Can You Keep Tortioses in Aquariums? The Downsides

Do you think a shiny glass aquarium could make the perfect home for your new tortoise pet? Think again. Aquariums might look great but can often lead to distressing health issues and discomfort for tortoises.

This blog will shed light on why it’s crucial to avoid aquariums as tortoise houses, providing insights into alternative housing options best suited for your slow-moving companion.

Let’s dive in and learn how to keep our shelled friends happy and healthy!

Why Aquariums Are Unsuitable for Tortoises?

Aquariums are unsuitable for tortoises due to a lack of ventilation, insufficient space, and a distressing environment that may lead to potential health issues.

Lack of ventilation

Tortoises need fresh air to stay healthy. Glass aquariums block airflow. They do not let enough oxygen in. This is bad for tortoises. Without enough air, the tortoise may get sick.

In fact, poor ventilation can cause other problems, too. It’s like living in a room with no windows! So it’s clear that aquariums are not good homes for tortoises because of their lack of proper ventilation.

Insufficient space

Tortoises need a lot of room to move. They like to roam and explore their homes. But aquariums do not give them enough space for this. It can make them feel trapped. For every inch of shell length, a tortoise should have at least 10 gallons of space.

A small place can also lead to other problems for the tortoise. If it is too tight, they might try to escape by climbing up the sides. Glass aquariums often have sides that are not high enough to prevent tortoises from attempting to climb or escape.

So, an unsuitable home like an aquarium could be risky or even dangerous for a tortoise.

Distressing environment

Tortoises feel great stress in an aquarium. The high sides of the glass walls trap them. They see the world outside but can’t reach it. This makes them scared and anxious. Their health gets bad because of this fear.

Also, they do not grow well in such places. They need more room to move and play so they can be happy and healthy.

Inadequate humidity levels

Inadequate humidity levels can cause problems for tortoises. Without enough moisture in the air, they may experience issues with their skin and shells. While desert and grassland tortoises don’t require excessive humidity, they still need some to ensure normal growth.

It’s important to maintain appropriate humidity levels for these reptiles, which can vary based on the species, along with suitable temperatures. While closed tank enclosures can help retain moisture, it’s essential to monitor and adjust the humidity levels appropriately, such as by misting the substrate regularly.

Moisture and hydration are vital for the survival and well-being of turtles and tortoises, so it’s crucial to provide the right humidity levels in their housing setups.

Potential health issues

Aquariums can pose potential health issues for tortoises. The lack of proper ventilation in aquariums can lead to fungal infections and respiratory problems for these reptiles. Additionally, the limited space in aquariums can hinder their ability to move around and exercise, which is essential for their physical well-being.

Furthermore, confinement in an aquarium may suppress a tortoise’s natural behaviors, causing distress and impacting their overall health. It’s also worth noting that turtles and tortoises can transmit salmonella, which poses a potential health risk for both the pets and their owners.

In some cases, improper care or habitat conditions can result in shell fractures or other trauma that require attention from a veterinarian. Therefore, it is crucial to provide suitable housing options that prioritize the health and well-being of these fascinating creatures.

The Importance of Proper Tortoise Housing

Proper tortoise housing is crucial to ensure their health and well-being.

Providing appropriate enclosures

To ensure the well-being of tortoises, it is important to provide them with suitable enclosures. Here are some essential features of tortoise housing:

  • Proper ventilation: Tortoises need fresh air to breathe, and proper ventilation helps remove any stagnant air that can cause health issues.
  • UVB lighting: Tortoises require access to UVB light for proper growth and shell development.
  • Access to fresh water: Tortoises need a shallow dish of clean water available at all times for drinking and soaking.
  • Appropriate bedding: Choose bedding materials that are safe for tortoises, such as coconut coir or cypress mulch.
  • Avoid glass enclosures: They often lack adequate airflow, leading to poor ventilation.

Maintaining optimal humidity levels

Maintaining the right humidity levels is really important for keeping tortoises healthy and happy. Tortoises need a certain amount of moisture in their environment to stay hydrated and thrive.

For young hatchlings, the recommended humidity level is around 85%, while adult tortoises do well with about 60%. It’s crucial to regularly monitor the humidity levels in their enclosure to make sure they don’t get too high or too low.

Too much humidity can lead to mold growth and other problems, so it’s essential to keep it within the optimal range.

Creating a comfortable and safe environment

Tortoises need a comfortable and safe environment to thrive. This means providing them with the right housing that meets their specific needs. It’s important to avoid using aquariums or glass enclosures, as these can cause problems for tortoises.

They require proper ventilation and fresh air, which is not possible in an enclosed tank. Also, in glass tanks, they can overheat easily when exposed to sunlight. Tortoise tables, customized enclosures, or outdoor pens are better options for creating a suitable habitat for your tortoise.

These alternatives provide enough space for exploration and allow for proper ventilation. Additionally, make sure to maintain optimal humidity levels and provide access to clean water and appropriate bedding materials in order to create a thriving environment for your tortoise.

Avoiding glass enclosures

Glass enclosures should be avoided when housing tortoises. This is because glass aquariums do not provide the necessary ventilation that tortoises need to stay healthy. Without proper airflow, the enclosure can become stuffy and uncomfortable for your pet.

Additionally, glass enclosures may not offer enough space for a tortoise to pace and explore, which is essential for their physical and mental well-being. Instead of using glass, it is recommended to opt for alternatives like larger plastic storage containers, which provide better ventilation and more suitable living conditions for tortoises.

Alternative Housing Options for Tortoises

Tortoise tables, customized enclosures, and outdoor pens provide better alternatives to aquariums for housing tortoises, ensuring their health and well-being. Read more to discover the essential features of proper tortoise housing.

Tortoise tables

Tortoise tables are a popular alternative housing option for tortoises. These homemade wooden enclosures are often made from converted wardrobe frames or bookcases, providing ample space for the tortoise to move around.

Unlike aquariums or glass enclosures, which can be stressful for tortoises because they can see through them and feel trapped, tortoise tables offer a more suitable environment. They provide proper ventilation and allow for the creation of a comfortable and safe living space.

Tortoise tables also make it easier to maintain optimal humidity levels and ensure that the tortoise has access to fresh water. Vivexotic tortoise tables and tortoise vivariums are some options available in the market to create suitable housing for these amazing reptiles.

Customized enclosures

Customized enclosures are a preferable housing option for tortoises compared to aquariums. Tortoise tables and vivariums are examples of customized enclosures that provide the necessary space and environment for their well-being.

Large tortoise tables can be made from repurposed furniture like wardrobe frames or bookcases. Vivariums may require some custom work to ensure they meet the specific needs of tortoises.

Outdoor pens, known as tortoise houses, are also considered customized enclosures and typically have separate areas for sleeping and basking. These tailored living spaces allow for better ventilation, humidity control, and overall comfort for the tortoises.

Outdoor pens

Outdoor pens are a better housing option for tortoises compared to aquariums. They provide more space, fresh air, and natural sunlight for the tortoise to thrive. Outdoor enclosures can be equipped with heating elements to ensure warmth during colder months.

Tortoise adoption programs often offer guidance on how to set up and maintain outdoor pens. These pens should have safety measures in place, such as secure fencing or walls, to protect the tortoise from predators.

Additionally, they should provide a basking spot where the tortoise can soak up essential UVB light and access to shelter for protection from extreme weather conditions. Pre-built wooden houses with hinged roofs are available for easy access and maintenance of the enclosure.

Essential Features of Tortoise Housing

Proper ventilation, UVB lighting, access to fresh water, and appropriate bedding are essential features for tortoise housing.

Proper ventilation

Tortoises need proper ventilation in their housing to stay healthy. Poor airflow can lead to respiratory issues, which can affect their overall well-being. Ventilation helps to circulate fresh air and remove any stagnant or stale air.

It also helps control the buildup of ammonia, which can be harmful to tortoises. An enclosure with a screened lid allows for proper air exchange and ensures that they have access to clean, breathable air.

Ventilation is an essential feature that should not be overlooked when providing housing for tortoises.

UVB lighting

UVB lighting is an essential feature for tortoise housing. It helps tortoises synthesize vitamin D3 and absorb calcium, which are crucial for their health. Natural sunlight contains UVB rays, but when turtles and tortoises are kept indoors, these rays are blocked.

That’s why providing artificial UVB lighting is necessary to make up for the lack of sunlight exposure. However, it’s important to note that UVB rays can be attenuated by glass, plastic enclosures, and fine mesh blockage, so it’s vital to choose the right type of enclosure to ensure the effectiveness of UVB lighting.

Species like the red-footed tortoise especially require proper UV lighting for their well-being.

Access to freshwater

Tortoises need access to fresh water every day. They should have a source of clean drinking water available at all times. It’s important to replace the water daily to ensure it stays clean and fresh for the tortoise.

In addition to drinking, some pet turtles also need water for swimming. However, they also need dry land where they can rest and bask under a heat lamp or in natural sunlight. So, providing both a sunbathing area and a section with clean water is essential for their well-being.

Appropriate bedding

Choosing the right bedding for tortoise enclosures is crucial for their well-being. The substrate should be easy to maintain and promote good health. It’s important to consider moisture retention, especially for tropical species.

Common options for tortoise bedding include coconut coir, cypress mulch, and some types of commercial reptile bedding. It’s essential to choose a substrate that is safe if ingested.

Conclusion: Avoiding the use of aquariums for tortoise housing is crucial for their health and well-being.


1. Can you keep tortoises in aquariums?

No, it is not recommended to keep tortoises in aquariums as they need a larger and more open space to move around and thrive.

2. Why is keeping tortoises in aquariums a downside?

Keeping tortoises in aquariums can be a downside because it restricts their movement, limits their access to natural sunlight, and may lead to health issues such as shell deformities or vitamin deficiencies.

3. What are the alternatives to keeping tortoises in aquariums?

Alternatives to keeping tortoises in aquariums include providing them with an outdoor enclosure or creating a spacious indoor setup that mimics their natural habitat, including proper heating, lighting, and substrate.

4. How do small enclosures affect the well-being of pet tortoises?

Small enclosures can negatively impact the well-being of pet tortoises by limiting their ability to exercise, explore their environment, regulate body temperature effectively, and display natural behaviors.

5. Are there any legal considerations when keeping pet tortoises?

Yes, there may be legal considerations when keeping pet tortoises depending on your location. It’s important to research local laws and regulations regarding ownership before acquiring a turtle as a pet.

Scroll to Top