Hermann's Hatchling - Indoor Enclosure

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New Member
5 Year Member
Nov 4, 2009
Hello! I became a member of this site a short time ago but, thus far, have only been reading and researching. I'm very happy to have found a place where there is so much knowledge regarding tortoise husbandry.

I acquired Petrie, a Summer of 2009 Hermann's hatchling, in October. For the first few weeks, I kept him in a pretty simple set up. I used a Sterlite under bed storage box which was pretty sparsely furnished---he had simple flooring, two hides, a few clumps of spaghnum moss, a tile on which to bask, and a tile on which to eat . My hope was that by keeping the initial set up simple, I could monitor Petrie more closely---keep him safe, watch for consistent bowel movements, monitor his food consumption, become accustomed to his habits, etc. My plan was to make sure that my hatchling was happy and healthy before moving him to a bigger and better habitat.

I'm happy to report that Petrie is doing beautifully. He eats well, has regular bathroom habits, thoroughly enjoys a daily soak (or two), and appears to be thriving. That said, it was time to tackle the construction of a bigger, better, and more natural habitat for him.

I'd spent a good bit of time perusing the “enclosure” thread on this site (as well as similar threads on a few other websites) in hopes of garnering some ideas. I finally had a vision of precisely what I wanted. My hope was to create an environment that was natural in appearance, and one that would also provide Petrie with all of the things that tortoises need. I wanted varied substrates, green space (including edible plants), hides in both the warm and cool areas, breaks in his line of vision, plenty of areas to hide, etc. Essentially, I wanted Petrie's environment to mirror (as closely as possible) what he might encounter if he lived in the wild.

I'm pretty happy with what I've managed to create for him. I've split the floor covering---using aspen bedding on the “warm” end and organic orchid bark on the “cool” end. There are a number of rocks and stones (all of them at least 1.5” in size to eliminate the possibility of accidental swallowing) in the landscape. I have two potted succulent plants for decoration. I have grown “Tortoise Seed Mix” in a dish and, as such, have a nice mix of edible grasses, clover, millets, greens, and dandelion for Petrie to explore/graze. I have hides located on both the warm and cool ends of the enclosure. I have two tiles---one for basking, another for eating off of. There are multiple clumps of Sphagnum Moss for hiding in. He has a cuttle bone, should he feel compelled to chew on it. His food (mainly Spring Mix, Hibiscus, etc) is sprinkled with Reptocal at each feeding. I soak him each and every day, at least once. More often that not, he is soaked twice a day. Once a week, I add a few drops of Vita-Sol to his water. I currently do not leave him unattended with standing water. I feel that I soak him often enough that dehydration is not a risk. Beyond that, I'm a bit nervous about the potential of an accident involving water. He's currently just over 1.5” in shell-length. When Petrie is a bit bigger, I will add a shallow water dish. I just don't feel that it's necessary right now.

For heat and lighting, I have an Exo-Terra Solar Glo 125 Watt Mercury Vapor Bulb (heat + UVB) which I run on a timer (13 hours on/11 hours off) every day. The basking area of the enclosure temps at about 85f, the middle area temps at 75-80f, and the cool end stays right around 68f. I
mist the plants and the Spaghnum moss daily.

Here is the enclosure:


I really enjoyed designing and building Petrie's habitat. In order to help others who may be in the process of undertaking a similar project, I want to include a list of the materials used, where they were acquired, and the price paid for each item. The list is below. You will see that (heat/lighting not included), this entire habitat cost me just over $50 to construct. Once I had all of the necessary items, the actual assembly took me about an hour. I'm happy with the end result and I think it will serve Petrie well for quite some time.


MacCourt Super Tub (36”L/24.5”W/8”H) $11.38 @ Lowe's
Mosser Lee Sphagnum Moss (432 cu in) $3.78 @ Lowe's
Mosser Lee Polished Stones (5 lb) $4.97 @ Lowe's
2 succulent plants $1/each @ Lowe's
Organic Orchid Bark $3.48 @ Lowe's
Aspen Bark 8 qt bag $4.99 @ Petco
Tortoise Grass (5 seed packets, will grow 10-20 sq ft of coverage) $10 @ www.sucatafood.com
Fluker's Critter Cavern (hide) $4.99 @ Petco
Terrascape Terra-Log (hide) $4.99 @ Petco
ceramic tiles (one for basking, one for feeding) $0.38/each @ Lowe's

I only used about half of the Orchid Bark, Aspen Bark, and polished stones. I grew the Tortoise Grass in a shallow saucer (the type that you put under a potted plant). I planted it in unfertilized organic soil which I'd already acquired from my local food co-op. My thought was that I could continuously grow the grass and replace the planter in the habitat as necessary. The grass that you see in the photos took only a week to grow over 2” in height from seed. I already owned the large rocks that you see (acquired a few years ago from the Green River during a trip to Vermont). I used very little of the Sphagnum Moss.

I hope that you all like the habitat that I've constructed. Any feedback and/or questions will be happily accepted. Thanks for looking!


Active Member
5 Year Member
Dec 18, 2008
Location (City and/or State)
Hi there! Welcome to the group. Quite the first post there. :) Enclosure is looking good!

I have some suggestions; remember these are al just my personal opinion. Why not make the cool side aspen and the warm side the moist substrate? Having the moist substrate as the cool side could cause it to be too cold and damp, and thus your tort not even wanting to go on that side. Cold and damp is bad but warm and damp is good. Your basking temperature is way too low. I recommend bumping that up to 95 deg F by lowering the bulb. This should help bump up the cool area to the lower 70s instead of 68. Hatchlings need to be kept warmer than adults, and your temps are low even for an adult. They need to get into the 80s to even digest food. If you cannot lower the bulb how you have it set up (the bulb face should be parallel to the substrate), then you need to get a map stand. Do you have night heat? What is your room temperature at night? If under 65/70 F, I suggest a ceramic heat emitter or black light bulb to bump it up to there.

Twice a day soaking is a little excessive. I know you don't feel comfortable having a water dish now, so I suggest not more than about 5 minutes at a time, which is sufficient to give the tort opportunity to drink. I think having a safe dish (the stair one called Groovy Jacuzzi was best for us) not directly under heat and nothing to climb near it should be ok. I think the rocks and other hazards you have in there are way more dangerous that a water dish in terms of flipping. To make an enclosure more flip proof you would not have rocks, and only hides with vertical sides. That said, every tort is different and observation goes a long way. That first time you find your baby tort on its back is scary (not sure if that has happened yet to you, but it seems to happen to most here).

Make sure you have hides near the basking area. Some torts will not go warm up if there are not hides there. This was the biggest problem I had with my little hatchling. I am not a fan of Reptocal. Reptocal has D3 which is fat soluble not water soluble like calcium, and with a UVB bulb your tortoise produces his own, so you can overdose him. Also, it has other vitamins which you can overdo when giving every day, as it is nearly impossible to know how much the tort needs. I recommend pure calcium (no D3) daily as a hatchling. If you feel the need for a vitamin supplement, use TNT from Carolina Pet Supply. It is just ground up natural stuff so no risk of vitamin overdose. I also recommend to work on varying your diet as much as possible unless you are 100% sure your tort is partaking in the graze mix you have (as a hatchling and a Hermann it may not like any of the grasses). I will buy spring mix always, plus 1-2 other things, rotating through a list. Russiantortoise.org has a great list of greens that you can find in a grocery store. Dandelion, mustard, collard greens, endive, etc. Hibiscus is awesome as sure as you know it is chemical free (the stuff from nurserys is full of chemicals).

Please don't take my suggestions the wrong way. Every enclosure, no matter how much planning, requires tweaks. I only mean the best. Hope this isn't overwhelming, and I truly think you did an awesome job. What size is the enclosure? Do beware no matter what the enclosure size, you will need to provide larger enclosures over time or else you get the shrinking enclosure effect as the tort grows.

Looks like you are off to a great start! Glad you have joined us and look forward to chatting with you soon. Best wishes.

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Jan 23, 2008
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
Hi Muripherous (my we know your name?):


to the forum!!

I love your new enclosure. And thanks for listing the supplies and prices. Very helpful!



10 Year Member!
5 Year Member
Jul 28, 2008
I really like your new enclosure - you put a lot of thought and work into it and that shows! Welcome to the forum.


Active Member
10 Year Member!
Apr 8, 2008
Location (City and/or State)
Montreal, QC, Canada
Welcome to the forum :) You did a very nice enclosure for your little one :) I really like it!
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