Leopard Tortoise Care Guide
The Species: Leopard Tortoises (Stigmochelys pardalis) also known as Giant Leopard Tortoises, are large tortoises which are popular with reptile keepers. These animals are native to South and East Africa inhabiting savannahs. These Tortoises are social however it is important to provide a very large enclosure for them as they do have a social hierarchy, meaning they can show aggressive behaviours towards one another.
Enclosure: Leopard are terrestrial and should be housed in tortoise tables as juveniles, not vivariums. Vivariums can cause respiratory issues within most Tortoise species as they do not offer enough ventilation which can raise humidity too high and cause respiratory issues. Tortoises can also get very stressed when kept within vivariums as they cannot see glass and don't understand why they can't keep walking, although this behaviour may not present itself within younger Tortoises, it will most likely occur as they reach adulthood. As juveniles The tortoise table should be a minimum size of 4x2ft and should ideally have walls of 1.5ft or taller as they can climb however as adults they would need much larger, custom made enclosures of a minimum size of 4x5ft for an adult pair however the larger the enclosure, the happier they will be.
Being an arid, savannah species, these animals need suitable substrates made from a dryer material, sand based and grass substrates are best however earth based and straw pellets are also an acceptable option. Recommended substrates are ProRep Tortoise Life Edible, Arcadia Arid Earth Mix and ProRep Leo Life however other substrates can be suitable. Tropical substrates, calcisand, Reptile Carpet and newspaper are considered unacceptable substrates to use. Paper towels and newspaper is acceptable if quarantining or rehabilitating these animals.
Various Decor and apparatus should be included to provide as natural of an enclosure as possible. Woods, rocks and hides are all suitable as they like to explore their enclosure, a shallow bowl for water and a feeding dish should be readily available as well. Most tortoise tables will come with built in dens, if your table doesn't have a build in den, we would recommend adding a hide to the enclosure.
Heating: These animals should be kept at a temperature range of 27-35 degrees celsius (80-95 degrees farenheight). They should be provided with a hot and cool end and with a basking spot to reach peak temperatures. Heating should be provided by a heat lamp on a thermostat with a dome surrounding the heat lamp to direct the heat towards the table. All heating should be on a 12 hour cycle, turning off at night to provide a natural drop in temperature.
We do not recommend using heat mats for Tortoises as they do not reach the temperatures required as easily and can become fire hazards inside tortoise tables. Suitable bulbs are ceramic, true infra red or white/yellow light bulbs however any bulb producing a red light should not be used as they can cause the animals to go blind after extended usage.
Lighting: Leopard Tortoises, along with majority of other reptiles require UVB lighting to simulate sunlight and prevent deformities and MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease) from setting in. This lighting should cover approximately 3/4 of the enclosure and should have a reflector to direct the light into the table to ensure that the animal receives adequate levels of UVB as much as possible. These animals should have a 12% UVB bulb and they should be replaced every 6-12 months to ensure that the UVB doesn't run out within the bulb. All lighting should be on a 12 hour cycle to provide a natural day/night sequence.
Some bulbs can offer UVB and heat as a combi bulb however they usually do not offer the correct level of UVB and the heating can't be controlled by a thermostat, we wouldn't recommend these as they have been proven to not be as effective however if they are used, we would only suggest to use Arcadia bulbs as they are more accurate with their UVB levels compared to some other companies. The combi bulbs need to be replaced every 6 months.
Humidity: Being an arid species, Leopard Tortoises should have lower levels of humidity of approximately 40-60% and should ideally not raise above that. Thankfully with tortoise tables being open top, humidity is easier to control as it is not contained.
Diet: Leopard Tortoises are herbivores meaning they only eat vegetation. They should be given a diet consisting of various foods such as romain lettuce, opuntia cactus pads, prickly pears, and succulents (consult Ark Animals team) along with garden vegetation such as dandelions and dandelion leaves grass is also a good diet option however this can only be given during spring and summer months as it does not offer enough nutrition during the remainder of the year. A recommended app for directions of tortoise feeding is “The Tortoise Table”. Avoid foods such as iceberg lettuce and cucumber as they have a poor nutritional value. DO NOT feed your tortoise pellet food as this can cause MBD.
It is important to supplement your Tortoise's food which will help in preventing MBD, calcium is the main priority supplement however others are also important such as Vitamin A. We recommend Arcadia's supplements provided on rotation including Calcium with Magnesium and Earth-Pro A Supplement. Both of these will provide a complete level of supplements.
Water is also an extremely important aspect to an animals diet and constant water access should be provided in a water bowl and should be changed daily, we generally recommend RO water or mineral water due to tap water containing chlorine which can be harmful to some animals.