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Cosy Tortoises

Innovative Tortoise Housing, Shop, Tortoise Boarding, Ideal Set-Up and Care Information - Established 2007

Tropical Tortoises

Typical habitats

Temperature range: 20 - 35 degrees Celsius but usually in humid environments temperatures stay closer to 25-30 degrees Celsius

Humidity: Moderate to high humidity - tortoises found on moist soil, leaf-litter in forested areas or grass meadows typical of South America and fertile parts of Asia.

​Natural UV levels: Moderate to high equivalent approximately UVB 5-10% - tortoises typically live in areas that are partially protected from the sun most of the time to prevent dehydration such as forest floors or well established grassland.

Typical tortoise species are;

Redfoot, Yellow-foot, Cherry-head, Chacos, Bell's-hinged, Indian stars, Radiated Stars, Brown and Galapagos tortoises.

Diets of tropical tortoises are dependant on how specific the vegetation is within their natural range.

Redfoots are known to be found across much of central tropical South America and in the Caribbean with a relatively robust diet that relies on a certain level of fruit. Like most of the species found in tropical forest-type environments a small amount of animal protein is essential as a regular part of their diet. Thought to be achieved by a mixture of left-over carrion, but possibly a large variety of insect-life. In our experience they attack and eat ants, which presumably is a survival technique, given that they could easily fall prey to these insidious mob-style insects if the tortoise was solitary and over-run. Not wise to use a as a food type in captivity. A much more likely source of protein would be larger invertebrates such as slugs, snails and the myriad of worm species and insects found in leaf litter. It is known that young tortoises eat more protein, probably because they require it to grow and they probably can't store it any more than we can. Of course, they almost certainly live in the leaf litter to some extent whilst they are small enough to fall prey to small mammals.

Indian star and Radiated star tortoises are typically found in much drier tropical grassland habitats across Southern Asia. It is better to avoid fruit and animal protein is not recommended. They have a diet that is much closer to Sulcata and Leopard tortoises, that are typically found in semi-tropical grassland Savannah in Central and Southern Africa. They all rely on a much higher level of grass than Redfoots that are better fed green leafy diets as well as flowers rather than grass. Presumably these drier habitat species, rely on grass fermentation as a digestion method within their gut to allow them to process plant-life efficiently. Like many Mediterranean tortoises they produce solid white excretions of a calcium-based uric acid, unlike Redfoots who excrete urea as a liquid like mammals. Generally, it is assumed that Redfoot, Yellowfoot and other tortoises that live in a higher humidity environment, have a much more active gut and they must have good access to drinking and bathing water.

Recommended housing for Tropical Tortoises

All tortoises housed in the UK need permanent access to a heat-lamps both indoors and outdoors. This is particularly important for tropical species who do not cope well with temperatures below 20 degrees Celsius. Any outdoor set-up in more temperate environments must take this fact into account and provide a high enough background temperature and humidity all of the time.

Indoor Tortoise Tables set-ups are ideal as a back-up plan for tropical tortoises incase your outdoor set-up has an issue or if your tortoise needs to recover from an illness or be separated from the group for awhile.

The one thing that is true for most Tropical tortoises is that they are damp-tolerant. In fact most of them will suffer dry-eye issues (usually just watery eyes however they can develop eye infections) if kept too dry and can become dehydrated simply because they are adapted for a moist substrate and humid atmosphere. Keeping the substrate moist enough is a good way to increase the atmospheric humidity near the ground where it is particularly important for tortoises simply because their heads are near the ground.

Natural Ground Tortoise Houses with greenhouse-style Natural Ground Tortoise Runs are essential for keeping Tropical tortoises outside in the UK. After that the balance between air-flow and keeping the humidity high enough is important. The Natural Ground Tortoise Houses have a top section that slopes down from the front-edge of the house roof, much like a large cold frame that is the full width of the house and covers the run completely. The top sits on solid wood walls that are just high enough so the tortoises can't see through them. At the sides, they have triangular windows to allow the run to be draught-proof in cold weather. In warmer weather the roof can be propped open to allow a better air-flow or completely removed when closer to 25 degrees Celsius in summer. Regardless, the tortoises have the ground material they need, that can be kept as damp or dry as they prefer. A good variety of temperature and humidity within the house and outside area is recommended. An extra heat-lamp can be hung in the covered run to maintain a high enough background temperature in winter and cooler months, particularly for tortoises that don't hibernate.

The size of a set-up is important to keep stress levels to a minimum. It goes without saying that giving your tortoises as much space as possible is ideal, however as a guideline these are our minimum space recommendations for different Tropical tortoise species;

Small Natural Ground Tortoise Houses are appropriate for adult smaller Tropical tortoises such as bell's-hinged, Chacos or Cherry-head tortoises.

A Medium Natural Ground Tortoise House would be adequate for Brown tortoises or 1-2 Redfoot or Yellow-foot tortoises.

A Large Natural Ground Tortoise House would be suitable for Redfoot, Yellowfoot or 1-2 Indian and Radiated stars.

A higher wall-height of 40cm can be requested for adult Redfoot, Yellow-foot and Indian stars. Whereas Radiated stars can get longer so 50cm walls may be required. An Extra-Tall Natural Ground house is appropriate for these species who can easily see over a 30 cm high wall, to keep stress levels down.

An Extra-Large Natural Ground Tortoise House may be more appropriate for a large group of tortoises, being suitable for up to six Redfoot, Yellow-foot, Indian or Radiated star tortoises with all three heat-lamps fitted to ensure that they can all bask effectively at the same time.

​A Giant Natural Ground Tortoise House would be ideal for Galapagos Tortoises as long as anti-digging solutions have been employed for the outer boundary / floor and enough heating is supplied in the 8 m x 2 m run throughout the year. The house would be 1.6 m high with a 70 or 80 cm high run wall-height and could be made taller to allow easy walking around inside without opening the tops like a greenhouse.

Please discuss any particular requests, options or adaptations you would like via our contact form or Contact us directly on 01890 818584 or email us at

Please see the Natural Ground Tortoise House and Natural Ground Tortoise Runs pages for details.

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Tropical Tortoises

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