Do Tortoises See in the Dark

Do Tortoises See in the Dark? Do Tortoises Have Night Vision

Tortoises are fascinating creatures, and my tortoises don’t stop giving me discoveries with their little quarks. My tortoises often sleep during the night, and my thought was tortoises are nocturnal, so this was perfectly normal. It wasn’t till I caught my tortoise wandering around their enclosure in the middle of the night in complete darkness. Seeing this had me wondering if tortoises can see in the dark and do they have night vision. 

Yes, Tortoises can see in the dark they have excellent night vision. Tortoises have a vast amount of rod cells in their eye’s retina compared to humans and many other reptiles. The number of rod cells in their eyes allows them to be very sensitive to light and see in the dark. 

To say this come as a shock to me when I first discovered that my tortoise could see in the dark was an understatement. Tortoises are amazing creatures that have outlived the dinosaur; we look at the senses that have kept them going. 

Do Tortoises Have Night Vision?

Tortoises are versatile reptiles that are found in many different environments around the world. You can see tortoises in the desert to the floor of rainforests. We also keep these versatile reptiles as domestic pets, and they thrive perfectly well. 

As most tortoises are found in the wild, it would be reasonable to assume that they have some kind of night vision. Your assumptions would be correct; a tortoise has excellent night vision. 

In the wild, tortoises have their shell as protection and tend to hunker down during the night as temperatures drop. However, there can be times when they need to move about, and their vision does a great idea of helping them around. The shell is excellent protection but moving at times may be a must to escape danger, and their sight will allow them to navigate in the dark. 

Tortoises have been around since the dinosaurs; they have been able to adapt to the ever-changing world. Their eyesight is one thing that has kept them from becoming easy prey, allowing them to move throughout the night when predators can’t see. 

How Does a Tortoise’s Night Vision Work?

Now we know that tortoises have excellent night vision and see how a tortoise has such excellent night vision. 

Human eyes have rod cells that allow us to have some night vision. However, when compared to a tortoise, we have very few rod cells. The amount of rod cells a tortoise has in their retinas far outweighs what we have. Allowing tortoise to be much more sensitive to light and see in the dark.

Due to the number of rod cells the tortoise eyes contain, they can see during the night just as they would during the day. 

Having the ability to see during the night allows them to find food during the night when predators are much less prolific. The vision also will enable them to spot predators to make a hasty escape quickly. Tortoises move slowly, so have such excellent sight gives them a great advantage. 

Rod cells are photoreceptors located in the eye’s retina. When looking at an eye, you see a black circle; this what gathers all the light. The black ring contains lots of rods; the more rods, the better the night vision. The tortoise has lots of these rods cells allowing them to see low light conditions during the night. 

Do tortoises need light at night?

No tortoises don’t need light during the night; in most instances, a tortoise will hunker down and sleep as the temperature lowers. If they ever need to move around during the night, they have excellent night vision and will not require a light. 

How Strong Is a Tortoise’s Night Vision?

Tortoises can see during the night and are excellent as we have discovered. Even though tortoises can see during the night it doesn’t necessarily mean their sight is as sharp as their day vision. 

Your tortoise night vision is sharp however not as sharp as their daytime vision. The night vision ability is also very rarely used due to tortoise preferring to hunker down and sleep during the night as temperature drop. Tortoises are cold-blooded so much prefer to find shelter and warmth during the night and rarely use their night vision.

The biggest reason that their night vision is not as sharp as the day vision is due to lack of use. 

Tortoises have the ability to use their night vision but rarely do as they don’t have to due to them being diurnal animals. Meaning that they are more active during the day as this is when they can better operate. 

Tortoise’s Sense Of Sight

Knowing our tortoises have excellent night vision may have you wondering how good their sight is during the day. Tortoises have incredible sight during the day, just as they do during the nights.

Tortoise sight is excellent, but there are some limitations to this incredible sight. As they move, they tend to look down at the floor and only in front. While this is great for finding food in their path, predators are another thing, and they need to use their hearing to spot them quickly.

The other reason tortoises only look directly in front of themselves is where their eyes are located. The eyes being on the side of the head would mean the tortoise would need to strain to look around.

Do Tortoises See In Color

Yes, tortoises see in color; the tortoise can see a full-color spectrum of color from ultraviolet to red. They are more sensitive to bright colors and love reds and will go for chop-on strawberries or people’s toes with red nail polish. The sight allows them to pick out flowers and blossoms in the wild. 

The excellent vision allows them to quickly and effectively find food throughout the day and night. 

What Color are tortoise’s eyes?

tortoise’s eyes

Tortoises that are kept in captivity, along with their wild counterparts, have bright black eyes. The reason tortoises have bright black eyes is due to the number of rod cells they contain. The rod cells allow tortoises to have such excellent sight both during the day and night. 

What are the Senses Of a Tortoise

Tortoises are slow-moving reptiles, and it would be believed that they would be an easy target in the wild for predators. We know tortoises have been around since the dinosaur, so we know this is not the case there excellent eyesight is a big reason for their survival. But what other senses do tortoises have, and how do they stack up to their sight?

  • Sight – Tortoise sight is excellent and they can see very well in both the day and night. 
  • Hearing – Tortoise hearing is not their best sense in that they can hear somethings but don’t use their hearing all that much. The tortoise hearing is mainly used to listen to their young or the opposite sex. Their hearing is best as lower frequencies that humans can’t hear. People often wonder can tortoise listen to music we have a full guide on this.
  • Vibrations – Tortoises use vibrations to sense pray that is coming toward them and their vibration senses are ultra-sensitive. 
  • Smell – The tortoise has small holes, called ‘nares’ used for both breathing and smelling through. The tortoise has a pretty sensitive smell to foods and allows them to pick out scented flowers from a distance.
  • Intelligence – The tortoise has a high intelligence level and is thought to be on the same level as the white rat. Tortoises can learn and remember things with their intelligence level. 


Tortoises have excellent night vision abilities as they have a large number of rod cells within their retinas in the eyes. 

Their night vision is not as sharp as their daytime vision but is much better than many other reptiles. Your tortoise will not often use its night vision ability however don’t be surprised if you wake up to your tortoise wandering around their enclosure. 

Tortoises have many senses that they use with sight and vibration being their greatest asset in escaping danger. Their intelligence allows them to learn about different sounds and smells to feed themselves and keep them safe from enemies.

A tortoise is an amazing animal that you can have in your own home. When you start to learn about their amazing senses they become even more fascinating.