You're in > TPG Members Forum > Tortoise Care, Health/Problems > Pyramiding and general advice needed please

Pyramiding and general advice needed please
Posted: 04/07/2014 by kwo3

Hi everyone,

I am new on here and have created a profile to get someinformation on my tortoises. I am ashamed to say that I donít think I have beengiving them the best diet that they could have had and would like someinformation if possible please?

 I have three Hermanntortoises, two females I have had for nearly 10 years and a male I have had forabout 8/9 years. The two females are housed together (they were from the sameclutch of eggs) and the male was housed with them until about three or fouryears ago when he started trying to mate with them and now he is housed alone.He does get to see them now and again though.

 I also have twoHorsefield tortoises, two males I have had for about 6 years.  They are from the same group of eggs and werehoused together but about four years ago they started to fight and are nowhoused alone.

I am concerned about all of them at the minute but mostlyabout the Hermanns tortoises. They seem to have quite a lot of pyramiding andhave grown quite a lot for their ages. Their beaks are also a bit over grownand need to be filed down at the vets sometimes. They do not seem to touch thecuttlefish I put in there for them. When I got them from pet shops I received acare sheet for them which said what I needed to feed them. I have been feedingthem spring greens, kale, rocket, cauliflower, broccoli, watercress and spinachwith occasional cucumber and banana/ strawberries as treats.  I am now starting to realise that diet this isincorrect after reading on forums about feeding them weeds and certain flowers.I am now trying to give them the best diet as possible and will do as much as Ican to do this. I know pyramiding is irreversible and I feel absolutely awfulfor letting them get like this. I have bought Pro rep tortoise feed seeds andhave started to give them these when they have grown but they seem to take agesto grow (in the green house) and there only seems to be about three differentones that grow! I honestly canít keep up with growing them and the rate theyare going through them. Has anyone got any suggestions on how I can grow themfaster? I have got three greenhouses (the small ones with four shelves inside)and I have been putting them in seed trays and in the green house. I have alsoseen some tortoise seeds on the Shell Warriors site (I didnít realise there wasso many they could eat) and I was just wondering if all of these weeds andflowers are ok for both Hermann and Horsefields? Is there an extensive listanywhere? I have read so many conflicting things about tortoises I just donít wantto get anything else wrong and poison them or something. Which tortoise sitesare reputable? While I am on the subject I read somewhere as well that youshouldnít plant these seeds in compost from garden centres etc as it would havehad things added like pesticides or something and that could come out in theweeds. Is this true? The two Horsefields are having trouble adapting to theweeds I do feed them Ė how do I introduce these weeds so they eat them? Canboth Horsefields and Hermanns eat the same things?   

My husband and I are also building them an outdoor enclosureat the minute which measures 4.5 sqm  forthe girls and 3 sqm for each boy. I donít know if this will be big enough butit is all the space we can have at the minute. I have read up about putting acold frame in (we are going to make one), going to put some large pebbles in,slate, hide, etc etc. Itís going to have a lockable lid. I am aiming to putthem outside from early in the morning but will have to bring them in in theafternoon for a few hours as I am at work and donít want to leave them outsidewhile no one is in. Then I will bring them back out when I am home and bringthem in on a night. Is this ok? I live in Yorkshire so the weather is a bit hitand miss!! I am also wondering about the substrate? I have been reading onlinein forums and some people say sterilised topsoil is fine while others just sayplain old topsoil is ok (this would be cheaper too!). Some people say a mix ofplay sand and top soil but others say the play sand affects their tortoiseseyes. I donít know what to do really. I am going to be putting the substrate ineither this weekend or next and donít know what to buy. Does anyone have anysuggestions? Also when people say a mix of play sand and top soil is itactually mixing them together? We have dug up the patio and the sand and gottendown to the soil underneath is it ok to lay the topsoil just on top of this? Ialso read that they can have some shrubs and plants in there, for example, lavenderand pansies. Can these be bought from a garden centre or do they havepesticides if they want to nibble them?

We have recently made them new indoor tabletop enclosures(the ones with the open tops). They measure 1.2 sqm for the girls and 1.1 sqmfor each boy. They each have hides, pebbles, fake plants, a piece of slate forbasking etc. They have a hot spot and a cold spot and I will be getting UVs tofit these enclosures. We are currently using the smaller ones from their oldones. The Hermann tortoises have Pro Rep tortoise substrate and then I readabout sterilised topsoil so the little boys have got that. This is ok isnít it?

Also, last question, I have never hibernated them as my vetsaid it wasnít a necessity. I am now thinking of doing it maybe winter afterthis one. I will let them get used to the new diet etc first but is this a goodthing to do? Will their pyramiding affect this at all?  

I am sorry about all of these questions but I just want todo right by them. As I said I feel absolutely awful for letting them get likethis. It is not through lack of care for them, ignorance, I will admit on mypart for listening to the pet shop and not seeking any further advice. I willtake everything on board what is said and do my utmost to do the best for them.I have also posted this on some other forums to get as much advice as possible,I hope this is ok.


Thank you so much for your time.




(P.s apologies for no pictures at the moment the camera onmy phone is playing up, but I will try and post some soon)

Re: Pyramiding and general advice needed please
Posted: 05/07/2014 by Tom

Hello Kirsty,

Thank you for a very detailed & well constructed post.
It is regrettable that the pet trade give such poor advice, it's all about £££s.

As you've posted other sites I'll just give a few pointers, or you'll go 'dizzy'!

Of the feeds on the trade care sheet only rocket is suitable, cucumber is ok as a treat, but is mainly water. Two good sites for info on suitable plants are;
The Tortoise Table
Re. growing, be sure your mini greenhouses are fully ventilated & in very hot weather, take the polythene off. Try to find a neighbour who is a keen gardener to get advice on growing. Many suitable plants need 'potting on' to a size where you can harvest them, but leave the plant growing on. 
Plants from garden centres can be eaten safely if you grow them on for a few weeks first.
As you keep 2 species, there will be some plants which one will eat & not the other. The horsfields will eat some of your plants within a day or two if offered nothing else.  
For various reasons I will have to finish my reply tomorrow.


Re: Pyramiding and general advice needed please
Posted: 06/07/2014 by Tom


Re a cold frame type house, the 'roof' is best made of twin wall polycarbonate. The floor is best made of wood, for use on cooler days, pebbles will be colder under 'foot'. You can put soft straw in the back corners for them to push into to relax.
The frame will need to be open fronted at the front, or it will be dangerously hot on sunny days, just design a removable front.

I'm afraid that your planned enclosures are far too small & if you simply can't make them bigger, then sadly I suggest that you re-home the males, & make one bigger area for the two females. They need an area of at least 15sqm ideally, & much smaller than that is frankly unkind. Yes people are told by pet traders that they are ok in small areas - but that's not right.

Re topsoil - if you buy it, then if it's g'teed sterile - fine. Or do you know someone with a big garden ? even better!

Re indoor 'tables' - as with outside, one v. big one is best in the long term. See below.

Re. hibernation - I suggest you make a start this winter, perhaps just for 3months for the 1st time, this will help with your space & food problems, until resolved.
It is a natural process for your species & any vet who says it isn't, is talking rubbish & should be avoided. The Hibernation advice which Darren & co-writers provide on this site is excellent, so enjoy reading it.

The pyramids will mean that The "Jackson's Ratio" can't be used & it is of no use for horsfield's anyway, if you still have them in the Autumn. You need to weigh the torts accurately asap, then fortnightly to begin with, then moving to monthly.

Keep their weights carefully documented, so that you have a monthly & year by year record. Your can then track their progress.

You ask which sites have good info, you will find all the info you need on the TPG site. Leave further reading for a year or two - or I re-state - you'll go 'dizzy'.

I don't know what the pet trade "substrate" that you mention consists of - but there's no doubt of one thing - it will have a huge profit to cost ratio !!

Food for thought ?


Web Design Bristol