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Care For A Tortoise - InfoBarrel
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Care For A Tortoise

By Edited Apr 27, 2015 1 0

Don't judge a tortoise by its shell

Tortoise

Although fairy tales do sometimes come true, it's probably not the best idea to train your tortoise to race against a hare. Nevertheless, tortoises make great pets. They take up a relatively small amount of space, they're quiet and easy to care for, and they probably won't have an accident on the living room carpet. Besides, a tortoise can be an educational opportunity, as it provides a fascinating glimpse into reptilian behavior.

With a small initial investment for supplies (less than $100 U.S.) and a time commitment of about 15 minutes a day, you can provide your tortoise with a reptilian Club Med. We'll show you how.

It's important to know the difference between a tortoise and a turtle, because if you treat one like the other, you could actually kill it. Basically, tortoises are land-dwelling vegetarians that can easily drown if placed in too much water. Turtles, on the other hand, eat meat and live both on land and in the water.

Also, keep in mind that there are countless species of both tortoises and turtles, and each requires a slightly different diet and habitat. It's crucial to find a reliable local pet store and a reptile veterinarian--not only for answering your questions, but also for obtaining supplies and any needed medical treatment for your tortoise.

Lesson Step 1 : Do your research

You can find useful information about tortoises at your local library, by contacting a herpetological society (found on the Internet or through your pet store), or by asking the professionals at your pet store several questions before you make a choice:

How big will the tortoise get? - The size of the tortoise will determine how big its habitat needs to be. Some species weigh only a few pounds, while others can grow to more than 200 pounds (90 kilograms). However, it's not likely you'll walk out of a pet store with a tortoise that will someday outweigh you.

Is the tortoise male or female? - This will be especially helpful to know if you have more than one tortoise. Two males in the same habitat will try to knock each other over in a battle for territory. Two females will usually get along, provided there's enough space and food for each. A male and a female may eventually mate.

Note: Some species won't breed unless they've had a long period (roughly 3 months) of hibernation first. However, since tortoises can easily die during hibernation, wait until you've acquired at least a year of experience caring for your pet and until you've thoroughly researched its mating habits before you try breeding.

Can the tortoise be handled? - Tortoises are very much peace loving and cool in behavior. Only your behavior will compelled him to bite you. Try to understand his behavior trend to manage him well.

What about the physical condition of tortoise? – Have a talk with the expert with the present physical condition of the tortoise. Make it confirm the tortoise is physically well or not.

How long will the tortoise live? - Depending on its breed and how well it's cared for, some tortoises can live for several decades.

Lesson Step 2 : Set up a habitat

To properly care for your tortoise, you must provide a habitat that resembles its natural domain. A terrarium for one tortoise should be at least seven times its adult size and should include a minimum of the following conditions:

Wooden walls - A tortoise will try to walk through anything it can see through; if its habitat has glass walls, the tortoise will continually bump its head. For this reason, most tortoise terrariums are made of wood. Also, look for a terrarium with rounded corners on the inside. Square corners appeal to tortoises as ways to climb up and escape. To further safeguard against this, get a terrarium with a screened roof that you can easily remove and securely reattached when necessary.

A hiding place - A tortoise needs a place to hide. An empty shoebox with a hole cut out that's big enough for it to get into and out of is a perfect dark, private place for your pet. You can also visit a pet supply store or go online to buy an imitation tree or branch with space for a tortoise to crawl inside.

A hot spot - Tortoises depend on external heat sources. If they can't warm up, their digestive systems won't work properly. Depending on the species, optimum temperatures range between 80 and 95F (27 to 35C). To make sure your tortoise is warm and happy, provide it with at least 6 hours of heat per day. Most pet stores sell heat lamps that emit healthy UV rays for this purpose. You can also purchase ceramic heaters for tortoises that need hotter temperatures.

A feeding area - Your tortoise should have access to clean water at all times. Set up a water dish in a corner of the terrarium, and make sure it's shallow enough (no deeper than the tortoise's feet) so your tortoise won't accidentally drown in it. The feeding area should remain consistent; always put food and water in the same place.

Good traction - What you cover the terrarium floor with will depend on what kind of tortoise you have. Desert species will need a sandy, well-drained substrate, while tropical species require moist leaf litter, moss, or crushed orchard bark.

Lesson Step 3 : Feed your tortoise

How often you feed your tortoise and how much food you provide depends on its size, weight, species, and the temperature of its habitat. When it's too cool, it can became lethargic, inactive, and start eating less.

Diets for different species vary, and you should ask your pet store professional or reptile veterinarian about your pet's specific nutritional requirements. Keep in mind, though, that tortoises don't chew their food. They bite and swallow. Make sure everything you serve is shredded into tiny pieces or soft enough to break easily into bite-sized bits.

Also, tortoises are grazers; they eat a little and come back later for more. So, leave food out for yours all day. However, when you turn off the lamp at the end of the day, take the food away to prevent spoilage and keep insects away. Some possible meals include:

Fresh green vegetables - Broccoli, bean sprouts, green beans, and mustard and collard greens are high in vitamins and calcium, making them healthy additions to any tortoise's diet.

Alfalfa pellets - This is rabbit chow, which you can pick up at your pet store. Before serving, soak the pellets in water and wait until they're like damp bread crumbs, with no hard pieces.

A protein biscuit - Often sold as a dietary supplement for monkeys, protein biscuits can be an easy way to ensure your tortoise gets enough of this important nutrient. Soften a biscuit in water and mash before serving.

Note: Too much protein can weaken your tortoise's shell. Ask your vet or pet store professional for recommendations on how much protein to offer.

Calcium - A lack of calcium can weaken a tortoise's shell and bones. Blackberries, blueberries, and cantaloupe are good sources of calcium, although certain tortoise species don't eat fruit. Also consider calcium lactate powder, which you can purchase at your pet store and sprinkle on your pet's food (follow package directions for quantity).

Note: Avoid foods that are high in phosphorus and low in calcium. These include grapes, bananas, and fresh peas. Also, never serve a tortoise spinach; it's too high in phosphorus, which is bad for its shell.

Lesson Step 3 : Provide regular maintenance

To keep your tortoise healthy, pay attention to the following:

Manage the lights - Depending on the species, the terrarium light should stay on for at least 6 hours a day. Don't forget to turn it off, though, or your tortoise will think it's daylight all the time. Your tortoise will eventually develop eating and sleeping patterns based on the schedule of the lights, so be consistent. Consider using a timer.

Keep the terrarium clean - Tortoises tend to knock over their water bowls, which can make the substrate mushy. Also, your tortoise will soil the substrate when it relieves itself. Keep an eye on the substrate and change it when necessary.

Make bath to your tortoise - Take a wide faced bowl for the bath. The size of the bowl depends on the size of you tortoise. Power water as required for bathing. Have a soft clean of the whole body.

Visit the vet - Bring your tortoise to the vet once every 6 months for a checkup. And weigh it periodically on a regular bathroom scale, or simply pick it up; if it appears substantially lighter, this is an indication that something is wrong. Take it to the vet immediately.

Daily attention to your pet and its environment will help keep your tortoise healthy. And the more you educate yourself about this particular member of the chelonian family, the more enriching an experience your reptile will offer.

Feed your tortoise

How often you feed your tortoise and how much food you provide depends on its size, weight, species, and the temperature of its habitat. When it's too cool, it can became lethargic, inactive, and start eating less.

Diets for different species vary, and you should ask your pet store professional or reptile veterinarian about your pet's specific nutritional requirements. Keep in mind, though, that tortoises don't chew their food. They bite and swallow. Make sure everything you serve is shredded into tiny pieces or soft enough to break easily into bite-sized bits.

Also, tortoises are grazers; they eat a little and come back later for more. So, leave food out for yours all day. However, when you turn off the lamp at the end of the day, take the food away to prevent spoilage and keep insects away. Some possible meals include:

Fresh green vegetables. Broccoli, bean sprouts, green beans, and mustard and collard greens are high in vitamins and calcium, making them healthy additions to any tortoise's diet.

Alfalfa pellets. This is rabbit chow, which you can pick up at your pet store. Before serving, soak the pellets in water and wait until they're like damp bread crumbs, with no hard pieces.

A protein biscuit. Often sold as a dietary supplement for monkeys, protein biscuits can be an easy way to ensure your tortoise gets enough of this important nutrient. Soften a biscuit in water and mash before serving.

Note: Too much protein can weaken your tortoise's shell. Ask your vet or pet store professional for recommendations on how much protein to offer.

Calcium. A lack of calcium can weaken a tortoise's shell and bones. Blackberries, blueberries, and cantaloupe are good sources of calcium, although certain tortoise species don't eat fruit. Also consider calcium lactate powder, which you can purchase at your pet store and sprinkle on your pet's food (follow package directions for quantity).

Note: Avoid foods that are high in phosphorus and low in calcium. These include grapes, bananas, and fresh peas. Also, never serve a tortoise spinach; it's too high in phosphorus, which is bad for its shell.

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