How to build a tortoise house

Written by richard brown | 13/05/2017

When you decide to keep a tortoise for a pet, you must build the right kind of home for it. Tortoises don't do well in glass aquariums--they are too small, and tortoises dislike being exposed all the time. Although they are slow, tortoises like to roam, so plan on 3 square feet for every 12 inches in tortoise length. Your 6-inch tortoise needs about 4 1/2 square feet to be happy and healthy. Glass is no good, and wood absorbs waste and water unless properly treated. Use plastic because it's easy to clean and won't harm the turtle.

Place the paddling pool in the yard or indoors where your tortoise will be. Outside, the area needs to get at least 6 hours of sunlight, while an indoors tortoise should have exposure to a UV bulb.

Put down the substrate on the bottom of the pool, about 1-inch thick. Nestle the water dish into the substrate on one side of the paddling pool.

Cut out one side of the cardboard box to make a hiding place for the tortoise. Tortoises enjoy hiding in artificial caves, both to find shade and to avoid other creatures. Make sure the box is big enough to give your tortoise room to turn around but not close enough to the side that it can climb up and escape.

Give the tortoise some furniture, such as rocks, edible plants and a log. Make sure none of these decorations are close enough to the side to give the tortoise a leg up in escaping.

Set up the UV lamp and the basking lamp according to the manufacturer's directions. Generally, you can set the UVB lamp close to the paddling pool so that the tortoise gets about 10 hours of UV rays. The basking bulb should be set right next to the paddling pool so it can emit a constant temperature of around 26.6 to 32.2 degrees Cor the turtle to regulate its body temperature. However, make sure the tortoise has a place or two to hide when it wants shade or privacy. The humidifier can also sit next to the paddling pool and should adjust the tortoise's atmosphere to about 50 to 60 per cent humidity.


Don't place anything in the tortoise house that is toxic or small enough to be choked on.

Tips and warnings

  • Don't place anything in the tortoise house that is toxic or small enough to be choked on.

Things you need

  • Child's plastic paddling pool (3 to 4 feet in diameter)
  • Tortoise substrate (soil and sand mix, cypress bark and shredded newspaper)
  • Cardboard box
  • Basking bulb
  • Shallow water dish
  • Rocks
  • Small log
  • Plants (pesticide free and edible for tortoises)
  • Humidifier
  • 5 watt UV lamp

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