Egyptian Tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni) Care Sheet

Table of Content



The tortoises are kept indoors year round.

The first tortoise room was the bedroom at the rear of the house. The eight(3.5) original adult tortoises, acquired between June and September of 1994, were originally kept in a plywood box, 2 feet by 4 feet, lined with white linoleum. This pen housed 8(3.5) adults from October 1994 to March 1995. After the death of one female in March 1995, it housed 7 (3.4) adult Egyptians.

On March 16, 1997, these adults 7 (3.4) were moved to a 4 x 4 foot plywood box lined with plastic in the front bedroom, which then became the tortoise room.


Opaque or translucent plastic containers of various sizes are used as hideboxes to provide darkness and security for the tortoises.


Crushed oyster shells are used for the substrate for the adults. Crushed oyster shells are used as grit for poultry so they are usually available in feed and grain stores. They are also available in pet stores where they are sold for use in marine aquariums. They are usually much less expensive and available in larger size bags in feed and grain stores. Depth of substrate is about 2-3 inches, although shallower oyster shells are used very successfully by one other person.

I believe the oyster shell is useful for the following reasons: it contains calcium in the form of calcium carbonate; it is light in color, similar to sand in that respect; and it desiccates the feces, so keeps odor to a minimum and probably desiccates parasites such as worms, thus possibly minimizing their spread.

One concern I have had with using the oyster shell is that the tortoises would eat it and die of impaction. X-rays taken of the adult females show that they do ingest it, whether deliberately or accidentally. However, I have only lost one adult tortoise, a female, who died egg-bound. While she did have oyster shell in her intestinal tract, I do not believe that was what killed her. I have now used the oyster shell for over 5 years and have had no problem, that I know of, with it.

A box of sand and sometimes a box of dirt is also included in the pen for nesting purposes.

The babies are initially kept on waxed paper for a few days, until they finish absorbing their yolk-sac. After this they are kept on white paper towels in plastic boxes. After a month or so, when there is no sign of soft tissue present at the yolk-sak site, they are moved to oyster shells.


Lighting has consisted of a four foot fluorescent fixture containing one blacklight bulb(BL-40) and at various times: a cool white bulb, a Veriflux and presently a GE Chroma 50, as well as a 150 watt incandescent flood lamp. Presently it has a 100 watt soft white over the sand box and a 100 watt light over the dirt box.

Since the pen has 16 inch high walls with about 2-3 inches of substrate inside and since the fluorescent fixtures rested on the top edge of the pen, the distance from the fluorescent bulbs to the substrate is about 13-14 inches. It is about 6-7 inches from the incandescent bulb to the surface of the substrate. Lights are on for about 12 hours a day, but this has varied from 12 to 16 hours per day.

I have also used incandescents from 25-150 watt on different sized pens.


The adults and babies are fed daily although the adults occasionally are not fed every day. The diet consists primarily of greens: kale, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, dandelions, escarole, chickory and romaine lettuce. Occasionally green beans, wax beans, carrots, squash, tomatoes, and very rarely apples, are fed as well. Thawed frozen carrots, peas, corn, lima, green and waxed beans are occasionally fed also. All food is rinsed in warm water before it is fed to the tortoises. This presumably rinses off any pesticides, warms the food from refrigerator, allows the vitamins to adhere to the food surface, and provides some moisture to the tortoises.


Osteoform(Vet Kem) and Vitalife(Tetra Tetrafauna) are added once or twice a week to the food, by sprinkling on the food. This is done after the food has been rinsed, while it is still wet and then the vitamins adhere very well to the food.


The tortoises are soaked individually for about 15-20 minutes in warm water about once every 7-14 days. They also get water from their food since it is rinsed. Presumably they also obtain water metabolically from their food. Water is not kept in the pen with the tortoises, except when they are being soaked or when females are removed to nesting pens. Water is kept in the nesting pen with females who are ready to lay eggs.


When the females show signs of wanting to nest, they are sometimes removed from the group and placed in a plastic mortar mixing box ("the nesting pen") approximately 2 by 3 feet. This has a 60, 75 or 100 watt light focused on a container filled with sand and/or potting soil. Recently the sand has been mixed with peat moss in a mixture of about 1 part peat moss to 2 parts sand. The rest of the pen has oyster shell as a substrate. A water dish is kept in nesting pen. The sand is occasionally wet by either spraying it with a spray bottle used to spray plants or by pouring water from a jar onto the sand.

Tortoises will oftentimes nest in the 4x4 pen, either in the sand or the oyster shell. I even found one hatchling in the pen, which hatched from an egg that had been laid in the oyster shell

The tortoises have eggs laid in every month. All five of the original females have nested and produced young. I have a second group of adult Egyptians(2.8), acquired in November of 1995. Four of these females have produced eggs (one by oxytocin induction, soon after acquiring her) to date.


From 1995 to March 1998, when the galvanized incubator was replaced, the eggs were incubated using a galvanized Brower dry egg incubator model # 11670-3, catalogue number 860 (Brower Manufacturing Company, Quincy, Illinois). The incubation temperature was kept at 86 degrees Fahrenheit with a plus or minus 2 degree Fahrenheit range, although for the first 3 months (January to March 1995) the temperature occasionally increased to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, then the thermostat was reset lower. The temperatures were measured by a metal thermometer with two degree Fahrenheit increments, so the fluctuation to 90 degrees Fahrenheit may only have been to 89 degrees Fahrenheit. The eggs were incubated on dry sand with no water added to the sand or sprayed on the eggs until they began hatching. There was a glass pie plate in the incubator, which contained water. The pie plate had two sponges in it to aid in the evaporation of the water from the pie plate to the air in the incubator. Incubation periods were between 76 and 101 days.

Beginning in November of 1997 eggs have also been incubated in three Little Giant Still Air Incubators Model # 9200, and after March of 1998 these were the only incubators used. One incubator is set at 86 degrees Fahrenheit and another is set at 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The third incubator was set at 80 degrees, and was used for a couple of clutches. It is being reset to 82 degrees, while it is empty. These temperatures are measured using the small glass thermometers which came with the incubators.

To date 68 baby Egyptian tortoises have hatched out of the 121 eggs laid over the last 5 years. Sixty-seven hatched in incubators. One hatchling was found in the 4x4 pen. An empty egg shell was found in the oyster shell in the 4x4 pen. I had had no idea that any eggs had been laid in the oyster shell at that time.

Five of these 68 baby tortoises did not survive. Others may also have died after they left my care. Two of the 121 eggs were induced by a shot of Calcium Gluconate followed by a shot of oxytocin given by a local veterinarian, Dr. Peter Steelman.

The oldest baby was 4 years old in March of 1999. She laid her first clutch of 2 eggs on May 31, 1999 when she was 4 years and 73 days old. My first F-2 baby hatched from this clutch on August 30, 1999 after an incubation period of 91 days.

The growth rate of the babies is phenomenal. The oldest baby at 11 months was 75mm long and weighed 82.0 grams. It was greater than 80 percent the length of the smallest adults I have, which is a 90mm male