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Indian Star Tortoise Info: Pictures, Temperament & Traits

Ashley Bates

By Ashley Bates

indian star tortoise walking on the ground

The Indian Star Tortoise is a compact, interesting looking specimen hailing from some areas of India. These tortoises tend to stay under 14 pounds, making them a compact pet option if you have limited space.

They also can get along very well with others of their kind if you are interested in having multiple. Here, we will discuss the ins and outs of owning an Indian star tortoise so you can decide if it’s feasible for you.

Size: Miniature
Weight: 2.2–14.5 pounds
Lifespan: 25–80 years
Suitable for: Experienced owners
Temperament: Shy, social with others

The Indian star tortoise is arguably one of the most gorgeous species to exist. They have markings on their shells which is how they got their namesake—designs that look like stars. These unique points serve a survival purpose like many other naturally camouflaged animals.

So, what else makes this turtle such a standalone reptile? We have all the facts.

Indian Star Tortoise Characteristics


How Much Do These Tortoises Cost?

The Indian Star Tortoise is a prime choice for advanced keepers. These tortoises are not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. If you purchase one, you can expect to pay between $900 and upwards of $6,000.

The ultimate price will depend on the tortoise’s age, where you purchase it, and other factors.

You can undoubtedly find Indian star tortoises online. You can have these reptiles shipped directly to your home. However, shipment can stress them out, and there is no guarantee that they will be healthy upon arrival. Buying from a breeder or local pet shop might be a better bet.

However, due to rarity, you should expect some travel.

side view of the indian star tortoise
Image Credit: N Ahmad, Shutterstock

Indian Star Tortoise Behavior

The Indian star tortoise tends to be a very relaxed pet to have. We certainly have the answers if you’re wondering how they’ll integrate in your setup!

Do These Tortoises Make Good Pets?

Before we explain anything else, we want to make it very clear that Indian star tortoises are not ideal pets for small children.

Indian star tortoises make excellent pets if they are handled correctly. However, if you hold your Indian star tortoise too often, it can cause a great deal of stress for them—not to mention it can make them very ill.

So if you think that getting this tiny tortoise will be better for a small child, think again.

These shy turtles much prefer minimal contact. However, they are okay with occasional handling, especially if you bring them a snack! You must have a relationship with the tortoise that involves respect and boundaries.

You can interact with them in lots of different ways without direct contact. Sometimes, it’s a pleasure just to sit near them and watch them as they meander about their day. We recommend Indian star tortoises for experienced owners due to their unique needs.

indian star tortoise on hand
Image Credit: george photo cm, Shutterstock

Indian Star Tortoise Tank Mates

Indian star tortoises make really agreeable tank mates. The only time they are ever really aggressive is during mating season. If you have males and females, you might need to separate some of them during these times, but they are otherwise friendly with one another.

Since they are so small, you can have several of these tortoises together, and it will be no problem. While you can have a single one, it’s always best for your tortoise to have a friend.

Care Sheet & Habitat Setup:

Creating a proper habitat is your most important goal when owning an Indian star (or any other) tortoise. Because they require a toasty environment with lots of vegetation to mimic their native surroundings, their setup will take planning and time.

Here’s what you can expect.

Light Requirements

Lighting requirements for your Indian star will differ depending on your setup. Some folks choose to have their enclosure outdoors, permitting they have the space. Others will have a habitat set up inside.

If your turtle is exposed to natural lighting, your lighting requirements will differ greatly from indoor dwellers requiring a UVB  bulb.

No matter where your turtle’s enclosure is, the temperature must reach at least 90 degrees. They also need an available basking spot that reaches a toasty 95 degrees.

In addition to heat, you must keep proper humidity levels inside the enclosure. As adults, humidity levels should be between 40% to 75%. Juvenile tortoises need slightly higher humidity levels, ranging from 70% to 80%. 

indian star tortoises in the enclosure
Image Credit: vipinrajmg, Shutterstock

Tank Size

Indian star tortoises are relatively small and easy to keep. A single Indian star requires at least 50 gallons to keep them happy. However, they would naturally enjoy a broader range of space.

Many keepers create setups outdoors for their Indian star tortoises.

A really fantastic idea is to create a separate shed or enclosure outside of the home that is heated in the winter and easy to exit in the summer. This way, your tortoise can freely come and go in and out as they please during warm months.

In winter, they still have enough space in the shed to roam around. Since they can be extremely sensitive to cold temperatures, it is absolutely imperative that you have a warm enough and well-insulated setup outside.

Always have a plan should the power go out so your tortoise can regulate body temperature. The Indian star tortoise should never be in temperatures less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit.


Being the herbivores they are, the Indian star tortoise loves having vegetation to munch on. If you have an outdoor enclosure, you should try growing them a few goodies during warmer months.

Some of their favorites include:

  • Dandelion
  • Bindweed
  • Opuntia cactus
  • Sedum
  • Plantain weed
  • Coreopsis
  • Hibiscus
  • Pansies
  • Mulberry
  • Hostas
  • Petunia

Before adding any plant, checking the safety first is best. If your tortoise eats anything they aren’t supposed to, it could lead to toxicity.

Some toxic plants to keep away include:

  • Asparagus fern
  • Cursed crowfoot
  • Lily of the Nile
  • Pothos
  • Boxwood
  • Florist daisy
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Sweet pea
  • String-of-pearls
  • Umbrella tree
indian star tortoise looking at the camera
Image Credit: Lakeview Images, Shutterstock


When buying substrate for your Indian star tortoise, it is imperative to purchase unscented substrate. These tortoises are extremely sensitive to fragrance and require bedding that is designed to retain humidity. You also need to acquire a substrate that allows the turtles to dig shallow nests and use a material that won’t harm them if they accidentally swallow it.

Some examples of substrate that works really well include fine-grade bark chips or coconut fiber. You can also use tortoise pellets or various substrates in the enclosure to provide texture.

Things to Know When Owning an Indian Star Tortoise:

In addition to the habitat, diet is a crucial element of tortoise care. They require a particular list of plants and vegetables to consume. They also need specialized vet care. Below, we will explain the individual needs of this particular tortoise species.

Food & Diet Requirements

Indian star tortoises are herbivores. They need only plant vegetation to survive. You can grow an abundance of plants for your tortoise or buy some at your local grocery store or farmers market.

Tortoises eat a wide variety of leafy greens as their primary food source. However, they can enjoy lots of different plants and vegetables. Here are some of the most common:

  • Honeysuckle
  • Kale
  • Brussel tops
  • Spring greens
  • Coriander
  • Parsley
  • Carrot
  • Watercress
  • Grass
  • Plantains
  • White nettle
  • Corn poppy
  • Chickweed
  • Hawkbit
  • Goats beard
  • Nipplewort

And the list goes on.

You can also buy pre-made tortoise commercial food online or in a pet shop to make things easy. However, make sure you are feeding them raw foods as well, as they benefit greatly from fresh plants in their diet.

Water intake is also vital for your tortoise. They get a lot of their water from the moisture content and plants. However, putting them in a shallow bath two to three times per week is helpful.

Not only does this help them take in fresh water, it also helps them with their digestive systems. Being in a bath will stimulate waste elimination.

Calcium, vitamins, and minerals are crucial for your tortoise’s overall health. You can buy readily available calcium powders and other supplements on the market. This will ensure proper bone health to prevent certain deformities and diseases.

indian star tortoise on the ground
Image Credit: MicExplore, Shutterstock

Size & Growth

Interestingly, the Indian star tortoise grows very rapidly. During their first few months, the Indian star tortoise hatchlings will develop very quickly. They achieve their full size in just 2 years or less.

Females reach sexual maturity between 8 to 12 years of age, and males fall between 6 to 8 years.

Lifespan and Health Conditions

Tortoises require a very particular setup to thrive. It is imperative that you have all of the information you possibly can before purchasing your tortoise to ensure you’re giving them the best life possible in captivity. Many mistakes are possible if you don’t have the right resources or education about any reptile breed.

One very non-negotiable factor of getting an Indian star tortoise is making sure you have a licensed exotic veterinarian in your area. If anything goes wrong with your tortoise, it will require care from a professional, and traditional domestic pet vets will not see them.

They require vets with specialized knowledge of tortoises, which can be hard to find in certain areas. Make sure to secure that prior to purchase and factor in the time it will take to drive (if they are far from you).

Minor Conditions
  • Respiratory problems (can be serious)
Serious Conditions
  • Metabolic Bone Disease

Male vs Female

Sometimes it’s hard to tell reptiles apart in terms of male and female. For the Indian star tortoise, it’s quite easy! First, male Indian star tortoises have long tails. Their female counterparts have a little short, stubby tails.

Anal scutes are also narrow in males. Females have a roundish opening, which allows eggs to easily come through.

Another really cool way to tell is that females tend to be significantly larger than their male counterparts. Females also have a flatter plastron, while males are more concave.

3 Little-Known Facts About Indian Star Tortoise

1. The Indian Star Tortoise is not the only star tortoise that exists.

The Indian Star Tortoise has a cousin—the Burmese Star Tortoise. Unlike the Indian star, the Burmese is endangered and even functionally extinct. So while you might admire their beauty in photos and videos, you will never own one of these gorgeous tortoises yourself.

2. The radiating lines on the Indian Star Tortoise serve as camouflage.

It’s speculated that the interesting starlike pattern on the Indian star tortoise’s shell protects them in tall grasses. The shell helps blend the tortoise into the environment to protect them from predators.

indian star tortoise in wet grassland
Image Credit: JK Studio Th, Shutterstock

3. Indian Star Tortoises like water!

Some tortoise species tend to steer clear of water unless they need it for sustenance. That is not true of the Indian star tortoise. They are tolerant and seem to like water more than many of their other cousins. However, they are also extremely sensitive to high humidity. So always make sure they have balance.

Final Thoughts

Indian star tortoises make a terrific selection for reptile lovers. These guys have shy temperaments and beautiful appearances and are relatively easy to care for.

However, because this is such a unique breed of tortoise, they cost significantly more money than many others. We recommend doing all the research before bringing this tortoise breed home to prepare yourself for long-term care.

Featured Image Credit: kingma photos, Shutterstock

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