CHE: 100 or 150 watt?

ccjmjzh

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Hello, new Russian Tortoise owner here. :)

I'm trying to get the heat on my tortoise table to the correct level for my Russians. They live in my basement, where the heat is usually in the 59-64 degree range, ish (I live in a cold area). They are in an open-top tortoise table that I built. The table measures 3' x 6'. Of that, 3'x5' is open for them to run around in, while 3'x1' is their hide (and the hide is covered).

I've got a 100 watt Mercury Vapor Bulb on one end, situated just over a foot above the substrate. Even with it that close, it's looking like it's only getting up to 82 degrees directly under the bulb. Based on that, I think I have to add a Ceramic Heating Element.

So the question is, what watt CHE do I need? I'm debating between 100 and 150. I've been searching through the forums, and can't seem to find a recommendation for a setup similar to mine. Many say to go with the lower wattage, for safety's sake, since higher watt CHEs can get so hot. But others say go higher, so you have the capacity if you need it. I've got four little boys (real boys, not tortoise boys!), so my gut is to go with something that puts out less heat so they won't accidentally burn themselves. But I also don't want to buy the 100 only to find out that it just isn't enough heat to get the temps where they need to be. With the moola I've already spent (yikes!), I'd prefer to get the wattage right the first time so I don't have to buy yet another item.

Also, is a ZooMed Deep Dome lamp the right fixture for a CHE?

Oh, and if it matters, the RTs are juveniles, I suppose, at 5 (male) and 5 3/8 (female) inches long.

Thanks for your help!
 

Yvonne G

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You may have to cover your habitat in order to get it warmer. I have never bought anything stronger than a 100 watt, and I adjust its height or cover the habitat to get it working where I want it.

Keep a close eye on your tortoises to make sure the female isn't being bullied by the male.
 

ccjmjzh

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Thanks, Yvonne! I hadn't ever really considered covering it; I left it open so the kids could interact with the RTs. What would one normally cover it with that would trap heat?

So far, the male has been pretty timid; he isn't adjusting to the new place as well as the female is. Thanks for the heads up, I'll keep an eye out once he decides to start acting normal. I am not totally sure if he's even eating yet, and we've had him for 5 days. :(
 

Tom

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To heat an open table of that size in a cold basement like that, you will probably need 3 150 watt CHEs. Run them on a thermostat and then they won't be able to overheat the table.

If ever there were a situation that required a closed chamber, yours is it. A closed chamber does not need to be super humid. You can have a relatively dry closed chamber too, but in your case it will make heating and lighting MUCH easier.
 

Redstrike

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I'm with Tom, a closed chamber is imperitive for your situation. Otherwise, you're esentially heating your basement with 3 CHE's...
 

ccjmjzh

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What material could I use to close it? I'd really prefer not to use wood; my kids will constantly be moving the wood so they can see. Would something like plexiglass work? And do I just leave a big opening around the MVB/CHE lamps? The enclosure is only a foot tall, so I can't very well put bulbs entirely under the "roof" of the enclosure.

Also, enclosed like that, would you recommend a 100, or a 150?

Thanks!
 

Tom

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Sorry. You need to re-build that one completely or just build a new one from scratch. Laying a something over the top is not going to cut it for your situation. You need to the fixtures and bulbs all contained inside the chamber to hold in the heat you need. You'll probably need to insulate it too. Here is what I'm talking about: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/thread-32333.html I made mine humid for that species and age, but you can leave yours drier with more moderate humidity.

Moving the enclosure into the warmer house would solve these problems too. Ambient room temp is fine for an adult russian, as long as they have a basking spot to warm up under during the day.
 

ccjmjzh

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Wow, I guess I should have asked earlier! I read a ton of stuff before planning my build, and never read anything that sent me in the direction of a closed-top enclosure. Everything I read led me toward building a tortoise table. :(

Unfortunately, at this point, I really can't rebuild or build a new one from scratch; I spent weeks and lots of moola on this one, and don't have the kind of budget that allows me to trash the current setup. While most people will build a table/enclosure out of plywood and leave it at that, I built mine to be a piece of furniture in my room, with the intent that it didn't look at all like a tortoise table. It's huge and beefy (table built from 2x4s, enclosure sides 2x12s), painted and trimmed out, and not easily disassembled. So I'll have to make something work from what I've got!

On a good note, I put cardboard over the top this morning, leaving openings for the heat lights, and it already warmed up their basking spot by 10 degrees, with the colder side warming up by 5 degrees. So I'm on my way, and we'll get there. :)

My male has also perked up (last night, before putting the top on) and started eating, and both are getting more used to their new digs.

One question, Tom. In the post you linked to, you said at the bottom of the first entry that this setup was for babies, not adults or juveniles. Might it be a bit less critical to enclose it, since they're not babies? I mean, obviously I'm going to have to enclose it to a great degree, but I'm going to have to make it work mostly as-is, so I'm hoping their age will give me a bit more tolerance!
 

ccjmjzh

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Tom said:
Moving the enclosure into the warmer house would solve these problems too. Ambient room temp is fine for an adult russian, as long as they have a basking spot to warm up under during the day.

Forgot to say, it's in the house; in the basement, which is finished. We just live in a cold area, so when the ground is cold, the basement is always about 10 degrees colder than our upstairs, even with the heater on. Unfortunately, a table of that size can't move upstairs; half of my kids live up there, and their rooms won't fit a giant table! :)
 

Tom

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That quote was for a larger species of tortoise that is intended to live outdoors once they reach a large enough size, and it was more in reference to babies needing high humidity for proper growth in my dry climate. Your issue is temperature, which pertains to all ages.

Russians can tolerate cold nights. Some people even recommend it. But they need a hot basking spot during the day. You might need 160 watt MVB with at least a couple of 150 watt CHEs on a thermostat to get the temps you need during the day. Moving the bulb closer will also help warm things up.

You could also add a space heater of some sort to the basement to try and raise ambient a bit.

All your reading suggesting that a tortoise table was a good way to go is okay, but the people writing that didn't intend for it to be kept in a room thats in the 50s. Most people's homes are kept in the high 60s or warmer.
 

Redstrike

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Tortoise tables are fine for russians in normal household conditions. It's the location that has Tom and I urging you to create a closed chamber. Achieving the proper temperatures in a cool, damp basement is going to be difficult. The best way to deal with this is to enclose it entirely. That's all we're saying. I have links in my signature to my old closed chamber and what I'm currently running and they were both made of wood. The new enclosure has a sliding glass front. Don't use plexiglass if you make a sliding door, it warps and cracks too easily. Also bear in mind I have redfoots so you can disregard most of the humidity comments as your russian requires less.

I always run a larger CHE and attach it to a thermostat. I find it reduces the work load for both the thermostat and the CHE. There are loads of good thermostats out there and you get what you pay for. Currently I invested in a Herpstat (Spyder robotics) and it's incredible but comes with a decent price tag. Vivarium electronics and Helix also make nice thermostats. In the past I've used the Zoo Med 500R's with no issues (~ $30).
 

ccjmjzh

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Thanks again for the input. The basking spot is now up to 90, just from the cardboard on top of the enclosure. I purchased some plexiglass today to go over the top as a permanent solution. Despite the coldness of my basement, my temps are almost there; just a very few degrees to go on the cold end, which shouldn't be a problem for a CHE, considering how much the MVB has raised the temps. Also, the basement isn't damp; just cold, so I think they'll do just fine. :) Thanks again.
 
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