"best" first tortoise?

Tortugadad

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Dad I want a pet.

Definitely the scariest words in the English language.

So my questions for the esteemed members of this forum:

What breed of small tortoise would make the best pet for a 9 y/o boy?

Considering both personality and ease of care is there any breed that would be a good choice? We live in New York City with cold winters so the tortoise would be living indoors.

As I expect I will be the primary care giver for the tortoise for the next two to three decades (at which point I hope to gift the tortoise to any future grandkids while chuckling evilly) I would also appreciate advice on the best enclosure and set up with a focus on simplicity and low maintenance.

So for all you experienced tortoise parents if you were starting from nothing how would start off?

What type of tortoise is diurnal, friendly (for a reptile) and hardy? ( I was attracted to the pancake tortoise but I admit to being a total noob. Extra credit if you can recommend a reputable breeder)

Once you have selected a type of tortoise how would you set up the habitat to make care simple?

I know caring caring for a tortoise takes a lot of time and money but I was looking for recommendations based on your experience on the best way to do it and I would willing be to invest money now to save time and effort later. Once again recommendations regarding brands and vendors is appreciated.

I do not expect everyone to agree but I do want to take advantage of the experience you have had caring for tortoises.

Thank You
 

TeamZissou

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Kudos for thinking this through before just buying something!

Ultimately, it's better to get whatever species YOU would like. It's going to live for a long time, and most likely your kid won't take it with him when he moves out, as you have already recognized. Getting a typical 'first' tortoise species is an option, but if you're willing to put in the time and effort to learn what care is needed for whatever species you'd like, you can make it work, such as a pancake for example.

Typical (smaller) 'first' tortoise species are:
  • Russians
  • Hermanns
  • Marginated (underrated as a first tortoise)
  • Greeks (various subspecies)
Tortoises are diurnal by nature.

You can also think about getting a hibernating/brumating species that you can eventually keep outside full-time and put to bed for the winter.

If you are truly a NY resident, you can also go straight for a Radiated tortoise since they're available in your state, which is not true everywhere. This is by no means a typical 'first' tortoise (and are on the larger size) but they are said to have great personalities and rewarding to keep.

There are many care sheets for different species. You should just read about all different types that are available and research here on the forum accordingly. There is a lot of bad info out there; this forum is your best source of info.
 

Aloysius Taschse

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I would suggest a greek or russian tort. I'm NOT an expert, so I don't know much about these tortoises, but you can probably find information on this site that is correct. Again, i'm no expert, but from my experience with my long lost russian Hermin they are a hardy, friendly, and easy to care for tortoise.

I don't know any russian breeders but if you're looking for one don't go to any old website. Some are extremely overpriced. Others are not well started and might get sick.

I'm sure someone knows of a Russian breeder but for now look for information on this site about small torts like the ones Team Zissou listed. Hopefully the 9 year old gets a good tort who becomes a good friend and companion!
 

queen koopa

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717
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Las Vegas Nevada
Dad I want a pet.

Definitely the scariest words in the English language.

So my questions for the esteemed members of this forum:

What breed of small tortoise would make the best pet for a 9 y/o boy?

Considering both personality and ease of care is there any breed that would be a good choice? We live in New York City with cold winters so the tortoise would be living indoors.

As I expect I will be the primary care giver for the tortoise for the next two to three decades (at which point I hope to gift the tortoise to any future grandkids while chuckling evilly) I would also appreciate advice on the best enclosure and set up with a focus on simplicity and low maintenance.

So for all you experienced tortoise parents if you were starting from nothing how would start off?

What type of tortoise is diurnal, friendly (for a reptile) and hardy? ( I was attracted to the pancake tortoise but I admit to being a total noob. Extra credit if you can recommend a reputable breeder)

Once you have selected a type of tortoise how would you set up the habitat to make care simple?

I know caring caring for a tortoise takes a lot of time and money but I was looking for recommendations based on your experience on the best way to do it and I would willing be to invest money now to save time and effort later. Once again recommendations regarding brands and vendors is appreciated.

I do not expect everyone to agree but I do want to take advantage of the experience you have had caring for tortoises.

Thank You
How much space do you have to work with? Baby tortoise are raised in small closed chamber enclosures (due to the fact that they require high humidity) like Rubbermaid tubs, but then must be upgraded. Minimum space requirements for adult Hermans is 8ft by 4ft enclosure and thats the smallest requirements for any tortoise. Common misconception is that tortoise live in glass cages... this is the worst for them. The way to make your life easier with tortoise is to go as big as you can for their enclosure and grow its food. Like most animals, movement keeps their insides in good shape.

OR think of a different pet. How about lizards? I’ve heard the blue tongue skinks are great pets!
 

Armadillogroomer

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There's also captive-bred box turtles. Their temp/high humidity is more similar to a redfoot, but boxies don't get much bigger than "hamburger" size. And you can feed it worms 🤢
 

Tortugadad

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I appreciate all the feed back.

Space is definitely an issue the area I was planning on using is 30 by 60 inches so i was looking for a small species and the since the average temperature in the home is around 68' F in the winter a tortoise table would not be suitable.

I was expecting to use a PVC or similar type enclosure with heat and uv lamps but I was hoping for good options that did not require to master electrical engineering.

I did consider a blue tongue skink unfortunately my wife is more comfortable with with tortoises than lizards. I was also hoping for species that does not require live food.

thanks
 

ZEROPILOT

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Welcome.
The "best" tortoise for you certainly comes down to what your situation is. Your location. The space you have. Where you hope to keep the animal, actual costs, if you can provide the needed equipment and availability.
A lot of tortoises get purchased without consideration of what it actually requires to own such an animal. Or of the size enclosure an adult will require.
You are very wise in doing your research first.
Best of luck to you!
 

Tortugadad

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Thanks I am trying to avoid repeating the common mistakes others have made so i can make new interesting and unique owns.

One of of the biggest barriers so far seems to be space so I hope someone has suggestions as to a species that would be happy in a 2 1/2 by 5 foot area.
 

Tom

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Space is definitely an issue the area I was planning on using is 30 by 60 inches so i was looking for a small species and the since the average temperature in the home is around 68' F in the winter a tortoise table would not be suitable.
30x60 inches is too small for an adult of any species. If you can't make more room than that, you'll have to consider some other pet. Tortoises need lots of room to roam about in their enclosures. 68 F would be fine for any of the Testudo species at night and during the day too, as long as there is a heat lamp to warm up under.

Here is the care info for the species we've been talking about:

Pancake tortoises don't meet your requirements as they tend to be shy and reclusive in most cases.
 

Lyn W

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Whatever you get check here before buying pet shop equipment that is often unsuitable and unsafe, We can save you a lot of money by helping you by the right stuff to start with and cheaper options.
Just bear in mind that pet stores are in the business for profit and don't necessarily know anything about tort care.
 

maggie3fan

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I personally would not get any type of pet for a kid so young, as it will teach him that he can have a pet and not take care for it himself. Get a hamster or gerbil. Small, cute, easy to care for and the animal will respond to his caregiver, bond with him, and teach him that taking care of an animal and having that animal grow to be healthy and loving to your son, and then he has a whole wonderful world of loving and caring for animals.
I am a mother, a grandmother and a great grandmother, you said you would take care of the tortoise. Already you are taking the responsibility of a pet away, and doing it yourself?
I mean no disrespect, it's just my opinion. Welcome and if you do get a tortoise after all, get a Hermanni we have a breeder and a pretty smart guy HermanniChris
 

MNGuy

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Thanks I am trying to avoid repeating the common mistakes others have made so i can make new interesting and unique owns.

One of of the biggest barriers so far seems to be space so I hope someone has suggestions as to a species that would be happy in a 2 1/2 by 5 foot area.

I know you said your wife doesn't like lizards, but I have a uromastyx and he's fantastic and would fit that size availability. Uromastyx are strict herbivores and require no live insects. The minimum size enclosure for them is 4 feet long by 2 feet wide and 2 feet tall. They require extreme heat during the day (120 degrees Fahrenheit for basking) and room temperature at night.

Once you get their temperatures dialed in they are very easy to care for. They don't need a water bowl, although some offer a very shallow one. I just let some water pool in the shallow food dish I use to serve up fresh mixed greens daily. I also have three snakes, two dogs and two aquariums, and my uromastyx is by far the easiest pet to look after.

They're not as handleable as bearded dragons or leopard geckos, but I imagine that they are more handleable than a tortoise. Mine crawls into my hand to eat (he's still young and fits in my hand), allows me to lift him out of his tank and hold him in my hands (they are lightning fast when let go) and allows me to reach into his tank to pet his head and back.

If you go that route be 100% sure to get a captive bred baby because many are sold wild-caught and have parasites and may never tame down if wild-caught. They're often described as a tortoise without the shell.

Good luck either way.
 
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Tortugadad

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I appreciate all the feed back unfortunately my son has has allergies that limit the furry pet options and my has phobias that limit the feathered and scaled pet options. I will definitely have my son be involved in feeding, soaking and cage cleaning but i am realistic enough to know my assistance will be required. I am fairly educated and I am intimidated by the thought of setting up the habitat and monitoring temperature and humidity.
 

ZenHerper

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I appreciate all the feed back unfortunately my son has has allergies that limit the furry pet options and my has phobias that limit the feathered and scaled pet options. I will definitely have my son be involved in feeding, soaking and cage cleaning but i am realistic enough to know my assistance will be required. I am fairly educated and I am intimidated by the thought of setting up the habitat and monitoring temperature and humidity.



Welcome!

So, you've listed a number of ways that a pet would have to fit in and be suitable to your family situation.

But animals that we bring home to captivity require that we 100% fit in with Their care needs. Most people quickly find out that the habitat/micro-climate was the easy part of the proposition. Reptiles are the Right pet for people who love puzzles, word problems, technical/engineering projects, meditation, outside-the-box lifestyle, attention to detail, and the like.

Dogs (and even cats) are in many ways similar to us, and their systematic breeding over thousands of years has made them really suitable companions and dependents. With tortoises: carers have to know when to be hands-on and hands-off (and it's a lot hands-off).

Reptile physiology is different from ours in a number of impactful ways. Read some random threads in the Health and Diet sub-forums to get a feel for what people go through when trying to trouble-shoot and address issues that come up very routinely with captive reptiles.



Is your son taking an interest in caring for a reptile pet? Is he doing the research? Asking for books, articles, and other resources? Is he interested in reading through the species-specific forums here on his own? What does he imagine when he thinks "Pet"? What are his expectations - what is its purpose in his life? What is his purpose in its life?


(BTW: People do build and maintain 2-story enclosures...these have limitations in terms of actual walk-able space, ability to maintain heat and humidity, safety concerns...surf the Enclosures sub-forum to see what works better and what works poorly.)

Well. =))

My suggestion: start with Venus Fly Trap plants. Youtube, bloggers, and sellers have packed the internet with information and care tips. If you and your son can successfully keep a VFT in an appropriate substrate, properly hydrated/humidified, under proper lighting, alive and well for a year (including winter dormancy), then graduate to fauna next spring.

That gives you plenty of time to plan, research, and stop by to ask all the questions you don't find ready answers for.
 

maggie3fan

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Welcome!

So, you've listed a number of ways that a pet would have to fit in and be suitable to your family situation.

But animals that we bring home to captivity require that we 100% fit in with Their care needs. Most people quickly find out that the habitat/micro-climate was the easy part of the proposition. Reptiles are the Right pet for people who love puzzles, word problems, technical/engineering projects, meditation, outside-the-box lifestyle, attention to detail, and the like.

Dogs (and even cats) are in many ways similar to us, and their systematic breeding over thousands of years has made them really suitable companions and dependents. With tortoises: carers have to know when to be hands-on and hands-off (and it's a lot hands-off).

Reptile physiology is different from ours in a number of impactful ways. Read some random threads in the Health and Diet sub-forums to get a feel for what people go through when trying to trouble-shoot and address issues that come up very routinely with captive reptiles.



Is your son taking an interest in caring for a reptile pet? Is he doing the research? Asking for books, articles, and other resources? Is he interested in reading through the species-specific forums here on his own? What does he imagine when he thinks "Pet"? What are his expectations - what is its purpose in his life? What is his purpose in its life?


(BTW: People do build and maintain 2-story enclosures...these have limitations in terms of actual walk-able space, ability to maintain heat and humidity, safety concerns...surf the Enclosures sub-forum to see what works better and what works poorly.)

Well. =))

My suggestion: start with Venus Fly Trap plants. Youtube, bloggers, and sellers have packed the internet with information and care tips. If you and your son can successfully keep a VFT in an appropriate substrate, properly hydrated/humidified, under proper lighting, alive and well for a year (including winter dormancy), then graduate to fauna next spring.

That gives you plenty of time to plan, research, and stop by to ask all the questions you don't find ready answers for.
Wow what a great freakin reply VFT I want one
 

Sulcata96

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Not a tortoise but maybe musk turtle???
Idk
Those are great. They’ll only require about a 55 gallon aquarium (minimum when fully filled, preferably a 60+ gallon) with an enclosed basking spot placed on top. They’re like tortoises, but move faster and stay smaller. They have a ton of personality and come in a tiny package. One of the best options for a beginner turtle, and far easier than a tortoise.
 

ZenHerper

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