Tortoise nutrition and revamping care

Nellie Rose

Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2021
Messages
34
Location (City and/or State)
Maryland
Hello, I'm new here.
I have had my Hermann's tortoise, Hermann (super creative I know), for almost seven years, which means he is almost seven himself. I got him as a hatchling when he was the size of a fifty cent coin. He was cute and tiny and seemed to like interacting with me. I buried myself in research and I think I've taken pretty decent care of him over the years, my vet says he is in good health despite being just a little overweight. He also had some pyramiding on his shell when he was younger, but it hasn't progressed and his shell has been good looking since I introduced a humid hide to his enclosure.
Hermann introduced me to the world of animal husbandry, one tortoise turned into two lizards and a colony of hermit crabs, five tropical fish tanks between 60 and 5 gallons, fifteen chickens, and a dog (my one and only mammal I always say lol). In many ways he sent me on the path to where I am today, there are so many things I never would have done or learned without Hermann.

Long story short, over time we grew apart. Maybe that's a weird way to put it, but Hermann grew up and became territorial and now runs over to bite me anytime I maintain his enclosure. He used to stretch out his neck to be rubbed but now he pulls inside his shell and only pokes his nose out to snap. For the most part I give him his space as to not stress him, except for enclosure maintenance, bath time, and anytime I take him outside or check him over. He seems more content when I watch him from afar.
Over time my interaction with him has dwindled to the bare minimum. I feed him daily and change his water, as well as spot clean, but that's it. And admittedly, I find myself forgetting to feed him more and more often, especially as I just started a new job and got a dog in Feburary (who is now an eighty lb puppy who takes a lot of my time). Don't get me wrong, Hermann is still healthy, but I probably forget to feed him two to three days a week mostly depending on how many hours I work. My job is physically demanding and most days I come home and pass out.

Anyway, here are my questions.
I recently started preparing all of Hermann's meals at the beginning of the week and storing them in the fridge. I enjoy meal preping for myself and my dog, who eats a raw diet.
It's definitely helping me to remember Hermann as it's sort of fun to weigh out all of his food and pack it into his little containers, I can also make sure he is getting his calcium/vitamin powder on the correct days whereas before I often forgot to give it to him.
My question is, is there a set of rules to follow when feeding a grassland/Hermann's tort? Like for dogs on a B.A.R.F diet (biologically appropriate raw food diet) you follow a set of rules, typically you feed 3% of the dogs body weight, 70% muscle meats, 10% raw meaty bone, 7% vegetables 5% liver, 5% other secreting organ, 2% seeds/nuts, and 1% fruit, all aiming to balance a specific nutritional profile.
Is there a guide like this for tortoises? I have been looking and looking and can't seem to find something that is clear.
Currently I am feeding Hermann a varied salad of mostly dark leafy greens, some other veggies and usually a small slice of fruit, and a cup of zoo med grassland tortoise food soaked and mashed.
I subscribe to a farm share so I get organic veggies and fruits every week, far more than I could eat. Hermann gets a wide variety of foods.

My other question is if anyone has any thoughts on how I can revamp his care, so to speak. He has a fairly large tortoise table, but I am going to double it when he moves outside next summer. I only just brought him in a week ago when the nighttime temps dipped into the 50s. I'm looking for things I could do to enrich his life further. I try to rearrange his box every once in a while, and I keep rocks with different textures and colors, smooth pebbles and large sheets of slate for him to bask on.
I was wondering if there are any plants I could keep in a pot in his box (since he without a doubt would trample anything I plant) that would provide a sort of hiding spot for him but is also able to survive the heat from his lighting? Some kind of fern would look nice.

Anyway, sorry this is so ridiculously long, any input or knowledge is more than appreciated.
 

Grace-Sophia

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 9, 2021
Messages
674
Location (City and/or State)
Texas
Hello and welcome to the fourm! It sounds to me like Hermann has maybe developed some behavioral issues. Tortoises are extremely smart animals and need quite a bit of enrichment in my opinion. I like to give mine dog toys and other things to look at while in their enclosures, I make sure to handle them as well, and part of your problem may be due to not handleing him enough anymore. Like hamsters or any animal at that can get “reversed” and un used to being held and interacted with, I think that upgrading his enclosure sounds like a great idea and I would also recommend to give him some more mental stimulation, take him outside, and even expanding his everyday diet would be fantastic for him. I think that once you find the things he likes and as he starts to get re used to being interacted with you will see a change. Of course tortoises are solitary and don’t need constant entertainment like dogs do but I would say everyday possibly mabey take him to adventure the great little doors and get to know what he likes to do and more about his personality. Also may we have a pic of your set up and tort so that we can ensure temps, and surroundings are everything that your little one needs in order to live a happy healthy very veryyy longgg life and see where the starting point is at? Once again a warm welcome to the TFO glad your here!
 

Nellie Rose

Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2021
Messages
34
Location (City and/or State)
Maryland
Hello and welcome to the fourm! It sounds to me like Hermann has maybe developed some behavioral issues. Tortoises are extremely smart animals and need quite a bit of enrichment in my opinion. I like to give mine dog toys and other things to look at while in their enclosures, I make sure to handle them as well, and part of your problem may be due to not handleing him enough anymore. Like hamsters or any animal at that can get “reversed” and un used to being held and interacted with, I think that upgrading his enclosure sounds like a great idea and I would also recommend to give him some more mental stimulation, take him outside, and even expanding his everyday diet would be fantastic for him. I think that once you find the things he likes and as he starts to get re used to being interacted with you will see a change. Of course tortoises are solitary and don’t need constant entertainment like dogs do but I would say everyday possibly mabey take him to adventure the great little doors and get to know what he likes to do and more about his personality. Also may we have a pic of your set up and tort so that we can ensure temps, and surroundings are everything that your little one needs in order to live a happy healthy very veryyy longgg life and see where the starting point is at? Once again a warm welcome to the TFO glad your here!
Thank you, he's definitely got something going on. I try to interact with him in some way daily, we go outside when it is warm. He just seems so unhappy when I am around and I don't like to make him uncomfortable. He does take food from my hand so I try to feed him treats sometimes like berries, but every once in a while he decides he's had enough and snaps at my fingers. What kind of dog toys do you give your torts? My dog has too many toys, I might have something I can give to Hermann. I've given Hermann one of those small rodent logs with the holes and stuffed it with his food.

This is his box. I bought it at the beginning of the year when wood prices were through the roof and it was actually cheaper to buy pre-made. It's actually pretty nice, and he seems to like it, although I'm considering taking out the wall to the hide so he has more uninterrupted space. It's a bit unfurnished right now because he just came in from his summer outside.
20211014_161348.jpg 20211014_161357.jpg

His enclosure is 39×24 inches. Next year I am planning to double it, but I don't have room to keep it in my place, so he'll have half the space over the winter. The box stays between 70-75 degrees during the day, with the basking spot around 85. He has a 100 watt heat bulb and a zoo med UVB in the duel fixture, and an 18 inch long fluorescent in the second fixture. He is on forest floor bedding currently, I've kept him on organic potting soil, coconut soil, coconut bark, reptile chips, and a few others, and I've found that Hermann seems to prefer burrowing in the forest floor and it's less dusty and maintains the humidity more consistently. Also, I try to keep humidity around 50%, I've read that Hermann's torts can withstand a wide range from 30% to 70%, but Hermann seems to do better around 50% to keep his shell from pyramiding further.
He's always been in good health and has regular vet appointments and fecal tests. He weights 1 lb nine ounces as of this week.

This is Hermann today, we went outside for a little while. It was too cold to stay out long. He has some food on his face from breakfast.
20211014_142348.jpg 20211014_142421.jpg 20211014_142436.jpg 20211014_142444.jpg
 

Maro2Bear

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
May 29, 2014
Messages
14,723
Location (City and/or State)
Glenn Dale, Maryland, USA
Greetings & Welcome to the Forum. Yeah, another Marylander in the group! Glad that you found the forum & are looking for ways to improve the conditions for Mr Hermann. We had a great day today & tomorrow for tortoises & turtles, but cold weather is swooping in. You made a good decision bringing him in for the Winter.

Im sure someone will come along with good info for your food regime.
 

Nellie Rose

Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2021
Messages
34
Location (City and/or State)
Maryland
Greetings & Welcome to the Forum. Yeah, another Marylander in the group! Glad that you found the forum & are looking for ways to improve the conditions for Mr Hermann. We had a great day today & tomorrow for tortoises & turtles, but cold weather is swooping in. You made a good decision bringing him in for the Winter.

Im sure someone will come along with good info for your food regime.
Thanks :)
Yeah it was a nice couple of days. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get him outside today, I was at work until 4 and came home to my one legged hospice care chicken who isn't doing well and have been working with her ever since :( it's a little too chilly to take Hermann out as my whole yard is shaded after five.
Definitely one of the best things about tortoises and a lot of other reptiles is as long as I offer proper care, I don't need to worry about losing them anytime soon.
I'm actually having a lot of fun meal preping for Hermann, it's nice to just have a container of food to flip into his bowl in the morning, and it's funny to see him nose all of the greens out of the way to get to the small bit of fruit or squash I throw in, even though he comes back and eats the greens later.
Still, I hope someone can chime in about the nutrition thing though, even though from what I read it isn't a huge deal I'd still like to know.
I've been reading about it, but all I can find are these generalized food pyramids roping a bunch of species together and on care sheets you tend to get the same dark leafy greens advice over and over again. I feel like there must be more to it.
 

Nellie Rose

Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2021
Messages
34
Location (City and/or State)
Maryland
I threw some of my dog's toys in his box, idk I thought he might enjoy pushing the big ball around, and I thought I could stuff it with salad one day. I also threw in some random big shells.
I cleaned most of his soiled bedding out today and ordered a fresh pack, that's why his substrate is so low and shoved into the corner of his hide so he can burrow.
20211015_180218.jpg 20211015_180223.jpg 20211015_180231.jpg
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
62,989
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Hello, I'm new here.
I have had my Hermann's tortoise, Hermann (super creative I know), for almost seven years, which means he is almost seven himself. I got him as a hatchling when he was the size of a fifty cent coin. He was cute and tiny and seemed to like interacting with me. I buried myself in research and I think I've taken pretty decent care of him over the years, my vet says he is in good health despite being just a little overweight. He also had some pyramiding on his shell when he was younger, but it hasn't progressed and his shell has been good looking since I introduced a humid hide to his enclosure.
Hermann introduced me to the world of animal husbandry, one tortoise turned into two lizards and a colony of hermit crabs, five tropical fish tanks between 60 and 5 gallons, fifteen chickens, and a dog (my one and only mammal I always say lol). In many ways he sent me on the path to where I am today, there are so many things I never would have done or learned without Hermann.

Long story short, over time we grew apart. Maybe that's a weird way to put it, but Hermann grew up and became territorial and now runs over to bite me anytime I maintain his enclosure. He used to stretch out his neck to be rubbed but now he pulls inside his shell and only pokes his nose out to snap. For the most part I give him his space as to not stress him, except for enclosure maintenance, bath time, and anytime I take him outside or check him over. He seems more content when I watch him from afar.
Over time my interaction with him has dwindled to the bare minimum. I feed him daily and change his water, as well as spot clean, but that's it. And admittedly, I find myself forgetting to feed him more and more often, especially as I just started a new job and got a dog in Feburary (who is now an eighty lb puppy who takes a lot of my time). Don't get me wrong, Hermann is still healthy, but I probably forget to feed him two to three days a week mostly depending on how many hours I work. My job is physically demanding and most days I come home and pass out.

Anyway, here are my questions.
I recently started preparing all of Hermann's meals at the beginning of the week and storing them in the fridge. I enjoy meal preping for myself and my dog, who eats a raw diet.
It's definitely helping me to remember Hermann as it's sort of fun to weigh out all of his food and pack it into his little containers, I can also make sure he is getting his calcium/vitamin powder on the correct days whereas before I often forgot to give it to him.
My question is, is there a set of rules to follow when feeding a grassland/Hermann's tort? Like for dogs on a B.A.R.F diet (biologically appropriate raw food diet) you follow a set of rules, typically you feed 3% of the dogs body weight, 70% muscle meats, 10% raw meaty bone, 7% vegetables 5% liver, 5% other secreting organ, 2% seeds/nuts, and 1% fruit, all aiming to balance a specific nutritional profile.
Is there a guide like this for tortoises? I have been looking and looking and can't seem to find something that is clear.
Currently I am feeding Hermann a varied salad of mostly dark leafy greens, some other veggies and usually a small slice of fruit, and a cup of zoo med grassland tortoise food soaked and mashed.
I subscribe to a farm share so I get organic veggies and fruits every week, far more than I could eat. Hermann gets a wide variety of foods.

My other question is if anyone has any thoughts on how I can revamp his care, so to speak. He has a fairly large tortoise table, but I am going to double it when he moves outside next summer. I only just brought him in a week ago when the nighttime temps dipped into the 50s. I'm looking for things I could do to enrich his life further. I try to rearrange his box every once in a while, and I keep rocks with different textures and colors, smooth pebbles and large sheets of slate for him to bask on.
I was wondering if there are any plants I could keep in a pot in his box (since he without a doubt would trample anything I plant) that would provide a sort of hiding spot for him but is also able to survive the heat from his lighting? Some kind of fern would look nice.

Anyway, sorry this is so ridiculously long, any input or knowledge is more than appreciated.
Hermanni are to grass eaters. They are broadleaf weed eaters. Weeds, leaves, and flowers are best. Grocery store greens are not a great diet for them either, but the addition of the Grassland food adds some much needed fiber and variety. They should never be fed fruit. The sugars in fruits are not goof for the flora and fauna in the GI tract. Best to learn your local weeds and which ones are safe. When those things aren't available in winter, you can grow your own, or do the amended grocery store greens thing. Hemanni need the same foods as Russians, greeks, and several other species. That is why they are sometimes lumped together in care sheets.

You enclosure is much too small. They need at least 4x8'. Tortoises rely on locomotion to help move food through the gut. Keeping them in small enclosures is not good for them. Next year is not soon enough.

All of this and more is explained here, and questions are welcome:
 

Nellie Rose

Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2021
Messages
34
Location (City and/or State)
Maryland
Hermanni are to grass eaters. They are broadleaf weed eaters. Weeds, leaves, and flowers are best. Grocery store greens are not a great diet for them either, but the addition of the Grassland food adds some much needed fiber and variety. They should never be fed fruit. The sugars in fruits are not goof for the flora and fauna in the GI tract. Best to learn your local weeds and which ones are safe. When those things aren't available in winter, you can grow your own, or do the amended grocery store greens thing. Hemanni need the same foods as Russians, greeks, and several other species. That is why they are sometimes lumped together in care sheets.

You enclosure is much too small. They need at least 4x8'. Tortoises rely on locomotion to help move food through the gut. Keeping them in small enclosures is not good for them. Next year is not soon enough.

All of this and more is explained here, and questions are welcome:
I understand, though I don't have room for a 32 square foot indoor enclosure, outdoor yes and I plan to build one larger, but I physically don't have anywhere to put a table that size indoors. I am saving to expand his current enclosure but won't be able to for a few months.
I will say when I lived at home he had an 8×8 enclosure, but when I downsized I had to make some changes. For a while he lived in a very large storage bin, then I went looking to build him a larger enclosure around the time wood was crazy expensive ($10 for a rough cut 2×4 locally, I can't afford that working minimum wage). I settled on the largest box I could find without breaking the bank as a temporary fix, but I've always planned to expand.
Anyway, that's the story of his current living situation, the last year has been difficult for us.
I'd also like to say he developed his behavior issues around 2 years months after he moved into the 8×8, so I don't think his box is connected to that. He has improved a bit since February as well, so I wonder if his aggression is some sort of puberty? Feel free to laugh if that sounds stupid I'm just thinking out loud.

And thank you for the diet advice. In the summer I pick him grasses and weeds from the yard, but in winter he is limited to what I can get from the farm and grocery stores near by, and I've always supplemented around half of his diet with a pellet food (mostly mazuri but I'm finding he prefers zoo med). I'll look into ordering some weeds and flowers for him this winter, I kill all green things I come in contact with lol.
I read an article about tortoise nutrition that explained how they are grazers, and how they will feed off of a single food source until it is gone before moving onto the next and eventually it balances out. I thought that was very insightful.
I do still really want to know if there are certain percentages to follow, but I guess if there is not, that's fine too and I will continue to eyeball it while playing around with different foods.
 

Nellie Rose

Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2021
Messages
34
Location (City and/or State)
Maryland
Wanted to update this very old thread.
I applied the advice given here to the best of my ability.
Hermann is doing awesome and is much more friendly. Now 10 years old. I think part of his behavior issue was just male tortoise adolescence, now that he is full grown he's calmed a bit, although he is still a rambunctious little thing and will ram the glass until I feed him in the morning.

I now grow my own wildflowers, weeds, and grasses to feed him, and every couple weeks I buy plants to plant for him to munch on in his enclosure. He gets dark leafy greens a couple times a week in addition and mazuri and zoo med grassland tortoise food. I have eliminated fruit mostly, although I admit I occasionally give in and give him a small slice of apple while handling so he has a more positive experience. Slowly phasing this out though as he now loves arugula.

He is in a 7ft×3ft pvc enclosure now from Kages. It's a closed unit which I've learned is much better than the open top tortoise tables. He's got a massive watering hole with a pump to keep the water running and maintain humidity with minimal misting, so the substrate stays dry in places and damp in others. I've tried to create different microclimates for him so he can go wherever he needs to.

Long story short he is thriving, and I am working on plans for an 8ft×8ft outdoor pen for the summer.

I'll see if I can get some new pictures of him, I haven't taken any in a while.
 

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