EBTs are fun, intelligent and full-of-personality. They are easier than some species to keep (if you set them up correctly!), and they are very adaptable to many weather conditions and climates. EBTs are hunters. Providing them a place to stalk bugs, grubs, worms and anything that moves is essential to their happiness.

Housing basics:

Use open-topped tortoise table. Glass tanks are NOT adequate at any size to house turtles/tortoise.
The housing needs of any turtle/tortoise species change as they age.

Hatchling to yearling:

This time period is very difficult and is not recommended for the novice or inexperienced keeper. Northwest Tortoise will not sell or adopt any EBT under the age of one year. For advice see the reading list/resources page.

One to five years:

The Northwest Tortoise starter enclosure is excellent for this time period. Contrary to some existing literature young turtles/tortoises CANNOT be kept the same as adults. Moisture and humidity are VITAL to healthy shell development (unhealthy shell development). The young EBT (regardless of species) need a place to bury in warm, moist substrate. An example of correct and incorrect shell development. See the reading list/resources page for more information.

  • Substrate: provide substrate deep enough to bury completely. Coconut coir and/or peat moss, hardwood mulch, cypress mulch, or organic soil without perlite or additives. Do not use anything that can’t pass through their system to avoid potential gut impactions. Adding leaf litter on top will give more places to hide and burrow. Remoisten/turn as needed.
  • Lighting/heating: UVA/UVB light is a must when kept strictly indoors. Filter the light by using plants, leaf litter or a screen to diffuse it by the time it reaches tortoise level. Remember EBTs do NOT bask! Avoid coiled bulbs as they can irritate eyes. Additionally, a ceramic heat emitter can be used for the warm area.
  • Temperatures: Use a thermometer to monitor both ends of your enclosure. The warm/dark moist area should be 80 – 85F and the cool end area 70F.

Five years to adult:

It is not an exact science or absolute rule that shell development is complete by the age of five years. Through 20+ years of experience, however, and extensive reading this appears to be a general guideline. At this point the turtle/tortoise can be treated like an adult. Expand the size of the enclosure as much as possible. Provide lots of obstacles, plants, shade areas, places to bury, permanent watering area, and lots of opportunities to hunt their own food.


  • Mist the indoor enclosure and the EBT daily.
  • In outdoor enclosures be sure to cap the corners to avoid escaping and cover to prevent predators from getting in. Birds, fox, raccoon’s, cats, dogs, squirrels, etc. are all potential predators.
  • Change up the surroundings monthly! Mentally stimulate your EBT!
  • As you get to know your EBT you’ll find what he likes and doesn’t like. Adapt the enclosure to his needs. The enclosure should be constantly changing to accommodate the needs of your EBT.

Enclosure Ideas