Cherry Head Tortoise Care | Your Guide To Cherry Head Tortoise Care

The Cherry Head Tortoise is an amazing reptile that can make for a great pet. However, you will want to know how to properly care for it so that you can give it the long and fruitful life that it deserves. This particular type of tortoise can be found naturally in the wild, particularly if you happen to be walking in the jungles of Brazil, but you can find them domesticated as well. 

Caring properly for the Cherry Head Tortoise requires that you know quite a bit about the species and the various components that it depends upon for daily life. Among other things, it is important to know how to handle the tortoise properly and what to feed it, and how much water to provide. 

If you learn how to care for a Cherry Head Tortoise, you are sure to have one of the more unique pets in your neighborhood. These special creatures have quite a bit of personality as well, making them great in a family setting. Continue reading to learn more about taking proper care of this pet. 

Cherry Head Tortoise Size and Appearance

cherry head tortoise care

When it comes to size, the Cherry Head Tortoise is labeled as a medium-sized species. It can definitely make its presence known in an enclosure, with an average length of 11 eleven inches. On the big end of the spectrum, Cherry Head Tortoises can grow to a length of 14 inches in adulthood. Interestingly enough, males tend to be larger than females do. 

The first thing you will notice about the appearance of the Cherry Had Tortoise is that its shell is comprised of a uniform brown color. They will have bumps on the top of their shells. These will typically be either a bright red or orange color, so this is where they get their name from. If you look at their head, you will also notice a red mark there on the top. 

Throughout the body of the Cherry Head Tortoise will be patches of orange, red, and yellow spots. Look all over, because you will notice these on their legs and tails as well. A male Cherry Head Tortoise is signified by its plastron that has a deep concave. 

For its part, females will have an overall more rounded appearance to their bodies. 

Cherry Head Tortoise Lifespan

You might have heard that some tortoises like the leopard tortoise can live to be as much as 100 years old or more. While this is true, the Cherry Head Tortoise does not have quite as long a lifespan as that. That said, with proper cherry head tortoise care you can still typically expect a lifespan longer than almost all other pets. 

The cherry head tortoise  That is why it is important to consider longevity when deciding if this is the pet for you. 

The Cherry Head Tortoise begins its existence as an egg. Eggs are in the shape of a sphere and can weigh as much as 1.8 ounces. The typical tortoise will lay between two and seven eggs at a time. Do not expect the eggs to hatch quickly, as the average incubation period is 150 days. Keep in mind that it can take up to 202 days for a Cherry Head Tortoise to hatch out of its egg. 

The key to longevity for the Cherry Head Tortoise is proper care. If one lives with you in captivity, there is no reason to believe that it cannot flourish for as many as nine decades. There are no predators for it to be concerned about, and you can ensure that it has continual access to a balanced diet and clean water.

Keep in mind that a good diet and clean water are not all that is required for long life when it comes to your tortoise. The habitat is critical as well. It needs access to light, the right humidity level, substrate, and a good soaking almost every day. If you do these things, you will have a pet that will grow old with you and possibly even outlive you. 

Cherry Head TortoiseTemperament

As far as their temperament goes, you will find the Cherry Head Tortoise to be quite shy. However, do not let this fool you. They are incredibly smart and hardy creatures as well. As such, they will quickly discover and master the routine that you set out for them, including where you put their food and what the items are that you have put in their enclosure with them. 

As mentioned, they are shy, so do not feel that you need to spend a lot of time with them. You should also be aware that they have a better than average sense of smell. It is also important to know that they are quite sensitive when it comes to touch. They will feel it even if something just lightly brushes up against them, so keep that in mind when you consider handling your Cherry Head Tortoise. 

If you have other multiple tortoises in the home, you are in luck. For the most part, the Cherry Head Tortoise is not at all territorial. The notable exception to this is having too many males in an enclosure that has a female. As you can imagine, the males can tend to become quite jealous of one another to the point of becoming aggressive and causing injury to each other. 

If you like to look at your Cherry Head Tortoise when it is a bit active, that would typically be during the daylight hours. However, keep in mind that they tend to take it easy for a while after eating a big meal. This would be similar to your family after a big Thanksgiving meal. 

The Cherry Head Tortoise is not known to hibernate, but you will notice a significant decrease in the amount of its activity during the coldest part of the year. Even when they are not active, you will still want to continue caring for them properly. This means regular cleanings of their enclosure, monitoring the environment, and ensuring that it eats the right mix of food. 

You will find that the Cherry Head Tortoise is usually quite inactive for much of the day. It will spend most of the day resting when the sun is out. If the tortoise has just had a big meal, you may notice that it lays pretty still for as many as ten days before starting to move again. This is nothing to be alarmed about, as it is normal behavior for the Cherry Head Tortoise. 


You will find that taking proper care of your Cherry Head Tortoise will require at least a few minutes of your time each week. At the same time, these are very independent creatures. When you do handle them, you will want to do so with extreme care. Because they are so shy and like to be alone, they can get quite stressed out when you try to pick them up. 

It has been shown that overhandling a Cherry Head Tortoise can cause a great deal of stress for the animal. This can actually lead to severe illness and, in some cases, even death. However, this does not mean that you can never touch your precious pet. 

If you are gentle with your tortoise, it will get used to consistent periods of calm handling, and it will become more comfortable around humans. You just want to be mindful that new guests to your home may not want to handle the animal and that you need to give it plenty of time to rest between touching it yourself. 

You will also want to make sure to sanitize your hands both before and after handling your cherry head tortoise. This is to help protect both you and your pet from illness. 

Cherry Head Tortoise Diet

A proper diet is an essential part of cherry head tortoise care. If you are used to other types of tortoises that require quite a particular and limited diet, you might be surprised to learn that the Cherry Head Tortoise actually likes a wide variety of different foods. Of course, the focus should be on fresh and green vegetables. Some of the more common greens you will want to feed your tortoise include:

  • Dandelion greens
  • Collard Greens
  • Watercress
  • Endive
  • Mustard greens
  • Escarole

In addition, you can give your tortoise some other types of fruits and vegetables to round out their diet. The Cherry Head Tortoise seems to take a particular liking to both carrots and clover hay. You do want to stay away from feeding too much animal protein to your pet. 

Since your tortoise does not need much meat, you can just give one serving of low-fat cat food or lean meat about every 14 days or so. You should also include a calcium and vitamin D3 supplement in a cherry head tortoise diet a few times each week with the approval of your veterinarian.  


If at all possible, you should allow your Cherry Head Tortoise to forage for their own food and eat in a naturally planted outdoor environment. The food should be mostly vegetables and fruits, with only the occasional piece of meat thrown into the mix from time to time. All in all, your tortoise should feed on food that is low in sugar and fat. 

If you are concerned that your Cherry Head Tortoise is not foraging enough food, you are more than welcome to toss in some food pellets on occasion. These are available commercially and will help your pet maintain a balanced diet. 


As you have read, the Cherry Head Tortoise eats a diet high in protein compared to many other tortoises. Because of this, it is important that it always has ready access to a fresh and clean source of water. You do not have to get fancy or anything to make this happen. Just putting a shallow and large planting dish inside the enclosure with your tortoise will work find. 

You also want to make sure that you give your tortoise a good soaking. This is particularly true for baby Cherry Head Tortoises. For those, you should be soaking in warm water for about 15 minutes every day. Once a week, give them an even better soaking for as many as 45 minutes. Proper soaking will keep your tortoise properly hydrated and healthy. 

You do not want to underestimate the importance of proper watering for your Cherry Head Tortoise. This is what is going to make your pet happy and healthy for years to come. You might also consider installing a fogger system into an outside enclosure. This will help the environment stay at a steady humidity level and provide your tortoise with ample drinking water. 

When soaking your Cherry Head Tortoise, you will want to stay away from using cold water. This is particularly true when it comes to bathing a baby tortoise. The cold water will shock their system. You will also want to stay away from putting cold water in their drinking tray, as they will not like it and stop drinking. Your tortoise needs to stay properly hydrated, so keep the water lukewarm at best. 

Do Cherry Head Tortoises Need Vitamins and Supplements?

Like humans, your Cherry Head Tortoise will have difficulty getting all of the necessary vitamins and supplements that it needs from its diet alone. This is why you will want to do your part to ensure that a balanced diet is achieved with the right mix of vitamins and supplements. That said, always consult with your veterinarian to set up a proper supplement program for your cherry head tortoise. 

The most important supplement is probably going to be calcium. Without enough calcium in its bloodstream, your tortoise is very likely to get sick. This can also lead to death if left unchecked. One of the best ways to introduce calcium into your tortoise’s diet is through powder. You can buy calcium powder and vitamins to sprinkle over its food from time to time. 

Cherry Head Tortoise Enclosure Requirements

If at all possible, you will want to house your Cherry Head Tortoise outside. Of course, this requires a suitable climate, so we will get to some other options as well in a moment. If you are able to house your tortoise outside, you will want an enclosure that is very sturdy and is escape-proof. You will also want to make sure that any predators are also unable to enter their enclosure. 

The Cherry Head Tortoise is very intelligent, so it will figure a way out of any enclosure if it is at all possible. It would be best if you worked to prevent that from happening. To begin with, you will want to equip the enclosure with a wall that is a minimum of 16 inches high. The walls should also be able to go a few feet into the ground. This will keep your tortoise from being able to dig its way out. 

When you go to construct the fence, it is important that you stay away from using see-through materials. This is because Cherry Head Tortoises are quite curious. If they can see interesting things on the outside of the enclosure, they will be tempted to try to get outside and go explore. 

Another bit of helpful advice regarding the enclosure is to add some netting or other type of wire over the top. This will help keep potential predators out of the enclosure. While your tortoise might not necessarily be able to get out of the enclosure through the top, that does not mean that other animals will not try to get inside. 

Within the enclosure, you will want to be sure that you insert a muddy wallow complete with some clean water in a pan. This gives your tortoise a place to wade in, which it will certainly appreciate. 

If possible, you will want to put the outdoor enclosure in an area with a dense array of vegetation planted. This serves as a cooling mechanism for the Cherry Head Tortoise. In order to protect your pet from the elements, you can also put it in a shelter that resembles a doghouse. Your tortoise will know what to do when the time comes. 

Making Use of an Indoor Enclosure

There are plenty of situations and environments where it might not be practical to have an outdoor enclosure for your Cherry Head Tortoise. In that case, you will just want to make sure that you build the appropriate indoor home for your pet that it can thrive in. 

To do this, you are going to need to create an enclosure that is a minimum of 5 by 5 feet for a full-grown adult.  Alternatively, you can also use a tortoise table that you buy at a store or make at home. If you do not feel comfortable with building this your self you can also outsource a custom-built enclosure. 

Make sure that you insert a pan of water in the enclosure and keep it clean at all times. Your tortoise will use this both as a source of drinking water and as a way to soak its body. It is also important to include a hide box and put it on the cool side of the enclosure. This provides your pet with a source of shelter that it can retreat to when it feels the need. 

Best Substrate For A Cherry Head Tortoise 

One of the keys to making your Cherry Head Tortoise happy is to create as natural an environment as possible for it. This begins with a focus on the substrate in the enclosure that you create. This will differ depending on whether you house your tortoise indoors or outdoors. 

The depth of the substrate that you put inside the enclosure should be a minimum of four inches. This will be sufficient to allow the tortoise to burrow its body into the earth and create its own type of micro-climate. Much of what your Cherry Head Tortoise does in captivity is born out of instinctive behavior, so you need to provide the materials that it needs to act accordingly. 

You will also want to spray down the soil and your enclosure walls at least once every day. You can use a reptile fogger for this as well. That will also help keep the humidity level in the 80 percentile range, which is ideal. Allowing your tortoise to create its own micro-climate out of the substrate you provide is essential for its long-term health. 

The Ideal Substrate for an Indoor Enclosure

You will want to line the bottom of your tortoise’s indoor enclosure with as many of the following substrates as possible. 

  • Peat moss
  • Coconut coir
  • Cypress Bark 

The key is to use the mix of substrates to create a habitat that looks and feels as much like the environment that the Cherry Head Tortoise is used to living in when in the wild. Another recommendation is to include plenty of cypress bark. This is particularly helpful if you live in a low humidity environment, as the bark will effectively retain moisture inside the enclosure. 

The Ideal Substrate for an Outdoor Enclosure

Outdoor enclosures do not require near as much work when it comes to substrate considerations. You can just use the natural soil in most cases. You will just want to make sure that the soil in your yard is not treated with any chemicals or fertilizers. Make it as organic and natural an environment as possible for your Cherry Head Tortoise. 


No matter where you decide to keep your Cherry Head Tortoise, you want to be mindful that it is an animal used to an outdoor environment. Keep that in mind as you plan the décor of your enclosure. Lots of plants, dirt, shrubs, and other foliage will help make your tortoise feel at home. 

You want to replicate as natural a habitat as possible, without the bugs of course. Assuming that you followed the instructions for planning a proper enclosure, you should not have to worry about predators being attracted to the area. As such, focus on building an outdoor environment that your pet can thrive and feel comfortable in. 

Cherry Head Tortoise Temperature and Humidity

The Cherry Head Tortoise can thrive in a variety of temperature zones. However, you should avoid extreme heat and extreme cold temperatures. The tortoise is fine in an enclosure that exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, but you will want to make sure that the animal has some shady spots to retreat and has a ready source of clean drinking water. 

The Cherry Head Tortoise can also thrive in cold weather, but you do not want to get carried away here. If the temperature at night is going to drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, you will want to make sure that you put a heated shelter inside of their enclosure. This should be able to get the temperature up to at least 70 degrees, which will be ideal for your pet. 

If you are going to keep your tortoise inside, then the enclosure should be in a room where the temperature is kept between 68 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. You might also consider adding a heat lamp to the enclosure that is capable of providing your tortoise with a spot where they can bask in 95-degree weather at certain points during the day. 

Cherry Head Tortoise Used to Tropical Climates

As mentioned, the Cherry Head Tortoise is native to the country of Brazil. As such, it is no stranger to tropical climates, meaning that it thrives in a high humidity environment. If possible, you will want to create an enclosure that effectively maintains a humidity level between 70 and 80 percent. 

Including a water pan in the enclosure as recommended and will go a long way towards increasing the level of humidity if you need it to. It would help if you considered investing in a hygrometer in order to measure the humidity level inside the enclosure on a regular basis. Recreating as natural an environment as possible will make your tortoise much happier in the long run. 

If you happen to have a baby Cherry Head Tortoise, keep in mind that they tend to thrive in even higher humidity levels. Some breeders will even recommend going as high as 85%. It does not matter how old a tortoise is, as they will appreciate a high level of humidity throughout their lifespan. 

Cherry Head Tortoise Lighting Requirements

Like many reptiles, Cherry Head Tortoises need a certain amount of light. In fact, they are happiest when they are in the light for half the day, and darkness during their sleeping hours. Unless you are on the equator, that is not going to happen, but any outdoor enclosure should be sufficient in providing the mix of light and dark that your tortoise needs. 

If you have your pet kept in an indoor enclosure, you will want to have a UVB light installed overhead. You can turn this on for between 12 and 14 hours every day in order to recreate a nature day and light cycle that your tortoise will be happy with. Failing to do so will mean that your pet cannot absorb calcium the way it should, leading to sickness down the road. 


Now that you know quite a bit about the Cherry Head Tortoise, it is time to consider having one as a pet. Cherry head tortoise care is not as complex as it might seem. Knowing how to take care of it properly will virtually ensure that you have a happy companion for many years to come.

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