Keeping Indian Star Tortoises as Pets: A Guide

Indian star tortoise

The gorgeous star-patterned shells of Indian star tortoises make them clearly identifiable. They enjoy natural sunshine and life outdoors but may adapt to indoor living with proper heat, lighting, and humidity. They are timid and diminutive in comparison to other tortoises. Indian star tortoises are adapted to monsoon seasons and are endemic to desert areas in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. They are susceptible to sickness if their habitat is unsuitable. These tortoises are attractive to the eye, but they are difficult to manage as pets.

Species Overview

Common Names: Star tortoise, Indian Star Tortoise,

Scientific Name: Geochelone elegans

Adult Size: 7 to 12 inches long

Life Expectancy: Can live up to 80 years, though 30 to 55 years is more typical

Indian Star Tortoise Behavior and Temperament

Unlike some other tortoise species, star tortoises are not territorial. And, since they're small, you can house several of them together. They are not climbers.

Indian star tortoises do not like being handled. They can get stressed out and get ill if handled frequently, so these animals should not live in homes with small children.

Although these tortoises are timid and dislike being handled, they may become more comfortable with the occasional touching of an owner, especially if the person gives them food. They seldom bite, however if a brilliantly colored toenail or fingernail is mistaken for a flower petal, the tortoise may bite.

Although caring for this tortoise is not difficult, there are several elements that must be monitored and maintained on a regular basis. Preparing meals, replacing the water bowl, and spot cleaning the cage should take at least 45 minutes every day.

Housing the Indian Star Tortoise

Indian star tortoises, while being smaller than most other tortoises, require their own room. Indoors, they can be kept in a 55-gallon fish tank or a plastic container such as an under-the-bed box or storage container. In their enclosure, they don't require much height.

And, if you have other pets like cats or dogs, their cage will need to be completely enclosed, at least with a screen top, to protect them from other animals.

Outdoor enclosures should be 6 feet by 6 feet with no walls that your turtle can look through. Because star tortoises seldom dig, you won't have to worry about burying the walls in the ground like you could with other tortoises. If you leave your tortoise outside alone, make sure you have a sturdy covering to protect it from natural predators like birds, raccoons, and opossums.

It might be difficult to recreate their surroundings if you do not reside in a dry location comparable to their native home. To make matters more complicated, the tortoises are used to a wet season in their original habitat and will require humidity to grow.

Heat

All reptiles, as cold-blooded organisms, must control their body temperature. If your cage is outside, the temperature must be at least 90 degrees. Your tortoise need a basking place that is between 90 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature can dip to the 70s at night, but not below that. Shade places and a water dish for the tortoise to fully submerge (and climb out of) to regulate its temperature should also be included in the enclosure. Your pet's indoor cage will require the same amenities: a sunbathing area, a shaded hiding location, and a shallow container with clean, fresh water. Adding or removing heat sources such as light bulbs, ceramic heaters, and under tank heaters makes the interior enclosure easier to manage.

Light

These tortoises love to be outside and require UV radiation from the sun. Tortoises require UVB illumination if maintained inside. UVB aids in the processing of vitamin D3, which influences calcium absorption in tortoises. Metabolic bone disease can be caused by insufficient UV exposure.

A mercury vapor bulb, which combines UVB and heat light, is used by certain tortoise keepers. A ten percent fluorescent UVB lamp can also be used. For a 12-hour cycle, the UVB bulb should be on. Every six months, the bulb was replaced. The UV rays stop emitting by that time, even if the bulb hasn't burned out.

Humidity

Provide a wet hide box with up to 80% relative humidity and an adequate water dish with a graded slope so the tortoise may easily climb in and out. A moisture-retaining substrate, like as peat moss or dirt, can also assist to keep your pet's cage damp. Use a hygrometer or humidity gauge to correctly monitor humidity levels, and verify the readings daily.

Substrate

The cage should be lined with organic potting soil (chemical- and vermiculite-free), peat moss, coconut fiber, or even hay or grass for these tortoises. Although they are not known to be heavy diggers, females will excavate a shallow nest for their eggs in the substrate.

Food and Water

Herbivores, star tortoises are. Fresh, dark leafy greens and grasses are recommended. Timothy hay, Bermuda grass, orchard grass, ryegrass, alfalfa, and fescue are all good pasture grasses. Never give dog or cat food to your Indian star tortoise.

Kale, endive, parsley, dandelion greens, escarole, spineless cactus leaves, and mustard greens are among the fresh greens suited for tortoises; these greens have a greater calcium-to-phosphorus ratio, making them healthier for the star tortoise. Every day, add a pinch of calcium powder to their greens. You can occasionally give a little piece of fruit as a reward.

To simulate foraging, feed it once a day at the same time every day from various trays scattered across the cage. Give them as much as they'll consume in 15 to 30 minutes, or estimate the size of the pile to provide as the size of the animal's shell.

Change and clean its water container daily and replenish it with filtered water, if available.

Common Health Problems

Respiratory infections are more prevalent in pet tortoises grown in the wild, although they are also very common in captive tortoises. In most cases, filthy circumstances or a lack of humidity induce respiratory infections. Wheezing and a lack of appetite are early indicators of a respiratory illness. A sick tortoise, however, may seem sluggish and have excessive mucous around its mouth and nasal passages.

Star tortoises, like most other turtles and tortoises, are prone to metabolic bone disease, which arises when the animal's calcium and phosphorous levels are out of balance. To absorb calcium, tortoises and most other reptiles must be exposed to UV rays. Tortoises in the wild obtain their UV exposure by basking in the sun for the majority of their awake hours.

If a tortoise doesn't get enough calcium, its shell may not grow at an average rate. Older star tortoises with metabolic bone disease may have difficulty walking and suffer bone fractures. 

An that specializes in reptiles can treat these medical issues. Follow your veterinarian's instructions for care and treatment.

Choosing Your Indian Star Tortoise

Long-lived pets, star tortoises need a long-term commitment. It's possible that your pet will outlive you, depending on when you obtain it and how old it is. Some pet tortoise owners include provisions for their tortoises in their wills.

If you're looking for an Indian star tortoise, a trustworthy breeder will be your best bet. Inquire at a local exotics veterinarian, ask your local reptile rescue, or meet breeders at a regional reptile expo for a local lead on a breeder.

Animals that have been captive-bred are less prone to have parasite illnesses, and a reliable breeder may provide information on their breeding, birthdate, and health history. You should expect to pay anything from $600 and $3000 for a baby, with breeding females costing more.

Examine the before taking it home. Shell rot, caused by a fungal infection, is most likely affecting tortoises with patchy dry areas on their shells. If the tortoise appears lethargic or refuses to consume the food supplied to it, it might be sick. A healthy tortoise should have clear eyes and skin, as well as a smooth, blemish-free shell.

Similar Species to the Indian Star Tortoise

If you're trying to decide which tortoise is the right pet for you, here are a few related species you may want to consider: 

You also can check out our profiles of  to find the right pet for you. 

CITATION

" Gaur A, Reddy A, Annapoorni S, Satyarebala B, Shivaji S. The Origin of Indian Star Tortoises (Geochelone Elegans) Based on Nuclear and Mitochondrial Dna Analysis: A Story of Rescue and RepatriationConservation Genetics. 2005;7(2):231-240. doi:10.1007/s10592-005-9002-z", "Indian Star Tortoise Care. Royal Veterinary College.", "Jacobson ER, Brown MB, Wendland LD, et al. Mycoplasmosis and Upper Respiratory Tract Disease of Tortoises: A Review and UpdateVet J. 2014;201(3):257-264. doi:10.1016/j.tvjl.2014.05.039" ;

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