Advice for best set up please

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VTort

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Torttable.JPG Hi,
We would like to set up our indoor tortoise table for our 5.5 inch Russian Tortoise. We have all of the ingredients and are prepared I think! We want to know the best way to put it all together. Here is a picture of the basic 2'x5'x 12"high box lined with vinyl flooring that my husband built. We have topsoil, play sand, and Coco Soft (loose coconut fine fiber).
We have a ZooMed Power Sun 100 watt lamp that has UVA and UVB in one bulb with an adjustable stand.
We have another plain 75 watt UVA bulb and a nighttime heat emitter bulb and another clip on lamp fixture too.
We have a thermometer and hydrometer combo.
We have a food dish, plastic pond type of thing, 1/2 log tunnel and he will have a wooden sleeping box ( by the end of today).
So....I think that we have everything and now I would love to know how to set things up.
What is the mixture that will make the best substrate?....or should it be layers or different substrates for different areas of the enclosure? Should some part be damp even if the humidity in the air is around 70?
Where should the light or lights go, and how high up should the light/lights be placed?
If you had all of these pieces, what is the best way to put them together to make the best environment. We received this little guy unexpectedly and are doing our best to make a good life for him. Any advice would be SO helpful!There is a lot of information out there and at this point I am a bit confused....
Thank you!
Annie
 
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Tom

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Everyone wil have a different opinion about what is "best".

I'll share mine.
1. That table is too small for a russian that size. I like a minimum 4x8'. If you have a nice large outdoor enclosure and he's only in that one at night or on the occasion bad weather day, it will be fine. Bigger would be better. Russians need a lot of room to roam.
2. I would not use any sand in your substrate. It is a potential skin and eye irritant and an impaction risk. If just a little bit sticks to the food, it can collect in the intestines over time and cause a blockage. I work with a lot of vets and have seen lots of x-rays of this.
3. The ZooMed bulb is great. It should go to one side or the other and I like to hang it over a flat piece of slate or sand stone. Get a temp gun or use your thermometer, and adjust the height of the bulb and fixture to get a basking spot directly under the bulb of about 95-100. If your tortoise always hangs out on the cool side away from the bulb, raise it up a little. If he constantly hangs out on the warm side or right under the bulb, lower it down a bit.
4. Unless you live inside a refrigerator, you do not need night heat for a russian.
5. "Plastic pond type of thing"? Be careful of the ramped water bowls that the pet stores sell. They are great for lizards and snakes, but can literally be deathtraps for tortoises. They best thing I have found for food and water bowls are plain old terra cotta plant saucers from the hardware or gardening store, sunk level into the substrate.
6. A humid hide should also be offered.
7. Are you saying the ambient humidity in your tortoise table room is 70% all the time. Even with AC or heat in winter? Where are you? If this is accurate, you will need no additional humidity.

Here is a site with diet info: http://russiantortoise.net/russiantortoisediet.htm

You didn't mention it in your post, but these guys do best outside. I highly recommend making an proper outdoor enclosure for him to use during fair weather. THe sun is so much better than any man made bulb.

Hope all this helps. Ask lots of questions.
 

VTort

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Hi Tom,
Thank you!!
We live in VT so he can go outside on warm days, or in the warmest part of the day this time of year. We are coming into the Fall, so I wait until it is warm outside and then he spends as many hours as possible out there.We are working on a portable outdoor inclosure, but have been using a dog expen for now with a shade side and cardboard box house. Before we actually adopted him, we found him a home in NH and their torts stay outside all winter...but when I took this guy to a vet for a check up, he did not think that this tortoise should be left out in a New England winter and he thought that an indoor/ outdoor set up that goes along with the temperatures is what we should do. It has been raining for days here to the humidity was up around 70.Today in the sun it is about 40. We built this indoor table with the only space that we have available where the tortoise would sort of be where we all are and also be in a window to get as much natural light as possible...it is MUCH bigger than what he came in( a rodent cage) and much bigger than his temporary cement mixing tub home....I am afraid that it is the best that we can do for now...but there is an option of making an L shaped addition in the future or perhaps a loft?
OK no sand will be used...but do you think that coco soft should be mixed with top soil...or is just coco soft ok?That is what he is on now and at least I know that he hasn't gotten sick from that yet!
The pond thing is a grey aprox 7" x7" squarish shaped thing...with little slanty steps going down ( I cannot figure out how to post a picture in this reply). We have been soaking him twice a week for 20 minutes and we have never seen him go in that little pond. We will buy him a terra cotta pot bottom today.
We are following the diet on that site and using both store bought items and wild ones that we forage for....but of course I am a bit nervous about that part too! Oh and he has a cuttlebone with the back sheared off....does he need anything supplements sprinkled on his food if we have that?
Should the humid hide be in his dark boxed in area? What degree of humidity works in there?
We have never had a reptile family member and we never planned on this, but now that Vladimir is here we want to make sure that he is well taken care of!
This advice is great! Thank you for answering all of my questions!
Annie


Pond.png
VTort said:
Hi Tom,
Thank you!!
We live in VT so he can go outside on warm days, or in the warmest part of the day this time of year. We are coming into the Fall, so I wait until it is warm outside and then he spends as many hours as possible out there.We are working on a portable outdoor inclosure, but have been using a dog expen for now with a shade side and cardboard box house. Before we actually adopted him, we found him a home in NH and their torts stay outside all winter...but when I took this guy to a vet for a check up, he did not think that this tortoise should be left out in a New England winter and he thought that an indoor/ outdoor set up that goes along with the temperatures is what we should do. It has been raining for days here to the humidity was up around 70.Today in the sun it is about 40. We built this indoor table with the only space that we have available where the tortoise would sort of be where we all are and also be in a window to get as much natural light as possible...it is MUCH bigger than what he came in( a rodent cage) and much bigger than his temporary cement mixing tub home....I am afraid that it is the best that we can do for now...but there is an option of making an L shaped addition in the future or perhaps a loft?
OK no sand will be used...but do you think that coco soft should be mixed with top soil...or is just coco soft ok?That is what he is on now and at least I know that he hasn't gotten sick from that yet!
The pond thing is a grey aprox 7" x7" squarish shaped thing...with little slanty steps going down ( I cannot figure out how to post a picture in this reply). We have been soaking him twice a week for 20 minutes and we have never seen him go in that little pond. We will buy him a terra cotta pot bottom today.
We are following the diet on that site and using both store bought items and wild ones that we forage for....but of course I am a bit nervous about that part too! Oh and he has a cuttlebone with the back sheared off....does he need anything supplements sprinkled on his food if we have that?
Should the humid hide be in his dark boxed in area? What degree of humidity works in there?
We have never had a reptile family member and we never planned on this, but now that Vladimir is here we want to make sure that he is well taken care of!
This advice is great! Thank you for answering all of my questions!
Annie
 
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WillTort2

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Glad to hear your Russian is getting an upgrade to the deluxe room. However, I agree with Tom, he needs more space for the long winter ahead.

If the window gets direct sunlight, move the enclosure away from the window. The glass blocks out most of the UV rays and the overheating caused by the direct sunlight into a small enclosure could cause him to overheat because he can't find a cool spot.

You have the opportunity to give your tort something very beneficial. Add a ramp to a 2nd story and add a L shaped addition. If the addition has a ramp also he will get great exercise going up one ramp and down the other in order to explore. The under area of the ramps also function as another hide to get away from those big 2 footed predators/food providers.

As Tom said, avoid the sand; but mixing in some plain top soil with your coco coir will be fine. Add a few sow bugs to help with the cleaning duties and you will be good.

Good luck and enjoy.
 

VTort

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Aug 25, 2013
Messages
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Hi WillTort! Thank you for the advice! His indoor area is 1/2 in the window and 1/2 not....and it is an East facing window.We live in the woods so our house is pretty dark so we were trying to put him somewhere....anywhere where there was some light coming in at all. The sun goes into the box for around 2 hours a day. We have been checking the temps all over his smaller temporary enclosure throughout the day( that was in the same spot) and the dark side never goes above 70...or the temperature of the room....I worried about overheating especially in a smaller black tub.... but even that seemed to be fine. Being paranoid we are going to watch the whole thing like a hawk and use a thermometer...
The loft is such a great idea ( I love the pictures of enclosures with lofts), but I think that because I am so new to him, I want to see what he is capable of so we make sure that we build something that he can't get hurt on. We are starting out simple until we know him better and see what he can do and what he needs....but I do think that the loft is going to happen!
It is a bummer that this enclosure is too small....but I do have an idea. We have a spare bedroom upstairs that we could set up for him where he could have most of the room.... We could grow live food in there etc and it could be his replacement for being outside in the VT winter....his tortoise playroom...but he could sleep and hang out in his super secure place if we are not home or at nighttime for sleeping?? We thought about having him in a big room full time but it is a room that is removed from where we all hang out and we sort of wanted him to be where we could hang out with him and get to know him. Does that make sense? Does a playroom for the winter months sound like a good plan?
 
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