Adult Leopard tortoise - Am I doing it right?

spcarman

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Hello everyone!

I very recently acquired my first ever tortoise! This is NOT my first reptile, but it is my first tortoise and I want to be absolutely sure I am giving him the best care. I decided to start this thread because:
  1. There is much less out there on leopard tortoise care than I had expected (especially for adults), and I've had to approximate some of his care with advice about Sulcata tortoises.
  2. I want to make sure I am not making any obvious mistakes with his care from the get-go (e.g., diet).
  3. I would like to know what are some things to look out for and/or check on a fairly regular basis - standard health checks, etc.

Background
My wife and I were originally going for a Russian, since they are recommended for beginners. Unfortunately, we did not know there is a ban on them right now (at least in California), and he was the only one they had in the store. According to the store owner, he is approximately 12 years old and was bullied by some other tortoises he was housed with and did not receive the best care - not awful care, but certainly subpar. He has a fair amount of pyramiding (not excessive, but not a small amount either), a bit of an overgrown beak, and is (was) fairly timid. We have a weak spot for animals in need of a loving home, so we ended up purchasing him.

It has only been one week since we got him and he is definitely not timid anymore. He is very personable and loves to explore, be pet, and be hand fed. Though I am not qualified to make this assessment, he seems in fairly good health. He's active during the day, has a good appetite, contains no parasites that I can see (I still need to get his stools checked), and appears to be quite happy overall.


Here is what I have been doing so far for him, and I'd love any comments/questions/concerns from any experts out there who know the dos and don'ts of Leopard tortoises:

Enclosure
My wife and I live in a 2nd story apartment, so we couldn't do an outdoor setup. Right now, we have him in a 4' x 2' x 2' PVC tank (for comparison, his shell diameter is about 11"). The front of the enclosure is glass, but we put one of those panorama backgrounds along the bottom so that about 6-8" above the substrate is totally opaque.
  • Substrate: Zoo Med Forest Floor, about 3-4" deep.
  • Lighting: 1 ~40" UVB light fixture spanning the length of the enclosure, 1 basking bulb (basking temperature is about 95-100 degrees), and one ceramic heat lamp for the evenings. Ambient temperature is about 80 degrees and ambient humidity is about 50-60%.
  • Plants: 2 live potted plants, both perfectly safe according to this forum, with no hazardous soil or anything. We also have one fake plant, but we were very careful to make sure he doesn't try to eat it.
  • Other decor: 1 hide (made of wood, intended for guinea pigs); 1 ~10" diameter terra cotta water dish he can drink from or soak in, cleaned daily; 1 piece of slate where we place his food; 1 cuttle bone; 1 small toy ball made out of timothy hay.
I spot clean the substrate daily, and I intend on replacing the substrate entirely about once a month to once every two months depending on how clean it seems. He has about 6 square feet of "empty" space for him to walk around, but we also try to give at least 30 mins - 1 hr of exercise outside of the cage per day. This includes walking around our apartment, which he enjoys exploring, and letting him walk around the grassy areas near our apartment when it is warm outside. This also doubles as providing him with extra sunlight.
In the warmer months (April/May - September), we may convert our deck into a pseudo-enclosure. It has smooth concrete flooring, is about 8' x 3', and there is no risk of falling since the vertical railings only leave about a 2" gap above the concrete. Of course, we would clean the entire deck thoroughly.

Diet
Right now, his diet consists mostly of supermarket leafy greens since that is what he was previously fed and we've only had him for 1 week. Dandelion greens are his favorite, but we usually provide him a mixture of dandelion, collard greens, mustard greens, romaine lettuce, and the occasional zucchini and yellow squash as a treat. I know how important fiber is for their diet so I am trying to mix all this with timothy hay in the hopes it becomes an acquired taste. Everything is lightly dusted with calcium (+D3) powder. Our local grocery store carries tons of tortoise-friendly foods so we'll likely also occasionally add something new just for variety's sake.

Other Care
I am aiming for giving him baths/soaks about twice a week for around 10 minutes each time, during which I clean him by gently scrubbing with a toothbrush.


Specific Questions:
  1. (The obvious one) How am I doing so far, between his enclosure, feeding, etc. ?
  2. What is the recommended humidity for an adult leopard tortoise? I have a spray bottle that I use to keep the humidity between 50-60% on average, but it can vary from a minimum of about 45% all the way up to 80% if I just misted the cage. I know baby tortoises require higher humidity, but I can't seem to find very much out there for adults. I worry about this in particular because I know some reptiles that come from arid environments can get pretty bad respiratory infections if the humidity is too high.
  3. What are some things I should watch out for that indicate health problems RIGHT NOW (due to his history)?
  4. What are some things I should watch out for IN THE FUTURE (i.e., daily health checks to indicate his overall health)?

If you feel you need pictures in order to make a good assessment, just let me know. Thank you so much!
 

wellington

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The enclosure is way too small. That size is recommended for hatchlings upto 2 years old maybe less. With to small of an enclosure he will not get the exercise and will lose muscle and will not be able to walk right. I had to rescue and rehab one in that condition. An adult leopard needs a very large enclosure. Average bedroom size. Everything else sounds okay.
 

spcarman

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The enclosure is way too small. That size is recommended for hatchlings up to 2 years old maybe less. With to small of an enclosure he will not get the exercise and will lose muscle and will not be able to walk right. I had to rescue and rehab one in that condition. An adult leopard needs a very large enclosure. Average bedroom size. Everything else sounds okay.

Could you be more quantitative about how much exercise they need? Most of the time he spends in his cage is spent eating, sleeping, and/or basking. If we notice he is moving a lot, we tend to let him out of the cage and give him most of the apartment to roam around. I said 30 minutes to an hour minimum a day for out-of-enclosure exercise but I probably should have mentioned that the past few days it's been more like 2-3 hours average. Does this remedy this issue somewhat? Are there any larger indoor enclosures you recommend?

I am concerned about him not getting enough exercise when we are no longer working from home though. We are lucky that we will be going back around the time it should be warm enough to convert the deck into his enclosure. Would that be acceptable to use as his "enclosure" during the warm months?

Thanks!
 

spcarman

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Bay Area, California
The enclosure is way too small. That size is recommended for hatchlings upto 2 years old maybe less. With to small of an enclosure he will not get the exercise and will lose muscle and will not be able to walk right. I had to rescue and rehab one in that condition. An adult leopard needs a very large enclosure. Average bedroom size. Everything else sounds okay.
Also, as a side note, my wife and I want to end up in Chicago one day after I finish graduate school. We are originally from the midwest, but I only had indoor pets when we lived there. How do you keep your tortoises over there? Do you keep them outside? And if so, what do you do during the winter months?
 

wellington

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Yes, they have a heated shed for winter and go outside by a ramp when they want during the summer. I lock them up every night during the summer in the shed. They do not get out in the winter. I have all sun when it's out in their yard which helps a lot during spring and fall to get them out more often.
 

wellington

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Could you be more quantitative about how much exercise they need? Most of the time he spends in his cage is spent eating, sleeping, and/or basking. If we notice he is moving a lot, we tend to let him out of the cage and give him most of the apartment to roam around. I said 30 minutes to an hour minimum a day for out-of-enclosure exercise but I probably should have mentioned that the past few days it's been more like 2-3 hours average. Does this remedy this issue somewhat? Are there any larger indoor enclosures you recommend?

I am concerned about him not getting enough exercise when we are no longer working from home though. We are lucky that we will be going back around the time it should be warm enough to convert the deck into his enclosure. Would that be acceptable to use as his "enclosure" during the warm months?

Thanks!
Roaming the house is a bad idea. Too many get hurt or end up dead. Plus the floor is to cold for them. Leopards need 80 temps day and night at their level. For a minimum size I would recommend at least a 10x10 10x12 foot. You can find portable pop up green houses. A small russian needs a minimum of a 4x8 foot. In the wild tortoises cover a lot of ground. When temps and size is right and hes adjusted to his new home, he will roam more. They usually wake, roam eat then sleep during the hottest part of the day and then will repeat a couple more times a day.
 

Blackdog1714

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Please go to this thread a see X-Ray proof why a tort should not be on your floor even supervised.
 

Lyn W

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Hi I bet he is much happier and less stressed now he isn't being bullied.

I have a leopard about the same size and because of our climate he lives in year around,
He has a heated hide in his own adapted room but does have access to a secure 'tort only' area in the garden in the summer when ground temps reach at least 70F.
Torts are roaming creatures so need to be able to wander but not around the house.
Also be careful of letting him roam in public places which may have been treated with weed killers/fertilisers or had dogs using them as a loo.

My tort isn't as active in the winter and some days he doesn't venture out at all, but he still has the opportunity to stretch his legs and come and go as he pleases.

I don't think Leopard's will usually eat dried grass or hay, but because he's on a shop bought diet during the winter I do grind some Readigrass in a blender and sprinkle it on to wet leaves to bulk it out a bit. Mine also likes pak choi, lambs lettuce sometimes kale but he's not a a big fan of that. He also enjoys aloe (but that needs to be chemical free if cut from a potted plant.) I believe they also like spineless opuntia but I can't get that easily here.

You should only be adding a pinch of calcium or other suppllements a couple of times a week.
 

Tom

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Hello everyone!

I very recently acquired my first ever tortoise! This is NOT my first reptile, but it is my first tortoise and I want to be absolutely sure I am giving him the best care. I decided to start this thread because:
  1. There is much less out there on leopard tortoise care than I had expected (especially for adults), and I've had to approximate some of his care with advice about Sulcata tortoises.
  2. I want to make sure I am not making any obvious mistakes with his care from the get-go (e.g., diet).
  3. I would like to know what are some things to look out for and/or check on a fairly regular basis - standard health checks, etc.

Background
My wife and I were originally going for a Russian, since they are recommended for beginners. Unfortunately, we did not know there is a ban on them right now (at least in California), and he was the only one they had in the store. According to the store owner, he is approximately 12 years old and was bullied by some other tortoises he was housed with and did not receive the best care - not awful care, but certainly subpar. He has a fair amount of pyramiding (not excessive, but not a small amount either), a bit of an overgrown beak, and is (was) fairly timid. We have a weak spot for animals in need of a loving home, so we ended up purchasing him.

It has only been one week since we got him and he is definitely not timid anymore. He is very personable and loves to explore, be pet, and be hand fed. Though I am not qualified to make this assessment, he seems in fairly good health. He's active during the day, has a good appetite, contains no parasites that I can see (I still need to get his stools checked), and appears to be quite happy overall.


Here is what I have been doing so far for him, and I'd love any comments/questions/concerns from any experts out there who know the dos and don'ts of Leopard tortoises:

Enclosure
My wife and I live in a 2nd story apartment, so we couldn't do an outdoor setup. Right now, we have him in a 4' x 2' x 2' PVC tank (for comparison, his shell diameter is about 11"). The front of the enclosure is glass, but we put one of those panorama backgrounds along the bottom so that about 6-8" above the substrate is totally opaque.
  • Substrate: Zoo Med Forest Floor, about 3-4" deep.
  • Lighting: 1 ~40" UVB light fixture spanning the length of the enclosure, 1 basking bulb (basking temperature is about 95-100 degrees), and one ceramic heat lamp for the evenings. Ambient temperature is about 80 degrees and ambient humidity is about 50-60%.
  • Plants: 2 live potted plants, both perfectly safe according to this forum, with no hazardous soil or anything. We also have one fake plant, but we were very careful to make sure he doesn't try to eat it.
  • Other decor: 1 hide (made of wood, intended for guinea pigs); 1 ~10" diameter terra cotta water dish he can drink from or soak in, cleaned daily; 1 piece of slate where we place his food; 1 cuttle bone; 1 small toy ball made out of timothy hay.
I spot clean the substrate daily, and I intend on replacing the substrate entirely about once a month to once every two months depending on how clean it seems. He has about 6 square feet of "empty" space for him to walk around, but we also try to give at least 30 mins - 1 hr of exercise outside of the cage per day. This includes walking around our apartment, which he enjoys exploring, and letting him walk around the grassy areas near our apartment when it is warm outside. This also doubles as providing him with extra sunlight.
In the warmer months (April/May - September), we may convert our deck into a pseudo-enclosure. It has smooth concrete flooring, is about 8' x 3', and there is no risk of falling since the vertical railings only leave about a 2" gap above the concrete. Of course, we would clean the entire deck thoroughly.

Diet
Right now, his diet consists mostly of supermarket leafy greens since that is what he was previously fed and we've only had him for 1 week. Dandelion greens are his favorite, but we usually provide him a mixture of dandelion, collard greens, mustard greens, romaine lettuce, and the occasional zucchini and yellow squash as a treat. I know how important fiber is for their diet so I am trying to mix all this with timothy hay in the hopes it becomes an acquired taste. Everything is lightly dusted with calcium (+D3) powder. Our local grocery store carries tons of tortoise-friendly foods so we'll likely also occasionally add something new just for variety's sake.

Other Care
I am aiming for giving him baths/soaks about twice a week for around 10 minutes each time, during which I clean him by gently scrubbing with a toothbrush.


Specific Questions:
  1. (The obvious one) How am I doing so far, between his enclosure, feeding, etc. ?
  2. What is the recommended humidity for an adult leopard tortoise? I have a spray bottle that I use to keep the humidity between 50-60% on average, but it can vary from a minimum of about 45% all the way up to 80% if I just misted the cage. I know baby tortoises require higher humidity, but I can't seem to find very much out there for adults. I worry about this in particular because I know some reptiles that come from arid environments can get pretty bad respiratory infections if the humidity is too high.
  3. What are some things I should watch out for that indicate health problems RIGHT NOW (due to his history)?
  4. What are some things I should watch out for IN THE FUTURE (i.e., daily health checks to indicate his overall health)?

If you feel you need pictures in order to make a good assessment, just let me know. Thank you so much!
All good advice in your thread so far. I'll answer your questions too:

  • As is usually the case, you got bad info from the pet shop. There is no ban on Russian tortoises. Perfectly legal to import, buy and sell, breed and possess. I don't know why the person would make something like that up, unless he was trying to talk you into the leopard he'd been sitting on for a while.
  • I agree that your enclosure is way too small. Even 4x8 feet would be too small. An 11 inch tortoise needs something room sized. This is always an issue with people starting out with tortoises. Pet shops and other info sources simply don't correctly inform people about how much space they need. Most of them just don't know, but some of them just don't want to tell you because then you might not buy anything. Petco and Petsmart are famous for selling adult Russians with 40 gallon tanks. So wrong.
  • I also agree that loose on the floor will eventually lead to disaster in one of many ways. We see it here all the time. My exotic vet friends see it all the time too. Keep your tortoise in its enclosure.
  • Walking loose around the apartment outside is no good either. People will tell you what they think you want to hear when you ask about pesticides and other chemicals. There are a variety of reasons why this could happen, but it happens. Your tortoise needs a cage enclosure outside too, but not in public areas maintained by groundskeepers.
  • Your substrate is fine and no need to change it. Just spot clean daily.
  • The lighting sounds okay, but what kind of UV tube is it and is it mounted to the top?
  • At 11 inches, your tortoise is borderline too big for basking lamps. These usually burn the carapace on larger animals, especially so when dealing with the higher dome of a leopard. Check the basking temp by setting your digital thermometer on top of something around the same height as your tortoise and letting it cook for an hour or more. This will tell you how hot the top of your large tortoise's carapace is getting under that heat lamp.
  • Regular leopards don't usually eat hay. Many of them don't even like fresh cut grass. You''ll most likely need to find another way to introduce fiber.
  • Soaking twice a week will be great, but do it for 30-40 minutes and keep the water warm the whole time. No need to scrub. Just rinse after. I rinse with distilled, rain water or RO water to prevent hard water stains. Only for the rinse. Regular tap water for the soaking and drinking.
  • I'll link the care sheet for diet info.
  • Humidity for adult leopards isn't critical. Its fine if its high as long as its warm. Its fine if its low as long as they are well hydrated. Moderate humidity around 50-70% is a nice target range to shoot for, but don't worry if it drifts higher or lower.
Pics of the tortoise and enclosure are always helpful.

Here is the leopard care info. Most of this applies to any age. No need for daily soaks for an adult, but most of this applies:

Questions are welcome. :)
 

Yvonne G

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I love this thread, but was highly disappointed to not seeing the tortoise. Pictures, please!

Since you live in an apartment with no 'land' to build on, a shed is out of the question for you. Do you have a spare bedroom you can work in? Cover the floor or a portion of the floor with a non-leaking tarp (those blue tarps leak because they're woven plastic strips). Then build him some short walls to contain him on the tarp. I would put down the tarp, build the walls/fence, then use some sort of waterproofing material all over the inside, especially around the bottom of the fence. Then put in your substrate and decorate it to your heart's content.

One thing that wasn't mentioned above is the fact that tortoises need exercise to keep their digestive tract working. If you notice your new guy is constipated, this would be one cause.
 

spcarman

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Hello everyone,

Sorry I haven't replied to anyone in so long, for some reason I stopped getting email updates about this thread and so assumed people stopped commenting. I will reply to everyone's comments but first I'd like to give a few updates:

1. I actually over-estimated my tort's size; his carapace is actually 8.5" long by 4.5" wide.
2. I rearranged some stuff in my apartment and think I can comfortably fit an indoor 4'x6' enclosure now (during the warm months, I still plan to use the larger deck). This may be on the small side based on some of your recommendations, but this is all I can fit. Please note that I am still a graduate student, so my options are limited. When I finish in a couple years and eventually buy a house, I plan on upgrading (and probably getting a few more torts!).
3. I've had pretty good success getting him on Timothy hay so far, and his stools have improved.
4. To ensure variety, I've settled on a supermarket green rotation system. Every week when we go to the store (Safeway), I get dandelion greens + 1-2 other types of greens that change weekly (between collard greens, mustard greens, endive lettuce, romaine lettuce, bok choy, and other types). I also give him a couple slices of zucchini every week as a treat because he LOVES zucchini. Everything is fed to him on a bed of timothy hay. I usually wet the timothy hay + greens and mix them together so all the greens are coated in bits of timothy hay that he naturally ingests while eating the greens.


More to come...
 

Lyn W

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You're lucky being able to buy dandelions - his diet sounds better.
I know you're struggling for space and doing your best to accommodate your tort, but 4x 6 is only just big enough for the smaller species of torts and certainly won't do him any good if you're looking at him being in that for a couple of years. When you've added a hide big enough for him etc he will have even less space. No spare room to adapt?
Also some thoughts for the future - torts should never be kept in pairs, you shouldn't mix species and the more torts you have the more space you need so that they can avoid each other.
 

spcarman

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Hi I bet he is much happier and less stressed now he isn't being bullied.

I have a leopard about the same size and because of our climate he lives in year around,
He has a heated hide in his own adapted room but does have access to a secure 'tort only' area in the garden in the summer when ground temps reach at least 70F.
Torts are roaming creatures so need to be able to wander but not around the house.
Also be careful of letting him roam in public places which may have been treated with weed killers/fertilisers or had dogs using them as a loo.

My tort isn't as active in the winter and some days he doesn't venture out at all, but he still has the opportunity to stretch his legs and come and go as he pleases.

I don't think Leopard's will usually eat dried grass or hay, but because he's on a shop bought diet during the winter I do grind some Readigrass in a blender and sprinkle it on to wet leaves to bulk it out a bit. Mine also likes pak choi, lambs lettuce sometimes kale but he's not a a big fan of that. He also enjoys aloe (but that needs to be chemical free if cut from a potted plant.) I believe they also like spineless opuntia but I can't get that easily here.

You should only be adding a pinch of calcium or other suppllements a couple of times a week.

I have received a wide range of contradictory information on calcium supplements for leopard tortoise. Most say a pinch or two every day, some say once or twice a week. Why do you do it at this rate?
 

spcarman

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All good advice in your thread so far. I'll answer your questions too:

  • As is usually the case, you got bad info from the pet shop. There is no ban on Russian tortoises. Perfectly legal to import, buy and sell, breed and possess. I don't know why the person would make something like that up, unless he was trying to talk you into the leopard he'd been sitting on for a while.
  • I agree that your enclosure is way too small. Even 4x8 feet would be too small. An 11 inch tortoise needs something room sized. This is always an issue with people starting out with tortoises. Pet shops and other info sources simply don't correctly inform people about how much space they need. Most of them just don't know, but some of them just don't want to tell you because then you might not buy anything. Petco and Petsmart are famous for selling adult Russians with 40 gallon tanks. So wrong.
  • I also agree that loose on the floor will eventually lead to disaster in one of many ways. We see it here all the time. My exotic vet friends see it all the time too. Keep your tortoise in its enclosure.
  • Walking loose around the apartment outside is no good either. People will tell you what they think you want to hear when you ask about pesticides and other chemicals. There are a variety of reasons why this could happen, but it happens. Your tortoise needs a cage enclosure outside too, but not in public areas maintained by groundskeepers.
  • Your substrate is fine and no need to change it. Just spot clean daily.
  • The lighting sounds okay, but what kind of UV tube is it and is it mounted to the top?
  • At 11 inches, your tortoise is borderline too big for basking lamps. These usually burn the carapace on larger animals, especially so when dealing with the higher dome of a leopard. Check the basking temp by setting your digital thermometer on top of something around the same height as your tortoise and letting it cook for an hour or more. This will tell you how hot the top of your large tortoise's carapace is getting under that heat lamp.
  • Regular leopards don't usually eat hay. Many of them don't even like fresh cut grass. You''ll most likely need to find another way to introduce fiber.
  • Soaking twice a week will be great, but do it for 30-40 minutes and keep the water warm the whole time. No need to scrub. Just rinse after. I rinse with distilled, rain water or RO water to prevent hard water stains. Only for the rinse. Regular tap water for the soaking and drinking.
  • I'll link the care sheet for diet info.
  • Humidity for adult leopards isn't critical. Its fine if its high as long as its warm. Its fine if its low as long as they are well hydrated. Moderate humidity around 50-70% is a nice target range to shoot for, but don't worry if it drifts higher or lower.
Pics of the tortoise and enclosure are always helpful.

Here is the leopard care info. Most of this applies to any age. No need for daily soaks for an adult, but most of this applies:

Questions are welcome. :)

I'll respond to your bullet points specifically but first I'd like to give a fairly long response to the "roaming the apartment issue".

First, a few notes about my apartment:
  1. My apartment is SMALL. It is <700 sq feet (and this is as good as it gets, the cost of living it torturously high here), and decent chunk of that is filled with furniture (none of which he has any danger of lodging himself under or anything like that). The downside is that the smallness of the apartment means I simply cannot afford much space for my tortoise (I had to do some massive re-arranging to fit the aforementioned 6'x4'). The good news is that this means he is always within eyeshot anywhere in the apartment, and all parts of it are easy to clean routinely because there's not much floor space to cover.
  2. I should mention exactly what I mean by "roaming". About 2-5 times a day, I let him out of his enclosure and walk around an area of the apartment that is open without any closed doors or walls preventing me from seeing him at all times. I ALWAYS clean the roaming area before hand. Each session lasts anywhere from ~15-45 minutes depending on how much energy he seems to have. Occasionally I will put him back early if I worry about him being cold, which I can tell either just by feeling how warm he is or taking the temperature of his shell, but he never shows any indications of getting cold before I naturally just put him back.
Everyone here seems to be in agreement that letting him roam the apartment is not a good idea, but I guess I don't exactly understand why yet. I don't really see much reason to be concerned based on what's been said so far because (a) the issues mentioned in previous replies (e.g., ingesting something bad like a screw) are neither unique to nor particularly more likely to happen on an apartment floor than any other roaming area (outside, for example), (b) the apartment area he can wander is relatively small so it is easy to clean up before hand to avoid any potential issues (making it arguably cleaner than outside), and (c) he can be watched at all times.
Perhaps there are other hazards I am not considering though? Please bring up other issues if you can think of them, I don't want to put my tort in danger but I also do not want to needlessly deprive him of exercise he could otherwise be getting if I cannot afford extra enclosure space.
 

spcarman

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All good advice in your thread so far. I'll answer your questions too:

  • As is usually the case, you got bad info from the pet shop. There is no ban on Russian tortoises. Perfectly legal to import, buy and sell, breed and possess. I don't know why the person would make something like that up, unless he was trying to talk you into the leopard he'd been sitting on for a while.
  • I agree that your enclosure is way too small. Even 4x8 feet would be too small. An 11 inch tortoise needs something room sized. This is always an issue with people starting out with tortoises. Pet shops and other info sources simply don't correctly inform people about how much space they need. Most of them just don't know, but some of them just don't want to tell you because then you might not buy anything. Petco and Petsmart are famous for selling adult Russians with 40 gallon tanks. So wrong.
  • I also agree that loose on the floor will eventually lead to disaster in one of many ways. We see it here all the time. My exotic vet friends see it all the time too. Keep your tortoise in its enclosure.
  • Walking loose around the apartment outside is no good either. People will tell you what they think you want to hear when you ask about pesticides and other chemicals. There are a variety of reasons why this could happen, but it happens. Your tortoise needs a cage enclosure outside too, but not in public areas maintained by groundskeepers.
  • Your substrate is fine and no need to change it. Just spot clean daily.
  • The lighting sounds okay, but what kind of UV tube is it and is it mounted to the top?
  • At 11 inches, your tortoise is borderline too big for basking lamps. These usually burn the carapace on larger animals, especially so when dealing with the higher dome of a leopard. Check the basking temp by setting your digital thermometer on top of something around the same height as your tortoise and letting it cook for an hour or more. This will tell you how hot the top of your large tortoise's carapace is getting under that heat lamp.
  • Regular leopards don't usually eat hay. Many of them don't even like fresh cut grass. You''ll most likely need to find another way to introduce fiber.
  • Soaking twice a week will be great, but do it for 30-40 minutes and keep the water warm the whole time. No need to scrub. Just rinse after. I rinse with distilled, rain water or RO water to prevent hard water stains. Only for the rinse. Regular tap water for the soaking and drinking.
  • I'll link the care sheet for diet info.
  • Humidity for adult leopards isn't critical. Its fine if its high as long as its warm. Its fine if its low as long as they are well hydrated. Moderate humidity around 50-70% is a nice target range to shoot for, but don't worry if it drifts higher or lower.
Pics of the tortoise and enclosure are always helpful.

Here is the leopard care info. Most of this applies to any age. No need for daily soaks for an adult, but most of this applies:

Questions are welcome. :)

Bullet point responses in order:
  • Wrong doesn't necessarily mean deceiving, it's possible they did not know or that it's location-specific (illegal at the state or county level, which is quite possible given the county's population of 1.7 million). They had no reason to lie, seeing as I would have gone through them anyways. Regardless though, I'm not really upset because I was purely interested in Russian because they were "beginner" tortoises, but I am not a beginner reptile keeper by any means.
  • See above reply. Also, in case you didn't see an earlier response, he is actually about 8.5 inches. This probably doesn't change the recommended enclosure size by very much, but it's worth noting.
  • (see above)
  • (see above)
  • With regards to spot cleaning, I have some difficulty finding the spots where he urinates (poop is obviously easy). Any recommendations?
  • For UVB, I use a 3' long 10.0 tube lamp (link), so all areas of the enclosure are exposed. I turn this on around 8-9am every morning and leave it on until 7-8pm in the evenings, and I also give him natural sun exposure when it is warm this time of year (he will get full natural sunlight in the warm months).
  • As mentioned before he is actually 8.5" x 4.5", and for his basking lamp I use ReptiSun 100W basking lamp (link). At the height of his shell and directly underneath the bulb, the basking temperature is around 98/99 degrees. The temperature stays above 90 degrees inside a circle with a diameter of about 14", so he can fit his whole body in this warm spot.
  • I have had good success so far with getting him to eat hay, but he doesn't eat straight hay as of yet. I also recently purchased Zoo Med's grassland tortoise food (link) that I plan on also working into his meals somehow (I am thinking soaking it and coating the supermarket greens in it to start). I figured why not, since variety can only be good for him, and supposedly many tortoises love the taste.
  • The most I've gotten him to soak so far is about 12 minutes. He seems to really hate the baths and is constantly trying to get out. The temperature is luke-warm, but I've tried adjusting that temperature just in case that's what was bothering him but to no avail. The deepest it gets is to just a tiny bit above the bottom of the palstron.
  • Excellent, that range is exactly what I was looking for. If I don't mist it, the lowest it gets is about 40% (50% with live plants that he has since trampled haha)

Thank you so much for all of these!
 

spcarman

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I love this thread, but was highly disappointed to not seeing the tortoise. Pictures, please!

Since you live in an apartment with no 'land' to build on, a shed is out of the question for you. Do you have a spare bedroom you can work in? Cover the floor or a portion of the floor with a non-leaking tarp (those blue tarps leak because they're woven plastic strips). Then build him some short walls to contain him on the tarp. I would put down the tarp, build the walls/fence, then use some sort of waterproofing material all over the inside, especially around the bottom of the fence. Then put in your substrate and decorate it to your heart's content.

One thing that wasn't mentioned above is the fact that tortoises need exercise to keep their digestive tract working. If you notice your new guy is constipated, this would be one cause.

Here's just a one of him happily roaming outside. I will post more tomorrow!

Unfortunately no dedicated space beyond the upgraded 6'x4' enclosure. See previous response for a more detailed description of my apartment. '

Your comment about digestion and exercise --- THANK YOU. THESE are the types of important points that are often not mentioned in videos or care sheets, and consequently can only be learned over time (by reading a book on tortoise anatomy, for example). I will keep this in mind.
 

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spcarman

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Messages
15
Location (City and/or State)
Bay Area, California
Sorry 2 more quick notes for anyone crafting a reply:

1. The vet nearest us does indeed see many species of tortoise including leopards, and I am hoping to get him in for a general checkup (since I just got him) in early February when the specialist is back.
2. The outside deck I plan to house him in during the warm months is about 10' x 6'.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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I'll respond to your bullet points specifically but first I'd like to give a fairly long response to the "roaming the apartment issue".

First, a few notes about my apartment:
  1. My apartment is SMALL. It is <700 sq feet (and this is as good as it gets, the cost of living it torturously high here), and decent chunk of that is filled with furniture (none of which he has any danger of lodging himself under or anything like that). The downside is that the smallness of the apartment means I simply cannot afford much space for my tortoise (I had to do some massive re-arranging to fit the aforementioned 6'x4'). The good news is that this means he is always within eyeshot anywhere in the apartment, and all parts of it are easy to clean routinely because there's not much floor space to cover.
  2. I should mention exactly what I mean by "roaming". About 2-5 times a day, I let him out of his enclosure and walk around an area of the apartment that is open without any closed doors or walls preventing me from seeing him at all times. I ALWAYS clean the roaming area before hand. Each session lasts anywhere from ~15-45 minutes depending on how much energy he seems to have. Occasionally I will put him back early if I worry about him being cold, which I can tell either just by feeling how warm he is or taking the temperature of his shell, but he never shows any indications of getting cold before I naturally just put him back.
Everyone here seems to be in agreement that letting him roam the apartment is not a good idea, but I guess I don't exactly understand why yet. I don't really see much reason to be concerned based on what's been said so far because (a) the issues mentioned in previous replies (e.g., ingesting something bad like a screw) are neither unique to nor particularly more likely to happen on an apartment floor than any other roaming area (outside, for example), (b) the apartment area he can wander is relatively small so it is easy to clean up before hand to avoid any potential issues (making it arguably cleaner than outside), and (c) he can be watched at all times.
Perhaps there are other hazards I am not considering though? Please bring up other issues if you can think of them, I don't want to put my tort in danger but I also do not want to needlessly deprive him of exercise he could otherwise be getting if I cannot afford extra enclosure space.
Do you think anyone who lets their tortoise roam free thinks its going to do harm? They don't. They all think its safe, they all supervise, none of them can see what the big deal is and why we are all so emphatic about this... right up until the day something awful happens and they realize what we were all trying to warn them about. By then its too late. We see problem after problem and death after death here on the forum, and in person for me, because of this practice. Universally, almost everyone we tell this to argues with us about it. Some get defensive and leave in a huff. Other just dismiss it and think they know better. All will learn. Your choice is to learn the hard way, as so many before you have, or to benefit from the wisdom of so many tortoise keepers who have already walked this path and know where it will lead.

You cannot make it safe. Shortening the amount of time your tortoise is on the cold floor is not a better plan than leaving the tortoise where it is warm. Your tortoise will eventually find a way to injure itself, get impacted, gets its head squished, get kicked or stepped on, get mauled by another pet, eat something it shouldn't, get a respiratory infection from the cold, or even discover some new and creative way to hurt or kill itself that none of us have seen 15 times yet.

You are making a mistake. I'm trying to help you stop making this mistake BEFORE something terrible happens. The decision is yours.
 
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