How to Make an Incubator for a Tortoise

Written by christine desouza
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How to Make an Incubator for a Tortoise
A homemade tortoise incubator (Gabriel Allen)

Raising turtles and tortoises is a hobby enjoyed by many reptile enthusiasts. One of the best ways to ensure a good clutch of hatchlings is to place harvested eggs in an incubator. However, prices of commercial incubators range anywhere from £22 for a simple digital breeding box to £487 for a complex, multi-level cabinet incubator, and this doesn’t include all the accessories needed.

You need not be a rocket scientist to design and build a suitable tortoise and turtle incubator. A little ingenuity and items found around the house are all you need.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 10-gallon glass aquarium
  • Aquarium heater with an automatic thermostat
  • Battery-operated thermometer
  • Four drinking glasses or two bricks
  • Chicken wire or cake cooling rack
  • Plastic containers
  • Cling film
  • Dirt, vermiculite, peat moss, sand, sphagnum moss or moist paper towels
  • Water

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  1. 1

    Set the automatic thermostat to 31.7 degrees Celsius and place it in the bottom of the aquarium.

    How to Make an Incubator for a Tortoise
    An aquarium heater with automatic thermostat.
  2. 2

    Pour two to three inches of water into the aquarium, covering the heater.

  3. 3

    Place four drinking glasses, two in front and two in back, into the aquarium. Two red bricks may be used instead of glasses.

    Set the chicken wire rack or cake cooling rack on top of the glasses or bricks.

  4. 4

    Fill the plastic containers with the medium to support the eggs. This can be dirt, vermiculite, sand, sphagnum moss or moist paper towels.

    Carefully place tortoise eggs into the soil and set the containers on top of the rack.

  5. 5

    Place the thermometer lead on the soil beside the eggs.

    Cover the aquarium with cling film and puncture several holes in the cling film.

Tips and warnings

  • Whatever materials you use to build an incubator, the most important factor to remember is temperature.
  • The temperature should range between 85 degrees and 32.2 degrees Celsius.
  • Tortoise eggs and terrestrial turtles need low humidity–usually around 70 per cent.
  • Temperature determines the sex of the turtles. If you want females, keep the incubator very warm; if you want males, keep it cooler.
  • Tortoise and turtle eggs should never be turned, shaken or rotated. Tortoises have delicate circulatory systems and blood vessels developing in the embryos can be easily damaged.

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