Tag Archives: Turtle

Tortoise Care


Tortoises, or land turtles, are one of the most popular reptile species which are keep as pets. Nowadays, we have a bit more knowledge about these unusual animals, which allows us to take the best care of them that we can!

Baby Hermanns Tortoise
Baby Hermann’s Tortoise – own image

Tortoise species which are kept domestically, typically have lifespans of 60-80 years. Lifespans differ between species.

As previously mentioned in my Reptile Awareness 2015 post, reptiles are endothermic (cold blooded) and need to bask in the heat, to absorb heat, to get moving! A heat source needs to be fitted in the vivarium (enclosure) for this purpose – but at one end of the vivarium, and far enough away from the other end,  that your tortoise can move into a cool spot when it likes. The natural source of heat is the sun, which naturally also provides UV, in a domestic environment, in the vivarium, a UV bulb should also be fitted. UV is a good source of vitamin D which aids in shell and bone development and growth. Without adequate heat and UV, your pet may become ill, or worse.

On a personal level, I would not recommend heat rocks or mats for any reptile species, as these can get very hot – if the animal is lay on a heat rock or mat when it’s too hot, it could cause harmful burns.

Before looking into diet, you need to know if the species of your tortoise is a herbivore or a carnivore. If it is a carnivore, ensure you know what you can and cannot feed your pet – including sizes (likely food source will be pinkies (newborn mice)). Most pet tortoise species (at least, that I have had the pleasure of caring for since I was 16) are herbivores. As with any herbivorous animal, you need to know what fruit and veggies and other greens are safe to feed your tortoise, and which are not!

Also, pellet foods supplement a diet vegetables and fruits and other greens; the pellets are filled with balanced nutritional requirements suitable for the tortoise species. The diet should also include fibrous plants like grasses and weeds.

Tasty fresh food - own image
Tasty fresh food – own image

Good greens, veggies and fruits include white nettle, dandelion (flower and leaves), corn poppy, apple, chickweed, bindweeds, chicory, clover, heather, sow thistle, rose petals, fuchsia, nipplewort, peach, clover, grape, honeysuckle, bittercress, melon, blackberry, raspberry, knapweed, leafy salads, lettuce, apricot, watercress, curly kale, brussel tops, dahlia, spring greens, pumpkin, coriander, parsley, rocket, carrot, parsnip, strawberry, carrot, tomato, kale, courgette, cabbage, and bell peppers. Leafy greens should be  the bulk of the vegetation.

Don’t forget to provide fresh water daily for your tortoise, don’t put the water bowl under the heat lamp, to ensure your pet has cool water to drink. Tortoises like to bathe too, and will often sit in their water bowl .

Tortoise bathing in water bowl - own image
Tortoise bathing in water bowl – own image

The best types to buy are the bowls with ramps/staggered sides to enable your tortoise to easily climb in and out – not that they will always use the ramp! Often they will bathe themselves when they are shedding (they shed in bits like a lizard, not all in one like a snake), to help remove dead skin and relieve itching.

Climbing out of water bowl - own image
Climbing out of water bowl – own image

Tortoises have always been quite popular, however, some things that previous generations have done with their pet tortoises, were (unknowingly) not in the best interests of the animal… Such as, painting the shell – this is a big do not as the paint can block the air holes in the shell, and cause suffocation. Some tortoise species will go into hibernation during the winter months, they will wake come spring-time – your pet is not dead, and does not need to be buried or disposed of!


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Reptile Awareness Day 21.10.15


Happy Reptile Awareness Day!

Reptiles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes; colours and textures; habitats and countries… Even within one species type the diversity is vast! All reptiles are ectothermic – this means they cannot generate their own heat; and must warm up using external heat sources, to enable them to move around and function. Alligators, Crocodiles, Caymans, Komodo Dragons and other large reptiles, are often shown on Nature Documentaries sat out in the sun to warm themselves up to start the day. The sun is the main source of heat for wild reptiles; as well as sitting on rocks and other surfaces that have been warmed by the sun. Reptiles kept as pets have various sources of heat on offer for their vivarium (tank) – heat mats and rocks are popular, however can be dangerous as the animal can get too hot and stick to these and overheat (often fatally). The best source of heat (in my opinion) are heat lamps, sectioned off from the animal, so that the animal cannot come into direct contact and harm itself.

Lizards come in many colours (many can change colour), different scale types, even legless! A lizard is defined differently from a snake because they have eyelids and (internal) ears. Snakes come in a variety of colours and scale types also; snakes do no have eyelids or legs or ears (internal or external). Snakes ‘hear’ through their jaw by feeling vibrations. Personally, from handling both legless lizards such as the Glass lizard and various snake species including the Corn snake;  I find a big difference between the two is how fluid and graceful the movements of a snake are – how they will curl around your arm and up your neck so smoothly, and how a legless lizard is very much the same in its’ movement as a lizard with legs – moving a bit less fluidly, it always made me think that the movements seem jerky on a legless lizard, but fitting to a lizard with legs. Don’t get me wrong, a legless lizard moves around perfectly well in its’ own way, as it was designed to do – but the movement between a snake, a legless lizard, and a legged lizard are varied and unique, and perfect in their own way.

Chameleons have feet uniquely shaped to grip trees and twigs perfectly; Geckos have ‘sticky’ or ‘sucky’ feet to grip a wide variety of surfaces, Bearded Dragons have long nails well adapted for clinging to surfaces, and for digging. Turtles – sea and land (aka tortoise) – move rather slowly in comparison to most reptiles when on land. Land turtles or tortoises have claws for digging, and legs for walking; Sea turtles move brilliantly in the water with flippers for swimming and gliding in the water, however are poor movers on land – despite this they manage to move onto beaches and dig nests every year for laying. Terrapins have feet in between the two – they have little claws on webbed feet; moving fairly equally on land and in water. Alligators and Crocodiles (and the like) move swiftly in the water, making it their home for most of the time.

There are many, many reptile species – feel free to contact me with any question about any species, and I will respond to the best of my knowledge.

Please enjoy below the images (either my own or Google Open Source) of various reptiles species.