How To Care For a Leopard Tortoise (Beginner’s Guide)

A leopard tortoise is a beautiful and unique pet that can make a great addition to your family. They’re native to Africa and can live to be over 80 to 100 years old, so they’re a long-term commitment! If you’re thinking about getting a leopard tortoise as a pet, there are a few things you should know about how to care for them.

In this article, I’ll explain everything you need to know about how to care for a leopard tortoise.

Leopard Tortoise Behavior and Personality Traits

Leopard tortoises are one of the largest species of tortoises in the world and can live up to 100 years old. When fully grown, they can reach up to 2 feet in length and weigh over 100 pounds. Leopard tortoises are herbivores and their diet consists mostly of grasses, fruits, and vegetables.

The Leopard tortoise is a good-natured creature that is known to retreat into its shell when it feels threatened. However, once they get to know you, they can be quite friendly and even playful. This behavior is one of the reasons why they make such great pets. They are also very curious and will often explore their surroundings.

Leopard tortoises are not known to be climbers, so their enclosure does not need to be overly tall. For starters, leopard tortoises are high-maintenance pets. They require a specialized diet and habitat. They also don’t do well in cold weather and must be kept warm during the winter months.

Likewise, they should also have access to a UVB light source as this helps them absorb calcium, which is essential for their shell health. Leopard tortoises are not aggressive by nature and make great pets for first-time tortoise owners.

Enclosure for Leopard Tortoises

Enclosure for Leopard Tortoises

Providing your leopard tortoise with a suitable enclosure is essential for its health and well-being. One of the most important things you can do for your Leopard tortoise is to provide them with an enclosure that mimics their natural habitat.

The enclosure should be at least 10 feet by 10 feet and have walls that are 2 feet high. It’s also important to fence in the enclosure, so the tortoise feels secure. The enclosure should have a substrate that holds heat well, such as sand or dirt. It should also have a hiding place inside.

In captivity, leopard tortoises should be provided with spacious housing that includes both a basking spot and a grazing area. The basking area should have a temperature of 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit and should be outfitted with a full-spectrum UVB light for colder days.

The grazing area should be filled with grasses and other plants that the tortoise can safely eat. A leopard tortoise needs a clean water dish that is big enough for it to soak its head in daily.

They also need a bare area of ground for digging. Leopard tortoises dig to find a place to lay their eggs. Hatchlings should remain indoors for the first month, so they can acclimate to their new environment. After that, they can be moved outdoors if weather permits.

Spot cleaning is the best way to keep your leopard tortoise’s enclosure clean. Every few days, remove any waste or uneaten food. Once every two weeks, do a more thorough cleaning with soap and water.

With a little bit of planning, you can create a space that will allow your leopard tortoise to thrive for many years to come.


Substrate for leopard tortoises

Leopard tortoises require a substrate that simulates their natural habitat as closely as possible. A variety of substrates are available commercially, or you can make your own using a mixture of sand, soil, and peat moss.

A good substrate for a leopard tortoise should consist of hay and a soil-sand mixture. The ratio of soil to sand should be about 60:40. You also need to make sure that the substrate is deep enough for your tortoise to burrow into.

Light and Heat

As leopard tortoises are diurnal, they need 10-12 hours of sunlight or UVB light every day. They should have a basking spot with a temperature of 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit that they can access when they need to warm up. The rest of their enclosure should offer both shady spots and areas of full sun, so they can thermoregulate.

Leopard tortoises love to bask in the sun, so an outdoor enclosure is ideal, but if that’s not possible, you can provide full spectrum lighting that includes UVB rays.

Food and Water

The leopard tortoise is a herbivorous reptile that requires a diet high in fiber. The best food for leopard tortoises are grasses and greens, such as dark leafy greens and other vegetables.

They also need a diet that is high in calcium and vitamin D3 in order to prevent health problems such as shell deformities and metabolic bone disease. A good way to provide these nutrients is by giving them calcium supplements and feeding them hay or a substrate that has been fortified with vitamin D3.

In addition to supplements, leopard tortoises also need access to filtered water so that they can stay hydrated. It’s important to clean their water pan daily so that the water stays clean and free of bacteria.

Common Health Issues and Treatments

There are a few common health problems that leopard tortoises may face, but luckily there are treatments available for each one.

Respiratory Infections

Leopard tortoises are susceptible to a number of respiratory infections, which can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. These infections can be fatal if left untreated, so it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for the best possible outcome.

The most common sign of respiratory infection in a leopard tortoise is wheezing or difficulty breathing. Other signs include runny eyes or nose, coughing, lethargy, loss of appetite, and weight loss. If you notice any of these signs, take your tortoise to the vet as soon as possible.

Shell Rot

Shell rot is a common problem in leopard tortoises. It is caused by a fungal infection that gets into the shell and starts to eat away at the keratin. The infection can cause the shell to crack, which can be very painful for the tortoise.

Shell rot is most commonly seen in captive tortoises, but it can also occur in wild tortoises. There are a few things that you can do to prevent shell rot in your tortoise:

  • First, make sure that you clean your tortoise’s enclosure regularly. This will help to remove any bacteria that might be present.
  • Second, keep your tortoise’s diet balanced and nutritious. A healthy diet will help to keep your tortoise’s immune system strong and able to fight off infections.

Also Read: Tortoise Shell Rot Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Metabolic Bone Disease

Metabolic bone disease (MBD) is the most severe problem in leopard tortoises. It can occur with a high phosphate food or when the tortoise is not getting enough calcium, vitamin D3, or both in its diet. MBD can cause the tortoise to have soft, thin bones, and can lead to deformities and fractures.

MBD is often seen in captive tortoises that are not kept on a proper diet. It is important for leopard tortoise owners to learn about the signs and symptoms of MBD so that they can catch it early and treat it effectively.


If you are considering adding a leopard tortoise to your family, do your research first. It is important to keep in mind their dietary needs and housing requirements. They are best suited for life in captivity when provided with the proper care.

Keep in mind that leopard tortoises grow to be quite large, so make sure you have the space to accommodate them. With a lifespan of 80 years or more, the Leopard tortoise makes a great companion for many years to come.