As a species, tortoises are generally not acclimated for cold weather. That means if you live in a colder area, it’s essential to do your research before bringing one home. Similar to other pets, tortoises can only survive within a certain temperature range. This article will cover the best tortoises for cold climates.
Can Tortoise Live in Colder Climates?
Yes, they can live in cold climates, but they prefer to live in warmer climates. Most tortoise species come from warm habitats such as deserts and warm grasslands. Since tortoises are cold blooded and can’t control warm their bodies naturally, they must rely on their external environment to stay warm.
However, the temperature requirements for each species are different. While all tortoise species prefer to live in warmer climates, some species are better than others at tolerating cold weather.
Best Tortoise for Cold Climates
The best tortoise for colder climates is the Russian Tortoises. In the wild, they can withstand nighttime temperatures of 30-40 degrees fahrenheight.
However, most of the time a Russian Tortoise will hibernate once the temperature dips below 40. They will likely dig themselves a hole in order to hide form predators and stay warm.
If you want a cheap enclosure to put them in, I suggest the cage pictured above. It only costs around $100, and gives your tortoise plenty of space to roam.
Russian tortoises come from the mountainous regions of Afghanistan, which naturally get pretty cold. While they can withstand cold temperatures, it is best to keep them in areas of low humidity. In the wild, Russian Tortoises typically hibernate for 3-6 months when the temperature approaches freezing.
How cold is too cold for a tortoise?
You should not keep your tortoise outside if the temperature consistently falls below 40 degrees. While your tortoise might be able to hibernate/brumate in this weather to survive, it is at risk of developing a respiratory disease or even freezing to death.
If the weather stays at around 40 degrees, you will want to make sure that your tortoise still has access to a lot of sunlight. Not only will this help keep them warm, but it will help them synthesis vitamin D3.
How to Keep Tortoise Warm Outside
The best way to keep your tortoise warm outside is with heat lamps, ceramic, heaters, and even blankets.
- Heat Bulb/Lamp
Heat bulbs and lamps are probably the best way to keep your tortoise warm outside. This is especially true if your tortoise doesn’t have access to a lot of sunlight. Heat lamps are great because they not only provide heat, but also provide essential UVA and UVB light for your tortoise.
To learn more, check out my article on the Best Heat Lamp for a Russian Tortoise.
- Ceramic Heaters
Ceramic heaters are another great way to keep your tortoise warm. They are particularly good for night time, because unlike a heat bulb it will not produce any light so it will be easier for your tortoise to sleep. It is important that you don’t put anything flammable near it.
If you are in a bind and have no other way to keep your tortoise warm, you can also use blankets. However, this is not ideal because it only contains heat and does not generate any. It is also important to make sure that your tortoise’s substrate is dry. Wet substrate can lead to a lower body temperature and respiratory illness.
Ideally you should take your tortoise inside once the weather drops below 50 degrees fahrenheight. If you need help choosing an indoor setup, check out my article on the best indoor tortoise enclosure.
Other Tortoises That Can Withstand Cold Temperatures
Along with the Russian Tortoise, other species that can withstand cold temperatures are the Greek Spur Thigh, Marginated, and the Hermann Tortoise.
- Greek Spur Thigh
This tortoise species can also withstand colder climates. However, you should not keep them outside in temperatures that are colder than 50 degrees fahrenheight. If you are interested in this species, check out my guide on the Greek spur-thighed tortoise diet.
- Marginated Tortoise
Like the above-mentioned tortoise species, these tortoises also do well in colder climates. They have a dark-colored shell which helps them absorb sunlight and raise their body temperature.
- Hermann Tortoise
This tortoise species can also tolerate the cold weather well. They tend to bury themselves underground when the weather gets cold. They can be kept in both indoor and outdoor enclosures.
Hermann tortoises usually can withstand temperatures of 55 degrees or warmer. When it drops lower, they will hibernate. If you are interested in a Hermann, check out my Hermann tortoise feeding guide.
What Do Tortoises Do When They Are Cold?
A tortoise will usually try to hibernate when they are cold. This usually involves them digging a hold in their habitat and burrowing themselves under the ground.
A tortoise that is cold will also greatly reduce their movement. They do this to help preserve body heat.
If you live in a colder environment, I hope this article gave you good insight on what type of tortoise you should look for. Additionally, I hope you are able to use some of the methods I mentioned to help keep your tortoise warm.
As a reminder, warm climates suit tortoises best because it helps their metabolic processes.