Hermann's tortoise, Testudo hermanni

Hermann's are one of the nations favourite tortoises

At a glance...
  • One of the most popular pet tortoise species
  • Easily cared for and fun to be around
  • Attractive tortoise with stunning tan and brown shell
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Do Hermann’s tortoises make good pets?

Hermann’s tortoises are one of the most popular tortoise species in the exotic pet hobby. All of the Hermann’s tortoises at Swell Reptiles are captive bred in the UK, however, they naturally roam a wide range across Southern Europe. The species Testudo hermanni is comprised of two main subspecies, the western subspecies (Testudo hermanni hermanni) and eastern subspecies (Testudo hermanni boettgeri), both of which are considered to be threatened species in the wild.

The eastern Hermann's tortoise can be found in Greece, Turkey, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia, and is considerably larger than the western subspecies. The western Hermann's tortoise, however, can be found roaming parts of Italy, Sardinia, Corsica, the Balaeric Islands, France and Spain and tend to have light claws, compared with the darker claws of the eastern subspecies.

These tortoises are very tame and will tolerate handling particularly young tortoises, however, handling can become difficult as they grow and they may become stressed when suspended, so they are best interacted with on their own terms whilst roaming and feeding. Hermann’s tortoises can outcompete one another if kept in pairs or groups, often leading to health issues in the smaller or weaker individuals, therefore they should be kept alone.

What type of enclosure should a Hermann’s tortoise have?

Hermann’s tortoises are prone to respiratory infections when kept in a low-ventilated enclosure. Due to this, we highly recommend the use of an open-topped tortoise table over an enclosed vivarium. For some people, an open-topped set-up is not an option, in these instances, a wooden vivarium can be used but you must take additional measures to increase ventilation, for example by drilling holes into the ceiling panel.

Hermann’s tortoises are natural roamers, so will appreciate a large enclosure to roam around. We recommend a minimum enclosure size of 150 x 90xm (5 x 3ft) for a fully grown adult, although smaller enclosures can be used for a baby tortoise. We do not stock an enclosure large enough to house a fully grown adult, which is usually required to be a custom-build, however, they take a long time to get this large, so we have a wide range of options and even full Tortoise Starter Kits to choose from until the time comes.

We recommend always keeping your Hermann's tortoise indoors, as it can be difficult to provide all of the correct husbandry parameters to tortoises that are kept in outdoor enclosures, due to fluctuating temperatures and humidity levels and a general lack of electricity sockets in gardens and outhouses, which can often prevent outdoor tortoises from being provided with heat or UVB. It is for these reasons, that indoor tortoises tend to be much healthier and live longer lives than those kept in an outdoor enclosure.

What heating and lighting does a Hermann’s tortoise need?

Hermann’s tortoises, like all reptiles, are ectothermic so cannot control their own body temperature. Therefore, we need to provide them with a thermogradient, this species requires a basking area temperature between 30-32°C (86-89°F), and a cool end temperature between 22-25°C (71-77°F). This species also has medium UVB requirements, which must be provided to avoid a plethora of related health issues.

Heat and UVB can be provided from a single source using a mercury vapour lamp if you opt for a tortoise table. Hermann’s tortoises require a UVI between 3-4, the distance at which this is achieved can differ between brands of mercury vapour lamps, so it is important to read the product packaging thoroughly, or test with a Solarmeter to ensure you are providing the required amount of UVB. These bulbs cannot be controlled by a thermostat, however, you usually have a bit of wiggle room in how high you can place the bulb, so they can be lowered/raised to increase/reduce the temperature.

If you decide on a vivarium for your Hermann’s tortoise, the heating and UVB elements will need to come from separate sources. Mercury vapour lamps cannot be controlled by a thermostat so they are likely to overheat in an enclosed set-up such as a vivarium. Therefore, the heating is best provided with an overhead heating system such as a basking lamp or ceramic heater. These must be controlled by a compatible thermostat, so if you choose a basking lamp, you will require a dimming thermostat, or a pulse thermostat for a ceramic heater.

UV lighting should be chosen based on the distance between your tortoise's shell and the light fixture itself. If the light fixture will be between 30-40cm (12-15”) above the shell, Arcadia ProT5 Kit - Forest 6% is required, however, if the fixture will be 40-60cm (15-24”) from the tortoise’s shell, an Arcadia ProT5 Kit - Desert 12% would be more suitable.

Which substrates are good for a Hermann’s tortoise?

We recommend loose, sandy substrates for Hermann’s tortoises, such as ProRep Tortoise Life, or if you want to add live plants and go bioactive, ProRep Tortoise Life Bio. This type of substrate encourages natural burrowing behaviour whilst also aiding with humidity.

How do I decorate a Hermann’s tortoise’s vivarium?

Hermann’s tortoises should be provided with a shallow water dish that they can easily get in and out of for soaking and drinking, with a perfect example being the ProRep Tortoise Pool. A shallow feeding dish should also be provided to reduce the risk of ingesting substrate when eating. A lot of tortoise table options have a readily installed hiding area, however, not all of them do, so if you do not have a table with an in-built hide, a wide entrance cave or two should be provided to help reduce stress, a good example being the Exo Terra Tortoise Cave.

Tortoises are not known for their climbing prowess, and the Hermann’s is no exception to this rule. However, it is important to provide them with enrichment in the form of hills, tunnels, foliage, bark and rock pieces, all of which will help stimulate your tortoise and provide them with a rough surface to aid shedding and wear down their nails. It is good practice to remove, add and rearrange decor from time to time to prevent boredom.

What do Hermann’s tortoises eat?

Hermann’s tortoises are herbivorous, and should be fed a diet of leafy greens, garden weeds, fruit and vegetables. You can also purchase a range of dry reptile food, however, we recommend using these sparingly as they are not a substitute for fresh food in terms of variety and nutrition.

Your Hermann’s tortoise's food should be supplemented according to a regime to ensure they are getting all of the nutrients required. At Swell Reptiles we recommend using a calcium-rich multivitamin such as Arcadia EarthPro-A, a calcium plus magnesium supplement on every fourth feed, such as Arcadia CalciumPro Mg and finally, a vitamin D3 supplement on every eighth feed such as Arcadia EarthPro RevitaliseD3.

Do Hermann's tortoises hibernate?

In nature, a Hermann's tortoise will dig itself a burrow where it will spend the generally mild Mediterranean winter, this is a form of hibernation, actually termed brumation. In captivity, this can be replicated by placing your tortoise into a spacious box with a thick layer of dry leaf litter and placing the box into an incubator where the temperature can be maintained at 5°C (41°F) whilst keeping adequate airflow.

It is not a necessity to brumate your tortoise, and in some cases, particularly with underweight individuals or those suffering from malnutrition, it can be dangerous if they do not have the stores to take them through the entire brumation period. There is no evidence to suggest that brumated tortoises are healthier than those who are not, although it is a natural part of their life cycle that many keepers prefer to replicate.

How do I buy a Hermann’s tortoise?

Due to their popularity, we almost always have a UK captive bred Hermann’s tortoise at Swell Reptiles, but these must be collected in-store and cannot be shipped out to order.

If you like the look of our tortoises, please come and see us in person, we will request to see some images of your set-up to temperature with the correct lighting, and ask a few quick questions to ensure you are ready to adopt. We reserve the right to refuse adoption to anyone we feel is unprepared to adopt.

For more detailed husbandry information, please see our dedicated Mediterranean Tortoise Care Sheet. Or, if you're looking for an alternative, you can take a look at our Horsfield tortoise care sheet and Western hognose snake care sheet.

Common names Hermann’s tortoise, Mediterranean tortoise, Dalmatian tortoise
Scientific name Testudo hermanni
Country Southern Europe
Captive-bred Yes
Adult size 13-20cm (5-8in)
Natural habitat Rocky, arid regions, Mediterranean scrub and forests
Housing 150 x 90cm (5 x 3ft)
Ideal temperature 30-32°C (86-89°F) (warm end); 22-25°C (71-77°F) (cool end)
UVI 3-4
Ideal humidity 40-50%
Diet Herbivorous
Average lifespan 80+ years
Personality Docile
Ease of handling Easy, more difficult with adults
Cohabitable No
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