Am I doing it right?

Beibitoi

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Hi, I have been an owner of a sulcata hatchling for a month or 2 now. While I have done my research, I unfortunately have NEVER seen a sulcata in person I could compare this with. As such, I would love to know how I am doing at this point.

To make it easier for the one reading this, here are the details:

Enclosure: closed glass enclosure (40x20x20 inches)
Lighting:
1 basking light (50w halogen) I've read that halogen is among the least preferred options for a basking light. However, Incandescent bulbs are no longer available in our place and only halogens are available)
1 ambient lighting (6500k 9w LED);
UVB has yet to arrive but it is a 1pc T5 24w from Lucky Herp. Meanwhile, I bring him/her outside 2 to 3x a week for 30 mins to an hour.
-all lights are on at 7am and off at 8pm.
Humidity: 85% to 97%
Temparature:
Ambient: 28C to 33C (I turn off all lights once it gets over 33C)
Basking: 38 to 42C
Cool side/Humid Hide: 30C more or less
Substrate: an inch or 2 of reptibark
Soaking: 15 to 30 mins daily
Diet: mazuri with ground leaves (such as Moringa, hibiscus leaves and flowers, lettuce, etc.) and ground cuttlefish bone or egg shells
Misting: I find that Misting the substrate once a week would be enough to maintain 85 to 97% humidity.


Now, here he is. He was given to me by a client after telling him that I wanted 1. I have no idea how old he is or how he was kept before he was given to me. I noticed though that he has some extra scutes that I know will never go away. My only goal now is to keep him in the healthiest possible state. Admittedly, he could have spent a few days (less than a week) with me without the desired humidity.

I've been reading in this forum and saw baby sulcatas which I would have otherwise thought to be healthy had it not been for the comments of experienced tortoise keepers here.

So here I am asking for your comments and advice. Any signs that he's about to start having that dreaded pyramiding?

Thanks in advance.
 

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Beibitoi

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Oh thanks a lot. I had to make sure that everything is ok as I realized injuries or damage to a tort is most likely permanent once made. Another thing I am missing is a background to cover the glass. About to order that now.. Any more recommendations to improve my tortoise's living conditions?
 

KarenSoCal

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I think he looks great. He would appreciate more cover in his enclosure though. They love plants to hide under, plus plants help raise humidity. And torts create their own little microclimates under plants. Pothos, Boston fern, and spider plants are all tort safe and do ok in an enclosure. You need to find plants that have not been dosed with weed and bug killers, as all commercially grown plants are. If you have friends or family with safe plants, you can take cuttings and start them that way.

If you do buy a commercially grown plant, you need to wash all the dirt off the roots and repot it in soil with no additives. Then wait a year. Then it will be safe for your enclosure.

Do you have Amazon? If so, there is an alternative to the halogen bulb.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08WQ6P9RN/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

If you can order these, get several. You never know when you'll need one.
 

TeamZissou

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I would question whether or not your humidity gage is correct. The deep ridges at the scute boundaries are the beginning signs of pyramiding. Either your humidity gage is reading incorrectly, or the halogen bulb could be drying out the shell too much. It looks recent, indicating that it was caused by your current setup rather than with the breeder.
 

Yossarian

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Your Torts condition is basically the same as this torts. Your enclosure is different, I think at the very least you need to add more cover for the tort, and it looks dry to me but its just a pic. The advice in that thread is still valuable to you I think. The pronounced ridges at the scute boundaries and the visibility of the spine ridge, are indications that it is and probably has been too dry for a while.

Scute mutations are essentially cosmetic, something theyre born with.
 

Yvonne G

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I agree with the above - add a few potted plants, sunken down into the substrate, and pour more water over the substrate.
 

Beibitoi

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Funny thing is that, that post was what prompted me to think whether I am doing everything right for my tort.

Oh this poor thing. Thanks for letting me know that I need to make some corrections.Here's a picture of him the first day I got him. To me, it seems the ridges were already there.

About the accuracy of the hygrometer, I would say it has +/- 2% accuracy. I actually have 2 hygrometer/thermometer combo, both just showing a difference of 1% whenever I use them at the same time.

I'm not sure about the dryness/wetness of the substrate. Do I have to ensure that the topmost part is always wet or moist (regardless of the humidity being always at 85 to 97%)? I'm sure though that the lowermost substrate is always wet.

Earlier today, I made some adjustments with the basking light. Basking temp now ranges from 100F to 105F. If it's the halogen which is the culprit, anything else I could do to correct the same? Online shops such as Amazon are unfortunately not within our access. It's either this or the spot basking light which I heard is not also ideal.
 

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Beibitoi

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By the way, upon checking, I got him on March 6, 2020. I have him for just a little over a month now. Granting that my hygrometers now are accurate, there must have been more or less 3 to 5 days when the humidity wasn't at an ideal rate when I was just keeping him in a crate.
 

Yossarian

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If you have only had this tort a little while then it definately came to you in this condition, these kinds of things dont develop overnight, and they dont fix overnight.

Soaking is just as important as humidity, I would make sure those daily soaks are 30-45 minutes or double them up if you cant do as long, at least while hes young.
 

Markw84

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I will disagree with @Yossarian in that your baby is growing much better than the one in the post that was linked. Most of what you are doing is working very well. The growth of your baby is quite good and no real pyramiding is starting as opposed to that other baby in the linked post.

I do agree strongly with the suggestion for adding plants for natural cover. I believe a tortoise in a barren enclosure is under constant low grade stress as there is no place it can feel secure. You will find your tortoise will do much better with nice plant fronds to hide beneath.

Here's an example of how I set up an enclosure. As your tortoise grows it will start to eat more of the plant, but the first 4-6 months it will thrive in the cover the plant offers. Additionally, the plant cover also will mitigate much of the IR from the halogen light.
 

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Yossarian

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I will disagree with @Yossarian in that your baby is growing much better than the one in the post that was linked. Most of what you are doing is working very well. The growth of your baby is quite good and no real pyramiding is starting as opposed to that other baby in the linked post.

I do agree strongly with the suggestion for adding plants for natural cover. I believe a tortoise in a barren enclosure is under constant low grade stress as there is no place it can feel secure. You will find your tortoise will do much better with nice plant fronds to hide beneath.

Here's an example of how I set up an enclosure. As your tortoise grows it will start to eat more of the plant, but the first 4-6 months it will thrive in the cover the plant offers. Additionally, the plant cover also will mitigate much of the IR from the halogen light.


Thanks Mark, I certainly wouldnt argue with you about Sulcata, or any other torts really, your experience far exceeds my own, I just thought this tort was showing the same tell tale signs, though I agree, not as severely.
 

TeamZissou

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Funny thing is that, that post was what prompted me to think whether I am doing everything right for my tort.

Oh this poor thing. Thanks for letting me know that I need to make some corrections.Here's a picture of him the first day I got him. To me, it seems the ridges were already there.

About the accuracy of the hygrometer, I would say it has +/- 2% accuracy. I actually have 2 hygrometer/thermometer combo, both just showing a difference of 1% whenever I use them at the same time.

I'm not sure about the dryness/wetness of the substrate. Do I have to ensure that the topmost part is always wet or moist (regardless of the humidity being always at 85 to 97%)? I'm sure though that the lowermost substrate is always wet.

Earlier today, I made some adjustments with the basking light. Basking temp now ranges from 100F to 105F. If it's the halogen which is the culprit, anything else I could do to correct the same? Online shops such as Amazon are unfortunately not within our access. It's either this or the spot basking light which I heard is not also ideal.

Is it a dial type gage? Those are almost never accurate. Digital gages like the "Accurite" brand are usually a lot more accurate with regards to humidity and ambient temp. There are also a lot of crappy digital gages.
 

Beibitoi

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Thanks! I'm quite relieved with what I am reading here. So based on your advice, I started growing Wheatgrass in a shallow pot. I think it will be ready a week from now. That's a nice looking enclosure @Markw84! I guess an ideal plant would be something that spreads/crawls. Will look for some in our garden and post photos here. I already increased the soak to 45mins too.

As to the gauge, both my hygrometers are digital. While I don't think they are 100% accurate, I would suppose that the readings are not that far off from actual values. A 3 to 5% margin of error, maybe.

On a different note, is a 34C to 35C ambient temperature still within the acceptable range? The temp today reached 33.8C even with all the lights turned off. Humidity remained at +/-90.
 

Beibitoi

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Just an update. Today, the fixture for my UVB T5 light arrived and came with it 2 x HO 24W flourescent bulbs. I then replaced one of the bulbs with the UVB T5 but it just flashed then turned off. It seems the UVB bulb is defective and unfortunately, it's hard to find a replacement in our place. Neither do I want to buy from the same seller who seemingly sold me 2 defective items.

My question is, can I just use this 2 x 24W HO bulbs that came with the fixture? It is 6500 but I think these are specifically made for aquariums. Do these emit UVB? I don't have a uvb meter and ordering 1 might take 3 weeks to 1 month before delivery.

Thanks again!
 

ZenHerper

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Make sure the bulb is seated correctly...those 4 pegs have to be *just right* in order to complete the circuit.

Aquarium bulbs do not emit uvb radiation...they're general full spectrum for plants.
 

Beibitoi

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Oh ok I will try that again. But in case it still fails, I can still use these HO lights for ambient lighting, without any harm to my sulcata right?
 

ZenHerper

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As long as there is enough cover (plants work best) to get out of the brightness, they are fine for ambient lighting.
 

Beibitoi

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I tried making few adjustments and some fidgeting but the UVB bulb never worked. So I finally decided that I would set up an outdoor screen enclosure for him. The mesh will be just big enough to prevent rodents and cats from getting through. Along with that plan comes more questions.

1. How long can I let my tortoise outside? Aiming for 3 to 5 times a week.
2. Is it ok that the humidity outside just ranges from 50 to 60?
3. I should aim for the same temp of 80 to 90F, right?
4. Does he have to be under direct sunlight?
5. Is it ok to soak him while being under the sun?
 
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