How to Know the Age of a Tortoise (With Pictures)

When you have a pet, you usually want to know all you can about it. Some things you may wonder about your pet are trivial, but others can go a long way in caring for your best friend. For example, if you can determine the age of your pet, you may be able to guess how long it will be a part of your life, based on the species’ average lifespan in captivity. That’s good enough reason to want to know your pet’s age, but you might also use this information when deciding how much to feed your pet or figuring out how big a cage you might need when he’s grown.

For many pets, there is a relatively easy way to guess the age of the animal. Turtles, on the other hand, are a little more difficult to measure accurately. However, there are ways you can at least do it at the ballpark, and there is one way to know for sure how old your tortoise is. If you want to know how old your tortoise is, keep reading.


The most accurate way to determine the age of a turtle

Desert box turtle_Creeping Things_Shutterstock

If you really want to know the age of your tortoise, there is one way to be sure. This method is completely accurate and is the only reliable method available for determining the exact age of any turtle. To use this method, you must be there when the turtle is born!

Knowing your tortoise’s date of birth is by far the most accurate way to determine your tortoise’s age, as you simply count the years and months since it was born. Unfortunately, this is also the only way to be absolutely sure how old a turtle is. This is the only reliable method, as all other methods involve some sort of conjecture.

READ ALSO:   5 Mexican Dog Breeds

Of course, if you already own a tortoise and you are not there to witness its birth, this method will not be of much use to you. Fortunately, there are several ways for you to guess the age of your tortoise, which we’ll cover next.

Measure Your Turtle to Guess Its Age

Even experts cannot accurately determine the age of a turtle if they do not know for sure when it was born. However, if you are measuring a turtle, you can use the species standard to make an accurate estimate of how old the turtle is.

When measuring a turtle, you will be measuring the length of its carapace. This simply means that you will measure from the front of the shell with the turtle’s head to the back with the tail. Once you know the length of the turtle’s carapace, you should compare it to the size chart for the specific turtle species. You should find a size chart that matches your turtle species. Different species can reach very different sizes, so if you compare the size of your turtle with size tables for different species, you will get very inaccurate results.

Do Rings in Bark Count Years Like Tree Rings?

If you look at the top of your turtle’s shell, you may notice that there is a ring on the carapace. Many people believe that these rings can be counted to determine the age of a tortoise, much like counting the rings inside a tree trunk to find out how old a tree is.

While ring counting may work for trees, it’s not an accurate method of figuring out a turtle’s age. Indeed, the more rings a tortoise has on each part of its carapace, the older the tortoise is. The problem is that there is no uniformity in the rings; they are not equal to the specified amount of time. Each ring can represent a different length of time. If the tortoise is not in good health for certain periods of time, the rings may not form, and many rings can form rapidly during other times in the turtle’s life.

READ ALSO:   11 Guard Dog Breeds That Don't Spill (With Pictures)

Ask for a Professional Opinion

If you’ve been trying to measure your tortoise but still aren’t sure you’ve got an accurate and satisfactory age, it may be time to ask someone with a little more experience in this matter. You should find a veterinarian who specializes in reptiles and amphibians and has a lot of experience with them. Such a professional may be able to give you more insight into the age of your tortoise than you could muster on your own. With luck, they have dealt with many specimens of the same species in the past and may have a deeper knowledge of the subject than you can gain through a few minutes of internet research.

eastern square turtle_mcahzeb, Pixabay

How to tell if your turtle is male or female

Once you know the age of your tortoise, you can decide that you want to find out its gender. Unfortunately, just like determining its age, figuring out the sex of your tortoise can be quite difficult. When turtles are young, they don’t show many physical traits to distinguish the sexes. Sexually mature tortoises are much easier to have sex with because they are fully developed.

In many species of turtles, males have indentations in their undershells that can help distinguish them from females. In some water turtles, including the ever-popular red-eared tortoise, males have long hooves on the forelegs, unlike females, which have very short forelimbs. Female red-eared sliders also tend to be larger, giving you a second indication of the sex of your tortoise, although this is not the case with all turtle species.

READ ALSO:   Colic in Horses: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

If you can compare several tortoises, the males usually have fatter and longer tails. Their ventilation is also closer to the end of their story compared to women.

  • Also Read: Can Turtles See In The Dark? What you need to know!



There are many reasons why you might want to know the age of your tortoise, including guessing its potential age and measuring appropriate food rations. Too bad it’s so hard to know how old a turtle is! Unless you know when a turtle was born, it can be very difficult to determine its age accurately. However, you can make a semi-accurate guess based on the carapace measurements compared to the size chart for the species. It’s not the most reliable method, but at least it will get you in the right ballpark!

  • Next on your reading list: How Long Do Turtles Live? (Mean Age Data & Facts)

Featured Image Credit: Ryan M. Bolton, Shutterstock