Baby Indian Star Help

atortcan

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Hello. I need some more advice tips on my baby Indian Star. I think it’s about 9-months. No idea of sex yet, but we will go with “he” for ease.

He is usually an absolute hoover for his food and a little more active. Likes to take a dip and go to chow town. He seems to like it when I put different foods is different parts of his enclosure so he can find it.

I noticed he wasn’t eating as much, but still eating. He wasn’t moving as much, but still moving. I also noticed his eyes aren’t as “bright”. I can see more of his 3rd eyelid. I would not say his eyes are puffy, but he is definitely rubbing them with his tiny legs, especially during his soak and keeping them closed more. He will open his eyes, they just don’t look the same. He also seems to be snoozing under his basking light more than usual. He started shedding some, the skin underneath looks great and he definitely went through a growth spurt.

I have made an appointment with the vet, but it’s on Monday. I am terrified of getting him through the weekend. I might be over reacting, but I read babies can turn on a dime.

His set up: He is indoors. In a 36x25 enclosure with plans to upgrade as he grows. He has a log humid hide, he uses occasionally. Shallow water dish always available and cleaned daily at a minimum (he likes to take a dip before food.) Substrate of reptile soil topped with forest mulch. Light is 100w solar sun (now 11-inches above substrate). Although the top of enclosure is covered with a screen and can be considered “open”, I have covered the back half to help me keep up the humidity and temp. Ambient room temperature where he is is 72F. Ambient room humidity where is is usually 35% (we have a whole house humidifier). I have a humidity dial in the center of the enclosure, I try to keep it between 70-80%, misting as needed. He was getting soaks every 3days.

Anyway, after noticing changes in his behavior, made a vet apt and upped my game. I changed his substrate, made it thicker. I cannot drop the light I thought I could bring the bottom up with the idea to warm him up a bit. He seemed to love that. Upped the warm soaks to daily. His soak yesterday and the day before were carrot juice. This morning was just water.

The vet also recommended sprinkling a pinch or critical care on his food to get him through the weekend.

Anyway, I did all the things. Yesterday, he looked miserable and slept under his basking light all day, but as I write this he is hoovering his dandelion greens (his favorite) with a pinch (an actual little pinch) of critical care on top. He seemed perkier and more willing to open his eyes this morning. They still aren’t bright and he went to town itching them this morning.

Anyway, vet is Monday. He seems to be doing better today. Eyes more open, eating, pissed off at his soak. Anything else I can do to help him out? Is it normal to be a little under the weather while shedding?

I grew up with a box tortoise and a dessert tortoise. They were both adults, and although they shed it never seemed effect their behavior or appetites.
 

Tom

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Several things:

  • FIrst, Hello and welcome!
  • You can't maintain the correct conditions with an open top. You've been lucky to make it this far with no problems.
  • What is the temperature under the basking lamp?
  • I see no mention of ambient heat or night heat. What are you doing for that? Stars like it hot. Day and night. What is the over night low temp?
  • Soil should never be used as tortoise substrate. Forest floor is cypress mulch and that is fine. I prefer orchid bark, aka; Repti-bark.
  • What about UV? What type of UV bulb? At what distance.
  • Babies should be soaked every day until they exceed 100 grams.
  • Be careful with vets. Most of them do more harm than good and don't know jack about torts. There is no semester on tortoise care in vet school. You should refuse any "vitamin shots" and understand that that is a sign of a vet that is ignorant of tortoise care. They spend their time, and your money, treating symptoms instead of discovering the CAUSE of the problem and correcting that.
Sadly, most of the care info offered for this species, and many others, is wrong. Here is all the correct care info:

Your questions are welcome.
 

atortcan

New Member
Joined
Mar 26, 2021
Messages
9
Location (City and/or State)
Washington
Several things:

  • FIrst, Hello and welcome!
  • You can't maintain the correct conditions with an open top. You've been lucky to make it this far with no problems.
  • What is the temperature under the basking lamp?
  • I see no mention of ambient heat or night heat. What are you doing for that? Stars like it hot. Day and night. What is the over night low temp?
  • Soil should never be used as tortoise substrate. Forest floor is cypress mulch and that is fine. I prefer orchid bark, aka; Repti-bark.
  • What about UV? What type of UV bulb? At what distance.
  • Babies should be soaked every day until they exceed 100 grams.
  • Be careful with vets. Most of them do more harm than good and don't know jack about torts. There is no semester on tortoise care in vet school. You should refuse any "vitamin shots" and understand that that is a sign of a vet that is ignorant of tortoise care. They spend their time, and your money, treating symptoms instead of discovering the CAUSE of the problem and correcting that.
Sadly, most of the care info offered for this species, and many others, is wrong. Here is all the correct care info:

Your questions are welcome.
Thank you for your quick response and the care sheet. Huge thanks for the weight 100g reference that’s the first I have seen. So many references to “hatchling” or “baby”, but know one actually gives a time frame or size.

I have a heat pad for ambient night heat. I had it set at 75 based on other sources. Reading yours sounds like I can bump that up to 80. It is on a thermostat.

I will ditch the soil. Right now.

I have made it this far with an open top thanks to COVID give me the ability to constantly monitor and adjust and the ambient temp and humidity of the house. I am not over coming as large of a difference in conditions. I will keep this up while I find or build something appropriate that will help take some of the pressure of me to constantly be vigilant.

The solar sun bulb I have is also UV. It’s been a pain, and I am not opposed to something else

It is 97.7F under the basking/UV bulb combo at my last check.

He was looking and acting much improved with the adjustments I already made. I will approach the vet with caution, or cancel if my tort continues to improve with my adjustments to husbandry.

Over all looks like I could stand to maintain a higher minimum temp. decreasing over all temperature swings. Doing that means more effort on my part to keep up humidity. That’s going to keep me very busy until I get a closed system.

He seems to be continuing to improve, but I can always do better.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
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Joined
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Messages
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Location (City and/or State)
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Thank you for your quick response and the care sheet. Huge thanks for the weight 100g reference that’s the first I have seen. So many references to “hatchling” or “baby”, but know one actually gives a time frame or size.

I have a heat pad for ambient night heat. I had it set at 75 based on other sources. Reading yours sounds like I can bump that up to 80. It is on a thermostat.

I will ditch the soil. Right now.

I have made it this far with an open top thanks to COVID give me the ability to constantly monitor and adjust and the ambient temp and humidity of the house. I am not over coming as large of a difference in conditions. I will keep this up while I find or build something appropriate that will help take some of the pressure of me to constantly be vigilant.

The solar sun bulb I have is also UV. It’s been a pain, and I am not opposed to something else

It is 97.7F under the basking/UV bulb combo at my last check.

He was looking and acting much improved with the adjustments I already made. I will approach the vet with caution, or cancel if my tort continues to improve with my adjustments to husbandry.

Over all looks like I could stand to maintain a higher minimum temp. decreasing over all temperature swings. Doing that means more effort on my part to keep up humidity. That’s going to keep me very busy until I get a closed system.

He seems to be continuing to improve, but I can always do better.
I don't know the solar sun bulb brand. What type of bulb is it? If its the cfl type, which I think it is if its in a combo hood, those should never be used over tortoises. They sometimes burn tortoise eyes and cause the very symptoms you are seeing.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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Messages
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Location (City and/or State)
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Mercury vapor.
Some of those produce absurdly high levels of UV. Do you have a UV meter?

I'd turn that off and replace it with a regular incandescent flood bulb from the hardware store. Probably a 65 watt. Use a thermometer to get the temperature under it correct. Adjust the height as needed.

Your tortoise can live off of its D3 reserves for weeks while you sort out this issue, and eliminating that bulb will tell you if its the source of the problem.
 

atortcan

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Mar 26, 2021
Messages
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Location (City and/or State)
Washington
Some of those produce absurdly high levels of UV. Do you have a UV meter?

I'd turn that off and replace it with a regular incandescent flood bulb from the hardware store. Probably a 65 watt. Use a thermometer to get the temperature under it correct. Adjust the height as needed.

Your tortoise can live off of its D3 reserves for weeks while you sort out this issue, and eliminating that bulb will tell you if its the source of the problem.
 

atortcan

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Messages
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Location (City and/or State)
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Thank you again so so much. I think I have those bulbs on hand. I will look. Incandescent is a key wor

He is already looking even better. Ate a second meal and visited his water dish.
 

atortcan

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Mar 26, 2021
Messages
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Location (City and/or State)
Washington
Some of those produce absurdly high levels of UV. Do you have a UV meter?

I'd turn that off and replace it with a regular incandescent flood bulb from the hardware store. Probably a 65 watt. Use a thermometer to get the temperature under it correct. Adjust the height as needed.

Your tortoise can live off of its D3 reserves for weeks while you sort out this issue, and eliminating that bulb will tell you if its the source of the problem.
Eurica, Tom! I think that was it. I replaced the bulb with a general 65watt, and within a few hours he has been opening his eyes under the light.

I still need to figure out my replacement UVB. I have been looking online and what is available locally. I will have it sorted ASAP. I read the care sheet linked by Tom and now I know what

Food intake still great. Water intake still great. He followed his usual pattern of activity today.
Urates and stool were passed this morning in his soak and looked right. No weight lost. Woot Woot

I was worried about the weekend, but the extra two days have been a blessing. He is stable and improving.

I want to post the specific lesson learned to help others: the dual purpose heat and uvb bulbs ARE NOT as one and done as they seem or claim to be. Looking at the specs more closely on the bulb I had, there was no way, absolutely no way, to manage the appropriate temperature and UVB intensity. In order to get the temp high enough, the light had to be too low to be safe. Like way too low. Safe UVB was 12-inches to 15-inches above, but to obtain the basking spot temp the bulb had to lowered to about 9-inches above the tortoise. That’s 3-inches out of 12! Poor dude!

Glad I paid attention and super glad I found this forum before a terrible outcome.
Some of those produce absurdly high levels of UV. Do you have a UV meter?

I'd turn that off and replace it with a regular incandescent flood bulb from the hardware store. Probably a 65 watt. Use a thermometer to get the temperature under it correct. Adjust the height as needed.

Your tortoise can live off of its D3 reserves for weeks while you sort out this issue, and eliminating that bulb will tell you if its the source of the problem.

Light bulb was switched. Guess who started opening their eyes today
Some of those produce absurdly high levels of UV. Do you have a UV meter?

I'd turn that off and replace it with a regular incandescent flood bulb from the hardware store. Probably a 65 watt. Use a thermometer to get the temperature under it correct. Adjust the height as needed.

Your tortoise can live off of its D3 reserves for weeks while you sort out this issue, and eliminating that bulb will tell you if its the source of the problem.
It was the light. Replaced the bulb exactly as Tom said. 65 watt worked perfect. With in a few hours he was opening his little eyes a little. This morning showed much improvement. Eyes looking brighhe has been opening them freely and not rubbing them.

Drinking, eating, and moving about as usual woke ready roll. Booked to his food after his soak.

I will be sorting the UV today.

I thought the weekend was a curse and was worried about him surviving. It was a blessing.

Specific lesson learned. The basking bulb and UV all in one doesn’t work for me. I could not keep the basking spot warm enough, while maintaining a safe distance for UVB.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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I particularly like the Arcadia UV tubes. The 12% HO tubes work very well and last for years. I only run them for 1-3 hours mid day to simulate the UV spike that happens daily outside. Used in this way, and mounted approximately 20" above the tortoise, they will last for 2 or 3 years. Maybe more.

I recommend the Solarmeter 6.5 or 6.5R to check your UV levels.

There are four elements to heating and lighting:

1. Basking bulb. I use 65 watt incandescent floods from the hardware store. Some people will need bigger, or smaller wattage bulbs. Let your thermometer be your guide. I run them on a timer for about 12 hours and adjust the height to get the correct basking temp under them. I also like to use a flat rock of some sort directly under the bulb. You need to check the temp with a thermometer directly under the bulb and get it to around 95-100F (36-37C).

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. You'd only need day heat for a temperate species like Testudo or DT, as long as your house stays above 60F (15-16C) at night.

3. Ambient light. I use LEDs for this purpose. Something in the 5000-6500K color range will look the best. Most bulbs at the store are in the 2500K range and they look yellowish. Strip or screw-in bulb types are both fine.

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. 5.0 bulbs make almost no UV. You need a meter to check this: https://www.solarmeter.com/model65.html Here in our climate, you shouldn't need indoor UV.
 

atortcan

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Alright, I have a place to borrow the meter.

I like the idea of only running the UV for part of the day given what happened.

Is there a chart or something relating UV to exposure time? I have seen lots of information on mounting height and strength and outside time. What about artificially generated UVB time of exposure? Like, if meter reading is equal to X light should be on for Y time.

We will be able to do outside play time as soon as it’s warm enough, but I don’t have that option for another month or two.
 

atortcan

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Just to finalize improvement. Blue tub was the photo I grabbed for the vet. Photo in my hand is from this morning. 5F249A8B-AF2C-49A9-8334-3E0B14616083.jpeg
 
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