Tortoises can live for a very long time. In fact, they are one of the longest-living pets that someone can get. If properly cared for, most tortoises can live to be 75 years old, and some species can live for longer than that. With such a long lifespan, tortoises are a considerable time commitment which begs the question, what is the best age to buy a tortoise?
You should not buy a tortoise that is less than three months old, and no reputable company would sell such a young tortoise. The best age to buy a tortoise would be six months and older. This will allow the tortoise to get into a routine of eating and drinking to live a long and healthy life.
Many people want to buy pets when they are young. Everyone loves puppies and kittens and similarly aged animals. With tortoises, does that philosophy hold up? There are a few things to consider when you are looking to get your first tortoise regarding their age.
Consider Hatchling Failure Syndrome
Before you rush in and try and get a baby tortoise from a breeder or local pet store, you need to read up on Hatchling Failure Syndrome. This is a blanket term that applies to baby tortoises that do not thrive when they are in their youngest days.
This could be caused by environmental factors, nutritional issues, or illness. If a baby tortoise comes down with Hatchling Failure Syndrome, it can be very difficult to get them back to normal, and the result is frequently death of the hatchling.
What Causes Hatchling Failure Syndrome?
There are no concrete causes of Hatchling Failure Syndrome, but the symptoms are well documented. The symptoms include lethargy, loss of appetite, refusal to soak or bask, and softshell. Some people think that the loss of a hatchling is sometimes unavoidable. Many animals have a high infant death rate, and tortoises could simply be a species that suffers from this.
Other people say that it is entirely caused by failure to give proper care to a hatchling. Baby animals, including baby humans, chicks, puppies, and others, all require a high level of care and understanding. When animals are very young, it can be extremely difficult for them to recover from lousy nutrition or poor environmental conditions.
Suppose you are going to get a hatchling. In that case, it is best to be extremely confident in your knowledge and understanding of their needs, and you have to be attuned to the slightest change in behavior or health in order to head off Hatchling Failure Syndrome.
Is Hatchling Failure Syndrome Common?
If the environmental conditions are correct, Hatchling Failure Syndrome is not common at all. Baby tortoises are extremely sensitive to their diet, water intake, foreign parasites, humidity, and heat. If you have all of those factors calibrated to suit a hatchling, failure should not occur.
If the environment gets out of sorts, or the diet is out of balance, then hatchling syndrome can become very common. Once a hatchling starts feeling ill, they stop eating and drinking and basking, which can put the tortoise on a path that is hard to recover from. Once it doesn’t get enough food and water and sun, it becomes weaker, making it harder to get food, water, and sun. It becomes a negative feedback loop.
If you can identify and fix any issues as soon as they happen, failure should never be a common occurrence.
Buying an Older Tortoise
Suppose the idea of having a hatchling go bad on you makes you want to consider getting an older tortoise; that is perfectly understandable. There are often times tortoises for sale that are a year or two old if not older. Buying an older tortoise is just fine, and in many cases, easier and preferable to buying hatchlings.
An older tortoise has much less of a chance to become ill, and they do not require as much knowledge or care to make happy as hatchlings do. Since tortoises do not bond or require training like cats and dogs, there is little risk of missing out on those formative years as other pets.
If you are looking to get an older tortoise but cannot find any for sale from breeders or a local pet store, you can always look online for people trying to rehome their tortoises. Sometimes those come with a rehoming fee, which is simply a price to buy a tortoise from a private owner, but they can be purchased that way as well.
Best Age to Buy?
This really comes down to personal preference. If you are an experienced reptile owner who is confident in their ability to care for and watch a hatchling, then a baby tortoise might be for you. Just know that if you get a hatchling, your pet tortoise could live to be 80 years old and very well might outlive you. It could be a lifetime commitment.
If you do not want a hatchling, you can find tortoises of all ages. Adolescent tortoises run anywhere from a year to ten years old and could be a great age to buy. Older tortoises might be twenty-five, thirty, or more years old and might need a new home to live out the last half of its life.
Since tortoises are so easygoing and relatively stoic in their behavior and demeanor, the difference between a two-year-old tortoise and a twenty-year-old tortoise could be negligible.
The most important thing is to get a tortoise that you feel most comfortable with. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t get a hatchling. If you don’t want to own a tortoise for the next fifty years, don’t get an adolescent and so forth.
Can You Rehome a Tortoise?
Yes, absolutely. Since tortoises live for such a long time, rehoming an older tortoise is a very common occurrence. Sometimes things come up in life, and the ability to keep a tortoise for decades on end is not always feasible. If cared for properly, tortoises are very adaptable and easygoing. They are not super social and do not need to be rehomed with other tortoises to be happy.
As long as the person on the receiving end is prepared and set up to care for an older tortoise upon its arrival, there is no reason why it cannot be rehomed to a new dedicated owner. This is far preferable to releasing a tortoise or putting it down because you can no longer care for it. It is not the tortoises’ fault that they live to be so old!
Don’t fall into the trap of buying a young tortoise; if someone is offering you a tortoise three months or younger, you will want to avoid them.
The older the tortoise, the less likely you will have to deal with hatchling failure, and it will be much easier to spot an ill tortoise that is older.
Rehoming can be a wonderful gift that you can offer a tortoise. A tortoise lives a long life and can and do at times outlive its owners.