Custom built tortoise table help

Curly Sue

New Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2021
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
UK
Hi everyone, I'm new to the forum and currently doing some research as I will be getting a Hermann tortoise in the near future. However I want to be absolutely sure I've covered all bases before I go ahead and buy one. I've been reading a lot on this forum about custom built tables using bookcases and I'm seriously considering going down this route as I can't find anything ready made that I like and don't feel comfortable building one completely from scratch!

Initially I'd like this to be approximately four feet in length by at least two, preferably three feet in width and with the sides at least one foot in height although I will probably use plexiglass as well to increase the height to prevent him or her from climbing out. A covered hide would be on one end for him/her to escape to/sleep in. I plan on strengthening the base of the enclosure with plywood or something similar, and I will be lining the base and sides of the enclosure with pondliner to protect the wood from moisture. The whole structure will be placed on an old sideboard so should be quite sturdy.

Substrate wise I was thinking of a mixture of either eco earth and coco coir or eco earth and reptibark. Would this be a good idea or is there something better I can use?

For this size enclosure what would my best options be for heating/lighting? I plan to have a basking lamp on the opposite end of the hide but what strength bulb would be more suitable? I was wondering if a 75 or 80w would be enough to get up to the appropriate temperature? I am also unsure on lighting. I do plan on taking the tortoise out in the garden as often as our temperamental UK weather will allow but I am aware I will also need some lighting. I've read that strip lights are the best option to ensure that the whole enclosure, apart from the covered hide, will get light. I plan to have both the light and the heating on a timer for 10-12 hours per day. Would this be enough?

Finally, what humidity should I be aiming for? I've read conflicting information about humidity for Hermann tortoises, some places I've read no more than 40-50% and others say more like 70% or even higher!

Sorry for all the questions but I want to make sure everything is perfect before I go ahead and get the tortoise.

Thank you all in advance :)
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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Messages
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Hi everyone, I'm new to the forum and currently doing some research as I will be getting a Hermann tortoise in the near future. However I want to be absolutely sure I've covered all bases before I go ahead and buy one. I've been reading a lot on this forum about custom built tables using bookcases and I'm seriously considering going down this route as I can't find anything ready made that I like and don't feel comfortable building one completely from scratch!

Initially I'd like this to be approximately four feet in length by at least two, preferably three feet in width and with the sides at least one foot in height although I will probably use plexiglass as well to increase the height to prevent him or her from climbing out. A covered hide would be on one end for him/her to escape to/sleep in. I plan on strengthening the base of the enclosure with plywood or something similar, and I will be lining the base and sides of the enclosure with pondliner to protect the wood from moisture. The whole structure will be placed on an old sideboard so should be quite sturdy.

Substrate wise I was thinking of a mixture of either eco earth and coco coir or eco earth and reptibark. Would this be a good idea or is there something better I can use?

For this size enclosure what would my best options be for heating/lighting? I plan to have a basking lamp on the opposite end of the hide but what strength bulb would be more suitable? I was wondering if a 75 or 80w would be enough to get up to the appropriate temperature? I am also unsure on lighting. I do plan on taking the tortoise out in the garden as often as our temperamental UK weather will allow but I am aware I will also need some lighting. I've read that strip lights are the best option to ensure that the whole enclosure, apart from the covered hide, will get light. I plan to have both the light and the heating on a timer for 10-12 hours per day. Would this be enough?

Finally, what humidity should I be aiming for? I've read conflicting information about humidity for Hermann tortoises, some places I've read no more than 40-50% and others say more like 70% or even higher!

Sorry for all the questions but I want to make sure everything is perfect before I go ahead and get the tortoise.

Thank you all in advance :)
Are you getting a baby or an adult?

Rather than typing for 30 minutes (I'm a slow typer...), read this. All of your questions, and much more, are answered here. More questions are welcome if you need more explanation after reading.

 

Curly Sue

New Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2021
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
UK
Are you getting a baby or an adult?

Rather than typing for 30 minutes (I'm a slow typer...), read this. All of your questions, and much more, are answered here. More questions are welcome if you need more explanation after reading.


Hi, thanks for replying and the link. I will probably be getting a baby. I'm a little overwhelmed with all the information out there and just trying to get everything straight in my head before I rush into things, plus I'm not a very technical person so get a bit bamboozled when it comes to heating and lighting!
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
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Messages
54,479
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Hi, thanks for replying and the link. I will probably be getting a baby. I'm a little overwhelmed with all the information out there and just trying to get everything straight in my head before I rush into things, plus I'm not a very technical person so get a bit bamboozled when it comes to heating and lighting!
You are doing it right. Take your time. Don't listen to pet stores or vets. Most of the tortoise keeping community is still using old, out-dated, misguided care info. Follow the info here at TFO. Ask us to explain the discrepancies and conflicting info. We'll tell you why that old info is wrong and why what we are telling you is right.

Here is a simplified heating and lighting explanation:
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. 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. In the UK, get one of the newer HO type fluorescent tubes. Which type will depend on mounting height. 5.0 bulbs make almost no UV. I like the 12%. You need a meter to check this: https://www.solarmeter.com/model65.html
 

Curly Sue

New Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2021
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
UK
You are doing it right. Take your time. Don't listen to pet stores or vets. Most of the tortoise keeping community is still using old, out-dated, misguided care info. Follow the info here at TFO. Ask us to explain the discrepancies and conflicting info. We'll tell you why that old info is wrong and why what we are telling you is right.

Here is a simplified heating and lighting explanation:
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. 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. In the UK, get one of the newer HO type fluorescent tubes. Which type will depend on mounting height. 5.0 bulbs make almost no UV. I like the 12%. You need a meter to check this: https://www.solarmeter.com/model65.html

Thank you so much for all your help, I really appreciate it. I've been looking at the exo terra digital infrared thermometers on Amazon and will probably get one of those to accurately check the temperature throughout the enclosure. I've also seen some combined ones that measure both temperature and humidity so I may get some of those as well. It's these two points that I'm most concerned about getting right.

One thing I have read is that baby tortoises get overwhelmed in too big an enclosure straight away - is this correct or one of the outdated bits of information? I don't really see what difference it would make but I'm not an expert and I don't want to stress the poor thing unnecessarily. If a four foot enclosure would be too much for it straight away then I can always block one end off completely, and then increase the size when he or she gets a bit bigger.

I've been browsing the forum getting ideas for custom built tables - some of them are absolutely amazing and almost make me wish I was a tortoise!
 

Krista S

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Aug 4, 2019
Messages
841
Location (City and/or State)
Saskatchewan
Hello there and welcome to the forum!

A 4 foot long enclosure is not too big in my opinion. The key though, is to have lots of places for the tortoise to hide and lots of plants and things that provide sight barriers. If it is a large open space that they can see clear across, they will be scared and stressed. Definitely take a good read of the link Tom provided. If you are going with a baby tortoise, then an open tortoise table isn’t really the best option. Babies of all species should be started in a closed chamber/vivarium so that the air temp and humidity can be closely regulated during their most vulnerable first couple of years of growth. If your house is kept hot and very humid and your enclosure is in a small room, then a table might be ok. You’d have to have the walls of the enclosure be 18 to 24 inches tall to be able to hold the heat and humidity well in the table style enclosure. I have a tortoise table type of enclosure for my 2 year old Hermann’s tortoise, which he moved into at the start of this year. I find it works for me because it’s in a small bedroom on the 2nd floor where it’s quite warm to start with. I have to add moisture to keep humidity up and supplemental heat, but I am essentially heating the whole room, and not just my enclosure. The analogy Tom so cleverly uses is, using an open topped enclosure is like trying to heat your house in the winter with no roof. The heat just goes up and out. This is why I think the key to making a tortoise table work is to have it in a small room that is warm to begin with. It’s definitely not energy efficient but it can work in the right circumstances.

If you do start to consider building or having an enclosure built, take a look for a material called expanded pvc. It is heat and water resistant. You don’t have to use any chemicals or liners or worry about mold and rot. In my opinion, it’s the best way to go.

It was just 2 1/2 short years ago that I was in your shoes. So desperately wanted a tortoise, but wanted to do things right. I remember how incredibly overwhelming it was trying to figure everything out when there is SO much misinformation out there. Just take it one step at a time. I would recommend forgetting what you have learned elsewhere and go with the guidance on this tortoise forum. There’s a lot of really nice and helpful people here who can help you get things just right before you bring you new tortoise home. 🙂

Sorry for my lengthy babble. I just wanted to provide some more food for thought.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
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Joined
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Messages
54,479
Location (City and/or State)
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Thank you so much for all your help, I really appreciate it. I've been looking at the exo terra digital infrared thermometers on Amazon and will probably get one of those to accurately check the temperature throughout the enclosure. I've also seen some combined ones that measure both temperature and humidity so I may get some of those as well. It's these two points that I'm most concerned about getting right.

One thing I have read is that baby tortoises get overwhelmed in too big an enclosure straight away - is this correct or one of the outdated bits of information? I don't really see what difference it would make but I'm not an expert and I don't want to stress the poor thing unnecessarily. If a four foot enclosure would be too much for it straight away then I can always block one end off completely, and then increase the size when he or she gets a bit bigger.

I've been browsing the forum getting ideas for custom built tables - some of them are absolutely amazing and almost make me wish I was a tortoise!
I start tiny hatchlings in 4x4 or 4x3 enclosures. It doesn't overwhelm or stress them. Think of how much space a wild hatching would have.

Get your thermometer/hygrometer at a hardware store, along with most of your other supplies too.
 

Curly Sue

New Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2021
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
UK
Hello there and welcome to the forum!

A 4 foot long enclosure is not too big in my opinion. The key though, is to have lots of places for the tortoise to hide and lots of plants and things that provide sight barriers. If it is a large open space that they can see clear across, they will be scared and stressed. Definitely take a good read of the link Tom provided. If you are going with a baby tortoise, then an open tortoise table isn’t really the best option. Babies of all species should be started in a closed chamber/vivarium so that the air temp and humidity can be closely regulated during their most vulnerable first couple of years of growth. If your house is kept hot and very humid and your enclosure is in a small room, then a table might be ok. You’d have to have the walls of the enclosure be 18 to 24 inches tall to be able to hold the heat and humidity well in the table style enclosure. I have a tortoise table type of enclosure for my 2 year old Hermann’s tortoise, which he moved into at the start of this year. I find it works for me because it’s in a small bedroom on the 2nd floor where it’s quite warm to start with. I have to add moisture to keep humidity up and supplemental heat, but I am essentially heating the whole room, and not just my enclosure. The analogy Tom so cleverly uses is, using an open topped enclosure is like trying to heat your house in the winter with no roof. The heat just goes up and out. This is why I think the key to making a tortoise table work is to have it in a small room that is warm to begin with. It’s definitely not energy efficient but it can work in the right circumstances.

If you do start to consider building or having an enclosure built, take a look for a material called expanded pvc. It is heat and water resistant. You don’t have to use any chemicals or liners or worry about mold and rot. In my opinion, it’s the best way to go.

It was just 2 1/2 short years ago that I was in your shoes. So desperately wanted a tortoise, but wanted to do things right. I remember how incredibly overwhelming it was trying to figure everything out when there is SO much misinformation out there. Just take it one step at a time. I would recommend forgetting what you have learned elsewhere and go with the guidance on this tortoise forum. There’s a lot of really nice and helpful people here who can help you get things just right before you bring you new tortoise home. 🙂

Sorry for my lengthy babble. I just wanted to provide some more food for thought.

Hi Krista, thank you for the information. Would the fact that one end of the enclosure would be closed, ie. the hide, make any difference or should the whole thing be closed? If I go the tortoise table route I plan on using plexiglass or something similar to increase the height so that could help with the heat and humidity I guess (and to stop him or her from escaping - have looked after a friend's tortoise previously and he was quite the climber!) It will also be in a centrally heated room so this may also help.

I'll be looking to get a few things that he or she can hide in and some plants to shade under. I'm very excited to get started but trying to rein myself in since I won't be getting one until next year. I like to be organised though :)
 

Curly Sue

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Joined
Aug 1, 2021
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
UK
I start tiny hatchlings in 4x4 or 4x3 enclosures. It doesn't overwhelm or stress them. Think of how much space a wild hatching would have.

Get your thermometer/hygrometer at a hardware store, along with most of your other supplies too.

Thank you that's reassuring to know.

Re supplies, unfortunately there aren't a lot of places in the UK that sell reptile stuff unless you're willing to get it online. Thermometers, bulbs etc you would find in the DIY easy enough but other stuff like substrate you would probably need to get online.
 

Krista S

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
Joined
Aug 4, 2019
Messages
841
Location (City and/or State)
Saskatchewan
Hi Krista, thank you for the information. Would the fact that one end of the enclosure would be closed, ie. the hide, make any difference or should the whole thing be closed? If I go the tortoise table route I plan on using plexiglass or something similar to increase the height so that could help with the heat and humidity I guess (and to stop him or her from escaping - have looked after a friend's tortoise previously and he was quite the climber!) It will also be in a centrally heated room so this may also help.

I'll be looking to get a few things that he or she can hide in and some plants to shade under. I'm very excited to get started but trying to rein myself in since I won't be getting one until next year. I like to be organised though :)
When we talk about a closed chamber or vivarium, we are meaning something more like this, that is fully closed and contained.

 

Curly Sue

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Krista S

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Messages
841
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Saskatchewan
Ah ok, I get you. Definitely food for thought. I guess I really need to make a decision on either baby or older tortoise.
Here’s another thread that you might enjoy looking through. This is one that I wished I had seen before I brought my tortoise home.

 

Curly Sue

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Messages
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Here’s another thread that you might enjoy looking through. This is one that I wished I had seen before I brought my tortoise home.


That's a great thread, thank you :)
 

Quixx66

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Joined
Dec 6, 2018
Messages
297
Location (City and/or State)
Louisiana
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. If you can get your tortoise outside for an hour 2 or 3 times a week, you won't need indoor UV.
Would something like this work for testudo outside for an hour to two about 60F? Will it keep them safe from predators like raccoons, hawks, and snakes.

Is it okay to follow up like this on someone else’s thread?
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
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Joined
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Messages
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Would something like this work for testudo outside for an hour to two about 60F? Will it keep them safe from predators like raccoons, hawks, and snakes.

Is it okay to follow up like this on someone else’s thread?
Its too small and the sides are too tall. A low sided tub with a screen top would be a better option. Or a large kiddie pool. Or something custom made with some boards.
 
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