Marginated Tortoise

The Marginated Tortoise is a truly beautiful animal that is becoming an increasingly popular pet because of its prolific breeding in captivity and ease of care. This is the largest species of Mediterranean tortoise and can grow to 14 inches and wider, but usually stays around 12 inches. They make great pets for first-time owners, but keep in mind that these animals have very long life spans and do come with a lot of responsibility.

We’ve put together the following care sheet to help first-time owners get all the basic information they might need to care for one of these critters, but remember that there’s always more to learn! Before bringing home a majestic creature like this, you should always thoroughly research what is involved. Read on for a basic outline of caring for these beautiful turtles!


Quick Facts About Marginated Tortoises

Species Name: Testudo marginata
Family: Testudinidae
Treatment Level: Currently
Temperature: 90 degree Fahrenheit basking lamp
Temperament: Submissive, friendly, tough
Color Shape: Black carapace with yellow highlights
Lifetime: 20-100 years or more
Size: 12-14 inches
Diet: herbivore
Minimum Tank Size: 15 × 25 feet
Suitability: Better to keep it to yourself

Overview of the Marginalized Tortoise

Margination tortoises are native to mainly southern Greece and Italy, but there are also some isolated populations on neighboring islands. Their natural habitat consists of dry scrub, forests and hillsides. They are tough animals that can adapt well to new environments, as evidenced by the population found at altitudes as high as 5,000 feet! In their natural habitat, they survive hot, humid summers and icy winters with ease, using their black shells to absorb heat from the sun. They hibernate in the wild, but the length of hibernation varies depending on their location.

What is the Price of a Marginated Tortoise?

Marginated tortoises are easy to breed in captivity and are found easily throughout the United States. Prices can vary depending on their age and on the particular breeder, but you can expect to pay between $200-$500 for hatchlings.

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Typical Behavior & Temperament

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Appearance & Variety

The Margination Tortoise gets its name from the back scales of its shell that expand like a skirt. Juveniles usually have contrasting black and white shells, but these fade to a green/black color over time, punctuated by creamy yellow highlights. It has a large black head with a pointed snout and powerful jaws and hefty legs with thick, sharp claws.

The hatchlings have a beautiful shell, almost white to cream in color, with brown edges on each scale that gradually darken with age.


How to Take Care of a Marginated Tortoise

Indoor housing

Marginated tortoises can be successfully housed indoors with the right equipment. Teens and small babies can be placed in small plastic tubs that are at least 3 square feet in area as they need space to explore and for the right temperature gradient. They will need a substrate about 2 inches deep, consisting of coconut fiber or peat moss, with soft straw on top. This will allow for digging and should be kept moist to maintain moisture, but not saturate.

Tortoises like hiding places that are small and cramped, so you should give them ceramic caves, flat rocks, and even flat logs. It is important to note that you should avoid using sand as a substrate indoors as it can stick to their food and get into their eyes. Indoor turtles will need strong lighting to ensure they stay healthy. They will need a temperature of 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit to bask in, but the rest of their tank should be at room temperature. They need humidity, but keep it below 60% to avoid breathing problems.

Outdoor housing

Once your tortoise reaches a length of about 4 inches, it can live happily outside. Outdoor housing is a better choice for these animals because it allows them to have as much space to roam and live as naturally as possible, and they require much less care this way. Plus, they’ll love the sunshine and fresh air! Feeding is also much easier outdoors, as you can grow food crops that are an almost constant source of nutrients.

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The larger the cage you can provide them with, the better, and 15×25 feet is a good rule of thumb and can handle many adults. Choose a spot that will provide them with plenty of sun during the winter and shade during the hotter summer months. Grow edible grass and plants for them to eat.

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Do Marginated Tortoises Make Friends With Other Pets?

In the wild, Margination Tortoises live mostly solitary and only congregate when breeding. Even young turtles live alone because the female guards the nest but does not raise her young. Male tortoises kept together are more likely to fight, especially if there are females around, so they are best kept alone. If you wish to have more than one tortoise, it is a good idea to get one male and several females to prevent fighting, but this is still not a guarantee of peace!

One important thing is that you should never keep Marginated Tortoises with other species because of the possibility of getting sick. Some organisms or parasites may be harmless to one species but fatal to another, so don’t take any chances. However, turtles of the same species raised together from hatchlings will generally get along well into adulthood.


What Feeds Your Marginalized Tortoise?

Marginated tortoises are herbivores and eat a diet consisting of green leafy vegetables, grass, and various flowers. Their diet should be low in protein and high in fiber and calcium to stay healthy. Avoid giving your tortoise too many fruits or vegetables as these lack sufficient fiber and contain too much sugar for the tortoise. Weeds and flowers that can grow naturally in the garden, such as dandelion, clover, and thistle, are ideal.

In general, you should feed your tortoise about 80% or more green leafy vegetables and about 5-10% fruits and vegetables.

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Keeping Your Marginal Tortoise Healthy

The easiest way to assess the health of your tortoise is the condition of its shell or carapace. The top of the shell must be firm and smooth and free from cracks or soft spots. Tortoises have a tough, tough skin that always looks wrinkled and dry, so if it looks damp, there may be too much moisture or humidity in their habitat. Also, check their eyes for dirt or dryness, as both can indicate a health problem.

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Turtles are known to suffer from respiratory infections, so they shouldn’t have too much moisture in their cages. They can also suffer from common infections and parasites, all of which can be avoided with a clean cage and a healthy balanced diet. These tortoises can live for 100 years or more under the right conditions, so they are generally healthy and strong animals.


Breeding Marginated Tortoises in captivity is relatively easy, and keeping males and females together naturally will result in breeding without much intervention on your part. However, there are important things to consider and plan, and breeding is best left to experienced breeders.

Females will need a nesting box or hole in which they can lay their eggs, which can vary from 3-12 eggs at a time. They may hatch naturally in a box or burrow, but it is best to remove the eggs and incubate them yourself for more successful hatchlings. They usually begin to hatch after 60-75 days.


Is Marginal Tortoise Right for You?

Marginated Tortoises are very interesting creatures that are fun to keep and observe. They are easy to care for and have few special requirements, making them ideal for beginners and children. That said, these tortoises have incredibly long life spans — up to 100 years or more, in some cases — so they are a huge liability.

If you have an open space and want a tame but unique pet to decorate your yard, the Margination Tortoise is a lovely, gentle and docile creature to have.

Featured Image Credit: Joel Mathey, Unsplash

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