Leopard Tortoise Care Guide | How To Care For These Amazing Tortoises

Leopard Tortoises originated in South Africa and are found in mainly dry climates. But Leopard tortoises can be great pets in most other environments with the right equipment and setup. They live long lives of between 80-100 years with the proper care. Hopefully, this leopard tortoise care guide will help you understand how to properly care for these amazing pets for many many years. 

Leopard tortoises can get most of their diet from your back garden or the local produce section of your grocery store. In addition, the easy maintenance and lifestyle of a Leopard Tortoise to achieve the proper nutrients is makes their care more accessible.

Read on to learn about all the information you need to know about your Leopard Tortoise’s care and how you can keep your tortoise happy and healthy for life.

Leopard Tortoise Care

Leopard tortoises live long lives and require very little detailed maintenance. Caring for them can be time-consuming initially, but once established in their home, the care becomes less precise. I would consider leopard tortoise care to be appropriate for intermediate and advanced reptile enthusiasts. 

Leopard Tortoise Size and Appearance 

leopard tortoise care guide

As the fourth largest tortoise globally. Of course, leopard tortoise size will range from tortoise to tortoise. There are even some species of leopard tortoises that get larger than others. The South African species are known to get larger than the eastern African species for example. The largest on record weighed 88 lbs.

The leopard tortoise can be as long as 18 inches and can weigh up to 55 pounds. Their large body size makes them need a large enclosure. In addition, they will need plenty of space to roam and have plenty of room to regulate their diet for themselves.

The appearance of the tortoise depends on their age. A young tortoise will be attractively detailed, and every mark will be unique.  They tend to be black and can be in spots, stripes, or other designs. This is to attract a mate and will keep the species continuing.

The mature tortoise will lose its unique markings, and its colors will begin to fade. The shades of the tortoise are yellow/cream with black markings. These things will fade and become blurred and become gray due to the dust from the environment building upon them. 

Leopard Tortoise Lifespan

At the beginning of their lifespan, the tortoises will need more attention and focus than adults. So, for the first five years of their lives, you need to be giving them additional vitamins and minerals to keep them growing and getting used to their environment. 

A leopard tortoise can live for up to 120 years. They have long lives, and when in their natural habitats, they can live even longer. Unfortunately, their natural habitats are dwindling and can lead to the extinction of their species and shorter lifespans.

A pet leopard tortoise might live for between 80 and 100 years, depending on their quality of life and, how their environment grows, and their abundance of food to eat. If these things are not met, their lifespan will be shorter. 

This is important because the temperature cannot fall below 50 degrees in the climate, they are living in. The colder the temperature, the less vitamin D and nutrients they will get.

When you become an owner of a Leopard Tortoise, you need to make sure you plan for after you die or cannot take care of it. This means talking to a younger generation and making sure you have someone in place to take care of the tortoise.

Leopard Tortoise Temperament 

Just like other tortoises, the Leopard Tortoise is slow and quiet. The ability to be calm and move slowly makes them good pets. They are not particularly aggressive and will not likely bite any fingers or try to get away. 

They do not like being touched or have people in their space. If they feel threatened, they will retreat into their shells and not make any sudden moves towards the aggressor. They do not climb trees for food or predators; they stay in their shells and keep a calm head.

The only change to their temperament might be during mating season. But then, they may become more aggressive toward other males over a singular mate. 


If you decide you would like to own a Leopard Tortoise, handling is simple. They do not like getting close to others and will instead retreat into their shells. Leaving them alone to flourish will keep them happy and not feel threatened by having other people in their environment.

Once they become adjusted to their environment, they will learn who their owners are and come to them for food.  They will be very loyal to their owners, and they won’t lash out at them.

Leopard Tortoise Diet

Leopard Tortoise needs a high fibrous diet. Proper diet is an essential aspect of leopard tortoise care. They can benefit from both store-bought and natural foods found in the garden. You can keep them happy by utilizing only the freshest foods and ensuring they also have a place to forage for themselves.

Clover, weeds, and grassy hay can all be naturally grown in their enclosure. However, if you place them in an outdoor area in an arid climate, you can plant these things in the ground and allow them to eat on their own.

To supplement the naturally growing fibrous plants, you can buy mixed greens, lettuce, and even dandelion greens at your local grocery store. These leafy greens are full of fiber and other nutrients that the Leopard Tortoise needs to eat.

Kale and spinach are not suitable for their digestive system and have lots of calcium, limiting the nutrients they need. Iceberg lettuce should also not be given to them because it contains no nutrients, just water. They do not need a lot of vegetables with moisture, so limit other vegetables like cucumbers.

These are different snacks you can give your Tortoise.

  • Dill
  • Mint
  • Cilantro, 
  • parsley 
  • clover and 
  • hibiscus blossoms
  • Watercress 
  • Spring greens
  • Coriander 
  • Carrot
  • Parsnip
  • Courgette
  • Bell Peppers

The main thing you need to make sure of is that they do not have pesticides on them, harming your pet. All of these vegetables are fresh and can give plenty of the nutrients your tortoise needs. Diet is essential when caring for leopard tortoises. Because of this, I have created a whole article on the proper leopard tortoise diet here

Feeding Your Tortoise 

When feeding your pet, you need to make sure they have a varied diet that mainly consisted of hay and leafy greens. These can be supplemented with other vegetables. You can serve their vegetables on the timothy hay.

The amount of food that is served to them should be the size of their tortoiseshell. This should be enough food to last them for 15 to 30 minutes of eating. After that, the Leopard Tortoise will eat slowly and on and off throughout the day. 

A routine is essential to keep your tortoise well-fed and ensure they are getting the proper nutrients. It is necessary not to give them too many watery vegetables that contain calcium because it can cause them to not get the right nutrients. Keeping them to a schedule and giving them similar foods with the hay, you keep them eating the right food every day. This is especially important for young tortoises to help them grow properly.


You should give your Leopard Tortoise water every day. Water, especially in dry climates, is crucial to keeping your pet healthy and hydrated. Use a large water dish and refill it with non-chlorinated water every morning to keep them hydrated. 

After the initial watering, check the water dish throughout the day to make sure water is in constant supply to keep the tortoise hydrated. Hydration also helps with the absorption of vitamin D and other nutrients in the body.

Vitamins and Supplements

Like any other animal, a tortoise requires vitamins and supplements to keep them happy and healthy. The leopard tortoise needs plenty of vitamin D3, vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium. Most of these things occur naturally in their diet. All these things will help their shells grow strong.

Turtles at a young age need these vitamins and supplements every day to keep their development on track. Vitamin D and calcium are essential and work in tandem to help the digestive system and muscular system.

But if your tortoise has an indoor enclosure, they might not get enough vitamin D3.  The sun is the most significant way to get vitamin D into your tortoise diet, but if that light is not available, it can hinder your turtle’s development.  It will limit the amount of calcium your turtle takes in and can impair their shell’s development.

Before we go any further I just want to say that you should always check with your veterinarian before beginning a supplement program. That said, you use a rolled vitamin supplement that you can put on their vegetables.

This is an excellent way to boost their nutrition and ensure they are still getting the things they need. Young tortoises will need the vitamin D supplement every day to keep them growing big and strong. An adult tortoise should get the supplement every other day to keep its system in good shape. 

Also, UVB ultraviolet lights for an indoor tortoise will help give them some of the vitamins and light they need.

Calcium is also crucial to a Tortoise’s development, especially when it comes to females having babies. The calcium will help them to grow and have strong bones along with the production of eggs. In addition, calcium can be found in some plants, such as dandelions and other leafy greens.

Your leopard tortoise can take these supplements on their own, but introducing them into their diet as food can help them be more susceptible and willing to eat their food. If they lack these nutrients in their diet, they may become unwilling to eat and become unresponsive.

Water is crucial to helping these nutrients become absorbed in your tortoise’s body. So, giving proper amounts of water every day will help vitamins and supplements to be absorbed and keep them healthy.

Leopard Tortoise Enclosure Requirements

Leopard Tortoises are known for originating in the African deserts. The environment is a bit hot for them, and they tend to spend most of their time in these humid temperatures with some break in the shade. They need plenty of vitamin D to keep growing, and so a sunny climate is crucial, but they do not like cold or freezing temperatures. Not only that but improper temperatures can be harmful or even deadly for your leopard tortoise. 

If you live in a colder climate, you should either choose not to adopt a Leopard Tortoise or create an indoor enclosure. The choice is ultimately yours, but there are different requirements for an outdoor enclosure versus an indoor section. Choosing the right enclosure is an essential aspect of leopard tortoise care. 

Outdoor Enclosure

Leopard tortoises are known for liking vitamin D and needing warmer climates. If you are using an outdoor enclosure, you need to know that your tortoise will need a very secure environment.  Leopard tortoises are quiet and shy. They may not feel comfortable with the environment and need a fence that keeps them away from predators.

Build a Fence

You need to fence off a section of your yard of at least ten by 10 feet in size for an adult leopard tortoise. The area should be big enough to have multiple different areas of the enclosure. The fence needs to be built around the perimeter of the space to make sure your Leopard Tortoise feels secure.

There are a couple of different things that you need to consider when building your fence. First of all, you need to make sure the wall does not allow any predators into the enclosure.  You can use either wood or wire mesh. When building a wall with these materials, make sure there are no holes in the fence or too low.

If there are holes or it isn’t a high enough fence, predators can get into the enclosure and not do well for your tortoise. A two feet tall wall will keep them safe and keep them feeling secure.

A substrate of Outdoor Enclosure

The floor of the enclosure should have some dirt for your turtle to dig into. Tortoises’ should have some room for them to make a place to lay their eggs. It should also have enough place for them to be able to forage on grass. Make sure you are providing space for both of these things to happen in the enclosure.

You can dig up the ground if need be, but having dirt in the enclosure is crucial. For example, you can dig up a section of grass for them to be able to dig. Make sure you are using clay soil not to be too muddy. It will help keep your turtle happy and give them a place to nest.

You need to include in the substrate the following items:

  • Dirt: Clay dirt is suitable for burrowing
  • Grass: ideal for grazing
  • Basking Spot: a place with direct sunlight for your tortoise, you can use heated rocks

Decor for Outdoor Enclosure 

An outdoor enclosure should have a little place for shelter and give them a place to get out of the heat if necessary. Wood would be an excellent material for the hut because it keeps the heat in for the tortoise in the middle of the nice. It also should be a good place for your leopard tortoise to hide from predators. 

The outdoor enclosure should feel cozy because of the fence and the hut. There aren’t many other needs for decor besides hay and water. Give your tortoise a place for water and place some vegetables for snacks.

Temperatures and Humidity For Proper Leopard Tortoise Care 

Leopard tortoises need a warm environment to flourish. If you live in a wet, cold climate, there is a high chance that you should not have a Leopard Tortoise. Leopard Tortoises cannot survive in those freezing temperatures. Instead, they should be only raised in temperatures higher than sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit.

Leopard Tortoises originated from Africa and need hot, dry environments. Temperatures need to be high, and if they are not, they can suffer and cause more problems for their development.

You should monitor your temperature before making your decision to become a Leopard Tortise owner. The humidity should not be above 60% outside. Higher humidity is not suitable for your tortoise and can cause your tortoise’s food problem.

Indoor Enclosure

An indoor enclosure is a perfect space for the tortoise. An indoor environment can be manipulated and given the best temperature and humidity for your Tortoise. This may be a good option for people who live in colder climates.

Enclosure Size and Space

An inside enclosure should be about the size of 10 by 10 feet. It may be best to make a whole room into the enclosure to have the right amount of space. You can use fences or gates to keep the enclosure working. 

Another possible enclosure you can use is a vivarium. The vivarium can be easily manipulated to be the right temperature and humidity. A wooden vivarium is even better because it will keep the heat in and keep your tortoise comfortable. You could also get a custom reptile habitat built as well if you don’t want try and build it yourself. 

The best part about using an enclosure inside is some fewer predators could hurt your Leopard Tortoise. As long as you do not allow your other pets to get into the enclosure, it should be a good place for them. 

The substrate of Indoor Enclosure

A substrate is the floor of the enclosure. For example, an indoor section needs a floor of newspaper spread out across the bottom of it. You can also use a substrate of hay and grass spread out over the newspaper to give the tortoise something to eat and burrow in.

You can also use wood chips on the substrate to keep the heat in the enclosure, and it gives a comfortable place for your tortoise. In addition, the wood chips will provide them with a place to burrow into.

You should also have some amount of dirt for your tortoise to burrow in for eggs. So if you make sure, you are adding a combination of all of these things to keep your pet happy and have the things they need to survive.

The decor of Indoor Enclosure

An indoor enclosure should have a hut for your turtle to rest in and a place to sun themselves. The hut can be made out of any material, but it needs to be built large enough for the turtle to be in.

Any kind of decor added to your environment needs to be made of dry material not to make the humidity higher. You can even use some wood chips on the substrate and natural desert plants. This should be an addition to some hay and vegetation that your tortoise will appreciate. 

They should also have ultraviolet light and a bowl of water and hay for your tortoise to eat. The ultraviolet UVB light should be strong enough that the tortoise has a place to bask themselves and gain their vitamin D. 

Temperature and Humidity of Indoor Enclosure 

An indoor enclosure needs to stay above 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat can be controlled through your thermostat or a light, fan, or darkened curtains. It will help keep your tortoise at a reasonable temperature. In addition, a heater can be used in the room to keep the room at a proper temperature throughout all the seasons.

If need be, you can use a humidity box to give them a place to be in the humidity and provide the perfect microclimate.

You should also have humidity in the room. Keep the humidity around 60 to 90 percent. You can do this by keeping moisture going by misting the substrate every night. This will keep the tortoise comfortable.

Lighting in Indoor Enclosure

A UVB full-spectrum lamp is the best lighting for an indoor enclosure. This will help them to gain the vitamin D they would get from the sun. The light may be expensive, but it makes sure your tortoise gets the vitamins they need. 

The lighting can help your tortoise absorb calcium, and the health of your tortoise depends solely on the light and absorption of calcium. As a result, they can have deformities and shell growth problems.

The UVB light should be on for 10-12 hours during the day. The light should be turned off at night to simulate a dull daily routine. Your tortoise will get used to the daily pattern and know when to sun themselves to gain the vitamins they need.

You can use a direct heat lamp to the sun some rocks to allow the tortoise to sun themselves. You can also share your Leopard Tortoise vitamin D in powder form over the vegetables for snacks. This will provide them with what they need if you need that instead of the light.

How does the Leopard Tortoise Care Compare to Other Tortoises?

Leopard tortoises require a lot of set-up compared to smaller tortoises. The setup of the pen and the substrate can take a longer period of time than other setups due to its need to be secure from predators. Smaller tortoises can live in a simple vivarium and not have to worry much about predators. 

Leopard tortoises do require the pet owner to pay attention to the weather and to be keeping an eye on humidity every day. This can seem overwhelming, but it can be made more accessible through technology, such as thermometers or a misting machine.  

Can One Person Care for a Leopard Tortoise?

All tortoises have long life spans, but the Leopard Tortoise has one of the longest ones. The owners should have a plan for someone to take care of the tortoise and keep them in a large enough enclosure. There should be multiple people taking care of the Leopard Tortoise at any time to make sure the tortoise knows and trusts the people taking care of them.

How to Budget For a Leopard Tortoise

A Leopard Tortoise can be expensive to own and budget for. This is because most of their costs come from building the enclosure and food. But there are some simple tricks you can use to help the cost of the tortoise.

First of all, you can get pet insurance for your tortoise. Their long lives mean health conditions will come up, and it can cover the cost of those problems with insurance.

Also, if you are living in a suitable temperature climate for your Leopard Tortoise, use an outdoor enclosure. An outdoor enclosure does not need a change of substrate every 4-5 weeks. Simple things like this can add up in cost. 

By using an outdoor enclosure can give your tortoise grass and weeds keeping their food cost down a bit. Therefore, you will not have to pay as much for food, and it will cut your costs. An indoor enclosure will cost more money due to the need to replace the substrate every few weeks, pay for extra food, and use temperature regulation methods. So, if you are using an indoor enclosure, know that there will be more expenses. 

Finally, you should pay attention to your climate. If your weather is not warm enough for a leopard tortoise, it will be more expensive to cover costs. Knowing that ahead of time will help you budget for your tortoise and make decisions for your pet.


Owning a Leopard Tortoise can be a great addition to a home. They have long lives, and once they know their owners, they are loyal to them. That said, leopard tortoise care is not easy and is recommended for intermediate to advanced reptile keepers. 

You need to take some crucial things into account before owning a leopard tortoise, such as climate, humidity, and costs. But, now that you know about the different aspects of owning a Leopard Tortoise, you can make the best decision for yourself and if they will be a great addition to your ho

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