Owning and caring for a tortoise is not always easy, and we all have lots of questions regarding care, diet, accommodation, illness, and many other things. We have tried to cover most aspects of tortoise husbandry in our care sheets and other documents on this site, but a good place to start with any questions you might have is our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section, where we have tried to identify the most commonly asked questions for easy reference.
Yes perfectly normal. This is part of the waste produce from the tortoise and is called urates. You will not always see it, and it is a good indicator of how well hydrated the tortoise is. In a well-hydrated tortoise, the urates will either be watery or have the consistency of thick cream; if it is at all gritty or lumpy this is a sign that your tortoise is becoming dehydrated. If this happens you will need to give regular baths and give some cucumber, which has a high water content until the urates return to normal.
As long as a tortoise is a good weight and healthy, and is a species which normally hibernates, there is no reason not to hibernate him. In the wild, baby tortoises will have their first hibernation at a few months old. Hibernation is an important part of the tortoise's life cycle, and is beneficial to their health. Tortoises which haven't hibernated often grow too fast and are too large for their age.
No, the best place for a tortoise is outdoors, in the fresh air, exposed to natural UV from the sunlight. Hatchling tortoises will happily live outdoors in warmer weather, provided that they have shade, shelter and a totally secure enclosure. All tortoises need somewhere warm and dry when the weather is not so good.
Yes, a tortoise does not have a diaphragm, so needs to move the front legs in and out to help move air in and out of his lungs. However, if there are bubbles coming from the mouth or nose, or the tortoise is breathing with his mouth open, seek veterinary attention.
Tortoises can live very happily on their own. Before introducing another, you need to consider whether you have the room to accommodate an extra tortoise. You also need to ensure that the new tortoise is the same species and sub-species as your existing tortoise. Two males may fight, and a male may continually harass a female, so you would need to be prepared to separate them if necessary. In all cases, you should quarantine any new addition for at least six months to make sure it is perfectly healthy before allowing the tortoises to meet.
No, the tortoise needs a ‘day and night’ cycle, and the basking lamp should be turned off and the temperature should be allowed to fall overnight. As long as the overnight temperatures won't fall below about 10 -12°C (50 - 53°F) for mediterranean tortoises - no other background heating is required. Tropical tortoises require a warmer night time temperature – see specific care sheets.
No, and they don’t float either. If you have a garden pond, this *must* be securely fenced off from the tortoise to avoid drowning.
Tortoises do sometimes eat the odd slug or snail, and it is fine, although a little unpleasant to witness! However, animal protein should not be offered to Mediterranean tortoises, leopards or sulcatas.
It may be that he is lacking in calcium. Try leaving cuttlefish in the enclosure, or a small dish of limestone flour. However, some tortoises will eat small stones even if they are not seeking extra calcium. A small number of stones should pass through the digestive system with no problems, but try to prevent your tortoise from eating large number of stones, as there is a risk of impaction.
If the tortoise has a varied terrain and slates and rock to climb over, the nails should wear down naturally. If however, they don’t wear down, you can clip them, but they do have a vein running through the nail which you need to be careful not to cut. If you are not confident of doing this yourself, you may want to ask your vet.
No. They may be different species, and any courting behaviour could cause an injury. There is also a serious risk of disease or pathogen transfer, and the stress of introducing a strange tortoise can suppress the immune system, making the tortoise more susceptible to illness.
An open topped tortoise table with suitable lighting – please see the relevant care sheet for your tortoise for more detailed information.
Hibernation is an important part of the life cycle of many species of tortoise, but you do need to ensure that you have a species which does hibernate, and also that the tortoise is healthy and a good weight.
Yes, it is important that the tortoise always has access to fresh water, and you should also bathe him several times a week to encourage him to drink. Tortoises which come from arid areas often won't dispel fluids unless they can replace them, so you may find that the tortoise has a large drink followed shortly afterwards by a large wee.
This could be an environmental reaction, or the beginnings of ‘runny nose syndrome’. You may sometimes see a bubble coming out of the nose after the tortoise has been drinking, or soaking in the bath. The tortoise has no palate, so when it drinks, water will sometimes escape from the nares. However, keep a close eye on the tortoise, and if there are more bubbles, seek veterinary attention.
The TPG strongly advise against the purchase of any tortoise off the internet or from a pet shop. Like all pets the background of these animals is crucial and the majority of these places, whether it is an internet dealer or the local pet shop, import their tortoises. The TPG only recommend true UK captive bred tortoises from reputable breeders.
Please see the care sheet for a list of foods suitable for your species of tortoise. The tortoise needs a high fibre, low protein diet, and you should aim for a diet as close to that of a wild tortoise as possible. Never feed tortoise pellets, and do not rely solely on supermarket foods as a staple diet.
Sexual maturity has more to do with size than age. In the wild, a female tortoise will not lay eggs until around 15 years of age. However, in captivity, tortoises tend to grow faster and mature earlier. Females can lay eggs at around 14cm straight carapace length (SCL); however, breeding very young or very small tortoises is not to be encouraged as the female may experience difficulty in laying the eggs.
Generally, males have longer tails, and in some species a concave plastron, and may be smaller in size. This does vary between species.
No. It is colder and more draughty at floor level, and dangerous for the tortoise. He may get accidentally trodden on, or trapped by a door opening. He may eat things which are harmful, or bite electrical wires. It is also unhygienic, as it is impossible to house train a tortoise.
No. Mixing species should always be avoided due to the risk of disease and injury from different behaviours. Different species of tortoise may also have differing dietary and environmental requirements.
He may have an eye infection or irritation. Check that the substrate you are using is the correct type for your tortoise. A drop of cod liver oil may help an irritated eye, but if in doubt consult a vet.
No. Rabbits and other rodents like to chew, and may injure the tortoise. The tortoise may also eat the rabbit droppings. Dogs and tortoises should not be left together either. However friendly the dog may seem, to him the tortoise is a moving chewy bone. All too often we hear of dogs attacking tortoises, often with tragic results.
It is dangerous if this happens under the basking lamp or in direct sunlight. Make sure that there are no obstacles which he could climb up and cause him to tip over in these ‘danger’ areas. Also, not having an entirely smooth surface can help as this will give the tortoise something to push against and turn himself the right way up again.
You should never put any thing on the shell: it is living tissue, and oils and lotions can block the pores and attract dirt. If the shell is dirty, a soft toothbrush and water can be used to gently clean it off.
It can often take hatchlings a week or so to start eating: they are still absorbing the egg sac during this time. Most important is to keep them well hydrated, so make sure there is fresh water always available, and that they are bathed daily.
This is new growth and is nothing to worry about.
Tortoises, like all reptiles, can carry salmonella, although it is not common. You should always wash your hands thoroughly after handling tortoises, taking particular care with children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with suppressed immunity.
Annex A (need Article 10s)
Spur-Thigh (T. graeca)
Dogs and tortoises should not be left together either. However friendly the dog may seem, to him the tortoise is a moving chewy bone. All too often we hear of dogs attacking tortoises, often with tragic results.