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Radiated Tortoises

Basic Care Guide for Pet Radiated Tortoises

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Radiated Tortoises

Male and female radiated tortoises

Photo © Flickr user Olivier Lejade

Radiated tortoises are not commonly seen due to their endangered species status but they are occasionally kept as pets. These are decently sized and very long lived tortoises. They are recognized by their beautifully patterned shells and are sometimes confused with the smaller star tortoise. Read on to see if you can handle having a pet radiated tortoise.

Radiated Tortoise

  • Name: Radiated Tortoise, Astrochelys radiata, Geochelone radiata
  • Size: Grows up to 16 inches long and weighing about 35 pounds
  • Lifespan: Average of 40-50 years but up to almost 200
  • Radiated Tortoise Housing

    These tortoises are from southern Madagascar where it is warm and humid. Indoor housing needs to be sturdy and warm and provide your radiated tortoise with plenty of room to walk around. An adult radiated needs at least an eight by four foot enclosure and many owners opt to create a turtle room in their house for their pets. Other owners make "turtle tables" which are raised and have borders so your tortoise can't climb out or use large plastic storage bins in place of expensive fish tanks.

    Outdoor housing needs to be kept above 60 degrees Fahrenheit for adult radiated tortoises and is a great way to give your tortoise the sunlight he needs in the warmer months. Heat lighting should still be provided to offer a basking area along with a cooler area, hide hut (dog house), and plenty of water and mud to hang out and wallow in. Cypress mulch is often recommended as bedding due to the natural water retention but care should be taken to avoid accidental ingestion of this material causing an impaction.

    The outdoor pen should also be safe from wildlife. Some pens may need screening to keep out raccoons and birds along with sunken borders to prevent anything from digging their way in.

    Radiated Tortoise Lighting

    Tortoises of all kinds require both heat lights and UVB lights. Heat lights are meant to keep your radiated tortoise warm and UVB lights help process Vitamin D3 so calcium can be properly absorbed. Without both kinds of lighting your radiated tortoise will not do very well long term.

    Large heat lights are needed to heat the large enclosures that radiated tortoises require. Many owners opt to use a mercury vapor bulb which is a combination of UVB and a heat light if they have a turtle room or large pen for their tortoise. Otherwise traditional reptile heat bulbs and a separate UVB bulb should be utilized to provide a basking area temperature near 90 degrees Fahrenheit and not let the rest of the enclosure drop below the 70's. The UVB bulb should stay on for a 12 hour cycle and by replaced every six months, even if it doesn't burn out. The invisible UVB rays will run out before the visible light burns out.

    Radiated Tortoise Diet

    Radiated tortoises are herbivores. This means they should never be fed dog or cat food (or anything high in protein) but instead get plenty of fresh, dark, leafy, greens and grasses. Timothy hay, Bermuda grass, Orchard grass, rye grass, alfalfa, and fescue are all types of grasses that are acceptable. Fresh greens include kale, endive, parsley, dandelion greens, escarole, spineless cactus leaves, mustard greens and more. A good variety of these and other greens that have a higher calcium to phosphorus ratio should be offered on a regular basis so your tortoise does not become a picky eater.

    A calcium powder should be dusted on the greens daily to make sure your tortoise is getting enough calcium in his diet and a very small amount of fruit may also be offered. Radiated tortoises especially love red fruits.

    Radiated tortoises are very long term pets, very beautiful, and very rare. Make sure you are ready for this type of a pet before committing.

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