Indian Star tortoises (Geochelone elegans) are a rarely kept tortoise best suited to dry, warm climates. They are very attractively patterned with a black shell underneath amazing radiating lines of yellow or tan. This is a small tortoise, with adults reaching average sizes of 8-12" long (females typically larger than males). It is rarely bred in captivity, and a small clutch size makes them difficult to find and keeps prices high. The climate, diet and natural habitat is very similar to that of a leopard tortoise.
Originally from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, this species is no longer imported into the United States (unless farm bred from overseas breeding facilities).
We keep our adult star tortoises outdoors in secured enclosures when the nighttime lows are above 60, and the daytime highs are below 115. They don't handle cold well unless provided with a heated hidebox. We prefer to bring ours in to keep them active during the winter. They need access to shaded areas, as well as something safe to graze on while outdoors. Indoors, we keep them in large plastic containers (Waterland Tubs) on a peat moss topped with cypress substrate, or a dry hay or grass substrate. They have access to a humid hide area to enable them to decide for themselves the humidity level they desire. As babies, we soak them three times a week in 1/4" of warm water for 30 minutes to allow them to get well hydrated. They are fed a diet that is high in fiber and low in protein (grasses, dandelions, leafy greens, cactus pads, etc). Fruit should be avoided with this grassland species, as well as anything with a high amount of protein. They will need light calcium supplementation occasionally with their meals. Standing water is optional, but not needed as long as they are getting regular soakings.
Natural sunlight is best for tortoises of all ages, but if the star tortoise is kept indoors, it needs to be supplied with a source of UV-B from it’s lighting. It should also have as a spot bulb that will allow the tortoise access to an area where it can reach a temperature between 90 and 100 degrees if desired. This is a species that, when kept indoors, really benefits from the use of a high intensity, mercury vapor lamp. Babies are sensitive to cold, and should be kept at 80 degrees or above, night and day.
The adults of this species stay small. Many people keep them indoors in large tortoise tables in order to maintain stable temperatures. Under proper temperatures, outdoor housing is preferred by us, but you need to have indoor accommodations in colder climates since this is not a hibernating species. This tortoise appreciates low humidity and high temperatures, but is small enough to be maintained indoors in controlled conditions in cold climates. It will thrive outdoors in the desert climates of Southwestern states. Adults of this species can handle lower and higher temperature extremes than babies.