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Indian Star Tortoise

Indian Star Tortoise


A Indian star tortoise diet consists of only plant vegetation; they mostly eat grasses, herbaceous leaves, flowers, and fruit, and sometimes insects, carrion, and dung.

The diet should also include fibrous plants like grasses and weeds with occasional fruit. Good foods include dandelion, clover, honeysuckle, leafy salads, watercress, curly kale, brussel tops, spring greens, coriander, parsley, rocket, carrot, parsnip, courgette and bell peppers. Good weeds include plantains (not the fruit), white nettle, corn poppy, chickweed, bindweeds, hawk-bit, viola’s, goats beard, nipplewort etc. For times when fresh food is not available, or for variety, there are pre-made tortoise dried foods available that most tortoises relish which include the optimum nutrition. It is only recommended you feed a tortoise tortoise food in supplementation with fresh leafy greens, which is what they require for optimal health. To provide tortoises with optimal nutrition and to keep them in the best of health, they will require diet supplementation in the form of calcium, vitamins and minerals. These are most commonly available as powders that can be sprinkled over their food. Calcium should be provided every other day and dusted directly onto the tortoise’s food. If feeding tortoise food, usually these minerals are already included in there. Vitamins may be added daily for young tortoises, but adults will only require them every other day. Vitamins are not necessary for tortoises who eat a healthy mixed fresh diet of plants.

Instead tortoises should be given a shallow bath 2-3 times a week for 10 minutes. This will enable them to take on fresh water and stimulate them to empty their waste. Providing a shallow area filled with fresh spring water will allow them to do this.

Summary Information:

Adult Size: 6-15 inches

Captive Lifespan: 25-80 yrs

Nighttime Air Temperature:  65-75FF

Daytime Air Temperature:  80F-90F

Sun Basking Temperature:  90F-100F

Humidity:  40-70%

A cluster of Indian Star Tortoises.

Original Habitat

The Indian star tortoise is of medium size for a tortoise and is found in the arid and dry forests in India and Sri Lanka. Its name comes from the unique star-like patterns that feature on its high-domed shell. Because of these very distinctive patterns and its highly rounded shell, the Indian star tortoise is popular in the world’s trade in exotic pets. Unfortunately it is estimated that as many as 50,000 tortoises are taken from the increasingly shrinking wild and sold for money. They are illegal to import to most western countries, and can only be purchased captive. The attractive markings on its shell, aside from looking very cool, serve to help it easily blend in with its environment. By breaking up the hard edge of the shell, it helps deter reflections and helps hide it when the tortoise is grazing, so it is not so obvious to predators passing nearby.

This species lives in different parts of the Indian subcontinent in Asia: western India and the extreme southeast of Pakistan, in south-eastern India, and on the island of Sri Lanka. They occupy a variety of different habitats, including semi-arid lowland forests, scrub forests, moist deciduous forest, semi-desert (such as the Thar Desert in Pakistan) and arid grasslands. This species has  good tolerance for habitats that are seasonally wet or dry, many populations inhabiting areas with a monsoon or rainy season followed by a long hot and dry period.

Recommended Pet Enclosure

An outdoor enclosure is best during the warm and hot months as long as daytime temperatures are in the range specified. The Indian star does prefer warmer temperatures. If nighttime temperatures are below the upper sixties, you should likely bring your Star tortoise inside or provide a heated outdoor ‘tortoise house’. The minimum recommended pen size for an adult is approximately 8 ft. by 8 ft.  When it’s summer and hot, Indian Star tortoises can be fairly active because they are grazers. Although Star tortoises are not climbers and diggers when compared to other tortoises, it’s definitely a good idea to extend the base of the pen several inches below ground surface using wood, thick chicken wire or hardware cloth, or cinder blocks. This will help discourage unwanted animals from burrowing or breaking into the pen. The walls of the pen should be at least 12 inches high and can be made of wood, cinder blocks, or decorative rocks. If you suspect that predators, including humans, could be a problem, make a locking screen top, which can be made in sections to make it easier to open and close.

It is important to choose a location offering a combination of sunny and shady areas throughout the day.  The soil in the pen should have good drainage.  Dirt mounds, rocks, logs, plants, and other “furniture” make the pen more interesting and also break up the line-of-sight, which makes a pen seem larger to the tortoise.  Rocks, logs, and terracotta plant pots also provide hiding places and shelter from sun, rain, and other elements. If possible, a safe and secure outdoor habitat with plenty of sun is preferred, and it should be planted with a variety of plants.  A southern exposure for basking, and bushes and rocks for hiding will be greatly appreciated.  If an indoor habitat is used, it should mimic an outdoor one as much as possible.

For a hatchling’s indoor enclosure, a large plastic-bin container filled with a mixture of organic soil and play sand makes a nice habitat. My preference is a mix of approximately 60% top soil and 40% play sand. Some keepers prefer cypress or orchid bark mulches. Piles of Bermuda, orchard, or timothy hays on top of the substrate provide additional burrowing areas and many tortoises will eat it.  Form some hills in the dirt, put in a few rocks, and place a seed tray in one corner to grow some sedum, weeds, and wildflowers. The hills are recommended to help teach your hatchling to climb and use it’s newborn muscles. You can also accommodate an adult in a similar, but larger, rubbermaid container.  Indoor enclosures need to have UVB light from a bulb, such as a Reptisun 5.0. You will also need a heat lamp for a basking area and a hide box for some privacy.  Mercury-vapor lamps, which supply heat and UVB, are good as long as the enclosure offers a warm end and a cooler end. Adults and even babies should be outdoors, but the enclosure needs to be safe from predators, including birds.  For an adult, about 6’x4′ should be enough, but the bigger the better.

Other Information

Pet owners can seek out many different sources in order to find care sheets for their pet tortoises, including the Indian Star Tortoise. Many veterinarians should offer these sorts of care sheets. Some tortoise owners do not consult the services of veterinarians, but they need veterinary medicine as much as all other pets. Veterinarians can give owners accurate care sheets, which is important given the amount of inaccurate information related to tortoises in cyberspace today. Many tortoise owners can recommend reliable care sheets to one another, which will help strengthen the community of tortoise owners.

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