Tortoises, Terrapins and Turtles
Tortoises: Live a very long time when cared for well and could potentially outlive you! They are cold blooded like other reptiles and rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature. This means that tortoises also require heat sources in the vivarium (primary and secondary) to keep their body at an appropriate temperature for it to function most efficiently. Chelonia have slow metabolisms and therefore could be sick for a long time before they show clinical signs. There are two main types of tortoise kept as pets in the UK, Mediterranean and Non-Mediterranean.
> Mediterranean: Common species include Hermann's tortoise and the Spur-thighed tortoise.
Diet – high fibre, low protein and calcium rich diet to ensure good digestive function and smooth growth. Try and avoid overfeeding “supermarket” greens and fruits which have low fibre and are rich in sugars. The diet should consist of 90% leafy greens such as dandelions, clover, kale etc. Additional Calcium supplementation is essential to prevent weak bones. Calcium powder can be bought from certain pet shops or specialist reptile shops and should be sprinkled on all food.
Water – a shallow bowl of water should be available which is big enough to allow the tortoise to walk in and submerge its mouth to drink but not so deep that drowning is possible.
> Non-Mediterranean: These species are generally larger than the Mediterranean types and require more complicated care. Most species do not hibernate. Species include Leopard Tortoise and the giant African spurred. More information can be found at www.britishcheloniagroup.org.uk
Lighting and Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD):
Both of the above are closely related. Metabolic bone disease can occur in all reptiles. It is a condition resulting in abnormal bone growth and/or repair. MBD is generally the result of long term deficiency of calcium and /or vitamin D3. This can be caused by too little calcium or too much phosphorus in the diet; a deficiency of vitamin D3 from lack of exposure to proper amounts of UVB light; or kidney disease. UVB lighting is critical to vitamin D3 synthesis and calcium metabolism and therefore a special bulb should be used in all vivariums.
Terrapins: are omnivores and require an appropriate diet such as fruit, veg, grasses, flowers, fish, snails and insects. Appropriate alternatives are fat free pork, or beef, chicken and small fishes like shrimp and trout. They also require calcium supplementation like other reptiles and generally function much better when an underwater heat source is used. They tend to grow much more quickly than tortoises and often need larger tanks as they increase in size. A basking rock and lamp is also required.