THE TORTOISE TABLE
The ideal indoor home to house your tortoise in, while it is young, is a Tortoise Table . Vivariums and other enclosed spaces are not suitable for a mediterranean species. The tortoise table gives a wonderful spacious area to landscape allowing you to provide a decent depth of soil so that your tortoise can dig down and most importantly, it provides air circulation which will prevent respiratory issues attributed to the use of enclosed vivaria. For those of you which are DIY savvy below is a pattern for a table you can build at home.
As a first time owner it is easy to be hoodwinked into buying the wrong type of accommodation and in my experience there are no 'off the shelf' kits or tables which are even remotely suitable.
The inclusion of separate bedroom areas, glass panels, ramps, split levels and banisters are completely wrong . If you are not DIY savvy then a local carpenter will be able to make you a table from my pattern. Please note this is a hatchling size table only
Ample space is very important to the contentment of your tortoise additionally so are 'sight breakers' . This is the landscaping of your table giving different levels of substrate including lots of places to explore and making it as interesting and stimulating as is possible. There is an expression used to describe frustration and stress.. "climbing the walls" a bored and stressed tortoise will literally do this. If yours does.. its time to get creative with your table.
The table needs to be of a minimum length of 4 feet x 2 feet x 1 feet and be completely solid on all sides. Some manufactured tables have a glass panel in the front. This is a potential stress inducer as tortoises don't understand the concept of glass and will not understand why they cannot walk through it. There are also a lot of pre made tables available to buy that have ramps, banisters and separate enclosed bedroom areas.. again, these are not Tortoise friendly additions to the table. The separate, closed off bedroom areas take up a lot of space and your tortoise can stay hidden in there where the temperature is lower and there is no light or UV therefore leading to inactivity.
A good Tortoise Table doesn't need to be complicated just a plain open top box is all that is necessary .
Heres how to make your own
Using 12mm plywood a table is easily made and by taking your measurements to a DIY superstore some will cut it to size for you at no extra cost.
The table is easily put together with a strong wood glue on each joining edge then secured by the corner blocks which are screwed into place .Once you have constructed your table its is important to line it with a strong waterproof sheet. Pond liner off the roll from an aquatics centre is my choice as it is so durable and flexible helping you to secure it in place with batons of wood. When the construction is finished then protect the wood and colour coordinate it to the rest of your furniture with a wood varnish.. The best type to use is any that require you to clean the brush with just soap and water as it wont contain any harmful chemicals to your tortoise. Check out the shopping list Tab to find out what equipment you need to make your tortoise feel right at home.
So once you have finished building your table and lined it with a suitable waterproof sheet (pond liner or damp proof course plastic). Its time to install your hardware. Getting this right is the foundations of good husbandry..
Firstly you need to create a 'hot' end and a 'cool' end within your table. There must be a temperature gradient from the one end of the table to the other so that the tortoise can thermoregulate. This means the tortoise must have a range of temperatures within which to adjust its own body temperature. So decide which end you wish to have your Highest temperature and this will be the end of the table to fix your basking lamp. With the addition of a wooden arm and bracket you can create a "hang mans' arm from which to hang your basking lamp.. It needs to be positioned over the end of the table so to create a basking area and ensure that you are not just heating up the wall of the table by having the beam too close to the end of the table.
The Basking lamp is the only way we have of replicating the Sun which is so important to a reptiles survival. This is why a dimming thermostat is much more compatible to the senses of the tortoise. The thermostats sensor must be placed on the soil , directly under the centre of the beam from the basking lamp where it is at its hottest. When the maximum temperature is reached the thermostat literally dims the beam of the lamp so that the maximum set temperature is not exceeded.
It is also a good idea to partial bury the sensor cable so that the tortoise cannot move the sensor tip away from the hottest part of the beam.
The next piece of hardware to install is the Ultra Violet Light tube.
There are two options here depending on which UV you choose.. The table pattern allows for the installation of the 3 part Arcadia T5. This must be placed as near to the basking spot lamp as is possible. For the best absorption of the UVB light the tortoise must be at its optimum temperature of 32c to 35c. The ledge that runs along the back of the table is the best place to attach the tube and reflector.. The reflector can be used to focus the light from the tube towards the basking area where it will benefit the tortoise the most.
The newer Arcadia Pro T5 is a really neat compact single piece unit. It uses exactly the same 12% UVB T5 tube but has an incredibly powerful reflector higher above the table. It needs to be installed differently than its predecessor and the ledge is not needed. It is best installed by suspending it from brackets. The best brackets around by far are pictured below.
The Ceramic Heat emitter and the Pulse thermostat can be used to control ambient temperatures during the day during the winter and if you have your table is in a room that struggles to stay warm enough. The main use is for night temperatures .It can be placed at the far end of the table opposite the basking lamp to keep the 'cool' end at around 20c if it is being used as a temperature boost in winter or it can be placed above the cave for keeping the night temperatures up. The clamp on the light fitting makes this a multi use item. This piece of equipment MUST be used with the thermostat. The sensor for the thermostat should be placed where your desired temperature needs to be. Great care must be taken with a CHE as they get dangerously hot at the source.. a ground temperature of 20c maybe being achieved but the ceramic itself, will be in excess of 100c!
So , thats the hardware dealt with . The rest is up to you and your creativity . Make your tortoises table a happy home with lots of variety and items to create an interesting environment for your tortoise to thrive in.