Saturday, 15 December 2012

2.Care of Indian Star Tortoise

What type of turtle/tortoise is mine? contd....

2.Indian Star Tortoise(Geochelone elegans):

My Star Tortoise "Rocky"

As you can see above why it is called as Star Tortoise ( due to multiple star like markings on its shell) .

it is also find in Indian pet trade although not very common when compared to Red eared Sliders. they are somewhat costly than red eared sliders about 700-800 / tortoise depending on its size and availability in your area, a bigger sized one may cost more.
it is a species of dry and scrub area so please don' t i repeat don't leave it into a water tank because it is a tortoise not a turtle and it can swim for only some time and then it will sink and die ( I am saying this because i have heard about the death of 1 tortoise due to this reason). It has a dome shaped and very distinctively marked shell in black color  with yellow lines radiating from center of each scute , plastron is likewise with yellow and black radiating lines. it can grow upto 10 inches long. sexual dimorphism is quite apparent with females larger than males and female plastron is much flatter than males, males have a concavity in their plastron which help them in climbing atop female while reproducing.


Space Requirement:    the preferred method of housing for them is outdoors if possible because in a climate like India they would be very happy outside with ample of sunlight and place to roam providing them Sufficient vitamin d and exercise, however they can also be kept indoors. The optimum size for outdoor hosing can be 6 feet by 6 feet cage, in this about 1-3 tortoise can be kept easily, the walls should either be made from 2 layers of fencing one large and one fine wrapped over each other (large and fine refers to size of the holes, you can find them easily in any hardware store just ask them about wire fence,  they are cheap, at my place large one costs about 40 rs/foot and fine one costs around 30 rs/feet). the walls can also be made from wooden blocks at least 2 feet high from the ground so that the tortoise cannot look through or over the cage. the ground can either be soil or covered with grass (grass is better) on one side tall grasses can be planted so that they may eat them. a shelter like a cave or box etc should be provided for them to hide. they can also be housed indoors in that case you can house them in a tub or a tank but you need to provide a hiding spot, a source of warmth ( a bulb can be a source,exercise your imagination and you will come up with a source), newspaper could be used for a substrate or soil can be put into the tank for natural look or the tank can be made a combination of both newspaper on one side and soil on another side. even if housing indoors you need to take out your tortoise outside once in a while in sunlight I used to leave mine on my roof where they would roam as much as they like and hide behind flower pots. they are very vulnerable at younger age so you need to be extra careful in case of a younger tortoise, also keep safety measures for predators like Cats, Mouse and kite etc. they are especially dangerous in case of a younger tortoise; even a mouse can kill and eat them easily if it gets the chance. provide a bathing tray if in inside or a small pond like area if the enclosure is outside so that they can drink, bathe, and cool themselves. i provided my tortoises with a fixed tray which i glued to the base with quick fix so that it won't move because many a time they would like to soak themselves in water and go inside the tray for fun.

Temperature range: 

temperature may range from 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit or around 28-32 degrees Celsius although warmer temperature up to 35 degrees may be no problem if drinking and bathing area and a shade is provided in the cage. the moisture should be kept in check means do not leave the enclosure wet and moist if you see that the substrate is wet (in indoor setting) change the substrate and dry it, in outside it may not be a problem. but in India take care during the summer season especially in afternoon because the temp. may go up-to 47 degrees Celsius which may become a problem especially if the cage is outdoors, like at our place during summers the temp goes up-to 48 degrees so i would house them indoors only and limit their basking time to 1-2 hrs in the morning instead of the whole day in other seasons.
indoors it may be fine you can keep them in any room even without cooler and AC and i would suggest you to keep them in a room where no cooler or ACs are present because of 2 reasons; 1. it provides them with a natural environment climate which they would have found in the wild and 2. coolers and ACs may cause too much cooling or humidity especially in case of cooler, which may be harmful to them.


they like to bask in sun and it is essential for synthesis of vitamin d in them which is needed for proper bone growth
so in outdoor setting provide them an area to bask and an area to cool themselves in shade a patch of grasses is the best for them or a small bush can also work well. in indoor settings you can do the following things which i have experimented-
1. you can either go for complete tortoise setup or Professional UV set up available online or if by chance available at your local fish store but they may be costly.
2. you can attach a table lamp with a cover around the bulb (to concentrate the light on an area) to any side of the tank or tub and let it hang over that area and keep it on and use bulbs not CFLs because they don't provide that much heat.
3. or you can attach an aquarium water heater or thermostat with a heater guard( used for large fishes like Arowana etc. so that they don't break the heater) on it and cover it with a rock or metal sheet (take care that metal sheet doesn't touches the heater  only wraps closely to it to conduct heat and no electricity) and keep it on one side of the enclosure and additionally you may provide a combination of both bulbs and heaters.
whatever you do nothing can substitute natural sun light indoors so try to take your tortoise outside at least 3-4 times in a week.


diet should be strictly herbivorous, i fed them spinach, grasses, a variety of flowers from my garden like hibiscus, petunias even rose petals which was very much liked by one of my star tortoises, i even fed them sprouts without their seeds like removing the wheat portion and giving the sprouted parts to eat, grasses from lawn, and fields, grape leaves, i also fed them with all types of green leafy vegetables mostly ( called as bhajis in India, the "Lal Bhaji" which is red in color was not liked by them but they ate all the others especially after basking, all types of bhajis are readily available in vegetable stores or "sabji- mandis" in India), i also fed them cucumber and tomatoes although don't give it regularly it is bad for their health; give any type of wet food with caution because it may cause diarrhea in large and regular doses. wet foods may include cucumber, tomato, lady finger, radish (although radish leaves an be given readily and mine loved it), "kakdi" the cucumber like vegetable which comes in summers only i can't recall it's english name etc. give them with caution. also i fed them with Peas but i would recommend you to not give them peas because i think it is like sweet dish for them and they get addicted to eating peas, mine got addicted to it and from a mixture they would sort out peas only and eat it,  i got headaches trying to get them leave this habit because it caused them diarrhea. also try to habitualize them to commercially available food also, although, this should not be whole of your diet regimen but they should be able to eat them, if they are not eating it, try to soften it in water before giving it to them so that it can be eaten easily. give them calcium supplements like "calcium sandoz"  etc. crush the tablet and spread it over the food before giving it to them this would take care of their calcium requirements. you can also give them hay and cactus after removing its thorns or if it is a thorn less variety then also clean it thoroughly and then give it otherwise it would harm them. take care to wash your food properly before giving it to them and if possible use organic food.
you can feed them twice a day when they are small and once a day when they have grown enough.
take care not to give them wet food, diet high in protein and non veg food. aim for a diet which is dry, low fat and low protein and very high in fiber.
poop should be dark in color and firm in texture, if the tortoise is having loose poop or green colored or any different colored  poop then their is a problem with the diet or their are intestinal parasite inside your tortoise.
the pic of how a poop of star tortoise should ideally look like can be checked from this link-

rocky eating vegetables

Miscellaneous tips:

- if your Indian star tortoise is new the preferable enclosure would be indoors especially if it is younger one then it is a necessity. provide them with dry substrate and warm conditions do not let them be in humid or wet conditions for too long.
- know as much as possible about he species and then use your common sense because on internet many pages discuss different things and many things which are discussed are either not applicable to Indian conditions or you may not be able to get them in India at all. i searched very much for UV lamp in my area but couldn't find it so i had to look up for my own plan for their care, so read as much as possible then use your mind and see what is working and what is not working with your tortoise because every individual tortoise i different, out of the 4 i have one of them likes rose petals very much and others don't like them that much although they are of same batch so you can see how much difference is there even in four tortoises.
- one more thing i forgot to mention is about bathing them. it seems that they like to bathe if  they are bathed properly. the correct method is either hold them in both of your hand and then keep them in running tap water (flow should be slow and water temperature should be warm) or alternatively you can put them in a box or bucket which has some warm water in it enough to  soak them  up to their legs and then slowly pour Luke warm water over them with the help of a mug   take care that the tortoise doesn't start to drown or swim in the water when the water level is up to the ends of their legs t stop and let them roam in that water for some time this will help them in defecation, the tortoise will poop in that bucket only if the temp. of water is warm  and this will also prevent your substrate from getting soiled. take care to remove them immediately once they have pooped and if doing daily then do it with caution especially in winter and rainy seasons.
in next post we will analyze the most common variety of Indian turtle that is The Indian flap shell turtle or " desi" turtle as it is known more commonly....

        By: Siddharth Mishra