Tortoise

Status
Not open for further replies.

Hannah8881

Junior Guinea Pig
Joined
Jun 30, 2010
Messages
200
Reaction score
50
Points
265
Location
Lincoln, UK
Has anyone got a pet tortoise? I've always wanted a pet tortoise and now I have a bigger house, this is something I can now do. After researching on the Internet I think a Hermann tortoise would suit our family but there is so much conflicting "advice", I do not feel confident that I know enough to keep one yet. If you have a pet tortoise, how do you care for yours?
 

guinea-iggg

Junior Guinea Pig
Joined
Mar 20, 2014
Messages
34
Reaction score
11
Points
155
Location
Northampton, Northamptonshire
We have loads of tortoises. My step dad started with 2 but then they had eggs and they hatched so we have just ended up wirlth a few. But he's sold some to family and friends over the years =) they are quite easy to look after once you have got all the things you need
 

helen105281

Forum Donator 2019/20
Joined
Jan 27, 2010
Messages
18,867
Reaction score
10,498
Points
2,155
Location
Herts
I think the tortoise trust do a course that if you pass it you can then adopt one from them.
 

BonBon2010

Adult Guinea Pig
Joined
Sep 5, 2010
Messages
1,897
Reaction score
844
Points
635
Location
Sunny Hadfield
On of my family members had one.. Still going strong at 50+ years old! No one actually knows the age of him, but no structure will keep him in the garden. Built like a tank he is.
Sadly he's escaped a few times, and disappeared despite having phone number painted down his side.. I think there are confirmations he still exists nearby though ;)
 

Amanda1801

Senior Guinea Pig
Joined
Mar 28, 2011
Messages
8,725
Reaction score
908
Points
845
Location
Bristol, UK
Thanks for tagging me @lisaali :)

Ok, so Hermann's tortoises - they're a good first species to get, they're easier to keep than some of the more "exotic" species. There's two ways of keeping a tortoise - 1) keeping it alive and 2) caring for it well!

You're right in that there is a lot of conflicting info on the Internet, but for a Hermann's, these are the correct basics:

1) Accommodation: A tortoise, (with the exception of a handful of species) should NEVER be kept in a tank or vivarium. They need a good amount of ventilation, and the best indoor enclosure is a tortoise table for a small younger tortoise, or even a shed or converted room for an adult. In the wild, a Hermann's tortoise would live on rocky hillsides in the Mediterranean, and as a result, they're actually pretty agile climbers! You will need to ensure that your tortoise table has adequate height sides to prevent escapees, as they're also pretty determined! They can be allowed to "free range" but only for short periods of time (a tortoise should generally always be warm to the touch unless it's night time - they will bask to warm up, then go off about their business, and after about half an hour, head back to warm up again). They should also be supervised during free range time as again, they like to climb and a every good at escaping/hiding etc. they also dig, so free ranging in a garden with no run is particularly dangerous! Substrate should be sterilised top soil, not sand, bark or anything else! They will ingest these, be it intentionally or accidentally, and become impacted. Enrichment can be provided in the way of rocks ping pong balls, pine cones, plant pots on their side etc.

2) Temperature and lighting: ALL TORTOISES REQUIRE ARTIFICIAL HEATING AND UV-B SOURCES! As I've said, they come from the Mediterranean - our temperatures in the UK are far to low to sustain them at their optimum, and our UV index, even on the sunniest day of the year, isn't high enough to provide what they need. As a result, artificial heat sources and UV light sources are required. Heat should be provided by means of a heat lamp, suspended above the enclosure. Heat mats are useless, as tortoises take in and also sense heat from above (I.e. The sun!) and can burn themselves on heat mats. UV light can be provided by UV Bulbs, either a combination bulb (produces heat and UV light), or by a UV strip bulb with a separate heat lamp. The UV light source will need to be provided from above as well, and if using a strip bulb, should run most of the length of the enclosure. Coiled UV bulbs should be avoided as they can cause eye damage. A temperature gradient should be created, with the hot end temperature is 32-34 degrees, and a cool end temperature of 20-22 degrees. Night time temperatures should not be allowed to drop below 12 degrees. UV strip bulbs will need to be replaced every 6 months regardless of whether they are still working or not, because their UV-B output depletes after 6 months.

3) Water - it's a common myth that tortoises don't need water and that they get all their water requirements from their food. WRONG WRONG WRONG! (And also the reason that mine ended up with bladder stones before I got him!). A large, shallow water dish should be provided within the enclosure, and changed daily for hygiene reasons. Tortoises do drink, they drink via their nose. What they do more commonly however, is climb into their water dish, and take up water via their cloaca (the opening that their bladder, bowel and reproductive tract share). They take water in to the cloaca and flush out their bladder, releasing urates (the solid constituents of urine) - when they're not provided with a suitable water supply to do this in, the urates are retained and form bladder stones. It's also a good idea to "bath" (pop them in a dish of warm water so they are partially submerged but not drowning!) tortoises maybe 2 or 3 times a week if healthy (daily if unwell), to encourage them to flush their bladders out. They will also often be stimulated to pass faeces while in their bath.

4) Food. Absolutely no fruit or veg or meat should be fed to a Hermann's tortoise (or any, bar a handful of fruit eating and omnivorous species). The only time that feeding fruit or veg is advised, is if absolutely necessary to medicate for example, or a small piece of cucumber can be given if dehydrated. Commercial diets should also be avoided. Their diet should be comprised entirely of weeds. Common weeds that grow in your garden! Free food, and the best thing that you can feed them! Some are safe, some are toxic. See below for references. It's daunting to begin with, but start with one weed - most people can identify a dandelion. Then pick another to learn to identify, then another. I walk my dog daily and pick a variety of fresh foods for my tortoise and he has a good daily variation. There are a few "safe" foods can be used in the autumn when weed sources are scarce.

5) supplements - all tortoises require calcium supplementation, and a multivitamin supplement. Calcium can be provided by sprinkling powdered calcium on their food, providing cuttlefish for them to eat, providing chalk blocks for them to eat, or all of the above. A good multivitamin should be provided 2-3 times a week, sprinkled on the food.

6) Hibernation - scary, but natural! It is totally vital that hibernation is carried out correctly, and under YOUR control. A tortoise should never be allowed to hibernate itself. Pre-hibernation, a faecal test should be done to check for worms. This should be done with enough time to treat if necessary and re-test before wind down. A Hermann's tortoise should be of a sufficient weight for their size before hibernating (see Jacksons ratio charts/calculators) and be given the all clear by an experienced tortoise vet.

Wind down is a period of around 4 weeks in which you prepare your tortoise for hibernation. What you want to aim for is EMPTY guts and FULL bladder. A tortoise will hibernate for up to 3 months, if there's anything in their digestive tract, it will rot during hibernation causing a very sick tortoise. If they have an empty bladder, they will likely die of dehydration, as this is essentially their water source. At the beginning of the wind down period, you withdraw all food, this can also include removing substrate from the enclosure as they may start to eat this too! You gradually over the 4 week period, decrease the duration of heat and UV light produced (to mimic the changing of the natural seasons), and increase the frequency of bathing to really hydrate your tortoise.

When completely wound down, it's time to hibernate. This should be done in a very controlled way - temperatures should be monitored at least once a day, if not more frequently, a maximum and minimum thermometer is invaluable (measures the temperature at any given time, but also records the max and min temperature until the point that you reset it). You can use the old fashioned double hibernation box method, but this is often unpredictable as temperatures in the UK fluctuate a lot during the winter months. The most accurate way, that's becoming a lot more popular, is to hibernate them in a fridge - it's an ideal temperature (3-7 degrees), and you have complete control over the temperature. Tortoises are conscious the whole time they're hibernating. If they drop below 3 degrees, they run the risk of freezing (imagine how painful that would be?!) and if their temperature rises above 10 degrees, they will start to wake up and use a huge amount of their remaining energy resources to do so. Once awake, even if early, they should never be allowed to go back into hibernation, as they won't have the energy reserves to cope with another wake up. This is why a lot of tortoises die in hibernation, when temperatures aren't adequately monitored. Their weight should be monitored during hibernation, and if they lose to much, they will need to be woken up. Waking up is easy - take them out the fridge, pop them in their enclosure near, but not under their heat source (they won't be able to move away if too hot), and they will start to stir, and move themselves under their heat lamp when they're ready. When they're holding their head up, they should be bathed so that they can flush their urates out of their bladder, and take on fresh water. They should ideally be eating within 24 hours of waking up and then it's like nothing happened! Food takes 4 weeks to move through them (hence a 4 week wind down period) so you will expect to see their first poo around 4 weeks after they have eaten.

Legalities: Hermann's tortoises are a DEFRA protected species. You should have an A10 certificate from any breeder or seller. By law, a Hermann's tortoise can be gifted, but not sold without a certificate. They should also be microchipped once 100mm in length (or 60mm if using a "mini" microchip).

References:
http://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/site/index.asp great for food info and other stuff too
http://www.tortoisetrust.org good general info
http://www.britishcheloniagroup.org.uk

Please ask if you have any questions! If I don't know the answer, I have a good friend who will know!

I shall dig out some photos of my little guy, my set up etc. :)
 

Amanda1801

Senior Guinea Pig
Joined
Mar 28, 2011
Messages
8,725
Reaction score
908
Points
845
Location
Bristol, UK
So, this is Larry! He's a 6 year old rescued Hermann's, hatched on 01/06/2008. He was taken in by my very good friend while she was a vet student, after he was taken into her training practice and the owner either wasn't willing or able to provide the necessary changes and care to make him better. He had bladder stones and metabolic bone disease as a result of poor husbandry. My friend took him on rather than euthanase him, treated him, and rehomed him - she has since qualified as a vet with a special interest in exotic species (particularly reptiles) and has started a reptile rescue. I've had him since February 2013.



This is where Larry lives - it's a 6' x 4' table, with 9" wooden sides, extended to 18" with the trellis - he learned to climb out of this last week!




An example of one of Larry's meals - they can eat a lot of flowers too! The star is a limestone cake that I made with limestone flour, water and a silicone ice cube tray.


He likes eating!



 

Mother Hubbard

Forum Donator 2019/20
Joined
Nov 13, 2009
Messages
7,174
Reaction score
6,183
Points
1,605
Location
Bewdley, Worcs, England
Those are great photo's Amanda and blimey I didn't know they could climb! How interesting...and the flower feast was wonderful, I hope Larry appreciates you x
 

Amanda1801

Senior Guinea Pig
Joined
Mar 28, 2011
Messages
8,725
Reaction score
908
Points
845
Location
Bristol, UK
A tortoise's shell should be smooth and flat on the bottom, and smooth on the top. A lumpy bumpy shell (called pyramiding) shows uneven growth through poor husbandry. Larry's shell isn't too bad on the top (carapace), but he does have indents on the bottom, either through being poorly incubated as an egg, or through poor husbandry early on in life.



Another of his table showing the heat lamp and UV strip bulb with reflector on top to reflect the rays downwards


Having a bath


Hibernating in the fridge (in a lunch box affectionately named "Larry's Boudoir" on the bottom right)
 

Mother Hubbard

Forum Donator 2019/20
Joined
Nov 13, 2009
Messages
7,174
Reaction score
6,183
Points
1,605
Location
Bewdley, Worcs, England
Hibernating in the fridge...wow that's a whole new world to me....a very dedicated animal person you are! And I notice lots of nice on nom noms for piggies.
 

Amanda1801

Senior Guinea Pig
Joined
Mar 28, 2011
Messages
8,725
Reaction score
908
Points
845
Location
Bristol, UK
Hibernating in the fridge...wow that's a whole new world to me....a very dedicated animal person you are! And I notice lots of nice on nom noms for piggies.
Of course! I don't think I ever took photos of my pig room, will have to do that! They have the biggest room in the house!
 

Hannah8881

Junior Guinea Pig
Joined
Jun 30, 2010
Messages
200
Reaction score
50
Points
265
Location
Lincoln, UK
Wow thank you for all that great info! I am definitely going to check out those reference sites you mentioned :) Larry looks like a very happy chappy so I'll be very happy to follow your advice to the tee!
 

Amanda1801

Senior Guinea Pig
Joined
Mar 28, 2011
Messages
8,725
Reaction score
908
Points
845
Location
Bristol, UK
Wow thank you for all that great info! I am definitely going to check out those reference sites you mentioned :) Larry looks like a very happy chappy so I'll be very happy to follow your advice to the tee!
Once you have everything set up, they're pretty easy to keep. Larry still has a few problems and he's soon going to begin hydrotherapy to help his weak back legs!
 

Hannah8881

Junior Guinea Pig
Joined
Jun 30, 2010
Messages
200
Reaction score
50
Points
265
Location
Lincoln, UK
Once you have everything set up, they're pretty easy to keep. Larry still has a few problems and he's soon going to begin hydrotherapy to help his weak back legs!
Aww poor Larry!

I am planning on making the table top accommodation myself but after looking online, I am totally overwhelmed by the different types of UV-B and heat lamps that are available, I don't even know where to start!
 

Amanda1801

Senior Guinea Pig
Joined
Mar 28, 2011
Messages
8,725
Reaction score
908
Points
845
Location
Bristol, UK
Aww poor Larry!

I am planning on making the table top accommodation myself but after looking online, I am totally overwhelmed by the different types of UV-B and heat lamps that are available, I don't even know where to start!
Personally I prefer a separate heat lamp and uv strip bulb. You ideally want a 10% uv bulb if you get a strip one. a 100W bulb suspended above the enclosure will give adequate heat, you will just need to adjust the height to suit
 

Hannah8881

Junior Guinea Pig
Joined
Jun 30, 2010
Messages
200
Reaction score
50
Points
265
Location
Lincoln, UK
Personally I prefer a separate heat lamp and uv strip bulb. You ideally want a 10% uv bulb if you get a strip one. a 100W bulb suspended above the enclosure will give adequate heat, you will just need to adjust the height to suit
Thanks, that sounds simple enough :soz:
I suppose I shouldn't really be thinking about the lamps until I've built the table! I just want to do everything 100% right. Going to do some more research :)
 

Hannah8881

Junior Guinea Pig
Joined
Jun 30, 2010
Messages
200
Reaction score
50
Points
265
Location
Lincoln, UK
@Amanda1801
Hi Amanda I hope you don't mind me asking you a few questions.
When initially deciding on getting a tortoise, I was going to make a tortoise table and have it set up permanently in our unused garage. He would be put outside everyday in the Summer months and hibernating in the Winter months. Would this be Ok? Also we have a spare fridge in the garage, when he's hibernating, would it be alright to put him in there? Thank you :)
 

Amanda1801

Senior Guinea Pig
Joined
Mar 28, 2011
Messages
8,725
Reaction score
908
Points
845
Location
Bristol, UK
@Amanda1801
Hi Amanda I hope you don't mind me asking you a few questions.
When initially deciding on getting a tortoise, I was going to make a tortoise table and have it set up permanently in our unused garage. He would be put outside everyday in the Summer months and hibernating in the Winter months. Would this be Ok? Also we have a spare fridge in the garage, when he's hibernating, would it be alright to put him in there? Thank you :)
It can go wherever, as long as you can maintain the temperatures. To be honest though, even on a hot summer day, our outside temperatures rarely reach the required 32-34 degree basking temperatures that a Hermann's requires, and our UV index is much lower than their native countries. We've had sunny days this year but mine has only been out for about 20 minutes - he's much better off under his artificial heat and UV bulbs!

You'll also get much more enjoyment out of your future him or her if you them within the house. My dining room is now a tortoise room!

On the subject of hibernation, an old fridge is fine. They shouldn't really be hibernated in your usual fridge but I'd spent a long time monitoring temperatures in mine prior to putting Larry in and it was all hygienically done! All you need for an otherwise empty fridge, is to fill it with bottles of water (2l soft drinks bottles are ideal) so that the temperature is maintained. You'll also need to either keep the seal broken on the door, or open it regularly for fresh oxygen - they're still alive and breathing after all!
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top