how to setup your terrarium for tortoises?

When it comes to keeping tortoises, most experts advise keeping the reptiles in an outdoor enclosure rather than in a terrarium.

This is mainly due to the fact that the turtles are correspondingly large and therefore need a lot of space.

Nevertheless, it can be kept in a terrarium that is large enough.

However, it is important to equip the terrarium in such a way that it is kept in a species-appropriate manner and that your tortoise can live healthy and happy.

In this article, you will learn what is important when keeping tortoises in a terrarium and what should not be missing in terms of furnishings.

The problems with keeping a tortoise in a terrarium

When keeping turtles in a terrarium, there are a few problems that you will face.

You can find out which ones are below:

  • The lamps used cannot simulate the sunlight 100 per cent.
  • This can cause your turtle to get sick. For this reason, it is important to always pay attention to good quality when selecting the technology in order to replace the sunlight as well as possible.
  • Terrariums are often very susceptible to mould growth.
  • This is mainly because the turtles need high humidity and a lot of heat to stay healthy, which of course are the perfect conditions for bacteria to develop. For this reason, regular and very thorough cleaning is particularly important.
  • It is not easy to create several climatic conditions within a basin. In order to enable both hot and light as well as cooler and darker corners, the terrarium must be particularly large, which of course also means that sufficient space must be available.
  • Since the terrariums are set up in the apartment, it is often very difficult to lower the temperatures at night or to meet the requirements for wintering. However, wintering animals is very important for a long and healthy life.

what`s The right terrarium size for tortoises?

The size of the terrarium plays an extremely important role.

When buying it, you must make sure that it is big enough to meet the need for space.

Experts recommend 8 times the length of the shell as a pure base area.

For a fully grown Greek tortoise, this means that the terrarium should be at least 2.6 m².

Whereby it has to be said that these are the minimum dimensions.

Ultimately, the larger the terrarium for your tortoise, the better.

If you keep a sexually mature male in the terrarium or enclosure, the space per animal must be increased to 4-5 m².

In group housing, care must be taken to keep more females than males, with a two-to-one ratio recommended.

However, if you want to breed tortoises, you should refrain from keeping them in a terrarium.

what material should my terrarium be made of?

Since terrariums for tortoises are quite large, you should refrain from buying a small model first and then expanding.

That would only make sense if there is an older pool that is currently not in use.

Many therefore build their own terrariums or buy a large version that is also sufficient for a full-grown tortoise.

It is not important for the animals themselves whether the terrarium should be made of wood or made of complete glass.

What counts here is your own taste and financial resources.

However, it is important that the top of the terrarium is at least partially open.

In this way, you can ensure better regulation of the climate in the terrarium.

The equipment of the terrarium

In addition to the right size of the terrarium, it is of course also very important to ensure that it is optimally equipped.

With this, it is possible to ensure that the tortoises are kept as species-appropriate as possible.

A terrarium must be equipped with several items in order to really ensure the tortoise a healthy enjoyable life.

You can find out what should not be missing in the following:

what´s the prefered lights for tortoises?

When kept in a terrarium, of course, there is no fresh and pure sunlight.

The needs of the turtles can be satisfied by using suitable light sources .

However, some things can be done wrong with the selection or the application.

Turtles are animals that need a lot of light and heat.

Many keepers keep making the mistake of keeping the poor animals too dark or too cool.

Animals that live in the wild rely on the sun.

For this reason, it is important that the heat is also radiated from a light source and not from a special heat mat or stone.

It is also important to make sure that it is always warm enough in the terrarium.

The comfortable temperature of Greek tortoises, for example, is 35 degrees.

The reptiles feel most comfortable at this temperature, the organs work sensibly and the turtles are also most agile.

Light sources that imitate the sun’s UV-A and UV-B rays are particularly important.

Furthermore, the climate of natural habitats must be imitated as well as possible.

In plain language, this means that you have to make sure that you simulate the seasons and times of day optimally.

Bad weather periods are also included and should not be missed.

So it can’t be 35 degrees in the terrarium every day.

Especially at night, the temperature has to go down significantly and the lighting conditions themselves have to be adjusted so that it should of course be dark at night.

In spring and autumn, temperatures must also be lower than in summer.

It is advisable to orientate yourself on the temperatures in the natural environment of the tortoises.

Many turtle keepers, therefore, use a daylight lamp for the light intensity, which, however, does not give off any heat.

This is done by a spotlight UV lamp, which reaches approx. 25-28 degrees.

This product is therefore ideal for spring, autumn and cooler days.

For the summer, in addition to an additional UV lamp, a model with a higher number of watts, such as 50 watts, should be used.

It is also important that the heat is only particularly strong under the respective lamp.

So there must also be cooler places in the terrarium so that the animals can withdraw if necessary.

substrate for the turtle terrarium?

The substrate should be based on the natural habitats of the turtles.

This means that peat or unfertilized soil are particularly suitable.

This substrate should be strewn about 15 cm high.

In this way, you can offer your animals the option of being able to bury themselves if they wish.

It is important that the soil is moistened at regular intervals so that the humidity can be kept high and optimally regulated.

The humidity must be high in order to prevent so-called hump formation in the animals.

Sand, on the other hand, is too easily absorbed with the animals’ food and should therefore not be used.

In some animals, ingesting too much sand has already caused deadly blockages, which can be avoided by using soil or peat.

Plants in the terrarium

The terrarium for the turtles should of course also be nicely planted.

Here you should not primarily see the optics, but the needs of your turtles.

Experts recommend using tasty forage crops such as aloe, pansy or oregano.

Shrubs to hide should not be missing either.

Conifers, for example, are particularly suitable for this.

However, it is important that you wash the plants properly before planting.

The fertilized soil must also be completely removed so that there are no health risks.

For example, many turtle keepers ventilate the plants for a few weeks so that it can be ensured that there is not too much fertilizer in the plant itself.

Devices for checking the values ​​in the terrarium

It is of course also important to check the values ​​such as humidity & heat, in the terrarium.

This mainly affects the temperature.

Here it is an advantage to choose a thermostat that can be used to measure at two different points in the terrarium.

So once a measurement in the warmest area and once in the coldest area.

In this way you can ensure that the temperature is always perfect and, if necessary, intervene should something be wrong.

What else belongs in a terrarium?

In addition to the equipment products already mentioned, other items belong in your turtle’s new home.

So that you can supply your turtle with fresh water every day, a flat and stable drinking bowl is best.

However, this should be large enough so that your turtle can treat itself to a bath in between.

Many holders use a simple, large stone slab for the lining.

So it is possible to keep the soil away from the feed.

In addition to the individual plants, it is also recommended that stones and cork bark are also used in the terrarium.

With these, you can enable the turtles to climb.

The animals are also happy to accept caves.

Since turtles also like to sunbathe, it is not wrong to place a cork bark or a stone under the heat lamp, whereby you should of course also make sure that they are not too close to the lamp.

Of course, you can also decorate the terrarium according to your taste.

Don’t forget about your turtle’s needs, however.

So it is important that the decoration is also an advantage for your turtle, for example, it offers a place to hide.

What should you watch out for when keeping a turtle in the terrarium?

As already mentioned, keeping turtles in a terrarium is not necessarily easy.

For this reason, there are some criteria that you urgently need to meet so that your animals can feel comfortable and a long and healthy life awaits them.

what to watch out for when keeping tortoises in a terrarium?

  • Put fresh water every day
  • Remove faeces and urine daily to keep the terrarium nice and clean
  • Pay attention to the variety of food, here you can find out more about the appropriate nutrition of tortoises in our article
  • During the day, you need to shine and heat with a heat lamp
  • Regulate the temperatures according to the time of day, season and Co.
  • The temperature must be lowered during the night
  • Regularly remove the top layer of the substrate and replace it with a new substrate
  • Renew the substrate completely at least every 6 months
  • Slightly moisten the substrate regularly

What mistakes are often made?

When keeping tortoises in a terrarium, mistakes are quickly made, which can have fatal consequences for the animals.

Below are the most common mistakes:

  • The animals are often kept too dark. They need a lot of light, so a lamp in the terrarium is usually not enough. In addition to the bright points in the terrarium, you should also set up darker corners so that your turtle can retreat if necessary.
  • The UV radiation is often too low. This leads to the softening of the bones and the shell of the animals. The use of special UV lamps can replace the UV light from the sun. However, it is important to replace these at regular intervals as the intensity decreases over time.
  • Many turtles are kept too cool. Since the animals cannot regulate their body temperature themselves, they are dependent on outside heat. Only in this way can the organs of the animals function properly.
  • Some animals are kept too hot. This occurs especially in the colder seasons, such as between the winter freezes. For the health and development of the turtles, however, it is very important to optimally simulate the seasons and to introduce rainy days.
  • Being too dry is also a common mistake. If the humidity in the terrarium is too low, this can lead to hump formation in the animals. To prevent this problem, the humidity must be at least 70 per cent. It helps if you regularly moisten the substrate.


Keeping turtles in a terrarium only really makes sense if it is not only large enough but also technically perfectly covered.

In no case should the furnishings be broken over the knee, but should be planned from the ground to the drinking bowl to the last stone.

Only if you really set up a natural terrarium for your animals can the turtles feel completely at ease and enjoy their new home to the fullest.

When all factors harmonize perfectly with one another, you will notice what wonderful animals they are and experience many exciting hours together.