Advice for increasing humidity?

MauiSulcata

New Member
Joined
Dec 21, 2015
Messages
10
Location (City and/or State)
Maui, Hawaii
I have had our baby sulcata for a little over a month and am trying to learn the best way to care for him. I'm not sure how old he is exactly. The people we took him from didn't really seem to know what they were doing, and they told us they "thought" he was 2 months old, but after spending a lot of time on here, I'm thinking he may be several months older than that? He weighs 98 grams.

We live in Maui, Hawaii, and are fortunate to have pretty nice sunny weather year-round. He spends several hours in a large, protected outdoor enclosure about 5 days/week, weather permitting and as long as someone is home. I would say the outside air temperature is between 80-85 degrees during that time, so probably warmer on the ground in the sun (he does have shade he can get to). He seems happiest outside roaming around and loves to graze on the grass and weeds in our backyard.

The rest of the time he is inside the house in one of the Zoo Med Tortoise Tables. I originally used a coconut substrate, but when it needed changing, I could not purchase it again locally, and my only option was a fir substrate. Not sure if this is the best? I'm having trouble keeping the humidity up in his indoor enclosure. If it's cool enough outside to have our windows open, the humidity in his tort table will sometimes increase to about 60-65%, but if our a/c is on, it's usually down around 40%. I've been trying to spray it down with water several times a day, which seems to increase it only slightly and very temporarily - I can never get it above 70% though and if I do, I'm not sure it stays there very long (within an hour it has dropped again) - we are often unavailable for long stretches to be spraying the enclosure with water, so right now I just can't keep the humidity up consistently. This surprises me here in humid Hawaii! Does anyone have any suggestions on easier ways to increase the humidity? Should I order the coconut substrate from Amazon as it seems I may have trouble buying it regularly locally? Maybe the fir is not as good at holding moisture (although the packaging says it maintains humid environment for reptiles)?

I think I've got the temps pretty well controlled - the warmest area where he actually seems to prefer to stay usually is right around 100 deg. I'm not sure of the exact temp of the coolest (dark) side of the tort table, but because it's rather closed off from the other side, I'd say it's quite a bit cooler. I've never seen him go in there though. He does have 2 other hiding areas he sometimes goes - under a half log thing and also an artificial plant (He prefers the log). We use a regular heat lamp during the day, then switch to a red night bulb at night (he seems to be sleeping longer with this new change). And the actual temperature inside our house is usually right around 79-80 degrees anyway, even if the windows are closed and the a/c is on (I know, but it's Hawaii!).

I am soaking him for about 30 minutes twice a day every day.

Any suggestions for his habitat would be greatly appreciated!
 

Blakem

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
2,387
Location (City and/or State)
California
An open enclosure is hard to keep humidity. You're lucky to live in a state that has good natural humidity! A closed tortoise area is good to keep the humidity in. Also, do you have a humid hide? That'll help a lot. You can just use a small plastic box, cut a hole for your little one, sink the container in the substrate, and I like to cover the box with substrate. It stays warm with your heat, and very humid on the inside. It'll be near impossible to get that humidity high with an open torotise table.
 

MauiSulcata

New Member
Joined
Dec 21, 2015
Messages
10
Location (City and/or State)
Maui, Hawaii
An open enclosure is hard to keep humidity. You're lucky to live in a state that has good natural humidity! A closed tortoise area is good to keep the humidity in. Also, do you have a humid hide? That'll help a lot. You can just use a small plastic box, cut a hole for your little one, sink the container in the substrate, and I like to cover the box with substrate. It stays warm with your heat, and very humid on the inside. It'll be near impossible to get that humidity high with an open torotise table.

Ok, thanks! I'll try replacing the half log with your suggestion of the plastic box hide. What about somehow covering part of the open portion of tortoise table lid (other than the part where the lamps are obviously)? Do you think that would help up the humidity some? Like with a towel or a box lid or something? I worry more of the enclosure might be too dark though. I'll have to experiment and see. Maybe a piece of plexiglass. Hmmm...
 

MauiSulcata

New Member
Joined
Dec 21, 2015
Messages
10
Location (City and/or State)
Maui, Hawaii
@Tom could you chime in here please? I've read all of the Care Sheets, but still feel a little confused. I saw a comment you made on another new tortoise owner's post about getting rid of the red bulb they were using, but had also read another suggestion that they need it to be dark at night. I'm currently using a red bulb at night (where previously we just had the heat lamp on all the time to keep the temp up). I'm not sure I understand how to still keep it warm enough for my baby at night, but also have it dark? Is there another night time heat bulb I can try? I have very limited local resources for purchasing ANYTHING, but can order things on Amazon if I know what to get.

However, I don't have an endless supply of finances and I've spent hours and hours here on the forum and still feel pretty confused about how to best set up my enclosure (I ordered the Tortoise Table AFTER researching quite a bit, but now feel a little frustrated that it turns out maybe this wasn't the best option). I'd love to know if covering part of the open portion with plexi glass would work for now. Building a new enclosure just isn't going to happen for quite some time.

I also wonder if there's any way to get some kind of estimate on how old my tortoise is? He currently weighs 98 grams. My guess is 6 months? But I really have no idea. It is so much more humid outside here in Hawaii (80% and up). At what point would it just be smarter to spend my $ on starting to build him a more permanent outdoor space (permanent dog house style insulated / heated sleeping area, etc). How large does he need to be to really be safe out there on his own? I've read at least a year old, but I can't keep track of where I read all this different information (was that the "legit" info or not?). Nighttime temps here range from about 70-75, sometimes warmer in the summer, and very rarely cooler in the winter. But obviously I would not leave him out overnight this young or even older until we had a permanent heated house for him. (and I do realize we are AT LEAST 6 months from this - but once we're there, I don't plan on needing the indoor enclosure - so how much more $ do I want to invest in that at this point?)

Right now, he's spending about 5-6 hours a day outside in a protected area of our backyard and seems so much happier out there than he does inside. (and is this ok? Is there such a thing as too much time outside at this point or are we OK if he's protected and the weather conditions are ideal? Outside air temps are 80-85 degrees, so ground temps should be much warmer. On the very very rare occasion is rains or is cooler than that, I don't take him out). I really can't wait for him to be big enough to just let him stay out there most of the time.

Thank you!
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,143
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Your dilemma is a common one. Everybody has to work these things out for themselves depending on their situation. It sounds like you are in tortoise paradise there and you will be on easy street once you get him a little bigger.

There is no way to tell the age of any tortoise unless you know the hatch date. Growth rates can vary wildly depending on a wide variety of factors. At 98 grams he could be 8 weeks or three years old. 4-6 months is a good guess if he's been cared for reasonably well and started half-way decently as a hatchling.

Here is my preferred strategy for raising babies: I build a 4x8' closed chamber. This serves as their indoor enclosure at night and most of each day, until they are big enough to live outside full time. Then I use a large outdoor enclosure for an hour or two a day when they are little, and longer as they gain size. Those tortoise houses are no good. Sorry. Too small, too open, and you can't keep the substrate damp. I think you've already figured that out. Keeping an open topped indoor enclosure with a heat lamp humid is near impossible, even in a humid climate.

I gave this some thought. I prefer not to move mine outside full time until they are 8-10" in size and it has to be spring time when I do it. We have super hot summers and cold winters. These are problems you won't have. I think you could move your baby outside full time once he is around 5-6 inches as long as he has a heated house for your 70 degree nights.

If your house is staying no lower than 78-80 at night, then you don't need night heat. That is how I keep my retile room. All you need is a regular incandescent bulb for daytime basking. You don't even need indoor UV since your tortoise gets so much outdoor time in your perfect climate. (Yes. I'm jealous. Majorly.)

Feel free to come back and bounce any ideas of of us. I'm happy to help.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,143
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California

MauiSulcata

New Member
Joined
Dec 21, 2015
Messages
10
Location (City and/or State)
Maui, Hawaii
Thank you so much @Tom!! I feel much better now! I don't really have space inside for such a large enclosure as you use (4x8) - but I have some ideas for trying to DIY modify the tortoise table I bought to try to get it to work for a few more months. I'm reassured though with the temps at least and knowing I don't need night heat most nights when he's inside. And if we're home and the weather is nice (not raining), he's outside during the day. I wanted to confirm I couldn't be overdoing with this. Thank you again.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,143
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
I don't like to leave hatchlings out for more than about an hour. I find they don't do as well when they spend too much time outside vs. inside in a good enclosure with the right temps and humidity. Even in areas with good weather like SouthEast Asia, Florida, and Hawaii. Once they reach 100 grams, I'll stretch it to 2-3 hours. Once they are 5-6" in length, I just leave them outside all day during favorable weather and bring them in at night. You will have a lot more "favorable" weather days than I will throughout the course of a year.

Once he moves outside, you could make something like this:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/another-night-box-thread.88966/

Since your extreme low on a really crazy cold winter night will only drop to about 65, I don't think you need all the insulation that I use. I think your tortoise would be fine with just a plain box made of 1/2 inch plywood.
 

MauiSulcata

New Member
Joined
Dec 21, 2015
Messages
10
Location (City and/or State)
Maui, Hawaii
I don't like to leave hatchlings out for more than about an hour. I find they don't do as well when they spend too much time outside vs. inside in a good enclosure with the right temps and humidity. Even in areas with good weather like SouthEast Asia, Florida, and Hawaii. Once they reach 100 grams, I'll stretch it to 2-3 hours. Once they are 5-6" in length, I just leave them outside all day during favorable weather and bring them in at night. You will have a lot more "favorable" weather days than I will throughout the course of a year.

Once he moves outside, you could make something like this:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/another-night-box-thread.88966/

Since your extreme low on a really crazy cold winter night will only drop to about 65, I don't think you need all the insulation that I use. I think your tortoise would be fine with just a plain box made of 1/2 inch plywood.

Thank you! Great suggestions! When you're talking about their length, I'm assuming you're measuring the length of the bottom of the shell, correct? Darwin is just under 100 grams, a little over 98 grams actually, but the length of his bottom shell is right at 3 inches. His top shell is pretty domed. So it sounds like he may be spending a little more time outside than he should? Should I decrease this, even though it's considerably more humid outside than I can currently get it inside his current inside house setup? (and I don't foresee being able to correct this until mid-week next week because of the holidays and work schedules along with the limited shopping options on island meaning I need to order things online to make those modifications). When he's outside he just seems so happy - very active, exploring and eating / grazing on weeds and grass, he will nap a bit in the sun, then move to the shade, then wake up and explore a bit more. I think this is why I've felt the more time outside, the better, but I will decrease this if he's too small.

I'm feeling a little less overwhelmed and like I'm starting to get a grasp on things. I'll be honest and admit when I rescued Darwin I didn't realize how involved parenting a tortoise would be, but I'm committed and it's definitely worth it! I'm so glad to have found this forum - 2 weeks ago I was in tears feeling like I'd never sort through all the conflicting information I was finding! Starting to feel like we just might make it now!
 
Top