1st timer - are we doing things right?!

Cherrise

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May 4, 2015
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so my 15 yr old daughter twisted her dad's arm and got a baby sulcata about 2 weeks ago. Thought I'm not thrilled about the lifelong commitment we've taken on, we ARE responsible pet owners and want to do everything right! and they ARE so adorable, just precious (while they're babies anyway!)

I have spent tons of hours researching the past week and just feel very overwhelmed and confused because there is very differing advice from forum to forum. I'm a very busy mom and just don't have any more time to try to make heads or tails of all the varying opinions out there on websites. Stumbled upon this forum and you folks here seem to be the experts so PLEASE help a mom out here!!

My most pressing question right now is how to stop her (my daughter insists it's a girl!) from flipping herself over? I know this can be very dangerous if they can't get themselves righted. We found Navi flipped over THREE times just yesterday and once was right under he lamp! NOT GOOD!

So here's what we've done/are doing:

1. Feeding: mostly fresh grass clippings (bermuda) from our untreated yard, occasional mash of ZooMed Tortoise food (a couple of dry pellets and a hibicus flower...she doesn't seem to like this food much), VERY occasional small piece of kale which she likes, we have what I thought was clover in our yard (we don't spray) and I gave her some of that which she loved. Later I was doing more research and think it MAY have been oxalis which is NOT okay. She seems fine, so either it isn't oxalis or was not enough to hurt her. Until I can determine for certain it is clover we won't give her more. So the REPTILE store we went to AND several sulcata sites say spring mix minus the spinach is okay. However, on this forum some folks say "no"....thus adding to our confusion. We have a LOT of weeds in our yard right now but I have NO idea what kind they are so I'm terrified to feed her any of them. Any good guidebooks out there for identifying? we have cuttlebone in her habitat for calcium...is this okay or enough for a baby? I can't tell if she's eaten any of it so I'm a bit concerned that maybe we should get some of the stuff you can sprinkle on their food? I was going to get some of the edible flowers on the "ok list" but I'm guessing Home Depot and Lowe's all spray theirs with chemicals????!!! anyone know where I can get some untreated? will take a while to grow ourselves and I need to vary up her diet! If she's getting a varied diet I've read on here she shouldn't need vits? but then another person said the DO need vit supplement! see the confusion for newbies!!???

2. Lighting/Housing: we are unable to keep her outside as we have 3 cattle dogs. They are older so by the time Navi is a big girl and really needs to go outside our dogs will likely have gone to doggie heaven. Anyway, she is in a large plastic sweater box. AFTER buying it and getting it all set up I read on here on Tom's thread (who I understand is the Turtle Whisperer!) that sweater boxes and turtle table are the worst and an enclosed habitat is better. Yet MANY sites and even on here say no to aquariums. So AGAIN much overwhelming confusion for this newbie! I really can't invest any more money on this little creature than I already have so we are either sticking with the sweater box until she's bigger unless any of you have a better cheap option?

Anyway, back to her housing....we have a very moist substrate of Eco Earth. She seems to be happy with it but I'm wondering if we should have varying substrates in different areas of the box? and, if so, what do you all recommend we add to give her some variety? should I let some of the eco earth dry out and keep some of it more wet to keep humidity up? We also have a small cardboard box turned upside down with a doorway cut that she can hide in. Is this sufficient?

We bought the expensive $80 PowerSun bulb 100watt mercury vapor UVB lamp (regretting that after what I've read on here!) anyway, it is at one end of her habitat so she can escape to the other end if she's too warm. We have temp tested and it's 80-85F under the light..is that warm enough?? The ambient temp in the room is around 78. we have the lamp on during the day around 12 hrs total. I read on several sites to just turn them on during the day and turn them off at night. I'm concerned about how she stays warm at night though? Also, if my daughter takes her out in our front yard, attended, to get some natural sun...can she go without the Power Sun lamp for a day if she's taken outside for 30-45 minutes instead? we have not tested the humidity yet. I need to buy something to do that with.

3. Flipping over: My daughter thinks she's flipping herself because she's bored. She said "mom she needs toys!" so WHAT do we give a baby sully for toys? I'm afraid to put anything in the she can climb on so she doesn't fall off onto her back. My daughter was afraid to go to school today and have her baby get flipped and not be able to right herself. I'm home today but can't stay home ever day checking on this baby every hour!!! So any advice on preventing the flipping! She did it a few times even with in a cardboard box when we first go her home, so it's not from any reflection on the habitat walls. Will plants grow in the Eco Earth or should we put baby clay potted plants in there? what do you all recommend for plants and "toys"? I like the half logs seen in some of the pics on here but SO afraid she will climb on TOP of it and flip herself.

4. Misc: We've soaked her almost every day for 20 min in warm water. How old does she need to be before we can stop doing this? This is like having a newborn! LOL! Usually she likes it but sometimes she just keeps going to the side trying to get out. We have fresh water in her habit and change it often. I know she's getting in it because there's evidence of the eco earth floating in it and I've caught her a few times standing in it drinking.

ANY AND ALL HELP APPRECIATED!!!!!
 

Cherrise

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May 4, 2015
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4
Navi.JPG here's what we have so far...keep in mind we just got her about 2 weeks ago and have been researching. any suggestions appreciaited.
 

wellington

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Hello and Welcome:). How great though for your daughter to grow old with a childhood pet.
Now to what you need to do. You found the right site. Below,in my post is Toms threads for the right way to house. You will need a box, like you have but taller sides. Temps 80 day and night but with humdidty at 80% and baskng if 95+. Coconut coir works great for keeping up humidity also covering the enclosure. Most all you questions should be answered in the thread.
As for flipping, block and square corners, lower dishes to be level with substrate and a hid that is rounded is better then straight sides for flipping I feel, unless they start climbing it.
 

Lyn W

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Welcome you are in the right place for the best advice available for new keepers like us. The care sheet and threads on enclosures etc will give you lots of ideas and answer your questions but there are always lots of helpful experts around to help too.

She sounds a feisty little tort and I'm not an expert with babies but maybe put some plants around in pots sunk into substrate - to make it more interesting and her feel less exposed. Check www.thetortoisetable.org.uk to ID plants that are safe for torts. As Wellington said - sink water dish into substrate to make it easier for the little chap to get in and out. Some people use a flat piece of slate for torts to bask on.

A che (ceramic heat emitter) on a thermostat is good for night use, they use a lamp holder like the bulb but only give out heat as torts need darkness to sleep. but check the caresheet for your torts temp needs

I'm sure someone more experienced will be along soon to agree or disagree with the above but those are some of the tips I've picked up from this marvellous forum.
 
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Lyn W

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Maybe if you posted a message on the introduction thread and mentioned that you have asked your main questions in this one. you may get more responses from the experts, Cherisse. There are a lot of sulcata keepers who could help - it could be a time difference thing too. Also if you use the search
facility for enclosures for baby sulcata you may find ideas.

The cardboard could be a fire hazard so watch that and I'm not familiar with the bulb you say you regret buying but if it is a coil type please don't use it as they damage eyes and can cause blindness.
 
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crimson_lotus

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I do not have a sulcata but I can try to help you with some general things.

I think the mercury vapor bulbs are great - they provide heat, light and uvb all in one. For night time heat I would recommend buying a ceramic heat emitter, like Lyn was saying above.

To achieve better humidity, if you still have the top to that plastic container, you could place it on there and cut off a piece for the light. No need to buy an expensive aquarium tank, plastic bins do the job to hold humidity in, but when they get older those low sides might be a problem.

I would also try to maybe cover the sides with something so he can't see through it, like wrap a towel or tape some paper to the outside as a lot of tortoises try to escape all the time if they can see through things.

I recommend replacing the cardboard box as it could mold with the higher humidity you want to achieve. No need to get an overpriced tortoise log, a plant pot would do just fine.

Check out that site that Lyn W linked, it's great for telling you what weeds and plants are good to feed for your tortoise. It's helped me a lot. I hope those more experienced with sulcatas will jump in to help you, but you've been getting some solid advice so far :D The care sheet in Wellington's signature will answer a lot of your questions.
 

Carol S

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Welcome to the Forum. Buy your supplies from either Amazon.com or PetMountain.com. You said you paid $80.00 for your PowerSun bulb (you must of bought it from a pet store). On an average you can get it for around $45.00 to $48.00 on Amazon.com or Petmountain.com. Petmountain.com has all sorts of supplies. I buy my coir bricks from there and many other things. Also save the box and receipt for your PowerSun as it has a one year guarantee. ZooMed is great about standing behind their products. If the light goes bad before one year all you have to do is box it up and mail it to them and they send you a new one right away.
 

Myroli

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If the nighttime temp does not drop below 70-75 I would say she should be fine without a che, but I am also new to being owned by a sully and my enclosure walls are higher so that might be what is keeping the heat in with mine, one of the more experienced sully owners should be along shortly to give you a better answer
 
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