Essential considerations when buying a tortoise 0 126

Keeping a tortoise as a pet

If you love reptiles, you may have toyed with the idea of owning a pet tortoise. These are truly fascinating creatures, having lived alongside the dinosaurs. Over millions of years of evolution, tortoises have grown to require fairly specific needs. However, they can be loving and fairly low-maintenance pets if you approach tortoise care in the right way. Here are a few things to think about before getting your tortoise.

Choosing a breed

Tortoises are very diverse animals, and different breeds will work better for different lifestyles. Russian, Bell, and Forest Hingeback tortoises are fairly small, growing up to 8.5”. Red Foots are a mid-range breed, growing up to 14”, while African Spur Thighs are a notably large breed, with some adults weighing well over 150 pounds. While vivariums and similar enclosures are fine for young tortoises and particularly small breeds, most will require some outdoor space to keep them in.

General supplies

As with any unusual pets, you need to ensure you have all the right supplies to keep your tortoise happy and healthy in its new home. When kept indoors, your tortoise will need a basking light to draw energy from, as well as a florescent UVB light to help it process vitamins and minerals healthily. To ensure the UVB rays are enough for your tortoise, set reminders to yourself to change them once every 6-8 months. A large water bowl is needed for drinking and soaking. Finally, your tortoise will need a heating pad. This will warm its belly, and help with its digestion.


Like many other animals, infant and adolescent tortoises will need extra nutritional care to help them grow healthily. To this end, make sure you’re keeping them on a balanced diet of crispy, easily-digestible food, like grasses and leafy green vegetables. It’s also a good idea to get them some calcium and vitamin supplements. As their jaws mature, you can move them onto more solid foods like fruits. Fully-grown tortoises will be able to manage darker leafy greens, along with a wider range of go-to reptile food, such as fruits, earthworms, and crickets. If you’re ever unsure of what you should be giving your tortoise based on their age and breed, consult your vet.

Find out more about caring for your pet tortoise

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3 lizards that are great for first-time owners 0 124


Unusual pets have become more popular and accessible in recent years, with many more people considering exotic pets than before. Reptiles have become particularly popular, with the range of lizards available in the UK wider than ever. Here, we’ll list a few of the best lizards for beginners in terms of pet care.

Bearded Dragons

The single most popular reptile on the market today, bearded dragons are docile and friendly, and have no problem being handled by humans. Aside from this quality, bearded dragons are also a manageable size when fully grown, with the largest species reaching around 60cm tip to tip. This means they’ll be large enough to handle with ease and safety, but not so large that caring for them becomes a burden.

Leopard Geckos

Geckos are another type of lizard that has become exceedingly popular with first-time reptile owners. There are many owners and dealers who strive to own as many different species of gecko as possible. Most geckos are fast, and the sticky pads on their toes mean they can scale walls and escape from handlers fairly easily. However, leopard geckos are slow, docile, and lack the sticky toe pads. This makes them an easy and beautiful addition to your first vivarium. Furthermore, leopard geckos are quite hardy, and not as susceptible to diseases. They’re also smaller than bearded dragons and other common domestic lizards, with adults typically reaching a maximum of 25cm. This makes it easy to set them up with a comfortable and compact vivarium while you get used to reptile care.


Like bearded dragons, uromastyx enjoy human contact, which makes them perfect for owners who have only ever cared for mammals before. Furthermore, unlike many other reptiles, they feed almost exclusively on plants. This makes them easy to shop for, and a no-brainer for anyone who’s squeamish about insects. Having said that, uromastyx can be a strain on your energy bill, requiring a basking spot kept at 35 degrees Celsius to stay happy and healthy. Still, if you can afford this and love the look of these distinctive lizards, a uromastyx can make a great introductory pet lizard.

How to set up a vivarium for a bearded dragon 0 124

Bearded Dragon

Bearded dragons are relatively tame and easy to handle, with interesting, unique habits that make them entertaining to watch and brilliant pets. These wonderful reptiles can grow up to two feet long and have an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years, so it’s important to set up the perfect home for your new beardie.

Where in my home can a vivarium go?

When planning for your new bearded dragon, it is important to take into consideration the different features of your room that may cause a problem for your pet. Bearded dragons do love the warm, however, it is always considered best practice to avoid putting the vivarium too close to sources of heat as it can make it extremely difficult to regulate the temperature. Although many people like having their pets close to them in their living rooms, placing the vivarium next to any sources of loud noise, such as TVs or speakers can cause a problem for your new beardie.

What needs to go in the vivarium?

When you start shopping for a vivarium for your new pet, there are a variety of starter kits or individual items that you can purchase to help set up the perfect new home for your dragon. Usually, starter kits will include a UVB light (should span approximately two thirds of the length of the enclosure), a controller for the UV tube, a reflector to help maximise the tube’s output, a basking spotlight and ceramic holder, and an appropriate substrate for the base of the vivarium.

In addition to the lighting and base essentials, adding temperature gauges, a digital thermostat, a hygrometer to measure humidity and a shaded area, are all recommended to help you look after your dragon. It is always advisable to use a manual plug for the dimmer or dimming thermostat to regulate the temperature within your vivarium to reduce the risk of it overheating. For your bearded dragon’s comfort, artificial plants, rocks and branches all make brilliant additions to a vivarium.

Other points to consider

It is always worth doing your research when getting any new pet to make sure you get it right the first time, and this is definitely true when it comes to setting up a vivarium for a bearded dragon. Wooden vivariums are better suited to bearded dragons as it’s easier to maintain the temperature compared to full glass vivariums, and it is important to supply plenty of ventilation to prevent the viv becoming too humid, which will also reduce the risk of respiratory infections.

Four more unusual lizards you can keep as pets