Tortoise Table – How to Make the Most of It?

If this is your first tortoise, you need to figure out the right environment for the animal. Tortoise tables are some of the most sought-after types of enclosures due to their simplicity, easy access, and personalization factor.

Today, we will discuss tortoise tables, the main benefits compared to other types of enclosures, and how to make the most of them. So, let’s jump right in!

What is a Tortoise Table?

Tortoise tables are essentially terrariums designed specifically for turtles. They consist of materials like glass, wood, fiberglass, or other sturdy materials for enhanced durability.

The name comes from the tortoise table that actually looks like a table. It’s not tall because the tortoise can’t jump or climb anyway, and it’s usually rectangle-shaped, although you can get it personalized based on your needs and preferences.

Tortoise tables come in a variety of shapes, colors, and heights and with various layouts. The idea is to figure out the right layout for your tortoise.

These animals require specific habitat conditions like a basking spot, a hiding area, and open space for walking, eating, and other activities. Tortoises aren’t particularly active animals, but they’re not that sluggish, either.

Tortoise table

Benefits of a Tortoise Table

Tortoise tables pose several benefits compared to other terrarium types.

These include:

  • Ease of access – The table is shallow, compared to classic terrariums, allowing you ease of access into the reptile’s enclosure. It also has a large surface area, so you can have an unrestricted view of your pet and its activities. This is great for cleaning purposes, allowing you to perform seamless maintenance, without disturbing your tortoise too much in the process.
  • Convenience – Tortoise tables are usually easy to use, lightweight, and relatively cheap compared to heavy-glass terrariums. This means you can easily move the table elsewhere, depending on your preferences and needs.
  • Better eating – Tortoises require a flat surface to eat properly. A tortoise table is flat, but so is a standard terrarium, you might say. The difference is that tortoise tables are shallow and wider compared to normal terrariums. This allows you to select adequate eating, pooping, and basking areas with greater ease and remove food leftovers after each meal. Which you absolutely need to do, by the way.
  • Improved observation – Tortoises are reptiles, which means that they are prone to some health issues along the way. And, since they cannot inform you of what’s bothering them, it’s up to you to discover that. This means you need to monitor your reptile regularly to gauge its behavior, overall physical state, and mental stability. The tortoise table provides an unrestricted view over your reptile’s enclosure, even if you have various decorations present, like plants, rocks, or other elements.

Furthermore, tortoise tables provide the necessary space to personalize the animal’s habitat according to your vision.

And if you’re not content with the result, you can easily adjust or reshape the entire landscape with minimal effort.

First Tortoise Habitat

How to Select the Right Tortoise Table

Not all tortoise tables are alike, so you need to choose one that fits your reptile’s needs.

Do so with the following metrics in mind:

Size Considerations

The table’s size is the first and most important metric. The table needs to be large enough to accommodate your tortoise, the necessary equipment, and all of the potential decorations you might have already planned.

Tortoises need to live in a natural-looking ecosystem to remain in good shape and have pristine mental health; otherwise, they might become stressed and exhibit lethargy and low appetite.

The table’s size depends on your tortoise’s size and activity level. Tortoises tend to be quite active, especially during their juvenile years, so make sure you get a fitting table to accommodate the reptile’s need for exploration.

Also, consider the animal’s maximum size. Some tortoises can grow quite large, so it’s better to be prepared ahead of time.

Safety of Used Materials

The materials you’re using should be fit for the intended purpose. I advise against artisanal tortoise tables (made by you at home) because these tend to come with various risks. Also, don’t get any artisanal tables from anyone else either.

The following are just some of the problems you might encounter:

  • Harmful paints and chemical contaminants – Many people paint their tortoise tables to improve their aesthetic value. This is particularly dangerous for reptiles due to their extreme sensitivity to chemical compounds. Paint doesn’t do well in humid environments, as it can dissolve and eliminate its noxious additives in the air and the tortoise’s food. This can lead to poisoning and death.
  • Unsafe carving – That’s right, some people decide to craft the table themselves, which isn’t exactly the safest approach. Carving the wood can result in splinters and pointy wood tips stabbing or scratching your tortoise. Sure, you can minimize the risk by assessing and perfecting the end result, but you can never eliminate it.
  • Rogue nails or screws – It’s easy to leave behind a variety of imperfections when creating your personalized tortoise table. The rogue tip of a nail or screw can easily scratch your tortoise’s sensitive skin, leading to infections along the way. Perfection is easier to achieve in theory than in practice.

I say always go for professional tortoise tables that you can purchase either from standard reptile shops or from professional sellers.

Make sure that the seller is qualified to execute such items and check its profile for reviews and feedback.

Heating and Lighting Requirements

We're home!

The table of choice should provide adequate room for proper heating and lighting. A standard reptile bulb can cover both needs in most cases, depending on your tortoise’s species and its requirements. Ideally, you want an extensible lightbulb support that you can mount on the outside.

This is to prevent the reptile from touching the support or getting stuck in the wiring.

Force the light into one location to produce the necessary basking area, which should occupy approximately 10-15% of the total surface area at most.

Ventilation Considerations

Tortoise tables are typically the most well-ventilated types of terrariums available. That’s thanks to the large and open surface area, providing your tortoise with free access to fresh air. However, you should also consider the environmental humidity along the way.

There’s no doubt that shallow terrariums with large open areas retain far less humidity compared to taller ones that also come with lids. Tortoises require varying humidity levels depending on the species and their age, among other factors.

Most species are fine with a humidity level of 50-60%, but this can vary based on the factors I just mentioned.

The lack of adequate humidity can cause respiratory and skin issues, as well as dehydration in more severe cases.

Because it is considerably more difficult to maintain proper humidity in a tortoise table, you need more active involvement to overcome the hurdles.

Here are some tips in this sense:

  • A water bowl – To be frank, a water bowl is necessary for your tortoise, no matter the type of enclosure you’re going for. Tortoises need to drink and bathe occasionally to maintain their body temperature and humidity levels. The water bowl also evaporates water into the air, increasing local humidity gradually.
  • Use the right substrate – Soil, coconut coir, or sphagnum moss are all great options for your tortoise in terms of comfort and humidity-retaining properties.
  • Spray and spray some more – This is necessary to perform from time to time, especially if humidity levels drop too much.

Finally, get a hygrometer to measure your tortoise table’s humidity meter. This lets you detect any humidity swings in real time so you can immediately adjust the issue.

P.S. Don’t cover the table with a makeshift lid to increase humidity levels. Tortoises also require adequate ventilation to keep humidity levels in check. If humidity increases too much, your reptiles may develop respiratory or skin-related problems.

Accessories and Equipment

Coming down

Depending on the tortoise table you’re getting, you have a variety of accessories and equipment to consider along the way.

These can make the difference between cheap and more expensive pieces. Fortunately, many of these accessories have aesthetic value, so they’re not quite essential.

For instance, some tables come with top grates covering the entire area to prevent anything from falling inside. This is especially useful if you have various house pets that could hurt or stress your tortoise.

Other pieces come with a horizontal rail line traversing the enclosure that you can use to support the lighting system for a natural top-down basking spot.

Other tables come with personalized hiding areas of various sizes and shapes and with different aesthetics. These can make quite the difference, depending on your tortoise’s size and your preferences.

Price Range

The price range is also something to consider, depending on your finances. Whether you want to go for a simpler and cheaper piece, ranging between $50 and $150, or aim higher at $200-400, there’s something for everyone.

The cheapest items are usually plastic or glass, while the more expensive ones include wood or multiple materials for different areas.

The price range can vary for tortoise tables based on the size, materials used, layout, and craftmanship.

Custom-made, high-grade tortoise tables can reach as much as $500 or more per piece, depending on the seller and the item itself.

The idea is to value to item’s useful features and leave the aesthetics for last. You should care more about your pet’s safety and comfort above all else.

Setting Up a Tortoise Table

Now that your table has arrived, it’s time to set it up properly.

To do that, you need to consider the following:

  • The location – Place the table in a secure location with stable temperatures. You want the environmental temperature to reach that of the tortoise’s comfort zone with you providing the basking area. Keep the table out of direct sunlight, as this can cause the turtle to overheat and experience temperature shock or dehydration. Or both.
  • Mount the equipment – You must first establish the proper layout to determine the main dwelling zone, the basking spot, the hideout, the feeding spot, etc. With that out of the way, you should begin mounting the necessary equipment. This includes the thermometer, the hygrometer, and the lighting source. Keep them out of your tortoise’s reach as much as possible.
  • Mount the decorations – You want your tortoise to feel comfortable and at home in its new enclosure. This means decorating the habitat properly with plants, rocks, various toys, proper bedding, some bark, and whatever else you might find in the animal’s natural habitat. Just make sure you don’t clutter the enclosure too much, as this can interfere with the animal’s ability to move around its ecosystem freely.

With that completed, you can now move the tortoise into its new home and monitor its activity for a couple of days. See whether the reptile can adapt to its new home seamlessly or whether there’s something bothering it.

You can redecorate the entire setup according to your pet’s preferences until it appears happy and comfy.

Maintenance Tips for Tortoise Tables

Tortoise tables require just as much maintenance as any other type of terrarium.

The difference is that the table’s layout and structure allow for simpler and easier maintenance and cleaning.

Consider the following tips:

  1. Maintaining regular hygiene – This refers to a standard, everyday cleaning to prevent bacteria buildup and ensure a base hygiene level. Remove food leftovers and feces, and clean and disinfect urine traces to keep the turtle’s habitat clean and healthy.
  2. General cleaning – No matter how thorough you are with the short cleaning sessions, you still need to perform general cleaning from time to time. This involves removing the tortoise from the enclosure, taking out the decorations and equipment, and cleaning and disinfecting everything. You should also replace the substrate entirely to eliminate the risk of bacteria buildup due to urine soaking the bedding with time.

Other than that, there are no special cleaning requirements to be aware of.


Tortoise tables are an amazing alternative to standard glass terrariums, especially thanks to the ease of use and great potential for personalization.

Find the right piece, decorate it to your and your pet’s heart’s content, and you’re good to go.

Robert from ReptileJam

Hey, I'm Robert, and I have a true passion for reptiles that began when I was just 10 years old. My parents bought me my first pet snake as a birthday present, which sparked my interest in learning more about them. read more...