Indoor Housing


Keeping a tortoise in the UK is challenging because we do not have the right climate for them. Hermann's tortoise originate from the Meditteranian area, which is hot, dry and sunny. In the wild they would emerge from their scrapes in the morning to warm themselves by basking in the sunshine, retreating again when the sun gets too hot. Here in the UK we have alot more rain and cold damp conditions. This can be a real problem for tortoises and can cause them to suffer from respetory diseases and shell rot. Replicating a tortoises natural climate here is difficult. Although out doors is best, there must also be indoor housing available to your tortoise for when the weather is wet or too cold.

Tortoise Tables

The glass vivaria tanks more often than not recommended by pet shops are completely unsuitable for a tortoise. They do not allow adequate ventillation nor do they allow for a range of temperatures that your tortoise will need to self regulate their body temperatures. They are also not nearly big enough. The see through glass will mean the tortoise will repeatedly attempt to walk through to get to the other side, this will make them stressed and they may damage themselves. Symptoms of Metabolic Bone Disease are often seen in tortoises kept in these conditions.

A tortoise table is a much better alternative. Tortoise tables are open topped to allow good ventillation. They should be deep sided to stop the tortoise from climbing out and be as large as possible. These days tortoise tables can be bought from some pet stores or from web sites such as ebay. Alternatively they can very easily and cheaply be custom made to fit whatever space you have. We made ours from the wood of an old dismantled wardrobe. Before that we used a plastic under bed storage bed - although due to their small size these are probably best used only for hatchlings or small juveniles.

Once you have your tortoise table, you need to provide a suitable environment. That means providing heat, light, a good substrate, shelters and interest to stop your tortoise getting bored.

For heat and light there will need to be a basking lamp and UV light (either separate bulbs or a combined UV/basking lamp) over your table. Ideally, the lamp should be placed a one end of the table so that you can have a temperature gradient. This gradient should range from around 32c at the hot end to 20c at the far end of the table. Bear in mind when making your table that the height of the lamp may need to be moved up or down from time to time to maintain correct temperatures. You will need a couple of thermometers (one for each end of the table) so that you can monitor the temperatures. We use the probe type thermometers which are accurate and cheap to buy.

The substrate should be made up of 50/50 topsoil and play sand. As your Hermanns tortoise will burrow into the substrate for thermoregulation and to prevent dehydration, it will need to be deep enough for them to cover themselves. Small mounds of stones or rocks for climbing over will not only add interest by breaking up the line of sight but will also help to keep claws trimmed. Be careful though that these are not positioned to close to the sides of the tortoise table as your tortoise may decide to use these to help climb out over the side. A slate or flat stone used as a feeding area will help keep beaks trimmed. Small plant pots on their sides and sunk into the substrate also provide shelter and hiding places as will a hollowed out log. Spraying the substrate daily will add some humidity as this can become very low under hot basking lamps.

Always provide a shallow dish for water as your tortoise will drink. We find that using the water dishes made for plant pots that are sold in garden centers are perfect. Surround these with stones or slates to stop the substrate being dragged into the water when your tortoise decides to climb in.