By Sam Pascucci
Florida Iguana & Tortoises Breeders.
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.
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.
Baby and smaller 4" to 6" Aldabras have a harder time eating the tougher grass and hay because of their less powerful jaws also the larger stalks in the hays don't go down well. You can strain the hays for animals in the 6" size range.
For this size we also use spring mixes (particularly with baby tortoises), which have several leafy ingredients in them, and we supplement with kale, collard greens, turnip greens and any of the darker lettuce types especially Collard greens. We also use Mazuri moist Tortoises Chow.
12" and older animals can be feed peanut hay, alfalfa hay, alfalfa/orchard, peanut hay, banana leaves, depending on your habitat.
We feed the Adults ∧ Sub Adults three times a week. You don't have to feed equal portion of your food items with each meal, One day you might feed Chow and one Day Collard Greens and one day mixed vegetables as long as you vary their diet over the week you are fine. Actually you could feed one item like Chow or Hay 100% each feeding for a couple of weeks however, we don't do it but, I am sure nothing would be come of it.
There were times when we only had one food source for over a month because of a hurricane and I didn't see any ill effects.
You're really just trying to keep the nutritional balance over a long period of time.
However, I will say, you will see bad stools in just a week if you feed just fruit and I am sure you could end up with someone getting sick fairly fast.
Let their stools be a guide. Their stool should be big and bushy filled with hay and grass. If they are watery or you see diarrhoea you may be feeding too much fruit or “wet foods". It's a good idea to use a calcium supplement once or twice a month.
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 permanent winter environment in a garage or room set-up with a tortoise table.
Aldabra tortoises should have small water dishes in their enclosures. We use shallow, low-sided dishes that are plastic or glazed to make cleaning easy. Cleaning must be done on a regular basis, as most tortoises tend to soak in their dishes and defecate in them. Tortoises living in areas with regular rainfall drink from puddles and leaves. If you live in areas with prolonged dry periods, such as Las Vegas and the dryer states, offering them water helps to keep them hydrated. In our outdoor enclosures we make a small shallow cement pond (a few inches deep). The best water and food bowls for giant tortoises are large black tubs that are used to mix cement, you can find them in Lowes and Home Depot. They are approximately 24" by 30". We build a 2x6 frame around them and screw the plastic tubs down to the wood using 3" screws, replace these bowels when broken.
When small Aldabra tortoises are housed indoors, I prefer not to have standing water in the bowls, because they tend to defecate in them while soaking, tortoises usually begin drinking immediately and flush their systems at the same time. They need to be soaked outside the enclosure in shallow, warm water twice a week for 15 to 30 minutes to get fully hydrated.
Baby (3" to 4") and juvenile Aldabra tortoises tend to dry out much quicker than larger, more established tortoises. Because of this, I soak baby Aldabra tortoises in shallow, warm water every day for 10 to 15 minutes, Once the animals get past 4 ½" we don't soak them anymore.
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.
Lighting ∧ 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.
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 70 degrees (at night) Keep out of cool wet weather.
Aldabras can be kept outside year long, but some parts of the country can have nighttime lows 50 degrees or lower. It is absolutely necessary that these tortoises are checked on each evening to make sure they get into a heated area and are locked inside. Do not relay on tortoises to find heated houses on their own. They can easily fall asleep out in the open and become exposed to cold temperatures at night.
On very cold nights (below 45) we check that the heating apparatus is working every few hours. If it is 30 degrees outside and your Aldabras are in their heated houses but the power goes out at 12:00 midnight they could easily die over the next few hours so we check them ever few hours in these conditions.
Indoors, Aldabra tortoises can be maintained indoors 70 to 90 degrees. They should also have a basking area heated by an overhead light. This spot should be in the 92 to 98-degree range. Like most diurnal, herbivorous reptiles, they need a UVB light in their indoor enclosures to help them properly process the calcium in their diets. Keep lights on 12 to 14 hours a day, turn off all light sources at night. But maintain temperatures above 80 for small and hatchling animals.
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.
Because of their size, adult Aldabra tortoises are best kept by those who have access to an outdoor area, where their tortoises can be kept for most, or all, of the year outdoors. We keep our Aldabras in large grassed pens. We have several pens that we move animals in and out of different pens, we do this to promote breeding as well as manage the grass. A few large adults can eat the grass down to dirt in a large area.
Young Aldabra tortoises can be raised indoors. While outdoor housing is preferred anytime the temperatures are in the acceptable range. Many people raise their Aldabras indoors for the first year. For Aldabras it is best to create a tortoise table. An area minimum size for 12sq feet is recommended.
There are many good examples here of home made tortoise tables,
Next what you put inside is important as well, including substrate, lighting, temperature gradients and cage hides, Tables can be built in the garage, this is best for large tortoises that need to spend a few months indoors during the winter. These enclosures should be heated to keep the tortoises comfortable during the indoor months.
Indoor Construction (4" to 6" animals):
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.
Make a holding pen inside where you can keep them for extended times when you are away. Let's say you're heading out for a day trip and no care taker will be able to look in on them, you should move them to this holding pen for the day or weekend. The cage can be made much smaller depending on your room or garage. You can use sand, dirt or even indoor outdoor carpeting. Basically this environment is flat (so no flipping) and you can use some UVB bulbs for lighting. If they are only staying in this environment for, a day here and a day there then I would not make it with heat or basking lights providing the inside temperature falls within the guideline already given. However, if they are going to stay there for some extended period of time then you want to consider some gradients of temperatures in this pen for them. Make one side warm 86f to 92F the other side ambient but not below 70
Important note here, depending on how you use this pen. If you are leaving for an extended period of time switch off the heat or spot lamps so it is not possible for the animals to flip over under the beam. If you need to heat the environment think about heating the room they are in, even if that temperature is only 80 degrees since this is going to be a pen used when no one may be watching them for extended periods of time.
If this pen is simply used as an indoor (long stay) environment for them then you could turn on the heat lamps and spot beams when someone is there to watch them.
Tip: run your heat lamps or spot beams on some kind of timer so if someone fails to turn off the beams they will cycle off automatically in a few hours.
Outdoor Construction (Sub Adult and Larger):
Aldabra tortoise enclosures require a sturdy wall at least 30-inches in height above ground, we use 4X4 post cemented in the ground with 3 levels of 2x8 pressure treated wood spaced every four feet. This is screwed (not nailed) together. You can also use concrete masonry blocks. These work well when cemented in place. See-through fences and walls shouldn't be used along the perimeter, as the tortoises tend to try to escape through or over walls when they can see the other side.
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 permanent 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.
There needs to be proper hide boxes or huts (for larger animals) accessible as a cool retreat during the summer months or a warm retreat during the winter. Even here in the South Florida winters we have Tortoise huts with heaters connected to automating thermostats which turn on over hanging heat lamps. We lock the tortoise in their huts if it is predicted to go below 55 degrees. Overhead heat lamps should be at least 24" above the top of any tortoise's shells.
Use a temperature leaser gun to measure shell temperature with the lamps on, In the winter huts the shell temperature should not be above 85 degrees. Aldabra tortoises are grazers and will eat any grasses and most plants in their enclosure. Fragile plants are likely to be destroyed by the tortoises once the animals have any size to them.
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 email@example.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.
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.
Outdoor pens for Smaller Aldabra:
Make an outdoor pen for them with some landscaping small hills and rocks a couple of small plants maybe a hibiscus planted on the outside hanging over the cage. What we are trying to do here is give them some topography to navigate over and around. This is important to build leg strength. You could make this on the ground and I would say make it about 18" high with a wire top. Make the top removable so you have easy access to the animals and the land scape. You can use 1"x2" mesh for the top (though I prefer 1"X 1".
Make the total enclosure something like 4'x8' this will hold them for a year or so. Make it so you can expand it in the future.
You can use concrete block for the walls or you can use 2"x12". Bury the boards at least 6" down.
For substrate you can use grass, sod or hay over about half of it then making the balance up with Rocks sand and or dirt. This is the pen you can leave them in when you are around your house or facility. Here is what you have to be worried about, they can flip over and may not be able to right themselves. If they happen to flip in the sun, depending on the intensity, they could die in a few hours. So basically they are in this pen when there is a caretaker looking over or checking on them every couple of hours.
Drill drainage holes in the side boards so in case it does rain or flood suddenly the water will not fill up the “Box" to the point where the animals would be trapped and drown because they could not get their heads above the wire top. In all likelihood they would not drown any time soon even in very deep water. if you put them in a pool, they would just bob in the water actually they are pretty good swimmers..
Remember to supply shallow water dish. Rule of thumb I use is, not deeper than half their height, that way if they do flip over in the water dish then wont drown upside down. Have the tops lock down so if a dog, wolf, raccoon or whatever happens by they can't instantly lift the top and get to the animals.
How we raise our Aldabra hatchlings:
All of our baby Aldabra tortoises are raised indoors for the first six months, we have them under UVB lambs and heat lamps. The bins, as we call them, are lined with newspaper. We soak our hatchlings every day for about 30 minutes in a sink and allow the water to come only half way up their shell. After their soaking they are put back into their pens. Their paper has been changed and their food is waiting. The soaking is an important trigger for them to start eating. An Aldabra will not eat without the proper temperature and light. Our bins range from 85 to 92 degrees. We turn off the lights at night and let the temperature drop.
From the ages of six months they are moved to our outdoor enclosures. These are hatches as we call them. Basically, they have wire tops to prevent attacks from Raccoons and other animals. The floor is 2x4 wood construction there is a plastic cover over the hatches about 7 feet off the ground. This plastic cover blocks the strong sun and prevents the animals from too much rain. It is best not to expose the hatchling (up to 4" Animals) to too much wetness especial cool or cold rainy weather.
After the tortoises reach about 8" we move them into our special outdoor pens with sand bottoms. This pen is planted with Banana trees and hibiscus plants so they can get some shade.
Probably one of the most common threats to Aldabra hatchlings, specifically newly acquired animals, are 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.
Other things to be careful for are, it is important to have a good substrate so their legs don't slip out from under them. I have seen some sad situations where (like any big tortoise) you can end up with rear leg problems (splayed legs) This can be avoided by calcium supplements and creating a topography for the animals to navigate over (rocks, sand, hills and the like. Also give them room to roam they need to exercise this creates good leg strength which is paramount when they become bigger.
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 caregivers fanatically fighting to achieve a particularly high humidity level, only to cause respiratory 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.
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.
Symptoms of respiratory stress and illness manifest as a runny nose, coughing and sneezing, runny eyes, respiratory 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.
Tortoise shells are susceptible to fungal infections.
This either presents itself as lesion on the shell typical in between two growth plates.
or white spots and scars on the shell and especially on the plastron.
The best way to handle this condition is to use a soft wire brass brush to remove any white dry flaking on the shell in between growth plates and growth rings and ridges on the shell.
(there is a natural white growth ring (especial on smaller growing animals)
around each plate, Do not remove this white fibrous material.
Sometimes you will find a sap like hard deposit in between growth plates this is the shell producing extra Keratin in an effort to repair its shell.
After a good brushing apply scarlet oil it leaves a nice smooth polished red tint, you can repeat every month if needed.
In server infections shell damage is evident and it may be necessary to be pretty aggressive brushing and even scraping hard accumulations on the shell. If the fungus has dug down through the top enamel of the shell you may see slight bleeding. This is the surface where the fungus chewed down to. At this point you should stop to minimize weeping of bleeding.
Apply antibacterial ointments to the shell.
Again, treat with Scarlet oil, you might not be able to treat the complete depth of the infection in one sitting.
Handling & Temperament:
Contrary to what many sellers tell customers, tortoises generally should not be handled with any regularity. What I am talking about here is having a 4 year old fly them around the house. They are easily stressed when overhandled, and children tend to drop them when spooked. These stress factors can lead to a decline in a tortoise's activity levels and health. However, you can spend time with your tortoise if you don't constantly pick them up and walk them around. Leave your tortoise on the ground. You can train them to come to you by simply offering food. They can become quire friendly. I have some that will come right over and sit in your lap.
Be careful when touching or probing Adult animal's big tortoises can easily catch your fingers in-between their limbs and shell. When picking up a larger tortoise 12" to 20" be careful, people have a tendency to grab them from font to back. There are some nice built in spaces there for your fingers, well that is until the tortoise gets spooked and pulls in his limps. Even a tortoise of only 20 pounds can pack an overpowering vice-like grip causing a lot of pain.
Aldabra tortoise hatchlings measure approximately 2 1/2 inches in carapace length. Growth rates of Aldabras are approximately ¼" per month.
Hatchlings are 2 1/2", 30 to 40 days are about 3", at 6 months old they are four inches.
They can grow to over 44 inch straight shell length and weigh over 500 Lbs by 25 years old they can grow to 800 Lbs.
Many adult Aldabra tortoises break the 500-pound mark. However, most of the large Aldabras in our collection are between 280 to 300 pounds for females 400 to 500 pounds for males, and are still growing slowly. Aldabra tortoises grow rapidly for the first five years then decrees to about half the rate until about 10 years, and then their growth slows with age.
Because Aldabra tortoises haven't really been raised from birth for very long, it's still hard to determine what age a well-raised Aldabra born into captivity is capable of living to. Captive Bred Animals raised on high-fiber diet, in low-stress environments have longer life expectancies. Most indications are that Aldabra tortoises can live easily to 150 years and as long as 280 years examples.
Aldabra are social animals and do best when they have company. They can be seen interacting with each other, following each other around the yard.
I will also say, as hatchlings and young animals, I have found Aldabras skittish and shy at a young age however as they grow older they do become quite friendly to people. Of all tortoise I find Aldabras the most social animals by far of any other tortoise. I have 6 males and they get along fine and never fight. These animals sleep on each other, one's head resting on the others leg, many times I find two “head to head" with one of their heads in the others shell resting their own head on the others legs. They walk up to each other and smell and seem to great each other. They sleep in groups and follow each other around, they are truly amazing.
They are sensitive and inquisitive animals. They are extremely smart and will watch you
So be leery not to show them things you don’t want them to see.
I have a side gate in my yard, I never opened, not until some years back, one was watching me, it didn’t take him long to go back and figure out a way through that gate,
Aldabra Tortoises hatch after 100 to 105 days in the nest they hatch out at approximately two and three-quarter inches and weigh approximately 60 g
At six months old they are 4 inches and weigh about 250 g from that point they will grow about 1/2 an inch per month, they grow much slower in northern states but in Southern states, they grow faster.
After six months old they will start gaining approximately 10g a day
At one and a half years old they are typically 9 1/2 inches
At 2 1/2 years old they are 16 inches from this point, there is a noticeable difference between the sexes growth rate males growing faster than females.
At five-year-old, they are between 20 and 24 inches and weigh between 100 and 120 pounds
At 10 years old they range in size from 24 to 32 inches males being larger, At this point they are sub adults They typically weigh between 130 and 160 pounds.
Females hit sexual maturity and lay eggs between 18 and 20 years old typically they are between 30 and 32 inches. Females weigh typically between 160 and 230 pounds
Males typically hit sexual maturity between 24 and 26 years old at this age they are young adults approximately 40 to 44 inches straight shell length across the bottom and will weigh 500 pounds
Our mature Aldabras mate in the fall but males will jump the females almost any time of the year. There is some history of females laying eggs at about 18 years but I think you have to be closer to 20 years to get fertility.
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, 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
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.