What are the Actual Costs of Buying and Owning a Tortoise?

Speckled Cape Tortoise

Before investing in any pet, it is probably best to do some research and find out what it costs to firstly buy the animal, and then to care for it for the rest of its life. Some people massively underestimate the cost of having a pet and believe that the initial expense plus food is all they will need to think about. But when it comes to a pet such as tortoise, there is even more chance of underestimating the cost, especially considering a tortoises main food source is plant matter. What are, then, the actual costs of buying and owning a tortoise?

How Much Does It Cost to Buy a Tortoise?

The price you pay for a tortoise will typically depend on its breed and from where you buy the reptile. You might expect to pay more when you buy a tortoise from a large pet store than you would, say, if you bought from an individual selling on Craigslist, for example. Rarer breeds will cost more, and you will likely pay a higher price for an older tortoise than you would for a baby.

Price: You can expect to pay anywhere between $150 and $200 for the more common Hermann’s tortoise hatchling and up to $600 for an adult. If you were to buy a sulcata (African spurred) tortoise, you could expect to pay up to $2,000 for an adult.

Additional Initial Outlays

You need to note that there is more initial expense than just the tortoise itself. You must also invest in a home for your new pet. It is not advised that you allow a tortoise to roam your house. There are a variety of reasons for this, not the least of which is the fact that it could begin to see you as an intruder in “its” home.   

It is best to provide an enclosed habitat for your pet tortoise in the form of a vivarium or tortoise table, which can be purchased either at a local reptile store or online. If you are interested, Amazon has a good selection of tortoise enclosures. Just click hereOpens in a new tab. to have a look (opens in a new tab).

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Rockever Tortoise Habitat

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A tortoise table should be at least three feet in length by 1.5 feet wide initially. Depending on the expected size of the tortoise, you might consider a larger table. Again, the price you pay for a tortoise table will depend on a number of factors.

Price: You can expect to pay around $50 for a small tortoise table, but if you want to invest in one made from quality wood with built in drawers and all the bells and whistles, you could end up paying a $1,000 or more. Vivariums are glass enclosures and typically cost anywhere between $200 and $3,000, depending on the size, quality of the materials, and additional features.

In addition to a tortoise table or vivarium, there are other pieces of equipment that are required at the outset. You will need to buy a UV lamp (here at AmazonOpens in a new tab.), basking lamp (AmazonOpens in a new tab.), and substrate (AmazonOpens in a new tab.) if you are using it. To provide entertainment for your tortoise, you may want to place various items in the enclosure such as hides and obstacles on which it can climb (here at AmazonOpens in a new tab.). Some people will buy these items from a local pet store or from an online retailer. Others use items they already have lying about at home, such as flowerpots, small logs, or rocks from the yard.

African Spurred Tortoise
African Spurred Tortoise

Ongoing Costs

The most obvious ongoing cost associated with any pet is the food it consumes; this is something that most people do actually consider when getting a pet. With a tortoise, you may end up buying food every week, which could become costly as tortoises do eat a lot. However, if you live in a warm climate, your tortoise may be able to spend most of its time outdoors munching on the grass and plants in your yard.

In addition to food, you will need to supply mineral supplements, and calcium in particular. Here is a selection on AmazonOpens in a new tab., if you’re interested (opens in a new tab). Calcium carbonate is not expensive, and it does last for quite a long time. This can be bought online or in a local pet store.

What many people fail to take into consideration are other costs associated with owning a reptile. Electricity is a constant expense that you may overlook. Remember, tortoises are cold blooded creatures, which means they require artificial heat to stay warm. If you live in a tropical part of the world, this will not be a big issue, but if the climate where you live is temperate, you will need to provide a heat lamp for your pet, which obviously run off electricity.

Advice: If you use substrate in the tortoise enclosure, replace it every 6 to 8 weeks.

You may or may not choose to insure your pet tortoise. In general, tortoises are quite healthy and do not normally suffer from health problems, but that does not mean that issues cannot occur. What you do need to consider is the fact that veterinary bills on an uninsured pet, particularly a tropical pet, can be very high. There are those that feel the annual cost of insurance would far outweigh the cost of unexpected veterinary bills.

Price: A typical yearly policy for a tortoise could be anywhere between $80 and $150, depending on the type of cover you choose.


There is a cost involved with owning any pet as animals require food and shelter.  When it comes to a tortoise, the ongoing costs include enclosure, food, mineral supplements, electricity, and possibly insurance. Considering that tortoises can live for more than 70 years, the cost associated with owning such a pet can add up.

I would advise anyone thinking about getting a tortoise as a pet to think very carefully about the costs of owning such an animal before taking the plunge. If you are willing to commit to providing ongoing care for a long time and are ready for all the costs involved, owning a tortoise is a wonderfully fulfilling experience.

Photo Credit:

  • Featured Image (Speckled Cape Tortoise): Abu Shawka – CC BY-SA 3.0
  • African Spurred Tortoise: Melissa MitchellOpens in a new tab. – CC BY-SA 3.0


I am a content creator by profession but exotic animals are one of my great passions in life. Over the course of my adulthood, I have had the pleasure of looking after stick insects, terrapins, an Egyptian tortoise, giant African land snails, a crested gecko, a Chilean rose tarantula, a couple of curly-haired tarantulas, and a selection of millipedes, centipedes and worms!

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