Welcome to TortoiseCare.org! We have created this site mainly with the purpose of helping new keepers with ideas and techniques that they can use to properly care for their tortoises. While no two tortoise species are exactly alike, this is a good general purpose tortoise care sheet that will get you going in the right direction. In no way is this the only way to do it, and I think most people will agree that there's more than one way to raise a tortoise. Feel free to use what you want, and disregard what you don't. Learning is an ongoing process. Enjoy!

 


 

Choosing Your Tortoise:

            This section will help you decide what species is for you. It addresses space constraints, weather restrictions, and financial limitations that should all be considered when choosing a species.

 

Keeping Your Tortoise Indoors:

            This section will help with everything you need to consider and assemble when planning to keep a tortoise in an indoor enclosure. It covers indoor housing, substrates, lighting, cage furniture, hideboxes and water sources.

 

Keeping Your Tortoise Outdoors:

            This section will explain ways to keep tortoises in outdoor enclosures. It goes over the proper barriers, substrates, plants and cage furniture that should be incorporated into an outdoor enclosure.

 

Feeding/Nutrition:

            This section covers the staple diets and food items that your tortoise should be offered.

 

Supplementation:

            This section explains the use of calcium and multivitamin supplements.

 

Health Issues:

            This section explains a few of the common health problems that young tortoises experience from time to time, and attempts to help you get things turned around in the right direction.     

      



Choosing Your Tortoise

 

            -What tortoise species is for me? When you’ve decided it’s time for you to choose a perfect pet tortoise, there are many factors that should be thought through before making the final commitment to buy.

 

Redfoot tortoises are a good all around tortoise that do well in most climates. They have an easy diet, and are somewhat forgiving of the mistakes commonly made by beginners. Pictured is a 1 week old, a 1 year old, and a 4 year old. 

 

            -Space Constraints:

Many people desire to keep their pet tortoise indoors for most or all of their lifetimes. This is very common, and can be done if a few things are thought through first. Most tortoises eventually reach sizes that would be difficult to keep properly indoors later on in life. It is true that they generally grow slowly, but within a tortoise’s first 5-10 years, they are many times larger than they were as a cute baby hatchling. In your research, you should look for the eventual adult sizes of the species you are considering. Many of the Mediterranean tortoise species (Russians, Hermanns, Greeks, Marginateds, Egyptians, etc) will remain a smaller, more manageable size, and these would be a good choice for a long term, indoor tortoise.

If you are in a warmer climate, and able to keep your tortoise outdoors most or all year long, the options are much more open for you to choose from essentially any of the species you are considering. You obviously can keep all species of tortoises outdoors if you are able to provide it a few “species specific” things (including an appropriate, warm climate), but having the space outdoor available is the first big step in the right direction.

Many people want to raise a baby indoors with the eventual desire to keep it outdoors, and this is fine. All of the larger species can be kept indoors as a “cute little pet” until their size requires them to be kept in more manageable outdoor pens. There are also people that have large indoors spaces available in colder climates, and have kept and successfully bred larger species indoors.

Typical sizes to expect from many common species are as follows. These are average sizes of some of our adults. Bigger (or smaller) is certainly possible:

Sulcata Tortoises: 20-26”

Leopard Tortoises: 14-16”

Redfoot Tortoises: 12-15”

Yellowfoot Tortoises: 15-17”

Greek, Russian, Hermanns Tortoises: 6-8”

Indian Star Tortoises: 6-8”

 

Leopard tortoises grow to be stunning adults. They do best in warm, dry climates, and love being out in the sun. 

 

 -Weather Constraints (for outdoor tortoises):

Keeping large tortoise species in cold climates is generally a difficult thing to do. They tend to get restless when confined to small spaces for cold weather, indoors or out. If you are keeping a small species indoors, your climate will have little effect on this. Few climates in the United States are too hot for tortoises, and many climates are ideal (California, Florida, Texas, Arizona, and other Southern states). Certain moderate climate species (redfoots, yellowfoots, Asian or forest species) can have shade cloth put over them in the hottest climates, as well as a small water or mud hole to keep them cool in the hottest months. Desert types (sulcatas, leopards, stars, Russians, etc) will do well in hot climates, and little effort besides a shaded area is needed to keep them happy during hot weather. Generally speaking, if you know you have cold, hard winters, try to stick to a species that can be reasonably kept indoors when needed. Hot summers are much easier to work around than cold winters. See the outdoor housing information below for more ideas.

 

Russian tortoise feeding frenzy! Russians are small tortoises that are easy to keep in restricted spaces. They have a unique, active personality and are always eager to eat. 

 

-Financial Constraints:

Your budget is another potentially limiting factor to consider when looking for your new tortoise. Everyone loves the look of the star tortoises, but their rarity makes them an expensive choice. As a general rule, the lower the price of a baby tortoise, the more available that species is in captivity. There are plenty of nice, pretty, low priced species out there, so don’t feel like having a limited budget means you’re going to get a less spectacular tortoise.

 

Sulcatas are great starter tortoises, but their eventual size can be difficult for some keepers with limited space.

 

What Should I Expect? When you have purchased a tortoise (or ideally, before you buy), these are a few things you should expect.

 

 -On Arrival:

Most new tortoises will have some stress simply because of the transition to a new home. It will usually be a little “out of it” for the first 12-24 hours, just because of the changes it has gone through, whether it was purchased locally or through the mail. You should give the tortoise a shallow soaking in warm water to give him or her a little shot of hydration and warmth. This will usually get them going. It’s not uncommon for the tortoise to avoid eating the first day or two. Have the new home set up prior to the tortoise getting there, and this will help the tortoise transition as easily as possible into your new habitat.

 

Star tortoises are rare and amazingly beautiful. Their somewhat specific needs, low reproductive rate and high price make them a species best left to experienced tortoise keepers. They are kept similar to leopard tortoises, and should be maintained warm and dry.

 

-Guarantees:

A guarantee on a new tortoise will vary depending on where and who you got it from, anywhere from no guarantee at all, up to a few days with some of the better breeders/dealers. Most online dealers guarantee live delivery only and nothing more, but you can research them or just ask and see what they offer. Some local pet stores will guarantee them for a longer amount of time if you buy an entire setup with the tortoise, so that they know you’re housing it properly. In all fairness, the seller can not control how you are keeping the tortoise and someone that keeps it in a cardboard box with no lights is just asking for trouble, and shouldn’t expect someone else to back up their mistake.

 

Greek tortoises are very similar in care to a Russian tortoise. They are a small species that can do well in a limited space. They have different colorations depending on what area the specific tortoise is native to.

 

-Seller Commitment:

Some tortoise vendors pride themselves on customer service, and others will be impossible to get in contact with after the sale. Buying tortoises at reptile shows present this risk, since many of them are not open for contact afterwards (and many of them have very little tortoise knowledge to begin with). Pet stores will typically stick by their guarantee (whatever it is), and their tortoise know-how can be limited depending on the employee you’re talking to at the moment. If a seller is easy to contact and helps you with your questions prior to sale, it’s a safe bet that they will be there after the sale also.

 


 

Keeping Your Tortoise Indoors

 

This is a commercial tortoise table with coconut coir substrate, natural sandstone rocks and food items in a shallow bowl. This is a good basic setup for a baby redfoot tortoise. A small heat light should be placed in one end of the enclosure with a UV-B strip light over the main area of the cage. A hidebox is provided in the end for added high humidity as well as a retreat the tortoise can escape to.

 

            -Housing:

            Keeping a tortoise indoors can be done in many ways, but the first thing to be considered should be the enclosure itself. Depending on the amount of “display” you’re looking for, you may have an enclosure in mind already. Many people use simple glass aquariums or terrariums for their tortoises. While these will work, there are a few drawbacks to them. Mainly, the size is usually too small. A 10-20 gallon tank will work for a while for a new hatchling tortoise, but it won’t be long at all until the tortoise has outgrown this area, and is pacing the sides trying to get out. As a general rule, I like to have about 3 square feet for any baby tortoise, and you can keep small groups in this size area also. If you are keeping larger than a hatchling tortoise, or a larger group of them, you will want to use something larger. Another reason I don’t particularly care for glass is the glass itself. Tortoises are unable to figure out why they can’t walk through the glass, and will often spend hours a day trying to get through it. This is especially true if the enclosure is too small to begin with. Some keepers use a 3-4” strip of paper taped to the outside bottom of the tank to eliminate this problem. While not particularly attractive, this is a functional way to remedy the problem.

            We have had the best success by using plastic sweater boxes or cement mixing tubs for baby tortoises. These are available at a low price in many different sizes, almost all with “foggy” or colored sides that the tortoises do not attempt to get through. We prefer low sidewalls for easy access and easy cleaning. Baby tortoises don’t need much height in walls to contain them, so almost any of these boxes will be tall enough to keep them in. While not particularly attractive, this is an easy, functional way to do it. Other keepers have had success with wooden “tortoise tables,” or enclosures handmade with other materials. What you do will depend on your needs and the area you have available to keep them in.

 

Coconut coir (left) and timothy hay (right) are two commonly used substrates for tortoises housed indoors.

           

-Substrates:

            The substrate or bedding you use will largely be dependent on the tortoise species you choose, as well as what your priorities are (ease of use, cost, attractiveness, etc). There are as many substrate options as there are species of tortoise, but some simple research can be done to figure out what is best for your situation. If your tortoise is a species that requires mid to high humidity levels, you should go with a substrate that is capable of holding moisture well to help maintain the humidity. Some common substrates in this category are coconut coir, spaghnum moss, and peat moss. If it is a desert or dry climate type tortoise, you can use something simple, such as dry hay, dry coconut coir, grass clippings or shredded paper. Many people use flat newspaper for its low cost and ease of cleaning. It’s a pretty bland way to do things and offers zero stimulation to the tortoises, but could be used. Shredded paper would be a better alternative because it would provide the tortoises some climbing and burrowing options that flat paper would not. We avoid using any types of sand in our indoor enclosures because of the potential for the tortoises eating it, whether intentional or not. Sand sticks to food, and indoor tortoises are almost always eating from the ground level. Small amounts of sand eaten will usually not cause a problem, but it’s a risk that is better eliminated than left to chance. Feeding tortoises from an accessible bowl will help, but not eliminate this problem completely.

 

Baby tortoises should be fed from a shallow bowl or saucer to help prevent them from eating the substrate. Diets will vary species to species, but should always be varied and kept fresh. Yellowfoot and elongated tortoises.

 

            -Lighting & Heating:

            One of the most common mistakes new keepers make is with the lighting and heating. Almost all reptiles require a source of UV-B in order to properly process and absorb the calcium that they get in their diet. In nature, the sun takes care of these needs. In an indoor enclosure, the tortoises need to be provided with a source of UV-B from their lighting.

There are a few different ways to achieve this lighting, the most common is in a fluorescent strip light, as well as in a mercury vapor bulb. Fluorescent lights are usually the easier to find and slightly lower in cost as a UV-B source. They produce a nice full spectrum of light and add essentially no heat into the enclosure. When used, you need to also provide the tortoise with a regular “spot bulb” to give them a warm area of the enclosure that they can achieve the higher temperatures of their preferred range (these temperatures will vary species to species), as well as allowing them to get away from the warm spot if they get too warm. The wattage of the heat bulb that you use will vary depending on the size of the enclosure, the ambient room temperature, the species you’re keeping, and the height that the bulb will be above the enclosure. In most of our smaller indoor enclosures (3-4 square feet) we use between a 40W and 60W light bulb for heat, rarely more.

The other good option for indoor UV-B lighting is by using a mercury vapor bulb, which provides excellent full spectrum lighting, UV-B and heat all in a single bulb. These bulbs are expensive, currently hovering in the $35-50 range for the bulb itself, but being able to use a single bulb and a single fixture is often cheaper than using a separate UV-B bulb and heat bulb, and the fixtures they would both need. Because of the intensity of these bulbs and the heat produced (they are difficult to find in a wattage less than 100W), we use them with our hot climate desert species more than the forest type tortoises. They are usually too warm for smaller enclosures.

The day/night cycle is best kept on a timer in order to maintain some amount of a pattern for your tortoise. We generally maintain a 13-14 hour daytime cycle in the warmer months indoors, and use a slightly shorter 11-12 hour daytime cycle in the colder months. If the tortoises are in a room that receives natural lighting through a window, it’s a good idea to somewhat mimic the timing of the natural light coming in the window. The tortoises will not need a heat source at night unless the room temperature is dropping below 60 degrees or so. Many reptile experts think that a cooler temperature at night is even preferred over a constant temperature.

 

Sphagnum moss is another good substrate for indoor tortoises requiring higher levels of humidity, such as this 2 month old Burmese brown mountain tortoise.

 

-Cage Furniture:

The amount of “furniture” you add to your tortoise’s habitat are really up to you. They don’t need a big rock to climb on or a tunnel to run through in order to survive, but it is a way to stimulate the tortoise, and entertain it while exploring its cage from day to day. Tortoises kept in a bare enclosure with nothing to walk around, climb over or go under quickly become bored, and will begin to focus their efforts into escaping the enclosure instead of living a happy life. Make sure that any heavy items (rocks, hides) are sturdy and not able to fall and crush a tortoise that digs underneath them. We always set these items on the bare floor with the substrate added afterwards in order to give the object a firm foundation that can’t be “dug up” by the tortoises. You should avoid fake plants as a general rule, as the tortoises are attracted to the green color of their leaves and will attempt to nibble at them over and over again. If they were able to bite off and eat part of it, there can be potential problems. It’s just another risk not worth taking. Using flat rocks in an indoor enclosure will help keep toenails filed down naturally.

 

-Hidebox:

A hidebox should be provided to all tortoises; babies to adults, indoors or out. They need a secure place they can “get away from it all” and a hidebox gives them this opportunity. It is also now known that access to a “humid hidebox” is key in preventing pyramiding in young tortoises, and keeps their shells growing nice and smooth and uniform. This can be done simply by using a small plastic shoebox with a door cut into it, flipped over on its side to give the tortoises a quiet, humid area to sleep. A moisture retaining substrate should be used in this hidebox (such as coconut coir, peat moss, etc) and water will probably need to be added to it once or twice a week. 

 

All baby tortoises should be soaked in shallow water a few times a week to help maintain their hydration. They will typically drink almost immediately after being put in the shallow water.

 

-Water Source & Soakings:

Indoor enclosures may or may not need a water source provided daily, depending on the species of tortoise you’re keeping. Fresh water can be provided in shallow dishes that are easy for the tortoise to get in and out of. If they are too deep, they present a drowning hazard if a tortoise was to flip over in it, they use their heads to right themselves, and their head would often be underwater if this was to happen. Deep dishes also are difficult for a baby tortoise to reach into and drink from. Whether a water dish is provided or not, baby tortoises should be soaked in shallow, warm water at least twice a week (more often for the higher humidity or forest type species). The water should be shallow enough that it doesn’t go above the tortoise’s chin (with head in the shell). Larger species such as baby Aldabras can handle deeper water since their heads are much higher than a baby redfoot’s head would be.

 


 

Keeping Your Tortoise Outdoors

 

Keeping your tortoises outdoors ideal, and eliminates many of the difficulties of keeping a tortoise indoors. As long as your temperatures are somewhat ideal, you do not need to worry about UV-B lights, and the tortoises just seem more happy and active than tortoises kept indoors.

 

Wood and stone are two different types of barriers that can be used to house tortoises outdoors.

 

-Barriers:

The perimeter of your enclosure should be lined with an escape proof barrier of some sort. This can be done in many ways, depending on the species, the size and even your climate. Stacked and lined up concrete masonry blocks (CMU) are an often used barrier for tortoises, but species that tend to burrow can often burrow enough underneath them that they will fall over. Many tortoises tend to sleep in the corners of their enclosures and will often “dig in” in those corners. Also, nesting females will usually dig up against a barrier or object, and this will lead to the blocks falling also. Blocks are much more secure if they are mortared together and set on a solid footing. Wood walls work well, particularly if they’re painted or sealed to protect them from the weather.

 

Thick grasses and heavy plant cover help tortoises feel secure in their enclosures.

 

-Substrates:

Outdoor substrates are generally not as big of an issue as they are indoors. Many areas have suitable substrates naturally, or you can add some preferred substrate to help the soil be more useable. Many people add peat moss or sand to their natural soils for tortoise enclosures. Be sure that any substrate that the tortoise is kept on is free of any pesticides and chemicals that might irritate or even kill the tortoise.

 

Food items planted directly in the tortoise's enclosure greatly reduce the amount of maintenance required by the owners.

Large sulcata tortoises (right) will usually keep their grasses neatly trimmed.

 

-Plants / Furniture:

Outdoor enclosures should be decorated with plants that are non-toxic, whether or not you think the tortoise will eat them. There are many lists of toxic and non toxic plants done by universities and plant groups, and a simple search will turn up some results. Nurseries will usually also know which plants are or aren’t toxic. Depending on the species you’re keeping, you should research what plants would be part of a natural diet. Most tortoises will eat any broadleaf weeds that are found in its enclosure (dandelions are a favorite). Grasses are a natural diet for many species, and any common lawn grass is safe for your tortoise to eat. Clover or other seeds can be added to the grassed areas to add some more variety in their diet. We like to add clump grasses (any variety) for our tortoises to burrow into (particularly star and leopard tortoises) and sit behind for some afternoon shade. We also use boulders in many of our enclosures to help break up the line of sight so that a tortoise that wants privacy (for nesting, etc) can be out of view of the other tortoises. Many tortoises will climb boulders for no apparent reason, so make an effort to select boulders that aren’t too steep that a tortoise falls or slides off and can be flipped over. Alternatively, you could use boulders that are steep enough that a tortoise won’t attempt to climb it. We like to add small trees to the enclosures also for some additional shade and just to “pretty things up.”

 

Glazed water bowls are easy to keep clean and provide the tortoise a constant water supply, should he want it.

Cactus and tree trunks can be wrapped in burlap to protect them from the tortoises rubbing on or eating them.

 

Water bowls can be added to any tortoise enclosure. Some species will use these more than others, but there’s no major drawback to having a bowl of clean water available at all times (provided it stays clean). Use a bowl that has a glossy finish for easy cleaning since tortoises will often sit in their bowls, and they can quickly become dirty (use your imagination here). Smooth bowls are easy to clean with a simple spray of the hose to rinse them out every few days, or more often as needed.

Food bowls can be used to help keep their food off of the dirt or soil. Foods should never be eaten directly off of sand or soil, as much of the food will usually have some amount of sand stuck to it and be eaten by the tortoise. You can also just feed the tortoise in a grass area, so that the food items are on grass (and are safe to eat). Small amounts of sand occasionally eaten usually won’t cause a problem in tortoises, but make an effort where you can to prevent it from happening.

 

Above-ground hideboxes are easy to use for larger tortoises to keep them warm during cold weather.

Underground hideboxes are better for hot weather, as they provide some cooling below ground.

 

Hideboxes:

Nearly all tortoises will appreciate access to a hidebox in their enclosure. They will typically sleep in it and use it to get out of the weather, heat, or cold. The type of hide you build for them will vary somewhat depending on what they need it for – rain, heat, cold, etc.

The type of hidebox that we prefer to use is an underground hide with a few inches of sand over it, as well as some type of heating element installed in it for the colder months. We build these by first digging a large hole. Sides can be formed of blocks, wood or almost anything that will hold a good shape. We lay a plywood barrier inside the floor of the hide to prevent digging (and undermining the blocks). A top can be added, and should be reinforced enough to hold some amount of sand over the top. This can all be covered with dirt or soil, which will provide excellent insulation during weather extremes. Being in a hot climate, the hides we have here stay 15 to 20 degrees cooler inside than the shaded areas at ground level (such as behind a clump grass). Housing like this for large species can be difficult, since building these hideboxes at large proportions becomes considerably harder to do. 

 

Clump grasses provide good shade sources for tortoises during warm weather, as used by these redfoot and greek tortoises

 

Colder times of the year present their own problems for tortoises. When possible, it is preferred to keep tortoises outdoors in their normal enclosures with access to a heated hidebox that they can use at their own will to maintain warmth. Something as simple as a doghouse with a screw-in ceramic heater can keep a tortoise warm enough in mild winters. You can also use in-ground hideboxes as described above. Our larger tortoises will generally do a 1 hour, quick lap around the yard during the coldest parts of the year, with high temperatures in the 40’s. Larger animals kept warm are able to maintain enough body heat to do this, where smaller tortoises may go out for a very short amount of time or not at all. Activity levels will be greatly reduced during cold weather as well as food intake, so don’t be too concerned if your tortoises aren’t eating much during this time. You will want to limit the amount of air exchange that can take place in the tortoise’s hidebox to maintain some heat in there. We use thick, black rubber sheets (made for garden pond liners) with vertical slits in it as a basic “doggy-door” and the tortoises quickly recognize this as an access in and out of their heated box. During cold weather, you should always do a quick lap around the enclosure in the late evening to make sure that the tortoises got back to the heated area before temperatures get too cold. Tortoises will sometimes fall asleep in a bush or in a corner, and once their body temperature is too low, it’s impossible for them to get back to the heat on their own.

If outdoor temperatures are too cold to maintain a tortoise outdoors, they can be brought inside a garage or unused room for the coldest months of the year. Some keepers use large stock tanks (made for livestock food/water), or build plywood boxes to keep their tortoises in the garage during cold weather. These areas will need to be kept moderately warm to keep the tortoise healthy during this time. They don’t need to be kept hot, and tortoises seem somewhat understanding of the cold weather (they will be less active and eat much less). We prefer to keep the lights on for only about 8-10 hours a day when doing this, just so the tortoises don’t become too alert and active when in a confined space. Warmer days can be used to give the tortoise some time in the sun.

 


 

Feeding & Nutrition

 

Opuntia cactus pads make good staple diets for tortoises if it is available in your area. Although commonly called "spineless," they usually do have a small amount of needles on them. Effort should be made to remove the majority of the spines in these pads, but they will not usually create a problem for most tortoises

 

Staple Diets:

The “staple diet” of a species is the diet that the species should be eating day in & day out. This would be different than a “treat” that you give to the tortoise occasionally. Each species will have slightly different diets based on their natural range and environment, and you should ask the source of the tortoise (whether you bought it from a pet store, breeder, etc) what the tortoise was eating and should be eating. It would be impossible for this basic tortoise caresheet to go through each of the species, but as a general rule, many baby tortoises will do well on a “staple diet” of mixed leafy greens, such as a commercial “Spring Mix” available at many grocery stores. Baby tortoises usually need to be offered softer foods such as leafy greens that are easy for their small jaws to tear apart. Most vegetables are good diets for tortoises, particularly if they are mixed with other foods to cover the many different nutritional needs of the tortoises.

 

Supplementation:

Tortoises should be given supplements in their diet to cover the nutritional needs that the diet may or may not be covering. Babies in particular need calcium added to their diet to aid in the growth of their shells and bones, as well as to keep energy levels up. The amount given will depend on the species and other factors, but it is probably best to err on the “less is more” side of things, and avoid overdoing it with supplements. As a general rule, we give our baby tortoises a calcium supplement twice a week and a multivitamin supplement two to three times a month. If the tortoise is being kept indoors, we will use a calcium supplement with D3, which helps make up for the lack of natural sunlight that the tortoise would be getting if it was housed outdoors.

 


 

Health Issues

            Keep in mind, baby tortoises sleep through much of the day like most baby animals, including humans. It is not uncommon for a baby tortoise to only be active a small part of the day – usually mornings and evenings. This is not a health problem, just a part of life. This section will offer some help on some of the more common problems that people have with baby tortoises.

 

Dry or Closed Eyes:

People often assume that a tortoise (or other reptile) with its eyes shut has an eye problem. Reptiles in general, when something is “not quite right” will keep their eyes shut. Very often, a tortoise that doesn’t keep its eyes open during the day is simply not humid enough. This is particularly true in high humidity species such as yellowfoots, Burmese mountain tortoises, forstens, etc. Usually, after a good soaking the eyes are open and look fine. Assuming you’re already keeping them on a moist substrate, you can raise the humidity levels of the tortoise by covering part of the top of the enclosure to raise the humidity levels.

Some species, sulcatas and leopards in particular, do not do well in high humidity enclosures, and long periods with too much humidity can make them sick. These dry climate tortoises typically do not have problems keeping their eyes open in low humidity.

If your tortoise really does have an eye problem (which is pretty rare), there’s a product called “Terramycin” available at many feed stores which works miracles on many common eye problems in reptiles. It is made for cattle, but was given to me by a vet several years ago, and is a great product for eye problems. More extreme eye problems will need the assistance of a vet.

 

Inactivity:

A lack of activity in a baby tortoise (aside from the normal sleeping all day pattern) can be caused by many things. You should start by going through a checklist of all the items your tortoise needs (most of which is explained in thie sheet).

Probably most common would be that the temperatures aren’t warm enough. Make sure that your tortoise has access to an area of the enclosure that is at the higher end of their temperature range.

Another common reason is a lack of proper lighting (no UV-B lights) or just not enough light in general. Most tortoises like bright lights, and having bright lights will help keep them active when they want to be.

Tortoises that haven’t been getting their regular soakings will become dehydrated, and will be inactive. All baby tortoises should be getting the soakings as described above. More is not always better – once every other day is plenty.

Overhandling is another common problem. Baby tortoises are easily stressed, and “passing it around the classroom” is not something that a baby tortoise will hold up well to. Gentle handling in a quiet, relaxed setting isn’t too hard on a tortoise, but be very careful not to drop or spook it, and if you feel like it is inactive or that there’s some other problem, it’s best not to handle them at all.

Reevaluate the diet you are feeding your tortoise. Do you have a good mix of foods? Are you using supplements properly?

 

Soft Shell:

A soft feeling to the shell of a tortoise is most commonly caused by a lack of UV-B and/or calcium. This rarely happens with tortoises that are housed outdoors in natural sunlight, but can be quite common in captivity. Assuming that you are properly supplementing, be sure that your UV-B lights aren’t too far above the tortoise. Most fluorescent UV-B bulbs only work properly at close ranges; from about 8-10” away from the bulb itself. These bulbs, at a distance of 12”, produce almost no functional UV-B for the tortoises to benefit from. They also have a useable life of about 9-12 months. Lower or replace your bulb if you think these might be a problem.

 

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