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Two year old indoor tortoise wanting to hibernate I think?

Posted: 20 Nov 2019, 20:34
by Katrin1980
My daughter has a two year old Herman tortoise called Topsy he lives in a tortoise table with a wire lid, substrate coco cuir, food various lettuce leaves that are allowed via tortoise table info. Bathed every other day in warm water and have recently been putting repto boost in it too.
For the last probably 3-4 weeks he’s been barely coming out of his Hyde and not eating and is very inactive and his eyes look a little sunken. I’ve no clue on how safely to hibernate him and need help advice on what to do?

Pic attached of his enclosure and him.

Re: Two year old indoor tortoise wanting to hibernate I think?

Posted: 20 Nov 2019, 21:28
by Nina
Hi Katrin and thanks for contacting us. This is a very common problem this time of year and it is indeed possible that your tortoise is trying to hibernate. If you haven't had him for a long time and are nervous about hibernating him this year, then you will need to try and keep him awake and alert. How much does he weigh?

It is good that you are bathing him every other day. I can't really tell from the photo if his eyes look sunken or not, but sunken eyes are often a sign of dehydration and I doubt that he is dehydrated if you are bathing him every other day. What are the temperatures in your table (which looks absolutely fine, by the way, so well done!), at the hot end, directly under the light and at the height of the tortoise's shell -- and also at the cooler end? You want to aim for a temp of about 30C directly under the lamp and about 20C at the cool end. A thermometer mounted on a nearby wall won't give you an accurate reading, so do measure it directly under the lamp.

What you need to do is to trick your tortoise into thinking that it is a bright warm summer's day, so as much light as possible and the right temperatures are important. Have a read of our article on keeping a tortoise awake over the winter and see if it seems possible to you -- and do come back with any questions. ... dWuh9Xgq9s

It really is a very common response for a tortoise to want to hibernate, and he could certainly have a short hibernation at two years of age, but my instinct is that as he is so young it might be best to overwinter him if possible.

Just a small point, although lettuce is listed as an acceptable food, it really doesn't have much nourishment in it and should only be fed as part of a wider diet. It's what is known as a 'wet' food, which means it passes through the tortoise's digestive system far too quickly, so while it is not toxic in any way, and is a good way to get water into them in hot weather, it shouldn't be the only food. I'm not sure where you live, but there are still lots of good plants growing outdoors this time of year that you could give him -- plantain, pansies, evening primrose, low growing campanula -- etc., and a mixed diet of those, with a bit of lettuce would be far better for him. If you need more ideas for alternative food, let me know and I can suggest some -- plus there is one commercial food that we would recommend for tortoises and I can suggest that if you feel you need more variety.


Re: Two year old indoor tortoise wanting to hibernate I think?

Posted: 20 Nov 2019, 22:33
by Katrin1980
Hi Nina

Thank you so much for your response. We’ve had him over a year but I’ve not researched hibernation enough to do it to be honest so over wintering him sounds best option. I’ve got seeds from the tortoise trust ready to plant into a tray and put into cage but just haven’t got round to doing it yet. I’d love some advice on the best ready prepped food to give him and is it ok to do the repto boost so often could I do it daily? Should I put him in the bath for 30 mins under the heat lamp as well? Would having more entertainment help or another tortoise?

Re: Two year old indoor tortoise wanting to hibernate I think?

Posted: 20 Nov 2019, 22:55
by Katrin1980
Been looking at getting digital thermometer like attached for either end plus a ceramic heater for bed end can you recommend one with thermostat control please?

Re: Two year old indoor tortoise wanting to hibernate I think?

Posted: 20 Nov 2019, 23:08
by Nina
Hi Katrin,

I think you are probably right to overwinter him this year, so let me know what you think of the suggestions in that article. You can get extra light into the table by using something like one of those bendy desk lamps that is bent so that the light focuses down into the table. If your temperature is correct (and do please measure it at various times of the day), then you don't want more heat -- just more light. You could try takng him out of his sleeping or hiding place several times a day and put him under the lamp. My tortoises usually try to go into hibernation much earlier than I want them to, so I put them under the lamp several times a day. For the first few weeks they head straight back to their sleeping area but after about three weeks they seem to give up and wake up, so be persistent.

Do grow the seeds. It's a good idea to grow the seeds in succession in a series of small trays, so that when the tortoise has eaten everything in one tray the next tray is ready to go in.

I don't think you need to bathe him for that long -- 15 - 20 minutes should be fine, but do make sure that the water stays warm, so either do it under his lamp or if you put the bath somewhere else then just take some water out and add some more warm water as needed.

The only commercial food that we would recommend is Testudo Pre Alpin. It is made completely of alpine flowers and meadow grasses and is a really good food that his not too high in protein (like some commercial foods). You can buy it from the Torts in Need selling page here:, and they also sell other good products and seeds. You can also buy small bags from places like the Shelled Warriors shop ... -261-c.asp and I would get the smallest size they offer as it lasts a very long time (you went the dried mixture and it expands enormously, so you only need a tiny bit at each feeding. He might not take to it at first, but if you mix it with wet lettuce leaves that have been cut up into tiny pieces, so that the new food sticks to the lettuce, he will gradually get used to it. I wouldn't buy any other commercial food -- just Testudo Pre Alpin, although you can buy individual bags of dried weeds from the sites above and they should be fine.

Another tortoise isn't a great idea at the moment, because you won't know what sex your tortoise is (he is almost certainly too small to sex) and if you happen to end up with a male and a female they you will have to separate them because male tortoises make life miserable for females. In the wild they tend to be pretty solitary creatures, although two females can get on very well.

More entertainment is a very good thing, as tortoises get bored if they can see from one end of their table to the other end without interruption. So putting in things that they have to climb over or walk around is always a good idea -- rocks, plants in pots, like spider plants or ornamental grasses, those bendy log things (I think they're called 'fiddle sticks' that you can buy in pet shops -- tortoises love to climb up and over them, or hide inside them. All of that helps. It looked like you've made a hill of substrate in the middle of your table, and that is great -- really nice for him to walk over/around and dig into!

Have just seen your post about the thermometer. Yes something like that is perfect, but you could do even better. I can't see how much yours cost, but the best ones look pretty much like that (a digital display unit and then a probe on the end of a cord that you can hang down into the table to register the temp under the lamp, but you can get ones that have a Max/Min function (where you can see how hot or cold it got since you last re-set the function. Something like this (but you can get them in lots of places) ... ter-tmm105

Oh dear, I've rambled on far too long! I hope that some of this helps or gives you some ideas. I think you're doing a great job with your little one (what is his/her name by the way?).


Re: Two year old indoor tortoise wanting to hibernate I think?

Posted: 21 Nov 2019, 10:02
by Katrin1980
Thank you so much for all your help I really appreciate it. He is name is topsy as when we got him he spent so much tome on his back as was so active.

My plan is to buy a spider plant get the thermometer you recommend and make some more climbing activities and get the food you’ve recommended.

Thank you so very much.