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Bringing Home a Greek Tortoise (Spur-Thighed)

My tortoise, Lenny, sitting on the dashboard of a car

My tortoise, Lenny, sitting on the dashboard of a car

Tortoises as Pets

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a tortoise as a pet but then thought, "Well, I don’t know anything about them or where to start, let alone take care of one."

I am here to tell you that it isn’t as hard as you think it is and that tortoises can be fun pets to have.

Leonardo (turtle power!), or Lenny, as I like to call him, is my little fellow Greek tortoise that has over time grown on me so much that now, I am forever looking for ways to improve and care for him in the best possible way.

There is so much confusing information online; however, based on my firsthand experience, I am keen to share all the information I can with tortoise owners or prospective tortoise owners.

Tortoises are reasonably easy to care for, as they have a long lifespan and don’t require too much attention. However, I believe any pet you have requires a lot of attention and care, simply because they are living creatures too. Besides having a pet stems from wanting company and having another living being that you can bond with and take care of.

Choosing your pet tortoise is an important decision. What you need to keep in mind specifically is whether they will be spending most of their time indoors or outdoors. Tortoises, in general, thrive best where they get enough sunshine and fresh air. Having said that, tortoises can do well indoors if you can keep them healthy and provide them with the right environment.

Pet tortoises live anywhere between 50–100 years. Getting a pet tortoise is not just a lifetime commitment of care, but you can be sure they will live on even after you. They can be like family heirlooms that you pass on!


The Greek Tortoise

The most commonly available and the easiest to start off with would be the Greek tortoise, also known as the spur-thighed tortoise.

Some interesting facts:

  • The Greek tortoise is one of the five species of tortoises from the Mediterranean.
  • They come in various color combinations ranging anywhere between black, dark yellow, gold, and brown.
  • These tortoises have patterns on their shells, which have different colored dots and borders of a traditional Greek mosaic hence the name.
  • They cannot swim and can only live on land.
  • Male tortoises are usually smaller in size and have longer tails than the femal ones.
  • Tortoises are actually smart and can learn their name.

Indoor Shelter

  • Greek tortoises come from very hot and humid temperatures, so ideally, you will need to create similar temperatures at their shelter.
  • Tubs are an easy option for housing your tortoise; however, wooden enclosures are what I would recommend. The main reason being that they retain humidity, which is important for tortoises as they cannot regulate their body temperature.
  • Never put your tortoise in a glass tank, as the sunlight could make the glass extremely hot. Also, tortoises get confused when they see their reflection in the glass and may keep banging into it, thinking they can get to the other side.

Heat and Light

A heat lamp is vital for Greek tortoises, for basking and to keep the temperature warm enough, especially at night, when the temperatures tend to drop or if you keep your air conditioner on. They usually hibernate during the winter months. Along with a heat lamp, they also require a UVB light during the day to help them produce vitamin D, which is essential to strengthening their bones.


Most pet shops would recommend aspen wood shavings or reptile mulch. However, any organic substrate such as those with coconut husk fiber or cypress mulch would be highly recommended.

Greek tortoises love their personal spaces and hidey-holes, so you will often find them digging and burrowing in shaded areas or corners of their enclosure. Having fine substrates will make it perfect for them to live as nature intended.


Food and Water

It is important that you have a food rock plate or a different surface from where the tortoise can consume their food to avoid them eating their bedding by mistake.

Greek tortoises are herbivores, so they enjoy leafy vegetables such as:

  • Lettuce
  • Dandelion greens
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Strawberry and watermelons (they are a favorite but should be given only once in awhile as too much sugar isnt good for them)

All the above in thinly shredded pieces would make up a good diet. A low, easy-to-access water dish should always be available in the enclosure for the tortoise to walk into to drink or defecate when needed. The water will need to be changed daily.

Greek tortoises are active during the day, and they love to explore and at times climb up ramps or anything they can reach up. They are the ideal pet for those with children as well. If you provide them with the right essentials, they are guaranteed to be the perfect pet.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


Mitchelle Peter (author) from Dubai, U.A.E on April 15, 2020:

Pet tortoises can live from 50-100 years and yes I hear you it is a commitment though maybe a little easier than a cat or husband - lol,kidding. Thank you for your kind words, stay safe!

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 15, 2020:

Goodness, don't they have a lifespan of 125 to even 200 years? That's quite a commitment. Sometimes I feel like my cat is a commitment, and certainly my husband, lol. Your article is well-written and very nicely laid out! Beautiful tortoise.