Turtles as pets: Care and concerns – Part 11

European or Mediterrannean Tortoises of genus Testudo belong to the most popular tortoise pets. There are 4 main species, the Herrmanns Tortoise (Testudo hermanni), the Marginated Tortoise (Testudo marginata), the Spur-Thighed Tortoise (Testudo graeca) and also the Russian Tortoise (Testudo horsfieldii). Russian Tortoises live far away from the other 3 mentioned species, even thoug its still included under European tortoises. If you decide to purchase one of those species, you must take into consideration, that they require different way of keeping than eg. Box Turtles or tortoises coming from tropical rainforests.

The most important things are: proper diet, optimal living space and proper environment.

As for diet, I can not stress enough the fact, that European Tortoises must not be offered the following meals under any occasion: sweet fruits, chocolate, dairy products, meat etc. The best choice is to offer them only fresh greens, like dandelion, clover, hibiscus flowers. Less is always better in this case. Remember that European tortoises can not find any chocolate or dairy products in the wild nature, they are therefore not used to be offered such meals. If you feed your tortoises with those “things”, you are killing your pet.

Also do not forget to offer plenty of minerals, eg. sepia bones for proper shell growth. Fresh and clean water bowl must be available all the time.

Optimal living space means, that your tortoise should be able to use a large area, as much naturally designed, as possible. Tortoise pens in the garden are the best choice. You can keep your tortoise outside almost during the whole year.

However, since tortoise breeders live all over the world and the weather in Germany or UK is totally different from the weather in eg. California, you have to consider building also an indoor living space. You will use the indoor living space (your vivarium) in case that it is too cold outside or during winter months (in case you live eg. in Europe). You will not need to build too large indoor vivarium, since Testudo tortoises hibernate during the winter months, so you are going to use the vivarium only for couple of weeks, before you can place your tortoises in the garden again (after they wake up from hibernation).

Do remember, that tortoises are cold blooded animals and require heating mats, heating cables or spot lighting to heat their bodies up. Genuine UVB metal vapour lamps or incandescent tubes are also very important to provide your tortoise with enough UVB rays. Without them, your tortoises can not metabolise vitamin D3 and will not grow well.

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