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Help i'm confused new owner of Horsfield
Posted: 29/12/2009 by frankie

Can anyone help me - my husband bought me a horsfield and always wanted a Tortoise,  the pet shop he recieved it from supplied the Vivarium and heat lamps etc and told us to have uv light on in day and night lite in evening - its hitting 80-90 in there! Also told to feed broccoli grapes sprout tops cabbage spinich etc, we have done all of these things and bathed her - also she keeps squirting what looks like toothpaste in her 'wee' is this right everytime,  she does'nt seem to be eating today although the broccoli always goes 1st! Ive looked at some sites which says should'nt be in a vivaruim type house im so worried now im doing wrong thing for my tortoise could someone please advise me if i'm doing any of the above incorrectly be so grateful thankyou  Tracie

Re: Help i'm confused new owner of Horsfield
Posted: 30/12/2009 by Dave K

Hello there,

Congratulations on your first tortoise, Horsfields are great.

Most vivariums sold by pet shops are really quite unsuitable for a tortoise like a Horsfield. Tortoises need to be able to regulate their body temperature through basking and being able to move to a cooler area. This is difficult to achive in a viv. For the time being is it possible to leave the doors of the viv open to allow some air circulation. Most keepers will recommend a tortoise table or something like a large rabbit cage for a small tortoise (see pictures in this article and some ideas for indoor and outdoor setups here )

The 80-90F is ok for one end of the enclosure (the basking spot should be around 95f in fact) but there must be a gradient down to around 70f to allow the tortoise to retreat to a cooler place if it wants to. Can you tell us what lamps you have been provided with?

Regarding the heat overnight, its really not needed in a centrally heated room, tortoises can cool down overnight, no problem.

With the feeding, Broccoli, spinach and sprouts are not great tortoise food unless used very sparingly in combination with other foods. They all contain substances called Oxlates which can cause a tortoise problems if used to excess. Oxlates prevent tortoises absorbing vital calcium and other minerals.

 A far better basis for the diet is garden weeds (plus they're free!) You need to know which ones are ok and which to avoid but things like Dandelions, Sow Thistle, plaintains, are a great basis. There are so many good weeds to use, have a look at this new site dedicated to feeding tortoises 

 It can be a bit tricky to supply a good variety at this time of the year so this can be padded out with things like the Florette crispy salad mix available from supermarkets and there are a lot of plants available at garden centres which can be fed. Were you given any supplements to add to the tortoises food. For young tortoises I add a calcium supplement (Limestone Flour, Cricket dust) daily and a multivitimin and mineral supplement called Nutrobal 2-3 times a week. These can be purchased online easily.

The white substance you are seeing when the tortoise wee's are called urates, this is perfectly norma. A tortoise likes to hold onto as much body fluid as it can so its waste comes out in solid (urate) form rather than urine. The regular bathing is great, keep that up as small tortoises can become dehydrated quite easily. They should also have a shallow water bowl availabe in their enclosure but the baths do encourage them to drink.

I've linked to the TPG's Horsfield caresheet below as well as the site of a friend of mine with much Horsfield tortoise experience. Hope this helps but please feel free to ask as many questions as you like. Welcome to tortoise keeping!!!



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