Tortoise Helpline Ireland

Tortoise care in Ireland

Tortoises General Care

Hermann's Tortoise (Testudo Hermanni) are small European Species. There are two subspecies of Hermann's tortoises. One subspecies grows to about 5 or 6 inches the other subspecies grows to 7 or 8 inches. The marginated tortoise grows from 9 to 11 inches. The care of both these species is very similar. They both come from a Mediterranean climate where the range is temperate to subtropical. Neither tortoise digs a burrow but both species dig shallow pallets into soft earth or under bushes and debris to hide from the heat or cold. Provide a substrate of 50% topsoil and 50% kiddies play sand. Both species naturally hibernate in the wild. The care of Mediterannean Tortoises is broadly speaking the same as for Hermanni. 

They can be put outside to receive natural sunlight, but should be watched and be able to get out of the sun when they get warm (if not they could become over heated and die). Four or five inch tortoises can be kept outside during warm months when night temperatures are above 15 degrees celcius and days are sunny. In cold climate areas they can be placed in a box and hibernated in a storage room or garden shed that stays between 5 to 7 degrees celcius. Care should be taken to ensure rodents and other small animals cannot access the hibernation area. Your tortoise should be checked periodically during hibernation.

Hatchling tortoises can be maintained in a l large plastic box such as a plastic shallow storage box. I buy mine at IKEA for a fiver. The area should be lit with a good quality broad spectrum UVA and UVB lamp such as Repti-Glo 5 ™  and there should be a basking light on one end of the box. A 40 watt spot lamp is sufficient. The temperature at night should be above 15 degrees and days should be above 25 degrees. The tortoises require a basking light to elevate their body temperature to 25 to 30 degrees which aids digestion and well being. Ensure they are not exposed to temperatures over 40 celcius as this may be fatal.
Herman's tortoises and marginated tortoises are grazers and herbivores. They do not eat meat of any kind and require very little fruit. Up to about 10% of their diet should consist of fruit but no more than that. Adult tortoises can be maintained in secure garden enclosures where there are a variety of edible weeds, flowers or other plants. No other supplements are required. Dry foods (such as dry tortoise diets or dry leaves and grass) should be avoided as they are both expensive and unnecessary. If the tortoises have fresh greens or grass available they should still be watered two or three times per week or more often if temperatures are high. They should always have shade available so they can get out of direct sun when they have warmed up. A hide box is essential and this can be as simple as a half buried earthenware flower pot.

Hatchling tortoises should be fed daily. A diet of chopped greens (kale, endive, mustard, dandelions, etc.), (15 to 18 percent protein) should be fed to the tortoises. They should be soaked in shallow lukewarm water at least once a week for 20 minutes. If your tortoise is kept warm fed and watered regularly, and given adequate room it should live for years. Small tortoises grow about 2 inches every year but in captivity 1 to 1.5 inches is typical. Always remember that tortoises properly cared for may outlive their owners.

It is NOT recommended to keep tortoises in a glass aquarium. A simple tortoise table is ideal and much more inexpensive. There are many examples of tortoise tables available on the internet. If you are any way handy you can construct one yourself.

Where lighting is concerned NEVER use infrared lights to heat your tortoise. Simple 40 to 60 watt domestic spot lights are sufficient. There have been far too many reports of serious fires caused by infrared heat lamps. It is a good idea to incorporate timers and thermostats to control the environment and save money.



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