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Horsefield Tortoise and heat mats

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#1 Guest_Paul_M_*

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Posted 23 August 2006 - 08:37 PM

I have just bought two Horsefield Tortoises both a year old. I am finding that they bury into the wood chip and sit on the heat mat. Is this ok? I have read different things on weather heat mats should be used. If I placed under the glass, could this cause it to crack? Should a ceramic heater be used instead of? Should this be left on overnight and if not where would they obtain heat overnight? Any advice welcome.

#2 Guest_lepinsky_*

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Posted 24 August 2006 - 07:09 AM

Hi Paul,

Congratulations on your two new Horsfields - you'll love them!

I'm afraid that heat mats are very dangerous for tortoises, as even the low wattage ones can get extremely hot when sat on and can cause the tortoise to overheat and even produce burns. What you need is a good source of UVB light (either a UVB striplight (preferably 8.0 - 10.0) plus an ordinary 60w (or 100W) household spotlight to provide heat. The heat from the spotlight (depending on how far it is from the bottom of the enclosure) will produce the right temperature. Or you can get a bulb that produces heat and UVB all in one (these are mercury vapour bulbs). Horsfields need it to be about 90 degrees at the hot end of their enclosure and about 70 degrees at the cooler end, and then they can move from one end to the other to self-regulate their temperature. At night there should be no lights or heat on, unless the temperature in your house falls below 10 degrees C., in which case you could have a ceramic heater on a thermostat that would turn it on when the temp fell too low (but most houses never get this cold). These torts live in desert areas where the temperature falls at night, and so they need that drop in temp.

One other thing: you mentioned putting the heat mat on glass. Does this mean that your tort is in a glass tank, or a wood and glass vivarium? Pet shops often sell these with tortoises, and they are completely the wrong type of environment for a tort, and will seriously shorten its life. The best environment for a tortoise is an open topped enclosure (well, actually the best environment for your horsfield would be to have an outdoor enclosure that it could be in most of the time in the warmer months - horsfields love to roam and dig and will not be happy in a limited area). We call these tortoise tables, and they are, effectively, a shallow sided open topped box (think of a set of bookshelves, lying on their back, with the shelves taken out). This allows good ventilation (which is essential for tortoises, and which vivariums don't have), allows for the temperature variation I mentioned before (which, again, because of the enclosed space you can't get with a vivarium), and has sides that a tortoise cannot see through (this is essential, because tortoises don't understand the concept of glass and will continually try to walk through it). There are some pictures of tortoise tables in the Pictures section of this site (see top of page).

Sorry to have gone on at such length, and I hope I haven't misinterpreted your message, but so many of us have been in your position of having been sold the wrong equipment for our tortoises. Here are a couple of really good websites that have good material regarding torts - and especially horsfields:
(this last site has a downloadable guide that you can print out)


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