MAINTENANCE OF TORTOISES IN CAPTIVITY: ENCLOSURES AND TERRARIUM
Tortoises are wild animals. Maintaining them in captivity requires compliance with basic rules:
- It is inappropriate to keep a tortoise in an apartment or if the home does not have an outside garden.
- Tortoises require an enclosure large enough to recreate their natural environment, which is why it is not feasible to live in a terrarium or on a balcony all year round.
- If the tortoises must spend a part of the year in a terrarium (although we strongly advise against it), they must have a source of light that mimics natural sunlight. In effect, ultra-violet rays are required, which allow the tortoise to assimilate the calcium necessary for the solidification of its shell.
In this regard, we are pleased to be able to offer you SOLAR RAPTOR heat and UV lamps, which are the most efficient lamps available on the market today, at several power levels, as well as a selection of turtle food for land based and aquatic tortoises.
Again, there are no real surprises here, the longer and larger the pens or terrariums, the more the animal will feel at ease.
Regarding enclosure fencing, we advise you to bury them at least 30 cm deep in order to ensure that your tortoise will not escape. Enclosures should include a water point and places for hiding, as well as an overhead shelter for the night (piece of cork, dry leaves, rocky overhang, etc., in order to protect your animal from the cold).
If your tortoise must live in a terrarium for part of the year, it must be able to rely upon a source of heat and UV light. Note that some lamps now combine heating and UV light.
For UV light to be effective, the lamp must be placed approximately 40 cm away from the tortoise.
The position of the source of heat and UV light must follow the rule of the hot point. In fact, it must be positioned in a corner of the terrarium where your animal can be hot under the lamp or able to move far enough away from the lamp, so as not to suffer any harmful effects. Depending on the species, the hot point heat source should be a temperature of 30-32°C.
Why is UV light necessary?
UV light allow for the synthesis of calcium which is necessary for the growth of the tortoise and the development and solidification of its shell.
Tortoises, both land-based and aquatic, need a constant supply of calcium and vitamins A and D, which they attain from their food. Tortoise diets vary and natural conditions affect whether your tortoise will fall victim to nutritional deficiencies.
Calcium and vitamins are sold in pet stores in the form of powders, but you can also give them calcium in the form of bone-shaped cuttlefish (available for housed reptiles or birds), or crushed chicken egg shells or even oyster shells. Of course, the varied diet your animal would have in its natural environment would not require calcium or vitamins to be supplemented.
Terrestrial (Land based) Tortoises
Terrestrial tortoises have a diet that is strictly herbivorous, even though, from time to time, they appreciate a worm, snail or insect.
In order to recreate natural dieting conditions, and to contribute to the wellbeing of your tortoise, it is necessary to feed them plants (90% of their daily ration), such as dandelion, clover, plantain, blueberries and similar berries, leaves or even prickly pears (the tortoises are indifferent to the thorns) or simply to feed them grass. Also, from time to time, your tortoise can eat fruits and vegetables, but no more than 10% of their daily dietary ration.
If this balance is not respected, you may expose your animal to dietary deficiencies, which may have disastrous consequences to their bodies and may sometimes prove fatal.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of foods that are suitable (meaning food with a phosphate ratio greater than 1.5) or unsuitable (with a phosphate ratio lower than 1.5):
To be provided regularly:
Foods to be given from time to time
List of Regular Foods
Dehydrated alfalfa (hay)
Report Ca/P > 1.5
Report Ca/P < 1.5
Prohibited food items:
Cakes and sweets, dog or cat food, noodles, pasta, ham, rice, bread. Try to think about what the tortoise would eat in its natural environment...