Enclosure and Initial Set up - Finding the Ropes, Guidance Required (First-timer)

darwindoingresearch

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Hello,
I'm a first-timer. This is the first time I've had tortoise (it's pretty new, less than a week, and I haven't named him yet). So based on articles I've read, I'm doing my best to give him a good home. The tortoise is about 7cm, straight carapace length. Healthy. Eats, walks about, tries to climb everything.

1. Enclosure (Temporary)
Right now, I have a plastic tub lined with several layers of newspaper (tub dimensions about 1.5 feet by 2 feet, chosen based on the tortoises current size). I have a heating pad in one corner of the enclosure, and try to keep it warm. Around 32-35 celsius. A cardboard box shut in on all sides for him to hide/sleep. (Box dimension about 7inches by 8inches). I peel back newspapers after every night and dispose. Any old food/faeces is removed as well.

This is only for the night, when I'm sleeping and can't watch over him. Since I work from home (for the most part) I get him out at about eight every morning and place him in a tray of water (submerged till the area where the shells meet). He doesn't particularly like baths, so although he may soak for five or six minutes at a bit, he eventually climbs out and scrambles away. So I keep putting him back in and ensure he gets a good 20-30 minute soak. Some days, he sits in. Usually he defecates around the soak area so I lay down some newspapers/paper towels such that its easier to clean up. For most of the day I let him roam around my verandah (it's netted in, and has a high parapet, and I'm paranoid), among the pots and planters, and he spends a good while basking in the sun(verandah faces east). Although on some days he goes and hides between the pots.

I'm building an enclosure out of wood/fibreboard which has provisions for a hutch, soak tray, digging area and soil, things to climb up and down, and I will plant coriander and various grasses for him to hide in/eat. Also has provisions for a UVA/B tubelight, and a normal Incandescent 100W bulb for heat. This will be placed in the verandah, where he has about eight feet by four feet to roam about, of which the enclosure will be about 3.5 feet by 4 feet, 10 inches high (perhaps a little less depending on how I work out the drainage). I will be able to make a second level for basking in natural sunlight. With ramps connecting. And adequate fencing (I'm really paranoid).

Is the above set-up okay, and please suggest anything extra that would make it a better enclosure?

2. Food
The person who sold me the tortoise had him on a steady diet of lettuce and lady fingers, but I've tried to broaden that by adding coriander, arugula, a leaf of spinach rarely.
That takes care of the greens. However, I am unsure of what else to feed him, to get the full nutrition he requires.

What do I feed him for protein? What do I feed him for calcium? What about the various vitamins?
I'll read some threads to find out more, but some simple suggestions would be really helpful.

I'm not sure if he drinks water during the soak, so I've started using a dropper to give him water every hour or two. He opens up his mouth for it, so I suppose he's thirsty. (Is this level of intervention healthy?)

3. My Hygiene
I always wash my hands with antibacterial soap after handling the tortoise, and I use Sterillium (that antibacterial solution that you find in hospitals). Always use latex disposable gloves when dealing with waste, and ensure that the wash area for the tortoise-related things is different from the home things. I wipe the area where he spends a lot of time with an antibacterial, allow it to dry overnight, and wipe it with water in the morning so that the antibacterial doesn't come in contact with his skin. (I'm so incredibly paranoid)

Any other suggestions in relation to keeping the area infection free would be appreciated.

Thank you.
 

DutchieAmanda

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Hi and welcome!
What type of tortoise do you have? For most types there's a caresheet in the species specific section of the forum.

Enjoy your new friend!
 

darwindoingresearch

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@DutchieAmanda
He's an Indian Star Tortoise. (I'm in Mumbai)
I did do some digging around and found quite a lot about the food, so thank you.

However, several of the threads I read have some clashing information on what kinds of food etc. Anyway, I shall figure it out.

Thank you for pointing me in that direction though.
 

lismar79

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Calcium is a must I'm sure you know, are you able to get cuttlefish bones? Just like the kind they sell in pet stores for birds. Put one in his enclosure, he should eat on it. If he does not scrape some onto his food a couple of times a week.
 

Markw84

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Welcome to the Forum.

Did you find the post pinned to the top of the section on Indian and Burmese star Tortoises? Done by a member in India, where you are and seems to do a good job of explaining best care and feeding for Start Tortoises, based on what's available in India. Check it out.
 

darwindoingresearch

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@lismar79 Thank you for the suggestion. I shall look around for the cuttlefish bones. Do they need to be ground up or powdered/mixed with something for ingestion? (I did read about them in the Star tortoise forum, but I'm unsure how he'll be able to eat them)

@Markw84 Yes, I found those forums last night. They were quite informative. Thanks.

Also, is it not advised to handle a tortoise too often? (On account of them developing anxiety/stress from constant fear of being picked up)
I mean, he sits on my arms once in a while when I'm at the table or plods across my laptop every now and then, and I generally just leave him be (unless he's flipped over or stuck).

P.S. Thank you both once again.
 

lismar79

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@lismar79 Thank you for the suggestion. I shall look around for the cuttlefish bones. Do they need to be ground up or powdered/mixed with something for ingestion? (I did read about them in the Star tortoise forum, but I'm unsure how he'll be able to eat them)

@Markw84 Yes, I found those forums last night. They were quite informative. Thanks.

Also, is it not advised to handle a tortoise too often? (On account of them developing anxiety/stress from constant fear of being picked up)
I mean, he sits on my arms once in a while when I'm at the table or plods across my laptop every now and then, and I generally just leave him be (unless he's flipped over or stuck).

P.S. Thank you both once again.

They can just eat them as they are. Powdered or whole.
 

Tom

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Markw84

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Also, is it not advised to handle a tortoise too often? (On account of them developing anxiety/stress from constant fear of being picked up)
I mean, he sits on my arms once in a while when I'm at the table or plods across my laptop every now and then, and I generally just leave him be (unless he's flipped over or stuck).
A lot of keepers do enjoy "bonding" with their tortoises. However, this is normally done in the tortoise's safe environment. It is not really safe for a tortoise to walk around the house or desktop. No matter how careful we are accidents are possible and almost inevitable. NO matter how careful we are - that's why they are called accidents! I am also concerned with little ones about their body temperatures and at that size they can cool down quickly. A 7 cm tortoise on a 68f floor will cool body temps from 85f to 70f in a matter of minutes.

So I would suggest to center your time with your tortoise around times in the tortoise's schedule - hand feeding, soaking time, outside time in the tortoise enclosure. My grandkids love the tortoises, but the only handling they get we will associate with a bath time for the tortoises. The bigger ones in their enclosures get hand fed, but we never take them out of "tortoise space".
 
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darwindoingresearch

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@lismar79 I found a place that sells cuttlefish bones. Shall get some pronto. Thank you.

@Tom Thank you, I will check out the links.

@Markw84 I was a bit worried at first about the table, and I opened all my drawers below so that if he did fall, he'd only drop a few centimeters. He craned his neck at the edge of the table, peered down, and decided he couldn't make it, turned around. I'm studying architecture, and there is a lot of unused mountboard and fibreboard lying around, so I've made some make-shift fencing for the table (around 17.5 cm high), till I complete the enclosure. (I had a hamster and a rescued quail chick when I lived in Tucson, and they both loved running everywhere, so I'm quite adept at making make-shift walls and roof net systems)

I never put him on the floor without a layer or four of insulation (blanket/newspapers), and if that, only during the day, when the sun's rays fall directly into my room. Later on I move him to the verandah, where I soak him/let him roam around a bit.
Heating pads and humidifiers are kept in the vicinity, and I heat up the box where he spends the night prior to going to sleep. Need to get a thermometer, though.

Yeah, I shall keep a proper record of his schedule, habits, and times, so that I don't deviate too much. Thanks. :)
 
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