Pet Turtles vs. Pet Tortoises
Photo by Wexor Tmg on

Searching for a short guide on Pet Turtles vs. Pet Tortoises? You’ve reached the right place. In casual conversations, the words turtle and tortoise are interchangeably used to refer to shelled reptiles. However, they are two different species. The difference between the two species is not well-known, but you must know the difference to care for your pet correctly. The critical differences between turtles and tortoises are as follows.

Turtles Tortoises
They have a lightweight shell. They have a thick dome-shaped cover.
Turtles are primarily aquatic animals. Tortoises only live on land.
Turtles have thin flippers to aid them in swimming. Tortoises have stumpy and clubbed feet for traversing on the ground.
They can survive on a mixed diet. They live on a plant-based diet.
Turtles have a shorter lifespan of around 20 to 40 years. The lifespan of a tortoise is approximately 60 to 80 years.


It is crucial to consider your pet’s spatial requirements, health support, diet, and workload to provide proper care. Guides specifically tailored to a specific organism are available on the internet. Reptile Direct has a lot of excellent guides on different species of turtles and tortoises. Here is how turtles differ from tortoises. 

Pet Turtles vs Pet Tortoises
A pet turtle. Photo by Fernando Maté on

Spatial Requirements

Turtles and tortoises both start small. Their smaller size can always be appealing to keep as your pets. However, they require far more space to grow than we imagine. This is because they can grow faster and more significantly. Female turtles, which can grow relatively bigger than their male counterparts (8 to 12 inches), require a 75 to 100-gallon aquarium for a suitable living space. 

Some species of tortoises can grow significantly more than turtles. Most tortoises will need a custom-built cage or fenced-out area to live comfortably.   


The difference between the two species is most prominent in their diet. A turtle’s diet is much easier to arrange than a tortoise’s. They can consume turtle pallets,  earthworms, and shrimps, either fresh or sun-dried. Unlike turtles, tortoises require a diet high in fiber and calcium and low in protein, fruit, and fat. The tortoise diet can also vary between different species.   


It is not easy to care for a reptile like a turtle. They are very messy eaters, which is why they pollute their tanks every time they are fed. Cleaning their aquarium and living space is a massive hassle among turtle owners. Since turtles are susceptible to the quality of water around them, they are prone to getting sick if their habitat is not adequately maintained. You will need powerful jets and good-quality filters to circulate water properly in their aquarium. 

On the contrary, tortoises are relatively peaceful dwellers and just require cleaning up after them. While turtles only demand full cleaning of their aquarium twice a year, they also require you to provide them with clean water at all times. This means that you have to skim their aquarium for debris regularly. Maintaining and changing their water filters on time is also a painstaking and costly task. Compared to turtles, tortoises only require a biweekly cleaning of their leftover food and waste.


I hope you’ve learned something from this short Pet Turtles vs. Pet Tortoises guide. The differences between turtles and tortoises can confuse new pet owners, but knowing them is essential if you aim to get one of these species. Learning about their diet, space requirements, and workload is the first step to deciding whether they are a suitable pet for you. Make sure you choose a pet that best suits your lifestyle, available space, and work routine.

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