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2015 Growth Experiment

Discussion in 'Advanced Tortoise Topics' started by Tom, May 26, 2015.

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  1. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    My goal this year is to try to grow these tortoises very smooth and healthy without using any incandescent bulbs. It has become known that the IR-A generated by the commonly used incandescent bulbs has an extremely desiccating effect on our tortoise's carapaces. They need heat, but I am trying to find an alternative to the hot desiccating over head lights that we typically use.

    Further reasoning: It is my educated guess (Which unfortunately will have to do until a field researcher collects some hard data...) that young sulcatas spend the monsoon season hiding in the thick underbrush that occurs in their part of the world. The conditions in this area would have to be quite warm and humid and that is the reason for this particular enclosure set up.

    The enclosure is a 3x6' closed chamber. Here it is mostly built:
    [​IMG]

    Here it is being sealed with Drylok masonry paint. This is my first time trying out the DryLok. So far so good.
    [​IMG]

    Here it is all finished but empty:
    [​IMG]

    Here is all the heating and lighting:
    [​IMG]

    Here is the mess of wires that controls all the heating and lighting:
    [​IMG]

    There are basically four systems at work to heat and light the enclosure:
    1. I have two 12x12" radiant heat panels set on a thermostat to 80 degrees. This maintains ambient at no lower than 80 day and night.
    2. I have a regular florescent tube set on a timer to come on around 7am and turn off around 7pm.
    3. On the timer that controls the above light, I have a thermostat connected to an additional 12x21" radiant heat panel that is set to 90 degrees. So at 7am the lights kick on and this panel slowly begins to warm the whole enclosure up to around 90. Then at 7pm the light and heat panel kick of and the temperature slowly drops back down to 80ish. This is my best guess at what the temperature does on the hot rainy days over in Africa when the sulcatas have hatched and dug out of their nest chambers.
    4. I have an Arcadia 12% HO florescent tube set on a timer to come on for about 5 hours a day from 11am to 4 pm. This is to simulate the higher UV levels that occur mid day.

    And of course, the test subjects:
    I hatched out 14 little babies from one clutch. Dean took 8 and I kept 6 for this experiment. The eggs were laid January 8th, 2015 and I hatched them out about 3 months later. After a week or so in the brooder boxes, the babies were moved into their enclosure. Dean randomly selected his 8 and the ones he didn't pick are the subject of this experiment.
    [​IMG]

    Here they are making themselves at home:
    [​IMG]


    These babies all hatched between 31 and 34 grams. Since that time they have all grown to between 57 and 64 grams. They get soaked daily and sunned in a large tub three or four times a week for an hour or two. They are eating only a wide variety of weeds, grass and cactus. I'm not raising them with Mazuri or any other prepared foods. So far they look amazing and their health, vigor, growth and appetite suggest they are thriving in very way.
  2. johnsonnboswell

    johnsonnboswell Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Keep us posted on your experiment.

    Dean's babies are the control group in a sense, so he or you should document their care, too.
  3. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    I do believe Dean has a thread dedicated to his babies and he's already been updating it regularly. He is doing something kind of similar for their enclosure, but he does quite a few things differently than me.
  4. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Another experiment. I so appreciate that you're willing to share your experiments with us, Tom. It might not be hard science, but it good anyway!!
    tinytortoise and Kapidolo Farms like this.
  5. cmac3

    cmac3 Well-Known Member

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    what are the babies in the clear tub for? I see six on the ground and a few in the tub up in the corner.
    Darwien likes this.
  6. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Old eagle eye!!! I still couldn't see them, but finally did after squinting.
    Saltybarnacles likes this.
  7. cmac3

    cmac3 Well-Known Member

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    Haha, I didn't see them on my phone but I could on my work computer
  8. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    The picture was taken soon after they all hatched. The tub is a brooder box and those babies needed just a few more days to absorb their yolk sacs and close up the umbilical scars before being thrown in with the general population.

    I'm not in a hurry to get them out of their brooder boxes. They seem to do better for me if I leave them in there longer. I also find that it takes hatchlings a while to figure out what is food and what isn't, so more days in the brooder box lets me expose them to a wider variety of new foods. My babies eat something new and novel nearly every day for that first 7-10 days in the brooder box. Then once they are in their enclosure they eat all the food I offer, but they don't sample the substrate.
  9. mtdavis254817

    mtdavis254817 Active Member 5 Year Member

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    That is amazing
  10. leigti

    leigti Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    I will be interested to see how this works. Anything that keeps my tortoiseshell from drying out so badly when she has to be inside would be great.
    One question, at the beginning of the thread you said that you think that the hatchlings spend much of their time in sick undergrowth. With this be simulated more with plants in the enclosure? Or is the damp substrate and the ambient heat enough? I also just happen to like the look of plants and makes the enclosure look more natural to me. I do realize that how it looks is not the most important detail however.
  11. maybe thick undergrowth? I'm the one with sick plants....
    leigti and Yvonne G like this.
  12. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    I can't get plants to do well in an indoor enclosure, but I think it would be cool to do it that way. My tortoises trample, eat, move, dig under, bulldoze, flatten, bury, or otherwise destroy indoor plants. I can get plants growing in pretty thick outdoors, but its still too dry here for baby tortoises and the babies just do better when raised mostly indoors for me. I'd love to see someone do an experiment like this in a heavily planted indoor enclosure.
    leigti likes this.
  13. mikeylazer

    mikeylazer Active Member

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    There is no way to grow plants in an enclosure where they only have 1 light for 5 hours a day. Im sure there are some that could do okay, but nothing i can think of would thrive enough to get bug and bushy to create thick undergrowth. Very interested fo see how this turns out!
  14. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    There is a light on in this enclosure for 12 hours a day. The HO UV light is only on for 5 hours a day.

    Further someone else could design another experiment and use whatever lighting they wanted to grow lots of plants.
    Anyfoot likes this.
  15. leigti

    leigti Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    My plants grew very well indoors this past winter. I didn't have any special lighting just the lighting for the tortoise and the Boxturtle. I do not have a green thumb. I was just wondering. It's not the most important part of the experiment it was just an idea I had since you said that they spend their time in thick undergrowth. I like to make my enclosures as close to natural as I can. Kind of difficult since I live on the other side of the world from where my tortoises from but you get the idea :) I look forward to the results of this experiment. I think it is important that experience tortoise keepers do experiments like this. It's about the only way to get more information in a relatively timely manner.
  16. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Thanks. Which part do you like?
  17. bouaboua

    bouaboua Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    Hi Tom:

    May I have your permission to translate this thread and post it on one of the Chinese Tortoise forum? I have been preaching closed chamber method for about two years in that forum, I like to follow this thread and share the result of your experiment step by step with all the Chinese Tortoise lover.

    Thank you in advance.
  18. bouaboua

    bouaboua Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    And I like the work of your electrician.......:eek::eek::eek::p:p:p! ! !
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  19. Momo

    Momo Member

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    Wow Tom,
    Looks great! I'm just wondering about the front panel. I'm assuming it's cut glass? Did you buy the glass, and cut it yourself? Also the treads that the glass slides on, did you buy that from home depot, and cut to fit the enclosure? Because I currently have Plexiglass and it's starting to warp from the heat, and the moisture. I used 100% silicon for the seal, However that isn't holding as well as I would like.

    So I will be redoing it slightly, and I'm probably going to screw the plexiglass to the wood, or redo it like your with proper glass.
  20. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    I used plexi and it runs in lattice cover tract. They sell stuff called lattice cap at the hardware store. I cut it to length, drilled and countersunk screw holes and screwed it in.

    The plexi does warp, so better to use glass.
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