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Hibernation Protocols

Over the years there has been some debate whether tortoises Hibernate or undergo Brumation. Physiologists have rejected the term brumation, so argument still rages on. The most important thing is with Hibernation/Brumation. PLAN PLAN PLAN.

The whole process of a successful hibernation should be well planned for. If unsure of any step please contact your reptile vet.

Hibernation protocols


The most commonly kept species that hibernate are as a follows:

Testudo species:

Mediterranean Spur-thighed Tortoise - (Testudo graeca)

Greek Spur-thighed Tortoise - (Testudo ibera)

Hermann’s Tortoise - (Testudo hermanni)

Horsfields Tortoise, aka Russian/Steppe/Afgan Tortoise - (Testudo horsfieldi)

Marginated Tortoise - (Testudo marinata)


Other common Tortoises that do not hibernated include:

Kleinmann’s or Egyptian - (TortoiseTestudo kleinmanni)

Sulcata or African Spurred - (Geochelone sulcata)

Leopard Tortoise - (Geochelone pardalis)


Pre-hibernation check

  • All tortoises that are to be hibernated must be healthy.

  • Their environment must be correct for the individual species. Research in advance may be necessary.

  • They must not have lost any weight.

  • Females: X-rays for retained eggs.

  • Faecal testing for internal parasites.



The aim is to have a full bladder and achieve the correct fluid balance for you tortoise.  Bathing your tortoise for 30-40 minutes, 48hrs apart will improve hydration and help stimulate the passing of unwanted faecal material.


Preparation for hibernation

Days 1-10

Daytime temperature: Keep as normal

Night time temperature: Drop to about 10 -15 C.

Bath daily for 40min to encourage defecation



Days 10-20

Bring down the temperature to room temperature, 17-20 C.

Bath daily for 40min to encourage defecation.



Days 20 -30

Can be kept in a garage (Ambient temp is 10-15 C)



Day 30 onwards

This is when your tortoise can enter the hibernation unit.


Monitoring hibernation

It is essential that all tortoises in hibernation are monitored.

  • Every 7 days you should weight your tortoise to monitor any weight loss.

  • Weight loss should not exceed 5%, if this occurs you need to end the hibernation.

  • Temperature needs to be monitored through-out the whole hibernation.


Ending hibernation


  • Remove the tortoise and weigh.

  • Examine your tortoise for any injuries or signs of disease.

  • Once happy, place in its enclosure at the correct temperature with access to heat and UV

  • Daily 40min warms will speed up the process and correct any hydration issues

  • Provide water and food (Monitor food intact, urination and faecal output)


If hibernation went well, your tortoise should start eating within 24hrs, if they have not eaten in 7 days, please make an appointment with your reptile vet.

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