Hermann’s tortoises are one of the most popular pet species among reptile keepers. These medium-sized tortoises hail from the Mediterranean and are admired for their wonderfully colored shells and calm personalities.
But despite their relatively manageable size, Hermann’s tortoises can be tricky to care for correctly. In this extensive guide, we’ll teach you the ins and outs of Hermann’s tortoise care. We’ll also share some interesting Hermann’s tortoise facts.
We hope that by the end of this guide you’ll be able to decide if keeping a Hermann’s tortoise as a pet is right for you.
Hermann’s Tortoise Facts
- Experience level: Beginner to Intermediate
- Family: Testudinidae
- Scientific name: Testudo hermanni
- Other names: Hermann’s turtle
- Adult Male Size: 6 to 7.5 inches
- Adult Female Size: 6 to 8 inches
- Average Lifespan: 50 to 100 years
- Average Price Range: $240 to $500
- Where to buy?: XYZreptiles.com
- Books: Hermann’s Tortoise Owners Guide (Ben Team)
Interesting facts about Hermann’s tortoises
Hermann’s tortoises are named after Johann Hermann, a French naturalist who lived during the 18th Century.
There are two distinct subspecies of Hermann’s tortoise; the more common Eastern Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni boettgeri) and the smaller Western Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni hermanni).
The scientific name for the Eastern Hermann’s tortoise is derived from Oskar Boettger, a German herpetologist.
Thanks to dangers such as roads as well as overly aggressive capturing for the wildlife trade, Hermann’s tortoises are sadly considered to be a “Near Threatened” species.
What does a Hermann’s tortoise look like?
Eastern Hermann’s tortoises have higher domes to their carapaces than Western Hermann’s. Their shells are darker, ranging from tan to light brown, with the iconic black markings. Eastern Hermann’s tortoises also have lighter skin.
Western Hermann’s tortoises have yellowish shells with beautiful and distinctive black markings, giving them their iconic look. As the tortoise ages, these patterns tend to fade. Western Hermann’s tortoises have brown scaly skin.
How big do Hermann’s tortoises get?
Eastern Hermann’s tortoises grow to be much larger than their Western cousins. Some Eastern Hermann’s have been known to reach 11 inches long in exceptional cases. The average size is between 9 and 10 inches.
Western Hermann’s tortoises grow much smaller, and adult specimens can be as small as 2.5 inches long! The majority will be closer to 6 to 8 inches long.
A Hermann’s tortoise’s growth rate is comparatively slower than other tortoise species. Hermann’s tortoises tend to have long lifespans and may take around 10 years to reach their full adult size.
Where do Hermann’s tortoises live?
Hermann’s tortoises are part of the Mediterranean group of tortoises. Eastern Hermann’s tortoises are found in the southern Balkans and the eastern areas of the Mediterranean. This subspecies inhabits countries like Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Romania, and Turkey.
Western Hermann’s tortoises are usually found in the western Mediterranean in areas such as southern France, Italy, Spain, and islands such as Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily.
What kind of habitat do Hermann’s tortoises need?
Both subspecies of Hermann’s tortoise inhabit dry grassland areas with semi-arid climates. They are also found in dry forests of beech and oak as well as rocky areas. These regions have plenty of sunlight and comparatively little rain.
How long do Hermann’s tortoises live in captivity?
When kept in appropriate conditions, Hermann’s tortoises have a very long lifespan. You can easily expect a Hermann’s tortoise to live between 50 and 100 years in captivity. In the wild, Hermann’s tortoises usually live for no more than 30 years.
What do Hermann’s tortoises eat?
A good Hermann’s tortoise diet should be strictly herbivorous, as these animals only eat vegetation in the wild. Grazing grasses, weeds, and leafy greens should be the core staples of the diet. Some fruits and vegetables can be given for variety. Commercial tortoise pellets can also be used.
How do Hermann’s tortoises breed?
The mating season often begins when Hermann’s tortoises emerge from their winter hibernation. Males will chase and batter into females until they capitulate. The males then mount the females to copulate.
After a few months, the females begin to lay eggs. A female may lay more than one clutch a year, usually between May and July. Clutches can range from two to 12 eggs at once.
These eggs are laid in a burrow dug by the female. Incubation takes around three months. Temperatures higher than 30 degrees Celsius will produce female hatchlings.
Around September, the hatchlings emerge and stay close to the nesting burrow for several years.
What predators do Hermann’s tortoises face?
Juvenile Hermann’s tortoises are particularly vulnerable to predators and may be taken by birds, mammals such as badgers and wild boar, and larger reptiles. Adult tortoises can still be targeted by these species, but will only fall prey to larger animals.
Russian tortoise vs Hermann’s tortoise
Hermann’s tortoises are one of the most common types of pet tortoises, alongside Russian tortoises. There are some key differences between these two species.
Although they are quite similar in size, Russian tortoises tend to have more temperamental variations than the more docile Hermann’s tortoises.
Russian tortoises can tolerate a wider range of temperatures than Hermann’s tortoises. Russian tortoises can survive in very cold climates alongside hot ones.
Hermann’s tortoises do not hibernate for anywhere near as long as Russian tortoises do. Russian tortoises will hibernate for nine months during the year, while Hermann’s tortoises will only be dormant during the coldest winter months.
Hermann’s Tortoise Care Sheet
As with most tortoise species, the best way to house an adult Hermann’s tortoise is to keep them outside. This should only be done if your local climate matches the conditions of the native Mediterranean climates of Hermann’s tortoises.
An outdoor enclosure should measure at least 4 feet by 3 feet by 1 foot high and contain dry loose substrates such as a mix of soil, sand, and gravel. To keep humidity at the correct level for your Hermann’s tortoise, a well-draining area is necessary.
If possible, the outdoor enclosure should have different areas of elevation to provide some variety for your tortoise. Areas of direct sunlight create ideal basking spots, while shaded areas give your tortoise somewhere to cool off.
For colder periods, you can provide a cold frame or something like a small greenhouse or heated enclosure to keep your tortoise warm. Avoid keeping adults inside if at all possible. Your tortoise can choose when to enter these warmer spaces as needed.
When building a fence for the enclosure, bury the supports at least six inches underground to prevent your Hermann’s tortoise from escaping. You should also provide some rocks and plants for your tortoise to use as cover.
A large open space will stress out your tortoise as they have nowhere to hide. Make sure to plant some tortoise-safe plants to avoid any dangers. We have provided a list here.
You’ll also need to provide a water receptacle for your tortoise to potentially soak in. This should be nestled in the ground slightly if possible.
Can Hermann’s tortoises live indoors?
Hermann’s tortoises can live indoors, but it isn’t the best situation for an adult tortoise. If your outdoor climate isn’t correct for a Hermann’s tortoise and you can’t build a cold frame or heated enclosure, then housing the tortoise inside is required.
A heated garage or shed can be a good alternative to housing your tortoise indoors. If you have to keep them in your house, the enclosure should be at least 4 feet by 3 feet by 1 foot high. You can use a tortoise table of this size or a rectangular wooden enclosure.
A deep substrate will be needed, as well as a water dish that your tortoise can soak in. We’ll cover heating and lighting later.
Hatchlings and juveniles should be housed indoors to protect them during their most vulnerable stage. For hatchlings, a 20-gallon tank or vivarium is ideal to give them the best growth conditions.
As your tortoise reaches its juvenile stage, a stock tank will give adequate space. You could also use a tortoise house or tortoise table.
Recommended basic products
There are some essential items needed when caring for a Hermann’s tortoise. Most of these items apply mainly if you are keeping hatchling or juvenile Hermann’s tortoises indoors.
As far as enclosures go, we’ve suggested a good enclosure for juveniles, but adult Hermann’s tortoises are going to need a custom-built outdoor enclosure to thrive.
- Enclosure (Juveniles): Zoo Med Tortoise House
- UVB light/heat bulb: Zoo Med PowerSun
- UVB test cards: Reptizoo UV test cards
- Light fixture: Zoo Med Combo Deep Dome fixture
- Timer: Zoo Med Timer
- Thermometer: Exo Terra Thermometer
- Laser thermometer (For optional checking): Etekcity Lasergrip
- Water bowl: Zoo Med Repti-Ramp Bowl
Whether housing your Hermann’s tortoise indoors or out, you should spot clean any waste as soon as you find it. Your tortoise’s water bowl should also be changed daily, as they will defecate at the same time as they take a drink.
Any substrates used should be replenished every one or two months at a minimum.
When providing a substrate for your Hermann’s tortoise, you want something that drains well to help keep humidity at the correct level. A mix of gravel, sand, and soil is ideal, especially if housing your tortoise outside. You could also mix in cypress bark.
Aim to provide at least 6 inches of depth to the substrate. This gives your tortoise ample room to burrow without threatening to uproot the enclosure. Cypress mulch is a good indoor substrate.
Providing the correct temperatures for your Hermann’s tortoise is extremely important, both for indoor and outdoor enclosures.
If your tortoise lives outdoors, an ambient temperature somewhere between 80 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit is sufficient. Check that your local weather conditions are suitable before housing your tortoise outside. A nighttime temperature can be as low as 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
If your tortoise is housed indoors, the ambient temperature can be maintained between 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll need to provide a temperature gradient to help your tortoise to regulate its body temperature.
To achieve this, use a heat lamp to provide a basking spot of between 95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Mercury vapor bulbs are a good choice as they provide both heat and UVB light.
Because they dwell in semi-arid environments, Hermann’s tortoises do not need very high humidity levels. However, they are more active after rains and storms, so some moisture is needed.
The maximum humidity level for adult Hermann’s tortoises should be about 70%, but they can tolerate humidity as low as 25% for brief periods. Ensure that your tortoise always has access to fresh, clean water. Mist the substrate if necessary to keep the humidity at appropriate levels.
How to bathe a Hermann’s tortoise
You can also give your Hermann’s tortoise regular baths to keep their humidity levels correct. This should be done at least once a week for adults if they live indoors for about 15 minutes or so.
Hatchlings will need more regular soakings to help promote healthy growth. During their first 18 months, soak your hatchlings in shallow warm water for about ten minutes per day. You can then reduce this to four soakings a week at about 15 minutes each time.
Because they hail from a semi-arid environment, Hermann’s tortoises like a lot of direct sunlight. They need this because ultraviolet light helps tortoises absorb calcium and Vitamin D3, which keeps them healthy.
If your Hermann’s tortoise lives outside, providing an area of direct sunlight for 12 to 14 hours per day will adequately meet its UVB needs.
When housing a tortoise indoors, you’ll need to provide an electric substitute for sunlight. This is done in the form of a UVB bulb place above their enclosure next to a heat lamp.
Because of their native conditions, Hermann’s tortoises need a stronger UV bulb than some other tortoise species. A 10.0 bulb, such as the Zoo Med PowerSun, is an ideal choice. A UVB lamp should be kept on a 12 to 14-hour day/night cycle.
When putting together an enclosure for your Hermann’s tortoise, there are some accessories you can provide to help enrich and stimulate their environment.
Tortoises like lots of hiding places, so providing rocks and tortoise-safe plants creates a good amount of cover for your tortoise.
To counteract any cold temperatures, you can also provide a heated hide in your Hermann’s tortoise’s outdoor enclosure. Even something like a cold frame will do.
To help your Hermann’s tortoise to get a good amount of calcium, you can also provide a cuttlefish bone which they can gnaw at. This also helps to promote good beak health.
What can I feed my Hermann’s tortoise?
When it comes to a Hermann’s tortoise’s diet, providing the correct foods can help your tortoise to lead a healthy life. Hermann’s tortoises are strictly herbivores, and should only be fed plant matter.
The best thing to do if housing your tortoise outside is to provide some grazing grasses and weeds for your tortoise to chomp on. Plant a variety of staple diet plants, such as fountain grasses. You can then supplement these with dark leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables.
A Hermann’s tortoise diet should be low in carbohydrates and proteins but high in calcium and fiber. You should also avoid giving your tortoise too much fruit.
Some good weeds to either plant or offer as greens include clovers, dandelions, mustard, and plantains. Other vegetables such as collard greens and small amounts of broccoli, cabbage, and cucumber are good variety items.
As for fruit, this should only be used as an occasional treat, as too much fruit consumption can cause problems. Apples, grapes, and strawberries can all be good in small amounts.
With supplements, dust one meal a week with calcium and multivitamin supplements. Overloading calcium can also cause health issues.
Below we’ve provided a comprehensive Hermann’s tortoise food chart to help you pick some good options for your pet. We’ve broken it down into three sections: staple foods, variety foods, and treats.
Hermann’s tortoise food chart
Staple foods: Feed every day
- Barley Grass: Good dietary staple, but don’t let your tortoise eat the grains or seeds
- Bermuda Grass: Another common grass good for grazing
- Broad-leaf Plantains: This weed is a great tortoise staple
- Buffalo Grass: North American prairie grass which is a good dietary grazing staple
- Chia: Young shoots are a firm favorite, but don’t let your tortoise eat the high-phosphorous seeds
- Chickweed: Another common weed that can be fed in moderate amounts
- Chicory: Feed the flowers and leaves, but not the roots
- Clover: This weed can be a moderate portion of your tortoise’s diet
- Dandelion: this weed is packed with Vitamin A and Calcium, but can be high in oxalic acid
- Flowering Maple: Flowers can be eaten and prove relatively popular with tortoises
- Grape Leaves: Provides a good source of Vitamin A
- Geranium: Hardy flowers that are popular with tortoises. Leaves can be eaten as well
- Hibiscus: Both the flowers and leaves can be eaten
- Hollyhock: Tall-growing plant popular with tortoises
- Kentucky Blue Grass: A common lawn grass
- Mallow: Weeds that grow throughout the year, a good staple food
- Oatgrass: Good dietary staple, but don’t let your tortoise eat the grains or seeds
- Orchard Grass: Good dietary staple, but don’t let your tortoise eat the grains or seeds
- Rye Grass: Good dietary staple, but don’t let your tortoise eat the grains or seeds
- Sowthistle: These weeds are a good staple food, but only use from low-nitrogen soil
- Timothy Grass: Good dietary staple, but remove sharp seed heads. Dried Timothy Grass is a good source of hay bedding/food
- Wheat Grass: Packed with Vitamin A
Variety foods: Offer a couple of these in small quantities with staple foods
- Alfalfa sprouts: Provides Vitamin A, Calcium, and nutritional plant proteins
- Arugula: Provides Vitamin A and is a readily-available plant protein
- Bok Choi or Pak Choi: Contain a lot of Vitamin A
- Collard Greens: Packed with Vitamin A, Calcium, and plant proteins
- Mustard Greens: Lots of Vitamin A
- Prickly Pear Cactus: Provides Calcium, but excessive consumption may produce laxative effects
- Turnip Greens/tops: Provides Vitamin A, Calcium, and nutritional plant proteins
Should be fed very sparingly, and fruits should only be offered if your tortoise likes them. If your tortoise experiences diarrhea or vomiting after eating fruit, do not offer them anymore, period.
- Bananas: High in potassium and sugars, so keep to a minimum
- Blackberries: High in sugar, so keep to a minimum. It may also cause irritation
- Cucumber: Can be a refreshing treat on hot days, but contains virtually no nutrients
- Grapes: Can be high in sugar, so feed sparingly
- Melon: Again, the sugar levels can be too high for most tortoises
- Raspberries: High in sugar, so keep to a minimum. It may also cause irritation
Temperament and handling
Are Hermann’s tortoises good pets?
Hermann’s tortoises are popular as pets because they have an endearing, calm temperament. They can be very personable and will recognize their owners over time.
While some specimens can be shy, these tortoises are also fairly active and you’ll see them exploring their enclosure and grazing. They will also burrow quite frequently which can also be fun to watch.
That said, Hermann’s tortoises do not enjoy frequent handling. It’s often best just to leave them to their own devices and observe them. Some handling can be fun, but keep them low to the ground and don’t do it often.
If possible, only handle your tortoise when necessary. The docile temperament of Hermann’s tortoises can make them good pets for beginner and intermediate tortoise keepers.
Signs of good health
When choosing a Hermann’s tortoise for the first time or performing health checks on your long-term pet, there are a few signs to watch for to indicate good health.
The best way to gauge the health of a tortoise is to look at its shell. A healthy Hermann’s tortoise’s shell should be smooth and shouldn’t carry any signs of flaking. If you spot some pyramiding on the shell, this can be a symptom of Metabolic Bone Disease.
The eyes of a healthy tortoise should be bright and clear, and the snout should be free of constant mucus. Hermann’s tortoises have good appetites when healthy.
Before choosing your specimen, ask the breeder or seller if you can see it take food. If a specimen is refusing to eat, this can be a sign of health issues.
Metabolic Bone Disease can be detected if you see signs of pyramiding. This debilitating illness commonly affects tortoises and is often caused because they are getting insufficient calcium through their diet.
Insufficient exposure to UV light can also cause MBD. The disease can result in deformed growth in their shells along with weak bones.
Shell rot is also something to look out for and can develop if your tortoise gets a fungal infection. Like MBD, shell rot can also cause deformed shell growth.
Breathing problems can also afflict Hermann’s tortoises. This is usually caused by incorrect temperature or humidity levels, so make sure these parameters are kept correctly at all times.
If your tortoise is very lethargic or if you hear them wheezing, this can be a sign of respiratory diseases and problems.
Hermann’s Tortoise Care Video
Breeding Hermann’s tortoises
When choosing a breeding area, female Hermann’s tortoises search for a well-drained slope when it’s time to lay their eggs. To provide an ideal breeding area, make a small heap of soil for your female. The heap should be around 1 foot long and approximately 2 to 4 feet wide.
This will make breeding easier as it will allow you to quickly collect the eggs afterward. Your female tortoise will create a burrow for herself and will lay her clutch there.
There can be a single egg or as many as twelve eggs in that clutch. When incubating Hermann’s tortoise eggs, maintain an incubator temperature between 79 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit (26 to 31 degrees Celsius).
By choosing the temperature of the incubator, you can affect the gender of the hatchlings. If the hatchlings are born at a temperature around 79 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius), they will be males. If the temperature is increased to around 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius), you’ll get females.
Hermann’s Tortoise Hatchling Care
After remaining in the incubator for around 90 to 120 days, the eggs will hatch. Hermann’s tortoise hatchlings require similar care to adults but will need higher humidity and a small enclosure capable of retaining moisture.
A 20-gallon glass tank works well as a first enclosure. A hatchling Hermann’s tortoise’s growth rate will be slow. You’ll need to keep your hatchlings and juveniles indoors for several years, progressively increasing the size of their enclosure.
Hermann’s tortoises tend to have long lifespans and may take around 10 years to reach their full adult size. Once your tortoise has lived indoors for about five years, they should be able to be housed outside.
Through their diet and lighting setup, you’ll need to provide the hatchlings with enough calcium to enable them to grow healthy shells. Once they are two or three days old, you can start feeding them cuttlebones and green herbs.
Chop up foods into small pieces to allow them to digest it correctly. Dust several meals a week with calcium and multivitamin supplement. Provide fresh, clean water daily.
Hatchlings should also be soaked more frequently than adults. A daily 10-minute soak in about an inch of warm water is ideal.
Frequently Asked Questions about Hermann’s tortoises
Should Hermann’s tortoises be kept in pairs?
In the wild, Hermann’s tortoises are solitary animals unless it is the breeding season. They will be perfectly fine being kept as an individual. But you can house multiple Hermann’s tortoises together if you wish.
It is best to keep males and females separate until you want them to breed. You should also avoid keeping multiple males together in the same enclosure as they will battle each other. Multiple females can live together quite happily.
You should also ensure that any specimens that you keep together are of similar sizes, otherwise the larger tortoises will bully the smaller ones.
Is my Hermann’s tortoise male or female?
Unless you’ve directly engineered their incubation temperature to achieve a certain gender, it can be difficult to identify the sex of a Hermann’s tortoise.
The easiest way to distinguish between males and females is to inspect their tails. Males will have much longer tails that can almost wrap around part of their body. Females will have very short, stubby tails.
How long do Hermann’s tortoises hibernate?
Being a Mediterranean tortoise species, hibernation is a natural part of life for a Hermann’s tortoise. While being kept in captivity at the correct conditions lessens the need for your tortoise to hibernate, it can sometimes still occur.
In the fall months of August and September, have your tortoise checked by your vet to determine if they are healthy enough for hibernation. Only healthy specimens should be allowed to hibernate, as it is a draining and stressful experience for the tortoise.
Generally, Hermann’s tortoises will hibernate for between four and five months during the winter season. This is a natural defense against colder temperatures. Hermann’s tortoises younger than three years old will generally not need to hibernate.
Can a Hermann’s tortoise eat cucumber?
Yes, Hermann’s tortoises can eat cucumber. However, this should not be used as a dietary staple because cucumber is largely devoid of any beneficial nutrients. Cucumber is best used as an occasional treat, especially on very hot days.
Can my Hermann’s tortoise eat tomato?
Tomatoes are fine as a very occasional treat for your Hermann’s tortoise. However, the high sugar levels and low amount of calcium present in tomatoes can cause problems if fed regularly.
Can Hermann’s tortoises eat banana peel?
You shouldn’t feed your tortoise banana peel under any circumstances. When bananas are imported to supermarkets, they have often been fumigated. The chemicals in this process can remain on the peel and cause severe health issues for your tortoise.
In this comprehensive care guide, we’ve discussed the complexities of Hermann’s tortoise care. Keeping a Hermann’s tortoise as a pet can be a fun and interesting experience for both beginner and intermediate reptile keepers.
However, it’s best to ensure that you can give your tortoise the correct conditions to enable it to thrive. This means being able to house them outdoors with plenty of space and the appropriate semi-arid climate. This can be a challenge for some keepers.
If you do choose to get a Hermann’s tortoise, you’ll have a beautiful, calm, and fun pet that is best when being observed. Your tortoise will become a life-long companion and will quickly recognize you!
If you enjoyed this Hermann’s tortoise care guide and are thinking of getting one of these wonderful reptiles, please feel free to comment down below!
Saturday 11th of March 2017
I am trying to find out at what age a herman tortoise start laying eggs, my tort is about 3 years old and her rear end seams to be enlarged. I am not sure if its due to her first batch of eggs or there is something wrong ? please advise.