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Basic Setup

The following information can be considered the minimum acceptable set up for a CB (captive bred) tortoise hatchling of any variety. The most important thing to remember is that the larger your habitat is the better off the little guy will be. I would use a habitat at least 30 inches long and 12 inches wide for a hatchling.  This set up could be used for more than one as the size is mostly being used for gradient effects.  If you do have more than one hatchling remember that they may not always get along and they will outgrow this habitat sooner than you might think.

The reasons for the size are mostly gradient related. All animals do better if they can control the temperatures and conditions that they are living at.  If you set up a habitat of this size and follow my suggestions the hatchling will have that control.

Under the front right third of the habitat I install a sub - tank heater. These supply gentle heat approximately 15 degrees F (8 degrees C) above ambient. Also in the same area I would install a basking light placed in such a way as to heat a portion of the substrate in the same right front area to 85 - 95 degrees F (30 - 35 degrees C). Your hatchling will need to attain these temperatures in order to digest his food effectively.

Over the entire length of the habitat install a fluorescent light with a full spectrum bulb (available at any pet shop) . Place this fixture so as to supply the most intense light over the front third of the habitat. What you have now produced is a light and heat gradient over the entire habitat - the brightest and hottest area is in the right front corner. The full length of the habitat has bright light supplied to the front third.  The lights should be set on a timer to be on for 12 to 14 hours a day.

This results in the darkest and coolest area of the habitat being the back left corner. This is where you place the hide box for the tortoise. The hide box can be anything that blocks out light and gives the tortoise a sense of security. He should be able to fully turn around in it and it should be easily washable.

A water dish should also be provided. I have found that terra cotta flowerpot saucers work well for this. Make sure that it is large enough for the hatchling to exit freely as a small dish can trap hatchling on its back  if it overturns in it. Also make certain it is shallow enough to allow it to enter with no fear of drowning. NEVER give a hatchling deeper water than the depth of its chin when it is pulled into its shell. Care must be taken that saucers are new so as to avoid chemical residue from horticultural use. Glazed saucers can be used as well and in fact have the advantage of being easily cleaned provide you soak it in a vinegar solution for 24 hours then in fresh water for 24 hours prior to use to leach any heavy metals from the glazing. For a food dish I have found the plastic top from a coffee can or the top of a margarine tub to be very applicable.  I also put a piece of cuttlebone with the hard backing removed in all of my habitats to provide a constant supply of calcium and encourage beak wear.

In the habitat it is advisable to add objects to limit sight lines. A rock or a branch does much to make the habitat feel larger to the animal and limit stress.  Lastly, if the habitat is glass I would apply a 4 inch piece of duct tape around the perimeter of the tank at the level of the substrate.  This stops the tortoise from being able to see through the wall and does much to limit the attempts to walk through it.  Generally glass habitats are not advised as they are usually smaller and the animal is stressed by visible external stimulus.

For substrate, humidity and habitat maintenance please follow these links to specific sections based on your hatchling's natural home climate.
 
 



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