Adult Leopard Substrate

Bestcoast

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I recently acquired an adult leopard tortoise so tortoise care is new to me. I've read a few books, researched websites and consulted pet stores and have been given a lot of different information. I am hoping to get some clarification here.

I recently purchased a house for my tortoise so that he has a warm hideout during the winter. I live in Southern California on the coast and would like to know what would be appropriate to use as substrate. As he is an adult is humidity important? He also pees fairly regularly in the morning before being active so it will likely need to be changed out often.
 

Tom

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It depends on what you are using for heat. In my smaller houses I use a Kane heat mat and Radiant Heat Panel combo. I run them both on the same thermostat. In these houses I use no substrate. I put in a little dirt and scrape it up with the poop and pee as needed.

In my bigger houses I use a radiant oil heater. In those houses I use either dirt or bermuda grass hay.

I saw your box in the other thread. It looks great. I wouldn't use a heat lamp for that application. First of all, they need it dark at night. Second, heat lamps can burn the tops of their shells when used outdoors in this way with large tortoises. CHEs will do the same thing, even though they emit no light. Last, you don't need a light in an outdoor box CHEs will do the same thing, even though they emit no light.

Here are two ways that I have figured out how to do it through many years of trial and error:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/another-night-box-thread.88966/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/my-best-night-box-design-yet.66867/
 
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Team Gomberg

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I like to use coco coir and coco husk in my leopard's heated house. It's heated with a radiator and the substrate is kept away from the heat source by a divider.
I don't keep his humidity high like I did when he was a baby but I have found that a moderate humidity level works well. The damp substrate works great in my experience.
 

Bestcoast

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It depends on what you are using for heat. In my smaller houses I use a Kane heat mat and Radiant Heat Panel combo. I run them both on the same thermostat. In these houses I use no substrate. I put in a little dirt and scrape it up with the poop and pee as needed.

In my bigger houses I use a radiant oil heater. In those houses I use either dirt or bermuda grass hay.

I saw your box in the other thread. It looks great. I wouldn't use a heat lamp for that application. First of all, they need it dark at night. Second, heat lamps can burn the tops of their shells when used outdoors in this way with large tortoises. CHEs will do the same thing, even though they emit no light. Last, you don't need a light in an outdoor boxHEs will do the same thing, even though they emit no light.

Here are two ways that I have figured out how to do it through many years of trial and error:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/another-night-box-thread.88966/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/my-best-night-box-design-yet.66867/

Thanks Tom!

Your night boxes are amazing! I hope to modify mine with some changes. Even though it's new as I can see a few ways to improve mine.

Questions:
I've read that tortoises do not see the red spectrum of light making basking lamps a viable option. Is this incorrect?

I've also read about overhead heat burning the tops of tortoise shells however it does mimic heat from the sun. Can't they also burn themselves from pig blankets/heat pads?
 

Tom

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Thanks Tom!

Your night boxes are amazing! I hope to modify mine with some changes. Even though it's new as I can see a few ways to improve mine.

Questions:
I've read that tortoises do not see the red spectrum of light making basking lamps a viable option. Is this incorrect?

I've also read about overhead heat burning the tops of tortoise shells however it does mimic heat from the sun. Can't they also burn themselves from pig blankets/heat pads?

Tortoises have better color vision than we do. Essentially, they can see what we can see, and more. So yes, they do see the red spectrum very well. This is why red foods bring them running.

Over head bulbs do not mimic heat from the sun and that is the problem. Our bulbs produce VERY high levels of "Infrared-A". These rays are filtered out of sunlight by the vast layers of our atmosphere. These rays are created by our electric bulbs. IR-A rays are extremely desiccating and dry out the top of the carapace in a very un-natural way.

Overhead bulbs also tend to concentrate too much heat into one small area, again, not like the sun at all. What happens to a large tortoise on a cold night is: The tortoise is breathing cold air and their belly is against the cold ground. That bulb beats down on the top of the carapace, but its not enough to warm the whole tortoises body. This is one way that these "slow-burns" as I like to call them happen.

Kane heat mats have redundant fail safes built into the pads and they cannot over heat or burn the tortoise. I don't know about other brands, but I've talked with Craig Kane about the design of his products several times and I've been using them for many years now. I know they are safe.

Likewise the Radiant Heat Panels from Reptile Basics are very safe too. They spread the heat out over a much larger area, and never get hot enough to burn.
 
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Bestcoast

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Tortoises have better color vision than we do. Essentially, they can see what we can see, and more. So yes, they do see the red spectrum very well. This is why red foods bring them running.

Over head bulbs do not mimic heat from the sun and that is the problem. Our bulbs produce VERY high levels of "Infrared-A". These rays are filtered out of sunlight by the vast layers of our atmosphere. These rays are created by our electric bulbs. IR-A rays are extremely desiccating and dry out the top of the carapace in a very un-natural way.

Overhead bulbs also tend to concentrate too much heat into one small area, again, not like the sun at all. What happens to a large tortoise on a cold night is: The tortoise is breathing cold air and their belly is against the cold ground. That bulb beats down on the top of the carapace, but its not enough to warm the whole tortoises body. This is one way that these "slow-burns" as I like to call them happen.

Kane heat mats have redundant fail safes built into the pads and they cannot over heat or burn the tortoise. I don't know about other brands, but I've talked with Craig Kane about the design of his products several times and I've been using them for many years now. I know they are safe.

Likewise the Radiant Heat Panels from Reptile Basics are very safe too. They spread the heat out over a much larger area, and never get hot enough to burn.

Thank you for this info, I'll work on changing the heat sources for my tortoise.
 

Bestcoast

New Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 5, 2015
Messages
14
Tortoises have better color vision than we do. Essentially, they can see what we can see, and more. So yes, they do see the red spectrum very well. This is why red foods bring them running.

Over head bulbs do not mimic heat from the sun and that is the problem. Our bulbs produce VERY high levels of "Infrared-A". These rays are filtered out of sunlight by the vast layers of our atmosphere. These rays are created by our electric bulbs. IR-A rays are extremely desiccating and dry out the top of the carapace in a very un-natural way.

Overhead bulbs also tend to concentrate too much heat into one small area, again, not like the sun at all. What happens to a large tortoise on a cold night is: The tortoise is breathing cold air and their belly is against the cold ground. That bulb beats down on the top of the carapace, but its not enough to warm the whole tortoises body. This is one way that these "slow-burns" as I like to call them happen.

Kane heat mats have redundant fail safes built into the pads and they cannot over heat or burn the tortoise. I don't know about other brands, but I've talked with Craig Kane about the design of his products several times and I've been using them for many years now. I know they are safe.

Likewise the Radiant Heat Panels from Reptile Basics are very safe too. They spread the heat out over a much larger area, and never get hot enough to burn.

What is your preference for radiant heat? Electric or oil heaters?
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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What is your preference for radiant heat? Electric or oil heaters?

Depends on the size of the box. I prefer oil heaters in my 4x8' boxes, and I prefer a Kane mat and RHP overhead in my 4x4' boxes. In theory, you could use either heating strategy in either box and make it work well. The disadvantage of the mini oil heater is that it takes up some floor space. So for a group of smaller tortoises in a 4x4 box, this wouldn't matter much. For a large sulcata, I would want all the floor space I could get in a 4x4. For a group of leopards in a 4x8', for example, having the little guard built around the heater gives the tortoises more corners to tuck into at night.

I put wayyyyyyy too much thought into al these designs… :)
 
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