Florida Iguana & Tortoise Breeders

Aldabra Tortoise (Geochelone Gigantea)
Care Sheet.
5-18-19
By Sam Pascucci
Florida Iguana & Tortoises Breeders.


RE: Summary: hatchlings 4 to 8 inch animals.
(This is a summary of my complete care guide which is available by emailing me directly at Sam@Floridaiguana.com (estimated revision of the complete care guide should be ready in two weeks)


Diet:
For animals less than 6" you can feed every day. Older animals can be fed three times per week; however, you still can feed everyday. The main part of their diet consists of Mazuri Tortoise Chow, spring mix, collard greens, salad greens, grasses, vines and cactus, green and yellow squash.
Other foods, broadleaf weeds, typical grocery greens including romaine, escarole, endive, green leaf, red leaf and kale.


12" and older animals can be feed peanut hay, alfalfa hay, alfalfa/orchard, penult hay, banana leaves, depending on your habitat. Soak animals 4 to 5 inches two times per week.
Provide clean fresh water daily for the animals with small shallow bowel.
Note: There are other notable Aldabra experts that do not share my opinion about Hay.


Animals 4 inches (Six Months) and older, here in South Florida we raise 4-inch hatchlings outside most of the year. We have a relatively small grassy area for them with a heated hut. We actually do not soak them, we just provide a bowel with fresh water daily.


We take them inside the house if it goes below 65.
You have to be aware of wind chill factors and cool weather with rain, or even mutable days of rain.
You may have to move them inside their heated hut depending on the number of cool or rainy days.
Folks in colder environments are better off providing a permeant winter environment in a garage or room set-up with a tortoise table.


Maintenance:
Remove old food before end of day or if it becomes contaminated.
Many animals will walk through their food and water bowels.
Water bowels need to be disinfected and scrubbed with a bleach solution and rinse clean until the chlorine smell is gone. If you are disinfecting because of disease, you may need to use a different protocol based on the nature of the disease.
Email me for specifics at Sam@FloridaIguana.com


Be careful about irritating smells from disinfectants. I have had people with what appeared to be respiratory infections, runny eyes and nose, when the problem was irritants from disinfectants and substrates.
If substrates become dry, they can become dusty and this has caused problems with people’s animals.


Inspect the environment for ants, be careful to observe any ant hills or colonies.
I use Amdro to treat ant hills; place the crystals in the mound and wet with a little water.
Take the animals in for a day or two. I know of hatchlings up to six inches that have been killed by ants.


Temperature:
Indoor cages should be 75 to 100 degrees and provide a cooler spot to get out of the heat.
With indoor tortoise tables, you must be aware of indoor room temperatures affected by air-conditioning.
Don’t guess at temperatures. Use a laser heat detection gun and measure shell temperature.
I have seen many people have problems because of this single reason. Don’t guess; do it right.


Indoor tortoise tables and over winter habitats need a temperature gradient from 75 to 100 degrees. Provide UVB as well as heat lamps.


Substrates, Humidity


Size:
Many people use indoor Tortoise tables. I have seen some beautiful setups and I have seen some setups that just would not work. Creating a tortoise table for an indoor winter stay could be as small as 3’ x 6‘. There are two other major considerations for indoor tortoise tables. Protection from predators such as dogs and rats, these need to be considered in the construction of the indoor tortoise table.


Another consideration is the intensity of UVB and artificial lighting.
Make sure you light up the area, tortoises will be more active and eat better when they have bright visible light. (read further down about UVB under light)


Outdoor pens need to provide Tortoise huts for shade in the summer and heat in the winter.
Do not expose to temperatures below 50 degrees. We put our adults away below 55 degrees; we take in animals less than 6 inches below 65 degrees (at night).
Cool, wet and windy weather is a great concern for wind chill factors, even if it is 75 out but raining.
Consider taking them in.


In your permanent outdoor enclosure, with respect to your climate zone. you may consider keeping 6 inch and older animals outside providing that the nighttime temperature does not go below 65 and is calm and dry.
Outdoor enclosures must protect from the cold as well as the rain; we do not want wet spots inside the shelter. The animals should be locked inside the shelter behind a door. I make my shelters with red heat lamps and in some cases a pig blanket on the wall.


Important also to consider in your new outdoor enclosure are toxic plants. Email me at sam@floridaiguana.com if you are interested in toxic plant details. Additionally, consider what contaminants may have been in that real estate before, such as engine oils, gasoline, pesticides or what have you.
You may need to consider digging out and replacing the dirt, adding topsoil and sod or selecting a different site.


Light:
Indoor Tables and pens: animals need a UVB lamp and a heat lamp. It must be bright and warm.
You must supplement your indoor animals’ diet, with D3 calcium or they will end up with shell deformities, beak and jaw deformities and MBD.


https://www.floridaiguana.com/Articles/D3-and-Calcium-in-Tortoises-and-Iguanas
Email me for the latest information on this subject. Sam@FloridaIguana.com
Arrange heat emitters to one side of the pen (the opposite side from the nighttime hut)
Artificial lights should be placed over the hot spot and the middle of the tortoise table or cage.
Outdoor Pens need to be constructed and placed so there are areas of bright direct sunlight; sunny areas where they can bask and soak up the heat for proper digestion and metabolism.
Areas of shade at every moment of the day are also very important. I would recommend 40% of their pen to always be in shade allowing them to thermal regulate and lower their body temperatures.


It is important to actually check the intensity of natural outdoor UVB light with a UVB light meter.
This device is simple, inexpensive and works quite well. If you don’t use a UVB meter, you’re just guessing at a very important element of their habitat. Without proper levels of UVB tortoises will develop MBD. (Metabolic Bone Disease) Additional articles can be found here: https://www.floridaiguana.com/Articles
For in-depth details on MBD, email me at Sam@FloridaIguana.com.


Additional articles can be found here: https://www.floridaiguana.com/Articles
Email me at Sam@Floridaiguana.com for in-depth details.

Humidity:
Aldabras do not seem to be very sensitive to humidity. Their natural habitat has between 79% and 82% humidity. I have not seen problems from different humidity’s around the country.
In fact, I have seen examples of care givers fanatically fighting to achieve a particularly high humidity level, only to cause raspatory problems with fluctuating and overly high humidity levels.
Overall if you are in very low humidity area, try to keep hatchlings over 50% but don’t be fanatical.



Outdoor cage construction:
Pens need to be built to prevent digging out. Aldabras are not big diggers like African Sulcatas, but if they see an opening under a border fence, they will try to dig out. All tortoises will try to get to areas they can see, this makes "see through" fencing a poor choice for perimeter pen walls.
Feed on clean flat surfaces made of rubber or plastic, cement or wood. Do not feed on porous surface, as they do not disinfect well and can be a source of bacterial build up or contamination. We use cafeteria trays and very shallow plastic reptile dishes. Some greenhouse shallow plastic pans also make great for larger feeding and water bowels sizes (31"x16 and 24"x24") are available, email me for more information at Sam@Floridaiguana.com.


Smaller pens are preferred to larger pens, animals 4 to 6 inches should be in an area from 4' x 8' to 6' x 12'.


There are two types of outdoor "holding" pens.
#1 is a simple 2 x 8 structure which rests on top of the ground and is basically used to contain the tortoise while you are in direct view and control of their area. This type of pen is also easily movable from one place to the other which is great for ground rotation and minimizing contaminates.

#2 The other pen is an outdoor permanent structure which requires to be completely enclosed (all sides and bottom) from predators. Typical predators include ants, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, rats and birds of prey. Email me for the latest predator updates at Sam@FloridaIguana.com.

The permeant outdoor pen construction requires a strong (we use 12g to 16g) gauge wire mesh
2"x4" inch mesh (hole size). It is cheap and will keep out most large predators, but you must consider the risks of small predictors like rats and mice. Here, we suggest a minimum hole size of ½ x ½ . Aldabras under 6 inches have been known to have their feet chewed off by mice and rats.


Make sure your enclosure is escape proof. I never make cage changes or even move animals between cages unless I am free to keep a close eye on what happens.
You never know how an animal is going to act in a new environment; they can flip over or get trapped in a place you didn’t imagine. Or, there can be a bad reaction by moving cage mates around.
Typically, I am glued to the cage for three days and allow two weeks before relaxing.

The bottom of the hut should be elevated four or five inches off the terrain. Make sure their huts cannot flood or leak rainwater. It is important to use controllable temperature sensors to regulate the temperature inside. It is extremely important to have a system which does not allow the hut to overheat. I know of horror stories of tortoises from hatchlings to adults that have died in the winter from faulty heating apparatuses which did not protect from over temperature conditions.

Additionally, a smoke detector is a smart idea. They have models today which can be daisy-chained together with one sensor in your house or bedroom which goes off when an outdoor event is detected.
In addition, I have an app which shows me environment history and real time monitoring of humidity and temperature inside my huts.


Other Dangers:
Probably one of the most common threats to Aldabra hatchlings, specifically newly acquired animals, is dogs. Dogs are known for grabbing, chewing and killing baby Aldabras, who naturally have softer shells at a young age. I will go so far as to say they are the number one animal threat to hatchlings.

Newly acquired hatchlings a very susceptible to dog attacks. I’ve known of animals that have been chewed, maimed and killed before actually making it home from the airport. In one such case, the customer stopped by his mother’s. No one was home, so he deliberately put the tortoise in a bedroom away from the dog in the kitchen and left with a friend. Then another person entered the house and moved the box from the bedroom back into the living room. Within a few short minutes, the tortoise was mauled.


Aldabra Tortoise Health Aldabra tortoises can suffer from most common reptile health problems like intestinal parasites, (Protozoa, Strongyle worms, and in some cases Coccidia). Another common complication are respiratory infections if they are kept in cool or wet enclosures. The most common things that go wrong are diet, heat, light and poor cage conditions. Food bowl and water bowl cleanliness is important; clean with bleach or chlorine.
Store bought chlorine sprays are fine or chlorohexidine is a great bacterial disinfectant but does not clean the way chlorine can. When using chlorine, rinse till smell and sliminess are no longer present.

One other common complication baby Aldabras can get is constipation. Typically, this manifest itself as a little slime coming out of their mouth (not their nose.) or they typically go off food. One sign is they are not pooping and are acting lethargic.
Constipation is typically caused by eating on a warm day then having a cold spell, which slows digestion.
This causes the food to stall in their GI Track and ferment, which causes gas.
Call or email me for help when your tortoise is sick, I am always here for you.
Sam@FloridaIguana.com

Symptoms of respiratory stress and illness manifest as a runny nose, coughing and sneezing, runny eyes, raspatory noises or clicking. Coughing and sneezing sounds just like you would expect but coming from a tiny animal. Some people say it sounds like a clicking.

Aldabra babies are also sensitive to allergies and irritants.
Hay dust is an irritant that gives them runny eyes and sneezing.
Also I have seen many substrates, if they are dry, do the same thing.
I like indoor/outdoor carpeting or reptilcarpet, which you can buy in the pet store.
I have also used sand, dirt and sod.
I don’t like any chunky substrates like mulch because of the possibility of ingestion.


Additional Articles and papers:
Additional information on Diet and Health: included in main article
Additional information: Aldabra Tortoise size weight and life span: included in main article
Additional information on diets, Perpaired Chows and Hay good and bad news : included in main article.
Adult and Sub Adult Tortoise pens: included in main article
Additional health issues, conditions and diseases: included in main article
Aldabra Sub-Species: included in main article.
Aldabra Tortoise Handling and Temperament: included in main article
Behavior: included in main article
Breeding information for Aldabras and Galapagos: included in main article.
How to Determine Health: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xT2iqksDlko
How to tube feed a baby tortoise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eWrEWOHPLU
How to take Blood from a giant tortoise. https://www.youtube.com/user/FloridaIguana/search?query=blood
Intelligence: included in main article
Interesting facts. Coming soon.
Keeping tortoises together, differences in species and size: included in main article.
New hatchling arrival card: Coming soon:
Personality: included in main article
Poisonous plants and Chemicals. Email me for the latest version Sam@FloridaIguana.com
Scute Patterns what they look like what they mean: https://www.youtube.com/user/FloridaIguana/search?query=scute+
Shipping and Receiving instructions: https://www.floridaiguana.com/terms-of-service

Disclaimer:
Explanation and assumptions in this article are of my own experiences.
Each collection and set of animals are different. Use this information as a guide but make your own intelligent, well informed decisions. I take no responsibility for the information or how it is applied.

Sam Pascucci