How To Trim Your Tortoise’s Beak and Nails

We care for turtles and tortoises of all types, ages, and sizes at the Backwater Reptiles facility. While most of these shelled reptiles are pretty low maintenance, from time to time, they do require some additional care such as nail trimming or beak trimming.

Most of the time, trimmings won’t need to occur more than once or twice per year, and the process will be quick and easy to perform. However, because Backwater Reptiles accepts rescue animals, we do often receive turtles and tortoises who need to have this process taken care of right away.

In this article, we’ll address these topics and answer the following questions:

How to trim turtle and tortoise nails
Why is it necessary to trim turtle and tortoise nails?

How to trim a tortoise’s beak
Why is it necessary to trim a tortoise’s beak?

 

How to Trim Turtle and Tortoise Nails

What supplies do I need to trim my turtle or tortoise’s nails?

Luckily, you really don’t need many supplies to trim turtle or tortoise nails and the supplies are identical regardless of whether you’re using them on a turtle or a tortoise.

In order to trim your turtle or tortoise’s nails or claws, you will need:

1) Cat/Dog Nail trimmer OR human cuticle nail trimmer

2) Paper towels or other soft pliable material such as a normal towel

3) Corn starch

How do I trim my turtle or tortoise’s nails?

The first step you’ll want to take when trimming your turtle or tortoise’s nails is to secure the animal safely and eliminate squirming and discomfort to the animal as much as you can. This can be accomplished by wrapping the animal in paper towels or a soft towel. It will also help avoid slipping as it can be somewhat tricky to get a firm grip on the animal’s shell without some sort of “blanket” to hold the animal in place.

If you are trimming the front nails, wrap the back half of the animal firmly but not too hard. You don’t want to squash or harm the animal, and wrapping it up half way will help to make sure you don’t unintentionally over-restrain it.

Some owners find it useful to place the turtle or tortoise between their thighs while trimming, while others keep the animal on a counter or other hard, torso-height surface. We have used both methods and we recommend doing whatever feels safest for you as the whole process will run smoother if you are confident in your abilities.

turtle nail trimming
Sometimes turtle claws require trimming. This photo shows what the turtle’s nails looked like before being trimmed using the methods described in this article and what they looked like once the process was completed.

Once your turtle or tortoise has been securely wrapped, you’ll need your clippers. There are many types on the market and the type of clipper you will use will vary based on the size of your animal and the thickness of the animal’s nails or claws. We don’t usually use the guillotine type of clippers as we find they provide less accuracy, particularly with terrestrial turtles and tortoises. Our clipper of choice tends to be either the manicure clippers used by people or the scissor type used on cats and dogs. When it comes to your own pet’s needs, we recommend using whatever feels most comfortable for you personally that will also get the job done quickly. The speedier you are able to perform the process, the less stress you will cause the animal.

Once you’ve determined which type of nail clipper works best for you and your animal, you will simply trim the nail as close to the quick as possible without actually hitting the quick itself. The quick of the nail is the portion that still receives blood flow. It’s essentially a blood vessel within the nail or claw.

The corn starch is really just a precautionary measure. You will only require it if you accidentally trim the nails or claws too close to the quick and cause bleeding. If this occurs, simply dab the tip of the claw in enough corn starch to staunch the bleeding. And while you’ll obviously want to avoid hitting the quick if possible, this is not always realistic as reptiles are not known for their ability to sit still during procedures such as nail trimming. But not to worry – your animal will recover quickly and so long as you keep an eye on the nail itself to avoid infection, there shouldn’t be any lasting damage.

Keep in mind that turtles and tortoises in particular, can be shy animals. They will likely do everything in their power to tuck in their feet as much as possible when you try to trim their nails. Please be patient with your pet and don’t attempt to trim their nails if you don’t feel you are capable and prepared for this measure. There are plenty of veterinarians who will perform this process for a small fee and we highly recommend taking your turtle or tortoise to the vet if you are nervous about doing the procedure on your own.

A word of caution: Sometimes the process of nail trimming can bring out attitude in even the calmest of animals. If at all possible, keep your fingers away from the beak of your turtle or tortoise so that you can avoid potential bites. You also want to avoid being scratched by the long nails, which is another reason why we do recommend wrapping the animal in a towel if possible.

Some helpful tips and tricks for getting your turtle or tortoise to stick out a leg:

1) Tickle the animal’s shell. This is particularly useful underneath the shell on the plastron. Sometimes the sensation of touch elsewhere on the animal’s body will bring it out of hiding.

2) Push in gently on the leg on the other side of the retracted limb. There is only so much room inside a shell and a natural response to the crowding will be to relieve it by pushing out a limb.

3) Hold the animal in the air rather than cradling it in your lap. Because the animal will sense that there is nothing underneath it, it might try to walk or start wiggling a little bit and there’s your opportunity!

4) Please be patient with your shelled friends. Never shake or jiggle your turtle or tortoise as this is not only stressful but could cause the animal injury. Eventually, your turtle or tortoise will get tired and you will be able to get at their toes without much struggle.

For your convenience and reference, we’ve included a brief video below demonstrating how we trim nails at the Backwater Reptiles facility.

Why is it necessary to trim my turtle or tortoise’s nails or claws?

While it is true that several species of turtle (cooters, sliders, and three-toed box turtles to name a few) naturally have longer front nails as a sign of prowess or physical fitness, in captivity, these long nails can become a health hazard if they grow too much.

Aquatic turtles can accidentally get their claws caught in filters or in carpet if you remove them from the tank for some exercise. The nails can also unintentionally injure other turtles as they do tend to climb all over one another if they are kept communally. Not to mention, if you enjoy handling your turtle, shorter, clipped nails are far less likely to inflict scratches on their owner.

In the wild, turtles and tortoises walk or exercise enough that their nails will naturally wear themselves down to a manageable length. However, in smaller enclosures, the nails can continue to grow and therefore will require trimming.

How To Trim a Tortoise’s Beak

What supplies will I need to trim my tortoise’s beak?

Trimming a tortoise’s beak is a bit tougher than trimming a turtle or tortoise’s nails, although the supplies needed are virtually the same.

1) A pair or clippers. Human cuticle clippers or pet scissor nail clippers will both work.

2) Paper towels or another type of soft towel or wrap.

3) A nail file. Do not use the metal or glass kind.

And that’s pretty much it! Not much is needed, but you will definitely want to make sure that the pair of clippers you select is an appropriate type. They need to be small enough but still strong enough to cut through the beak quickly.

tortoise beak trimming
This rescue tortoise was in desperate need of a beak trim. We used the methods described in this article to carefully trim his beak to a normal and manageable length.

How do I trim my tortoise’s beak?

First of all, we’d like to mention that you can help minimize the amount of beak trimming you actually have to do by providing a cuttlebone within your tortoise’s enclosure. Like many bird species, tortoises can use a cuttlebone to chew or nibble on to keep their beak at bay.

However, if you do find that you need to trim your pet’s beak, the first step is to secure the animal using the paper towels or other wrap. If possible, you’ll want to make sure that you can keep the legs inside the wrap so the tortoise doesn’t push the clippers away or use them to shield its face.

Next, you’ll want to be very patient in order to gain access to the tortoise’s face. Odds are your tortoise will be shy and it will retreat into its shell. If you are careful and very delicate, you might be able to trim the beak while the tortoise’s head is inside the shell, but it’s much easier if you can gain access while the tortoise has its head outside the shell.

Sometimes, it’s helpful to grip the tortoise’s head gently but firmly for a few brief moments while another person utilizes the clippers to trim the beak. However, we’ve found that for most tortoises, this can actually stress the animal more. Ultimately, you know your animal best and you should use whatever methods work best for you and your pet while minimizing stress.

With most clippers, we’d recommend performing a series of clips. You likely won’t be able to clip the entire beak in one shot. Try angling the clippers at 45 degrees on both sides at first to create a “point” at the beak’s tip. Then you can carefully trim the tip of the point and get it semi-squared off. You’ll want to mimic the natural shape of the tortoise’s beak as much as possible.

Once you have managed to trim the beak down to a normal length, you might need to file it a bit in order to shave down any rough edges. This is where your nail file or emery board comes in handy.

When filing, we highly recommend avoiding files with sharp points or very stiff natures as they can unintentionally injure the tortoise if it happens to jerk or squirm during the process. A simple, flat, emery board works best for this procedure.

Below you will find a video demonstrating how we trim tortoise beaks at the Backwater Reptiles facility.

Why is it necessary to trim my tortoise’s beak?

In the wild, tortoises have to work a lot more to find their food as well as to consume their food. This means that their beaks actually endure more wear and tear and essentially, trim themselves.

In captivity, your tortoise has no need to forage or roam or even really chew its food because most owners do all of that for them. While this is standard pet owner behavior, it does mean that your tortoise could eventually require a beak trim, especially if it doesn’t have a cuttlebone to rub on.

If you allow your tortoise’s beak to become overgrown, it can actually inhibit the animal’s ability to eat. The beak can prohibit the tortoise from opening its jaw wide enough to fit anything its mouth.

Another serious issue that we’ve witnessed in some of our rescue tortoises is scale rub. If the beak becomes too overgrown, it can begin to rub against the scales on the tortoise’s front legs causing irritation and infection.

Conclusion

Turtles and tortoises are very popular pet reptiles and they require relatively minimal care. However, from time to time, it might become necessary to trim either their beaks, their nails or both.

We hope that this article has helped instruct you how to go about these processes. And please – if you’re not comfortable performing these procedures or you think that you might injure the animal by performing them, take the reptile to a vet. Don’t risk your pet’s health.

Aldabra Tortoise Care (Geochelone gigantea)

If you’re reading this, you want to know all about Aldabra tortoise care (Geochelone gigantea), and rest assured, you’ve come to the right place! These tortoises are very intelligent, responsive, and interactive pet reptiles. Many people are attracted to the larger species of tortoise because they can let them roam their yard much like a dog. Many are even trained to come when you call them!

No matter what your reason for keeping an Aldabra tortoise, clearly you’ll need to know how to care for such a long-lived animal. In this blog article, we’ll set out to detail how to best care for an Aldabra and hopefully prepare you for a tortoise of your own.

Aldabra Tortoise Care Explained

Aldabra Tortoise Description

Did you know that the Aldabra tortoise is the second largest species of tortoise in the world? The only other tortoise that grows larger is the Galapagos tortoise. On average, a mature adult Aldabra can weigh around 500 pounds, although the Aldabra at the Fort Worth Zoo weighs in at around 800 pounds!

Aldabras are very long-lived. Some have been reported to live 200 years and there is currently one in captivity that is 170 years old. So be prepared to pass your Aldabra down to your children and possibly even grand children!

aldabra tortoise care
Aldabra tortoises grow very large and for proper care will need a large amount of space in which to roam around. We highly recommend setting up a backyard enclosure if you plan to keep one as a pet. Pictured is one of our 5-inch beauties.

Aldabra tortoises get their name from the location from which they hail – the Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles islands in the Indian ocean. They can be found in a variety of habitats ranging from mangrove swamps to coastal dunes.

Overall, Aldabras are quite remarkable as far as physical appearance is concerned. They have domed carapaces with super long necks and pointed heads. They range in color from dark grey to black and sometimes even dark brown.

Creating an Aldabra Tortoise Enclosure

Like many of the larger tortoise species, the best way to keep an Aldabra is outdoors if possible. Tortoises older than two years old do best with a large space to roam, backyard vegetation to nibble on, and natural sunlight and weather conditions to absorb.

If your backyard doesn’t have a fence, you can create boundaries for your tortoise using cinder blocks or even wooden planks. Your wall should be just over two feet tall and contain as much square footage as you are able to provide.

Using see-through fencing is risky because a tortoise will almost always try to get somewhere it can see. Aldabras aren’t big on digging, like the Sulcata tortoises, so that’s not too much of a risk. We recommend solid wood or cinder block walls.

Your Aldabra will also require a little tortoise home or hide to escape from cold or too hot weather. You will also need to provide a heat source if you live somewhere where the weather drops below seventy five degrees Fahrenheit.

Large heating pads will suffice–we use pig blankets, which automatically heat 20-degrees (F) warmer than the surrounding temperatures, unless it’s already warm out, in which case they don’t activate. You can also simply bring your tortoise indoors during bad weather.

Keep in mind, cooler temperatures generally aren’t overly dangerous to tortoises, it’s cold and wet that’s dangerous. If your nighttime temperatures are dipping below 60F, we recommend bringing your tortoise into a warmer area such as a garage for the evening, unless you’ve got a tortoise house with a heat pad already set up.

If temperatures go below 50F, regardless if you have a tortoise house and heating pad, just take the tortoise indoors.

aldabra tortoise
Pictured is a young Aldabra tortoise, but they can live up to 200 years and weigh up to 500 pounds! Make sure you are prepared for such a long-term pet before purchasing.

It’s not necessary, but if you can provide a mudhole for your Aldabra, that is ideal. Surprisingly, Aldabras enjoy wallowing and soaking in a mudhole if one is provided.

Feeding Your Aldabra Tortoise

Many people enjoy keeping pet tortoises because they are vegetarians, which means no insects or mice to feed them.

Aldabra tortoises nibble as they roam on everything from backyard grasses and weeds, but they will also thoroughly enjoy prepared foods. Leafy greens high in nutrition such as collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, and spinach are all excellent options.

Some fruit is also a treat for them, but avoid acidic fruits as they can harm intestinal biotic balance. They are particularly fond of melons. Hay is a great food for them as well. Remember, they are grazers and aren’t used to highly nutritious foods. Mazuri tortoise pellets are also great for supplemental feeding.

Fun fact: If your Aldabra tortoise knows you have food or a treat ready for it, it will come running to greet you. Be prepared – Aldabras are not slow movers, despite what you might believe!

aldabra tortoise
Aldabra tortoises are vegetarians that will eat as they roam your yard. However, they always enjoy it when you prepare them meals of leafy greens mixed with the occasional fruit treat.

Conclusion – Aldabra tortoise care

Aldabra tortoises are known for their large size and unique personalities. They are fascinating and rewarding animals to keep as pets. They make excellent backyard companions who will absolutely learn to recognize you.

If you are up to the task of caring for such a long-term pet that you can literally pass down to your grand children, then an Aldabra tortoise just might be the reptile for you!

What’s the Difference Between Turtles & Tortoises?

Have you ever wondered, “What’s the difference between turtles and tortoises?” If so, you’re not alone. Many people confuse turtles and tortoises because these two types of reptiles are very similar in overall physical appearance.

However, when it comes down to it, turtles and tortoises are very different animals and have very different care requirements when kept as pets.

In this article, we’ll delve into the similarities and differences between turtles and tortoises. In our opinion, both make excellent pets, but you’ll want to know if a turtle or tortoise is better suited to your needs before you adopt one.

turtles vs tortoises
This hatchling common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) is a turtle species that spends nearly all of its time in the water.

What’s the Difference Between Turtles and Tortoises?

Physical Traits

Upon first glance, turtles and tortoises appear very much the same, mainly because they both have hard shells that allow their body to retreat inside of it. However, when you examine both reptiles closer, you’ll see that their physical characteristics are actually slightly different to reflect their different life styles.

The shells of tortoises tend to be dome-shaped and weigh a fair amount. The shape helps to ward off potential predators. On the other hand, turtle shells are usually flat, smooth, and overall fairly light-weight in proportion to the animal. This is to keep the animal stream-lined for an aquatic or semi-aquatic life style.

A tortoise’s legs are chunky, sturdy and stay bent at the “knee” area to promote walking on land. Conversely, turtles’ legs tend to come straight out from underneath their bodies to support swimming and a more aquatic life style.

peninsula cooter turtle
This Peninsula Cooter (Pseudemys peninsularis) turtle has a flat shell, webbed feet, and claws which suit it to an aquatic life style.

Turtles also have claws or toe nails on their webbed feet, which tortoises tend to lack. And if a tortoise does have toe nails, the nails themselves are worn down and not sharp due to the fact that they spend a lot of time walking on dry land. Some turtles have even adapted to have flippers instead of feet. This is generally only true if the turtle species in question is truly aquatic (i.e. a sea turtle).

Habitat

We’ve already hinted at what is probably the biggest different between turtles and tortoises – their habitats. Turtles tend to live fully aquatic or semi-aquatic lives, whereas tortoises live on land.

While there are some turtles that prefer life on land such as box turtles and there are also some turtles that live in the water nearly 100 percent of the time, such as sea turtles, most turtles will split their time between both land and water.

sri lankan star tortoise hatchling
This Sri Lankan Star Tortoise hatchling (Geochelone elegans) has a dome-shaped shell to protect it from predators on land.

When you create a turtle habitat in captivity, you need to do your research and make sure that you are setting up the proper habitat to support your turtle’s life style. Some need a dry home with a water dish, whereas others will need a tank filled with water with a platform to emerge from the water to bask. It really does depend entirely on the species you choose to keep as a pet.

Turtles vs. Tortoises: Diet and Food

Most tortoises are vegetarian herbivores, but turtles can be carnivores or omnivores. Just like with habitat requirements, dietary requirements vary from turtle species to turtle species because they consume a wide variety of food.

Pet tortoises need to have leafy greens and veggies as their main diet. We give ours kale, collard greens, spinach, and root veggies like carrots. Occasional fruit can be given as treats too. And we should mention that commercial tortoise pellets are also a great option if you worry about your tortoise receiving a fully balanced diet.

adult ornate box turtle
This is an adult Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata). Although it is a turtle, it is a species that is primarily terrestrial.

Feeding a pet turtle is actually really easy. Aquatic turtles tend to like turtle pellets. We supplement pellets with crickets, roaches, and meal worms too. And it’s wise to leave some vegetable matter in the enclosure too so that your turtle has access to it if it chooses.

Reproduction

Both turtles and tortoises lay eggs. Both species dig a hole, lay their eggs, and then cover the eggs. The eggs will incubate for a time and then the hatchlings will dig their way out of the dirt or sand.

The main difference between turtle and tortoise reproduction is in incubation times, which vary from species to species, and in upbringing methods. Turtle hatchlings are essentially on their own from the time they emerge from the egg. Tortoise hatchlings, on the other hand, have some degree of protection from their mother. Some tortoise species will guard their nest, while others simply stick around and babysit the hatchlings for some time.

Conclusion

Ultimately, turtles and tortoises are very similar in build and physical appearance and we would recommend either reptile to anyone interested in a  relatively low maintenance pet.

If you are debating between a pet tortoise or a pet turtle, we recommend going with a tortoise if you want a land-dwelling animal and a turtle if you want to provide an aquatic habitat.

Creating an Outdoor Sulcata Tortoise Pen

If you’re looking at creating an outdoor Sulcata tortoise pen, you’ve come the the right place! We have years of experience with these magnificent creatures and have experienced tremendous success keeping them in captivity.

Sulcata tortoises (Geochelone sulcata), aka African Spurred Tortoises, are excellent pets for many reasons. They live incredibly long lives, are very easy to care for, eat a plant-based diet, and enjoy human interaction.

Many people start out with a hatchling sulcata tortoise, but eventually that baby tortoise will mature into a large animal that can weigh anywhere from fifty to 200 pounds! When caring for a reptile that large, it’s important to make sure that it has a space big enough to call home, and for most people, this means keeping the tortoise outdoors in their backyard.

Luckily, sulcatas thrive in outdoor environments, provided that the temperatures don’t fluctuate too high or too low. In fact, if you visit almost any zoo, you’ll see that the sulcata tortoise exhibit houses the animals outdoors in the open because that’s just the best habitat for these docile reptiles.

building a sulcata tortoise pen
Adult sulcata tortoises thrive in outdoor environments.

How to know if your sulcata is ready to live outside

We feel we should specify that not all sulcatas can or should be kept outdoors. Babies need to be kept inside in an area safe from predators like birds, dogs, and cats. It’s also wise to keep young tortoises indoors because they are more sensitive to temperature fluctuations and illnesses. Plus an indoor tortoise’s diet can be very closely monitored so you can be sure that your growing hatchling is receiving the proper nutrients and consuming the proper amount of food.

If your tortoise meets these requirements, then it is more than likely safe to move it outdoors:
-Its shell should be at least a foot long, six to eight inches wide, and four to six inches tall.
-Your tortoise is too large for a 100 gallon tank.
-Your tortoise eats and defecates regularly and burrows normally.
-Your tortoise seems healthy and has no abnormal behaviors that would indicate issues with its well-being.

Building your sulcata’s enclosure

So, you have determined that your sulcata is suited for outdoor living. But keeping a tortoise outdoors is not as simple as releasing it in your backyard. What should you do next?

adult sulcata tortoise
Sulcatas are grazers and will gladly eat the natural vegetation in your yard, so make sure all the plants are edible.

First of all, you’ll need to set up a designated area and make sure that your enclosure is safe. Depending on the size of your backyard and the size of your tortoise, you might need to put up fencing to make sure the tortoise can’t wander too far away.

We highly recommend setting up a pen within your backyard, even if your yard happens to already be fenced in. This is helpful because as your tortoise grows, you can expand its pen to accommodate its need for more space. Once your tortoise is very large, you can allow it to freely roam your backyard.

Just like any reptile habitat, an outdoor pen will need to include the things your tortoise needs to stay healthy. This includes a water dish or soaking facility, plenty of vegetation to graze on (both naturally occurring in your backyard and prepared meals), and any hide spaces and/or decorations you wish to include. Just keep in mind when adding objects to a sulcata enclosure that these tortoises can actually climb. Therefore, you want to avoid incorporating items that are tall enough to allow the tortoise to escape its pen by climbing on them. Tortoises can also fall off these tall items and land on their backs, which is very dangerous if you are not around to put the animal right side up.

If you plan on keeping your sulcata outdoors year round (which we only recommend if you happen to live in a climate with temperatures that don’t drop below the high 60s),  it will be necessary to provide a safe place for the tortoise to retire to if the weather gets too cold, rainy, or hot. Many sulcata owners build custom huts or houses with heat lights on timers so that the tortoise can always find a warm space to hide out if need be.

Geochelone sulcata
Sulcatas are burrowers, so be sure to have a brick, cement, or wood foundation below your fence to prevent them from digging out of their enclosure.

It’s also very important to be aware that sulcatas are burrowers. This means your fence must be tall and extend under the ground as well. Many sulcata owners will lay a foundation of cement bricks or wooden barriers under their fence to prevent the tortoise from burrowing out of the intended border of the enclosure.

Because sulcata tortoises are grazers by nature, be aware that an outdoor tortoise can and probably will eat any plants it can find in its area. We highly recommend checking that the plants in your yard are acceptable fare for a tortoise as you don’t want your tortoise to accidentally ingest anything toxic.

Conclusion – Sulcata tortoise pens

Outdoor sulcata tortoises can be great pets. They’re extremely docile animals that enjoy human interaction, so backyard life is perfect for them.

If you are ready to raise your own sulcata tortoise, Backwater Reptiles has them for sale, and we’re always here to offer advice if you’re building an outdoor pen for your’s.

 

Best Pet Vegetarian Reptiles

If you like reptiles but get squeamish feeding your pet anything living such as crickets, mice, or worms, why not choose a pet reptile that is herbivorous?

Backwater Reptiles sells many herbivores, but this blog article will list our top three favorites that we think make the best overall pets.

Green Iguana (Iguana iguana)

Possibly the most well-known lizard on this list, the green iguana is an ideal vegetarian pet, so long as you are committed to caring for an animal that will grow quite large. In fact, a mature green iguana can reach up to seven feet long and can weigh around twenty pounds! They grow into quite hefty lizards.

herbivorous pet reptiles
This is a hatchling green iguana. With proper husbandry, it can grow to be between six and seven feet long!

Many people are attracted to green iguanas because of their prehistoric appearance. The spines along their backs and tail coupled with their large throat dewlaps make them resemble dinosaurs.

Young green iguanas and adult green iguanas will have essentially the same diet of fresh veggies and fruit, however the young iguanas will need vitamin supplements more frequently and will need to be fed more often.

Green iguanas should have a diet rich in green, leafy veggies and fruit can be supplemented as well. We don’t recommend a diet that consists of more than ten percent fruit as this can give your iguana diarrhea. Offering fruit once per week is usually just about the proper amount.

Vegetables that are healthy and nutritious for a green iguana include kale, collard greens, spinach, green beans, dandelions, and squash. However, this list is by no means all inclusive.

There are also many pre-prepared iguana foods and supplements that can be purchased from breeders or pet stores. As with any reptile, the key to health is a varied diet. No one, including our pet reptiles, enjoys eating the same food every day.

Backwater Reptiles sells green iguanas of various sizes.

Blue Tongue Skink (Tiliqua sp.)

It’s not necessarily 100 percent accurate to label blue tongue skinks as vegetarians or herbivores because they do actually need meat protein in their diet. However, because this need can be met by purchasing human meat products from the store and feeding your blue tongue skink live invertebrates is not necessary, we have included it on our list.

Blue tongue skinks are known by reptile enthusiasts as “blueys” due to their thick, flat, blue tongues. They are also visually appealing as pets because they are stocky with very small limbs. They resemble lizard sausages and we find this to be a very endearing trait.

hatchling blue tongue skinks
Blueys do require some meat protein in their diet, but the majority of the food they consume should be vegetable matter.

At Backwater Reptiles, we feed our blue tongue skinks vegetables chopped into pieces small enough to comfortably fit inside the bluey’s mouth. Obviously, this size will vary from animal to animal, but just use your best judgment when cutting up leafy greens and other crisper veggies.

You can also give your bluey fruit and meat in moderation, but moderation is the key word. Like green iguanas, blue tongue skinks will get upset tummies if they eat too much fruit. Too much protein will also cause renal failure, so give canned meats and boiled meats occasionally.

If you are ready to invest in a pet blue tongue skink of your own, Backwater Reptiles has got you covered!

Sulcata Tortoise (Geochelone sulcata)

Sulcatas are very long-lived and friendly animals. They make excellent backyard pets and great classroom pets too when they are small enough to live in an indoor enclosure. Many people enjoy purchasing a hatchling and watching it mature into a tortoise that can eventually weigh approximately a hundred pounds.

Because their staple food is grasses and leaves in the wild, it is acceptable to allow your sulcata to graze on the vegetation that grows naturally in your backyard, so long as you are sure you don’t propogate poisonous plants in your yard.

hatchling sulcata tortoise
Hatchling sulcatas can fit in the palm of your hand, but they grow into behemoths over time.

Indoor sulcatas enjoy eating and will usually eagerly consume whatever vegetation you throw their way. We feed ours spring salad mixes purchased from the grocery store. These pre-mixed packages tend to have a good variety of leafy greens that sulcatas enjoy.

Many people have found that sulcata tortoises thoroughly enjoy munching on cactus pads. Commercially made tortoise chow also works well to supplement their diet, although we don’t recommend sticking strictly to the pre-made food as freshly prepared meals are always better for your reptile’s health.

Captive bred sulcata tortoise hatchlings are available from Backwater Reptiles.

Conclusion – Vegetarian Reptiles

Many people don’t realize that not all reptiles eat bugs and other traditionally “yucky” food items. We hope our list has helped you see that vegetarian pet reptiles are certainly an option and make equally rewarding companion animals as their carnivorous friends.

The Best Pet Tortoises

Have you ever wondered which species of tortoise makes the best pet? Tortoises are big sellers here at Backwater Reptiles. They make excellent starter pet reptiles and many people like to get them for their children. They’re also fun for lots of people because they can live outside, are easy to feed, and have very long life spans.

This blog entry is going to focus on our top three most popular pet tortoises. We’ll discuss what makes each tortoise different from the others and provide care information so that potential new tortoise parents can make educated and informed decisions about which type of tortoise would be best for their household.

best pet tortoises
A group of young pet tortoises housed communally. They’re chowing down in a little “feeding circle.”

Sulcata Tortoise (Geochelone sulcata)

Number three on our list of the best pet tortoises is the Sulcata (aka the African Spurred Tortoise, the Spurred Tortoise, and the African Spur Thigh Tortoise), which is probably the tortoise species that is bred the most in the U.S. and thus the most readily available as far as captive bred hatchlings are concerned. This means that not only are they generally affordably priced, but also some of the healthiest due to the refined techniques of captive breeding. It is against the law to import Sulcatas into the U.S., so you know that every one available within the country is captive bred.

sulcata tortoise pet
Here’s one of our captive bred hatchling Sulcata tortoises–one of the best pet tortoises in the world.

Like most tortoise species, Sulcatas can live outdoors. They get along with one another provided multiple adult males don’t occupy the same habitat (bullying can ensue if multiple males are kept together). Keep in mind that Sulcatas can and will burrow, so make sure that your yard has a fenced perimeter both above ground and below ground if you want make sure your tortoise doesn’t go for a leisurely stroll outside your yard. If you plan to utilize the outdoor tortoise enclosure method, it’s also best if you live in a climate that doesn’t experience harsh temperature extremes.

baby pet tortoise

It’s estimated that Sulcatas live in the range of about seventy years. Hatchlings start off about one and half to two inches long and will grow into adults that weigh anywhere from seventy to 200 pounds (males).

adult sulcata tortoise

Sulcatas are grazers and will eat grasses around your backyard. However, you should also be feeding them leafy green veggies and “salads” – the store bought grocery mixed greens that include kale, spinach, collards, etc. are great. Pre-made tortoise food is also a good supplement. No matter what, variety in the Sulcata’s diet is definitely a must.

Backwater Reptiles currently has captive bred Sulcata tortoise babies for sale.

Leopard Tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis)

Number two on our list of the best pet tortoises is the Leopard Tortoise. This is the second largest African tortoise – only the African Spurred/Sulcata is larger. Adults measure anywhere from ten to eighteen inches in length, whereas hatchlings range from one and half to two inches long – just the perfect size to fit in the palm of your hand.

leopard tortoise
Leopard tortoise hatchlings (and a baby Star Tortoise too) at feeding time.

Outdoor housing is the preferred way to keep a Leopard Tortoise and these tortoises are not aggressive so males and females will coexist peacefully in a backyard where temperatures don’t get too hot or cold. These tortoises are not escape artists like their cousins the Sulcatas, however they still need a fence to keep them from roaming beyond the walls of your backyard.

baby stigmochelys pardalis
Leopard tortoises can make exceptional pet tortoises. They generally thrive in captivity and grow to a reasonable size.

Leopard tortoises have similar diets to other tortoise species with leafy green veggies high in calcium being their staple food. You can also supplement their diets with fruit, but in moderation. Leopard tortoises are grazers like most tortoises and will therefore “mow your lawn” and consume grasses around their enclosure as well.

In addition to hide spaces, dirt for laying eggs, and basking areas, Leopard tortoises will require some type of standing water. They drink readily from water dishes so you might need to provide several depending on the size of their enclosure/yard. Always make sure their water is clean and fresh.

Hatchling leopard tortoise

At the moment, we offer captive bred hatchling Leopard tortoises for sale.

Russian Tortoise (Testudo horsfieldii)

The number one best pet tortoise is, in our opinion, the Russian tortoise. Of the three species detailed in this blog, Russians are the smallest and toughest. When they hatch, they measure about an inch long and grow to be around eight to ten inches at most, making them very manageable.

These little tortoises will live around 40-50 years provided they have a good diet and stress free environment.

russian tortoise

Russian tortoises are also best housed outdoors when possible and are notorious diggers. Fencing above and below ground is required to keep them from burrowing out of their enclosure and placing rocks in each corner of their home is also recommended to discourage escape digging.

A mild climate also helps with the digging issue as these tortoises will burrow when the weather is either too hot or too cold to shield themselves from the elements. In fact, Russian tortoises are used to living in a climate with temperatures that dip far below freezing (they dig burrows and stay underground during cold stretches).

Russian Tortoise - Testudo horsfieldii

If you are planning to keep your Russian tortoise outdoors, be sure all plants in the environment are non-toxic to tortoises as these guys prefer leaves and vegetation to grasses. Like the other tortoises in this blog, Russians will eat leafy green salad mixes from grocery stores and commercial tortoise food. Just make sure they have variety in their diet and they should readily eat most vegetation you provide.

At the moment, Backwater Reptiles has medium-sized Russian tortoises for sale. These animals are approximately four to five inches long.

Baby Reptiles and Amphibians

This week it’s been all about the little things…or rather, the little critters! Right now we’ve got an abundance of baby and juvenile reptiles for sale at Backwater Reptiles. Check some of them out below!

We’ve currently got baby Sulcata tortoises for sale. These gentle tortoises are very hardy and make great outdoor reptiles if you live in the proper climate-zone. Check out our Sulcata Tortoise species profile published earlier this week for more information on how to care for Sulcatas and what to expect if you adopt one.

Backwater also had a baby Panther chameleon born this week. The little guy is currently smaller than a penny, although we’re sure he or she will grow quickly.

baby reptile (lizard)
Here’s a baby Panther chameleon we hatched at our facility.
baby chameleon lizard
This shows just how small baby Panther chameleons are upon hatching. We held up a penny for scale.

We’re currently running a special sale on Eastern Box Turtle hatchlings. These captive bred turtles are also currently small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but they grow quickly when fed properly and will reach up to five or six inches in length. They can grow to recognize their owners’ voices, so get yours when it’s young and teach it good habits from the get-go.

baby turtle
Here’s one of our captive hatched baby Box turtles.

Baby Newts

Get your final dose of teeny tiny cuteness from our baby Fire Bellied Newts for sale. These tiny amphibians are currently about the size of a quarter but will grow to  be four to six inches in length. They are popular because they are nearly black on top, but their under carriages are a brilliant reddish-orange color, making for a surprisingly colorful critter.

baby newts (amphibians)
Who doesn’t love a baby Fire-bellied newt?

Sulcata Tortoise Care (Geochelone sulcata)

Would you like more information on Sulcata tortoise care in captivity? Sulcata tortoises (Geochelone sulcata) hail from Africa and have also been called African Spurred, African Spur Thigh, or just plain old Spurred Tortoises. They’re pretty common nowadays in the U.S. due to being bred successfully coupled with their ability to adapt easily to being kept in captivity.

Sulcata tortoise care sheet
Below we’ll explain how we care for these wonderful tortoises.

Sulcatas are the third largest tortoise species and it’s not uncommon for them to grow to 100 pounds or more. They grow rapidly for the first five to ten years of their life, but their growth rate slows with age.

Sulcata Tortoises as Pets

These particular tortoises are appealing pets to many people who live in warmer climates because the animals can be kept outside in the backyard instead of in a bulky cage or terrarium. They are perfectly happy outdoors so long as they are provided with hide boxes from the sun and places to dig as they are burrowers.

At Backwater Reptiles, we have baby Sulcatas that still fit in the palm of your hand. It is generally acceptable to keep the young tortoises indoors in a box-like enclosure with the same requirements as adults, although it is not unheard of to allow the younglings to live outdoors with the adults.

baby sulcata tortoise care
Here’s a baby Sulcata tortoise in motion.

Sulcatas are grazers and will eat plant matter in the yard as well as vegetative matter prepared and served to them by their owners. Outdoor babies generally have a hard time eating natural vegetation, so it is recommended they be served prepared meals of leafy greens.

While you can handle your Sulcata tortoise, the young ones are more susceptible to stress, so it is best if they are allowed to meander and carry on in their own little tortoise-y ways undisturbed. Adults tend to be hardier and not as bothered by being handled.

If you’re looking for a Sulcata of your very own, Backwater Reptiles has got you covered! We’ve got baby Sulcata Tortoises for sale now!

Sulcata tortoise
Sulcata tortoise (Geochelone sulcata)