Tortoise Indoor Housing
Your tortoise will spend loads of time in their indoor enclosure especially when young. You’ll need to give them as much space as possible to grow and be a happy, healthy tortoise. The larger the area you can give them. the better.
Here are some basic guidelines from hatchling to juvenile tortoise.
Avoid thinking, whats the minimum size and think how big can I make this pen. As a guide it should be 3ft by 2ft or over.
Often ready-made cages or tortoise tables are hard to find at this length but 80cm+ can be found quite easily.
As the tortoise grows, some more rapidly than others, you’ll need to increase the size and additional heat/UVA/B light source.
All indoor cages and pens should be open topped. A vivarium enclosure is not recommended, despite being sold in reptile shops and often recommended for hatchling by inexperienced breeders. If you have cats or dogs, you will need to make sure there is a cage top to prevent any animal or child gaining access when not supervised.
Lining The Tortoise Pen
If the base of the pen is not made of plastic, it will need to be made waterproof before adding substrate. Cover the base with pond liner and take it up and over the sides of the wall.
Make sure it does not make a sloping bank, by ensuring the liner is pushed right up to the edges. If the liner is not taken over the edge, the tortoise will use this as a step to climb out of the enclosure. Don’t take the chance even if they look like they will not reach. Secure the pen because one thing is for sure, they will surprise you the many different ways they use to escape.
You will see a lot of conflicting information regarding substrate. Here at the Tortoise Hotel we pride ourselves on housing tortoises in an enviroment, as close to their natural habitat as possible.
For indoor tortoises, we keep the substrate 70% top soil and 30% play sand. This will cover only 50% of the enclosure, we pave the other half with slate or patio slab. (Stones are not a substitute)
When a tortoise is young and has an indoor enclosure often owners are out at work when a tortoise is most active. They need to be outside in good weather as much as possible and often this means they are only walking on soft soil inside while owners are working. By turning 50% of the enclosure over to slab it helps mimic their natural rural environment. This helps to file their beak and claws, preventing future problems.
The soft substrate should be at least deep enough for the tortoise to bury themselves in. From the top of the substrate there should be at least 8 inches remaining to the top of the enclosure.
Keep a spray water bottle handy to dampen down the substrate at night when the tortoise is asleep (avoid sleeping quarters.) This will help prevent the soil drying out and becoming too dusty.
Tortoise Drinking Bath
A tortoise needs a drinking bath in every enclosure. To achieve this, you’ll need to find a shallow dish, it needs to be large enough for the tortoise to sit in and stretch their neck out.
Avoid a dish with a large lip. Small tortoises have been known to fall over the lip and drown if they over-turn. Build up the outside of the dish with stones, they will need to be larger than the width of their open mouth. If the bowl is deep fill the base with more stone to make shallow.
Keep the water away from the light/UV Bulb.
For a tortoise to feel like it is in its natural environment use small, tortoise friendly plants in pots and bury them randomly inside the pen. Place all plants and objects inside the pen, more than one body length away from the side. Otherwise, they will use this to leverage themselves out of the pen.
Large stones are a great way to make a cave, tortoises love small caves to hide. Keep away from the light source and the side of the pen and you’ll find your tortoise making a nice little sleeping pad for himself.
Heat & Light Source for Tortoises
At the Tortoise Hotel we use combi bulbs with reflector dome to provide heat and UVA/B source. These come with a clamp so you can easily clip to the side of the pen, or if you prefer you could use a stand to hang the refector and bulb directly over the pen.