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Tortoise advice?

(8 Posts)
Marne Sun 04-Nov-12 17:31:06

Hi, i'm looking at getting a tortoise as a pet, its one of the only animals i have never had so i'm looking for advice on what sort of housing it would need, do they need a heater? and whats the best things to feed it?

maddiemostmerry Sun 04-Nov-12 17:46:58

Hi Marne,

We have a Hermanns tortioise, about 11 years old They can only be sold with their papers to prove they have been bred in captivity.

You will need a large vivarium as they grow pretty big. They also spend quite a lot of time in it due to uk climate. A flourescent light, heat lamp and heat pad. We use hemp bedding.

Outside we have a large enclosure with a small shelter in it. My aunt lets hers free range around the garden but they do tend to bury themselves. We also have a pond so we keep him away from that.

He eats a range of leaves spinach, cabbage etc , is very fond of dandelions, strawberries and baby corn. Ous also eats cucumber, lettuce, broccoli. Drak gren leaf is better than iceberg lettuce. I think clover is toxic to tortoises. He has a supplement, Nutrobal, for calcium and also enjoys cuttle fish.

They are quite expensive for the initial outlay. I think we paid in the region of £500 for tortoise plus equipment 7 years ago.

Don't buy a tiny baby beacause it is cheaper though as surivial rates are poor for tortoises under a year or two old.

Good luck. Our tortoise actually belongs to my 19 year old. He has grown a lot since we got him. He seem to enjoy having his head stroked gently and likes beinh hand fed.

bruffin Sun 04-Nov-12 18:03:07

We have one , but DH has had her for over 40 years and she belonged to someone else before that for a while.
Ours is free range in the garden and usually buries herself when she is ready to hibernate and we bring her into the garage for the winter.
They are the most determined creatures, and if they want to get somewhere they will try and try until they succeed

Marne Sun 04-Nov-12 19:21:36

Thank you, i'm trying to persuade dh into letting me get one smile, my dad has 4 of them that spend the summer living outside and winter in the loft (his are very old, almost 80 years old). We saw some in a pet shop last week but they were probably under 2 years old. Is there anywhere we could rescue one from? (not sure if they come up for re-homing but would love to look into it before we look at buying one).

Nigglenaggle Sun 04-Nov-12 20:44:17

You could contact the Tortoise Trust or Proteus Reptile Rescue. Its worth doing so anyway - the Tortoise Trust is your best stop for up to date info on care. Be a little careful of (well meaning) people with very old tortoises telling you they cope with various diets or conditions - these tortoises were wild caught before it was illegal and thus did most of their growing in the wild with a good calcium balance and lots of natural sunlight. It is in order of magnitude harder to raise one from a hatchling in this country. Also bear in mind that many of the imports did die and the ones which are still alive today are the hard-as-nails survivors.
Rather than a vivarium, you will need a tortoise table with a mesh top as good ventilation is essential. They need a hot and a cold area within the enclosure and a hot spot of around 30c. Thermometers are essential dont try to judge the temperature yourself. A varied diet plus a supplement such as Nutrobal is essential, the diet is the hardest bit to get right, as we don't have the vegetation they would normally eat in this country. For most of the year they need access to an artificial UV light, which needs replacing every 6mths.
Its a massive undertaking to do it properly and answering your question properly is probably beyond anyone in the space we have here. As others have said it is also fairly pricey to set up. They are engaging little pets though so dont let that put you off necessarily, but be prepared to do lots of research smile

Marne Sun 04-Nov-12 21:34:14

Thank you, if i get one it probably wont be until after christmas (so lots of time to look into it).

lazydog Mon 05-Nov-12 04:01:17

Nigglenaggle has given excellent advice. I've kept and bred tortoises for decades. They are fantastic pets but far from low maintenance. Yes, you want a "tortoise table" as opposed to a vivarium and there is absolutely no reason to expect a high mortality rate if you get hatchling(s) as long as setup and diet are optimal. You stand a far better chance of having a long lived tortoise if you personally ensure that it has a good start in life than if it's been given poor care and diet for its first few years by someone who hasn't done their research and then gets rid because they've got bored sad

For the best dietary advice, please do go and have a look at the Tortoise Trust website. This article is a good start and has additional links at the end: and an excellent downloadable free caresheet (which is actually far better than most books on tortoises that you'll find in petstores!) can be found here:

Clover is most definitely not toxic to tortoises, but should only be fed in moderation as it is relatively high in protein for a weed.

Spinach is something that should be fed extremely rarely, if at all. It is extremely high in oxalic acid which binds with calcium, rendering it insoluble and unusable for the tortoise. That can result in metabolic bone disease - a calcium deficiency condition - even if the diet is high in calcium and the items you feed appear to safely achieve the 2:1 (minimum) calcium to phosphorous ratio that we aim for in captive tortoise diets. And because the calcium is accompanied by oxalic acid and so binds to form calcium oxalate, it isn't even just the case that it can't be absorbed - it is actually worse than that in that it can also cause kidney stones and painful deposits of crystalline calcium oxalate in the joints. Not a good staple item at all!

As Nigglenaggle said, there's too much to type on here but I have answered a few similar questions on YahooAnswers in the past and there may be something useful in one of those replies, or something that prompts you to think of a more specific question. Here's one I found that seems to cover a fair bit of extra stuff that I've not touched on in this reply:;_ylt=AoSNasc2yq5MOUcKxErBpS7ty6IX;_ylv=3?qid=20090709055557AAqxiqZ

Wow - Sorry this has turned out so long! blush I'll shut up now...a little bit passionate about tortoises, me grin

SaggyOldClothCatPuss Mon 26-Nov-12 01:21:53

Please please please check out the Tortoise Trust. They provide all of the correct information for proper tortoise care. Sadly, just about everything in Maddies post is incorrect. The TT's main aim is to research, rescue and re educate. They do extensive studies into welfare and behaviour. They have a lovely chat forum where you can get fantastic advice on breeders and other places to source torts from.
Please dont buy from a pet shop. They rarely know what they are doing, and often sell imported torts which have been taken from the wild. Damaging breeding stocks and bringing diseases into the country.

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