Balancing Temperature, Humidity and UV Light for Baby Sulcata

Nessie

New Member
Joined
Oct 10, 2014
Messages
18
Location (City and/or State)
Ohio
I recently acquired a hatchling Sulcata, Spica. The store told me many things that I am afraid were misleading. I have been doing my research, and have some other equipment coming in the mail in hopes that I can better give this little one what she needs.


I have a 30 gallon aquarium (36 long x18 wide x16 tall). It is enclosed with a hinged, wooden lid - with the light fixture on the inside of the lid. The substrate I am using is Coco Coir. They sold me a generic 45 watt bulb that is similar in shape and style to the 100 watt UV PowerSun I later purchased.


For the first 2 days I followed the store's instructions...

  1. Keep the substrate humid, put a shallow water dish on the cool side as well as a hide.

  2. Keep the 45 Watt (no UV) light on 24/7

  3. Do not spray or soak the hatchling.

  4. Do not feed anything other than Kale, Collards, Turnip Greens, Dandelion, Clover and other various weeds. No supplements. No Cuttlebone.

I noticed Spica was sleeping a lot under the bulb and when she would walk, she would only walk around the part of the enclosure that was lit up from the bulb.


The temperatures/humidity were

Basking Spot: 90

Warm Side: 84-86

Cool Side: 78

Humidity: 80%


I purchased the UV PowerSun and have both a CHE and a thermostat in the mail. I have been switching out the 45 Watt for the PowerSun (100 Watt) for several hours each day. Spica seems to love it. She becomes active, has an appetite, and walks around exploring her enclosure. My worry with this bulb is that it is larger and hangs a little low (12 inches). Her basking spot reaches 102 after 1-2 hours, and then I begin to worry and swap it back out for fear of cooking her. But as soon as I take it out, she goes back to sleeping under the 45 Watt bulb. The PowerSun takes the humidity from 80% to 75% in that time as well. Another of my concerns about the PowerSun is that the cool side of the enclosure goes above 90. I worry that she may need cooler temps on that side.


Also I have been spraying and soaking her daily. She loves it and becomes more active afterwards. I bought a small packet of Mazuri. I also gave her a cuttlebone and she has been nibbling on one end every once and awhile. I can tell the UV light and the humidity are helping her, she seems much happier since I have made these changes.


My goal is to keep the hinged lid, or make a new design, so that I can use the UV light for more than 1-2 hours each day. I also am needing to set up the CHE so that she can have the lights out at night. My question is should I aim to use the UV light 12 hours each day and then follow with darkness? Should I use the 45 watt in the early morning and evening? If I use the UV light I may have to open up one end and mount it higher above the enclosure to avoid extreme temperatures. What is the best way to keep an enclosure humid when the bulb dries it out so quickly? What would be the best temperatures to aim for - for a 1 month old youngster – for basking, warm side, cool side, nighttime?

Also any other thoughts are welcomed and appreciated. : )
 

lismar79

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Oct 29, 2013
Messages
2,995
Location (City and/or State)
Ohio USA
Can you raise the bulb any higher? That would be ideal. Uv light should be on at least 12 hrs a day in my opinion if you are not getting real sun time. Dark at night is best but you did well buying the che, temps for your guy should not be lower than 80. Soaking is a good thing as you have seen from results, keep it up. Posting a pic would help us help you with ideas. Here is a care sheet. Read it for all you meed to know :)
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/how-to-raise-a-healthy-sulcata-or-leopard-version-2-0.79895/
 

Dizisdalife

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Dec 24, 2010
Messages
1,752
Location (City and/or State)
California
You are going to need to raise the basking light sooner than later or it will dry out the carapace. Your sulcata will grow very quickly and that 12 inch space will soon be 10". A temporary solution would be to build a hood for your small tank that would allow you to raise the light. A better solution would be to build a larger closed chamber that would allow your tortoise to bask, thermo-regulate, and move around more.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
53,762
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
I like the 100 watt MVBs for larger open topped enclosures with species that can be housed that way. In my experience sulcatas aren't one of those. They need a closed chamber to maintain good growing conditions and simulate the African rainy season. My closed chambers are 4x8x2' and I can't run anything bigger than a 65 watt flood in there without overheating the whole thing.

My suggestion is to continue using that 45watt bulb, but add a 22" florescent HO tube for UV and light during the day, and your CHE on the thermostat to maintain ambient 24/7. The thermostat will keep the CHE off when it is not needed, but always ready to warm things up if needed.

I think your 30 gallon is a bit too small too. When they are healthy, they grow quite fast, so you've really only got a few weeks to work out something bigger. I suggest this: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/closed-chambers.32333/

And have you seen these?
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/for-those-who-have-a-young-sulcata.76744/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/


I find it interesting the advice you got from the pet store. Usually it is all bad. These guys told you a mix of good and bad stuff. The substrate info was good, but the 24/7 lightings and no soaking was bad... interesting...
 

Nessie

New Member
Joined
Oct 10, 2014
Messages
18
Location (City and/or State)
Ohio
I think your 30 gallon is a bit too small too. When they are healthy, they grow quite fast, so you've really only got a few weeks to work out something bigger. I suggest this: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/closed-chambers.32333/

And have you seen these?
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/for-those-who-have-a-young-sulcata.76744/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/


I find it interesting the advice you got from the pet store. Usually it is all bad. These guys told you a mix of good and bad stuff. The substrate info was good, but the 24/7 lightings and no soaking was bad... interesting...

Thanks for your feedback! I am going to purchase the fluorescent bulb and use that along with the 45 watt. My partner found a brand “Zilla” is that any better/worse than “ReptiSun”?

Now I am thinking about building a bigger enclosure. How can you tell when an enclosure is too small? The store Spica came from had an 8 year old Sulcata living there. It was 10-12 inches and only slightly pyramided. They told me that Sulcatas do not grow large in our climate. Assured me that the 30 gallon would be a roomy home that would last at least 4 years. As I have already discovered, the more her needs are met the faster she is growing. I am happy to build a bigger home for her when she needs one.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
53,762
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Thanks for your feedback! I am going to purchase the fluorescent bulb and use that along with the 45 watt. My partner found a brand “Zilla” is that any better/worse than “ReptiSun”?

Now I am thinking about building a bigger enclosure. How can you tell when an enclosure is too small? The store Spica came from had an 8 year old Sulcata living there. It was 10-12 inches and only slightly pyramided. They told me that Sulcatas do not grow large in our climate. Assured me that the 30 gallon would be a roomy home that would last at least 4 years. As I have already discovered, the more her needs are met the faster she is growing. I am happy to build a bigger home for her when she needs one.

I wouldn't use any of the coil types or compact types of UV bulbs from any manufacturer.

What they have told you about enclosure size, your climate and growth rates is completely false.

Mine don't reach 10" in 18 months because of my climate. They grow because I raise and feed them right. Most people don't. Most people keep babies too dry and feed lettuce and other poor foods. Most people don't provide the right temps or substrate or a humid hide or UV, or calcium supplementation, etc...

Mine outgrow their 4x8' enclosures in about a year and a half. There is no way a 30 gallon will last 4 years unless something is very very wrong. My 4 year old female is 18-19" and around 45 pounds right now, and I grew her slower by feeding mostly hay and grass. My babies outgrow a 40 gallon within two months, just for comparison.
 

zenoandthetortoise

Active Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Aug 6, 2013
Messages
420

Nessie

New Member
Joined
Oct 10, 2014
Messages
18
Location (City and/or State)
Ohio
Another angle to consider is that it is all but impossible to provide microclimates and environmental gradients in a space that small. Kind of an apples to oranges thing, but here is a spotted truly that lives in a 40 gallon:

View attachment 100496

Also, if you're interested, here is a thread I'm working on detailing issues with CFLs.
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/index.php?threads/UVB-Coil-Bulbs-and-Keratitis.103186/#post-960929

Good point about the micro climates! I wasn't referencing a coil or compact fluorescent...more something like this...
zoo-med-reptisun-10-0-uvb-fluorescent-bulb.jpg
Is this a good choice?
 

zenoandthetortoise

Active Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Aug 6, 2013
Messages
420
Yes. My favorite set up so far is a CHE on a thermostat, a UVA type (blue shifted , sold as "reptile daylight" or a plant light on a 10 hour timer and a dual t5 fluorescent on a 14 hour timer, with a one 10.0 like you pictured and one 6500 tube. And if you think I sound compulsive, try living like this :)
Anyway, that's probably way more than necessary but it's the closest I have gotten to replicating sunlight.
 

Nessie

New Member
Joined
Oct 10, 2014
Messages
18
Location (City and/or State)
Ohio
Yes. My favorite set up so far is a CHE on a thermostat, a UVA type (blue shifted , sold as "reptile daylight" or a plant light on a 10 hour timer and a dual t5 fluorescent on a 14 hour timer, with a one 10.0 like you pictured and one 6500 tube. And if you think I sound compulsive, try living like this :)
Anyway, that's probably way more than necessary but it's the closest I have gotten to replicating sunlight.

Thanks. I will get everything set up and will add more questions later if I get stuck. :)
Oh, one last question...should the CHE be placed on the warm side near the basking light? Could it be placed on the cool side or in the middle?
 

zenoandthetortoise

Active Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Aug 6, 2013
Messages
420
Depends on the temps and your species. For my redfoot I use a 100 wt in the center with a thermostat at 85. That keeps both ends at 80. In another set up I have a 150 at the hot end to create a 75-100 gradient. I use a couple of digital thermometers with high/low records per enclosure and a laser thermometer for spot checks.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
53,762
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Good point about the micro climates! I wasn't referencing a coil or compact fluorescent...more something like this...
Is this a good choice?

The 10.0 will work, but understand that for your tortoise to get usable UV from that bulb he will need to be no more than 10-12" from it. Even then, it will still be somewhat low amounts of UV. I suspect this will be okay in your situation as your climate should allow you to have your tortoises getting real sunshine in an outdoor pen most of the year.
 

zenoandthetortoise

Active Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Aug 6, 2013
Messages
420
Yeah, it's hard to recommend a UVB bulb without recommending a meter. I've been very surprised at how inconsistent the output is. That said, I've never found definitive info on how much is needed, particularly if calcium with vitamin D is provided as supplement. I've raised many herps, predominantly indoors, without UVB lights, but they all have had some outdoor time and Vit d supplements. Hopefully someone with more quantified data can assist.
 

Nessie

New Member
Joined
Oct 10, 2014
Messages
18
Location (City and/or State)
Ohio
The 10.0 will work, but understand that for your tortoise to get usable UV from that bulb he will need to be no more than 10-12" from it. Even then, it will still be somewhat low amounts of UV. I suspect this will be okay in your situation as your climate should allow you to have your tortoises getting real sunshine in an outdoor pen most of the year.

I have been considering adding more Coco Coir to both get Spica closer to the UV light (when I get it set up) and also to allow her a bit more burrowing and micro climates. I was thinking 4 inches? Is that a good amount? More/less? I am working on brainstorming blueprints for a larger indoor enclosure. I want to provide her a basking temperature along with a much cooler cool side. I have been studying the enclosures on this forum. I began sprouting greens and grasses under a giant fluorescent bulb...hoping to grow enough greens for the family to better utilize the energy involved :) Anyone know any tricks to make the indoor greens grow? I am keeping them close to the light with a small fan on to encourage stronger and less wonky stems. Thanks again for the information! :)

Also I started a thread asking for advice about preparing an outdoor enclosure...perhaps you might have some advice?
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/thread...by-sulcata-in-colder-clim.103870/#post-966789
 
TortoiseSupply.com

New Posts

Top