Tie turtles with their owners

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What should be considered when keeping tortoises? Should they be kept in a terrarium or outdoor enclosure? Are turtles suitable for children?

What is suitable food for tortoises? Keeping tortoises is a sensitive issue and mistakes are often made.

Land turtle attitude - popular species for beginners

The following species are particularly popular for beginners in keeping a turtle in Europe:

The Greek tortoise in particular is very popular.

How to keep a tortoise - terrarium, apartment or garden?

Turtles are very frugal, but also stress-sensitive animals. In the case of tortoises, species-appropriate free-range husbandry is imperative.

Under no circumstances should a tortoise be kept permanently in a terrarium or in the apartment. A terrarium is only recommended as a temporary solution for keeping tortoises.

Switching between the terrarium and the garden is not a species-appropriate attitude. Frequent change of terrain means sheer stress for tortoises.

The temperature changes and the falling temperatures in autumn help tortoises to prepare for winter rigor.

Tortoise keeping - what does a species-appropriate enclosure look like?

A tortoise is not a budgie. Keeping a tortoise is a very long-term decision, because tortoises can live to be more than 70 years old.

Contrary to the opinion of many, it is also not easy to keep a tortoise. It is therefore imperative to obtain detailed information beforehand.

It is important that the outdoor enclosure for a tortoise in your own garden is spacious. For a fully grown tortoise, the outdoor enclosure should have an area of ​​10 m².

The bigger the enclosure, the better. Tortoises need space and also their own sleeping and hiding places. Lying tree trunks or boulders can be a real paradise for tortoises.

The enclosure should be in a sunny spot in the garden, because the morning warm-up phase is very important for the well-being of the turtles. In the first 4-5 years, the enclosure should have a fence to protect the young from birds of prey.

The floor is also particularly important. Individual spots should be sprinkled with a mixture of gravel and sand. These places dry faster, as would be the case in a species-appropriate environment.

The occasional (every 2 years) litter of dolomite lime can also ensure a more calcareous soil. In some places the ground should be overgrown as "wild" as possible so that natural nutrition is guaranteed. You can find good instructions for the enclosure at

Tortoise husbandry - what should be considered when eating?

The feeding of tortoises should also be appropriate to the species. The following question is important - how do the turtles feed in their natural habitat?

A mixture of wild plants and wild herbs, such as those found in a meadow, is ideal for tortoises. For example, Greek tortoises have an exclusively vegetable diet.

It is also very important that the tortoises always have drinking water available. The water should be refreshed daily.

This food is suitable for tortoises

Everything can be offered that is not poisonous and that is found in a meadow. The feeding should be varied.

Wild plants with the following properties are ideal:

  • High calcium content,
  • High mineral content,
  • Low water content
  • High fiber content

The food should be distributed in different places in the enclosure in order to encourage the turtles to search for food naturally.

What kind of food is unsuitable for keeping tortoises?

Of course, other things are not recommended as food for keeping turtles. In general, tortoises only eat plant-based and low-protein foods.

The following things should be avoided when feeding:

  • Fruit Vegetable
  • flesh
  • Dog & cat food
  • Dry turtle food, ready-made turtle food
  • Yew and ivy
  • Creeping buttercup

The wrong food can lead to the following problems in tortoises:

  • Kidney and liver damage
  • Disorders of shell growth (cusp formation)
  • Digestive disorders (e.g. banana)
  • gout
  • death

Should tortoises be kept alone or in a group?

It is ideal to keep tortoises in a group of 3 or more animals. In this way they learn to live together with other conspecifics.

Care should be taken not to put any of the animals under stress. This is most likely possible when the animals in the group are of the same sex.

If there are humans and females, they could be exposed to increased stress. The male goes after the female all day to preserve the species.

The female, on the other hand, is often on the run because she needs space.

Tortoise keeping - are tortoises suitable for children?

Tortoises are not domesticated pets. Also, since these are wild animals, they should only be touched as often as necessary.

Therefore, dogs or cats are much more suitable as "pets" for children.

On the other hand, children can learn how to deal with wild animals through turtles. Children grow up with a higher sensitivity towards animals.

Of course, most of the responsibility should rest with adults.

Caring for tortoises - what else needs to be considered?

In addition to free-range husbandry and the right food for turtles, there is more to consider. When it comes to maintenance, it is important that the drinking water container is cleaned and refilled every day.

Furthermore, tortoises should be given a warm bath once a week.

When tortoises droop in a bath, you can see how much they enjoy the bath. The enclosure should also be cleaned daily. Faeces and old fodder must be removed regularly.

Tortoise husbandry: hibernation

One of the most important questions when keeping turtles is hibernation or rigor. Tortoises in temperate latitudes hibernate in winter due to the low solar radiation and the limited food supply.

Many owners are scared when it comes to winter. They fear the turtles may not wake up anymore.

However, there are no problems with the correct handling and implementation.

Hibernation is very important to maintain fertility. If the turtle is healthy, it should definitely hibernate. Usually hibernation goes from October to March.

When the turtle becomes more sluggish, moving more slowly, and eating less, then it is time for rigor. How is wintering carried out?

Here is a checklist:

  • Take the turtle to the vet for a check-up in September
  • Hibernation in terrarium or winter box (60x40x40 cm, made of solid material) possible
  • Weigh the turtle beforehand, weigh it again after 5-6 weeks of winter rigor
  • Weight loss of 10-15% is normal after 5 weeks, if higher: interrupt hibernation and visit the vet
  • The lid of the box should have holes and cracks
  • Fill the bottom of the box with a suitable substrate (10 cm), then put leaves or hay on top
  • The ideal room temperature is 5-8 ° C
  • Do not feed the turtle during hibernation

When wintering outdoors:

1) Sink the box in the ground,
2) Sprinkle straw and leaves over it as frost protection,
3) Tie a tightly woven chain link fence over the boxes to protect against rodents.

Rigid winter is also possible in the refrigerator, but the refrigerator should not be used for food

After the hibernation:

1) Place the box in a warmer room (20-22 ° C),
2) bathe the animal when it wakes up (24-26 ° C),
3) give the turtle plenty of water
4) put in the enclosure (or terrarium) and offer food

The tortoise may not eat anything for the first week after waking up, that is not a cause for concern.

Legal regulations for keeping turtles

If you bring a turtle into your house, you also have to observe some legal regulations. If applicable animal welfare regulations are violated, criminal law consequences are to be expected.

Many imported animals die within a very short time as a result of the changed climatic conditions. This circumstance is to be prevented by legal regulations.

In the case of turtles, it is particularly important that the lawful acquisition can be proven.

The registration requirement

Tortoises are also subject to registration and reporting. This includes the acquisition and origin of the tortoise. The receipts must be kept.

The most protected are tortoises with protection status A. This protection status is enjoyed by the Greek tortoise, the Moorish tortoise and the broadband tortoise.

Protection is provided by the Washington Convention on the Protection of Species. If you want to breed these shields, you need a permit from the competent authority.

The regulations differ depending on the federal state in Germany, so a telephone conversation with the authority is recommended.

Furthermore, when keeping turtles, paragraphs 1-3 in the Animal Welfare Act in particular must be observed.

The photo documentation

In addition to the papers, photo documentation of the tortoise is also required. This documentation must contain a picture of the belly and back armor.

There are specific guidelines on how this documentation should look. Depending on the federal state, the photo documentation must be repeated at regular intervals.

Costs for keeping tortoises

A single tortoise from the breeder costs around 80 EUR. With 3 turtles the purchase would cost around 240 EUR.
The cost of tortoises does not only concern the purchase.

Regular visits to the vet should also be planned. The annual faecal inspection in summer costs around 15-20 EUR.

Additional costs arise from the construction of the outdoor enclosure. Here the costs can very quickly add up to 500-1000 EUR.

FAQ: Frequently asked questions

What does a tortoise cost?

A Greek or Moorish tortoise costs between 80 and 120 euros at the breeder if it hatched in the current year. Offspring can be a bit more expensive.

How big does a Greek tortoise get?

The Greek tortoise is a small to medium-sized tortoise with a shell up to 30 centimeters long.

How old does a Greek tortoise get?

It can live up to 80 years.

What does a Greek tortoise eat?

Tortoises prefer to eat dandelions, dandelion flowers, plantain, ribwort, wild mallow, thistles, rocket and nettle. Alfalfa, chickweed and yarrow are also good turtle food, which turtles like to eat.

What does a tortoise need?

Vitamins and minerals are very important. An untreated natural meadow with herbs such as ribwort, clover species, coltsfoot and radish leaves is ideal for a Greek tortoise. If you have a garden, you can even grow the food yourself. It is best to grow lettuce without artificial fertilizer.

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