Burmese & Indian / Sri Lankan Star Tortoises
(G. platynota & G. elegans)
Indian / Sri Lankan & Burmese Star Tortoises
Star care in a nutshell
Sri Lankan Star tortoise (Geochelone elegans)
This page is only a brief and basic caresheet for Star tortoises. Follow the provided links for in-depth info on each topic.
- ideally, feed high fiber foods like weeds, grasses, leaves, flowers, cactus pads, dried salad hay, etc.
- grocery store greens only as a secondary choice (e.g. chicory, spring mix, endive, escarole, radicchio, romaine)
- provide high fiber, low protein, and low fat meals
- feed very little fruit if any
- no animal protein
- feed as large variety of plants as possible
- for diet details, read the Star tortoise diet and prepared foods pages
- recommendations vary among keepers:
- calcium powder - from daily to 1-2x/week
- multivitamins - from daily to 1-2x/month
- growing babies and egg laying females need more frequent supplementation
- no vitamin D3 supplementation necessary if kept outdoors much of the time
- always keep a cuttlefish bone or calcium carbonate powder in a small dish in the enclosure
- for more info, read the supplements page
- keep a drinking water bowl in the enclosure
- the water dish should be non-slippery and very shallow for youngsters so that they can climb in and out of it easily
- for brand new hatchlings, daily baths may be safer than providing water bowls (could drown if flipped over)
- give frequent baths (soaks) to help with hydration, unless your tortoise soaks himself
- bath babies daily and adults 1-2x/week or less
- for more details, read the bowls & dishes and care tips pages
2. INDOOR HOUSING
- large, open top plastic tubs and wooden tortoise tables are popular
- do not hibernate, keep warm year round
- avoid cold & damp conditions
- warm & humid is ok
- for more details, read the indoor housing page
- use a reptile UV light when indoors, either a mercury vapor bulb (MVB) or a fluorescent UVB tube
- for more details, read the lighting page
- provide a daytime basking bulb, either a MVB or a heat bulb
- provide additional heat at night if needed (e.g. ceramic heat emitters, radiant panels)
- keep the enclosure dark at night
- for more details, read the heating page
- popular indoor enclosure substrates include plain soil, soil/sand mix, soil/coconut coir mix, cypress mulch, fir/orchid bark, and paper towels for hatchlings
- popular substrates for humid hides include sphagnum moss, coconut coir, and wet paper towels
- with loose substrates, feed on shallow trays, large tiles, or paper to avoid accidental ingestion of substrate
- for more suggestions, read the substrates (general info) and substrates & allergics pages (more details)
Temperature & humidity
- daytime ambient temp 80-80+ °F
- 85-95+ °F directly under the basking bulb, adults can tolerate higher basking temps than babies
- night temp 70+ °F in dry conditions, 75+ °F if damp
- moderate humidity 40-75+ %
- babies benefit from a higher humidity level, up to 70-80+ %, if kept warm
- the higher the humidity, the higher the temperature should be
- Note: These temperature and humidity numbers just basic starting guidelines, not exact requirements. It all depends on your specific setup and circumstances.
- provide a temperature range of 70/75-95+ °F in the enclosure
- this temperature gradient allows the tortoise to warm up or cool down as needed
- provide humid hideboxes or warm, damp substrate areas
- for humid hide info, see the hideboxes page
3. OUTDOOR HOUSING
- natural sunlight is the best UVB source
- keep outdoors as much as possible for UVB exposure and opportunity to exercise
- adults can stay outside 24/7 in warmer climates if heated houses are provided for cooler nights
- put babies out on warm and sunny days, min 70-75 °F
- for details, read the outdoor housing page
- provide several shady areas, bushes and hides
- provide a shallow water dish, putting it in a shady area keeps the water cooler in hot weather
- for adults, make the enclosure as large as possible
- for babies, cover the top to protect from predators
- Stars are not the best climbers and they are not big diggers, so they won't climb over the walls (if adequately high) of the enclosure or dig under them to escape
- provide sunny slopes or raised laying beds for adult, egg laying females
- plant the enclosure with edible greenery, see the diet section of the links page for nontoxic and toxic plant info
Indian / Sri Lankan Star tortoises (Geochelone elegans) have a reputation of being difficult to keep in captivity. This especially applies to wild-caught (illegal) specimens. They may have already been sick when collected, or may have became sick during transportation due to cold conditions and exposure to other tortoises and reptiles. In addition, most wild tortoises carry heavy loads of parasites, both worms and protozoa.
Indian / Sri Lankan Stars can be delicate and they tend to be sensitive to cold and long periods of high humidity in cold conditions. They can be prone to respiratory problems if kept too cold and damp.
In general, keep Stars warm and fairly dry, but do prevent dehydration by using warm humid hides or humid substrate areas, water dishes, soaks, warm mistings etc. Hatchlings and juveniles especially benefit from having higher ambient humidity and a warm, moist hide box.
However, if Star tortoises are kept too dry, they are prone to dehydration. This can lead to kidney problems and urinary stone formation. Both can be fatal.
Stars are also susceptible to pathogens carried by other tortoise species. Always keep them separately from other types of tortoises.
Indian / Sri Lankan Stars can be somewhat fragile. It's said that they can "crash fast" and "crash hard." In other words, seemingly well Indian / Sri Lankan Star tortoises can suddenly fall ill and then pass away.
Indian / Sri Lankan Stars are not the best choice as a first tortoise, but captive-bred Star tortoises generally do quite well when provided with the correct environmental conditions and appropriate diet.
Burmese Star tortoises (Geochelone platynota) are said to be more robust. They tend to do quite well in captivity, but they are rather expensive and very few keepers are breeding them. Burmese Stars are also one of the most endangered tortoise species in the world. Support tortoise conservation. Always buy captive-bred Stars!