TO CARE FOR AUSTRALIAN FRESHWATER TORTOISES
ACCOMMODATION FOR ADULT TORTOISES
The following conditions should be met when providing an outdoor
home for adult tortoises:
(i) A large enclosure.
Tortoises love to roam, so the enclosure should be large enough
for them to be able to have a really good walk on land. They
are also notoriously good at escaping, so close off any possible
escape routes. If they escape in the suburbs they are likely
to be run over by cars or mauled by dogs.
"An enclosure with walls about one metre high may be constructed
from chicken wire sunk 15cm into the soil to prevent tortoises
(Ref: Tortoise Care by S. Beattie, Fisheries & Wildlife
In addition, the enclosure should be cat and dog proof, so you
may need to build
lower walls with a chicken-wire 'roof', securely fastened, if
cats and dogs are a problem. The chicken-wire should have holes
small enough to prevent tortoises from poking their heads through.
Half-inch holes are usually small enough. For extra safety from
animals, you could have a double fence, with a space between
the fences. There should be shortish grass on the floor of the
enclosure never a hard or rough surface.
Never underestimate a tortoise's ability to climb. Despite their
awkward appearance they can climb just about anything, and also
lift bricks many times their own weight.
(ii) A pool.
In the wild, Australian tortoises spend most of their time in
water: they can only swallow food when underwater.
Pools should be fairly deep, and the tortoise MUST be able to
climb in and out at will. The pool must contain piles of rocks
for basking. Water in the pool should be kept relatively clean
and MUST be CONDITIONED with salt and calcium (see page 5).
Otherwise it can become too acidic - also, calcium is essential
for tortoise's shells.
Fibreglass pools are quite expensive. There are alternatives
: a large plastic baby's bath sunk into the ground, or a concrete
pool. Before putting any living creature into a new concrete
pool, the pool should have been filled with water for three
weeks, then drained and refilled, or coated with special preparations
which are available specifically for the purpose of sealing
concrete pools and preventing the escape of harmful chemicals.
"When designing a pond, provision should be made to give
a tortoise sufficient area and depth of water in which to swim
comfortably, and if it chooses, sufficient mud at the bottom
in which it can hibernate in Winter. It also needs a place where
it can come ashore to bask in the sun during the warmer months
: but the pond must be shaded by trees or shrubs. Direct sunlight
on the water during the height of summer can raise water temperatures
in a shallow pool so high that the tortoise could die.
For both convenience and beauty, a pond in an 'L' or boomerang
shape is possibly the most convenient design. Its size
will depend on the number of tortoises to be kept and their
dimensions. Preferably, it should be from six to eight feet
long and not less than three feet wide. If easy construction
is desired, the best design has straight sides with the bottom
formed into a ramp at one or both ends. This then enables the
tortoises in the pond to come ashore when they need to.
At its deepest, the pond should be at least fifteen inches or
more, and should maintain this depth for at least half its length.
Tortoises eat and damage water lilies and other plants, but
if sufficient are provided, some will survive and considerably
beautify the pond in summer. Forms of duckweed and other surface
floating water plants can also be obtained on field trips. These
provide some dietary needs and may beautify the pond.
Because concrete will damage a tortoise's plastron, the bottom
should be ridged (slightly) and covered with several inches
of fine sand or clay. Rainwater is usually sufficient to maintain
the water level, but in dry seasons the pond may need to be
'topped' with a, hose when the water level drops.
Some form of overflow pipe, leading to a drain, should be provided
to prevent flooding of the surrounds during a wet season. Methods
of constructing such a pond are available in "how to do
it" or "home handymen books (e.g. Sunset Books).
Ideally a pond is best constructed alongside a small tree or
large shrub. Depending on the space available, the pond surrounds
should be no less than three feet wide, and wider if possible.
If no shrubs are available, one should be planted in such a
position that it casts a fair shadow across the water during
the hours between 12 noon and 4 p.m. in summer."
(Ref: Goode, p.124-125)
Provision for hibernation.
Tortoises may prefer to hibernate in the mud at the bottom of
their pool, but in case they choose otherwise, a thick pile
of dry grass clippings, leaves, strays etc. should be provided
on land, with access to the pool, and in a sheltered place.
Some owners have constructed little 'hibernation huts' for their
pets. An overhanging bush may be sufficient.
Let the tortoise choose when and where it will hibernate.
Never disturb a tortoise during hibernation, as the shock may
As John Goode writes,
the initial effort expended
is more than that required by most pets. Once this is provided,
tortoises. . . most probably, have a life span considerably
greater than other domestic animals." (Goode,
PAGE 1 PAGE 2 PAGE
Indoor Living Quarters: PAGE
4 PAGE 5 PAGE
6 PAGE 7 PAGE
8 PAGE 9
Outdoor Living Quarters: PAGE
Feeding: PAGE 11
Hibernation: PAGE 12
Ailments: PAGE 13
Behaviour and Intelligence: PAGE
How Old is the Tortoise? PAGE
Dangers: PAGE 15
Reproduction and Sexual Differences PAGE
References: PAGE 16