Tortoises are an ancient group of reptiles that date back to prehistoric times. Because of their specialized development, they have very specific needs. However, they make great pets.
The first thing to do if you are looking at a tortoise as a pet is decide on a breed that best fits your lifestyle. Bell, Forest Hingeback and Russian Tortoises are on the smaller side at 6” – 8.5,” while Red Foot Tortoises are in the middle range at 12” – 14.” African Spur Thighs, however, are giants that can attain a weight of over 150 pounds.
Once you decide on the type of tortoise you like, acquiring housing for him is very important. Aquariums and critter cages can be used for very small or young tortoises. Outdoor pens with wire mesh bottoms so grass can poke through will allow your tortoise access to some food. Creating a large shelter inside the area of the pen will protect him from the elements and can be used as weather permits. Since tortoises need UV rays, it is important to keep yours outside as much as possible. There is no better substitute for UV rays like the sun.
As with all other pets, pet supplies are a must for your new tortoise. When your pet tortoise is kept indoors, he will need: a basking light for energy, a fluorescent UVB bulb for processing vitamins and minerals, a heat pad for belly heat and aiding in digestion, and a large water bowl for drinking or soaking. Be sure to change the water every day. It is also a good idea to soak your tortoise every day to keep him well hydrated and clean. Make sure the basking bulbs are of a high enough wattage to provide the proper basking heat for your pet. UVB fluorescent bulbs should be changed every 6-8 months to preserve the integrity of the UVB rays. Food should be served in a shallow dish or bowl to help prevent any ingestion of bedding. The type of bedding used is determined by the type of tortoise you are keeping and environment he requires.
Feed your tortoise a variety of foods. Many will readily eat dark, leafy vegetables, as well as some traditional reptile food of fruits, crickets, earthworms, and grasses. Calcium and vitamin supplements are also a must.
With these beginner suggestions and tips, you should be on your way to a long and healthy relationship with your new tortoise!