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Hermann’s Tortoise Care Sheet

Hermann’s Tortoise Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

Testudo hermanni

Hermann's Tortoise

Overview 

Hermann's tortoises are medium sized tortoises that are found throughout Southern and Eastern Europe, from Spain, France and Italy to Greece, Turkey, Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia. They live in forests or on rocky hillsides, among thick vegetation and low shrubs, in areas where it is dry. 

 

Typical appearance and behavior  

  • Hermann’s tortoises have an arched, yellow carapace (top shell) with thick scutes (keratin protein-covered bony plates) containing dark markings 
  • They have strong legs and long nails, and their hind legs are much thicker than their front legs 
  • They have a horn-like tip (called a tubercle) at the end of their tails, so they are sometimes called the Mediterranean spur-tailed tortoise 
  • Females are generally larger than males; males have longer, thicker tails and more concave plastrons (bottom shells) to facilitate breeding with females 
  • They thrive outside in warm climates, specifically those that resemble Mediterranean regions 
  • They are desirable pets because they are hardy, active and responsive to pet parents 
  • They are generally laid back and gentle and typically only bite to defend themselves 
  • They do not like to be lifted up to be handled 
  • They love to run, dig and forage and will burrow to create hiding spots 
  • Male tortoises can become aggressive with each other, particularly during mating season, so they should be actively monitored or kept separately 

 

Characteristics

Care Difficuty Beginner
Average Life Span 50+ years with proper care
Average Adult Size 6–8" long
Diet Herbivorous
Minimum Habitat Size 48” L x 48” W x 24” H for one adult

 

Habitat  

Habitat size 

  • Provide an appropriately sized habitat to accommodate normal behavior and exercise—the larger, the better 
  • These tortoises are quite active, so they need a habitat large enough to accommodate their roaming behavior; the minimum habitat size for one adult is 48” L x 48” W x 24” H  
  • Glass tanks or large plastic tubs are appropriate, and the sides of the enclosure should be high enough to prevent escape 
  • Wherever climate permits, these tortoises should be housed in outdoor enclosures; fresh air and sunlight are ideal for tortoises outside in warm climates, as long as they also have access to shaded areas 
  • Outdoor enclosures or pens ideally should be at least 48”x48”, with walls that extend at least 24” above the ground (to prevent tortoises from climbing out and predators from getting in) and least 12” underground (to prevent tortoises from digging out)  

Building your habitat 

  • Substrate - Tortoises are known for eating substrate, so bedding should be digestible, such as alfalfa pellets, hay or commercially available paper-based bedding; substrate should be deep enough for the tortoise to burrow. Don’t use coarse, particulate substrates that can be ingested and cause gastrointestinal tract obstruction, such as sand or gravel. Dusty substrates should be avoided, as they may irritate tortoises’ eyes and respiratory tracts 
  • Décor - Provide a shaded area, such as a cave or hideout filled with additional substrate or large pieces of cork bark or driftwood, where your tortoise can hide when it gets too warm or cold, plus several large flat rocks for climbing. Small bushes in outdoor enclosures also provide tortoises with shade. Hermann’s tortoises are notorious for digging, so it’s best not to clutter their habitat with décor 
  • Temperature - Provide a temperature gradient (95–100°F for the warm end and 75°F for the cool end); use an incandescent light or ceramic heater as primary heat source. While tortoises live outside in nature at temperatures lower than 70°F, they will often hibernate in cooler climates, slowing their metabolism and digestion. Their immune system function is suppressed at lower temperatures, making them potentially more susceptible to infection; ideally, temperatures should be kept constant (and not lower than approximately 70°F at night) for tortoises housed indoors so they do not get sick 
  • Humidity - Maintain humidity at 50–70%. While Hermann’s tortoises live in arid environments, they must be exposed to adequate humidity to prevent dehydration. Adequate humidity is also essential to help prevent growing juvenile tortoises from developing “pyramiding” of their shells. With this condition, inadequate humidity causes keratin plates (scutes) on the carapace to be retained as they grow, rather than to shed appropriately. A humid hideout (with moist sphagnum moss placed either in a commercially available plastic enclosure or an upside-down, plastic sweater box with a cutout for a door) can help promote proper shedding of scutes. Damp, moist substrate must be changed frequently to prevent mold from developing 
  • Lighting - Providing ultraviolet (UV) B lighting for 12–14 hours a day helps ensure tortoises produce adequate vitamin D in their skin to absorb dietary calcium and helps establish a day/night cycle; change UV lights every six months to enable adequate UV exposure as the potency of UV bulbs wanes 
  • Water - Provide constant access to a shallow water dish large enough for tortoises to soak in and drink from; tortoises should be able to easily enter and exit water bowls, making ramp bowls an ideal choice. Fresh water should be provided daily, as tortoises often defecate in water bowls when they are soaking 

Cleaning your habitat 

  • Spot-clean the habitat daily, removing discarded vegetable matter and droppings 
  • Thoroughly clean the habitat at least once a week: 
    • Place tortoise in a secure habitat 
    • Scrub the habitat and furnishings with a reptile habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution 
    • Rinse thoroughly with hot water, removing all traces of habitat cleaner or bleach smell 
    • Dry the habitat and furnishings completely 
    • Add clean substrate, then return décor and tortoise to the habitat 

 

Feeding  

  • A well-balanced diet Hermann’s tortoise diet is high in fiber and low in protein and fat, with adequate calcium to ensure normal digestive tract function 
  • Hermann’s tortoises can eat dark green, leafy vegetables (including kale, escarole, red and green lettuce and collard, mustard, turnip and dandelion greens), squash, carrots, peppers, prickly pear cactus, spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes and corn, as well as grass hay and nontoxic flowers, such as hibiscus 
  • When housed outside, tortoises can eat live grasses, including Bermuda, fescue and rye grasses, as long as no pesticides or other harmful chemicals are applied to your lawn 
  • Fruit (such as apples, bananas and berries) should be given only sparingly as a treat 
  • Tortoises should not be fed nutrient-poor greens, such as iceberg lettuce, or high-protein items, such as dog or cat food 
  • Hermann’s tortoises can also eat commercially available pelleted diets manufactured specifically for tortoises, but these diets should not make up more than 25% of their total food; many tortoises eating commercial diets prefer them softened with water first 

Things to remember when feeding your Hermann’s tortoise: 

  • Fresh, clean water should be available all the time 
  • Tortoises tend to defecate in their water bowls, so it is critical to clean and disinfect water bowls daily 
  • Feed tortoises daily; chop vegetables finely for easy consumption 
  • Sprinkle food with a calcium supplement that doesn’t include vitamin D (since turtles and tortoises are sensitive to vitamin D) daily for juveniles and every other day for adults, plus a small pinch of multivitamin supplement once a week 
  • Discard vegetables and fruits not eaten within 12 hours  

 

Care

Weekly warm water soaks, with the water level no deeper than the mid-point between the bottom of the plastron and the top of the carapace, can help keep your tortoise hydrated.

 

Where to buy Hermann’s tortoises

Hermann’s tortoises are available for purchase at your local Petco Pet Care Center location. Please call ahead to check availability.

 

Supplies 

 

Health  

Signs of a healthy tortoise 

  • Active and alert 
  • Eats and passes stool regularly 
  • Healthy, uniform-looking shell (no soft spots or pitting) 
  • Clear, bright eyes 
  • Healthy, supple skin  
  • Clear nose and vent 

Red flags (if you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian) 

  • Eye, nose or mouth discharge or bubbles 
  • Soft, discolored or rough spots on shell 
  • Lethargy 
  • Bumps or spots on skin or dry, peeling skin 
  • Abnormal (malformed, excessively watery or bloody) feces 
  • Sneezing, open-mouth breathing or runny nose 
  • Overgrown beak 
  • Sunken eyes 

 

Common Hermann’s tortoise health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health IssueMetabolic bone disease/vitamin deficiency Symptoms or CausesInability to absorb calcium due to insufficient UVB light or inappropriate diet or supplementation; if untreated, can lead to skeletal deformities, soft or fractured bones, swollen limbs, lethargy, decreased appetite, weight loss, seizures and death Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian and provide ample UVB lighting and proper diet with calcium and multivitamin supplementation
Health IssueRespiratory tract infection Symptoms or CausesLabored breathing, runny nose or bubbles from eyes, nose or mouth; can be caused by inappropriate habitat temperatures, inappropriate humidity or underlying infectious diseases Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian and ensure habitat has the proper temperature and humidity
Health IssueTicks and mites Symptoms or CausesParasites on the skin; can cause inflammation, hyperactivity, restlessness and can transmit disease Suggested ActionConsult with your veterinarian
Health IssueGastrointestinal disease Symptoms or CausesRunny stools, caked or smeared stool around the vent, weight loss and loss of appetite; may be caused by bacterial, viral or parasitic infection or nutritional imbalance Suggested ActionConsult with your veterinarian

 

FAQs  

  • How big do Hermann’s tortoises get? Hermann’s tortoises grow to 6–8" long. 
  • How long do Hermann’s tortoises live? Hermann’s tortoises can live 50+ years with proper care. 
  • Can Hermann’s tortoises eat mushrooms? Mushrooms are not harmful to Hermann's tortoises, but they are not part of their normal diet, so they may not recognize them as food. 
  • How often should I feed a Hermann’s tortoise? Hermann’s tortoises should be fed daily. 
  • Can Hermann’s tortoises eat spring greens? Hermann’s tortoises can eat dark green, leafy greens (including kale, escarole, red and green lettuce and collard, mustard, turnip and dandelion greens), squash, carrots, peppers, prickly pear cactus, spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes and corn, as well as grass hay and nontoxic flowers, such as hibiscus. When housed outside, tortoises can eat live grasses, including Bermuda, fescue and rye grasses, as long as no pesticides or other harmful chemicals are applied to your lawn. 

 

Additional care sheets

Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center associate about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all reptiles are potential carriers of infectious diseases such as salmonella bacteria, always wash your hands before and after handling your reptile or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease. Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physicians before purchasing or caring for reptiles and should consider having a pet other than a reptile.

Go to cdc.gov/healthypets for more information about reptiles and disease. 

The information on this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If your pet is sick or you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.