Hermann tortoises are popular pets and for good reason. They have individual personalities with their own likes, dislikes, and quirks. But how long can a keeper expect to have one for? What is their typical life expectancy and how does it compare between the wild and in captivity? Let’s find out!
So, how long do Hermann tortoises live? Hermann tortoises typically live for about 30 years in the wild, although some can live for much longer than that. In captivity, these reptiles usually live for at least 50 years and commonly for longer. 60 years plus isn’t unheard of in captivity, with one Hermann tortoise in the UK having lived for over 110 years!
Here’s everything you’ll want to know on the life expectancy of Hermann tortoises, as well as how to extend it as best you can should you decide to get one.
Life Expectancy For Wild vs. Pet Hermann Tortoises
The life expectancy for wild vs. pet Hermann tortoises isn’t exact, though it is generally recognized that those kept in captivity generally live longer.
In fact, if kept in captivity as a pet you should expect at least 50 years.
60 to 90 years is a common lifespan for Hermanns who are well looked after.
Although many wild animals have a shorter life expectancy in the wild because of predators, there have been cases of some Hermann tortoises (in the genus Testudo) who have had a documented lifespan in the wild of over 120 years!
Besides, wild tortoises will be in their optimal habitat, with access to the food in which they require.
That being said, predation is a real, significant threat to an animal that is known for being notoriously slow and that cannot defend itself.
Worse yet; these reptiles are even more vulnerable in their first few months of life.
Until Hermann tortoises are about 6 months of age, their shells are soft and easy for predators to crush to get to their vulnerable bodies and limbs.
Factors Affecting Hermann Tortoise Life Expectancy
The factors that affect a Hermann tortoise’s life expectancy most are the conditions and environment they live, including their general habitat and their food. In regards to owning one of these tortoises, another huge factor is the care that they receive.
To ensure the best care, you’ll want to replicate the lifestyle and habitat that these animals are accustomed to in the wild.
It may take some time to get this right, but once you have a setup that works, Hermann tortoises require very little maintenance apart from loving care, of course!
In the wild, these animals live in evergreen forests and on rocky hillsides.
The better you can replicate this type of environment for your friend, the better the chances of your tortoise enjoying a long and happy life.
Another factor that affects life expectancy is the availability of food.
In the wild, Hermann tortoises usually eat lots of grasses, weeds, wild fruits, snails, slugs, and leguminous plants (wild lupines, clovers, beans).
These tortoises have big appetites, and in captivity, they’ll eat a wide variety of foods.
What Do Hermann Tortoises Need Yo Survive?
In order to survive, Hermann tortoises need several things: especially water and good food.
Although Hermann tortoises come from parts of the world with long, dry seasons, they need water.
These animals will drink water when it’s available in the wild, but they have adapted to go for extended periods without it.
However, if you want your tort to have the best life possible with the longest life expectancy, you will want to keep them sufficiently hydrated.
There is enough for survival and then there is optimal too.
So, you should provide a shallow water dish for soaking and drinking.
No matter how old your tort is, they will benefit from a soak in clean, lukewarm water once or twice a week.
In addition to the hydrating benefits, regular soaking will help get rid of dirt, bacteria, and other microorganisms that could potentially lead to health problems.
Hermann tortoises are primarily herbivores, although they do eat some snails and slugs in the wild.
You want the bulk of your friend’s diet to be leafy greens, such as:
- Curly kale
- Leafy salads (not iceberg lettuce which has no nutritional value and is mostly water)
- Spring greens
- Brussel tops
- Mustard greens
- Beet greens
- Dandelion greens
You can also include other foods, like:
- Bell peppers
- Yellow squash
- Shredded carrots
- Chopped tomatoes
Make sure your tortoise is getting enough calcium, as this mineral is essential for the healthy maintenance of its shell.
How To Tell If Your Hermann Tortoise Is Getting Old
Unless you know your tortoise’s birth date (or year) of birth, you won’t be able to tell exactly how old they are.
You can, however, make a rough guess of their age by looking at a few things.
Take a look at the rings on each scute of your pet’s shell.
Bear in mind, though, that the number of rings can only provide you with a rough estimate of age.
Rings develop during times of famine or feast for tortoises rather than with each passing year.
If your tortoise has 20 rings on its scutes, you can guess that your friend is at least 20 years old, but the exact number can vary by several decades, so this is only a very rough guess!
You can also look at the overall condition of the shell: older tortoises have a shell that tends to be smoother over time.
The bumps, ridges, and rings will become less prominent: this is particularly true for tortoises who live outside with some exposure to the elements such as sand and rain.
Their Activity Levels
If your tortoise is getting less and less active, it may be due to old age.
Older tortoises will often move more slowly than their younger friends.
Check with your vet, though, to be sure that it isn’t something else like arthritis or another illness.
As your tortoise ages, they may eat less.
Older tortoises can also become more herbivorous, so if you notice your tort is prioritizing the greens and shunning any extra bits of protein (such as snails or slugs), they may be getting older.
How To Ensure A Hermann Tortoise Reaches Their Life Expectancy
You can ensure your Hermann tortoise has a long and fulfilling life, reaching and hopefully exceeding their expectancy by providing the best conditions possible.
Make sure your tortoise’s habitat is as large as possible.
If you live in a warm climate, keep your tortoise outdoors, as they thrive best outside. It’s also simpler to replicate natural conditions outdoors.
Use solid materials like concrete or brick to fence in the enclosure, and make sure the walls are at least 18 inches high, with an additional 2 feet buried in the earth.
Hermann tortoises aren’t much for climbing, but they do enjoy digging!
For the substrate of the enclosure, natural soil is fine.
Make sure you have plants in your friend’s enclosure: you can use plants that are native to you, with a preference for those that Hermann tortoises enjoy munching on.
Check with your vet or a reptile breeder if you’re unsure what plants to provide.
Get a hide box to protect your pet from the sun as well as rain, snow, or other inclement weather. Hide boxes are especially essential for tortoises living outside.
If you live in a cooler climate, your tortoise can do well inside – the best option is a wooden vivarium that’s at least 48 inches long and 24 inches deep, with lots of headroom.
Put a mixture of cypress bark, sand, and soil at the bottom of your vivarium as a dry substrate.
This type of soil mixture won’t have too much of an effect on humidity levels, and your tortoise will be able to dig happily.
Make sure you’ve got a layer of substrate that’s at least 2 inches deep.
For the plants, you can use those that come from arid regions and then grow your own plants for feeding purposes.
Add some rocks, as well, and include a hiding box: the box needs to be big enough for your tortoise to fit their whole body inside easily.
It’s easier to keep an eye out for any signs of illness so that you can get your friend treated right away before developing anything too serious.
Regular vet checks (once or twice a year) can help you keep on top of your tortoise’s health.
Some signs to look for if your pet is ill are:
- Wheezing or labored breathing
- Runny nose or other discharge from the nose
- Sunken eyes
- Swollen eyelids
- Loose stools
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain (or loss of appetite)
- Soft shell
- Visible bones (in limbs or head)
If any of these signs are present, take your friend to the vet right away for the proper treatment.
Here are some signs of good health you can look for – always good to know how to tell if you’re doing something right!
Your tortoise is likely thriving if you notice:
- Quick and easy movement
- Walking with the bottom of their shell clear of the ground
- Digging and climbing behavior
- Good muscle tone
- Eyes that are clear, bright, and without signs of discharge
- Nostrils that are dry and clear
- A clear and pink tongue (unless they’ve recently eaten)
- A strong bite, with a slight overbite of the top beak
- A tail that’s clean and dry
- Feces that are firm, well-formed, and not loose or watery
Between 50 and 110 years.
That’s the range we see for the life expectancy of Hermann tortoises.
But that’s just it, a range.
We have our averages but ultimately, a lot will depend on the genetic hand a tort has been dealt and how they are cared for and raised.
You have a big part to play in the latter, should you decide to get on as a pet.
They are a huge commitment – not just in time but financially too, so be sure in your decision.
There’s no turning back!
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.