Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
  Issue 8 August 2007
Basic Tortoise Care Revisited - Part 1
In this Issue

by William Ness

There has been much written on the care of tortoises and this article is meant to be a brief review of some of the basics. This article is not meant to be all inclusive, but rather an overview based on my personal experience, the experiences of other tortoise herdsmen, and personal research and reading. There will be a brief bibliography listed at the end of the article for more in-depth reading.

Part I - The Basics:
The very first thing a tortoise keeper needs to do is make a positive identification of the tortoise. This may seem really basic, but this is very important in determining the proper environmental and dietary needs of your animal. You cannot always depend solely on information given to you by a dealer, unless you are certain the individual is knowledgeable in tortoises. I once purchased a tortoise from a large pet shop in the Twin Cities that was labeled "Hermann's Tortoise."

I happened to know the manager very well and knew that he had a lot of experience with tropical fish but was a relative newcomer to reptiles. I asked him how he knew it was a Hermann's and he told me that was what the wholesaler told him. The tortoise was actually an Elongated Tortoise, Indotestudo elongata, a species which is not only regarded as belonging to a completely different genus than the Hermann's Tortoise, Testudo hermanni, but which lives in a different part of the world and has different care requirements than a Hermann's as well. Some species have similar characteristics, so it is important to know the key differences for positive identification. I purchased a young Redfoot Tortoise, Geochelone carbonaria, a number of years ago, but as it grew the coloring looked more like a Yellowfoot, Geochelone denticulata, than a Redfoot. However, upon checking the scalation pattern on the plastron and head I determined that it was indeed a Redfoot.

If you go through an experienced reptile dealer or breeder you can be more certain of the species' identification. There are also a number of books with detailed descriptions of the various breeds that can help you make a positive identification.

Once you have positively identified your tortoise you need to find out as much about your particular species as you can. The Minnesota Herpetological Society (MHS) library has a number of good books on tortoises. Some pet shops also carry a good line of reptile books and there is at least one book dealer in the area who specializes in reptiles. Some books on tortoises are very general which will give you the basics, but eventually you will want more detailed information on the particular species you are keeping. In order to best meet the tortoise's environmental and dietary needs you need to know what habitat it occupies in the wild and what it's natural dietary preferences are.

Not only do you need to know the specific habitat of your tortoise but you also need to know how it behaves in that habitat. For example, some tortoises live in very hot and dry desert environments but spend the hottest part of the day deep in a burrow and only come out when it is cooler.

Once you have determined the basic requirements of your tortoise you need to adapt those requirements to your particular situation. It is impractical to set up the exact environmental, spatial, and dietary choices that a tortoise would have in the wild, but we can set up close approximations. Several factors need to be addressed. The specific pen requirements including; light source, heat sources, hiding places, substrate, ventilation, humidity, water supply, and diet.

Originally published in the Minnesota Herpetological Society Newsletter, Vol.16, No.1, January 1996.

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  1. Basic Tortoise Care Revisited - Part 1
  2. Benefits of Reptile Forums
  3. UV Light Research
  4. In the News
  5. Tell Us What You Think
  6. Feedback and Updating


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Benefits of Reptile Forums

By Justin Miller

Do you belong to a reptile forum? What are the benefits of joining one versus researching yourself? So what really are the ups and downs? Let's find out.

First, belonging to a forum will give you a lot more facts without having to search as far. You will also get different people's opinions on the subject. But before you join there are a few things to check on the forum. Some post pictures all the time while others you are only allowed to give cold, hard facts with barely any pictures. This is your choice, but be sure to choose wisely. Some of the things to check for when you find a forum of your liking include:

  • When they post do you like their tone of voice?
  • How many members post?
  • Do most of the people provide helpful facts?

Most reptile forums aren't made to goof off; they are made to provide information to people who need it. This doesn't mean that you can't show off your herps.

You don't have to belong to a forum if you don't want to. That should not stop you from researching all you want about things. You will need to go farther into the internet to find your answers. Some of the bonuses of not belonging to a forum are you don't have to read as much, and there will not be as much of those boring posts popping up every day.

It is your choice as a reptile lover which way you are going to go. You could even belong to more than one to get lots of answers.

There are some forums I recommend if you plan on joining.

They are:


Reptile Rooms




buy supplies

Useful Website

I was recently reading a discussion on a website about the various pros and cons of UV tubes, compact flourescents, mercury vapor lamps etc.

What is useful about this website is that they test the various globes and publish the results so you can make up your own mind.

There is a lot of useful information on UV and I reccomend this site to you.

In the News


Turn turtle...

Save Turtle...

Protecting turtle (finally)...

Killing Turtle...

Funding thereof...

Tell Us What You Think!!

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And of course, if you have any suggestions, photos, links, care sheets or whatever for upcoming issues that you'd like to share with us, please send those, too!

These could also include:

  • Great herp web-sites
  • Why you pet reptile is fantastic
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Remember - there are lots of people who would love to hear your stories. Just e-mail me at: Reptile-Cage-Plans