Hermann’s Tortoises can make for some very fascinating pets to have, by they are neither particularly easy nor low-maintenance. Many tortoises that are bought as pets by inexperienced pet owners suffer health problems and premature mortality , both of which could have been avoided. The two most frequent concerns are inadequate diet and improper housing. Be sure to do some thorough research, and take the time to find the species of tortoise that best suits you, your budget, and your lifestyle.
Deciding to buy a Hermann’s tortoise for the first time can be very confusing, and even frustrating. You will undoubtedly be quoted different prices, and receiving all types of conflicting information on how to care for them.
Do not be fooled by companies that are selling tortoises for cheap, as this is often far from an accurate cost. When a Hermann’s tortoise is sold for cheap, they are far more likely to have higher costs of needed equipment, not to mention the probability of some pretty expensive veterinary bills as a result of improper care on the seller’s part. This is why it is of the utmost importance to buy from someone who specializes in captive-bred tortoises, is licensed to sell and breed tortoises, and has extensive knowledge of several species.
Diet and food:
Most Hermann’s tortoise species are pretty much exclusively herbivorous. The only real exception would be the rare snail they decide to munch on. However, this is not a usual habit. The entirety of the topic of tortoise diet is very complex, and only the briefest of summaries can be given without consulting a licensed professional.
In general, the diet is one of high fiber, low protein, low fat, low carbs, low sugar, and high calcium. This means completely avoiding foods such as peas, beans, food intended for other pets (cats, dogs, etc.), too much fruit, or any other food/non-food item that would not be found in a tortoise’s natural habitat. Rather, a correct diet is based on a wide variety of leafy vegetation and flowers, because this is what their digestive systems are intended to process.
Be extremely careful when planning a diet for a captive tortoise. Their systems are extremely sensitive, and they are highly susceptible to a whole range of health problems, especially those that stem from incorrect nutrition. For this reason, it is always best to research your chosen species, and speak to reputable tortoise organization.
It is imperative to remember that indoor facilities are very rarely adequate, and should never be relied upon as the sole housing option. Hermann’s Tortoises require a lot more space than other reptiles, and definitely do not do well when kept in indoor enclosures for long. If you cannot provide the proper facilities, it is best to reconsider your choice of pets. Inadequate housing is not only inhumane, but will also lead to myriad health problems. It’s not fair to your tortoise, and it’s hard on your wallet.
Hermann’s Tortoises should be given a dry area with adequate drainage, complete with both shade and sunlight. Long exposure to wet soil, or damp grasses, will most likely develop respiratory and shell infections. Neither of those are pleasant.
Ensure your tortoise is safe from predatory attacks, especially where juveniles are concerned. Juveniles are best kept in pens covered with a strong mesh. Dogs should also not be around tortoises, as even a well-trained and obedient dog will attack a tortoise without warning.
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The enclosure should allow sufficient space for normal daily activities and exercise. All pens should have a range of habitat types, such as shady plants, rocks, basking areas, and edible vegetation. Obviously, toxic plants should be avoided and kept clear of the enclosures. Do not confine tortoises to only flat surfaces. A variety is good, especially since they enjoy making burrows and scrapes, and need contoured surfaces for basking and regulating their body temperatures. Additionally, contoured surfaces can help your tortoise if it manages to flip over.
All perimeter walls of the enclosure should be a minimum of twice as high as the length of your largest tortoise. They must be solid and opaque, or the tortoise will try to get out to go explore the areas it can see.Obviously, depending on your region of residence, there may be times when bringing a tortoise inside is unavoidable. That being said, the outdoor enclosure should be the primary habitat, and they should only be brought inside in dire circumstances, such as during snowy months.
Make sure there is adequate floor space for exercise, otherwise your tortoise will develop respiratory and bone issues. Ventilation is another huge concern, and you do not want there to be stale, dirty air in your tortoise enclosure. You would not want that in your lungs, so don’t put it in theirs. Lighting and heating is more flexible, but you must allow for adequate gradients so your tortoise can have normal thermoregulation.
Nature has designed for cold-blooded creatures (and some warm-blooded) to hibernate in order to protect themselves in cold weather, or when resources are less than plentiful. Hermann’s Tortoises can hibernate up to a full eight months of the year, depending on location and species. Generally, the farther away from the equator the natural habitat is, the more likely it will hibernate. The same principle works in reverse.
As an owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that the foods fed during summer are abundantly rich in Vitamin A. This particular vitamin becomes depleted during hibernation, as it is stored in the tortoise’s body, and is drawn on while it is asleep. Offer carbs, such as carrots, squash, and alfalfa. Avoid fruits. Encourage your tortoise to eat drier, high-fiber weeds, grasses, timothy hay, and alfalfa towards the end of summer. Alfalfa contains more protein than timothy hay or grass, so it’s preferable, so only include it in small amounts. All of this food will clean out your tortoise’s intestines prior to hibernation. They will instinctively stop eating prior to hibernation, but you should still regulate the food availability.
The temperature requirements depend on the species of tortoise, though all of them must be able to self-regulate using the environment provided. This thermoregulation requires a wide range of temperatures to be at their disposal. A ‘thermal gradient’ refers to the difference between the highest temperature and the lowest in the habitat.
If adequate temperature ranges are not available, a tortoise will not be able to properly digest its food, and will suffer. A lack of thermal gradient will also lead to overheating and the inability to self-regulate. Again, it’s important to look up the needs for your specific species of tortoise.
Feeding: High-fiber, low protein, calcium-rich diet to ensure good digestion and proper shell growth. Fruit is given sparingly, or not at all, if your species is Mediterranean.
Drinking: Fresh water must be offered daily. They prefer to drink by going into a shallow dish or pool. They will drink from a lightly sprayed garden hose when the weather is nice. If you do the shallow pool, BE SURE IT IS DROWN-PROOF.
Behavior: Males are territorial. They will fight with other males, causing serious injuries. Keep them separated, and never overcrowd tortoises of any sex. Do not place elderly females in with younger males. This really will not end well for the female.
Disease: Do not mix species, as there are is a good number of viral diseases out there, many of which are fatal and non-treatable.
Housing: Remember, tortoises are highly sensitive to environments, and have very specific needs when it comes to temperature, space, and humidity.