Am I doing this right? (Loooooooooong post)

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New Member
5 Year Member
Apr 1, 2012
Hi all,

My name is Meg and I live in Edmonton, Canada. In December, when we went to go pick up our dogs from a grooming appointment, I noticed that the pet store had a leopard tortoise for sale.

He was absolutely adorable! But I didn't want to be the kind of person who bought a pet without doing any kind of research so I went home and read everything and anything that I could about the species and husbandry about leopard torts.

And then I hesitated. And hesitated. And hesitated some more.

Leopard torts get big and since I live in Edmonton, taking care of one was going to get expensive in the future given that I would be raising him almost exclusively indoors. Did I have that kind of room? That kind of patience? Those kinds of funds?

But my mother encouraged me, my friends encouraged me, and I could adequately house one...

And when I went back to the pet store to learn more about him, I found out that he was recovering from a case of soft shell.

I bought him.

I couldn't leave him there, in a place where the people weren't entirely sure how to care for him and I didn't care that he was overpriced because I thought that I could, without question, give him a better place to live than the store. But... I don't really know. I've never raised a tortoise before.

Right now, he weighs 51g. Back in January, when I first got him, he weighed 34g. I use a rubbermaid bin as housing unit because it's more open than an aquarium. The substrate I use is sphagnum moss with a mixed layer of red sand and plantation soil underneath some parts. I keep the side underneath the bulb soaked.

I have a self ballasted MVB 125W and the moss underneath gets up to 95F. This light is on from 8AM to 8 PM. The cool side drops to room temp at 75F. He has access to fresh water at all times. I feed him a mix of dandelion when I can, kale, escarole, or watercress with some Natural Grassland tortoise pellets. (I have no idea what mazuri is or where to get some.) It's incredibly difficult to get him to eat dry grasses. (Hence the pellets. I add water, mash them up, and coat the greens in it.) In the morning I always sprinkle calcium + D3 over his food and on Fridays I add a multivitamin to it.

He's been a little ill recently. He's been blowing bubble out of his nose and making odd sounds. He sometimes stretches his neck out and gapes his mouth when he does that. I took him to the vet and she gave me ChlorPalm which I've been giving 0.05mL of, once per day for the past two weeks. I've also raised the temperatures since then. (He still blows bubbles and makes noises. He hasn't gotten worse but he hasn't gotten better.) He moves around normally, his eyes are bright, and he eats regularly so I'm not sure what to make of this.






Back in January:


The member formerly known as captain awesome
10 Year Member!
Aug 15, 2008
Location (City and/or State)
Sounds like a respiratory infection to me, but since he is eating and moving around, it sounds like he should recover. Keeping him warm will be vital until he recovers. If his routine or appetite changes another vet visit should be considered.


Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Apr 10, 2011
Location (City and/or State)
Apple Valley, California
Welcome to the Forum :D and what a great save you did and what a beautiful baby ....

Ok so you did want some pointers right? :D the first thing I would do a little differently is change up the substrate...the current stuff looks a bit fluffy for walking on...kinda like a world of would use something a bit more dirt like...let's say, some organic soil (no fertilizer, the kind for organic growing) along with some good ole fashion clean dirt from the yard....that fluffy stuff you have would work well to moisten and place inside if a warm hide for him....

Also, if you are going to use the humid method for your enclosure you will want to make sure to not let the temps in the cool side drop below 80...also you can cover part of the top so some warmth and humidity is can customize the top by figuring where your light is at etc...also I would make sure to have a night heat source (either a black or red night heat lamp or some use a ceramic heat emitter) to help assure he stays warm always....

Perhaps some of the runny nose/bubbles is simply being brought on by all the fluff...and I don't mean you should not continue anything the vet gave you but he may be dealing with fluff in the nose or eyes as well....

I think you have a wonderfully start up and would only tweak a bit...the others will be along to give you their thoughts as well...such a beautiful tort...


Well-Known Member
10 Year Member!
Apr 15, 2010
Location (City and/or State)
I agree, a respiratory infection is what is causing the gaping mouth and bubbles around his mouth. Until it clears up, I would suggest you keep the temperatures on the low side to 85 and bump the basking side to about 100.

I would continue to use the calcium supplement on a daily basis, but I would recommend you use calcium without D3. The MVB should provide enough D3, but you could still use the D3 once or twice a week just to be sure.


The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Jan 9, 2010
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Here are some care sheets for you:

I agree with Neal about raising your temps. Do you also do daily soaks? Very important. I would also love to see a proper humid hide in there, but make sure it on the warm side. It will be MUCH easier to maintain tmps and humidity in a deeper enclosure with a semi-covered top or a closed chamber.

I always cringe when I see the "I bought the animal to save it" threads. I know you really meant well, but understand that it is a double edged sword. They are now going to take all that money you gave them, buy another leopard, and do the same thing to it. In other words by attempting to "save" this one, you might have caused the whole cycle to repeat... Not trying to make you feel bad. Just pointing out a reality of the pet store trade... Please take what you learn here and at least attempt to educate them.
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