Lesser Tenrec Care Guide

Lesser Tenrec Care Guide

 Basic Information

  • Species: Lesser Tenrec (Echinops telfairi)

  • Lifespan: 10 - 15 years on average, but have been known to live up to 20 years in captivity with proper care.

  • Adult Size: 5 - 6 inches in length and 100 - 250 grams

  • Native Habitat: Southern Madagascar


There are a number of different options that will satisfy the habitat requirements for your new Lesser Tenrec. The main factors in deciding on the cage will to ensure they have adequate floor space but also vertical space for climbing. We generally recommend the cage to meet the following requirements:

  • 18" Wide x 30" Long x 18" Tall
  • Flat bottom (Wire bottoms can be damaging to feet)
  • If using wire sided cage the bars should be as closely spaced as possible
  • Adequate space for wheel, branches, and several hideaways

They are natural climbers and will spend a great deal of time off the ground. You'll want to have ample vertical space to include branches, vines, fleece hammocks or toys, or anything else easy for them to grip. 

Lesser Tenrec habitats are much more fun to customize and we tend to make ours much more naturalistic. This can be done in either terrariums you would traditionally use for reptiles, Zen Habitats, or with a Midwest Critter Nation Cage

If using the Midwest Critter Nation cage you'll generally want to take out the plastic inserts and dividers, and inside use a metal pan as the bottom. That will then allow you to add your soil bottom and fill with climbing obstacles like branches, fleece clings, and the wheel. 

Lesser Tenrec Climbing

Diet & Nutrition

Lesser Tenrecs are classified as insectivores, but are actually omnivores. In the wild they eat a variety of insects and their larvae, but also prey upon small vertebrates, eggs, and occasionally fruit.

In captivity the bulk of their diet will include a variety of live insects including mealworms, super worms, calci worms, and dubia roaches. We also supplement this with a mix of high protein cat food or ferret kibble which is offered at all times. 

They also enjoy meat proteins, which can be offered on a weekly or monthly basis. Just ensure it is properly cooked, and unseasoned. This could also include meat protein in the form of pinky mice from pet stores. 

Just be mindful to only purchase insects from pet stores or insect breeders that are specifically for the purpose of feeding. Do not feed them wild insects as they could have parasites or bacteria harmful to your tenrec. 

You'll also need to supplement their diet additional calcium to prevent Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). We do this by dusting their insects with calcium once per week and providing them with natural light or UVB for absorption. 

Be mindful not to incorporate too much calcium into their diet as that too can be fatal. We generally avoid using the calcium droppers that are added to water since we cant regulate it as closely. A simply dusting of insects once per week will be perfectly adequate. 

Temperature Requirements

Tenrecs are typically not overly sensitive to temperature changes, although a very large or extended decrease can trigger torpor behavior, which should be avoided during the warmer months.

During the spring and summer, the cage should be kept at "room temperature" (68-72 F) or higher during daytime. During autumn and winter, when in torpor, the cage can be kept in the mid 60s.

They are far less sensitive temperature changes than many other animals, but you'll want to keep an eye to ensure it doesn't get too hot or cold at any point. 

We also incorporate natural sunlight into their enclosure throughout the year, but this could also be done through UVB lighting. 

Lesser Tenrec Baby

Required Supplies

One thing that makes Lesser Tenrecs so fun is how unique you can make their enclosure. You have a lot of different options and setups that work great, but there are a few basic things you'll need regardless. That includes:

  • Enclosure: There are many different options for caging depending on your personal preferences. Some of our favorites include Zen Habitats, Midwest Critter Nation, and Terrariums. Just make sure they meet these basic requirements:
      • 18" Wide x 30" Long x 18" Tall
      • No wire bottom 
      • Small spacing between bars if using wire sided cage
  • Light Source: Lesser Tenrecs do need a source of light either from UVB bulbs used for reptiles or through natural light. 
  • Wheel: The wheel can be either wire or solid surface. This can include either the kaytee wire wheels, comfort wheels, or bucket wheels.
  • Hides: At least one, preferably two, places for them two hide and feed safe within their cage. Anything will be fine whether it be a plastic igloo, rock hide, or fleece hut. Just something they'll be able to fit comfortable inside and feel secure. 
  • Climbing Obstacles: Lesser Tenrecs are amazing climbers and will need plenty of climbing obstacles like branches, cork bark, thick vines, or fleece hangs made for sugar gliders or ferrets. 
  • Water Bowl: They do not drink out of water bottles, so a water bowl with water at all times will be required. 
  • Food Bowl: You will likely need two food dishes. One for the kibble and another for insects. 
  • Food: Refer to the diet and nutrition section, but you'll want to provide a staple diet of insects and high protein cat or ferret kibble. This could include:
  • Dust/Sand & Bowl: Lesser Tenrecs do take sand baths to clean themselves off and can be as simple as plain white/uncolored sand found in most pet stores. 
  • Bedding: Many options will work fine including fleece liners, paper bedding, or more naturalistic options like reptile soil/bark, etc... Just avoid cedar shaving as it is toxic.

Lesser Tenrec Babies

Our Available Lesser Tenrecs

If you've done your research and decided to add a Lesser Tenrec to your family, you can view all our available tenrecs here.

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