Indian Star Tortoise – Habitat, Care, Diet, Facts
The Indian Star Tortoise is a gorgeous reptilian specimen that makes for a great pet. With its star-patterned shell and shy nature, this tortoise is both beautiful and friendly.
If you house it with other tortoises, it’ll even share food and get along great with its brethren. It likes sunny weather and a warmer environment, so be sure to remember this when building its shelter. If you want to find out more about the Indian Star Tortoise, keep reading!
Indian Star Tortoise Appearance
An adult Indian Star Tortoise reaches a length of 6-15 inches (15-38 cm), weighing over 2.2-15 lbs (1-6.6kg). Its limbs, head, and tail tend to be yellow, with dark spots on the skin. Its most noteworthy physical aspect is the star-patterned carapace.
The pyramidal scutes are very smooth, with yellowish-tan lines going outwards, forming a star shape. Finally, the plastron of the Indian Star Tortoise has dark lines with a yellowish background.
Female tortoises of this species are much bigger than males, with about 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) difference in carapace size between the sexes. Generally, males have thicker and longer tails, and a concave plastron that helps them during the mating process. Females have shorter and thinner tails, with a flat plastron that allows an easier mounting during the mating process.
Indian Star Tortoise Behavior
This tortoise is small, a bad climber, and it’s also not territorial, unlike many of its brethren. However, Indian Star Tortoises also don’t like being handled too much. What a shocker! Stress is a constant problem for them if you handle them too much.
So, they aren’t good with children. But if you pull off a Pavlovian exercise and you bring it food constantly, it’ll start being friendlier with you.
While these tortoises aren’t aggressive, they may mistake a colored fingernail for a pretty flower. Ouch! An outdoor enclosure is ideal for this tortoise since its loves the sun and fresh air.
It becomes very active during the morning and late in the afternoon if the weather is especially hot and dry. Otherwise, the Indian Star Tortoise will be active all day long and only retreat to its enclosure at night.
Indian Star Tortoise Lifespan
Theoretically, an Indian Star Tortoise can live up to 80 years, but a more realistic estimation would be 30-55 years. In captivity, tortoises always live less than they would in the wild. This is because being captive is stressful for them.
Having to deal with humans daily is stressful. If you want to enhance your tortoise’s quality of life, consider buying another tortoise to keep it company.
Indian Star Tortoise General Care & Housing
The Indian Star Tortoise is smaller than other species but this doesn’t mean it won’t need a spacious enclosure. I wholly recommend you build a big enclosure, fit with ornaments and hiding spots. You want the tortoise to remain active and feel at home, with enough space to move around and have fun. Tortoises also enjoy scavenging for food, and a bigger enclosure offers more opportunities for this.
During daylight, Indian Star Tortoises need a very hot basking temperature. I recommend using clear spot bulbs in a corner of the enclosure. You’ll need a temperature of 90-100 °F in that corner of the enclosure.
During the night, the temperature may even drop down to 70 °F but any more than that and the tortoise is in danger. If the enclosure is humid and cold, respiratory issues are a real threat for tortoises.
With an outdoor enclosure, an Indian Star Tortoise should get most of its warmth from the sun. But this is only true during summer. The winter season will be too cold for the tortoise to survive.
So, you’ll still need additional heat from a light bulb or a ceramic heater. With enough heat and a basking spot, the Indian Star Tortoise will live a comfortable life and even its lifespan will increase.
A water bowl makes it easy for the tortoise to hydrate itself at need. Make sure the bowl has a gradual slope so the tortoise doesn’t get stuck in it. Indian Star Tortoises also need a moist hide box that should reach 80% humidity.
By walking through the hide box and taking a nap there, they replenish their humidity levels. The substrate is also essential in maintaining adequate humidity levels. Peat moss and soil are especially good for this.
You can also use coconut fiber, potting soil, hay, or even grass for the substrate. These will keep a good humidity level and offer enough digging space for the female tortoises.
During egg-laying, female Indian Star Tortoises will dig a shallow nest to lay the eggs. So, a suitable substrate offers a crucial element in the reproduction process of tortoises.
– Cage Size
Indoors, you can get a large fish tank (about 55 gallons in size) for your pet tortoise. A plastic container also works, if it’s spacious enough. Since the Indian Star Tortoise doesn’t climb very well, the container doesn’t have to be very tall. If you keep other pets inside the house, make sure the tortoise’s enclosure is completely isolated, with a screen top and everything else.
For outdoor enclosures, this tortoise needs a 6-by-6 feet cage, with walls and a screen top. These tortoises don’t dig a lot unless the female is trying to lay her eggs, so you won’t have to bury the walls in the ground.
Make sure there’s enough humidity in the enclosure because Indian Star Tortoises come from a tropical environment. They’re used to heavy raining seasons. Your best bet is to put a water bowl inside the enclosure and spraying the substrate with water for extra humidity.
Tortoises can’t survive without natural light. In the absence of that, a UVB light bulb is the next best option. If kept indoors, Indian Star Tortoises need UV exposure to properly process vitamin D3 and absorb calcium efficiently.
You can also use a mercury vapor bulb, which combines UVB and heat light. Turn on the light bulb for 12 hours straight, to best simulate a normal day cycle. Make sure you replace the light bulb every 6 months because the UV rays stop emitting around that period.
Indian Star Tortoise Food & Nutrition
Proper nutrition and healthy food are necessary for any Indian Start Tortoise. Thankfully, they aren’t picky at all. They’ll eat almost anything green as long as it’s not tied to the ground.
However, don’t even think about giving your pet tortoise some dog or cat food. You should only feed it greens and tortoise commercial food. One meal per day is more than enough.
Indian Star Tortoises are mainly herbivores, so they eat leafy greens and plenty of grasses. Their diet mainly consists of ryegrass, fescue, orchard grass, Bermuda grass, timothy hay, alfalfa, mustard greens, dandelion greens, endive, parsley, escarole, and more.
Feed it once per day, and do it in multiple places to simulate foraging. You can even hide food in some of the tortoise’s hiding places. Make it so the tortoise struggles to get its food.
Fruits are a welcome addition but not in excess. Sugar doesn’t bode well for a tortoise’s health, in general. Choose greens that have a higher calcium-to-phosphorus ratio, because this is one of the healthiest diet combinations for a tortoise.
Usually, you should only feed the tortoise an amount equal to the size of its shell. More than that and you’ll overfeed it. A lower amount is not enough, and the tortoise may starve.
Most tortoises get their hydration from food. The greens they eat contain a lot of water that serves as the main source of hydration. Though, I also recommend placing a water bowl in the enclosure. If the tortoise doesn’t get enough water from food, it’ll supplement it from the water bowl. But make sure to change the water daily, and use filtered water if possible.
For further hydration, bathe your Indian Star Tortoise in shallow water two or three times per week. This will not only hydrate and replenish their humidification levels but also encourage them to empty their bowels.
Having a full bowel can lead to digestive problems for tortoises. And if the substrate isn’t humid enough, or the weather is too hot, a 10-minute bath will do wonders for the tortoise.
Indian Star Tortoise Breeding
All Indian Star Tortoises mate during the rainy season, usually from June to November. As usual, males will fight each other to get the attention of females. Most times, it ends up with the loser on its back, embarrassing itself in front of the females.
The winner gets to try his luck with a female. Though, Indian Star males are not as aggressive as other species when flirting with females. Even when copulating, everything happens peacefully and with grunting noises.
About 2-3 months after copulation and successful insemination, the female will start looking for a nesting site. Then, she’ll urinate on the ground to soften it, and use her hind legs to dig a hole for the eggs. After that, she lays the eggs.
Finally, after laying all the eggs, she’ll refill the hole with earth and then flatten it with her plastron. The incubation time is 90-170 days, and the sex of the babies is temperature-dependent.
5 Interesting Facts about Indian Star Tortoise
- Indian Star Tortoise hatchlings have no star-shaped carapace when born. The shells are either entirely black or brown, with orange or yellow blotches on the scutes. The star-shaped pattern develops later on when the babies grow into adults.
- Female Indian Star Tortoises are significantly bigger than males. The males have longer and thicker tails, with a concave plastron, while females have a flat plastron. This helps with mating.
- Indian Star Tortoises don’t need to care for their babies after hatching. After laying the eggs, the mother tortoise abandons them. Post-hatching, the babies are on their own. Quite the parentage, eh?
- These tortoises are very adaptable to hot or humid environments. In India, they go through rainy seasons and extremely arid seasons. Indian Star Tortoises are active during both seasons, and generally inactive during winter. They hibernate for long periods during winter.
- Indian Star Tortoises generally live for 36-80 years in the wild, with their lifespan shortened to about 25 years in captivity.
Indian Star Tortoises are unique among their species. The star-shaped pattern on their shells is quite beautiful to look at. But I bet you didn’t know that hatchlings don’t have that pattern. Instead, it occurs naturally when going to adulthood.
Still, Indian Star Tortoises are great pets to have. They’re friendly yet shy at the same time. But if you feed them constantly, they’ll feel more comfortable around you.