Hermann’s Tortoise Care

What is a Hermann’s tortoise, and how do you care for one?

Are these tortoises commonly owned by reptile lovers?

Where do these tortoises originate from?

Where did this species get its name?

Do Hermann’s tortoises require similar care to other common tortoise pets, such as the Greek tortoise or Sulcata tortoise?

To fully cover the basic care and requirements of the Hermann’s tortoise, we will discuss their origin and required care as well as their diet, habitat, and common illnesses associated with this tortoise species.

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Hermann’s Tortoise Care

Keeping true to their place of origin, these tortoises should be provided with enclosures retaining 70% humidity and approximate temperatures of 80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C). They should be provided with a minimum of 12 hours of light per day, and they should be fed a strictly herbivorous diet.

Proper care for a Hermann’s tortoise looks quite similar to the care of many other Mediterranean tortoises, such as the Greek tortoise and the marginated tortoise. 

This species of tortoise is tough and can adapt to many different environments.

Learning and understanding the proper care requirements is the first and most crucial step for every animal owner. 

For those owners whose pet of choice is some reptile species, it is even more pertinent to meet optimal care requirements.

This is not to say reptiles are superior pets to any other animal classification (although we believe these oddly cute pets are undoubtedly the best companions). 

However, the importance of caring for a reptile weighs heavily due to the specific conditions these pets require in every aspect of their lives.

For instance, turtle and tortoise owners must maintain clean and stable enclosures for their reptilian dependents. 

The correct temperature and adequate lighting must be sustained at all times. 

Also, the dietary requirements for these animals are much more complex than those of cats and dogs. 

You must closely monitor nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D3.

Species Overview

Hermann’s tortoises are native to Europe and are classified in the Mediterranean group of tortoises. 

These tortoises are the namesake of 18th-century French naturalist Johann Hermann.

These tortoises have two recognized subspecies: the western Hermann’s tortoise and the eastern Hermann’s tortoise. 

There is a third variant of the Hermann’s tortoise known as the Dalmatian Hermann’s tortoise. 

The Dalmatian tortoise is sometimes considered a third subspecies but is often classified as a geographic variant of the eastern and western tortoises.

The western subspecies are much rarer than their counterparts, and the tortoises are significantly smaller. 

They sport a much brighter, contrasted shell compared to their relatives with a golden yellow base coloring and dark brown or black patterns along the scutes.

The eastern subspecies is the most common type of Hermann’s tortoise and is a very popular species of a tortoise owned worldwide. 

Though the eastern tortoise is considered small compared to many other tortoises, it is large compared to the western tortoise. 

The shells are muted, with a tan base coloring and faint, indistinct patterns along the scutes.

The Dalmatian tortoise lies somewhere in the middle of the eastern and western Hermann’s tortoises in all aspects. 

It is mid-sized, with the same muted coloring as the eastern tortoise and the distinctive dark patterns of the western tortoise.

All subspecies of the Hermann’s tortoise have a distinct spur at the base of their tails. 

Not to be confused with other species of tortoises with spurs on the thighs, these animals only sport one spur at the tip of their tails. 

They all have muscular legs and five claws on the end of each foot to help with burrowing and navigating their environment.

Baby Hermann’s Tortoise

Hermann’s tortoise hatchlings generally measure between 2-3″ inches (7.5 cm). 

Although these babies only require a small enclosure, they will need adequate space to burrow. 

The mixture of substrate you place in their enclosure should be approximately 4″ inches (5 cm) deep.

This ectothermic animal is relatively small and runs the risk of becoming too cold or too hot very quickly. 

Providing space for these babies to burrow will naturally help them regulate their body temperatures within their controlled enclosure.

These tortoises run the risk of dehydrating and should be provided with fresh water for drinking at all times. 

You should change this water daily.

These tortoises should be placed in a lukewarm bath, deep enough for their tails to be submerged but shallow enough for their heads to sit comfortably above the water. 

For babies, a daily 15-minute bath is ideal for keeping their bodies hydrated. 

If a daily bath is not obtainable, you should give four to five bathes per week at a minimum.

As mentioned previously, these tortoises are herbivores and should only be fed plant matter. 

A baby or juvenile tortoise should be fed a serving of food about the size of its shell once per day.

Tortoises under one year of age are considered hatchlings or babies. 

Between the ages of one and two years, tortoises are often referred to as “yearlings”. 

Once they have reached two years of age, the tortoise is considered a juvenile until it reaches full maturity.

Adult Hermann’s Tortoise

Adult Hermann’s tortoises are those tortoises which have reached full maturity. 

These reptiles take a while to grow and often don’t reach full maturity for at least the first decade of their lives.

Once the adult is fully grown, it is considered mature. 

This species of tortoise does not grow to be very large and grows at a relatively slow pace.

No matter the subspecies, females are almost always larger than males.

The following table has the average size listed for males and females of each subspecies, including the Dalmatian variant of the eastern tortoise.

Subspecies NameAvg. Male SizeAvg. Female Size
Western4” in (10 cm)6” in (15 cm)
Eastern6” in (15 cm)8” in (20 cm)
Dalmatian4.5” in (12 cm)6” in (15 cm)

These tortoises will require access to fresh water at all times. 

Be mindful of changing the water daily, especially if your tortoise is living outdoors. 

These tortoises will drink from their water bowl and will likely climb in for a quick soak.

Similar to baby tortoises, adult tortoises should be placed in a lukewarm bath several times per week to keep their skin and shells clean and their hydration levels up.

Hermann’s tortoises are natural grazers and spend their lives roaming their habitats, munching on every plant and weed.

These tortoises will spend a large amount of their time grazing their outdoor enclosures but should still be provided with food once daily. 

This is especially true for tortoises kept in outdoor enclosures with little vegetation to eat.

Aim to feed these tortoises as much food as they can consume within 15 – 30 minutes.

This is an adequate meal timeframe to keep your tortoise healthy without overfeeding it. 

More specific details regarding their diet will be discussed in the next section.

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Hermann’s Tortoise Diet

The Hermann’s tortoise species are herbivores following a strictly vegetarian diet, meaning they should only be provided with vegetation and plant matter for their meals.

Hermann’s tortoises do well living outdoors and often thrive in an outdoor enclosure from April to October. 

While this is true for most areas in the united states, keep in mind these animals rely on their external environments to regulate their body temperatures and should never be kept in weather unsuitable to their needs.

If your pet is living in an outdoor enclosure, it is best to have plenty of grasses, plants, and weeds for it to graze on. 

These animals will spend much of their time roaming their outdoor space and eating most of the plant matter they come across.

Protein is not a significant component in the diet of these pet tortoises. 

They require fibrous foods with high levels of calcium and vitamin D3. 

Like most reptiles, monitoring their phosphorus and oxalic acid intake is essential to keep their ability to absorb calcium up to par.

Whether your tortoise is spending its time indoors or outdoors, you will need to provide it with a nutritious meal once per day.

The following sections are lists of recommended leafy greens, plants, and occasional fruits to feed your Hermann’s tortoise.

Edible Weeds & Leafy Greens

  • Dandelion
  • Clover
  • Thistle
  • Mulberry leaves
  • Grasses
  • Parsley
  • Coriander
  • Watercress
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Turnip greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Endive
  • Radicchio

Vegetables

  • Carrots
  • Bell peppers
  • Cauliflower
  • Yellow squash
  • Zucchini

Fruits

  • Apples
  • Cactus
  • Watermelon
  • Mellon

Let’s take a deeper dive into the lists of recommended foods above.

As a juvenile and an adult, the majority of your pet’s diet will consist of natural grazing within its enclosure. 

For hatchlings and indoor tortoises, this grazing material will need to be supplemented.

Since these animals require diets containing high levels of fiber, most of the food they eat should be items from the “edible weeds & leafy greens” list. 

Planting weeds from this list, such as dandelion, clover, and thistle in the enclosure, will benefit you and your pet.

If you are unable to grow your vegetation or do not have an enclosure where these weeds grow, be sure only to purchase organic leafy greens and produce. 

Pesticide-free weeds and plants are essential for a healthy tortoise.

Vegetables should make up only a small portion of their diet, and fruit should be kept to a minimum. 

Cactus is great for metabolic moisture and watermelon, which is acceptable to feed once every few weeks.

The most important aspect of this animal’s diet is the calcium level. 

A lack of calcium will lead to dangerous health conditions. 

Kale and collard greens are excellent choices since they are both a great form of calcium.

If you notice warning signs of low calcium, such as pyramiding of the scutes, consider adding calcium powder to your pet’s diet. 

A high-quality, phosphorus-free calcium powder should be sprinkled on the food a few times per week to balance out the deficiency.

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Hermann’s Tortoise Habitat

The habitat requirements of these animals do not vary much throughout their lives. 

The crucial temperatures to keep in mind are the ambient and basking temperatures. 

Of course, warmer temperatures are kept during the day, with more mild temperatures at night.

Ambient temperature for an indoor enclosure should be kept between 80 and 85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C) during the day. 

These warmer temperatures should drop to mild temperatures, ranging anywhere in the low 70° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C) at night.

For babies, the basking area should range from 90 to 95° degrees Fahrenheit (35° C). 

Basking areas for adults should range between 90 and 105° degrees Fahrenheit (41° C).

Humidity levels are to be kept at 70% for these tortoises at all stages of life.

For indoor enclosures, these daytime temperatures and nighttime temperatures are achieved with a heat lamp. 

Pets living outdoors will obtain their heat from the sunlight.

UVB light is also vital for this tortoise species. 

UVB rays are naturally obtained from direct sunlight but may be replicated with UVB bulbs or a fluorescent UVB tube.

These reptiles require light exposure for a minimum of 12 hours per day, so you will need a light source for their enclosure, whether it is indoors or outdoors.

Without UVB lighting, these animals will not be able to synthesize vitamin D3 and process calcium.

The enclosure substrate should be made of mixed materials. 

A recommended mixture is topsoil, cypress bark, and peat moss. 

Keep this dry substrate moist by misting it with water from a spray bottle every day.

Don’t forget to add a water bowl and furniture to your enclosures! 

Hydration and mental stimulation are both vital for an active and healthy tortoise.

Hermann’s Tortoise Common Illnesses

Common illnesses associated with these animals are respiratory infections and metabolic bone disease (MBD).

Respiratory infections usually occur when the enclosure is not kept clean, or the humidity levels are too high. 

If you suspect your pet is suffering from a respiratory infection, seek medical advice from your vet.

Metabolic bone disease is a dangerous yet common illness in reptiles. 

It occurs when the animal suffers from a lack of calcium, UVB exposure, or both.

Warning signs of MBD include pyramiding of scutes and other bone and shell deformities. 

Catching MBD in its early stages is vital for a healthy recovery. 

If the condition goes unnoticed and advances too far, it may leave irreversible damage or even lead to death.

Final Thoughts

Hermann’s tortoises are popular pets among reptile lovers, thanks to their small size and ability to adapt to most environments.

These animals require ample amounts of sunlight and high humidity. 

Hermann’s tortoises live off of vegetation and have a life expectancy of approximately 30 years in captivity.

These tortoises make for great companions and are an excellent choice for a new reptile owner.

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