Image Credit : Turtle Conservancy
Radiated tortoise has the basic “tortoise” body shape, which consists of the high-domed carapace, a blunt head, and elephantine feet. The carapace of the radiated tortoise is brilliantly marked with yellow lines radiating from the center of each dark plate of the shell, hence its name.
This “star” pattern is more finely detailed and intricate than the normal pattern of other star-patterned tortoise species. Compared to females, male radiated tortoises usually have longer tails and the notches beneath their tails are more noticeable.
- Scientific name : Astrochelys radiata
- Distribution : Southern Madagascar, Réunion, Mauritius
- Average Size : 0.35 m (1.15 ft)
- Life Span : 40 years or more
- Difficulty : Intermediate
We housed our baby radiated tortoises in large, custom-made glass enclosures; 1.5 x 0.6 meters (5 x 2 feet) for babies, 2.1 x 1.2 meters (7 x 4 feet) for juveniles and 2.7 x 1.5 meters (9 x 5 feet) for adults. Our enclosures are around 0.45 meters tall (1.5 feet). To keep humidity up, we covered the enclosures in plexi glass and used under tank heat pads directly under their hides.
Our adults are housed in large, custom-made melamine enclosures. During the summer months, we put our radiata outside during the day. We use bottomless, stainless steel dog runs that we connect together to create a huge area for grazing and basking. We move the outside pens daily to allow the torts to graze on fresh grass and weeds.
For our baby and young radiata, we used upside-down Tupperware or Rubbermaid bins with a hole cut into a side for an opening. We don’t use hide boxes for our adult radiata due to their size and the fact that ambient humidity in our reptile room is consistently quite high.
We’ve tried different substrates over the years but prefer coarse grade coconut husk. It holds moisture well and is mould-resistant. It’s also less messy than soil or fine grade coco coir and doesn’t get in their eyes or stick to their food. We keep our substrate dry to moist but never damp or wet.
Lighting – Heating
We use mercury vapour bulbs to provide UV and heat during the day. We hang several 160-watt bulbs into their enclosures, approximately 12” above the tortoises. During the night, we use 150-watt infra red bulbs for heat. These are also hung approximately 12” above the torts.
All lights are on timers; the daytime bulbs are on from 8am to midnight and night time bulbs are on from midnight to 8am. It’s important to provide a temperature gradient for the tortoises. Our temp gradient ranges from approximately 26 ºC (80 ºF) on the cool end to approximately 48ºC (120 ºF) directly beneath the basking bulbs.
Our radiated tortoises bask directly under these bulbs at various times throughout the day and night. During the summer, our rads spend their days outside in the natural sunlight.
Radiata drink a copious amount of water daily and should always have access to fresh, drinking water. We also soak our radiata several times a week and have done this their entire lives. This ensures they stay well hydrated and keeps their enclosures clean as they usually defecate and urinate during their soakings.
Humidity in our reptile room fluctuates between 60-70%. To keep humidity up, we mist the substrate and carapaces of the tortoises at least once a day. When the tortoises were young, we placed under tank heat pads directly beneath their hides. Moisture evaporating from the substrate maintained approximately 90% humidity inside the hides. We feel high humidity is very important to ensure smooth shell growth.
Our radiata have been fed the same way their entire lives. We offer lots of leafy greens (dandelion, different varieties of kale, collard greens, watercress, yam leaves, grape leaves, etc). We also feed copious amounts of cactus pads. We feel cactus pads are the closest thing to being a perfect food for all species of tortoises, not just radiata. We go through approximately 10-15 lbs of cactus a week for our adults.
For babies, we scraped off the spines and diced the cactus into little pieces. For adults, we scrape off the spines and offer the pads whole. We also feed vegetables and fruit occasionally, their favorite being pumpkin, squash, carrot, yam, papaya, mango, cantaloupe, apples, berries and cactus pear fruit. We feed all veggies raw.
Occasionally, we offer processed food. The ones we give our radiata are Mazuri and Mazuri LS and ZooMed Grassland. We supplemented our babies with calcium with D3 and Herptivite. For adults, we supplement exclusively with Repashy Super Veggie and occasionally organic spirulina. During the summer, our rads consume huge amounts of grass, clover and other weeds from our lawn.
We don’t handle our radiata, per se, with the exception of moving them to their soaking bins and outside enclosure and offering daily chin scratches and head rubs. Our radiata are all very interactive and engaging and will run over to greet us. Since they were hatchlings, we hand fed them morsels of food daily and they’ve grown into extremely outgoing, charming and very trusting adults.
We spot clean our enclosures daily for food, faces and urine. We do entire substrate changes whenever necessary, usually every two to three months.
Potential Health Problems
Radiata are very hardy tortoises. The only health issue we’ve ever encountered was the early stages of shell rot on two of our babies many years ago. This was easily treated and has never returned.
The information contained in this care sheet reflect the opinions and methods of the mentioned breeder, based on their expertise and long-established experience.