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Egyptian Tortoise: Pictures, Facts, Diet & Care Guide

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By Misty Layne

Egyptian tortoise

If you’re looking to own a tortoise that isn’t large, then the Egyptian Tortoise might just be the right pet for you. These guys are incredibly tiny (only 3 to 5 inches long!) and super adorable. Their small size means they take up way less space, which can be great for those living in apartments or condos.

Want to learn more about the Egyptian Tortoise to determine if it’s the right pet for you? Keep reading, then, because we’ve got a lot of information to give you. From how to care for these tortoises to how to set up their habitats, you’ll find what you need to know below!

Size: 3–5 inches
Weight: 0.5–1 lbs
Lifespan: 70–100 years
Suitable for: Experienced tortoise owners
Temperament: Chill, inquisitive

The Egyptian Tortoise is the smallest tortoise species in the Northern Hemisphere. It is also critically endangered due to the loss of its natural habitat. Hailing from Egypt and Libya, these little guys are quite popular and relatively easy to care for (when adults, at least).

Egyptian Tortoise Characteristics


How Much Do These Tortoises Cost?

The Egyptian Tortoise is definitely on the pricier side! These animals cost, on average, about $1,000 (though prices can go higher). Add onto that the cost of your new pet’s habitat and gear, and these little guys are an investment. But considering they might outlive you by a bit, it’s a pretty good investment.

Luckily, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding one of these tortoises. Despite their critically endangered status (or perhaps because of it), breeders are eager to produce as many of these reptiles as they’re able to. Simply searching online for an Egyptian Tortoise should bring up several results for where to purchase one of these adorable animals.

Kleinmann's tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni), also called commonly the Egyptian tortoise
Image Credit: Michal Sloviak,Shutterstock

Egyptian Tortoise Behavior

These animals are mild and non-aggressive for the most part, though they can certainly become snappish or cranky if they’re mishandled. They also don’t enjoy being picked up or handled often, so too much of that can make them grumpy. But if handled properly, you’ll find the Egyptian Tortoise to be a delightful companion.

You’ll find that these tortoises are more active at dusk and dawn. The temperature outside can also influence their activity levels; if it’s too hot, they’ll be less active. But most of the time, dusk and dawn are when you find these little guys foraging and exploring their surroundings!

Do These Tortoises Make Good Pets?

The Egyptian Tortoise can make an excellent pet for families, first-time tortoise owners, and experienced tortoise lovers. Their temperament makes them suitable for most people (though children should always be supervised around these little guys). Kept in the right environment and handled carefully, this tortoise can make an inquisitive and fun companion. However, you will need to check laws in your area to ascertain if owning one where you live is legal.

Egyptian tortoise
Image Credit: Rafael Ramirez Lee,Shutterstock

Egyptian Tortoise Tank Mates

When it comes to other animals in your Egyptian Tortoise’s habitat, you’ll find that they can be fairly tolerant—at least as long as other animals are also tolerant of them. So, you shouldn’t have aggression issues or violent behavior from this tortoise. However, there is an exception to this; having more than one male Egyptian Tortoise in the tank, particularly if there are also female tortoises around, can lead to competition and aggression.

The Egyptian Tortoise may also not do well with other tortoise species. There might be some aggression there, plus the possibility of the different species breeding.

Ideally, if you want multiple Egyptian Tortoises, you’ll want to have a single male with a couple of females (though male Egyptian Tortoises might prove a bit amorous with their female counterparts, so watch for that).

Care Sheet & Habitat Setup:

Of course, as a tortoise, your Egyptian Tortoise will need a habitat that meets very specific requirements, including temperature, substrate, and tank size. You’ll also need to know how to properly feed your pet and any health conditions that might arise. Everything you need to know, you’ll find below!

Light Requirements

The Egyptian Tortoise originally comes from a desert habitat, so these guys are used to spending hours in the sun. That means they’d be soaking up tons of UVB rays in their normal habitat, so that’s what you’ll need to replicate in your tortoise’s environment. Luckily, you can do just that with a 10% UVB bulb in your tortoise’s enclosure. These types of bulbs are specifically designed for reptiles that come from the desert. Just ensure you place the bulb high enough in the environment that it won’t burn your pet.

You’ll also need to set a day/night cycle for your tortoise, as these reptiles do best with having 12 hours of darkness and 12 hours of light. You can likely find a bulb on a timer, or you can simply start dimming a bulb as night approaches before ultimately turning it off.

Egyptian tortoise in a wildlife
Image Credit: Egyptian tortoise in a wildlife_Matt Starling Photography,Shutterstock

Tank Size

Egyptian Tortoises are tiny, so they don’t need a ton of space. However, any enclosure needs to be at least 2’ x 2’ x 2’ (though feel free to make it larger if you have the space!). There are many options when it comes to an enclosure—one made of wood would retain heat better, while a plastic one would give your pet some more privacy, and a glass enclosure will allow you to see your tortoise whenever you want. The choice is up to you, though you should read up on the pros and cons of each.


Growing plants in your Egyptian Tortoises enclosure gives your pet refuge when it wants to hide, visual barriers, and fun things to explore. Plus, having more plant life in the tank can help your pet get in exercise, as when they are most active, they will scurry around from spot to spot. Of course, if you use real plants in the tank and they’re close enough, your tortoise will nibble at them, so you want to choose plants that are safe for them to consume. A few plants you could try include:

  • Abutilon
  • African Violets
  • Boston Fern
  • Carex
  • Scaredy Cat
  • Couch Grass

You also don’t want your tortoise to gorge itself on the plants, though, as it could make itself ill, so be careful when using live plants. You can also place fake plants in your Egyptian Tortoise’s enclosure to avoid them eating anything if you prefer.

boston fern
Image Credit: inonoyazy, Pixabay


Probably the most popular substrate for Egyptian Tortoises in the U.S. is crushed coral, which has been used successfully. You can pick it up from pet stores or feed and grain stores. The most important thing about the substrate you use, though, is that if eaten, it’s unlikely to cause a gut impaction. You also want the substrate to feel dry when touched, but at the same time, allow for humidity to be held beneath the surface.

You can also go with a mix of sand and soil or simply one or the other. These tortoises aren’t big on burrowing, so you only need a 2 to 3 inches deep substrate.

Things to Know When Owning an Egyptian Tortoise

Now you know how to set up your Egyptian Tortoise’s habitat, it’s time to learn about your pet’s diet, how it will grow, and what potential health problems might arise.

Egyptian tortoise in a wildlife
Image Credit: Matt Starling Photography, Shutterstock

Food & Diet Requirements

Egyptian Tortoises are mostly vegetarian, but they will enjoy the occasional insect. For the most part, though, your pet will need a diet of grasses, leafy greens, flowers, and broadleaf plants. In particular, you’ll want to include sea lavender and saltwort.

You do want to be careful about the sorts of greens you give your tortoise, though, as plants that have a high content of oxalic acid (like spinach or parsley) can result in bladder or kidney stones in your pet. Instead of greens like these, serve your tortoise some kale, dandelions, or watercress. You can also throw in a colorful veggie, such as bell peppers or carrots, on occasion as a treat.

As for how often your pet should be fed, every other day should suffice for adult Egyptian Tortoises.

Size & Growth Chart

An adult male Egyptian Tortoise will be about 4 inches in length and weigh nearly 4 ounces, while an adult female will be around 5 inches in length and weigh about 14 ounces. When first born, though, hatchlings are only the size of a dime! If you aren’t an experienced tortoise owner, you’ll likely want to go with an adult rather than a hatchling to ensure your pet has a long life. Because they are so minute when first born, hatchlings are extremely delicate and a bit hard to care for.

Egyptian Tortoises will usually reach their adult length and weight somewhere between 5 and 10 years of age. Males typically reach maturity quicker, between the ages of five and seven, while females mature between the ages of seven and ten.

Egyptian tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni) standing on the rock
Image Credit: reptiles4all, Shutterstock

Lifespan and Health Conditions

Unfortunately, the Egyptian Tortoise can be prone to a number of health issues, so you need to be prepared. Don’t wait until your pet becomes ill to try to find an exotic vet that can treat it; find a vet long before that happens! And keep in mind that many conditions this reptile faces can be warded off by properly caring for your pet, feeding them a healthy diet, and keeping their environment clean. A healthy Egyptian Tortoise should live between 70—100 years (though life in captivity does sometimes shorten the lifespan of an animal just a bit).

Minor Conditions
  • Improper shedding
  • Parasitic infection

Serious Conditions
  • Kidney or bladder stones
  • Herpesvirus
  • Metabolic bone disease
  • Pyramiding
  • Respiratory infections

Male vs Female

Other than their difference in size, there won’t be much else that differs between a male and female Egyptian Tortoise. The female is larger than the male, but both sexes will generally be laid-back (as long as they aren’t handled too often) and curious about their surroundings. Which sex is best for you will come down to preference.

3 Little-Known Facts About the Egyptian Tortoise

You know tons about this tortoise now, but here are three more facts you might not have known!

1. The Egyptian Tortoise is also known as Kleinmann’s Tortoise

Where does the name “Kleinmann” come from? A French stockbroker named Edouard Kleinmann, who in 1875 collected the holotype.

2. The Egyptian Tortoise is more active in the winter

These guys are very cold tolerant and are, in fact, the only tortoise that is a temperate terrestrial that is more active in winter and less active in summer.

3. An Egyptian Tortoise’s clutches are very small

There might only be one large egg in the clutch, or (rarely) there will be up to four eggs. So, if you’re trying to breed these tortoises, don’t expect many hatchlings at once!

two Kleinmann´s tortoise (Egyptian Tortoise)
Image Credit: Marlonneke Willemsen, Shutterstock

Final Thoughts

The Egyptian Tortoise is an adorably tiny tortoise (the smallest in the Northern Hemisphere!) that can make a wonderful pet. Though even new tortoise owners should be able to handle the adults of the species, it’s not advised that those new to the world of tortoises try to raise a hatchling, as it’s quite difficult due to this species’ size. Do be aware that these tortoises are critically endangered; though you can likely find one to own as a pet, you want to ensure you’re getting your pet from someone reputable rather than someone who has smuggled in the species.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: reptiles4all, Shutterstock

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