Minimum Enclosure Size for Egyptian Tortoises

Glockfu

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When searching for the recommended enclosure size for Egyptian tortoises, the sizes very greatly. Anywhere from 4 sqft up to 21 sqft. I had a couple questions I was hoping someone could help me understand better. For 2 adults...

1) What is actually the minimum recommended enclosure size? I know the bigger the better but my space is limited.

2) Why is it that a lot of websites recommend the minimum as 2ft wide x 2ft long and 2ft high?? What am I missing? Why is it recommended for it to be 2 ft high? is this 2 ft high referring to the walls? Or is it the entire height of the table? I can't understand why they would need 2ft high walls but it would also be kind of strange to recommend an overall table height as well. Can someone please explain the 2ft high?

3) What is the recommended height for the walls on a tortoise table for them? I see mostly 8" high but then I found one website that says 8" high above the substrate. Is 8" high when it is empty high enough or is it really supposed to be 8" above the substrate making it more like 10" - 13" when empty?


Thank you!
 
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Cherryshell

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First off, you should not keep torts in pairs, there are a ton of threads on these forums explaining how that is a terrible idea.

1. Minimum enclosure would be 4ft×8ft for a single adult. I highly suggest you go read the caresheets on this forum as they will answer most of your questions.

2. The walls should be atleast 2 feet high so you can put enough substrate in for the torts to burrow but not give them an opportunity to climb over the walls.

3. See above, higher walls means more substrate for the torts to burrow in as well as gives you more freedom to put bigger decorations in your enclosure. Are you building the tort table yourself or are you getting one of those pre-built ones?
 
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ShirleyTX

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Hi @Glockfu.

Many tortoises share the same requirements. For example, recommended foods are about the same for all testudo tortoises, no matter the species. But there are a few details about Egyptians that are different, due to their size and their native environment.

Some keepers do keep solitary Egyptians but many keep multiples. Unlike some of their more aggressive cousins, Egyptians are content in pairs, trios, even herds. (Why? I don't know but I've wondered if being in groups makes them look bigger to predators?) Multiple sexually mature males will combat before mating and should be supervised. Otherwise, they appear content to live in community.

For two full grown Egyptians, as little as 10sqft is adequate. Full time indoors is recommended for most climates in the US, with supervised outings for natural sun if you like. The height of the walls should address a couple of possibilities. If your tortoise likes to dig, you can make your substrate deep enough for them to "submerge". If you happen to get a climber, I would not let my walls be any less than 6-8 inches above the tallest point in the enclosure. What I mean is: if you have a hide against a wall, assume the little rascals will find a way to get on top of it-- so you want plenty of room above that point. Be safe and build your enclosure with both possibilities in mind (12-18" walls).

(If they climb someplace where they can fall, you need to rearrange objects, btw.)

We are experiencing an increased of scammers in the Egyptian space. Be careful. Most of the reputable breeders in the US are currently offering waiting lists for hatchlings. If someone offers you a deal that is "too good to be true", it probably is....

Good luck!!
 

Glockfu

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Hello Cheryl, thanks for the response but I can't find any care sheets that are recommending a 4'x8' enclosure as the minimum for Egyptian Tortoises. Also, pretty much all of them also say that they can live together. Can you please post a link to the care sheet you are referring to?

Hello Shirley, thank you so much for your response. Your post was extremely helpful and a bit more descriptive of of their enclosure and behavior than I could find through online websites. Thanks again!
 

turtlesteve

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I feel that 6-8 square feet is adequate for a single Egyptian tortoise, or more for groups. More space is better. In general 4x8 feet is tossed about on the forum as a minimum size, but this overlooks very small and rare species that are not good for beginners.

I will say that keeping pairs (especially one male and one female) is a bad idea. One of the most successful breeders of this species at present, has stressed the importance of housing then individually.
 

Mrs.Jennifer

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When searching for the recommended enclosure size for Egyptian tortoises, the sizes very greatly. Anywhere from 4 sqft up to 21 sqft. I had a couple questions I was hoping someone could help me understand better. For 2 adults...

1) What is actually the minimum recommended enclosure size? I know the bigger the better but my space is limited.

2) Why is it that a lot of websites recommend the minimum as 2ft wide x 2ft long and 2ft high?? What am I missing? Why is it recommended for it to be 2 ft high? is this 2 ft high referring to the walls? Or is it the entire height of the table? I can't understand why they would need 2ft high walls but it would also be kind of strange to recommend an overall table height as well. Can someone please explain the 2ft high?

3) What is the recommended height for the walls on a tortoise table for them? I see mostly 8" high but then I found one website that says 8" high above the substrate. Is 8" high when it is empty high enough or is it really supposed to be 8" above the substrate making it more like 10" - 13" when empty?


Thank you!
Here is the most up-to-date care sheet. The 4'x 8' enclosure size is not really "tossed about" here. It comes as the advice of several experienced tortoise experts...
 

Tom

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When searching for the recommended enclosure size for Egyptian tortoises, the sizes very greatly. Anywhere from 4 sqft up to 21 sqft. I had a couple questions I was hoping someone could help me understand better. For 2 adults...

1) What is actually the minimum recommended enclosure size? I know the bigger the better but my space is limited.

2) Why is it that a lot of websites recommend the minimum as 2ft wide x 2ft long and 2ft high?? What am I missing? Why is it recommended for it to be 2 ft high? is this 2 ft high referring to the walls? Or is it the entire height of the table? I can't understand why they would need 2ft high walls but it would also be kind of strange to recommend an overall table height as well. Can someone please explain the 2ft high?

3) What is the recommended height for the walls on a tortoise table for them? I see mostly 8" high but then I found one website that says 8" high above the substrate. Is 8" high when it is empty high enough or is it really supposed to be 8" above the substrate making it more like 10" - 13" when empty?


Thank you!
Most care sheets for tortoises you find are going to be full of all sorts of old, outdated, wrong info. Egyptians are no different. I was all set to buy some to prove this theory and then covid hit, so I had to change my plans. Having done this with so many other species and talking with so many Egyptian keepers and observing results of different keeping styles around the country, I'm pretty sure how it would go, but its hard to argue when I haven't actually done it.

1. If you ask 10 different experienced tortoise keepers this question, you'll get 12 different answers. There is no scientific study done in a lab with 100s of individuals to determine at what point a smaller enclosure causes problems. There is no correct answer for this. Only various people's opinions on how they feel about it. Small enclosures are never a good idea, but how big does it really need to be? An Egyptian won't immediately drop dead if placed into a 10 gallon tank. But how well would it do in something that size long term? Probably not well. If you dedicated and entire 12x12 foot room to a single male Egyptian, it would not be too much space. In general, tortoises need lots of room to roam. Egyptians are no different. A baby would be fine in a 2x4. I'd be comfortable with a single adult in a 6x3, or a group in 4x8. Can they survive in something smaller? Of course they can. Would something smaller be "better" for them? No, it would not. Tortoises are not a good pet choice for people who don't have ample space. Lots of other reptiles will do just fine in a smaller enclosure, but not torts. Locomotion and fitness are critical for their digestion and well being.

2. 24 inches high would probably be for a closed chamber enclosure, not an open table. Its is much easier to maintain humidity and heat in a closed chamber than in an open table. Trying to heat an open table is like trying to heat your house in winter with no roof on it. It doesn't work well unless the room is already close to the correct temperature and humidity. Its difficult to mount the lights and heat and set it all correctly with a closed chamber less than 24" inside.

3. Again, this is a matter of opinion: I wouldn't want the walls to be less than 10-12 inches taller than the substrate, but I wouldn't use an open table, so its a moot point. Taller sides to help hold in heat and humidity better than low sides.

No tortoise species should be housed in pairs. Some species are certainly less combative than others, but pairs are never a good idea. It causes all sorts of problems for both of them, and sexes don't matter. Its a problem for any combo.
 

TeamZissou

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In Germany, Austria, and Switzerland they actually have legally required minimum enclosure sizes for Egyptian tortoises. For 1-2 adult tortoises, the minimum size is about 21 square feet (7x3 ft), with an additional 5 square feet for each additional specimen. So, you could theoretically put four in a 4x8 ft enclosure using this as a rule of thumb. As usual with tortoises, you can't make an enclosure too large given that they love to roam, Egyptians in particular. 2x2 would definitely be too small.

I agree with the sentiment that a lot of the normal tortoise rules may not necessarily apply to Egyptians, based on what I have read. That said, you probably want to have an extra enclosure handy if aggression does occur. .

The book by Biedenweg and Schramm as a gret resource for Egyptians. There is a lot of useful info, but the Germans have different methods that are not accepted in the US, such as the use of sand as substrate. I don't agree with some of the lighting recommendations such as MVBs and regular fluorescent bulbs for ambient light. But, it's a good place to start:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/3000623434/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

Good luck with your torts. I've been waiting about 10 months for Egyptians at this point and may not receive any until next year.
 

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