ChillyChelonia

New Member
Joined
Mar 25, 2019
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
New Hampshire
Hello,

I'm very new here and do not actually have a tortoise yet, but I've been thinking about getting one for about a year and have been reading this forum for a few months now. I want to make sure I know what I'm getting into before I actually take the plunge and buy a tortoise.

My first question is: how much work is a tortoise really? The initial setup seems like it will take a huge amount of time and money, which I am totally fine with, but what I want to know about is the day-to-day. If I get a tortoise what does daily care look like? I'm just graduating college and though I have a job lined up already, I don't know what the next few years will bring. Will I be able to take my tortoise with me if I move (assuming landlords are okay with it)? Will I be able to travel and leave the tortoise at with an inexperienced person looking after it for a short time?

Secondly, I'm very conflicted about getting a hibernating vs. non-hibernating species. I live in the northeast US, so it is not an option for a tortoise to live outside year-round. I think right now I am gravitating towards getting an ornate box turtle because they're very beautiful, have good personalities, and don't get too big. However, I am very worried about the level of expertise and care to hibernate them properly. I think my second choice would be a red footed tortoise, only with one of these I would trade hibernation worries for size worries. I have seen a few conversations about russian tortoises, and while I know this superficial, I would prefer not to get one because I love the reds and yellows on the more decorative species.

Finally, should I get one tortoise or two? I would love to get two if it would not be detrimental to their happiness or health, but I have seen some conflicting information about this. In general it seems as though red footed tortoises would be happy in a pair, but I haven't found as much on box turtles other than that they do not live together in the wild. Could anyone please tell me if box turtles are okay in pairs?

Thank you very much to anyone who answers! Any help is appreciated!
 

jsheffield

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Sep 29, 2018
Messages
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Westmoreland, NH
Hi,

I live in New Hampshire and have a redfoot tortoise.

Once I got Darwin's enclosure setup for heat and humidity, he's incredibly easy to take care of ... I feed and soak him everyday, but could do it 2-3 times a week and he'd be fine.

I did a lot of reading and research before deciding on redfoots, and did so largely because of not having to worry about hibernating (brumating). I think you can manage or avoid it pretty easily once you're tortoise is established, but I went with a species that generally doesn't do it in the wild so that my life would be easier, my tortoise healthier.

I considered buying a few more redfoots to make a creep, but decided against it for two reasons: there's always the possibility of aggression and discord; having just one allowed me to get to know him, and not a crowd of torts.

Jamie
 

Lyn W

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Jul 22, 2014
Messages
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Location (City and/or State)
UK
Hi and welcome, you are very wise to research first before buying a tortoise.
Firstly tortoises are solitary creatures who do not need company or friends. When you have 2 one becomes dominant and will bully the other causing it a great deal of stress which can make it ill and often there will be physical injury. People mistake one following the other and 'cuddling' together as affection but it is actually bullying where the dominant tort is trying to see the other tort off out of his territory. Groups work better but only if you have a huge space so that they can avoid each other.
Also the more torts you have the more space you need. For an adult tort of the smaller species it is recommended you have at least a 4' x 8' enclosure because torts are wandering species and need to be able to roam. Babies take up less room to start with but even they will eventually need space. Also I have seen it advised that you don't hibernate torts for the first year or two - but my leopard doesn't hibernate so I'm not sure about that so someone more experienced with hibernation will tell you about that - or use the search facility.
As for whether now is the right time for you to get one I personally would wait, until I was settled somewhere - possibly with some outdoor space so that you can let your tort have a safe outdoor enclosure for warmer months. Torts don't like change so the more settled you are the better for the tort.

There are caresheets here for most species of torts so I would suggest you read those for the species you are interested in and find the one that's best suited to your climate, circumstances, space and finances because apart for the cost of setting up, herp vets aren't cheap and the chances are you will need one at some point - it is very sad when people have sick torts and say they can't afford a vet because you know their tort will suffer.

Before you spend a fortune in Pet stores which often give incorrect advice and sell unsafe equipment, check here as it could save you a lot of money.

Meanwhile, have a good look at the threads for Enclosures, Beginners Mistakes, and the caresheets to learn as much as you can - forewarned is forearmed!
 

SweetGreekTorts

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Joined
Jun 12, 2018
Messages
990
Location (City and/or State)
Tucson, AZ
I don't have much experience with box turtles and I've never had a Redfoot or Yellowfoot (I keep a variety of Greeks and Russians). But I can vouch that one tortoise is much easier to care for than two or more (I currently keep 28, and I work a full-time job).

As Lyn W stated above, torts often do not get along and if you have to keep them separated then you have two enclosures to maintain.

There is also the Cherryhead to consider. From my understanding it's a smaller version of the Redfoot.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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I agree with everything from the previous posters. I'll highlight the main points in my own words:
  • Tortoises, or box turtles, should never be kept in pairs. I don't think there is much conflicting info on this one. While red footed tortoises are generally gregarious in groups in the right enclosure, pairs are always a problem. There have been many instances of one RF doing harm to another in a pair situation, and there is also no guarantee that they will get along in a group either. Anyone that has been keeping them for a while will tell you that sometimes an aggressive individual just can't live with the group.
  • An adult red foot will need a room sized enclosure. An adult greek or Russian will need a 4x8' enclosure. This is not something that is easy to move around. Until you are settled and have a back yard, you might be better off with a reptile pet that doesn't need so much space and has an easily moved tank. Blue tongue skinks, bearded dragons, leopard geckos, crested geckos, ackie monitors and many of the smaller snake species are all easy to care for and have much smaller space and housing requirements than a turtle or tortoise.
  • No species has to hibernate. You can keep any of them up and active through winter if you want to. However, hibernating them is not difficult and if done correctly, it is not risky. I am of the opinion that if they hibernate in the wild, they should be safely hibernated in captivity too, but I readily admit that they are fine if you don't do it.
  • I don't find the initial set up all that expensive or time consuming. Its quite a lot cheaper and easier than many other pets a person might get. This is all relative and subjective.
  • Your main question: Day to day maintenance and time requirements? Usually very little. A baby will need to be soaked daily. You can put the baby in a tub of warm water and then clean up any leftover food, dump/rinse/refill the water dish, and then go about your other daily business while the baby soaks for 20-60 minutes. Then you rinse the baby off, put him/her back into the enclosure, dump the soak water in the toilet or garden, rinse the tub, and proceed with your day. All total, you are looking at 5-10 minutes a day for a single tortoise or box turtle. Food prep might take a little more time with a RF or box turtle due to their omnivorous diet, but with a Russian, greek or hermanni, food prep can be as easy as grabbing a couple dandelion plants from the yard, or snatching a few mulberry leaves from a nearby tree and dropping them into the enclosure. Easy peasy. Because the baby will be depositing all of its waste into the soaking water, there is really no mess in the enclosure other than plant stalks or stems that get dragged around as the baby eats and the substrate that gets tracked into the water dish. I almost never remove all the substrate and "clean" the whole enclosure. Its just not necessary.
Hope this sheds some light. Questions and conversation are welcome.
 

ChillyChelonia

New Member
Joined
Mar 25, 2019
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
New Hampshire
Thank you very much to everyone who answered! This has all been extremely helpful!

Some of the non-tortoise-owners I have been talking to about getting a tortoise seemed convinced that my entire life would revolve around it if I did. It's good to hear from people who actually know what they're talking about that it's actually very doable.

Thank you especially to Jsheffield and Tom for your discussion of hibernation. I definitely agree that if a tortoise hibernates naturally it is best to try to have it hibernate in captivity as well, but I know that if I were to get a hibernating species I would be worrying about it all winter. Also thank you to SweetGreekTorts for suggesting a cherry head, I actually think this would be the perfect tortoise for me! Not only do they not get too big, but according to the tortoise library (http://tortoiselibrary.com/species-information-2/chelonoidis/red-footed-cherry-head/) they seem to be more tolerant of cold and temperature changes. Of course I will try my best to keep my future tortoise comfortable and happy, but it is a comfort to know that the species is fairly hardy anyway. Finally thank you to LynW, after reading your advice I will definitely only get one tortoise unless I can provide a separate enclosure for a second one.

Thank you all again! Hopefuly in a few months I'll be able to update with pictures of my new tortoise!
 
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