A tortoise roams in its natural habitat, basking in its superiority to the turtles. / PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
When it comes to pets, people get very defensive of their animal of choice. Personally, I’m a cat girly, I miss my kitty Naomi every day, but I am totally not in any position to have a pet. I can barely take care of myself every day; I forget to eat until like four p.m. every day. How am I going to remember to give my cat her medication every day? However, I can absolutely dream and I have dreamed for a long, long time about having a turtle as a pet.
Having wanted a turtle for a long time, I have done a ton of research to decide what kind of amphibian friend I would want to have, and I have come to the decision that tortoises are better pets than turtles.
To be clear, the difference is that turtles technically encompass all types of shelled reptiles that we normally think of, but tortoises in particular are turtles that do not swim; they hail from desert places. This actually plays a good bit into why I believe tortoises are the superior subgroup compared to water-bound turtles as pets.
When we think about turtles and tortoises as pets, we have a lot to consider. The biggest difference in care between the two is that turtles need huge, clean tanks of freshwater to swim in. Not only does this mean that you need to buy a big tank, which is very expensive, but you have to spend a lot of money on water filters, conditioners, and the like.
Tortoises, on the other hand, require much less vertical room, because they don’t swim, they only crawl on the ground. A lot of tortoise owners will build their own tortoise habitats called ‘tortoise tables.’ These are largely two-dimensional, only with high enough walls to contain the reptile. They can be as complex or simple as the builder decides, but are usually at least three by five feet even for a seven inches long Russian Tortoise. This habitat difference makes tortoises a more economical choice, allowing the owner to personalize their pets’ enclosures as needed.
For bigger tortoises, people in warmer climates can keep their reptiles outside with hides or even barns for shelter but make sure your fence is deep, these slow guys are known to dig their way out and sneak off!
Being out of water makes tortoises a better option because of the cost, but also because tortoises are easier to interact with. Neither animal is really known for its social skills with humans, but with a tortoise, they can eat strawberries out of your hand, or you can even tie a balloon to your tortoise and let it roam around the house. The ideal humidity for a tortoise is at or even below-normal room moisture because they originate in the desert, so they don’t mind being taken out of their enclosure as much as turtles, who really shouldn’t be removed from high moisture areas for long periods.
Because of this, tortoises are way more fun than turtles, not to mention that they are way cuter too, with their slow temperament, soulful eyes, and sweet little beaks.
I could go on forever about why I would rather have a tortoise as a pet than a turtle, I just feel like people should know how different the two options are. Prospective owners should definitely do a lot of research before choosing their animal, there are a lot of different elements that will decide what pet is best for your lifestyle, budget, and space. Both of these animals live for a very, very long time, and the choice to get one is not to be taken lightly. I hope my research and this resulting passionate outburst have informed readers about why tortoises are super epic and better than water-bound turtles.