How to look after a Tortious

Written by Corrine Bray

Owner & Founder of Corks Critter Care

January 29, 2023



Taking on the responsibilities that come with owning a pet tortoise can be extremely rewarding; however, it is essential that you are aware of the care that is required to ensure your pet stays healthy and happy. Looking after a tortoise is not as straightforward as caring for a cat or a dog, and there are a few extra factors that you need to take into account. In this blog post, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to look after a pet tortoise, covering everything from diet to housing and shell care. We will also look at common health problems and precautions you can take to protect your pet from harm. By following our advice, you will be able to provide your tortoise with a healthy environment, ensuring it enjoys a long and happy life.

1. Provide a suitable enclosure

One of the most important things you can do to look after your pet tortoise is to provide a suitable enclosure. The enclosure should be large enough to provide plenty of space for your tortoise to move around and explore, as well as areas of sunlight and shade. It should also be secure and escape-proof, to keep your tortoise safe and sound. You can buy a ready-made enclosure, or you can build one yourself with the right materials. Remember to use non-toxic paints and adhesives, as well as providing plenty of ventilation. Your tortoise will be happy and safe in its new home.

2. Provide a temperature gradient

To ensure your pet tortoise stays healthy and has the best possible environment to live in, you should provide it with a temperature gradient. This means that the temperature should be warmest near the basking area and gradually decrease as you move away from it. Achieving this can be done by using various types of lamps and heating elements, such as UVA and UVB bulbs, as well as ceramic heaters. It is important to monitor the temperature closely to ensure your pet tortoise does not become overheated.

3. Offer a variety of food

One of the most important tasks when looking after a pet tortoise is providing it with a healthy and varied diet. Offer your tortoise a variety of food, such as dandelion greens, kale, turnip greens, collard greens, and other leafy greens. Fruits such as apples, pears, and strawberries can be offered in small portions as a treat. Additionally, provide it with an adequate supply of fresh water and high-fiber tortoise food. It’s important to keep in mind that a tortoise’s diet should be high in fiber and low in protein and fat.

4. Give your pet access to water

Giving your pet tortoise access to water is an essential part of its care. Tortoises are desert animals, and they need access to water to stay hydrated. Make sure to provide the tortoise with a shallow bowl of clean, freshwater at all times. Check the water regularly to make sure it is clean and topped up, and replace it with fresh water every other day. Keep in mind that tortoises need to access the water easily and be able to submerge their head and neck while drinking. This is especially important in winter when they need to stay hydrated to keep their body temperature up.

5. Monitor the humidity levels

One important thing to remember when looking after a pet tortoise is to monitor the humidity levels in its enclosure. The ideal humidity level should be between 50-60%. Too high or too low humidity can cause stress in the tortoise and can lead to health problems. To measure the humidity level you can use a hygrometer, which will tell you the exact humidity level in the enclosure. You may also need to mist the enclosure to ensure that the environment is kept properly humidified.

6. Provide a hiding place

Providing a hiding place for your pet tortoise is essential for its wellbeing. A tortoise hiding place should provide safety from predators, feel secure for the tortoise, and protect it from the elements. The best hiding places for tortoises are ones that are dark and offer shade, such as under a bush or in a crevice in the rocks. You can also create a hide out of logs, stones, and branches, or you could purchase a plastic tortoise house. This should be placed in a warm, dry space in the enclosure, away from any direct sunlight. Not only will this help your tortoise feel secure and safe, but it will also help regulate its body temperature.

7. Regularly clean the enclosure

Keeping your pet tortoise’s enclosure clean is essential for their health and happiness. At least once a week, take out anything that has been soiled and replace it with clean substrate, such as wood shavings, soil, or sand. If you use a terrarium, make sure to wipe down the glass to remove any dirt or droppings, and check for any mold or fungi. You should also disinfect the enclosure and its contents on a regular basis with a reptile-safe cleaner. Lastly, make sure the temperature and humidity in the enclosure are within the optimal range for your tortoise.

8. Take your pet to the vet for check-ups

Taking your pet tortoise to the vet for regular check-ups is an important part of pet ownership. Your vet will be able to check for any health issues, and can help you to address any problems that may arise. They will also be able to advise you on the best diet and environment for your pet tortoise, and can offer advice on how to look after them properly. Regular check-ups are essential for maintaining your pet’s health, so make sure you make an appointment at least once a year.

Looking after a pet tortoise can be a rewarding experience. They can live for many years and are relatively low maintenance. It is important to ensure that they have the correct diet, adequate light and humidity, and a suitable housing environment. By providing the right care and diet, you can promote a long and healthy life for your pet tortoise.