skip to Main Content
Marginated Tortoise

Marginated Tortoise


The marginated tortoise lives exclusively off the plant life that is native to the European region it inhabits. These plants include: flowers, grasses, weeds, and anything else it can find.

Marginated tortoises have a more varied diet, so it is easy to find the right type of food for them. Foods can be mixed into different types of salads, which can be kept in the fridge and then given to your tortoise daily. These salad mixes should include dandelions, lettuce, clover, watercress, honeysuckle, kale, brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnip, spinach, and peppers. You can include a small amount of fruit as well, avoiding citrus fruit; however fruit is optional. Commercial tortoise food can be purchased but fresh, organic food is always the best way to go. Always ensure that the food was not treated with fertilizers or pesticides, as these can build up in your tortoise and hinder growth or lifespan.

Summary Information

Captive Lifespan: More than 20 Years

Adult Size: 8 to 12 lbs (10-14in)

Daytime Temperature: 70F to 85F

Nighttime Temperature: 60F-70F (should not drop below 60° at night)

Sun Basking Temperature:  90F-95F

Humidity:  30-50%

Original Habitat

The marginated tortoise is one of only three species of tortoises found in Europe, and is also the largest. They are mainly found in Greece, and other areas around the calm Mediterranean climate. The original habitat for this breed of tortoise consists of rocky arid slopes with cool mild weather. They are known to live in the highland mountainous regions. An adult can weigh up to 100 pounds and have a shell length of up to 14 inches. These tortoises have a dark carapace with yellow markings. As the tortoise matures, the shell elongates and flares out in the back, giving it it’s name “marginated”.

The marginated tortoise is herbivorous and hibernates in the winter. The marginated tortoise is quite relaxed and calm, although they can be quite territorial in the wild, especially male vs male when competing for a female. These tortoises can potentially live to be 100 years old. The marginated tortoise can no longer be collected and exported. Because of habitat destruction, captive breeding is the only way to ensure survival of the species.

Recommended Pet Enclosure

Since the marginated tortoise grows rather slowly, an enclosure at least 3 feet in length can be used for a small tortoise. This is about the equivalent in length to a 40 gallon aquarium. A vivarium setup is ideal for the tortoise, as having a glass enclosure will cause the humidity to be too high. Real plants should be used rather than plastic or silk plants. The tortoise will not be able to tell the difference and might eat them making it sick.

If possible, a safe and secure outdoor habitat with plenty of sun is preferred, and it should be planted with a variety of edible weeds, wildflowers, and a little bermuda grass.  A southern exposure for basking, and bushes and rocks for hiding will be greatly appreciated.  If an indoor habitat is used, it should mimic an outdoor one as much as possible.

For a hatchling’s indoor enclosure, a large plastic-bin container filled with a mixture of organic soil, orchid bark, and play sand makes a nice habitat.  Form some hills in the dirt, put in a few rocks, and place a seed tray in one corner to grow some sedum, weeds, and wildflowers. The hills are recommended to help teach your hatchling to climb and use it’s newborn muscles. You can also accommodate an adult in a similar, but larger, rubbermaid container.  Indoor enclosures need to have UVB light from a bulb, such as a Reptisun 5.0. You will also need a heat lamp for a basking area and a hide box for some privacy.  Mercury-vapor lamps, which supply heat and UVB, are good as long as the enclosure offers a warm end and a cooler end. Adults and even babies should be outdoors, but the enclosure needs to be safe from predators, including birds.  For an adult, about 6’x4′ should be enough, but the bigger the better.

By feeding your tortoise a fresh salad of vegetables and other ingredients (see above section) it will help prevent your tortoise from eating its enclosure’s live plants. Although tortoises are strictly land animals, a shallow bowl of clean, dechlorinated water should be kept in their enclosure. Local bottled spring-water usually works best. They like to dip their heads and soak. For substrate it is best to use beechwood chips or other large bark substrate.It is not recommended to use any type of sand, as this can be inhaled by the tortoise and cause respiratory problems. Include something for the tortoise to climb on, such as hills. Ensure that it is not too steep.

Other Information

Housing tortoises together should be done by sexed pairs. Putting two males together will cause territorial issues. A male and female can reside together suitably. The enclosure must be large enough to house them, so the size of the habitat must reflect the size and number of the tortoises.

In the Spring and Summer months, and depending on where the tortoise resides, it can be kept outside. This will give it natural sunlight exposure, which is always better than artificial light. More room to move around is also a plus. The outdoor enclosure should be protected against predators. These tortoises are quite messy, so spot cleaning must be done at least two or three times per week. A complete cleanup should be done once a month. Replacing the substrate at this time should also be a part of the cleaning process.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *