How to Set Up a Tortoise Table

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The larger the tortosie, the larger the tortoise table needs to be.
The larger the tortosie, the larger the tortoise table needs to be. (Image: tortoise image by Ludwig Pretorius from Fotolia.com)

A tortoise table is a habitat for your pet tortoise -- a man-made environment with heat, light, food and a physical environment suitable for one of these shy reptiles to thrive in. The size of the tortoise table needs to accommodate the growth of the tortoise and allow it to move around extensively. Tortoise tables need to include the correct environmental substrate, appropriate food dishes, water, lighting and shelter needs. Completing the set up of a tortoise table is easy and will allow many hours of enjoyment from raising your tortoise.

Things You'll Need

  • Tortoise table
  • Feed dish
  • Water bowl
  • UV lighting
  • Substrate

Select a tortoise table for keeping the tortoise in. The larger the table, the better. Commercial tables can be very expensive. You can make a basic table at home with ply wood, or use an old bookshelf laid on it's back and with the shelves removed. The table walls must not be transparent or the tortoise will continually try to walk through the wall and become stressed. Ensure that the table is at least 3 feet by 2 feet for a hatchling and at least 6 feet by 2 feet for a juvenile tortoise.

Waterproof a wooden tortoise table with a waterproof liner that extends a few inches up the inner sides of the table, or by applying an animal-safe liquid sealant to the interior. This will prevent mold and rot and prolong the life of the table.

Select appropriate substrate -- the ground or bedding that will cover the floor of the tortoise table. A 50/50 mix of sand and soil is correct for most tortoises, but research your species to determine what is the correct ratio of sand to soil. The mixture should be a depth of at least 1 to 2 inches, according to the Tortoise Protection Group, for most tortoises. Add pebbles and flat stones for the tortoises to climb over. This will add to the visual appeal of the table and help keep the tortoise's nails trimmed.

Add food and water to the table. Food dishes should be made out of flat ceramic, limestone or slate pieces. This will keep the food off the substrate and allow easy access for the tortoises. Put a water bowl or dish onto the table. The water level should be kept very low, such as a quarter of an inch, to keep the tortoise from drowning. Add pebbles and stones to the water bowl for easier access for the tortoises.

Attach lights to the table. Tortoises are cold blooded and have no internal way of regulating temperature. Tortoises bask in the sun to heat themselves and the UV rays help convert calcium to healthy shell and bone. Regular lamps with light bulbs ranging from 60 to 100 watts can provide enough heat for the tortoises to bask in. Hang a separate UV light from the table in another location. The lights should be hung about one foot from the surface of the table. Purchase a thermometer to make sure the heat under the light is not too hot.

Add plants to your table such as spider plant and cacti to provide hiding places. According to the Tortoise Protection Group, very young tortoises spend a lot of time hiding when in the wild, and this behavior exists in captive tortoises also. Rock formations built to create hiding spaces work as well.

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