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Golden Greek Tortoises

- captive care -

Golden Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca terrestris)

Beautiful Golden Greek tortoises showing their "glowing" shells in the sunshine.

What is a Golden Greek?

Any yellowish colored Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca) can be called a Golden Greek tortoise regardless of its origin or subspecies, but most Golden Greeks are thought to be part of the Middle Eastern Greek tortoise group.

In captivity, Golden Greek tortoises from various, unknown locations have been bred with each other. This complicates their identification and care in captivity. Some Golden Greeks are hardier, while others are more sensitive. You will have to observe your Goldens to find out what conditions, especially temperature and humidity levels, they tolerate and like best.

Goldens as pets

I think Indian Stars are some of the most beautiful tortoises in the world and Burmese Stars can have great personalities in addition to their good looks, but my Golden Greek tortoises have captured my heart. They are such adorable, spunky mini tortoises!

Goldens’ shells may not as ornate as those of Star tortoises, but their shells seem to shine and glow outdoors in the sunshine or indoors under UV lights! Lovely. Little golden gems!

Captive bred and long term captive Golden Greeks are quite robust as pets and can tolerate a reasonable range of temperatures. They are rather easy keepers, as far as tortoises go, and generally do well in captivity. As adults, they are easy to breed when well cared for, and their babies are extremely cute! :O)

On the other hand, newly imported Golden Greeks can be "delicate" and often need extra care and "pampering" at first. They can carry heavy parasite loads and/or be riddled with infections that need veterinary treatment. However, once acclimated to captive conditions, they will thrive if kept appropriately. This acclimation can take 1-2 years, or longer.

Temperamental and unpredictable fresh imports are not recommended for inexperienced tortoise keepers. However, captive bred Goldens are a great choice for new tortoise hobbyist who have done proper research on their care (like one should do for any species). Captive bred Goldens are fairly easy to find and their prices are reasonable.

Foods

SupplementsGolden Greek hatchlings in their water dish

Water

Indoor housing

waterland tub deep enough for indoor nesting

The deeper model Waterland tubs have enough depth for my Golden Greeks to nest indoors during bad winter weather, if needed. Waterland turtle tubs are my favorite indoor enclosures for small tortoises. They are waterproof and very easy to clean. I fill them with finely ground coconut coir, coir/chip mix, or soil/coir mix.

Caution! The higher ramp of the water tub models can be slippery and difficult for tortoises to climb up. Especially if the soil level is low. You can place a bathtub mat, or something similar, on the ramp to give better grab for tortoise nails.

Note: The small, bright light on top left of the wire shelf is NOT a reptile UVB light, but an electric fly trapper.

Hatchling care

Golden Greek tortoise nursery

As soon as the babies pip (crack a hole in the egg), I move them into a warm nursery incubator. This one's a still air Hovabator. I allow the babies to hatch as fast or as slow as they want to. I do NOT remove babies from the eggs, but let them do it by themselves.

I place the eggs / babies into a small food storage box with a damp paper towel as the substrate. I may add some food, calcium, and a very shallow water bottle cap as the water dish.

Babies stay in the nursery for 1-7 days depending on how fast they hatch and how their belly buttons look. Most of my Golden Greek babies hatch with flat bellies and are ready for their baby enclosures.

Baby tubs

Golden Greek tortoise hatchlings

A simple, open topped indoor setup for fresh Golden Greek hatchlings. My baby Golden Greeks love to dig into the warm, slightly damp sphagnum moss. This helps prevent dehydration and lets their shells grow smoothly. Because they spend so much time in this humid microclimate, Golden Greek babies are sooo much easier to grow smooth (no pyramiding) than Star tortoises! Golden babies are a joy to raise! :0)

Instead of sphagnum moss, you could also use coconut coir or plain soil, but they are much messier and harder to keep away from the food. The food side of the tub is cooler and dry, and the substrate side is warmer and slightly damp. Using paper towels in the eating area helps prevent any accidental ingestion of substrate.

hatchling tub for Golden Greek tortoise babies

Here's another way I hang lights for the baby tubs. Instead of placing lamps on a separate wire shelf, I hang them up with carabiners. Adding or removing carabiners allows me to easily adjust the lamp height as needed.

A wire shelf ledge secures the back of the tub and a bungee cord the front. Warm and damp sphagnum moss allows burrowing hatchlings to stay warm and humid. They stay well hydrated and grow with smooth shells.

10 gram Golden Greek tortoise hatchlings

Here are the little ones. Golden Greek babies are tiny. My Goldens only weigh 6-13 g at hatching.

rim lid

If you use open top, low sided tubs for Greek babies, you can cut the tub lid into a "rim lid" to prevent escapes from climbing. Baby Greeks are agile and can climb over each other, cage, furniture, substrate heaps, etc, to reach the top of the walls.

The tortoise pictured above is not a fresh hatchling, but a small youngster I brought in temporarily due to bad weather. Tiny hatchlings are way, way smaller than him.

hatchling tub

My favorite housing for hatchlings is an open tub placed on a table top and filled with slightly damp sphagnum moss. You could also partially cover the top to keep the tub warmer and more humid, but I have found it to be unnecessary for Greek babies.

I either fill the bottom with the moss and use a large, shallow tray for feeding (pic), or cover the feeding area with paper towels instead of moss. With table setups, I like to use LARGE deep dome fixtures hung from reptile lamp stands. With lamp stands, I can easily change the height of the bulbs to regulate the temperature.

Golden Greek tortoise hatchling dug into sphagnum moss

This is how the Golden Greek babies like to spend their time when they are not eating. Dug into the warm, slightly damp sphagnum moss (3-6" deep). :O)

Lighting

Temperature

Humidity

Substrate & microclimates

Outdoor housing

Golden Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca terrestris) burrowed

Greeks like to bury themselves into the soil under a brush or a clump of grass. Usually, just deep enough to cover the skin parts.

Golden Greek tortoise outdoor pen

Adult Golden Greeks in their outdoor pen.

Golden Greek tortoise hatchling outdoor pen

Golden Greek hatchlings in their outdoor pen. The upper level of flatter blocks forms a "lip" around the top. The pen is covered with a 1/4" hardware cloth frame / lid. Both sunny and shady areas are provided. I check on the babies frequently to see if any of them have fallen on their backs and cannot righten themselves. Staying like that in the sun can fry them up quickly. :O( For other hatchlings setups, see the outdoor housing page.

Caution

Breeding

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