The Egyptian tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni) is a 4-5” long species of tortoise native to Mediterranean coastal regions of Egypt, Libya, and Israel. They can be found in arid to semi-arid areas with sparse vegetation, sandy soil, and rock litter.
Egyptian tortoises generally have a light to dark tan shell with each scute outlined in dark brown-black. The plastron is light tan with two dark blotches. The skin is usually a similar color to the shell. There are no tubercles on their thighs.
Due to their husbandry needs, Egyptian tortoises are intermediate-level pet reptiles. With good care, your pet can live up to 26 years, and possibly beyond!
Minimum enclosure size for Egyptian tortoises
The minimum acceptable enclosure size for a Egyptian tortoise is 12 sq feet of floor space. Since tortoises are poor climbers, floor space is the most important dimension to pay attention to. Because Egyptian tortoises prefer a drier habitat, they can do well in “tortoise table” style indoor enclosures as long as they have humid retreats.
Cohabitation (housing multiple animals in one enclosure) is possible with Egyptian tortoises, as they generally seem to get along well in groups. However, cohabbing is not required for this species’ welfare.
Do Egyptian tortoises need UVB?
Yes, a moderate level of UVB lighting is required for Egyptian tortoises to maintain good health. The best UVB bulbs for Egyptian tortoises are:
- Arcadia T5 HO 12%
- Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 10.0
The bulb should be roughly half the length of the enclosure and mounted in an Arcadia or Vivarium Electronics fixture on the warm side of the enclosure, 17-18” above the tortoise’s shell.
Since Egyptian tortoises are a diurnal, arid species, they respond well to having a brightly-illuminated enclosure. Use a 6500K LED or T5 HO fluorescent grow light for this purpose.
All lamps should be on for 14 hours/day during summer, and 10 hours/day during winter to help encourage healthy hormonal rhythms.
Best temperature for Egyptian tortoises
Like other reptiles, Egyptian tortoises are cold-blooded, which means that they rely on external temperatures to manage their own body temperature and metabolism. A reptile’s enclosure should offer a range of temperatures to allow them to thermoregulate effectively.
Specifically speaking, Egyptian tortoises should have a basking temperature around 95°F. Ambient temperatures should be between 70-80°F. These temperatures should be measured with at least two digital probe thermometers.
Provide heat for your tortoise with a halogen flood heat bulb, placed close together over the basking area to evenly heat the tortoise’s entire body. Heat lamps should be at least 8” away from the top of your tortoise’s shell. If it’s too cool, use a higher-wattage bulb. If it’s a little too warm, use a lamp dimmer. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective.
Best humidity levels for Egyptian tortoises
Although they’re an arid species, Egyptian tortoises still need access to humid areas in their environment. Aim for a gradient of around 30-60%. This can be accomplished by providing a humid hide on the cool side with lightly moistened substrate. Fogging intermittently through the night can be helpful too, especially for tortoise table setups.
Humidity should be monitored via digital probe hygrometer, with the probe placed in the middle of the enclosure.
Best substrate for Egyptian tortoises
Providing a thick layer of naturalistic substrate (“bedding”) will help maintain correct humidity levels and also provide something for your tortoise to dig in as desired. We recommend the following substrates for Egyptian tortoises:
Plain topsoil mixed 60/40 with play sand also works well.
Substrate should be 2-3” deep and completely replaced every 6 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.
How to decorate an Egyptian tortoise enclosure
An empty terrarium makes for a bored tortoise, reducing its quality of life. Keep your pet entertained and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of décor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors!
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- additional hiding places/burrows
- large hollow logs
- live, edible plants
- large, flat stones
The more stuff you add, the more functional your enclosure is likely to become! As an additional feature, you can shape the substrate into hills to create more environmental variety for your pet.
What to feed to an Egyptian tortoise
Egyptian tortoises are herbivores, which means that they need a high-fiber, plant-based diet to stay healthy. Variety is key to good nutrition, but most of your Egyptian tortoise’s diet should be an assortment of leaves and grasses, with occasional flowers as treats. Food should be offered daily for juveniles and every other day for adults.
Safe greens for Egyptian tortoises: cactus pads, kale, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens + flowers, hibiscus leaves + flowers, nasturtium, alfalfa, clover, coreopsis, geranium, grape leaves, bluegrass, Bermuda grass, timothy grass, rye grass, fescue grass
Offering a commercial grassland tortoise diet once a week is a good way to help vary your tortoise’s diet and provide extra fiber. Mazuri’s grassland tortoise formula and Zoo Med Natural Grassland Tortoise Food are both good.
Never offer fruit or animal protein.
You will also need calcium and vitamin supplements to prevent your tortoise from developing a potential deficiency. We recommend Repashy Superveggie, lightly dusted on each meal for vitamins and a cuttlebone for calcium.
Of course, don’t forget a water dish! Use a flower pot saucer or a reptile water bowl with a ramp. Change the water daily and scrub the dishes weekly with a reptile-safe disinfectant, or whenever it becomes soiled.
How to handle your Egyptian tortoise
Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. That being said, Egyptian tortoises tend to have inquisitive dispositions and generally tolerate human interaction pretty well! When picking up your tortoise, be gentle and try to pick it up from the side or below rather than from above. They tend to appreciate gentle scratches and hand-feeding.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet!