Tortoise Care

Use this forum to discuss general questions about any aspects of tortoise care.
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argc
Posts: 3
Joined: 07 Feb 2019, 16:48

Tortoise Care

Post by argc » 07 Feb 2019, 17:18

Hi

I have been interested in getting a tortoise for some years now, and at my graduation my grandfather told me at my graduation he wants to get it for me. I was thinking of getting a Horsefield tortoise as I read somewhere that these were the best for new owners, is this right?

However I am a bit in the dark into what I need to get to look after a tortoise.

I was looking at having an indoor enclosure, I have a disability so it would be easier, is this a bad idea? And if I do have an indoor enclosure what do I need to include? I have seen enclosure sets on the tortoise shop (https://www.thetortoiseshop.com/tortois ... e-with-Lid), does this include all I would need? I am choosing one with a lid to make sure the cat doesn't get at the tortoise (he is quite good tho).


Am not sure if I am on the right track or barking up the wrong tree or what. There seems to be so much information out there it is overwhelming! Any information would be gratefully received!

Thank you in advance for any information that can help me!

A

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Nina
Posts: 758
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Tortoise Care

Post by Nina » 07 Feb 2019, 19:32

Hi A, and welcome to The Tortoise Table! First of all congratulations on doing your research before you get your tortoise (so many people don't research well enough and have lots of problems afterwards). That is lovely of your grandfather to offer you a tortoise as a graduation present -- they truly are a pet to last a lifetime (actually, if well cared for they live far longer than most people do).

Horsfield tortoises are a good species for first-time owners, but so are Hermanns. Both species do not get too large and are relatively easy to care for, as long as you know the basic principles of caring for tortoises. Although you can keep a tortoise indoors all year round, it is not the best practice, as they really thrive outdoors, so if you could possibly manage a secure enclosure outside when the weather is nice and warm -- in addition to the indoor enclosure -- that would be ideal.

The set-up that you are looking at from The Tortoise Shop would be OK, but it is very expensive for what it is, and it is not really big enough for when your tortoise grows. What you want is the largest area possible, as tortoises like nothing more than to roam around, and will often get bored when they are confined to a small area. You can make a tortoise table (whatever you do, do not get a glass and wood enclosed vivarium), similar to the one you see in the Tortoise Shop ad from a large dresser drawer, an old set of bookshelves lying on their back with the shelves taken out, or even one of those rabbit/guinea-pig cages (a 4' x 2' one would last for a long time -- something similar to this: https://www.littlepetwarehouse.co.uk/pr ... gLH2PD_BwE
If you can fit a second level into the tortoise table, all the better, as it will give him some additional space to explore -- like this
https://www.happytortoisehabitat.co.uk/ ... -for-sale/

Here is a link to an article on our website on what you need to set up an indoor tortoise table (are you, or is anyone in your family handy with a saw and a bit of wood?) https://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/tor ... FyF07jgq9s

One of the most important things is to ensure that your tortoise has access to a good source of UVB light, and that article will explain a bit about it. Also you need to make sure the temperature is right in the table, as the right temperature is essential for the well being of your tortoise. I could go on, but maybe this is enough for you to read for now and then come back with any questions you might have.

In the meantime, here are links to two good care sheets: one for Horsfields and one for Hermanns. Have a read and let us know what you think. We are happy to help you in any way we can, and please do come back with questions -- that's what we're here for and we'd love to guide you in your journey as a tortoise keeper!
https://www.tortoise-protection-group.o ... 014New.pdf
and
https://www.tortoise-protection-group.o ... 014New.pdf

Finally, it's always best to buy your tortoise from a breeder rather than from a shop. Breeders are usually excellent at giving after care advice and help, they usually charge less than shops, and you might even get to meet the parents of your little tortoise. If we know where you live we can see if there is a breeder in your area.

Nina

argc
Posts: 3
Joined: 07 Feb 2019, 16:48

Re: Tortoise Care

Post by argc » 12 Apr 2019, 17:31

Hi Nina

Thank you for the advice! I love the look of the tables on the Happy Tortoise Habitat, so am going to look at getting one of those!

I understand they need the UVB bulb, is a combination bulb suitable for a tortoise? Or is it better to get a UVB bulb and a basking/heat source?

I'm also a bit confused about what else I need. I understand that a water bowl is needed but have also seen somewhere that a piece of slate is better to put food on, is this right? Is this something I need to source separately?
What is the best substrate material to use? There seem to be so many options and i'm not sure which is best! Please can you advise me on this?
I have also seen that it is good to have a deep substrate and also obstacles (such as stones, bridges and caves) to provide variety, is this right?

I have also seen lots of options for food for the tortoise. I understand that a calcium supplement is good, as are cuttlefish bones. But does the main bulk of the food depend on the tortoise? Are there better brands/food mixes to use? I have also seen lots of flower mixes are these good?

Sorry for all the questions but want to make sure I am getting the right things and am properly ready before getting a tortoise (hopefully soon!). I am near Portsmouth, so have been looking at the ones in Garsons and Hilliers but not really looked for any local breeders.

Thank you!

User avatar
Nina
Posts: 758
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Tortoise Care

Post by Nina » 13 Apr 2019, 08:28

Hi and so sorry to be a bit late in getting back to you. Glad you've found a table you like -- and the best thing is to get the biggest table that your space will allow, as tortoises get bored in small spaces. Will he have a secure outdoor area as well? Here is a link to our page on enclosures https://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/tor ... LGO96R7m9s and if you scroll down you can click on links to indoor enclosusres (including describing what you need and showing how to build some (and what lighting to use, etc.).

Regarding the UVB bulb. The combination bulbs are very good and I think most people use them, but I have a preference for separate heat/light bulb and UVB fluorescent strip lights. The reasons for tihs are firstly that the ambient room temperature has a big effect on the temperature in the table, so you need to be able to raise and lower your heat bulb to get the desired temperature (it should be about 30C directly below the heat bulb at the height of your tortoise's shell), and if you raise the bulb high to get a lower temperature in the table then the UVB source is also further away. Also, if you use the fluorescent strip UVB bulbs you can get them long enough to cover most of the length of the table (I wouldn't use the compact ones if possible), so that no matter where your tortose is he is still getting UVB. But as I said both are perfectly good and that is just my preference.

For a water bowl you can just use a shallow plant pot saucer, or anything really, and you will need to soak him two or three times a week in a container that he can't see out of (I use an old washing up bowl) in warm water that comes just up to his chin, or the line where his top shell meets his bottom shell. This will help to rehydrate him and he will also usually poo and wee in the bath, so less to clean up in the table.

A piece of slate is recommended for feeding on, as that enables the tortoise to keep his beak in trim (scraping the slate as he goes for food) so that it doesn't overgrow, but I wouldn't put it directly under the lamp as it can get too hot. You can also use a flat piece of stone. My table has a second level (which I would recommend as it gives them more exercise walking up and down the ramp to get there, and I feed mine on the top level, so that the food doesn't get covered in substrate (but in the wild their food would have dirt on it so that's not a real problem).

The best substrate to use is a mixture of ordinary sterilised tosoil and children's playsand, and you can buy these at any garden centre. You can mix them 50/50 (or I prefer a slightly higher percentage of soil to sand. This most approximates what they would have in nature and it is very easy to spot clean wee and poo. Horsfields are burrowing tortoises by nature, and that sand/soil mixture will enable him to dig in and completely bury himself if he wants to (so try to make the substrate as deep as possible (and ensure the sides of the table are high enough so that he can't climb out.

Yes, obstacles such as stones, etc. are very good. If the tortoise can see from one end of his table to the other end without obstruction then he will get bored, so you want him to have things to walk around, over and under. Those little bendy log thingys that you can buy for hamsters and guinea pigs are good because they can use them as a shelter and also climb over them (they love climbing up and sliding down the other side). This sort of thing: https://www.miscota.co.uk/small-animals ... 1689400702&
gclid=EAIaIQobChMI4ovXysHM4QIVq53tCh2KdwM7EAQYAyABEgJDYPD_BwE

The best food for your tortoise is fresh food (weeds, flowers, etc.) Most of the commercial mixes are too high in protein (and tortoises need a low protein/high fibre diet. So weeds are best (dandelions, plantain, sowthistle) and many garden plants are also great. If you go to our website at www.thetortoisetable.org.uk and go into any of the categories (for example wildflowers or house and garden) you can use our filter system to produce a list of edible plants for yourself. Here is a link to instructions on how to use the filter system: https://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/pla ... LGMCKR7m9s (just scroll down to the section on how to use the traffic light filters).

Calcium is really important for tortoises (when you think about it they are mostly shell and bone and so need lots of calcium). Cuttlefish bone is good, but many tortoises won't eat it until it has been left outside in the rain and elements for a month or so, but you can also use your fingernail to scrape bits of it onto his food that you have wet (so it sticks). You can buy limestone flour at horsefeed suppliers or online, or pure calcium carbonate powder and use that too on food that has been wet. He should also have a calcium an vitamin D3 supplement like Nutorbal sprinkled on his food on das when he doesn't have the other calcium supplement.

I would definitely recommend getting your tortoise from a breeder: the aftercare advice is excellent, the tortoise won't have been imported from abroad and so will be less stressed and less likely to have parasites, and breeders are also usually cheaper., and you might evengete to meet your tortoise's parents. If you want us to look for a breeder who might be near you I'm happy to make some enquiries. But if you go to this page: https://www.tortoise-protection-group.o ... ite/34.asp and scroll down to UK breeders, you might find someone within a reasonable distance.

Finally, I can't remember if I sent you this before, but here is a care sheet for Horsfields that might answer some of your questions:
https://www.tortoise-protection-group.o ... 014New.pdf
Sorry to have gone on for so long, but to please get back to us if you have more questions (lol, and I will try to give shorter answers!).

Nina

argc
Posts: 3
Joined: 07 Feb 2019, 16:48

Re: Tortoise Care

Post by argc » 22 Apr 2019, 18:12

Hi

Thank you for the reply.

I have ordered a table, and have chosen to go with the combination bulb. I have also got some topsoil and sand, some obstacles, a slate like feeding platform and a water bowl.
I also got some dried flower food and some calcium powder, and will start looking at growing fresh food (or raiding my mum's garden). Is there anything else I need to think about?
I have yet to sort an outdoor inclosure, but read somewhere that for baby tortoises you can just move the indoor inclosure outside during the day (if its warm enough) is this right? I volunteer at a school 3 days a week and my dad works from home, so it would be easier for him if this is suitable.

Thank you for the information on breeders, I will discuss with my grandad and contact some ones that aren't too far away.

Thanks again
A

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