Buying & equipment
Reptiles are fascinating but demanding animals. Their behaviour, living environment, breeding and other aspects are particularly varied and often appear highly exotic. Keeping reptiles is therefore a specialist hobby – for people with a real understanding of what makes animals tick.
Tips for buying a reptile
Many reptile keepers gained their first experience of these animals at exhibitions or when visiting a friend or acquaintance. Such contacts are an invaluable source of help if you decide to start keeping your own favourite reptile.
Healthy reptiles can be purchased from a responsible breeder. You can obtain the addresses of breeders from a vet, reptile association, online or your local pet shop. Animal shelters and private rescue centres are another option: in addition to dogs, cats and guinea pigs, they often have reptiles in need of a new home.
One of the most popular herbivorous reptiles is the Hermann's tortoise. Since this is a protected species, you do however, require official permission to keep these tortoises as pets. An experienced owner can provide you with useful tips on topics such as keeping tortoises indoors and outdoors, as well as advising on safe hibernation techniques.
Signs of a healthy reptile:
- Behaviour typical of its species (you will need to read up on the species in advance)
- Undamaged skin, scales, shell
- Eyes and nose that are free of discharge and mucous
- Clear eyes
- A clean behind
Checklist for initial equipment
To feel happy and remain healthy, reptiles need food that meets their dietary requirements and a range of different accessories:
- A large home for your reptile, e.g. a terrarium or outdoor enclosure
- Accessories suitable for your reptile, e.g. tunnels, grottos, food bowls, drinking bowls
- A suitable substrate
- Carrier for when visiting the vet
- Main food for daily nutritional requirements
- Technical equipment to provide the required living conditions for your pet, e.g. heater, UV lamp.
Living conditions, care and hygiene
Alongside providing the right diet, creating the right living conditions for your reptile is one of the key requirements for ensuring a long and healthy life. It is particularly important to provide a sufficiently large home with conditions (temperature, humidity etc.) that mirror those found in nature.
Reptiles generally retain their natural behaviour when kept in captivity. They will therefore clean and care for themselves. To ensure that your pet's skin, scales or shell remain healthy, however, you must provide a diet rich in all essential nutrients and maintain the right living conditions (UV light, temperature). It is therefore important to check the values for these conditions on a regular basis to identify any potential problems.
Reptile cage and hygiene
Remove leftover food and bodily waste on a daily basis. If you do not, these could provide a breeding ground for germs and attract insects. Depending on the type of cage, you will need to clean it thoroughly about once each week. This will usually involve changing the substrate or cleaning the accessories. Do not use strong household detergents.
The perfect diet
Herbivorous reptiles are plant eaters and are therefore perfectly adapted to eating leaves, grass, fruit, seeds etc. Although most of these animals will also eat the occasional insect or other live food in the wild, this tends to be an exception to their usual diet. An excess intake of animal protein can cause health problems in herbivores, including organ damage and bone disease.
Vita Terra® Reptile Special is a main food with a balanced composition that meets the basic dietary requirements of a wide range of herbivorous reptiles. You will also need to provide fresh food suitable for your particular species. Products that provide added minerals are also important.
- Provide quantities and portions suitable for your particular species
- Always serve food at room temperature
- Remove perishable leftovers after feeding
- Wash out bowls after each meal
- Provide fresh water at all times
Behaviour & familiarisation
New members of your family
It is best to use a secure pet carrier when collecting your new housemates from the breeder or pet shop. Take care to avoid any large temperature fluctuations while in transit.
Once your new pets have arrived home and have been placed in the cage you set up in advance, you should leave them alone for a while to get used to their new surroundings in peace. Depending on the species, behaviour and individual character of your new pets, you will need to wait one or several days before carefully starting to initiate contact. The animals will soon forget their shyness when offered tasty "bribes" in the form of a piece of fruit or fresh lettuce leaf.
Hermann’s tortoise is a very small tortoise with a high, rounded carapace that is yellow with dark patches. Size: max. 20 cm.
Testudo hermanni can be found throughout southern Europe, from France to Turkey. In some regions, however, this species is considered endangered.
This tortoise is suitable for keeping in groups. However, separating males and females is often recommended because the males can become aggressive and very persistent in their pursuit of the females, which can overly unsettle a group.
Hermann’s tortoise is essentially herbivorous (plant eater), consuming animal-based food only as an exception. In the wild, its diet consists primarily of wild herb leaves. When keeping as a pet, they should be given fresh food as well as a high-fibre main food.
The tortoise goes into hibernation in colder temperatures. Optimum conditions, such as a constant temperature of around 4 °C, are necessary for this.