First time building a table (adult hermann's)


Oct 31, 2021
Location (City and/or State)
United Kingdom
Hi everyone, (another longish post sorry!)
I already have a main thread with most of the info about my hermann tortoise. In short: I was going off advice given to me by petshops for years and I'm now making changes after finding out i got given all the wrong info.

She is 12 years old and I'm looking to make her a tortoise table to replace her 4 foot vivarium. Might not have written this post in the most clearest way but I'm just writing the points I need to make as they come to mind.

I also live in the UK.

I have an old chipboard wardrobe that I was going to use for my tortoise table but I found out that cutting chipboard is toxic.
So I have no idea how to start building one from scratch so I have a few questions.

1. What type of wood?
I heard some types are toxic
What can I use to keep it from being on the floor?

2. What type of wood protector (Paint/spray/brand? Can I buy non-toxic?) And Silicone to seal the edges?
How many layers? How long should I wait for it to air out?
(Will be using bin liners/tarp to line the base)

I'm using an ExoTerra 38 Watt, UVB 100 strip light at the minute. And a ProRep 100Watt Spot Light on dimming thermostat.

I've been advised to switch to a T5 HO (10%/12%) of Arcadia or ZooMed brand.
Do I need UVA and UVB?
I see alot of tortoise tables not using a strip light but instead using basking-UVB combined bulbs. I thought they caused blindness?
I'm also struggling to find the Incandescent flood bulbs/ reflector bulbs that @Tom had advised to use as a basking bulb instead
Any advice?
Ive tried B&Q (UK equivalent of Home Depot) with no luck. B&Q also don't sell terracotta saucers, coco coir or fir bark. Hopeless.
I have ordered a 75L (5KG) block of coco coir online and will be looking to buy some orchid bark as a top layer of substrate. She keeps getting the coco coir stuck under her skin/shell and under her scales on her paws, she also spits out any food that gets covered in coco coir and therefore refuses to eat it, so I'm hoping a top layer of bark will stop the majority of that from happening.

I also don't have a reflector or case for the UV strip. Or light fixtures/clamps yet for the basking bulb and CHE. I'm not really sure what I'm looking for. (Any website links or photos of exactly what I'll need *any of the above I've mentioned* will be much appreciated)

I've drawn up a few different variations of plans, admittedly I spent way too much on them but I couldn't help it ?

Note: The measurements on the diagrams were if I were to use the dimensions of the wardrobe. So I can add a bit more length, width and depth if making my own from scratch. I'm building the table to fit in my bedroom as I have no room elsewhere, though I do plan on moving out soon so I can expand the table measurements even more if need be

I'm not sure what order the diagrams will load in; so I won't label them, though I do have a few questions about them.

Do I have the basking bulb facing vertically down or diagonally?

Should I have a ramp? I was thinking about having her food slate on the second floor as well as an extra water dish? So that she is less likely to trample substrate into her food.

Table plants
I saw some carex grass at B&Q, can I use coco coir as replacement soil (to rid the pesticides - waiting 1 year before putting them in the table) also have an Aloe Vera and maybe get Spider Plants.
If I use a UV strip light will any of these plants survive in a table? Or will they need natural sunlight to survive
I read alfalfa is poisonous?
(She has cuttle fish and a calcium block)

I read a few different temperatures for Hermann's so want to make sure I've got the right info

35°C - 37°C (95-100F)- basking spot (shell height)
12 hours a day?

Ambient heat:
23-26°C (75-80F) ??
Is this Cool end?
25-29°C (77-84F)??
Is this Warm end?

Night Temperatures
(Using the CHE if needed)
15-20°C (60-68F) ??
18-23°C (64-73F) ??

I'll be buying a few digital thermometer/hygrometers to test different areas of the table. (I have a thermo gun for quick spot checks)
Any recommendations for best ones to buy?

UV, I've also had various times some say 8-10 hours some 10-12, other 12-14 ??
At the minute I keep it on for 12 hours a day. But I do realise that the higher the UV % the stronger the levels and therefore less exposure time is needed.

Humidity box
What temperature should I aim to keep this at? Should I keep this in the cool end or warm end?

Any changes to my plans?
Anything that'd need rearranging, removing, adding?
She loves climbing so I thought I'd add a few rocks, making sure they don't wobble. She also seems to dislike only having a few inches of substrate, she keeps clawing at the sides so I figured more substrate?

Any constructive criticism would be great

Also any pictures of your tortoise tables for reference and inspiration too!!

Thank you ?
(If I've missed out any important information that I'll need to be aware of let me know)


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Last edited:


The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Jan 9, 2010
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
This is far too much for one but for anybody to have time to wade through. I'll hit some high points, but try asking one question at a time to get better info.

-Don't use chip board. Use regular pine plywood and 2x4s.
-No need to paint it because you are going to line it. Regular household primer and paint will work if you want it, but allow a couple of weeds with a fan to "cure" it and reduce the fumes.
-The HO fluorescent tube produce the best UV.
-Don't work about UVA.
-Dimming thermostats are for maintaining ambient temperatures. The Baskin lamp should be on a timer. You don't want the sun turning on and off all day. You will need to figure out the best wattage for your table, and adjust the height to get the correct basking temp under it.
-Mercury vapor bulbs don't cause blindness. They have a host of problems and are not recommended, but blindness isn't one of them. You are probably thinking of the warning that some of the cfl type fluorescent bulbs sometimes burn their eyes.
-Arcadia makes an incandescent flood bulb sold in the UK.
-Coco coir must be kept damp and firmly hand packed.
-Grass and most plants will not survive indoors without some serious lighting help. Spider plants will. As will pothos. Anything not potted will be trampled and/or eaten.
-Alfalfa is not poisonous. It is high in protein, so don't feed it every day, and be sure your tortoise is well hydrated.

That's all I have time for currently...

Lyn W

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Jul 22, 2014
Location (City and/or State)
You won't get incandescent bulbs for the home anywhere in the UK now, but as Tom said Arcadia sell flood basking bulbs for torts (spots are too intense) approx £3-5. They also sell T5 HO tube kits (with reflector) about £49 (Internet Reptile).
You may already know this, but CHEs need to be run through a thermostat.
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