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Assistance needed with a testudo tortoise.

Discussion in 'Russian tortoises' started by Unkept, Jul 13, 2019.

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  1. Unkept

    Unkept New Member

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    Hello! Alrighty context time; I bought my partner a tortoise from pet smart for his birthday. I had done two weeks plus of forum crawling on here and various sites to learn what we needed for him. But everything I’ve seen contradicts itself. So we found similarities and purchased items based on them. Now we bought him Wednesday. It’s Saturday and he hasn’t eaten so there’s some general concern about him not eating. I understand getting a feel for the enclosure. But when should I start to worry? I have no idea when he ate last due to petsmart being. Petsmart.

    He’s currently in a 40 gallon ‘All living things’ tank. With two lamps. We just upgraded his bowls today to the ceramic bowls. And we were feeding him dandelion greens and cloves and such but he wasn’t interested so we’re trying romaine lettuce. Green beans. And sweet snap peas. His shell is almost four inches (3 3/4ths) attached photos are his enclosure and food. We let it stay at about 80 degrees with no light in the tank (it’s summer here) when we notice it go lower and such we turn on the heat lamp. We work overnight so we only normally see him majority at night.

    So now for my questions; is that coiled looking bulb the dreaded ‘Coiled UBV’ bulb that blinds tortoises? I’ve stopped using it since and tried bringing him outside. What kind of bulbs would I need? (I understand the types. But if anyone has brands and places to get them that would speed this up) he currently has a heatpad for his hide but we haven’t used that because some articles are saying don’t put it under him cause it’s a glass tank. Or to leave it on the side

    **I understand his hide is too small, we didn’t have the chance to get anything bigger so if people have alternatives that I can pick up at Walmart that work I’m totally down for it. As it stands we ordered a new hide but it won’t be here for a few days**

    IMG_2083.jpg IMG_2084.jpg IMG_2085.jpg IMG_2086.jpg IMG_2087.jpg
  2. dmmj

    dmmj The member formerly known as captain awesome Moderator 10 Year Member!

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    You do not want to use bottom heat with a tortoise, unlike snakes a tortoise needs heat from above that is where all their blood vessels are. As for eating give him some time and offer food everyday. Sonner or later he should turn into a little piggy
  3. Unkept

    Unkept New Member

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    Update; we decided to soak him and apparently he defecated 5 times. Each time was white webby substance. Is this the urates he passes?

    Also is that UBV bulb bad for him?
  4. LaLaP

    LaLaP Well-Known Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    Yes those coiled UV bulbs have been known to cause damage to their eyes. I prefer Arcadia florescent tube bulbs. There are other brands that are good too.
  5. Unkept

    Unkept New Member

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    Like what? I’m looking for bulbs that can just be swapped out.
  6. katieandiggy

    katieandiggy Well-Known Member

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    Hi welcome. It’s good you have come here and are asking for advice. You will soon have a happy tortoise.

    Please don’t take this the wrong way, I am being constructive (sometimes people take offence and it’s genuinely not meant)

    Your enclosure is quite bare, you want to add some plants and maybe some rocks to make it more interesting.

    You will find it difficult in an enclosure that small to get a good gradient of temperature that the Testudo like.

    Temperature wise, you need to provide your tortoise with a basking spot.
    You need an area that heats up to between 90-95, preferably at one end of the tank and then let the other end be room temperature. Keep your lights on for 12 hours per day and no lights at night.
    For UVB because you are saying you want a straight swap I think your only option would be a combi bulb also known as an MVB. They provide heat, light and UVB. They are more expensive but are all in one.
    MVB’s can’t be used with a thermostat so you will need to raise or lower it to achieve the correct basking temperature of 90-95.

    Soak your Tortoise daily for 20-30 mins, what you saw was urates, it should be the consistency of toothpaste. It’s fine don’t worry about it.

    Keep offering healthy foods, broad leaf weeds are best for Russians.
    Romaine is ok, if you are going for shop bought along with lambs lettuce, frisée to name a few.

    Do you have an outside area/garden?
  7. Unkept

    Unkept New Member

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    Garden; yes. We take him outside in the lawn for a little bit and bring in cloves and plantains and dandelion greens but he’s no interested in it.

    Soak; is that because we just got him? Or on the regular does he need a 20-30 minute soak?

    Basking spot; can I use a ceramic saucer like what his food and water are in? Just flipped over so he has a bit of a plateau to hang out on? I’ve seen some people say just go with slate it’s easier.

    Basking spot temperature; what would you recommend for finding the temperature. We have one that we purchased but it doesn’t seem adequate enough. We know we need another to make sure the cool side stays at 80.

    Plants and decor?; any suggestions? Won’t he try to eat fake plants?

    Thank you. The suggestions are greatly appreciated. I’ve done a lot of research but now that he’s here I just want to make everything as perfect as can be.
  8. katieandiggy

    katieandiggy Well-Known Member

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    Could you eventually make him an outside enclosure? Russians do so much better with more space. With mine, he went outside during the day and I brought him in at night. That way, if your tortoise can have access to natural sunlight for a couple of hours, 3 times per week, you wouldn’t need to provide UVB indoors.

    Soaking is good, it will keep your tortoise hydrated. I would carry on with the soaks for a couple of weeks and then maybe reduce it to 3 times per week. Soaking can never hurt. I always did it daily.

    Ideally a slate for the basking spot if you can get one. An upside down saucer could work in the mean time.

    You need an IR temperature gun. You can get them very cheap on amazon. The cool side does not need to be 80, you can let it drop lower than that at night. Testudo benefit from a drop in temperature at night.

    Plants- you can use fake or real. I used both, I bought the plastic type terrarium plants that are used for lizards etc. My tort never ate them. I also had a spider plant which are often used on indoor enclosures.
  9. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Hello and welcome.

    Its good that you did research, but as you are seeing, you are going to get different advice from every person and every source.

    All of the questions you've asked and mistakes you've made are addressed in these threads:
    https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
    https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/

    Here is a quick run down:
    • Tank is much too small. You need something at least 3x6', and 4x8' would be better.
    • No heat mats. Not safe for tortoises.
    • Yes, that is the cfl type bulb we say not to use. If you need indoor UV, use a HO type florescent tube.
    • About the food: You are offering good foods, but he's not used to them. Tortoises eat what they've eaten before. It takes time to introduce new foods. Keep doing it. In time the new foods will become more familiar. Once you find something the tortoise likes, start mixing in other stuff in small amounts with whatever the favorite is.
    • When you say "cloves" I'm assuming you mean clover. Right?
    • You've got the right kind of water dish, but it needs to be much larger so he can fit in it and slosh around a bit.
    • Get a bigger dish for water, and use that one for food.
    • You've got the right substrate, but you need about three times more. It can be found MUCH cheaper in bulk at garden centers. Not hardware store garden centers, but real garden centers. Its called orchid bark or sometimes fir bark. You want fine grade.
    • Tortoises need it dark at nigh. Put the light on a timer. 7am to 7 pm, or something similar.
    • Stay out of the pet shop. Bad products, bad tortoise advice, and usually unhealthy imported animals.
    • No spot bulbs. Those concentrate too much heat and desiccating IR-A into too small of an area. Use flood bulbs instead. Buy them at the hardware store. More on this in the care sheet.
    • Your tortoise species doesn't need 80 degree temps all over and it doesn't need night heat as long as the house stays over about 55-60 at night. It does need a basking area of around 95-100 all day long to warm up in. Slate, sand stone, or a flat rock under the heat lamp will make this easier to set and maintain.
    • I've never been able to use plastic plants in any of my enclosures. All of my tortoises eat them. Live plant are quickly devoted too, if the tortoises can reach them. I use rocks and logs, and also construct hides above or below ground, to make my enclosures more interesting and add sight barriers.
    More on heating and lighting:
    There are four elements to heating and lighting:
    1. Basking bulb. I use 65 watt floods from the hardware store. I run them on a timer and adjust the height to get the correct basking temp under them. You can mount a fixture on the ceiling, or hang a dome lamp from the ceiling. Go lower or higher wattage if this makes the enclosure too hot or not warm enough.
    2. Ambient heat maintenance. I use ceramic heating elements or radiant heat panels set on thermostats to maintain ambient above 80 degrees day and night for tropical species like sulcatas or leopards. I like this thermostat: https://www.lllreptile.com/products/13883-zilla-1000-watt-temperature-controller. Put the probe in the coolest corner away from all heating elements. Unless your house get unusually cold at night, you can skip this step for a Russian. Night lows above 60 require no night heat.
    3. Light. I use florescent tubes for this purpose. Something in the 5000-6500K color range will look the best. Most tubes at the store are in the 2500K range and they look yellowish. I've been using LEDs lately and they are great, and run cooler than a florescent. This can be set on the same timer as the basking bulb.
    4. UV. If you can get your tortoise outside for an hour 2 or 3 times a week, you won't need indoor UV. If you want it anyway, get one of the newer HO type fluorescent tubes. Which type will depend on mounting height. It helps to have a UV meter to test and see what your bulb is actually putting out at your mounting height.
    Your questions are welcome. Ask us to explain why what we say might differ from something you've read. This will help you sort through the conflicting and differing advice. For example: Its a persistent myth that glass tanks are bad for tortoises. Me and many other long time keepers here have been using them to start babies for decades. They are not a problem and the "invisible barrier" is not an issue. I believe this myth started because pet stores sell people 40 gallon tanks for a tortoise species that is wild caught and not used to being confined in such a tiny space. These tortoises react the same way in a wooden box of the same size, even though they can't see out at all. The problem is not the glass. The problem is the source of the animal (the wild) coupled with the enclosure size (way too small). 40 gallons is borderline too small for a tiny hatchling that just came out of its egg. I start tiny babies in something 2 or 3 times that size. Still, you'll hear that and read it on tortoise websites all day long. Its wrong and I have decades of experience to prove it wrong. Some things are just repeated over and over through the decades, and even though they seem logical and sensible, these things are just wrong. We here at TFO are trying to debunk some of these myths and help people take better care of their tortoises. I hope this info helps you.
  10. Unkept

    Unkept New Member

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    Awesome stuff so a few more questions. He’s 4 1/2 inches. (From tail side of shell to head side) I understand he needs an enclosure bigger but we have access to a zoo med wooden tortoise house (36 x 24 x 12) would that do for a year or so until we could attach another? That was the initial game plan but decided on a glass.

    Are there online sources for orchid bark or fir bark I only really have access to Lowe’s and Home Depot?

    Do you have examples of rocks and logs in the enclosures like pictures and such? Just don’t want to get anything too small, and it would provide some ideas on how to do it.

    Hides; can I make one just need some ideas. And underground hides??
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