A tortoise makes a beautiful companion, but like other exotic animals, they must satisfy their needs to maintain their happiness and health. A tortoise’s lifespan can be very long if adequately cared for; some can live to over 100 years old. This is why you should remember that getting one of these adorable pets will likely be a lifetime commitment, and they may very well outlive you before bringing them into your home. Moreover, you should consider where the tortoise will reside, the conditions it will require, and how much time and attention you can provide before selecting whether or not to have one.
Whether you are going to have a tortoise pet or are simply an animal lover, knowing what you should provide for a tortoise can help you to be the best pet owner. Therefore, this article will guide you with specific things to consider to maintain a tortoise’s health and happiness. Let’s check this out!
All continents, except Australia and Antarctica, are home to tortoises. These reptiles are exclusively terrestrial in nature. They also live on many islands, but because of human habitation, many island populations and species are now extinct. Tortoises can be found in various environments, including wet tropical forests and deserts. Certain tortoise species from wet forest settings are more opportunistic and devour animal stuff. However, most tortoises are vegetarians and eat leaves, flowers, and fruits.
If you want to take your tortoise in captivity, you should mimic the environment close to nature. An enclosure with a volume of at least 50 gallons will be ideal for a fully grown adult tortoise, as they need room to roam. All tortoises also require a screened-lid, well-illuminated, and well-ventilated enclosure. Here are a few things to consider while making a tortoise enclosure:
The substrate is the material that covers the bottom of the tortoise’s habitat. Tortoises require a substrate that is safe and provides a comfortable environment. The substrate should be easy to clean, non-toxic, and mimic the tortoise’s natural environment. Options such as coconut coir, organic topsoil, and cypress mulch are popular choices for tortoise substrate.
Lighting is essential for a tortoise’s health and well-being. Tortoises require exposure to natural sunlight or UVB lighting to maintain good health. UVB lighting helps tortoises produce vitamin D3, which is essential for calcium absorption, shell health, and overall health. The lighting should be on for approximately 12 hours per day and be placed within the habitat to provide a basking area.
Tortoises are ectothermic animals, which means that their body temperature is regulated by their environment. To ensure a tortoise’s health and well-being, it is essential to maintain the heating temperature range within the habitat. The basking area and water temperature should be between 90-100°F, and the temperature at night should be between 70-80°F.
4. Hiding Places
Tortoises require hiding places in their habitat to feel secure and have a place to retreat when they feel threatened. Hiding places can be created using rocks, logs, and other natural materials. They should be positioned in different habitat areas to provide the tortoise with options and prevent overcrowding in one area.
One of the most important aspects of keeping a tortoise is ensuring that it has a proper diet. A well-balanced diet is crucial for the health and longevity of a tortoise, as it provides the nutrients and energy necessary for the growth, development, and maintenance of bodily functions. Let us explain the essential foods your pet tortoise needs for their health.
1. Greens and Vegetables
Tortoises are primarily herbivores and require a diet that is high in greens and vegetables. Dandelion leaves, clover, alfalfa, collard greens, scotch thistle, mustard leaves, and chicory are all excellent choices. Vegetables like carrots, curly kale, red cabbage, celery, cucumber, and bell peppers can also be included in a tortoise’s diet.
Tortoises may consume a wide variety of foods in a single day, so vary their diet and avoid giving them the same item over and over again. It’s important to note that some vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli, contain high levels of oxalates and should be given in moderation or avoided altogether.
While fruits should be given in moderation, they can be a great source of vitamins and minerals for tortoises. Good choices include grapes, pears, apples, peaches, and strawberries. Fruits that are high in sugar, such as mangoes and papayas, should be given sparingly. Too much of the sugar fruits contain will be harmful to them.
3. Calcium and Supplements
You may need to supplement their diet with vitamins and minerals, especially calcium which is vital for their shell. Calcium is essential for the health and development of a tortoise’s bones and shell. Moreover, vitamin supplements can also be helpful, especially for tortoises that do not get enough natural sunlight, which is necessary for the body to produce vitamin D3.
Tortoises need access to fresh, clean water at all times. A shallow dish that is easy to climb into and out of is best. Some tortoises enjoy soaking in their water dish, which can also help with hydration.
Keep the tortoise health
Tortoises are fascinating creatures that have captured the hearts of pet owners worldwide. However, as with any pet, keeping your tortoise healthy requires care and attention. Explore some tips and tricks to help you keep your tortoise healthy and thriving in the following paragraphs.
How often should I take my tortoise to the vet?
Taking your tortoise to the vet regularly is an essential part of keeping your pet healthy. As a general guideline, it’s recommended that you take your tortoise for a check-up with a veterinarian who specializes in reptiles at least once a year. However, depending on your tortoise’s age, health, and specific needs, your veterinarian may recommend more frequent check-ups.
If you notice any changes in your tortoise’s behavior, appetite, or overall health, it’s essential to schedule a veterinary appointment right away. Signs of illness in tortoises can include lethargy, loss of appetite, runny nose or eyes, shell discoloration, and difficulty breathing. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and seek veterinary attention promptly.
What can I do if my tortoise is sick or injured?
Whenever you have any reason to believe your tortoise may have become ill or been hurt, you should seek emergency medical attention from a veterinarian (ideally, one who is experienced with reptiles). Your tortoise may needlessly die if you don’t address its ailment. If you suspect that your tortoise is sick or injured, it is vital to take action quickly to ensure that they receive the proper care they need. Here are some steps you can take:
a. Observe your tortoise
Take note of any changes in behavior or appearance. Does it seem lethargic, lose appetite, or have any visible wounds or swelling? This information can help your veterinarian in diagnosing the problem.
b. Isolate the tortoise
If you have other tortoises, isolating the sick or injured tortoise is crucial to prevent the spread of illness or injury.
c. Provide a warm and comfortable environment
Keep your tortoise in a warm and humid environment with a basking spot, and ensure that it has access to fresh water and food.
d. Seek veterinary care
Take your tortoise to a veterinarian who specializes in reptiles as soon as possible. They will be able to examine your tortoise and recommend the appropriate treatment.
e. Follow the veterinarian’s instructions
Follow your veterinarian’s instructions carefully, including any medications or treatments they prescribe, and make any necessary adjustments to your tortoise’s environment or diet.
Owning a tortoise is not just about admiring its beauty from afar. In fact, one of the most rewarding aspects of keeping a tortoise is interacting with them on a personal level. From feeding and caring for them to observing their behaviors and personalities, there are many ways to engage with these captivating animals. Let’s explore some different ways you can interact with your tortoise pet to build a strong bond with your shelled friend.
How do you play with a tortoise?
Since each tortoise is unique, they will each have individual preferences. Not all tortoises will enjoy each activity on this list, just as not all people enjoy skydiving or video games. That’s alright! To find out what makes your tortoise the happiest, try a variety of things in the following points!
a. Offer treats
Tortoises love to eat, and offering them their favorite treats can be a great way to interact with them. Some common treats for tortoises include fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens. Just be sure to research what foods are safe and appropriate for your specific type of tortoise.
b. Provide toys
Tortoises may not play with toys like other animals do, but providing them with items to explore and interact with can still be stimulating for them. For example, you could give them a shallow bowl of water to splash in, a large rock to climb on, or a ball to push around.
c. Gently touch and stroke them
Many tortoises enjoy being handled and patted, especially on their neck and head. Be sure to approach them slowly and gently, and pay attention to their body language to make sure they are comfortable with the interaction.
d. Take them outside
If you have a safe and secure outdoor space, taking your tortoise outside to explore can be a great way to provide them with new sights and smells. Just be sure to supervise them closely and protect them from predators.
e. Observe them
Even if your tortoise doesn’t seem interested in playing or interacting with you, simply watching them can be fascinating. Tortoises have unique personalities and behaviors, and observing them can be a great way to learn more about these fantastic creatures.
Hibernation, or torpor, is a natural response to cold weather and limited food availability. During hibernation, a tortoise’s heart rate and breathing slow down, and its body temperature drops. This allows the tortoise to conserve energy and survive for extended periods without eating or drinking. They rely on stored fat reserves to provide energy and hydration.
Tortoises typically begin preparing for hibernation in the fall, when temperatures start to drop. They will begin to eat less and move around less frequently, conserving energy for the winter months. Once the temperature drops below a certain threshold, usually approximately 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit, the tortoise will find a suitable location to hibernate.
In the wild, tortoises may hibernate in a burrow, under leaf litter, or in a rocky crevice. In captivity, they may hibernate in a specially designed hibernation box or in a cool, dark corner of their enclosure. Most tortoises will hibernate for 4-6 months. The desert tortoise may become active and deplete its energy reserves if the temperature rises significantly above 65°F.
Similar to herbivorous lizards, tortoises must eat plant matter to keep their gut physiology in good shape. A significant supply of nutrition for tortoises can come from the microbial fermentation of plant fiber. To ensure that the tortoise gets all the vitamins and minerals it needs, it is crucial to feed it a range of mixed weeds and greens. Remember, the diet of the tortoise should follow recommendations that are high in calcium, high in fiber, low in sugar, low in fat, low in protein, low in phosphorus, and low in oxalate.
As natural vegetative materials are typically high in protein in the pre-seed stage, even though some of that protein is indigestible, diets of tortoises in the wild frequently contain more than 15% protein (dry-matter basis) in plant materials ingested. Little tortoises on pelleted diets can utilize plant fiber well, but they require more frequent feedings than bigger animals. Extruded, pellet or coarsely ground tortoise diets that are properly designed can be used to maintain both small and giant tortoises.
In addition to a complete pelleted food designed for tortoises or other exotic herbivores, larger tortoises, like Aldabra or Galapagos tortoises, can eat grass or alfalfa hay. Since the structure of these tortoises’ mouths prevents them from chewing long hay, hay should be chopped short. You can add shredded carrots, kale, broccoli, green beans, leafy greens (such as romaine, green leaf lettuce, and endive), and green beans to a prepared tortoise diet. These mixtures are sufficient in micronutrients, calcium, and protein; only a small amount of vitamin and mineral supplements need to be added.
Does my tortoise need any supplements?
In essence, yes, supplements must be provided to the daily food of tortoises kept in captivity from the moment they take their first bite. However, depending on how the tortoise is kept, the food it consumes, and, in some situations, the species of tortoise, the type and quantity of supplement needed will vary. Here are some recommended supplements for tortoises.
a. Vitamin D3
Vitamin D3, which is essential for the formation of bone tissue in chelonians, is mainly produced by natural, unfiltered sunlight. Depending on where you live and what species you keep, a vitamin D3 supplement may be needed because the amounts of UVB prevalent in nations like the UK can dip considerably below that necessary for specific species. In a captive environment, it is the sole responsibility of the keeper to guarantee that the diet is comparable to that which would be found in the wild.
One of the most critical nutrients for tortoises is calcium, which keeps their shells solid and unbroken and promotes healthy skeletal development. Further functions of calcium in their overall biological systems include supporting the growth of a healthy neurological system. Calcium carbonate (limestone flour) is by far the purest type of calcium (40 percent calcium) that is readily available for chelonians and contains no phosphorus. It can be distributed as a sprinkle over food, left in mounds for tortoises to devour at their leisure, or even sprayed on a weed bed to feed the plants that are sprouting.
High concentrations of vitamins A, C, and E are found in multivitamins. These greater vitamin concentrations are advantageous during times of stress and illness. Both vitamins A and E aid in the body’s ability to fend off infections. Healthy mucous membranes, such as those in the mouth, lungs, and gut, depend on vitamin A. The immune system has been demonstrated to benefit from vitamin E. When a tortoise is stressed, the body uses vitamin C quickly. Ace High vitamin supplement is an example of a multivitamin that the vet gives when your tortoise is sick.
What type of exercise and enrichment does my tortoise need?
Pet tortoises require a setting that promotes a sound body and mind. While some may refer to these things as toys, others may view them as educational tools. Whatever name they go by, tortoises require a range of engaging items and activities to maintain their wellness. Here are some exercises and enrichment your tortoise needs:
a. Digging and Hiding Activities
Burrowing in the sand and soil is a tortoise’s favorite pastime. Since tortoises are ectothermic, these burrows are perfect places to maintain the warmth and humidity that are necessary. By providing the appropriate substrate in its enclosure, you can encourage your tortoise to dig holes. You should also include conceals like plastic domes, hollowed-out logs, and tunnels. This enables tortoises to play in new places and select hiding places, depending on their mood.
b. Mazes And Puzzles
One of the smartest reptiles is the tortoise. Through positive reinforcement, tortoises can learn and retain new skills for a long time. Because of this, tortoises require puzzles and mazes to complete in order to keep their minds active. In food puzzles, delicacies are buried throughout the tortoise’s enclosure. This motivates it to explore, scale obstacles, and delve into the ground in search of nourishment. It makes your tortoise work for goodies by simulating the foraging behavior it might encounter in the wild.
You may combine this with a maze by placing barriers in the path of your tortoise. Your turtle may have to traverse obstacles like rocks and hides to get to its food. To reach the exit of the maze, your tortoise may have to navigate tiny barriers, other toys, or pieces of furniture. Because flat, even ground is uncommon for wild tortoises to explore, adding difficulty will be welcomed.
c. Food Activities
In the wild, tortoises seldom ever consume the same food every day. You can add some variety by providing flowers, berries, leafy greens, and weeds. Your tortoise will be more interested in its food if it is colorful and flavorful. Tortoises want their food to be vibrant and colorful since they have good color vision and senses of smell.
d. Social Activities
Although tortoises prefer to remain alone, that does not imply that they lack social skills. Tortoises value socialization with neighbors more than roommates. A tortoise can be entertained by interacting with calm pets, other tortoises, and their owners. If you schedule playtimes and handle sessions in intervals, it will feel happier and richer.
Your tortoise will grow more loving as it gets to know you better. To express gratitude, your tortoise might press its nose against your arm or hand. Once the tortoise sees you have returned home from work or school, some may even approach you.
The only native tortoises found in the United States are the gopher and desert tortoises, and they are all protected by either state or federal law. Although it is permissible to keep desert tortoises as pets, there are regulations and rules for doing so. Collecting, possession, sale, or transit are only allowed with extremely specialized authorization. Moreover, releasing captive desert tortoises into the wild is typically prohibited. The majority of states ban the capture of wild desert tortoises for domestication.
Meanwhile, legally confined desert tortoises and their young may be maintained as pets in Arizona, California, and Nevada. However, the pet owner should abide by the regulations of the State Wildlife Board or the relevant Commission and Department/Department governing desert tortoises.
Do I need any permits or licenses to own a tortoise?
The permits and licenses required to own a tortoise depend on the species of tortoise you plan to hold and your location. In some countries or states, certain species of tortoises may be protected or require a permit to keep as pets. For example, in the United States, some tortoises, such as the gopher tortoise and desert tortoise are protected under federal and state law and require permits to keep as pets.
In addition, some areas may require a permit or license to keep any type of tortoise as a pet, while others may not. It is essential to check with your local wildlife or animal control agency to determine the specific laws and regulations in your area.
Owning a tortoise is a long-term commitment that requires careful consideration and planning. In order to provide a suitable environment for your tortoise, you will need to ensure that you have the necessary components in place. These include a spacious habitat that offers a variety of features such as substrate, lighting, temperature regulation, and hiding places. Additionally, a varied diet and a source of fresh water are essential for the tortoise’s health and well-being.
It is essential to research the specific needs of the species of tortoise you plan to own and to consult with a veterinarian who specializes in reptiles. Furthermore, you may need to obtain permits or licenses depending on your location and the species of tortoise you plan to own. By taking the time to carefully prepare for your tortoise’s arrival and providing suitable habitat, you can ensure that your tortoise will thrive and live a long, healthy life.
- Hibernation Blog 4: Waking your tortoise from hibernation
- Hibernation Blog 3: Hibernating your tortoise
- Hibernation Blog 2: Winding down your tortoise
- Hibernation Blog 1: Preparing your boxes to hibernate your tortoise in the fridge
- The Do’s and Don’ts of Hibernation
Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)
What does a tortoise need as a pet?
Being herbivores, tortoises require a diversified, high-fiber diet that is low in fat and protein. These reptiles need UVA/UVB illumination to absorb the calcium in their diet, these reptiles need UVA/UVB illumination. To guarantee proper hydration levels and ensure that it is growing at a healthy rate, your tortoise should be bathed once a week, ideally before eating. It should also be routinely weighed.
What do I need to set up a tortoise?
To set up a tortoise enclosure, a tortoise should live in a sizable enclosure called a tortoise table. Inside the enclosure, a basking area of 30 to 35 degrees Celsius must be supplied, and it should be timed to offer around 12 hours of heat daily. It should be cooler, approximately 20 °C, at the other end of the vivarium.
Are tortoises easy to take care of?
Yes! A tortoise is a low-maintenance pet that is content to be left alone for extended periods, just like a turtle. You don’t need to do much to keep your tortoise content as long as you feed it wholesome food and give it room to wander.
Can tortoises be left alone?
Yes, tortoises can be left alone. Tortoises are content to live alone because they are wild animals, often solitary beings. As tortoises lack social contact, they do not require them for growth and survival in the same ways that other species do.