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How to Build the Best Enclosure for Your Greek Tortoise

I love my pet Greek tortoise and am always looking for ways to take care of him in the best possible way and share my knowledge with others.

The enclosure for my Greek tortoise.

The enclosure for my Greek tortoise.

Greek Tortoise Habitat

Greek tortoises are best suited for warm/hot climates. When taking care of them, therefore, one of the major concerns should be the habitat that you create.

If you have a garden area and the temperature during the day and night is warm enough, then you can create an enclosure outside. In most places, the temperature tends to dip at night, in which case then its better to have a home for your tortoise indoors.

At What Temperature Should I Keep a Greek Tortoise?

The answer depends on if you have a northern or southern type. Southern types should be kept at 80 degrees and provided a basking spot of at least 100 degrees and no lower. Northern forms can handle slightly cooler temperatures, but if it drops too low for too long, it may trigger hibernation.

What Do I Need for My Tortoise's Enclosure?

Enough Space

Tortoises need room for exercise, and they like to roam around and explore their habitat. The enclosure should be at least 2 feet by 3-4 feet in size, rectangle in shape with a height of around 6 inches should suffice. You could either build an enclosure or get a ready made one.

Untreated Wood

Only use untreated wood to build the enclosure, and I recommend putting castors on all four corners underneath so that it is easy to move around in case you want to shift places or clean the area.


The enclosure should have a base of soft substrates such as an equal mix of organic soil and play sand or even just a coconut husk substrate which is at least 2 inches in depth.

Tortoises love to dig and burrow, hence the depth is a major factor. There is a reason why they burrow as well—to absorb moisture and retain heat.

Two Sunlamps or Bulbs

Your enclosure should consist of two lamps or bulb with one being a UVB lamp that replicates the natural sun’s rays and is important in their digestion when they consume food (think of their shells as giant solar panels).

This UVB lamp should be on nearly 12-14 hours a day usually through the daytime if they aren’t let outdoors to attain natural sun rays and only live within their enclosure indoors. The other bulb or lamp needed will be a heat lamp for basking around 75 watts is required. This can be kept on during the day and night.

Keeping it on the full night rather than the day is recommended as that’s when the temperature tends to dip, and the heat lamp will help your tortoise keep warm. You can place these lamps at the corners as tortoises love to burrow in corners and keep extra warm and cozy at night.

I must clearly stress again the importance of having these two lamps where either one is always on especially the heat lamp as tortoises cannot regulate their body temperature on their own since they are cold-blooded creatures.

You can acquire these as a Dual Set or individual pieces as you see fit and set them however you like. Make sure though when you do set up these lights, that you place it away from their sleeping/burrowing area for they like their dark corners and holes where they burrow and rest.

Artificial Plants & Log Caves

In addition, you could also place some artificial plants and wood tunnel caves (logs) if you like. This helps create some shady areas for the tortoise. Ensure any wooden log caves you get are actually high enough for your tortoise to fit in.

You might need to check from time to time, as they grow you might need to elevate the cave so they can still get in. With plants, ensure they are ones with big leaves and are slightly above the ground from your tortoises reach so that they don’t mistake it for possible food.

The enclosure for my Greek tortoise.

The enclosure for my Greek tortoise.

Creating a suitable environment/habitat is always a way to ensure that your tortoise is getting the required light, sleep, and exercise to stay healthy.

Ramps or Bridges

Ramps or bridges or slightly higher ground in their enclosures are also good to have as tortoises like to climb over or up things. You would be surprised how determined they can be when they want to climb over something or try to get to higher ground if there’s a possibility.

In all my experience of owning and caring for tortoises, I have seen all extremes with them. It's surprising to see how active and quick they move when they want to expend energy and/or exercise.

On the flip side, I've seen them be very docile and sleep all day. It depends on many factors, regular feeding times and how much sunlight or UVB rays they absorb that keeps them fit and in good shape. The whole point is to replicate their environment as nature intended to be.

It isn’t necessary to have the entire enclosure filled with the substrate but at least a portion of it should have soft substrate. The remaining of the enclosure you could have flat pebbles or even put an eco-friendly coconut fiber mat that you get to buy in different sizes. Make it entertaining, visually appealing, your little hard-shelled friends will be grateful for it!

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.