A Planted Rainforest Redfoot Terrarium v.2

Status
Not open for further replies.

sk8todd

New Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Oct 25, 2009
Messages
16
oAKKsYY.jpg


Greetings fellow Tortoise enthusiasts! I thought I would give you guys an update on my Redfoots and their habitat. My three Redfoot tortoises are approximately six years old now and doing very well. They are happy as clams in their new enclosure (I spoil them rotten). Earlier this year I began construction on a much larger terrarium as they had outgrown their first table (33"x29"x12" with a total 6.64 Square feet of roaming space) shown here:

x56mwo.jpg


This small terrarium was fairly well suited for their needs as babies. It maintained temps fairly well and provided decent coverage as long as the plants survived. What it lacked was an enclosed design to maintain humidity and a lack of energy efficiency to maintain heat. The substrate was also difficult to keep moisture evenly throughout and free of small insects.

What I quickly learned about Redfoots:
1. They will eat every plant in sight that they can reach.
2. They will wreck any beautiful ornamental habitat design or structure that isn't permanently secured.
3. They will slowly bulldoze any hills or substrate shape back to flat.
4. They will ruin a perfectly clean water bowl with poop as soon as you drop it in. .

Don't get me wrong, I love my babies! But a change in habitat design was in order and I needed to learn from my previous mistakes. My goal was this: To create a near indestructible habitat with plenty of roaming space, yet have the intimate feel of a rainforest. Designed as automated a system as possible, so I can spend more time ENJOYING and less time DOING.

Their new enclosure is 69" Wide, 27" Deep and 23" Tall with a total 12.9 Square feet of roaming space). Custom built acrylic with a black background. The custom stand sits a very low 26" in height, much lower than a traditional aquarium stand.
Bk4lYQM.jpg


The canopy is a front hinging design with no obstructions from lighting or a wood trim edge to reach over. All areas can be accessed by hand and without a step stool.
TmymNUF.jpg


Lighting is a hanging pendant T5 Quad 60" 6500K 320W 4x 80W with 6 led moon lights. It is on 3 separate timers. With daylights kicking on gradually every 30 minutes, instead of all at once.
U1Qbhun.jpg


Supplemental heat is provided by Three Fluker's 17x11" Large Heat Mats controlled by a Hydrofarm Digital Thermostat to kick on below 79. The one heat is placed under large flagstone rock in their shaded cypress much bed. The other two are placed under large flat rocks that do an excellent job radiating heat. They are warm to the touch and a great way for Torts to decide if they too warm or cold and move accordingly.

Humidity is maintained and plants are watered by a Mist King system with six nozzles spraying for 12 seconds, 8 times per day. It provides a fine atomized mist that evaporates quickly. The tortoise love it and I highly recommend this system over a manual pressure sprayer.
du3o3V9.jpg

ad7u7R6.jpg

KBy983l.jpg


My biggest issue with my previous enclosure was providing freshwater without cleaning out their small bowls every single day. The new enclosure use a much larger three gallon concrete mixer tray filled with mexican river rock. The rock allows a 2" shallow area safe for torts to bathe, while still providing the high volume of water necessary to keep water cleaner longer. Water changes are done very easily by siphoning out the old into a 5 gallon bucket below. I used a piece of flat drift wood tied down with braided fishing line as a waterfall.
IKm6TW6.jpg

GILR8Cc.jpg


One of the toughest decisions I made that I don't often see in enclosure design is the greater use of large pebbles as a main substrate. While I wouldn't recommend this substrate for hatchling or very small torts, larger tortoises have no problem finding their footing and exploring their surroundings. I have noticed a huge improvement in overall water cleanliness and dust levels throughout the terrarium and the room. This was achieved by having a smaller dedicated 15"x12" bed of cypress much for them to sleep in. Their bed is contained within its own plastic container and very easy to lift out, clean and replace. By having the majority of exploring space filled with Mexican river rock, I have found that the torts have less eye irritation and sneeze less. They also learned to do all of their burrowing in the cypress mulch bed as they aren't strong enough to move around the rock structure or drift woods. Also, they haven't once defecated in their mulch bed since I tried this technique. Because of the high cost and weight of Mexican river rock for my application, the majority of space below the surface is a block structure of light weight closed cell foam. The foam is water proof, resists bacteria and does not deteriorate. So if you can imagine without the rocks, two plastic basins (one for mulch and one for water) and a 6" layer of foam surrounding those basins and a 2" layer of rock covering the top, front and side viewing angles. This also made for very easy cleaning and drainage, as I can hose off the entire enclosure and quickly siphon out all the water.
0G4f300.jpg


As I mentioned above, Redfoots will eat any vegetation within reach and find creative ways to access plants out of reach. In an effort to keep my decorative plants alive, be able to choose almost any non-poisonous plant species without fear if ingestion, all plants were placed on acrylic table tops far out of reach. The acrylic tables also double as shade structures, where they like to spend the majority of the time. This allows for much more free roaming space and no plant casualties.
hdq0LgJ.jpg

CqSiamk.jpg

JZZjr1A.jpg


I hope you enjoyed exploring my newest enclosure. Redfoot tortoise care is a life long responsibility. I've learned a lot from my previous experiences, but in no way consider myself an expert in care. Every owner has a different ideology on proper care and habitat, I wanted to share with you mine.
OKUPf7r.jpg
 

KevinGG

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 16, 2013
Messages
1,121
Location (City and/or State)
Santa Cruz, CA
Looks beautiful. I'll be installing mistaking in with all of my humidity loving species this year. Please keep us posted on the long term health of your Redfoots on this substrate.
 

crimson_lotus

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Dec 28, 2013
Messages
1,335
Location (City and/or State)
Massachusetts
Are all three of your tortoises in that enclosure? I would worry about if the space is big enough.

I really love your idea for the water, it looks natural.
 

sk8todd

New Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Oct 25, 2009
Messages
16
So beautiful. Did you build it yourself or special order from a manufacturer?
The stand and canopy were made to order by a local aquarium. The tank is an "Acrylic Box" made by Tap Plastics. They wouldn’t recognize it as an aquarium, because they didn't want to be responsible for it to be water load bearing. I did use marine grade epoxy to seal the seams.

Are all three of your tortoises in that enclosure? I would worry about if the space is big enough.
To me, the space for a single tortoise is not that much different than a space for three. They spend 75% of the day huddled together in their mulch bed in darkness. I would estimate that I can get another 4-5 years out of this enclosure before moving them outdoors.
 

Turtlepete

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 12, 2014
Messages
972
Location (City and/or State)
South Florida
I'm sorry to be the downer/negative voice, but…

If your tortoises are spending 75% of the day huddled in the corner, doing nothing, at that age, then something is lacking in your husbandry. That isn't natural. Trust me, I've raised several from hatchling to adulthood. By that age they should be more active. Those I keep are constantly exploring and browsing by that size. While it IS to be expected for them to spend a bit of time resting in the shade, they don't just do nothing all day.
The issue is that you've failed to provide them with ample space and a stimulating environment. Where do they have to explore? I'm guessing from pictures they are around 5"-6" in size? By 3" I move any young I raise outdoors to a 4x4 enclosure. While I understand not everyone can provide an outdoor habitat, due to climate, there is no excuse for a lack of space, given your decision to take on the venture of ownership.
It is concerning to me that you yourself believe this is enough space for them in the long-run, 4-5 years down the road. I'm hoping that you don't understand that in 4-5 years, they will be 9-12", and don't actually expect that space to be appropriate for 3 animals of that size, by that time. Your animals are pyramiding. This is probably due to a substrate that is failing to hold humidity and maintain the right climate. Cypress mulch or peat moss get this job done much better.

It's an awesome idea, I'll give you that. I like the watering dish. It's clear you've put a lot of work into this, and there are some reptiles that would be really happy in that enclosure. Redfoots aren't it. Spend a third of the money and build an 8x4 enclosed table. Fill it with mulch and plants and create the kind of environment your tortoises will enjoy exploring. Check out the "My redfoot family" thread to see an awesome example of a proper indoor setup.

I really hope you put some thought into what I'm saying and I'm not just coming off condescending. The reality you need to understand is that the enclosure you are providing your animals with is barely big enough for now. You won't get 4-5 years out of it. You won't get a year out of it, even. It's pretty simple to create a nice red foot habitat, but it can't be done out of a glass tank filled with rocks. If moving them outdoors is an option right now, then PLEASE consider doing so. I promise you, your animals will thank you for it.
 

terryo

Well-Known Member
10 Year Member!
Today is my birthday!
Joined
Aug 24, 2007
Messages
8,972
Location (City and/or State)
Staten Island, New York
Although it looks really nice, I'll have to agree with the above comment. I can't tell by the picture, but is there water flowing all the time and are those rocks always wet? A wet surface isn't really that good, and may cause shell rot. I feel bad even saying this because you worked so hard.
 

ZEROPILOT

REDFOOT WRANGLER
Tortoise Club
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jul 16, 2014
Messages
24,276
Location (City and/or State)
South Eastern Florida (U.S.A.)/Rock Hill S.C.
Very well made and with plenty of thought! With a few tweaks, you'll be fine. You say that keeping Red Footeds are a lifelong commitment. They live 35 years. While not quite a lifetime, it's certainly much longer than most other obligations....Or relationships, etc.;)
 

naturalman91

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2014
Messages
2,011
Location (City and/or State)
Medford Oregon
was this basically made like a tank but can't hold water? did you order it or something? i'm amazed
 

Madkins007

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Joined
Feb 15, 2008
Messages
5,393
Location (City and/or State)
Nebraska
Beautiful habitat! I love habitats that automate heat, light and humidity to this extent.

I don't post much anymore since I lost my last torts a couple years ago and decided I don't have the space and resources to keep them they way I would want to in the Omaha winters, but if I was starting again, i would go with something like this.

There are a few things i would do differently, however.

Size. The European standard is 8 shell lengths by 4 shell lengths for 1-2 animals, double it for 3-4, and add about 20% for each after that. So, for a small herd, I would design something that could be expanded as they grew, with a final target of about 12'x3' (about the biggest I could fit in the room and still reach across.) Better yet, I would embrace my dream of converting my den into a sun room/tortoise haven and let them do a modified 'free roam' in a warm, humid room with features like large trays of soil and plants they can climb into, etc.

(The idea that they are or are not active is interesting. I have experienced and read about both behaviors. I think that tortoises that are either TOO active or inactive are stressed. Wild tortoises sleep or hide for most of the day, and forage for long distances. In a small tank, they have no opportunity to roam, hunt for food, etc. We can improve this even more my doing things like hanging the greens, scattering food, etc.. On the other hand, a tort that is on the move most of the day may be looking for good places to hide or better temperatures.)

Habitat. As you mentioned, they bulldoze and destroy, more so as they get bigger. Since most wild red-footed tortoises live in grasslands, I would aim for more of an open floorplan (with no plants along the walls) and more hanging or overhead plantings to moderate the light levels and provide humidity. I would also build in a hill or sloped end- when I added one by accident, my torts really seemed to enjoy it!

Substrate. I don't think there is much wrong with the large pebbles for the most part, but I wonder about the long term effects of the abrasion (which in my mind would lead to shell rot). If I had that kind of space and automation, I would go with a bioactive substrate system. These don't work in smaller spaces, but do work nicely when you have space to play with.

Water. I never had much problem with pooping in the water, but for the most part, I'd rather have them poop in the water where it is easy to clean than in the habitat and smear it/grind it all over the place. I like plastic plant saucers for my dishes. They are broad and shallow, usually enough of a slope for easy entry (although I use pebbles for smaller torts), and easy to clean. I use 3 at a time- one sunk to the rim in the substrate, the other placed inside for easy removal and care, and a third being washed.

Cleaning. As long as I automate the other stuff, I'd automate cleaning too. A small group of hermit crabs, and some isopods and worms in the bioactive substrate would clean up a lot of the mess. I use folded newspaper as the food bowls, or bag clips (modified with suction cups or hanging hooks) to hold greens from overhead so that is not a big deal. If I ever did the 'Room Retreat' idea (which would have a small 'airlock' as part of it), I'd release some anoles or small geckos to help manage any flying insect problems, and just for the fun of it.
 

Madkins007

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Joined
Feb 15, 2008
Messages
5,393
Location (City and/or State)
Nebraska
Very well made and with plenty of thought! With a few tweaks, you'll be fine. You say that keeping Red Footeds are a lifelong commitment. They live 35 years. While not quite a lifetime, it's certainly much longer than most other obligations....Or relationships, etc.;)

I've seen a lifespan of 35 years mentioned in many sources. Whenever we talk about lifespans, things can get weird quick. First, different authorities differ on what an average tortoise, forest tortoise, and red-footed tortoise lifespan is, and are we talking wild or captive? Then, 'averages' for a species that can live over 100 easily can get tricky.

The sad reality for tortoises and turtles is that most pet torts will not survive 5 years. A lot of this is due to poor information but I would bet that it accounts for over half the tortoises sold. On the other hand, there are many red-footeds in private collections and zoos that are over 80, and it is very possible that the giant red-footeds we often hear of are just well-fed and very old.

To me, this means that we should celebrate when our torts make it to the 5 year hurdle, celebrate more when they pass 35, and pat ourselves on the back when they pass 50- keeping in mind at all times that a crummy box turtle in New York and a snapper from the south are well-documented as having been around for over 100 years in the wild and we should be able to do a lot better than that with proper cares!
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2014
Messages
58
oAKKsYY.jpg


Greetings fellow Tortoise enthusiasts! I thought I would give you guys an update on my Redfoots and their habitat. My three Redfoot tortoises are approximately six years old now and doing very well. They are happy as clams in their new enclosure (I spoil them rotten). Earlier this year I began construction on a much larger terrarium as they had outgrown their first table (33"x29"x12" with a total 6.64 Square feet of roaming space) shown here:

x56mwo.jpg


This small terrarium was fairly well suited for their needs as babies. It maintained temps fairly well and provided decent coverage as long as the plants survived. What it lacked was an enclosed design to maintain humidity and a lack of energy efficiency to maintain heat. The substrate was also difficult to keep moisture evenly throughout and free of small insects.

What I quickly learned about Redfoots:
1. They will eat every plant in sight that they can reach.
2. They will wreck any beautiful ornamental habitat design or structure that isn't permanently secured.
3. They will slowly bulldoze any hills or substrate shape back to flat.
4. They will ruin a perfectly clean water bowl with poop as soon as you drop it in. .

Don't get me wrong, I love my babies! But a change in habitat design was in order and I needed to learn from my previous mistakes. My goal was this: To create a near indestructible habitat with plenty of roaming space, yet have the intimate feel of a rainforest. Designed as automated a system as possible, so I can spend more time ENJOYING and less time DOING.

Their new enclosure is 69" Wide, 27" Deep and 23" Tall with a total 12.9 Square feet of roaming space). Custom built acrylic with a black background. The custom stand sits a very low 26" in height, much lower than a traditional aquarium stand.
Bk4lYQM.jpg


The canopy is a front hinging design with no obstructions from lighting or a wood trim edge to reach over. All areas can be accessed by hand and without a step stool.
TmymNUF.jpg


Lighting is a hanging pendant T5 Quad 60" 6500K 320W 4x 80W with 6 led moon lights. It is on 3 separate timers. With daylights kicking on gradually every 30 minutes, instead of all at once.
U1Qbhun.jpg


Supplemental heat is provided by Three Fluker's 17x11" Large Heat Mats controlled by a Hydrofarm Digital Thermostat to kick on below 79. The one heat is placed under large flagstone rock in their shaded cypress much bed. The other two are placed under large flat rocks that do an excellent job radiating heat. They are warm to the touch and a great way for Torts to decide if they too warm or cold and move accordingly.

Humidity is maintained and plants are watered by a Mist King system with six nozzles spraying for 12 seconds, 8 times per day. It provides a fine atomized mist that evaporates quickly. The tortoise love it and I highly recommend this system over a manual pressure sprayer.
du3o3V9.jpg

ad7u7R6.jpg

KBy983l.jpg


My biggest issue with my previous enclosure was providing freshwater without cleaning out their small bowls every single day. The new enclosure use a much larger three gallon concrete mixer tray filled with mexican river rock. The rock allows a 2" shallow area safe for torts to bathe, while still providing the high volume of water necessary to keep water cleaner longer. Water changes are done very easily by siphoning out the old into a 5 gallon bucket below. I used a piece of flat drift wood tied down with braided fishing line as a waterfall.
IKm6TW6.jpg

GILR8Cc.jpg


One of the toughest decisions I made that I don't often see in enclosure design is the greater use of large pebbles as a main substrate. While I wouldn't recommend this substrate for hatchling or very small torts, larger tortoises have no problem finding their footing and exploring their surroundings. I have noticed a huge improvement in overall water cleanliness and dust levels throughout the terrarium and the room. This was achieved by having a smaller dedicated 15"x12" bed of cypress much for them to sleep in. Their bed is contained within its own plastic container and very easy to lift out, clean and replace. By having the majority of exploring space filled with Mexican river rock, I have found that the torts have less eye irritation and sneeze less. They also learned to do all of their burrowing in the cypress mulch bed as they aren't strong enough to move around the rock structure or drift woods. Also, they haven't once defecated in their mulch bed since I tried this technique. Because of the high cost and weight of Mexican river rock for my application, the majority of space below the surface is a block structure of light weight closed cell foam. The foam is water proof, resists bacteria and does not deteriorate. So if you can imagine without the rocks, two plastic basins (one for mulch and one for water) and a 6" layer of foam surrounding those basins and a 2" layer of rock covering the top, front and side viewing angles. This also made for very easy cleaning and drainage, as I can hose off the entire enclosure and quickly siphon out all the water.
0G4f300.jpg


As I mentioned above, Redfoots will eat any vegetation within reach and find creative ways to access plants out of reach. In an effort to keep my decorative plants alive, be able to choose almost any non-poisonous plant species without fear if ingestion, all plants were placed on acrylic table tops far out of reach. The acrylic tables also double as shade structures, where they like to spend the majority of the time. This allows for much more free roaming space and no plant casualties.
hdq0LgJ.jpg

CqSiamk.jpg

JZZjr1A.jpg


I hope you enjoyed exploring my newest enclosure. Redfoot tortoise care is a life long responsibility. I've learned a lot from my previous experiences, but in no way consider myself an expert in care. Every owner has a different ideology on proper care and habitat, I wanted to share with you mine.
OKUPf7r.jpg
This is the coolest looking terrarium I've seen here. Thanks for showing the misting system. I hadn't seen that before. I have a big boy, but if I ever get some smaller ones, I'd love a similar looking setup. I like the idea torts being able to chomp on the plants in the enclosure, but really like the idea of putting a few good looking ones up out of reach. You put a lot of thought into this one. It's a great looking design. Well done!
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2014
Messages
58
I've seen a lifespan of 35 years mentioned in many sources. Whenever we talk about lifespans, things can get weird quick. First, different authorities differ on what an average tortoise, forest tortoise, and red-footed tortoise lifespan is, and are we talking wild or captive? Then, 'averages' for a species that can live over 100 easily can get tricky.

The sad reality for tortoises and turtles is that most pet torts will not survive 5 years. A lot of this is due to poor information but I would bet that it accounts for over half the tortoises sold. On the other hand, there are many red-footeds in private collections and zoos that are over 80, and it is very possible that the giant red-footeds we often hear of are just well-fed and very old.

To me, this means that we should celebrate when our torts make it to the 5 year hurdle, celebrate more when they pass 35, and pat ourselves on the back when they pass 50- keeping in mind at all times that a crummy box turtle in New York and a snapper from the south are well-documented as having been around for over 100 years in the wild and we should be able to do a lot better than that with proper cares!
great comments! Thanks
 

Candy

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2009
Messages
3,990
Location (City and/or State)
Alhambra, CA
I'm sorry also, but I have to agree with turtlepete. I like a few rocks, but there should be mulch or more moss and that would make for a better environment. The humidity would stay up that way too. Mine roam around a good part of the day. They have great personalities. I have three and they range anywhere from 7 to 9 inches and I they have two enclosures that are 13'X6' and one is 3'X 20' so they have lots of roaming space. Next year I will expand it even bigger. They love roaming around. I do know that you have put a lot of your time into this though and I respect the effort given.
 

leopard777

Active Member
5 Year Member
Joined
May 22, 2012
Messages
364
was this basically made like a tank but can't hold water? did you order it or something? i'm amazed


i think low volume of water should be ok , if you see the thickness and the tank has no bracing , it can't hold full volume due to tank bowing
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top