1. Welcome! Are you interested in tortoises? If so, we invite you to join our community! Our community is the #1 place for tortoise keepers to talk online. Once you join you'll be able to post messages, upload pictures of your tortoise and enclosure, and discuss any tortoise topic with other tortoise keepers. Get started today!

A Tale of Two Tortoises

Discussion in 'Debatable Topics' started by Tom, Mar 28, 2013.

Help Support Tortoise Forums by donating:

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2010
    Messages:
    45,428
    Likes Received:
    25,280
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Southern California
    This is a story about different ways of raising tortoises. This is not a scientific experiment. This is not a "How-to..." thread. I raised two different groups of sulcata tortoises at the same time, and got different results. I'd like to show what I did with each group and what I've gotten so far with each method.

    Method number one is my usual method. I've described it many times, but it basically consists of a closed chamber style of enclosure. All the heating and lighting equipment is enclosed within the enclosure and there are no openings or vents. ALL of the heat and humidity generated stays inside the enclosure instead of escaping up into the room through an open top. This makes it very easy to maintain ideal conditions and it uses a fraction of the electricity that an open topped enclosure uses. Here is a thread I did on this concept: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/thread-32333.html
    The sulcata hatchlings from method one have had an ambient of 80 F or higher 24/7, plus a basking spot and florescent tube light for about 12 hours a day. They got daily soaks when they were small and they got one or two hours of sun in a planted outdoor enclosure every day. I sprayed their shells with water several times a day. Their diet has been mostly grass and weeds, with occasional leaves, cactus pads, flowers, and Mazuri mixed with ZooMed Grassland diet once or twice a week. Here are the results: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/thread-50806.html

    Method number two was a bit of a departure for me. Many people advocate doing things more "naturally". Some of it makes sense to me. I've had many conversations with many people about all this including Dave Friend, Dean, Tomas Diagne, Yvonne and lots of other forum members too. The point is, there was a lot of influence from a lot of people behind this. Method number two involved my "Wild Bunch" seen here: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/thread-55041.html
    With this group I let them live outside all day every day from the day I found them, as long as the weather was "T-shirt" weather. That is most of the year here. I found them in September of 2012 and they were outside in a 4x8' well planted enclosure all day every day until about mid November when the weather started cooling. At that point I would put them out whenever the weather was sunny and around 65 or more. There were several week long stretches during winter where they stayed inside, but most days they got at least a few hours of sunning/grazing time. Their inside enclosure is an open topped 100 gallon reptile tank. It has orchid bark for substrate, a water dish, a food dish, a basking rock, a humid hide and that's about it. The basking spot is an old MVB. It still works, but I'm sure it gives off very little UV. I'm just using it for heat. Directly under the bulb gets to about 100. The rest of the room is heated to 78-80 all the time, so that is ambient, day or night. Every night they sleep in this tank and every day they go out all day, unless it was too cold in the winter. These tortoises have been fed nothing but grass, weeds and leaves that I have either grown myself or scrounged up. They have had no store bought food, except some collard greens that I grew myself, no supplements of any kind, but cuttle bone available, and they have never seen any prepared foods whatsoever. I soak them most days, but skip a lot more days than I normally would. During the hot end of summer days when they first hatched, I soaked them every day. As they got older I skipped more and more days. I still soak them around 2 or 3 times a week. I guess you could call this a "hybrid" method of housing and caring for them. A mix of my usual wet method and the old dry methods. Here are the results:

    This one is 208 grams at a little over six months old.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    This one is 247.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    And this one is 285.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    For comparison sake, here is one of my 10 month old sulcatas from method one with a similar camera angle and background.
    [​IMG]


    This cannot be any sort of direct comparison. Far too many variables were different. Food, daily temps, humidity, supplements, amount of sunshine, hatching method, genetics, etc. I just find it all interesting. I have consistently seen across the board that the more time hatchlings spend outside, the slower they grow. Many other keepers have related similar stories to me. My Sudans were 365-436 at six months where the Wild Bunch is only 208-285 grams. With the exclusion of Mazuri once or twice a week, their diets were very similar. I wish I had either skipped the Mazuri on my Sudans or included it with the Wild Bunch for comparison sake, but I didn't. Are the Sudans bigger due to genetics, food, or because they were housed in "ideal" conditions more of the time? I don't know. That is why this thread is in the debatable section.:)
  2. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member Tortoise Club

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2011
    Messages:
    37,319
    Likes Received:
    13,620
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Chicago, Illinois, USA
    (These ads do not appear for registered members.)
    Great thread Tom. How about the thought that the inside torts don't have to roam around for their food. While the ones left outside to graze do. I have noticed that with my leopard, I know not a sully, but my leopard when he is outside grazing, he stops, eats a little then will move on to another spot, even though the spot he just left has the same weeds, he moved to a new spot to get. Just my thought.
  3. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2010
    Messages:
    45,428
    Likes Received:
    25,280
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Southern California
    Their outdoor enclosures are the same size, 4x8', and similarly planted. The method one babies also have a 4x8' indoor enclosure, but we're in only 4x4' for their first couple of months.
  4. Weda737

    Weda737 Member 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2011
    Messages:
    789
    Likes Received:
    14
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location (City and/or State):
    NC
    My sulcata does the same thing. Eat two bites and take off again, those feet hardly stop moving. Mine spends a lot of time outside. Basically as long as it's warm enough (even somewhat chilly for me his carapace temp reads in the high eighties to mid nineties, love that solar panel shell) His shell is also a bit bumpy, kind of like that "wild" bunch. And for a several months when I ran out of mazuri his growth really slowed. It's not a big part of his diet but he does get a few kibbles of it, or a few red sticks about every day now. Growth really started picking up. Most of his diet was always yard grazing stuff, mostly clover and chickweed. He still won't touch a dandelion or that plaintain weed. The rest is supplemented with spring mix, zoomed grassland, and mazuri/red sticks. Had a cuttlebone until recently when I tossed what was left. He would occasionally take some chunks out of it and he does eat a pebble outside now and then. I also let him eat his poops, I know it seems gross but I believe they do it for a reason. There's my little story, if it helps to compare. I just know that mazuri seriously kick starts the growth.
  5. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2010
    Messages:
    45,428
    Likes Received:
    25,280
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Southern California
    I've seen the same thing with heavy Mazuri use. Lots of growth.
  6. tortadise

    tortadise Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2012
    Messages:
    9,531
    Likes Received:
    4,100
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Tropical South Texas
    The question would be the added hydration from the mazuri it is soaked in possibly. I wonder if perhaps this experiment should be tried in both methods like you said with both fed the exact same diet consistency. I know Dean had his guys outside. What did his feeding regime consist of? In relation to the mazuri intake of yours? Interesting. Hard to tell is genetics play a role in respect too. I would begin to imagine they play a role. Definitely not really a variable that plays a large percentage perhaps. I know my guys are not Sudanese but they are massive. I think its all a matter of how they are raised from beginning to current.

    I would be curious to see if the method of outside wild bunch and incubated clutches fed exactly the same thing differed. After all your not using 1 or 2 animals in each group. I tell you what mr.tom I have a clutch of leopards/sulcatas both in the ground right now. Lets do another experiment this year. Incubated versus in ground. From hatching to current and see what my guys differ in relation to yours. Gotta love spring.

    They all look great by the way.
    [hr]
    One more thing to consider is the percentage of mineral, proteins(animal/plant), and fiber in the diet too. Maybe the wee guys in the wild eat more protein first off then thought. I know the big guys will devour birds, small rodents, etc.. But what about the little guys. I know padlopers eat termites when they are young in their regions. Perhaps the sulcata eats ground worms, and beetles when they are young. After all 30 eggs from this clutch in the ground could be separated into 10 variable experiment group.
  7. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2010
    Messages:
    45,428
    Likes Received:
    25,280
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Southern California
    Dean feeds a lot of Mazuri and redsticks. I think he makes his tortoise meatballs or tortoise lasagna every day. His got a lot of Mazuri which should have made them grow very fast in comparison to mine that only got Mazuri mixed with other things once or twice a week. This is one reason why I think raising them indoors in ideal conditions allows them to grow faster than if they are outside most of the time. They also grow slower in the typical dry open topped indoor enclosures. I wonder how fast they grow when raised outside in New Orleans, or South FL. Is it the dryness here that slows them down? Outside temps? Hydration? Combo of all of it?
  8. Cowboy_Ken

    Cowboy_Ken Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2011
    Messages:
    17,514
    Likes Received:
    12,927
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Suburban-life in Salem, Oregon
    One thing clearly missing from this thread would be that with all this talk of feeding Mazuri tortoise chow and the higher levels of protein it contains, where are the grossly pyramided tortoises so many tortoise groups reference with this feeding regime? I've asked some to quantify their beliefs concerning this and I typically get the silent treatment. Tom, I believe, is,doing real work to help us understand the dynamics of diet and environment in raising our little charges, and for that I thank him on all of our behalf.
  9. tortadise

    tortadise Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2012
    Messages:
    9,531
    Likes Received:
    4,100
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Tropical South Texas
    Good points Ken. However we need to keep in mind the differences in animal and plant proteins. Although rather similar in a scientific break down. The plant protein seems to suggest its perfectly suitable and a needed part of the diet of herbivores. The real differences of plant versus animal is the amino acids and how they break down in the digestion of the animal. Animal proteins seem to contain more than a few amino acids and are sulphur based requiring a lot of calcium to balance, process, and absorb. Plant proteins tend to comprise of less "cluster" amino acids and is a medium Ph rather than a low Ph of animal proteins. Lower Ph (and trust me I am no expert) would in my opinion accelerate digestion in a herbivore instead of slowly digest and absorb in be utilized as a healthy growth additive needed to thrive. So the real question would be. How much actual plant protein is needed for sulcatas. Given they are known to consume carrion(animal protein). I would assume perhaps that a sulcata or any tortoise for that matter would be a lot smarter than people give them credit for. Kinda like a pregnant woman craving spinach for some random reason. Well the body is telling itself "I need potassium". So eat some spinach. I think all this could go very in depth for certain. But I do know protein is a much needed source for tortoises. Both animal and plant protein. The question is just how much is a perfect amount and which species needs a balance of both.

    To be honest I don't really feed mazuri. I use cattle formula and soak it same as mazuri. Its make up is over 8 bermudas, and 9 different grasses including buffalo, and iron grass. Also its about 8 dollars for a 50 pound bag.
  10. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2010
    Messages:
    45,428
    Likes Received:
    25,280
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Southern California
    Here is my general feeling on the matter: Even one of our well planted, irrigated, large enclosures is relatively stark and dry when compared to the green African marshlands during the rainy season. At least over here in the Southwest. Maybe its different in the South in the summer. Someone with experience hatching and raising babies over there will have to chime in. Where's Katherine? Mr. Ivans? With the exception of a few hot months in Summer, our outdoor temps don't match up to what's over there either, but my INDOOR temps and humidity match pretty well all year long with the help of a closed chamber and a little electricity.

    To summarize a few debatable points:
    1. Cool and or dry conditions slows growth. (Cool by sub-Saharan Africa standards...)
    2. Warm, wet conditions cause them to thrive and speed up growth. This is very difficult to do outdoors in the Southwest, but it MIGHT be achievable in summer in the South.
    3. Mazuri, by all accounts DOES seem to make tortoises grow faster, but its also true that sulcatas will thrive and grow on a wide variety of diet regimes.
  11. Kapidolo Farms

    Kapidolo Farms Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2012
    Messages:
    4,596
    Likes Received:
    3,551
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    South of Southern California, but not Mexico
    "Mazuri, by all accounts DOES seem to make tortoises grow faster . . ."

    . . . than no mazuri,

    . . . than only leaves grass and weeds

    . . . than ZooMed

    What is at the dangling end of the comparison Tom? Maybe I read through too fast and missed something, but it reads like half of a comparative statement.

    I have secretly been using the closed chamber (don't tell anyone) with some leopards, it's all good, I like the environmental control, reminds me of the chambers at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo used for several species of herps, including raditata and Psammobates. It's working super well.

    Will
  12. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2010
    Messages:
    45,428
    Likes Received:
    25,280
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Southern California
    D. All of the above. :)


    Be careful Will. I read on the Internet that humidity will give your leopard shell rot and a deadly respiratory infection...
  13. Cowboy_Ken

    Cowboy_Ken Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2011
    Messages:
    17,514
    Likes Received:
    12,927
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Suburban-life in Salem, Oregon
    And we all know Africa is dry as a bone. Remember Daktari? Hot and dry.
  14. sibi

    sibi Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2012
    Messages:
    6,483
    Likes Received:
    1,360
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Florida, USA
    Have anyone thought about the internal regulators of sulcatas? In Africa, sulcats thrive in the warm rainy seasons, but then they are equipped to reserve water very well for the rest of the year. When sulcatas are removed from their natural habitat, and we (people) provide heat, humidity, food and water all year long, how does that affect their ablity to self regulate? Does that change affect other components of their growth? Would it perhaps speed up growth, whereas, in their natural habitat growth would be slower? I often think how sullies would live in the wild and how different they would be if the perfect environment would be provided for them. How would their natural internal mechanisms compensate for the difference?
  15. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2010
    Messages:
    45,428
    Likes Received:
    25,280
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Southern California
    They don't have water all year, but they do have food and the same good temps. When the rainy season ends, they go underground into their burrows that are filled with grasses and weeds.

    I don't know if the conditions we provide are better, worse, or as a good as, what they experience in the wild. They certainly have more ability to exploit more micro habitats and they certainly don't have to ever deal with cool weather, which is one of the biggest problems in our captive environments.

    To answer your first question: Yes. I have thought A LOT about this subject. I think about this stuff aaaallllllll the time. One could call it obsessive even. This is why I must go there and see it for myself. I'd like to spend a few years there and really experience all the seasonal comings and goings, but that is just not possible at this stage in my life. So I do the next best thing which is question the heck out of anyone who DOES live there.
  16. cdmay

    cdmay Well-Known Member 10 Year Member!

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2008
    Messages:
    1,917
    Likes Received:
    1,501
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Somewhere in Florida
    Interesting thread Tom. The debate about captive diets and their effects on growing tortoises will probably continue for a long time. I've come to the conclusion that pretty much ALL captive hatched/captive raised tortoises are going to grow much faster than their wild counterparts regardless of the specific diet offered. It seems that most all captive raised tortoises will have a certain 'look' about them that sets them apart from wild animals of the same species and of the same relative size, no matter what they consumed while growing. The differences may be scutes that range from being only slightly raised to extremely distorted or growth lines on the shell that are widely separated instead of the tight, uniform growth usually seen on wild tortoises. The fact is that (most anyway) of our captive animals are kept in smaller confines than they would be experiencing in their native environment and they get more food. Plus, even in the most naturalistic setup we imagine, we are still putting more food in front of tortoise than they would likely be finding in the wild.
    After trying various methods (with mixed results) over the years I have found that common sense along with knowledge of the species you are working with goes a long way.
  17. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2010
    Messages:
    45,428
    Likes Received:
    25,280
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Southern California
    Insightful words. Thanks Carl.

    There is just so much that we don't know or fully understand. Many blanks to fill in...
  18. Neal

    Neal Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2010
    Messages:
    4,907
    Likes Received:
    810
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Arizona
    This is a good topic, but yeah, a lot of variables to consider to really conclude anything.

    I'd be curious to see if your outside sulcatas catch up to your other ones. I have always had slow growth rates compared to others. A friend suggested it might have been due to the amount of time mine spent outside as compared to others, since every other aspect was "ideal". But trying to make sense of the whys or hows of that theory had prohibited me from pursuing that idea any further. Eventually though, my tortoises caught up to others' captive bred tortoises.

    Consider my South African leopards, which are small compared to the other (possible clutch mates) of the ones shown here on the forum, but not too small as to be overly concerned. I have seen a lot of growth over the winter, and especially in the last month since things have been warming up. My largest one is tip toe-ing around 9 inches now and has a lot of new growth coming in. I'd be willing to bet they end up at a similar size to others.

    The topic is definitely worth some further "experimenting".
  19. Madkins007

    Madkins007 Well-Known Member Moderator 10 Year Member!

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2008
    Messages:
    5,370
    Likes Received:
    296
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Location (City and/or State):
    Nebraska
    One of the really annoying things about tortoises is that the normal methods of evaluating diet and husbandry for pets and domestic animals are longevity and reproduction (and of course things like blood tests, autopsies, etc.)- and tortoises live long enough and reproduce so slowly that a real trial would have to last about 10 years.

    The fact that tortoises are such a survivor species and thrive in such fringe areas just makes it tougher.

    But thanks, Tom, for doing this!!!!
  20. DeanS

    DeanS SULCATA OASIS 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    May 6, 2010
    Messages:
    4,404
    Likes Received:
    3,479
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    SoCal
    A-ha! Dean does feed Mazuri everyday! BUT! Climber and Jamie are the ones that 'kill it'...the Sudans treat the Mazuri like a 'normal' human treats coffee (OK...bad analogy). They come out in the morning and nibble on the Mazuri for about 10 minutes...then NEVER even look at it again! They go off and sleep a little...graze a little...soak A LOT...then bask...sleep...graze. Mine are not great consumers. My mulberries started blasting out leaves yesterday...I picked some of the best ones for the babies...and they barely touched it. As Mazuri and hydration go? I soak mine to the point of oatmeal consistency...medium really! Not runny and not stiff...just somewhere in between. I believe this was something Fife did as well (to deter pyramiding). Plus, I soak twice a day...usually an hour or more per session. Tom...I gotta say...it's been driving me crazy...wondering how the Sudans would be doing if I still lived In West Palm Beach...would they be thriving anymore than here? I love this thread...BADASS! :tort:
Similar Threads: Tale Tortoises
Forum Title Date
Debatable Topics Can i keep my 4 tortoises together? Aug 5, 2019
Debatable Topics Keeping tortoises together Jun 10, 2019
Debatable Topics Should Wild Caught Russian Tortoises Kept Dry? Dec 26, 2018
Debatable Topics How many tortoises/turtles do we have on TFO ? Let`s count ! Sep 13, 2018
Debatable Topics My Two Desert Tortoises Being Kept Together Jul 25, 2018

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page