Housing Garden Tortoises
HERMANNS, SPUR-THIGHED AND MARGINATED
The three above species are naturally found in southern Europe close to the Mediterranean where summer’s are long, hot and mostly dry, and where temperatures can reach 100F+.
Tortoise’s are cold blooded reptile’s and require heat, which they regulate by moving in and out of the sun during the day. Night temperature’s are often much lower around the high 60F’s and low 70F’s. A tortoise can maintain a higher body temperature in the wild at night by digging into soil which has been heated by the sun during the day.
Apart from the importance of temperature, tortoise’s are exposed to high level’s of ultra violet light (UVA & UVB) from the sun’s ray’s which also play’s an important part in the health of the tortoise. UVA & UVB help increase appetite, activity and induce reproductive behaviour. It also helps the tortoise produce it’s own vitamin D3 which help’s to distribute and absorb the correct level’s of calcium which it need’s to maintain healthy growth.
To give you an idea of the difference between the weather in the UK and southern Europe. In the UK we have on average about 1000+ hours of sunshine per year, where as in southern Europe it’s more like 2,500-3000+ per year
HOUSING IN THE U.K
Although commonly known as garden tortoise’s they are not suitable to be left outside day and night without some form of protection. Well ventilated green house’s or cold frame’s for plant’s with easy access to an outside pen are perfect. They provide protection from the rain and wind etc and create Mediterranean temperature’s even on a slightly sunny day.
It’s very important to have shaded area’s both inside and outside where the tortoise can hide during the day if the temperature is too hot, and also to sleep during the night. Fresh water should be made available at all times by sinking a shallow tray into the ground to give easy access as many tortoise’s like to bath as well as drink.
Hatchling’s up to two or three years old should be kept in indoor housing with a suitable heater connected to a thermostat to maintain a day temperature of 78F-82F with a basking area creating a hotspot up to 90F.
Lighting is best provided by a full spectrum light producing UVA & UVB which should be on for 14 hour’s a day and off for 10 hour’s to create regular day/night effect.
Young tortoise’s can be put outside , but only on warm sunny day’s and in a safe secure enclosure, and do not forget that they will need a box to hide in if the sun is too hot, and they must go back in the vivarium at night.
BEFORE BUYING A TORTOISE
Make sure you understand the basic needs of a tortoise regarding temperature and housing. They need suitable indoor and outdoor enclosure’s. The outdoor enclosure should have shaded and covered area’s for protection from sudden changes of weather and from predator’s.
All tortoise’s regardless of there size and age must have a suitable indoor enclosure such as a vivarium with suitable heating and lighting, as the UK weather and temperature tends to fluctuate and is not stable enough to maintain your tortoise outside throughout the summer.
Remember tortoise’s are cold blooded and need stable temperature’s to maintain a healthy appetite and growth.
Your tortoise needs to maintain it’s body temperature. House your tortoise outside in good weather and inside in bad, and you should not go far wrong.
Remember you should always bring your tortoise indoors at night due to the damp conditions caused by morning dew which can seriously damage your tortoise’s health.