15 Best Pet Turtles and Tortoises (With Pictures)

Last Updated: January 21, 2021

Turtles and tortoises are not the most active of pets. However, they are beautiful, friendly, curious, and awe-inspiring. Just watching them swim and move around in their habitat can be calming and help relieve stress. Kids can learn about patience and gentleness when caring for a turtle or tortoise.

There are quite a few different types of turtles and tortoises available on the market to take home as pets. But which are the most suitable for a human home life? We have put together a list of the 15 best turtles and tortoises to help make the job of choosing a perfect pet easier.

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1. The Red-Eared Slider

Red-Eared Slider
Image Credit: MrLebies, Pixabay

Because the Red-Eared Slider is extremely popular, so they are widely available and easy to acquire as pets. These turtles are beautiful, social, friendly, and typically active throughout the day. They love swimming, yet they are usually housed inside to protect them from the elements. But with warm weather and proper surroundings, they can live outside in the yard. Indoor housing should include UV lighting for warmth, plenty of space to bask, and a source of water to spend time in.


2. The Egyptian Tortoise

Egyptian Tortoise
Image Credit: Chad Goddard, Flickr

In nature, the Egyptian Tortoise can be found wandering the lands of Egypt, Libya, and even some parts of Israel. But they are also popular family pets. They are endangered in the wild, however, so pet Egyptian Tortoises should only be purchased through dealers who are authorized to sell them. These are extremely small tortoises that need only about 4 square feet of space to dwell in, making them an excellent pet options for apartment lifestyles.


3. The African Sideneck Turtle

African side neck turtle
Image Credit: Megan Czarnocki, Shutterstock

These turtles are unique in that they cannot retract their heads completely into their shells like most turtles can. They require a large amount of clean water to swim in. These turtles don’t do well in temperatures under 70 degrees, so they should be always be kept indoors. They love to eat lettuce, shaved carrots, and other produce, which is a healthy and affordable snack that they can enjoy every day.


4. The Marginated Tortoise

Marginated Tortoise
Image Credit: Greg Schechter, Flickr

The Marginated Tortoise can grow to be up to 14 inches long, making them one of the largest common pet tortoises in existence. They are originally from Greece and love to dig in sand and dirt. They prefer to live outside in warmer climates where they have plenty of room to roam, dig, and swim. If kept indoors, they should be provided with an enclosed shelter of at least 16 square feet to ensure that they don’t become bored or depressed.


5. The Eastern Box Turtle

Eastern Box Turtle
Image Credit: JamesDeMers, Pixabay

These cute turtles love of, but their small stature means that a little space to us is a large amount of space to them. The Eastern Box Turtle requires a humid environment for good respiratory health, so their space should be kept warm and their shelter should include a large body of water. They don’t like to be handled much, and they can be quite shy. However, a tasty treat can bring them out for a friendly visit at any time of the day.


6. The Pancake Tortoise

Pancake Tortoise
Image Credit: Ryan Somma, Flickr

Unlike most tortoises, which have high, rounded shells, the Pancake Tortoise has a flat shell that looks like a sea turtle’s shell. The shape of their shells doesn’t protect them well, so they naturally move faster than most other tortoises, making them a fun pet to play around within their shelter or in the yard on a warm summer day. These turtles are easy to take care of, and like most tortoises, they love getting leafy greens at snack time.


7. The Western Painted Turtle

Western Painted Turtle
Image Credit: USFWS Midwest Region, Flickr

Theese water turtles have distinctively designed shells that make them interesting to look at. Their water tank should be filtered, and they should have access to at least one basking light to stay healthy as they age. The Western Painted Turtle is a bit shy, which explains why they like to hide, and they prefer to be enjoyed from afar rather than held. However, they will get used to their family members and tend to make themselves visible when someone they recognize shows up.


8. The Leopard Tortoise

Leopard Tortoise
Image Credit: Nathaelus, Pixabay

These big creatures can weigh up to a whopping 40 pounds, making them one of the largest tortoise species in the world. They’re too big to live inside, so they should be kept in a secure enclosure outdoors, but owners should beware that they need a large space to live in — at least the size of a bedroom within a house. These tortoises don’t dig and are pretty docile, and they are easy to take care of, which makes them ideal for first-time pet owners.


9. The Mississippi Map Turtle

Mississippi Map Turtle
Image Credit: Peter Paplanus, Flickr

The Mississippi Map Turtle is a small animal that can live up to about 30 years old, which is actually a little shorter than most other types of turtles. These little turtles are timid and tend to be afraid of loud people and commotion. Their shelter should be in a peaceful place where there isn’t much action going on. Without getting stressed, these hardy turtles are quite healthy and aren’t prone to many health problems.


10. The Red-Footed Tortoise

Red-Footed Tortoise
Image Credit: Anthony Sokolik, Flickr

These tortoises can be found living wild in the Caribbean islands and South America. These are medium-sized tortoises that don’t grow any bigger than about 14 inches in length. These curious tortoises aren’t timid and enjoy the company of their human family members for the most part. One unique aspect of the Red-Footed Tortoise is that in addition to leafy greens and vegetables, they enjoy chowing down on bugs and insects.


11. The Common Musk Turtle

Common Musk Turtle
Image Credit: David Hill, Flickr

As their name suggests, the Common Musk Turtle is common and easy to find in pet stores around the world. These turtles are small and require little maintenance, making them suitable for new or young pet owners. However, like most turtles, they don’t like to be handled much. They can even become a little aggressive and release a musty odor when they feel threatened. Also, they don’t like to swim and in fact, are weak swimmers. Therefore, they should have access to only shallow bodies of water.


12. The Hermann’s Tortoise

Hermann's Tortoise
Image Credit: Charlie Jackson, Flickr

These tiny turtles only measure in at about 8 inches long. The ends of their tails grow something that looks like a claw, and they need a space to live in that mimics their natural Mediterranean environment, with the inclusion of a basking spotlight and a sandy environment. These are high-energy tortoises that will climb the walls of their enclosure, so they should be kept in a completely enclosed shelter. They are gentle and don’t mind being handled occasionally.


13. The Spotted Turtle

Spotted Turtle
Image Credit: Kerry Wixted, Flickr

These beautiful turtles are named after all the little spots on their shells. The Spotted Turtle can live to be very old, some even living for more than 100 years! Therefore, they take a serious family commitment when purchased as a pet. They eat a varied diet consisting of leafy greens and veggies like peas, as well as fruit and meat. They need little space to thrive, making them perfect bedroom pets for kids.


14. The Indian Star Tortoise

Indian star tortoise
Image Credit: Hafiz Issadeen, Flickr

Found in nature in both Sri Lanka and India, the Indian star Tortoise has an interesting pattern on their shell that looks like stars. Their native landscapes are threatened, so they can’t legally be exported for sale. Therefore, they aren’t readily available, and their scarcity makes them an expensive family pet to consider investing in. These tortoises are social and would love to live with a friend within the same shelter space.


15. The Yellow-Bellied Slider

Yellow-Bellied Slider
Image Credit: Puddin Tain, Flickr

These are hardy little aquatic turtles that like to be active during the day and rest at night, which means that the family can enjoy observing them just about any time they want. These are easy turtles to find on the market and are affordable too. They grow up to 13 inches long and love to spend most of their time in the water.

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In Conclusion

Now that you know about the 15 best pet turtles and tortoises, you can decide whether you want to adopt one. However, there is more to think about than just the type of turtle or tortoise that you want to invest in. Don’t forget a tank or caged shelter, basking lamps, a clean swimming hole, drinking water, and food when budgeting for your new pet. Which turtle or tortoise are you most interested in having as a pet? What kind of shelter do you plan to create for them? Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments section below!


Featured Image: kuribo, Flickr