- Common Group: TORTOISES
- Common Name: Hermann's Tortoise
- Scientific Name: Testudo g. hermanni
- Distribution: Europe East to Turkey
- Size: 6" - 8"
Their rugged lifestyle and small adult size have made the Hermann's tortoise one of the most popular reptile pets in the United States. These tortoises originate in the grasslands and various terrain surrounding the Mediterranean Ocean, and thrive in similar dry and moderate conditions. These tortoises will cheerfully excavate their own burrow if a suitable hide is not provided for them (and sometimes even if one IS provided for them), and will eat a variety of grasses and leafy vegetables you can plant outside.
These tortoises are exceptionally hardy, and will thrive for many decades with good care.
Size and Longevity
Female Hermann's tortoises are typically larger than males once mature. However, even the largest female specimens rarely exceed 8 inches in length, making them easy to accommodate, regardless of gender. Nobody knows for certain how long a captive-born Hermann's tortoise can live. However, based on the longevity of animals acquired as adults, and that of similar species, life spans exceeding 50 years can be expected. Housing
Tortoises are active animals, and should be provided with as much space as possible. Even when provided with a spacious enclosure, the use of an outdoor pen is recommended during the warmer months. These pens should be secure to prevent escapes. Tortoises housed outdoors, even if for only a few hours a day, will benefit greatly from the fresh air, natural sunlight, and opportunity to graze.
Indoor habitats should consist of the largest feasible enclosure. A single tortoise should have a cage that measures at least 36" in length, with 16" of width. Solid sided cages such as appropriately large Penn Plax and Vision cages are excellent options, as the solid sides prevent the tortoises from seeing out and ceaselessly pacing the edges of their cages.
Heating and Lighting
Hermann's tortoises fare best when provided with an ambient temperature in the low 80's and access to a basking spot that reaches 95 to 100 degrees. By providing only a localized hot spot, the tortoise may choose for itself where within the enclosure it is most comfortable at any given time.
Standard heat bulbs, infrared (red) heat bulbs, ceramic heat emitters, and under tank heat pads are all acceptable methods for keeping these animals properly warmed. The method(s) utilized and in what combinations will depend on the enclosure type, size, and the ambient conditions within the home.
Well-lit enclosures are vital to the well-being of these diurnal reptiles. Hermann's tortoises in captivity do well when provided with 12 hours of light followed by 12 hours of darkness. This photoperiod may be adjusted when cycling these animals for breeding.
Light should be in the form of a full spectrum bulb designed for reptile use. These bulbs, which are now available in a variety of forms and models, provide light in the Ultraviolet B (UVB) range of the spectrum. Rays of UVB light are needed by the tortoise to synthesize vitamin D3, and subsequently for the proper metabolism of dietary calcium. Use of a traditional tube fluorescent light across the entire cage is one method of lighting the cage, while use of mercury vapor bulbs is another. Mercury vapor bulbs are quickly becoming a preferred method of lighting and heating a tortoise cage simultaneously, as they produce considerably more heat and UVB than other methods of lighting and heating.
Substrate and Furnishings
As obligate burrowers, Hermann's tortoises should be provided with a fairly deep layer of appropriate bedding. Reptile (orchid) bark, shredded aspen, pulverized coconut, and cypress mulch are all acceptable choices. The substrate used should be easy to clean, and suitable for digging. Dusty substrates should be avoided as they may lead to ocular and respiratory ailments over time.
Hermann's tortoises are curious and active, and will test the sturdiness of anything placed within their domain. As a result of this unintentionally destructive behavior, excessive cage decorations are neither recommended nor necessary. The simple addition of a sturdy shelter, such as a habba hut or cave on each end of the enclosure will provide adequate cover for the animals without over-cluttering their habitat.
Water and Humidity
Hermann's tortoises come from parts of the world with long and harsh dry seasons. As a result, they only drink water opportunistically when it is present. For this reason, most captive tortoises will rarely, if ever, seek out a source of standing water and drink from it. Instead, tortoises of all ages should be soaked once or twice a week in chin-deep, luke-warm water. When placed into a shallow tray of water most Hermann's tortoises will instinctively lower their heads and drink copiously.
Nonetheless, some keepers opt to provide a constant water source for their tortoises in the form of a wide, shallow, water dish. There is nothing wrong with this practice so long as careful attention is paid to keeping the water and the dish itself very clean. Contaminated water is a common cause of disease in captive reptiles, and could potentially cause harm to a tortoise.
Maintaining proper humidity for Hermann's tortoises should not be a primary concern. As discussed earlier, these animals are highly adaptable to a wide range of conditions. With very few exceptions, the ambient humidity within your home (or even outdoors) will be appropriate for successfully maintaining these animals.
Hermann's tortoises are primarily herbivores in the wild, and a similar diet should be provided in captivity. The bulk of their diet should consist of a variety of dark, leafy, greens. Romaine lettuce, collard greens, carrot tops, kale, mustard greens, and beet greens are all excellent choices.
In addition to these staples, other veggies such as carrots, squash, and bell peppers can be offered to add variety. Fruits such as figs, apple, bananas, and strawberries can be fed occasionally as treats, but these foods should make up no more than 10% of the animals diet.
Use of a commerically available pelleted diet is recommended as a "base" for the diet, as a high quality diet will provide trace minerals and add variety to the diet with minimal effort. The ZooMed Grassland Tortoise Diet is an excellent choice, as is the Rep Cal Tortoise Diet, which can be mixed with the Grassland formula to make it more enticing.
Grasses and hays, such as those fed to horses and other livestock, can also be fed to Hermann's tortoises. The willingness with which these foods are accepted will vary from animal to animal, but should be offered nonetheless as a source of added fiber.
All foods should be lightly dusted with a high quality calcium/vitamin D3 supplement. This is especially important for young animals and for egg-laying females. Growing tortoises should be given calcium often, while older animals will require less frequent supplementation.
A reptile multivitamin should be used as well. Again, immature tortoises will require more frequent supplementation than fully grown specimens. The provision of a widely varied diet will lessen, but not eliminate, the need for a multivitamin.
Formulas and dosing recommendations for both calcium and vitamin supplements vary from one manufacturer to another. For this reason, the manufacturer’s label should be read carefully to avoid both over and under-dosing.
Tortoises in general are gentle, passive creatures. Hermann's tortoises are no exception and can be safely interacted with little to no fear of personal harm. Like most turtles and tortoises, Hermanns can become frightened if lifted off the ground for extended periods of time. Instead, always make sure that all four of the animals feet are supported at all times.
Hand feeding and gentle petting are the safest ways to interact with these tortoises. Hermann's tortoises are intelligent animals, and with time will learn to recognize their keepers and respond to their presence.