Arid Species Details
The requirements for the indoor maintenance of desert or otherwise arid region (T. horsfieldi, G. pardalis, G. sulcata, T. kleinmanni, G. elegans, etc.) tortoise hatchlings are adaptations of the basic setup detailed earlier. Again I must stress that first and foremost the more you know about your hatchling the easier it is to "tune" your habitat to it.
Much can be done to control ambient humidity by merely choosing the proper substrate. As a substrate one should use a material that does not give off moisture and in fact if possible one that absorbs it from the atmosphere thereby reducing the ambient humidity. The best substrate I have found for this purpose is crushed oyster shell although granular calcium carbonate sold as poultry grit also shows promise. As most arid species are burrowing creatures they should be supplied with two to three inches of this substrate to encourage this natural behavior. In addition to this I connect a micro climate humidity booster to the hide box to mimic the slightly more humid nature of the burrows, scrapes, pads or resting forms used by these species. Cleaning is done daily in the habitat with a substrate replacement being done once a month at the very least based on substrate condition.
Habitats for arid species should not under any circumstance be misted. Even though we take great care to provide these hatchlings with a dry environment they should still be soaked on a regular basis. Soaking as a part of daily care encourages defecation and also ensures against dehydration. In addition to this a regular soaking offers the scheduled opportunity to examine your hatchling for any physical problem.
Arid species do not have access typically to fruits or soft vegetables and only access seasonally to leafy greens. These should be minimized in the diet in favor of grasses, edible weeds and cactus (opuntia pads - use the spineless variety or remove the spines). Under no circumstances should meat ever be offered. In addition to this they are "programed" because of the seasonal availability of food in their environment to eat as much as they can whenever food is present. Care must be taken not to overfeed. Rather than skipping feedings, reduce the amount fed. Your tortoise should be able to pull all the way into its shell including pulling its front legs together in front of its head. If it can not do this without causing its back legs and tail to stick out it is too fat and the amount fed must be reduced. Remember, SLOW , NATURAL GROWTH is the key to a healthy tortoise.
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