Pet store Tortoise

There are many tortoises available in the pet trade, however many of theses tortoises grow far too large for the average pet owner to take care of properly for the long term. For instance, African sulcata tortoises can grow to be 24 to 30 inches long and over 100 pounds! Often, these poor reptiles find themselves without a good home when they grow too large for their enclosure. For this reason, this care sheet will cover those tortoise species that will grow only up to 10 inches in length.

These include the following grassland species: Greek tortoise, Hermann’s tortoise, Pancake tortoise and Russian tortoise


Hermann’s - 75 years
Russian and Greek - 50 years
Pancake - 25 years


up to 10 inches


Daytime / 70-90 ℉
Daytime Basking / 90-95 ℉
Nighttime temps / 60-65 ℉
* If temp falls below 60℉ at night, may need supplemental infrared or ceramic heat.

NOTE: It is against federal law for turtles and tortoises under 4 inches in length (from front of shell to back of shell) to be sold in pet stores.


Hermann’s - Mediterranean oak forest, arid, rocky hillsides and scrublands Russian - Middle East and Russian dry open landscapes; sand and clay desert scrublands Greek - Mediterranean forests and scrublands Pancake - African hillsides with rocky outcrops in arid scrublands and savanna

Most of these tortoises are wild caught, and usually suffer some stress from being captured and from traveling. Because of this, they generally suffer from a heavy bacterial and protozoan load, which can result in infections. Be sure to see your exotic pet veterinarian soon after purchasing your new tortoise. He or she will perform a complete physical exam and then de-worm your new pet. Be sure to take a fresh stool sample along with you!


Tortoises, unlike turtles, are solely terrestrial reptiles. They have soft bodies encased in a top bony shell (carapace) and a lower bony shell (plastron), which protects them from predators. The geometric shaped scale sections of the shell are called “scutes”. The scutes cover up the seams between bone plates underneath, making the shell stronger. The ribs, backbone, hip bones and shoulder bones are attached to the upper and lower shells. Tortoises have stout, club-like feet for walking and long claws for digging. Males generally have longer claws than females. Most tortoises can retract their legs and head almost completely into their shell. Tortoises have beaks, not teeth, and they do not have external ears although they can hear just as well as animals with external ears do. The tortoise tail is short and stubby, the male tortoise tail being longer and slightly wider than the female’s


Tortoises are happy to live along with other tortoises, given that there is enough space for everyone (see Housing & Environment). However, there is no guarantee that everyone will get along fine. DO NOT mix different tortoise species together. They may harbor different parasites (even a healthy reptile harbors a small amount at all times) which may make each other ill.


Herbivorous In order to most closely replicate the diet that the grassland tortoises forage for in the wild, a low protein, high fiber, low fruit diet is in order. A good grassland tortoise diet consists of a majority (about 85%) of high nutrient hays and grasses complimented by a smaller portion of dark leafy greens for variety.

GOOD GRASSES: timothy hay, Bermuda grass, wheatgrass, orchard grass (hay),

GOOD GREENS: dandelion, prickly pear, broadleaf plantain, rose (flower only), grape leaves, chickweed,

GREENS TO BE FED IN VERY SMALL AMOUNTS: collard greens, mustard greens, spinach, kale, romaine, turnip greens, arugula

COMMERCIAL DIETS/PELLETS: Commercial diet should constitute no more than 10% of the diet. There are some very good tortoise pellet diets on the market; for instance, Zoo Med Grassland Tortoise food is an excellent choice. Be sure to look at the labels and choose a product with quality ingredients.

Amounts of feed depend on different factors such as enclosure, exercise, heat and lighting. Contact your exotic pet veterinarian for advice on how much to feed YOUR tortoise.


Unlike snakes, tortoises shed their skin in patches, not all in one piece. Your pet will become an overall dull color before a shed. Do not peel off the skin if it is not ready to come off. This can be dangerous and painful. In the wild, reptiles have a much easier time with their sheds, as they are generally in a more naturally humid environment and have access to pools or bodies of water in which they can soak at will. Even reptiles from arid areas find humid places to go during the shedding process, such as cold, moist burrows under the sand or caves. The shedding process happens when the tortoise’s body begins to grow a new layer of skin; that new layer begins to separate from the old and a very thin layer of fluid forms between the two layers. If your pet’s enclosure is too dry, this fluid layer will not form properly, making it difficult for your reptile to shed properly. To create more humidity, the entire tank can be lightly spray misted twice a day during shedding time. Spray once in the morning and once later in the day. Make sure the later spray dries completely before lights go off for the night. A shallow dish of clean water can be kept in the enclosure at all times to help with humidity and shedding. However, if you find your tortoise sitting in it constantly, pull the dish out and place it back in for just a few hours a day. A tortoise that stays in his water too long is susceptible to shell rot.


Dust food with calcium supplement and vitamin supplements. As a rule, a growing juvenile's food (and a pregnant/gravid female’s) should be dusted more often than an adult's. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions for applying supplements to avoid over-supplementing food. Our veterinarian recommends dusting insects with a good quality calcium supplement fortified with vitamin D3, 2-3 times a week. (Avoid using a calcium supplement with added phosphorous, unless specifically directed by your veterinarian, since this can promote kidney disease.) Always consult your veterinarian for specific directions on supplementing your pet’s food, since there are many variables that go into determining the best supplementing regimen for a given animal.


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