Newbie Alert! Tortoise not eating


New Member
Nov 19, 2018
Location (City and/or State)
Hello All x newbie here seeking advice as my new Horsefield tortoise has stopped eating and drinking. Is he trying to hibernate? Is he sick?

We got our new tort about 3 ½ wks ago. We were fully prepared, had our table set up, and were just waiting for the right tortoise. I know it’s not recommended but we were visiting a local reptile centre, and ended up purchasing a tortoise from there (I know its advised to buy from breeders but I felt like I was rescuing the little guy). The staff sounded knowledgeable and all the tortoise looked healthy and were eating. They told us he was approx. 1yr old

We have a table setup, with a combined heat and UVB bulb at one end. We have Grade A topsoil substrate, with beech chips in the enclosed end – purely to add variety and texture. The table is kept in a heated room in the house. We have a large flat slate under the lamp with a constant temperature of approx 32 degrees. The cooler end is approx 21/ 22 degrees. The lamp stays on approx 12 hrs a day, and at night the temp drops to about 19/20.

Over the last 3 weeks we have fed a diet of spring greens, kale, dandelion and clover, inc dried flower salad. Not sure I have ever seen him drink, but for the first 3 weeks he was poohing and weeing frequently on a daily basis. He was eating plenty of food, to the point I thought I might be feeding too much; both morning and night – we had planned for once a day. He appeared to have settled straight away. He even tackled the cuttle bone straight away. We use calcium dust 5/week and nutrabol 2/week.

We bath him daily for approx 20 mins, usually after school, not sure if this matters when. He usually poohs in the water, and wees when we get him out. The plan was to bath him daily until he was 2/3yrs, or 100g.

The first 3 weeks he slept more than I imagined. He likes to bury down in the beech chips, but in between naps he was active, climbing, bathing, basking, exploring.

However about a week ago he started making a few squeaking noises. His eyes are clear, and there’s no bubbling at the mouth, and I can’t see up his nose to check for a blockage as they are so tiny - so I’m thinking he’s ok, and not sickening. The noises were mainly when he was burrowing for the first 30 mins. I’ve decided to get rid of the beech chips in case they create dust, especially as he like to burrow there, and replace the substrate with topsoil / coco coir mix. Hope he doesn’t mind.

However, since then he has now stopped eating. I haven’t seen him eat now for 5/6 days, and he just sleeps. More worryingly he hasn’t poohed or wee’d. I still offer food eat day, and place him in his basking spot at the start of the day, then bath him later in the day. In between it appears he just sleeps- sleeps anywhere and everywhere. He even sleeps when I’m soaking him. I upped his temps slightly today, still nothing. Im getting very worried.

I’ve bought moss today to attempt a humid hide. I’m desperate to get him eating/moving/healthy again. I randomly put some moss in today, covered it with a wooden hide and covered the hide in moss (this isnt my humid hide). He has since gone in there and burrowed deep underneath. I’m sure he’s trying to hibernate. I feel mean everytime I dig him out to either bath or bask especially as hes not eating – so he’s neither one way or the other at the moment.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Do you think he sick? Does he need a trip to the vet? Should I return him to the store? Or is this just natural behaviour?

He was 70g when we got him, and was 74g yesterday.
Thanks Linzi Tortoise Table Tortoise 1 Tortoise 2


Well-Known Member
Sep 25, 2018
Location (City and/or State)
For one your temps are too cold. Ambient temp should be 27-30 no less than 27. Basking should be 35-37.

You could use a ceramic heater emitter on a thermostat to maintain ambient temps.

Don't give calcium more than 3x week at most small pinch. And multivitamins once a week.

Substrates should be orchid bark, cypress, or coco coir. Or a mixture of two. I use coco coir for bottom about 6 inches and an 1/2 inch of orchid bark on top to keep the area clean.

Topsoil isn't recommended as you don't know what's in it. Even organic could have toxic stuff in it.

Since he is resting the cuttlebone and with a varied diet calcium isn't really needed.

Soaks every day is good.

If you tilt the tort forward where the nose is pinned down if there is any fluid it will come out.

Offer food all day long as they won't over eat.

As far as trying to hibernate and anything else of importance one of the more experienced members can help out.

Welcome to the forum and keep posting pics of your tort.

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