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How To Care For Baby Tortoises

How To Care For Baby Tortoises

Follow Mark Amey's step by step guide to looking after baby tortoises. Tortoises are interesting pets but need committed owners as they can live for over 100 years. Care for baby tortoises so they live past that century milestone with VideoJug's help.

Step 1: Buying your tortoise

Buy your tortoise from a reputable breeder or pet shop. Don't buy them over the internet as they may be sent to you in the post and won't be kept in safe conditions. If your tortoise has been legally bred it will come with a sales certificate known as Article 10 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. If you buy an adult tortoise, the certificate will state your pet has been micro chipped.

Step 2: Housing and bedding

Keep your baby tortoise in a well ventilated glass or wooden tank called a vivarium. It should measure about 90 centimetres by 45 by 45. Use a spotlight and adjust the wattage to provide a basking area of 35-40 degrees during the day. Your baby tortoise will need a UV light with 5% UVB which should be kept on for 10 hours in winter and 14 hours in summer, and replaced every 6 months. The rest of the enclosure should be kept at 20-25 degrees during the day and 15 degrees at night. Fit a thermometer to check the temperature. The floor should be lined with substrate such as alfalfa pellets, newspaper, or paper towels. Include a hide or bark for shade and for climbing.

Step 3: Handling

Pick up your tortoise by holding either side of the shell, and stretching your fingers underneath to support the body. Wash your hands after handling your tortoise to reduce the risk of spreading salmonella.

Step 4: Diet

Feed your baby tortoise everyday with fresh plants, flowers and leafy vegetables such as cabbage, spinach, and dandelions. Dust the food with vitamin and calcium supplements two or three times a week. Some flowers are toxic to tortoises, so ask your vet which ones to avoid. You can also include a small amount of fruit. Your pet will also need a constant supply of clean drinking water. Use a wide, shallow dish so it can drink and bathe without risk of drowning.

Step 5: Exercise and play

Tortoises can get enough exercise on their own in a suitable enclosure. A good way to interact with your pet is to feed it by hand. Don't put your tortoise on it's back as it may have difficulty turning over.

Step 6: Cleaning

Clean out tortoise faeces every other day. Clean the entire enclosure and change the substrate every 5 to 6 weeks.

Step 7: Health

Tortoises should have few health problems if they are cared for properly. Look out for shell distortion or softness as this could be a sign of vitamin or calcium deficiency. Make sure the plants in the enclosure are free from pesticides. Consult your vet if your pet loses it's appetite or if it's faeces aren't dark and firm. Tortoises should be micro chipped by a vet when the base of the shell reaches 10 centimetres in length, which will be at about 4 years old. At this age they will need an outdoor enclosure during the summer, and will hibernate in winter. Consult your vet beforehand for advice and to check your tortoise is the correct size and weight.

Enjoy your tortoise!