that tortoise owners will have to create an outdoor enclosure for their tortoises. For instance, the average Sulcata will need around 100 square meters of space by the time they are adults. Pet owners will have to set up a big area in their backyard with enough place to burrow, roam, bask, etc., for their pets. The exact costs will vary per person.
Lamps, Heat and Temperature
Tortoises will need lamps, and the kind that they will need will depend on the breed. They need UV light because that is how they will metabolize vitamin D3 and calcium (very important for indoor tortoises). Tortoises need to stay warm because they are cold-blooded animals, so they need a heat basking lamp. That way, the tortoise can choose to go under the basking lamp if they need extra warmth.
Some tortoise owners will also get a ceramic heat emitter. These are great because they provide heat at night without a light. Tortoises do not need the UV light all day, so offering a way to keep them warm at night without light is ideal. Keep in mind to get a pulse thermostat if the tortoise will have a ceramic heat emitter. The pulse thermostat will regulate the ceramic heat emitter’s temperature.
Most tortoises will need a UVB light and heat lamp (some lamps are “combi,” meaning they work as both). A tortoise owner may opt to supply lighting and heating separately using an IR heat source and a UV tube. How hot the lamps should depend on the room’s background temperature. It would be best to ask the tortoise breeder for their recommendations. The total cost of lights can range from $100-300.
It is also useful for a tortoise owner to grab a dimming thermostat. A dimming thermostat can easily control the enclosure’s temperature, which is crucial for reptiles. Pet owners can adjust the thermostat’s settings to make sure that the tortoise’s enclosure does not get too cold. A dimming thermostat costs about $50-80.
Tortoises still need to exercise outside of their enclosure. A tortoise run is another enclosure that allows tortoises to go outside and exercise while staying away from danger. The size of the tortoise run will depend on the tortoise’s ages and needs. A tortoise run typically goes for $50-200.
Bedding is important for indoor tortoises because tortoises like to burrow. Choosing the appropriate bedding for the tortoise based on their breed is crucial. Common types of bedding for tortoises include peat moss, organic soil, coconut noir and soil. Bags of substrate can range from $10-40. However, you may need several bags because some tortoise breeds need lots of bedding to properly burrow.
Bedding may be a bit costly for most people. A tortoise’s bedding needs to get fully replaced every 1-2 months. If the tortoise lives outside with enough soil to burrow, they will not need bedding.
Decorating the tortoise enclosure is mostly optional. However, pet owners can add some sticks and plants as decor and shade. However, it is crucial to choose edible plants that are safe for tortoises to eat because they will try to eat them. Avoid adding rickety or steep decor into the enclosure because tortoises can lose their balance from those items.
What Are the Maintenance Costs for Tortoises?
Tortoises have basic needs, like food, that will cost pet owners money daily. However, how much the total costs would be per month will depend on the cost of living in the owner’s area, the pet’s needs, etc. More importantly, how the owner decides to feed their tortoise will impact their monthly food costs.
Tortoises need supplements to stay healthy and strong. The exact supplements that they need will depend on their current diet, their breed, health condition, etc. Most supplements will cost pet owners around $5-50 a month, but it can be more than that if the tortoise has more needs. Some common supplements that tortoises need are vitamin A and calcium.
For instance, pre-cut and mixed fruits and veggies from the store tend to cost a lot of money because they are convenient. Feeding one tortoise using those bagged fruits and veggies can cost $20-30, depending on the area. Buying fresh veggies and cutting them at home can help people save money. Some tortoise owners grow their own pesticide-free fruits and veggies for their tortoises to save more cash.
Owning a pet tortoise will likely affect people’s electricity bills as well. The total cost will depend on the tortoise’s needs and the area. For instance, tortoises that need more heat but live in a colder region will require more heating. Most tortoises will add about $4-10 to the electric bill per month.
Moreover, tortoise owners will have to replace parts of their tortoise’s enclose periodically. For instance, the bedding needs to get replaced entirely every 1-2 months. Depending on how much and what kind of bedding the tortoise needs, it can cost about $20-50 a month. The enclosure’s lights will also need to get replaced eventually, which can cost $100-300 every 4-12 months. How often the lights need to get replaced will depend on the use, lifespan, etc.
Tortoises hibernate in the wild, and how long it lasts will depend on the location and breed. Most pet owners let their tortoises go into hibernation for health benefits. However, new pet owners might find it difficult because they can develop a disease if the tortoise does not do it properly. There are professional hibernation services that cost $150-200 for the minimum period of 3 weeks, with an extra $15-20 every week after that. Tortoises tend to hibernate every year or whenever the temperature is 3-7 degrees Celsius.
How Much Do Vet Visits for Tortoises Cost?
Initial checkups at the vet for tortoises can cost $120. After that, a tortoise needs to get a check-up at least once a year, which can cost $80-120. Of course, the vet visits will cost more if the tortoise needs treatment. Most treatments will cost $100-250. Treatments will be more expensive if there are more complicated procedures, like surgery, which can cost $400 or more.
To Sum Up
How much a tortoise will cost will greatly depend on the breed. However, the age and breeder will also greatly impact the price as well. The initial cost of a tortoise, enclosure, food, etc., can cost people anywhere from $250-1,000 or more. Tortoises will also have recurring costs like food, supplements, replacement lights, bedding, etc.
- Nashville Zoo, ‘What’s the Difference Between Turtles and Tortoises?’, https://www.nashvillezoo.org/our-blog/posts/turtles-vs-tortoises, Date Accessed – 20 May, 2020
- San Diego Zoo, ‘African Spurred Tortoise’, https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/african-spurred-tortoise.), Date Accessed – 19 May, 2021
- Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ‘What is a backyard breeder?’, https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-is-a-backyard-breeder, Date Accessed – 19 May, 2021
- Arizona Exotic, ‘BASIC CARE: SULCATA TORTOISE,’ https://azeah.com/tortoises-turtles/basic-care-sulcata-tortoise, Date Accessed, 19 May, 2021