The Leopard tortoise is marked as the fourth largest tortoise species in the world. Aside from the size, they also have unique characteristics such as higher domes and pyramid-shaped scutes. Each individual has distinctive markings making this species favorable among reptile enthusiasts.
So how big does a leopard tortoise get? The following is all the information you need to know about leopard tortoises, their size, and how to properly take care of them.
What size do leopard tortoises grow?
Leopard tortoises vary in size depending on their habitat, diet, geographical origin, and gender. On average, a leopard tortoise’s full-grown size is 16 inches (40 cm) measured from head to tail, but some subspecies can reach a more significant size of up to 28 inches (70 cm). A leopard giant subspecies from Ethiopia and Somalia can even grow up to 30 inches. Their weight can also vary. The average weight of a leopard tortoise is around 13 kilograms, but some subspecies can grow up to 40 kilograms (88 pounds).
However, the leopard tortoises for sale can be kept as pets are usually average and have medium sizes. So if you purchase a baby leopard tortoise, don’t expect it to grow into a giant tortoise when they grow up.
How long does it take for a leopard tortoise to get full size?
Leopard tortoises will reach their full size when they reach maturity. The period also varies depending on several factors, including subspecies, gender, and whether they live in the wild or captivity.
Naturally, leopard tortoises reach sexual maturity between 12 and 15 years. Leopard tortoises who live in captivity, however, grow much faster and can reach sexual maturity at the age of 6.
Just like other tortoise species, leopard tortoises grow yearly. You can see a more distinct growth when they are younger. But once they are older, it will be easier to notice since they grow slower, and it is not very visible. However, there are some changes you can see if you take a closer look.
Leopard tortoises grow only a few scutes a year. In contrast, the scutes will expand larger as they grow, creating new ridges on each scute. This makes leopard tortoises unique, and if you are observant enough, you can read their age through their scutes.
Do leopard tortoises grow big?
Yes, they are one of the biggest tortoise species to ever exist. Even the medium size leopard tortoise can still grow up to 16 inches and weigh 13 kilograms. It is still massive compared to other domesticated tortoises. Knowing this information, you must prepare a suitable enclosure to adopt a leopard tortoise. Make sure that the habitat they live in is large enough and that they have enough spaces to roam.
Factor Affecting Leopard Tortoise Growth
Several factors affect leopard tortoise growth. If you want to adopt a leopard tortoise as a pet, you may need to pay attention to some of the factors below:
Leopard tortoises originated throughout Africa. An interesting fact about them, their geographical origin gives them a distinct difference in growth rate and size. Leopard tortoises from south Africa are known to be larger compared to their compeer from the north. Tortoises that are held in captivity also grow at different rates since the habitat they live in affects their growth span.
Their diet has a significant impact on how big adult leopard tortoises get. They feed primarily on grasses, thistles, and succulents. Occasionally, they also munch on bits of bones to get calcium. This is a notable fact to remember since calcium plays a vital role in bone development. Lack of calcium can inhibit their growth potential, so be sure to give them enough calcium in their diet.
As mentioned earlier, their geographical origins also affect their size and growth rate. For example, the Giant South African leopard subspecies can grow up to 24 inches, while leopard tortoises from Ethiopia and Somalia can grow up to 30 inches. Knowing which subspecies your tortoise is from allows you to estimate their size potential and prepare a suitable space for them.
Female leopard tortoises can grow bigger than their male companion. However, this can be different for some subspecies where the male tortoises can grow bigger than the females. If you don’t know how to differentiate the gender, males have concave bellies and larger tails.
5. Sun Exposure
As they originated from a place with abundant sun exposure, ultraviolet light became one of the most critical factors in their development. They must absorb ultraviolet light to gain vitamin D and maintain healthy bones and shells. UV exposure is crucial, significantly, when they are growing before reaching maturity. Lack of UV exposure will affect their overall health dramatically, making them vulnerable to metabolic bone disease.
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How Big Enclosure Does a Leopard Tortoise Need?
Due to their size, leopard tortoises need more space to move freely and grow to their optimum potential. Since they need plenty of sun exposure, an outdoor enclosure would be ideal. You need to prepare an ample space of at least 80 ft² for them to move freely. You also need to try mimicking their natural habitat and provide them with grasses and hay. Don’t forget to provide them with a bathing bowl to bathe and hydrate regularly. They also like to dig, so ensure the enclosure has bare ground as their digging area.
You also need to pay attention to the basking area where the sun shines throughout the day.
Complete the enclosure with a proper and robust fence to keep the predators away.
If it is impossible for you to provide an outdoor enclosure safely, you can also create an indoor section. However, keeping the environment ideal for their health and development may take more effort. The pen should be at least 10 feet big with walls. Place the pen in the warmest area of the house. Add grasses and other organic substrates to mimic their natural habitat. And since it is impossible to get natural sunlight indoors, you need to provide them with lamps and UV lights. If necessary, you may need to add a basking lamp and even a ceramic heater.
Also, pay attention to the temperature. Leopard tortoises cannot tolerate cold temperatures, and the ideal temperature should be between 80-90°F. The humidity rate should be between 40-60% since leopard tortoises don’t prefer high humidity. An enclosure with high humidity may affect their health, making them vulnerable to health problems such as respiratory inflammation and fungal infection causing shell rot. This condition will affect their growth dramatically.
How to Take Care of Leopard Tortoise
To help them thrive and reach their full potential, you need to take good care of them by following the leopard tortoise care guide below.
1. Food and Water
Leopard tortoise’s diet should consist of grass and plant materials with additional proteins and calcium. Grazz can be their primary food every day. However, they also need a variety of vegetables to munch. Some favorable food for leopard tortoises is leafy weeds, clovers, grass hay, dandelions, and succulents.
Leopard tortoises kept indoors may need additional supplements, especially vitamin D and calcium. You can add the calcium portion during mating season and give them an extra 10% portion of food before they enter their brumation period.
Like other tortoises, leopard tortoises don’t enjoy being handled by hand too much. It can make them feel stressed. So make sure to handle them only when necessary, such as moving them when you need to clean their enclosure or perform deep cleaning. Pick the tortoise gently by the side of the shell, and don’t hold them for too long.
You need to keep the environment clean and healthy. An outdoor enclosure requires fewer deep cleaning sessions as it can mimic the natural habitat better. However, you still need to eliminate food waste and change the water daily. On the other hand, the indoor enclosure needs to be deep cleaned more regularly, at least once a month. You need to disinfect the enclosure and check if there is some mold inside. You also need daily check-ins, remove all waste, and change the water with a fresh one. Remember to clean the decorations and basking space. Check the temperature and humidity rate daily to ensure they are comfortable and live happily.
Leopard tortoises are unique, and you may be interested in keeping them as pets. However, they need different treatments compared to other tortoise species. If you are not sure you can provide them with proper treatment and environment, you may need to consider your decision.
Before getting a leopard tortoise as a pet, you must ask the breeder about their origins and subspecies. Ask about everything they need, including how to take proper care of them, including their lifestyle and dietary needs.
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