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What’s the difference between a turtle and a tortoise? All tortoises are turtles, but not all turtles are tortoises. The term “tortoise” refers to the land dwelling, non-aquatic turtles. Here’s what you need to know about keeping a tortoise.

Your tortoise cannot swim.

Turtles that can swim look very similar to tortoises, but there are actually significant differences between those turtles and their land dwelling counterparts. You will notice that your tortoise has feet that look like elephant’s feet, and their shell is denser and more dome-shaped than turtles that can swim.

Your tortoise is perfectly happy without an aquarium buddy.

In nature, tortoises tend to be solitary. Even a very young tortoise thrives without the company of other members of its species. That being said, if you would like to keep multiple tortoises in the same aquarium, you can as long as you follow a few guidelines. First, you should only keep tortoises of the same species together so that they do not infect each other with foreign parasites.

You should also avoid combining tortoises of very different sizes in order to prevent dangerous confrontations between them. And you need to be careful to keep the right male-to-female ratio. Never house two male tortoises together. And avoid keeping only one female and one male together so the male does not become overly aggressive. Keeping two or more female tortoises together is generally fine, and keeping one male with two or more females can also work.

Your tortoise’s shell is not just armor.

It turns out your tortoise has nerve endings in its shell and can feel even light touch. The shell is not impervious armor that prevents your tortoise from feeling damage. So don’t handle your tortoise roughly thinking its shell can take it. In fact, your tortoise may enjoy being petted and scratched on its shell.

Eggs in the aquarium do not necessarily mean more tortoises.

Female tortoises can lay eggs even if there is no male around to fertilize them. Usually the tortoise can tell that the eggs are not fertile and will discard them on the surface of their substrate. You can simply remove the unfertilized eggs from the aquarium. If you keep a male with your female tortoises, you may have a female lay fertile eggs. In this case, she will create a nesting area to bury the eggs, and you will need to get information about incubation and egg care.

You must keep a water dish in your tortoise’s aquarium.

Yes, it is true that turtles can extract water from even tiny bits of food, and they are able to conserve water in their hindgut. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to give your tortoise water. Your tortoise is able to excrete urates without the water portion of urine—it comes out looking somewhat like white toothpaste. But just because the tortoise is able to do this does not mean it is good for your exotic pet. Dehydration can lead to serious problems with your tortoise’s renal system.

Get what you need to take care of your tortoise at The Tye-Dyed Iguana.