How Big Do Tortoises Get?

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A tortoise can make a great pet.
A tortoise can make a great pet. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

A tortoise is a type of turtle that only lives on land. Most tortoises eat only plants, vegetables and fruits. It is a common misconception that all tortoises are gigantic. There are many species of tortoises that can grow to a variety of different sizes. Some of the smallest tortoises weigh only around a pound while some of the largest tortoises weigh up to 500 lb.

Pancake Tortoise

Pancake tortoises are among the smallest tortoises out there. These tiny creatures typically weigh 1 lb. and are around 6 to 7 inches long. These little tortoises have smoother shells than most other types of tortoises and are commonly kept as pets due to their size. Pancake tortoises can live up to 25 years in captivity. Wild pancake tortoises may have shorter life spans as they can be targets for predators. Other small types of tortoises include the Hermann's tortoise and the Texas tortoise.

Desert Tortoise

This variety is a medium-sized tortoise that can weigh anywhere from 8 lb. to 15 lb. Wild desert tortoises are found in Mexico, California, Arizona and Nevada. Because this type of tortoise is naturally built to endure in a hot and dry desert environment, it can survive for up to a year without consuming any new water. There are several other species of medium-sized tortoises, including the red-footed tortoise and the elongated tortoise.

The Galapagos Tortoise and Sulcata Tortoise

The Galapagos tortoise is an endangered species native to the Galapagos Islands. This is the largest type of tortoise in the world. A Galapagos tortoise can weigh over 500 lb. and be up to 4 feet in size. These gigantic animals can live for more than a 100 years. While much smaller than a Galapagos tortoise, the Sulcata tortoise is one of the largest tortoises -- and suitable to be kept as a pet. The Sulcata typically weighs around 100 lb.

Tortoises as Pets

Tortoises make wonderful pets, but it is vital to take proper care of them. Always keep tortoises in adequate-sized enclosures. Tortoises need space to move around. Larger species such as the Sulcata should live in very big enclosures so that they get enough exercise. Most tortoises benefit from being kept both indoors and outdoors depending on the weather. It is best to do a lot of research and to talk to a knowledgeable tortoise owner when deciding what size tortoise to adopt.

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