How to Build the Best Enclosure for Your Greek Tortoise

How to Build the Best Enclosure for Your Greek Tortoise

I love my pet Greek tortoise and am always looking for ways to take care of him in the best possible way and share my knowledge with others.

Greek tortoises are best suited for warm/hot climates. When taking care of them, therefore, one of the major concerns should be the habitat that you create.

If you have a garden area and the temperature during the day and night is warm enough, then you can create an enclosure outside. In most places, the temperature tends to dip at night, in which case then its better to have a home for your tortoise indoors.

At what temperature should I keep a Greek tortoise?

The answer depends on if you have a northern or southern type. Southern types should be kept at 80 degrees and provided a basking spot of at least 100 degrees and no lower. Northern forms can handle slightly cooler temperatures, but if it drops too low for too long, it may trigger hibernation.

What Do I Need for My Tortoise's Enclosure?

Enough Space

Tortoises need room for exercise, and they like to roam around and explore their habitat. The enclosure should be at least 2 feet by 3-4 feet in size, rectangle in shape with a height of around 6 inches should suffice.

Untreated Wood

Only use untreated wood to build the enclosure, and I recommend putting castors on all four corners underneath so that it is easy to move around in case you want to shift places or clean the area.


The enclosure should have a base of soft substrates such as an equal mix of organic soil and play sand which is at least 2 inches in depth.

Tortoises love to dig and burrow, hence the depth is a major factor. There is a reason why they burrow as well—to absorb moisture and retain heat.

Two Sunlamps or Bulbs

Your enclosure should consist of two lamps or bulb with one being a UVB lamp that replicates the natural sun’s rays and is important in their digestion when they consume food (think of their shells as giant solar panels).

This UVB lamp should be on nearly 12-14 hours a day usually through the daytime if they aren’t let outdoors to attain natural sun rays and only live within their enclosure indoors. The other bulb or lamp needed will be a heat lamp for basking around 75 watts is required. This can be kept on during the day and night.

Keeping it on the full night rather than the day is recommended as that’s when the temperature tends to dip, and the heat lamp will help your tortoise keep warm. You can place these lamps at the corners as tortoises love to burrow in corners and keep extra warm and cozy at night.

I must clearly stress again the importance of having these two lamps where either one is always on especially the heat lamp as tortoises cannot regulate their body temperature on their own since they are cold-blooded creatures.

You can acquire these as a Dual Set or individual pieces as you see fit and set them however you like. Make sure though when you do set up these lights, that you place it away from their sleeping/burrowing area for they like their dark corners and holes where they burrow and rest.

Artificial Plants

In addition, you could also place some artificial plants if you like. This helps create some shady areas for the tortoise. However, ensure they are ones with big leaves and are slightly above the ground from your tortoises reach so that they don’t mistake it for possible food.

Ramps or Bridges

Ramps or bridges or slightly higher ground in their enclosures are also good to have as tortoises like to climb over or up things. You would be surprised how determined they can be when they want to climb over something or try to get to higher ground if there’s a possibility.

In all my experience of owning and caring for tortoises, I have seen all extremes with them. It's surprising to see how active and quick they move when they want to expend energy and/or exercise.

On the flip side, I've seen them be very docile and sleep all day. It depends on many factors, regular feeding times and how much sunlight or UVB rays they absorb that keeps them fit and in good shape. The whole point is to replicate their environment as nature intended to be.

It isn’t necessary to have the entire enclosure filled with the substrate but at least a portion of it should have soft substrate. The remaining of the enclosure you could have flat pebbles or even put an eco-friendly coconut fiber mat that you get to buy in different sizes. Make it entertaining, visually appealing, your little hard-shelled friends will be grateful for it!

Creating a suitable environment/habitat is always a way to ensure that your tortoise is getting the required light, sleep, and exercise to stay healthy.

The Greek Tortoise features a carapace that is highly domed, and it joins a plastron that is singe-hinged.

On either side of this tortoise’s tail, on each of the thighs, you will find anywhere from one to three spurs. You will also notice overlapping, large scales that cover the fronts of the tortoise’s forelimbs.

The head will be blunt, the eyes will be large, the five claws on each foot will be strong, and the supracaudal shield that is found just above the animal’s tail will be undivided.

When looking at a Greek Tortoise, you will also note the many spots, rays, borders, and flecks that are found on the shell. These form a pattern a lot like that found in a Greek mosaic.

Greek Tortoise can be interactive, friendly, and easygoing.

Housing Tortoises Indoors and Building Custom Enclosures

Jose Luis Pelaez / Getty Images

While keeping a tortoise indoors is not the preferred option, you can select the right type of enclosure to make it more acceptable. Learn what tortoises need and how you can best provide it.

For all captive animals, it is ideal to provide a home as similar to the animal's natural environment as possible.   This is especially true for tortoises—including living outdoors. Tortoises are generally best kept in outdoor pens in climates similar to their natural environment. Aim to keep tortoises from arid climates in arid areas and tropical tortoises in tropical areas. If this is not possible, setting up an outdoor pen for at least part of the year is the next best choice.

Except for certain circumstances (hatchlings, ill tortoises, tortoises not healthy enough to hibernate), keeping tortoises indoors is the least desirable option. One of the biggest problems with indoor housing is providing adequate floor space. Remember that most tortoises get quite large, so a correspondingly large enclosure is needed. In addition, you'll want something that is relatively easy to clean and that gives you the ability to set up different temperature zones for the tortoise.