Turtle as a pet: species-appropriate keeping of reptiles

There’s no question that turtles make fascinating and exotic pets. However, they are quite demanding and not exactly easy to keep. What you should look out for in the armored reptiles, we will tell you here.

How do you keep turtles humanely?  - Image: Shutterstock / Nicinka Studio

How do you keep turtles humanely? – Image: Shutterstock / Nicinka Studio

A lot of time, a lot of space and a lot of care: If you want to keep a turtle as a pet, you should first deal intensively with the animals. You not only have to consider whether you want a turtle, but also be aware of the needs of the animals. Is it at all possible to keep the animal in a species-appropriate manner?

Which turtles are suitable as pets?

Greek and European tortoises are most common in German households. Turtles are also often kept as pets. Either way, people who want to get a turtle should always be aware that they are forming a bond with the animal for life. Depending on the species, the armored reptiles can live up to 100 years. Ideally, turtles are lifelong companions.

Buying a turtle: what to consider?

If you want to buy a tortoise, it is best to go to a trustworthy breeder. Otherwise there is a high risk that the animal will be contaminated with bacteria. These can spread quickly and transmit diseases. Often keepers underestimate the parasites and bacteria that turtles bring with them. Salmonella in particular is a problem. The reptiles excrete these in their faeces.

A species-appropriate attitude is the be-all and end-all

If you want to keep a turtle as a pet, you need extensive knowledge about the animals. Tortoises, for example, walk a lot and therefore need enough space. They are therefore not suitable for keeping in a terrarium, but need a large outdoor enclosure. The situation is different with turtles, however, which can easily be accommodated in a terrarium that is 80 to 120 centimeters in size.

Whether in the outdoor enclosure or in the terrarium, tortoise owners should give the animals space to swim, walk and sunbathe. A UV lamp should give warmth to the animals. Plants are desirable. They give turtles security.

Under the dive: Hawksbill sea turtle — Image: Shutterstock / Rich Carey
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Food: What do turtles eat?

When it comes to nutrition, turtle owners make the most common mistakes. The reptiles are vegetarians. However, feeding the animals only vegetables is not enough. Owners should rely on a diet that is as natural and varied as possible. Fresh herbs such as buckhorn, clover, coltsfoot, radish leaves are ideal. Turtles should not be given tomatoes, lettuce or even cat food. In addition, too much protein is not good for turtles. Her armor ripples. If there are too few minerals, however, it becomes porous and brittle.

Turtles need hibernation

As the days get shorter and colder, turtles usually need a way to hibernate. For this, the animals need a quiet place with a constant temperature. A specially temperature-controlled refrigerator for the tortoise is ideal. The owner should open the refrigerator door once or twice a week to give the turtle enough oxygen.

Not an ideal pet for children

Turtles exude calm and are unexcited. They are therefore not the best pet for children. The animals can quickly bore the little ones. You should also avoid excessive contact with the reptiles. Stroking and carrying around means stress for them and can even lead to illness.


Anyone who is toying with the idea of ​​getting a turtle should familiarize themselves with the animals in advance and be aware that reptiles are not easy to keep. Incidentally, all the necessary basics for keeping turtles appropriate to the species are also taught in workshops by the “German Society for Herpetology and Terrarium Science”.

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