Horsfield's Tortoise care sheet


Vivarium: Horsfield's tortoises require a wooden vivarium as their enclosure. This is because wood is an excellent insulator of heat and so a wooden vivarium will make it easier to control the crucial temperatures required inside the habitat. The wooden vivarium should have good ventilation to allow air flow in and out of the enclosure.

The vivarium should be at least 860mm (34") in length for a juvenile and 1150mm (46") for an adult. The enclosure needs to be hot at one end, but have enough distance for the temperature to drop at the cool end.

Tortoise table: tables may be used for Horsfield's tortoises, but as they insulate no heat, they are only recommended for use in houses that are naturally warm. The table should be at least 900mm (35") long.


During the day, tortoises require a hot basking temperature. This is achieved by using clear spot bulbs at one end of the vivarium (or over a table). To accomplish the required basking temperature of 90oF we use a basking bulb (100w in a 46" vivarium). The power of a basking bulb over a table is more dependant upon room temperature. Basking bulbs should be on for 10- 12 hours per day and must be controlled by a dimming thermostat.

For a tortoise table we would use a combined basking/UVB bulb around 100-160w depending on the size of the table. The bulb is raised or lowered to achieve the correct temperatures.

At night tortoises require a drop in temperature and darkness. They can drop to room temperature, so all heating and lighting equipment should be turned off. Temperatures should be monitored daily using a thermometer.

UVB Lighting

Horsfield's tortoises actively bask in hot climates and so naturally receive a high dose of UVB from the sun. Their enclosure's UVB levels should reflect that. A fluorescent UVB tube should be used inside the vivarium with a reflector so no UVB is wasted. The tube should be at least 10% UVB for desert species. There are 2 different types of fluorescent tube, T8 and T5. T5 tubes are the new technology and produce more light and UVB than T8 tubes. T5 UVB also travels much further from the tube.

Tortoises require UVB in order to synthesise vitamin D3 inside their skin. The vitamin D3 helps the tortoise to absorb calcium which crucial for bone structure and growth. This is why reptiles can suffer from metabolic bone disease (MBD) when not provided with adequate UVB.

Over tables, combined heat and UVB flood bulbs (mercury vapour) may be used.