First time hermanns tortoise owner!

Use this forum to discuss general questions about any aspects of tortoise care.
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Hannahmilky
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Joined: 02 Oct 2019, 14:34

First time hermanns tortoise owner!

Post by Hannahmilky » 08 Oct 2019, 10:38

Hello, first post here! Lots of questions alert :lol:
We are collecting our first ever tortoise next week. He will be around 1 year old, I’ve researched lots on what they eat but only just occurred to me that it never specifies what amount? Is there a rule of thumb based on size of tortoise or something? And I’m guessing everyday? I have much animal experience but my reptile xp has only been snakes and lizards so I’m used to live food and things that only require feeding once a week or so!

When it comes to bathing, is it daily and does the frequency change with age? What temp should the water be and is it very important for that temp to be exact?
I like to weigh my animals regularly, would a weekly weigh in be a good amount or should it be less often? And should it be done before or after they’ve pooed?!

Thanks, I’m sure I’ll have plenty more once he’s here! 🐢

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Nina
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Re: First time hermanns tortoise owner!

Post by Nina » 08 Oct 2019, 11:49

Hi Hannah,
Welcome to The Tortoise Table and congratulations on getting your little Hermanns! It's an exciting time, and it sounds like you've done a good amount of research already, which is great. First of all, in case you don't have one already, here's a link to a care sheet for Hermanns, which might answer some of your questions:
https://www.tortoise-protection-group.o ... 014New.pdf

The amount you feed tortoises is actually quite important, as if they are fed too much (or if fed the wrong type of food) they can grow too quickly, their shells become deformed, and they can develop metabolic bone disease). There are several really rough guidelines for feeding --- all they can eat in 20 minutes, once a day; enough leaves and flowers, etc. to make a little jacket or blanket to cover their shell once a day, etc.), but the best way, really is to keep accurate records of growth. We have an Observations Records Booklet on our website which you can either download and print out for free, or buy for £2.00, and that is a good way to keep all your records in one place. Weighing weekly or fortnightly is fine, and it's good to weigh under roughly the same circumstances -- just before or after a bath, just after a poo (it's amazing how much they can lose in just having a poo!), etc.) if you can, but the main thing you are looking for is slow growth of an average of 1g - 3g per month. That is just an average and some months he will gain more and some less, but it's a target to aim for.

With a little one like yours, I would bathe every other day (or even every day if it is hot), in a container that he can't see out of (an old washing up bowl works well), and in water that comes just up to where his top shell meets his bottom shell (or his chin), for about 15 - 20 minutes. The water should be nice and warm (the temperature that you would bathe a baby in), and you might have to replace some of it with warm water to keep it warm the whole time he is in there. I have one of those bendy desk lamps that I just train on mine and the heat from that keeps it pretty warm the whole time.

I won't rattle on any longer, and please come back with any more questions you have (and I'm sure you'll have lots). Just one last question from me though. What sort of indoor enclosure are you getting for him. If anyone has told you or sold you a vivarium (wood and glass type thing that is great for lizards and snakes, etc.), please don't get one of those for a tortoise -- they are very bad environments for tortoises and what you want is an open box-type arrangement, called a tortoise table. If you've already bought a vivarium let me know and we can advise you on how to return it and get your money back.
Also, what kind of substrate are you going to have? The most natural and best substrate for tortoises is a mixture of sterilised topsoil and children's playsand (it most approximates the substrate they would have in the wild).
Anyway, you probably know all this already, so I'll just sign off here and hope that you will post photos of him/her when he/she arrives (we never tire of looking at photos of tortoises!)

Nina

Hannahmilky
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Joined: 02 Oct 2019, 14:34

Re: First time hermanns tortoise owner!

Post by Hannahmilky » 08 Oct 2019, 12:32

Thank you for your very informative reply! I have bought a 4ft x 2ft wooden open table and I plan on using sterilised topsoil :)
I like the sound of the record book, I do like keeping records, and keep one for my dogs weight too 😆

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Nina
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Re: First time hermanns tortoise owner!

Post by Nina » 08 Oct 2019, 13:13

That is such a relief to hear that you've bought a table -- and 4' x 2' will last for quite a long time. With the topsoil or topsoil/playsand, it's a good idea to give it a light spray every couple of days to keep it from getting dusty.
LOL, I like keeping records too (we had a corn snake for 26 years, and I still have a record of every mouse he ever ate!).
Here's a link to the page with the info about the Observations Records Booklet:
https://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/pla ... Zx8uGZ7m9s

Cheers,
Nina

Hannahmilky
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Joined: 02 Oct 2019, 14:34

Re: First time hermanns tortoise owner!

Post by Hannahmilky » 09 Oct 2019, 11:02

I’ve bought pond liner to line the table to protect the wood, is that a good idea? I know too well with rabbits how wood enclosures get wrecked from wetness!
Also on that subject, what sort of humidity percentage should I be looking at? Thermometer records humidity as well so I can easily keep track

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Nina
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Re: First time hermanns tortoise owner!

Post by Nina » 09 Oct 2019, 12:59

Pond liner is perfect, and it's what we would recommend.

The subject of humidity is much discussed, and it used to be thought that tortoises should be kept in a very dry environment. The latest thinking, though, is that if it is too dry, and dehydration occurs, then that can lead to the irregular shell growth that is called pyramiding. Most sites recommend between 30% - 50% humidity, but the authoritative HermanniHaven site says that for babies and juveniles you want about a 70% humidity reading, and that in the wild the very young ones spend a lot of their time buried in the substrate where the humidity is higher. Here's a link to their excellent care sheet, and it has a section on humidity: https://www.hermannihaven.com/t-hermanni-care-sheet And there are also other interesting articles under the Hermann tab. It's a USA site so temps are probably in Fahrenheit.

We certainly recommend spraying the substrate every other day or so, or what I do is every two or three days I pour water on the substrate and then mix it well in so that the result is that the substrate is just the teeny tiniest bit damp -- not at all wet, as tortoises don't do well if it gets cold and wet, and the temperature in their table will drop at night. I also have some plants growing in my substrate, and I water them and that contributes to the humidity level.

What sort of thermometer are you using? The ones that will provide the most accurate readings are ones that can be suspended in the table, as close to the circle of light/heat as possible, and at the height of the tortoise's shell. Thermometers mounted on a wall, even only a few inches away will give a much lower reading than the actual temperature under the light. I use the digital fridge thermometers (the kind with a display unit and then a probe on the end of a long cord -- something like these https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thermometer-Fr ... B071WKGTJL And the added advantage is that many of them have a Max/Min facility so that you can see how hot or cold it got since you last reset the function.

I'll bet you can't wait until he/she arrives! Do sent photos -- it sounds like you're going to have a super set-up.

Nina

Hannahmilky
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Joined: 02 Oct 2019, 14:34

Re: First time hermanns tortoise owner!

Post by Hannahmilky » 09 Oct 2019, 14:28

Thank you again for your good reply! I bought a small digital one that I was going to mount on the wall :shock: I even looked at the probe ones as well and didn’t choose it :x
What age are they no longer a juvenile?
That is such a good idea about growing plants IN the enclosure! I just planted out a load of tortoise seeds in a tray, but never thought of doing directly in the soil in there! Will do next batch in there.
What, if any herbs can they eat? I’ve got a fair few growing if they can eat them

Hannahmilky
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Joined: 02 Oct 2019, 14:34

Re: First time hermanns tortoise owner!

Post by Hannahmilky » 09 Oct 2019, 14:35

Actually, saying that, ours will have a mesh lid so I could hang the thermometer on string etc directly next to light at shell height

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Nina
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Re: First time hermanns tortoise owner!

Post by Nina » 09 Oct 2019, 15:57

Hanging the thermometer from the mesh is a great idea, and it should work fine.

Re the names for ages. Actually it is as much to do with size as ags and everyone you ask will give you a different answer. I've just looked at loads of sites and there were different answers from all the 'experts' lol. As far as I can see here is a sort of generally accepted classification:
0 - 3month = neonatal. This is used by some, but more common is:
0 - 1 year = hatchling
1yr - 2 yrs = yearling
2yrs + = juvenile
just before sexual maturity is reached = sub-adult
after sexual maturity and full size is attained = adult
Tortoises that grow too quickly can attain sexual maturity earlier, so age isn't necessarily the only criteria.

Growing plants in the soil. If you grow plants that the like to eat then they will be demolished within hours and you will have to start over. Seeds sown in the soil will be eaten as soon as the first shoots pop their heads above ths soil, so it's best to either grow plants in pots that are sunk partly into the soil and the tortoise can stretch up (good exercise) and nibble any leaves that hang down, but can't destroy the plant. Or you can grow edible seeds in small trays and when the plants reach a certain size, just put the trays into the table and they can nibble to their heart's content. With that method it's a good idea to sow a succession of small trays every two or three weeks, so as soon as one tray is eaten it can be replaced with another tray.

I grow some plants directly into the substrate, but they tend to be plants that mine don't eat as much. For example, I have an ornamental grass called Carex 'Frosted Curls' that seeds itself everywhere in my garden and I just dig up some young plants and put them into the table where they grow really well and for the most part mine don't eat them (but sometimes they do). I also grow young spider plants directly into the substrate, and they do eat those quite often. I also have a big spider plant outside the table with the long stems that produce baby plants on the end hanging down into the table just above head height and again they can stretch up and nibble them if they want to. Have attached a photo of my table with a few plants growing in it.

Nina[attachment=0]IMG_9953 (Copy).JPG[/attachment][attachment=1]m_DSC02108.jpg[/attachment][attachment=2]m_DSC00892.jpg[/attachment]

Nina
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Hannahmilky
Posts: 10
Joined: 02 Oct 2019, 14:34

Re: First time hermanns tortoise owner!

Post by Hannahmilky » 10 Oct 2019, 21:09

Your enclosure looks great! Can’t wait to jazz ours up a bit. Random question, we have a stone garden ornament of a tortoise, you know those really realistic ones? Would it confuse the real tortoise if I used it as decoration in his house?
Also, do you need to routinely clip their nails like you do with all other pets? Or do they keep them down themselves, even in captivity?

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Nina
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Re: First time hermanns tortoise owner!

Post by Nina » 10 Oct 2019, 21:35

Thanks, Hannah. It's fun to decorate the table, and it's a good idea to have things like rocks, etc., that your tortoise will have to walk around or over, as well as different textures of substrates to walk on. They do seem to get bored fairly quickly if they can see from one end of the enclosure to the other without interruption.

The stone tortoise. I have one of those, and I used to have it in the table. If I remember correctly they did look at it a bit when I first put it in, but it didn't cause any distress. I'd put yours in and see what happens, as all torts are different and you can't accurately predict how they'll react.

Their nails shouldn't need clipping if they have a nice rough surface to walk on (a flat piece of limestone or slate can be useful), and if there is a ramp up to a second level, and that is covered with a rough material like roofing felt, that can also help to wear their nails down. You don't want the nails too short, because they need them for digging into the substrate and grabbing and holding food, but occasionally nails will grow too long and will need to be cut. The same goes for the beak. If they are fed on a piece of slate or limestone then they will probably be able to keep their beak trim, but occasionally it grows too long and needs trimming (carefully).

Nina

Hannahmilky
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Joined: 02 Oct 2019, 14:34

Re: First time hermanns tortoise owner!

Post by Hannahmilky » 11 Oct 2019, 06:19

Brilliant, I have a slate piece for feeding off and I’m planning on getting a cuttlefish for keeping beak trim (also have the calcium powder for main calcium source)

Hannahmilky
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Joined: 02 Oct 2019, 14:34

Re: First time hermanns tortoise owner!

Post by Hannahmilky » 12 Oct 2019, 08:00

Having now realised just how big my 4ft enclosure is, I’m really excited to decorate it! I’m currently drawing out a paper plan of the set up. Off to the garden centre later to buy decorative rocks and the substrate, I want to get some plants too, if you have any suggestions let me know! I like the idea of air plants too

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Nina
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Re: First time hermanns tortoise owner!

Post by Nina » 12 Oct 2019, 09:31

You'll have great fun decorating! Re rocks -- no need to buy them, as you can find really interesting rocks on the ground. And regarding plants, don't buy anything direct into the substrate that the tortoise will like to eat, as it will be gone before you know it. You could try baby spider plants, sometimes a dwarf hebe is good, as they don't like eating them that much (but no way to predict), Some people say that they don't like strongly scented herbs, so I got a very small rosemary in a pot once and sank the pot into the substrate and when I came back an hour later Doris had knocked the pot over and totally demolished the rosemary. Just make sure that you don't plant anything that is toxic in the substrate (look it up first on our database, or ask us).

Good luck and I'm really looking forward to seeing photos of this tortie palace!

Nina

Hannahmilky
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Joined: 02 Oct 2019, 14:34

Re: First time hermanns tortoise owner!

Post by Hannahmilky » 12 Oct 2019, 16:36

Got a load of pansies and viola in small pots so I can place them about. Good point about the rocks!

Hannahmilky
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Joined: 02 Oct 2019, 14:34

Re: First time hermanns tortoise owner!

Post by Hannahmilky » 12 Oct 2019, 19:49

So inside the covered ‘bedroom’ area do I need to put anything in there other than soil? I’m guessing that whole thing provides the ‘hide’ so doesn’t need additional stuff inside?

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Nina
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Re: First time hermanns tortoise owner!

Post by Nina » 13 Oct 2019, 10:25

Re the pansies and violas, there could be a problem. Because lots of garden centre plants will have been sprayed with insecticides (and tortoises are particularly sensitive to insecticides), we recommend that you pull off any flowers currently on the plants when you buy them, and only feed new growth of leaves, etc. So I'm not sure about planting those in the table (although if it is a small garden centre who grows their own, you could ask them if the plants have been sprayed with insecticides or fungicides.

Regarding the sleeping area -- nothing more than the topsoil/sand mixture is needed. If the sleeping area is really big, you could think of putting a half a flower pot on its side or something in there, as tortoises like a small and cozy space to sleep, but it's probably not necessary nd he will be fine.

Nina

Hannahmilky wrote:
> So inside the covered ‘bedroom’ area do I need to put anything in there
> other than soil? I’m guessing that whole thing provides the ‘hide’ so
> doesn’t need additional stuff inside?

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