Is my Hermann's tortoise ok?

by Alan

Tommy the Hermann's Tortoise

Tommy the Hermann's Tortoise

I have had a Hermann's tortoise called Tommy for about 3 years.

He has a slightly weird shaped shell but apart from that he seems to be OK.

He eats apple, strawberries, lettuce, and a dried formula from the pet shop.

He has a big cage with proper heat and a big sun lamp, but he does not seem very happy. All he does is eat and sleep. I was wondering if he is OK and what I can do to make his life a bit more interesting.

Do I need to get him a friend? I did hear that if I got another tortoise then they would fight? please help as I am worried about him.

Hi Alan,

I'm glad you sent a picture of Tommy. That will help other people to answer your question.

The easy part is to say that unless a tortoise wants to mate, another tortoise won't improve the situation.

You didn't say whether Tommy's behavior has changed. If it has, you should find a veterinarian to get him a check-up.

I'm worried that Tommy might be eating too much fruit. Check the list of tortoise food for suggestions.

Also, ask yourself if he has anything interesting to do in his home. For example, have you ever tried putting his food just above his normal reach so he has to stretch or climb just a little to get it? Maybe he just needs some variety.


Keep it slow and steady.

Comments for Is my Hermann's tortoise ok?

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Jan 13, 2022
He sounds happy!
by: Tara

Ah glad to hear he's doing well Alan🙂

Jan 12, 2022
An update
by: Alan - Tommys Dad

Hi guys, just to let you know that Tommy moved a few years back. He now lives with his friends in a massive enclosure. He’s much happier and enjoys a whole range of foods. He loves it. Thanks for all the comments 👍🏻

Jan 12, 2022
A few things to consider
by: Tara

Please stop feeding him fruit. Hermann's digestive systems aren't designed for fruit consumption, when fruit is fed to a Hermann the break down process is slow because it doesn't cope well with fruit and therefore the fruit starts to rot inside the digestive system. This can cause stomach ulcers and a whole range of nasty health problems. I own a hermann and I used to feed her fruit until I found out they weren't allowed fruit. She has pyramiding too. Feeding fruit could be contributing towards the pyramiding of your tortoise's shell. Pyramiding can happen in the wild but most times is the result of the wrong diet/and or the wrong enclosure conditions. Pyramiding can't be reversed but it can be prevented and we can make changes to stop it from getting worse. There will be tortoise owners who say they have given fruit to Hermann's and they have been fine. But just because their tortoise hasn't had any issues doesn't mean it's safe or healthy for our Hermann tortoises. Some species can eat fruit, Hermann's cannot. Their diet should consist of mainly weeds and leafy greens. Lettuce consists of mostly water and therefore offers little nutrition. Thetortoisetable - (it's a website but comments on here aren't allowed to have website links so I can't write the link) but that website has a good selection of foods as a guide, it also gives you information as why certain foods can/can't be given and what foods can be given at the same time using a colour code. I find it really useful.
Always have a Cuttlefish bone in the enclosure at all times. Cuttlefish bone is a good source of calcium. Some tortoises eat it all the time, whilst other may never touch it. Other times they may not touch it for ages and then one day they might nibble on it. My hermann used to love eating her cuttle bone but hasn't eaten it for years now. It should still be readily available to them though. I also add a vitamin powder supplement that I sprinkle on food a few times throughout the week. You can place a calcium block in the enclosure too.

Food/water bowls: The best enclosure is one that allows your tortoise to naturally roam and forage for food, but for indoor enclosures and cold climates it can be hard to do this so we have food areas. Please don't force your tortoise to climb up and over any of those ramped pet shop food bowls. A piece of slate can be used to place food on. This helps with keeping claws trimmed and their beaks as they scrape them across the slate as they eat.
Terracotta plant saucers are great for water. This should be big enough for your tortoise to sit and bathe in. (Since tortoises can absorb water through their skin, especially through their tails) Sink these saucers at ground level into the substrate, they should have fresh water daily but replace water when needed. A Terracotta saucer can be used as a food dish too.

Basking site temp: 95-100°F (36-37°C)
(At tortoise shell height) and set on a thermostat
A flat rock under the basking spot works well to maintain this temperature. Should be on for 12 hours each day.

Please don't use combined UVA/basking bulbs. They can cause blindness. Reptile basking spotbulbs have a very concentrated narrow heat beam and because of this it can be quite harsh and damaging on your tortoise's shell. Use an incandescent flood bulb instead. (Also known as a reflector bulb). I'd go for a 60 watt but it depends on the individual enclosure. Use a digital thermometer as a guide. Flood bulbs throw out a wider beam and therefore help maintain the temperature a bit better too. So NO pet shop spot lights (they are usually red but can be blue or green) NO halogen types and NO Mercury Vapour bulbs.

UV: T8 and 0.5 strip lights offer very little UV. You should opt for a T5 at either 10% or 12%. ZooMed or Arcadia are the two frequently used brands. This should be 10-12 inches distance away from your tortoise's shell as a rough guide. Knowing the exact distance and how long this should be on for depends on your enclosure. You can buy a UV meter to check exactly what your UV is giving out in your enclosure and help you set the right distance. They can be very pricey though, I have yet to buy one myself. I keep mine on for 12 hours, but some say 12-14 hours, others say 8-10 hours. It can be difficult to say without a UV meter. But those estimates could be your guide. If you live in a hot climate where you have hot days for most of the year you can ditch the UV lights completely and let your tortoise outdoors for most of the day, make sure he has shade and hides.

Ambient heat: 80-87°F (26-30°C)
Night time temp: 60-68°F (16-20°C)
Hermann's can tolerate cooler nights and in the wild there is a natural temperature drop at night.

Use a CHE (Ceramic heating element) on thermostat to maintain ambient and night temperatures. Ideally your enclosure should naturally allow a temperature drop gradient. I have a CHE placed in the cool side of the enclosure to keep the temperatures where they should be. Depending on the size of the enclosure, you might need a few heat sources to help keep the ambient temperature up in all areas and maybe an additional basking site. If you have an indoor enclosure and the room temperature where your enclosure is positioned doesn't drop below 15°C-16°C then you can ditch the use of the CHE at night.

Humidity is so important. The overall ambient humidity should sit between 50-70. You can use digital hygrometers to test this. Ideally one in each side of the enclosure (warm side/cool side). It's also a good idea to offer a humidity box this should be kept at 100 humidity level if possible.
You can make one using a plastic box with a cut out door.
Live plants in the enclosure let your tortoise forage a little and also help to keep humidity levels up. I will be using carex verge grass and aloe vera (both are edible) and they offer a bit of shade and a slight hiding spot too. A lot of plants will not survive in enclosures. So only use plants that most tortoise owners use. That being mostly Spider Plants. Keep plants in their pots and sink into the substrate. This makes them easier to replace and less likely to be trampled on. Store-brought plants mostly likely contain pesticides in the soil, therefore making them toxic to eat. So replace the soil with pesticide-free soil. It can take a year for the pesticides to flush out of the plants roots, so do not offer the plants until the soil is replaced and a year passes. Otherwise growing your own is the better option, that way you know that there won't be any pesticides used.

Substrate: No wooden chips as they can be a choking hazard but if ingested they can also cause impaction. No straw pellets (even the ones that are safe to eat when damp). Tortoise substrate should allow them to dig and be able to hold moisture. Any dry substrate can cause respiratory problems. I'm using coco coir (coconut fibre) and fine orchid bark. Cypress mulch is fine too but it can be pungent.
The coco coir I keep damp and use as base substrate. The orchid bark I keep slightly damp and use this on top of the coco coir. You can use either or both. Personally I use orchid bark on top, as coco coir can be quite messy, so the bark helps to stop the coconut fibre from being kicked up into the food. Please don't use humidifiers , water droplets in the air can cause respiratory problems. To add moisture you can spray down the substrate or pour water into the substrate. The substrate should not drip with water and there should be no puddles of water. The consistency should be damp enough to squeeze into a ball and be able to hold it's shape slightly. Not like sludge or mud, but not too crumbly either. The substrate should be damp so that when your tortoise digs or burrows the substrate is damp enough to hold its shape and not fall back into the hole your tortoise is trying to dig. Because these are natural substrates they can be a breeding area for small insects. You can either bake or boil the coco coir to kill any eggs/bacteria. Most owners who use this substrate will turn the substrate every 2 or so weeks to add water to it. Many owners use the same substrate for a year but this includes swapping it out for new substrate whilst the old substrate is baked or boiled to kill bacteria for reuse.

Most tortoises love to climb. Some hides are climable but you can also add climbing rocks that are secure enough to allow climbing without them wobbling or falling down. They should not be stacked too high as if the tortoise were to fall or slip it may cause an injury. You can add small pebbles (not too small as we don't want them to get eaten) but big enough for your tort to push around his enclosure. Try adding a hard rubber ball (one that can't be eaten/have chunks biten out of it) he might try pushing that around his enclosure too.
You should offer a hide in the warm side and a hide in the cool side. They offer security and shade. Giving your tortoise multiple hides let's them regulate their temperature. If you only offer a hide in the warm side they could overheat as they don't have an option to hide where it's cooler. If you only offer a hiding spot in the cool end, your tortoise may end up too cold as he doesn't have a hide to go to where it's warmer.

Hope this helps. We all make mistakes but it's learning from them and making small changes that is important.

I have a feeling this is an old thread so I don't know if you will ever see this. But would love to know how things are going now.

Dec 10, 2019
How warm are the tortoises?
by: Shelly

It's not just the temperature, but the type of light you have that matters. You need UVB lights. Without that, chelonians will develop bone disease.

Keep it slow and steady.

Dec 04, 2019
Are my tortises warm?
by: Anonymous

I have 2 tortoise (where currently unsure of gender) they live in the same cage , they have a liitle enclosed area with wood chips on the floor and hay filling the area to the lid (only one tortise sleeps inside this area) and a heat lap (about 60w) they have a water bowl in the middle of the enclosure that the heat lamp points at so the waters slightly warm, we feed them curly cale most of the time and some time give the dandelion weeds or cucumber, I fear my tortise are getting to cold is this a possibility?

Jun 27, 2015
Male and Female Tortoises
by: Shelly

Yes, you can keep a male and a female together. What you must do is provide a place for one to get away from the other if one becomes aggressive or one simply wants some privacy.

Keep it slow and steady.

Jun 27, 2015
Keeping male and female tortoises together
by: Anonymous

Hello:we have a girl Herman tortoise and we would love to get another , however we are not sure a male and a female would get on together , what is best?

Jun 11, 2015
by: Anonymous

My tortoise sometimes has that, tiny bits of skin coming off, I think it's just natural as they grow some skin scales come off.

May 29, 2015
skin coming off
by: Anonymous

I have a Herman tortoise and she Ihas some skin on her head that is slowly coming off , what should I do?

Dec 22, 2014
Tortoises mating and hibernating
by: Shelly

Do not put a pregnant tortoise into hibernation.

Take it slow and steady.

Dec 21, 2014
your tortoise
by: Jackie Spoden

ok so maybe getting another tortoise for tommy is a good idea and do not feed him lettuce or apples because that's not that good for tortoises and only feed him strawberries only every once a while. some things to feed him is kale, mustard greens and/or water crest and another thing maybe the reason he is deformed is because of what your feeding him. his shape is probably just the way he was born, so don't really worry so much about him. Another thing if you do get another tortoise, first of all I would recommend it because he may be happier, but if they mate you will have to put them in the refrigerator to put them in full hibernation.

Oct 24, 2014
Peppa Pig
by: Anonymous

You may not believe this but my little granddaughter put lots of Peppa Pig stickers on one side of her table (which we keep on the floor so she can nip off if she wants to). Anyway, she seems to love the stickers and spends ages gazing at them. Its really strange cos I never thought a tortoise would even notice stickers - anyway she loves them - try it, it might be an interesting distraction!!

Sep 09, 2014
by: Michelle

Too much fruit can be bad for these tortoises. It can also cause diahorrea so be careful. An occasional strawberry should be fine, mine used to like a strawberry treat, but don't over feed fruit :)

Sep 09, 2014
by: Anonymous

Fruit should never be fed to Mediterranean tortoises,you need a good quality 10-12% uv strip,best on the market is the Arcadia t5 d3+ 12%.use neckton msa suppliment as better than nutribol and should give a light dusting on thier food each day!substrate should be deep topsoil which needs to be damp so they can burry down at night which is vital for hydration and smooth shell growth!should be hibernated every year if safe todo so! People need to know the even basics before even thing of getting a tortoise!

Jun 02, 2014
Beak trim
by: Alan

The vet can trim it for you too

Jun 02, 2014
by: Michelle

Cuttlefish is very good for them shaving their beak down :)

Jun 02, 2014
Long Beak
by: Anonymous

I noticed my son's tortoise is getting a long beak. Is he getting to much of something? He is seven years old.

Apr 22, 2014
by: Anonymous

No, it looks like your Tortoise has metabolic bone disease. Your tortoise is not getting enough calcium and vitamin D3, you need to supplement your tortoise every day with nutabal. You need a D3 heat lamp. I recommend solar glo exo-terra. This is the cause of the odd shaped shell. You shouldn't be feeding them strawberries or apple much. About once a month as a treat or not at all. You should feed them on mostly weeds, like dandelions. And salad- romaine lettuce, cos lettuce. Prickly pear cactus is great for tortoises. NEVER FEED TORTOISES WITH PET SHOP BOUGHT TORTOISE PELLETS.

Jul 15, 2013
Tommy update
by: Alan

I see the thread is still going which is ace, Tommys doing well, living outside in the summer now, eating lots of weeds, really loving it, he still ties to escape though ;)

Jul 15, 2013
by: Anonymous

I have just purchased a 5 year old female Herman tortoise from a pet shop she was in a viv and desperate to get out, I brought her home to a lovely large garden, but she hasn't hardly eaten and I am concerned as down the middle of her shell there seems to be pointed shapes. She may be eating weeds when she is walking around and I haven't seen her.
I bring her in at night, perhaps she is just settling in to a new life, a much better one than the pet shop.

Sep 01, 2010
Tommy Update
by: Alan

Thanks everyone for all the comments, I just thought I would give you an update. Tommy is doing really well, he is much happier, now the sun has come out and wanders around all day. He still tried to escape every chance he gets though ;)

Sep 01, 2010
Helping you
by: Anonymous

Hey - Thanks for putting the picture up - I don't think that you should be feeding a tortoise with anything that you have bought from the pet shop. Tortoises thrive on natural foods (easily found on the internet) and plenty of things to explore

Mar 29, 2010
by: Anonymous

thank you for the pic i have a hermann's tortiose too.
he looks like he could use a calcium lamp cause my tortiose has that too so i would get a calcium lamp

good luck

Dec 26, 2009
About your tortoise.
by: Anonymous


I have a hermans tortoise and he is around the same shape as yours, my tortoise has a calcium deficiancy and has had septicimia. You should consider taking tommy to the vets to be checked as they would give you more information about Tommy. Apparently hermans tortoise's dont really get lonely. If you wanted to make his cage more exciting then i would suggest for you to put in some logs and peices of slate. also you should search the internet for tortoise books.

Good look.

Nov 14, 2009
Thanks for the update
by: Shelly

Thank you so much for updating us on Tommy's condition. I hope you noticed that I removed the worst of the Anonymous comments. I agree that you should not be yelled at for asking questions.

I think all questions mean someone wants a tortoise's life to be better.

Tommy is lucky to have you taking care of him.

And I'm lucky you have hung in and keep us updated. The posts here will help other tortoise owners.

Keep it slow and steady.

Nov 14, 2009
Tommy update
by: Alan

Thanks sue for your comments, I can assure the anonomous person that Tommy gets regular check ups by a registered reptile vet in horsham and yes he has a slightly mis shaped shell, but he is well loved and very happy. I have changed his diet and he spends a long time on a ramp I have built for him. I was slightly surprised in the abuse I have had as I only wanted some advice, anyway thanks again

Nov 14, 2009
Less harsh
by: Wizzasmum

Well, anonymous, not surprised you chose to keep that name! While the tortoise in question has clearly had a poor diet and accomodation and possibly not enough uvb D3, I would hardly go about telling the owner in the manner that you did - why not put some pics up of your own tortoises and lets see how perfect they are ;) This little one possibly has a degree of MBD but without x-rays and bloods it's impossible to say for sure and although it is clearly not a perfect shape it could well make a nice adult tortoise with a lot of TLC and a good exotics vet check up.

Oct 06, 2009
by: Anonymous

A tortoise should NEVER be kept in a viv!! they should have a tortoise table and a outside pen for hot days. they sould also NEVER be fed fruit as it is not good for them. they should be fed on weeds that have been sprinkled with nutrabol! Your tortoise is suffering pyramiding of the shell which is ireversable! it is due to the diet you have fed him! go to the tortoise trust and do some research. ***Comment removed by Shelly. We use only polite language here. You have good information to share. You may not call names. Shelly*** and yes i am a know it all, as i have bred hermann's tortoises for 23 years!

Jul 30, 2009
Hermann's Tortoise
by: Michelle

Hi,I have a number of reptiles ranging from tarantulas to chameleons,and of course theres Shelby,my Hermann's tortoise,She is around 2 years old now and is fantastic! We keep her in the front room in a tortable and she loves it,she loves to see whats going on and likes to watch my son running around! I Do give her fruit now and again,maybe once a week but she loves her dandelion leaves.
Another thing I would suggest to put in your tortoise's viv is rocks,Shelby loves climbing over then,obviously they arent too big and high that she can hurt herself but she loves it,I also put in sum artificial flowers,something thats eye catching for both people and the tortoise. There are real potted plants that you can put in but you have to check which ones are ok. I also made a small soil area for her to go in,which again she loves,I then made a small rocky area (with pebbles). These are just some suggestions of what you can do,and i am sure he will like them!

Jul 29, 2009
vivariums and diet

No tort should be kept in vivariums...its not right. They should be kept in tortoise tables where the air can breathe all around them. Diet in the main thing with a should feed them on weeds...dandelions, vetch, plantain, white and red clover...all things like that. Go onto the tortoise trust website and download the weeds for torts to eat. After reading some comments on here it has really upset doesnt matter about having a friend...what will happen when they start to mate??? They are perfectly happy to live on their own. I have 9 and am taking on a re-homing tort in 2 weeks cus he has had a bad diet and needs a good loving home. Please please read the TORTOISE TRUST site for all your info.

Jul 29, 2009
by: claire

hi, i have 9 torts altogether. Its definetely the food he is eating. Really tortoises need as many weeds to eat as poss (and i dont mean all at once) what i mean is, their diet should consist of weeds...i.e. dandelions, vetch, plantain, clover both red clover and white clover...if you visit the tortoise trust website there is a list of weeds you can download and it gives you all the right information on there. Give him some natural sun light when possible. If it is t.shirt weather for us then a tort can go outside. I dont think there is any way back now for his shell because he has already gone the weird shape BUT if you get him the correct food from now on im sure you will see a happier tort. I cant believe how may people i have heard say the pet shops or where ever they got their tort from tell them to give it lettuce, berries etc....this is not good for them cus the top beak of their mouth does not form properly and this can cause problems in the future.......i am no "know it all" with torts but i think my advice will help you and any other people who read this...i am more than welcome to answer anyones questions....

I am re-homing another tort in 2 weeks...a hermman with a deformed mouth due to being fed on berries etc..and living in a VIV...dont please keep your tort in a viv...think and ask yourselves..where do they live in the wild??? an open top tortoise table is brilliant until they get bigger and need more space.

Hope this helps.


May 14, 2009
Thanks for the advice
by: Alan

Hey, thanks for the reply, i might just do what you suggested and get him a pal, although he does seem happier these days as i built him a bridge that he sits and keeps watch on.... I will keep you updated if i can find 1 that's 5 years old. maybe someone knows where there is a rescue one i could look after?



May 13, 2009
tortoise friend
by: Anonymous

heya i know you post is quite old but i thought id put my view accross. i have 2 tortoises both heramns, one is 5-6 years old and the other 3-4 years old. i got tina first (the eldest_ and she also looked sad. so i got derek. and they are now both sad together haha they dont look happy. they cant smile and so it is quite hard to tell if they are happy or not. i put things like ping pong balls in my viv wither them both and they do push them round, and little bridges ( not too high) and things for them to hide in. they dont play games or talk very much but they are very interesting to watch once they get going lol. hope this helps. xx also i dont think they would fight if you got him a friend. the rescue centre near me keeps around 10 - 20 babys in one large viv and they just mind their own business. they will have conflict from time to time, but who doesnt? they are very loving otherwise and follow each other round. and miss each other when one is taken from its viv. kerry xxx

Aug 09, 2008
Maybe Tommy the Hermann's Tortoise is OK
by: Alan

No, his behaviour has not changed. He does walk around his cage a lot. Perhaps I am being over concerned about him, but I will try your suggestions about moving his food and try some of the other foods mentioned in the sheets.

It might be that he just gets tired out as he is still only little. He is only 4-5 years old.

Thanks a lot anyway.

Hi again Alan,

Your tortoise will love wild grass and wild flowers. Be sure there are no pesticides on them.


Keep it slow and steady.

you have put my mind at rest



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