First baby tortoise. General help and advice!

WildeAxel

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Joined
Apr 9, 2020
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45
Location (City and/or State)
Abbotsford BC
Hi!

First off I am glad I found this place. I have been cruising the threads for days now and frantically taking notes.

Okay, for the last few weeks I have been watching a friends adult hermann while they house hunted (their home burnt down). This tortoise I was watching was free roam in his home and the owner was pretty lax.Ii however, didn't let him roam my house freely as I had dogs and figured the torty needed more and probably should be treated to a "spa" while away. I researched what an adult would need, created a home and he loved it. Dug in his soil at night, played in his pond, devoured his salads. He tended to sleep for two or three days and then exposed himself and wants to play. I even ended up clipping is nails and started seeing his pads actually hitting the ground properly.

Needless to say, I fell in love. I have reptiles and snakes already so it is not unfamiliar territory but covid struck and lots changed ( I have lupus) and a plan for my own when from the spring when the expo came to, who knew when. Or so I thought. When our friends came to pick up their torty they had a surprise and actually wanted to do a swap. Theirs for a baby they found me from a breeder I didn't know existed.

Of course I said yes and then promptly started learning what a baby requires and suddenly I felt like I was in unfamiliar territory.

So, here we are...

Axl was born Feb 7th and I received him April 5th making him (I am guessing, won't know till about 3 years old I think) just over 2 months currently. He is 1.45" wide and weighs 20.34g. He is in a 1.3 x 2.9 ( that's what the tape measure says ) plastic bin with a 100w zoomed combo light. The substrate is EcoEarth and about 4 inches deep on the cooler side for burrowing. I have two cheap hydrometers stuck to the walls, each on one side respectively. There are two small water dishes, three artificial hides. I have added sphagnum moss to both the substrate when mixed initially and to the top on one side, in an attempt to keep the humidity in the soil. His home is sprayed twice a day. Once in the morning as he is in his bath and the substrate is mixed and in the late afternoon to re-hydrate the substrate and bring the humidity back up.

I am a amateur naturalist and I love identifying local plants so the diet of this hermann is right up my alley and I am collecting, cleaning and storing greens. I have dandelion and the dandelion look a likes, plantain, dead nettle, dandelion flowers currently. I also have kale and the celery leaves. I add a pellet of two of Flukers Crafted Cuisine Tortoise Diet I purchased for the tort I was watching since he came with literally nothing. I have not seen the little dude eat since I got him. The first few days I chopped everything into tiny bits. Then I read that if you put full leaves in you can monitor how much is consumed but I have seen nothing. I have started adding carrot puree into the daily baths and I am taking him outside at least once a day to soak in the sun. In the mornings as the sun is not too hot on my skin.

I see him scoot around his perimeter and he has ran over his food, he knows it is there. The first few days he burrowed and then last night there was no burrowing but his light was left on an hour longer and his home stayed warmer last night than it did the previous nights, I assumed if it was warm out he would still stay out? I have seen no poop but I hear that is normal? I have a heat gun and I check his home a few times a day and he has a few micro climates in there. Also, the first few days he did not open his eyes much, today I have seen them open much more. I have read that eyes can stay closed with humidity issues, substrate issues, dehydration issues OR just being a baby and being sensitive. Other than that he seems to act like a normal baby tort?

I know I need: A long uvb/uva bulb and hydro/thermo combo. Both will be purchased by next weekend at the latest.

What I Know (I think)

Humidity needs to be 60-80%. Basking temp 95-100F. Lights on 12 hours a day. NO HEATING PAD. No spiral lights, CHE can be unsafe, color is bad (seems like depending on who you ask or if you need more heat at night?). UVB needs to be across the whole enclosure and the bulb replaced when recommended. Bath temp 88-94F ( mine usually is done closer to 90F ), water changed two/three times, carrot added and tort electrolytes added. Night temp is ideal at 60-65F.

Calcium 2x/week. Cuttlebone in tank 24/7. Access to food at all times. I have TurtleTable on my phone.

So, I think my question/inquires are:

am I doing it right?
is there anything else or more I can do (besides the meters and uvb which at the moment are waiting for funds since I am currently off work)
is he the right weight for his size?
any thoughts on the eyes?
is the bath temperature right?
general help!

I added photos of his enclosure and his food he receives.

Thank you guys!

IMG_8958[1].JPG IMG_8954[1].JPG IMG_8956[1].JPG IMG_8861[1].JPG
 

Tom

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Lots of detail in there. Thanks! Looks like you got mostly good info. Here is what I see:
  • The 100watt MVB (combo bulb) will cause pyramiding. You will want to get rid of that once the UV tube arrives, and replace it with a regal 65 watt flood bulb for a basking lamp. Those bulbs are also unreliable and finicky. The UV is all over the place. Some are way too high, and other stop making any UV after 90 days.
  • Good call on all the weeds, but there is a problem. Few breeders feed them that stuff. Tortoises eat what they've eaten before and your tortoise probably doesn't recognize those items as food. Try getting some spring mix or romaine lettuce to get him eating, and you can slowly introduce all that other excellent stuff over time. Is there any way to reach the breeder and see what he was eating before?
  • No need to chop the food and I think its better if you don't.
  • Stick on dial type hygrometer are not accurate or reliable. It is very difficult to maintain the correct conditions for a baby in an open topped enclosure. Consider switching to a closed chamber, or at least covering some of the top of this one.
  • No sphagnum moss for tortoise enclosures. The long fibered stuff will be eaten and its an impaction hazard. The dirt like stuff can cause shell rot even in species that are not prone to it. Neither type holds moisture any better than the coco coir. I'd take that substrate out and replace it with straight coco coir.
  • Spraying the surface of the substrate does very little. You'll need to dump water into the substrate periodically to maintain dampness. How much water and how often varies tremendously with each enclosure. You'll have to go by feel.
  • Daily soaks are great. Usually carrot baby food soaks are reserved for sick tortoises. Since your guy isn't eating, the carrot soaks might help, but it won't be necessary once he starts eating. Just plain water every day after that.
  • Babies don't stay out regardless of temps and light. They tend to want to stay hidden from predators. Its instinct.
  • CHEs are not unsafe. Just run it on a thermostat. While they can certainly survive 60 degree nights, I prefer to keep babies a little warmer than that at 70-75 at night. This might help get things going with the appetite.
  • UVB does NOT need to be across the whole enclosure. Half is plenty.
  • The HO tubes can last for years. Only a UV meter can tell you when to replace them. They all last more than 6 months, so replacement would be costly and wasteful. I have some still going strong at 3 years old.
Your questions:
  • Yes, you "are mostly doing it right". Minor changes is all that is needed.
  • Yes, you can do more. Change the substrate, cover the top, add night heat.
  • Weight is normal.
  • Eyes might be due to dryness, too much UV from the MVB, cold nights, or burning from the sphagnum moss.
  • Bath temps sound perfect.
Finally, I cannot believe that you didn't post pics of the BABY!!! That is what we all wanted to see FIRST!!!

Care for these guys and Russians is the same. You might find some helpful info in these:

Questions and conversation are welcome.
 

WildeAxel

Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2020
Messages
45
Location (City and/or State)
Abbotsford BC
Thank you!

I went an immediately removed the layer of moss to the one side. It was only there today. I try and not make too many changes at once as I have read this can stress them out. As for the light, it was purchased and installed Tuesday and had not been on him long. It will be changed asap, same as the useless meters. I do have a photo of what he was on before and I can reach out to the breeder and inquire about what they fed him as well. I will stop chopping the food as well.

When I said spray it is a very heavy spray and I do a touch test in a few areas to make sure it is damp but not soaking as I have been reading that damp without the proper heat can be damaging as can heat and too dry. As for covering, I assume I would be covering the cooler side and about how much do you suggest?

So a bit warmer is better, good to know. Also good to know he should be burying himself. He did come with sphagnum moss in his container? I will ask the breeder about that as well.

How often should I weigh the little guy?

And here are the photos I forgot to add! 4D2D4743-3C47-4AF4-9BED-63B563825799.jpeg 05538B58-4846-4187-A258-4073186AB9EE.jpeg FD0713A1-38DA-4306-94FF-BFCB9CA50EFB.jpeg B197EC6C-C58E-4A3E-B337-7AA26DFED8BC.jpeg
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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Just be aware that most breeders are still following the old wrong info and don't start their babies correctly. They are likely to tell you the opposite of what I just told you.
 

WildeAxel

Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2020
Messages
45
Location (City and/or State)
Abbotsford BC
I have discovered that since finding this site.

I will be coming back here to confirm and continue to get home, the correct help.
 

WildeAxel

Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2020
Messages
45
Location (City and/or State)
Abbotsford BC
Axl Update:

I decided to bath him today in soup bowls instead of the small litter box I was using. My thoughts were to keep the water warmer longer. I switched every so often and it worked wonderfully. I actually even saw him pee in the carrot purée water for the first time. His little legs did a dance, he tucked his head in and out came a burst of what looked like clear fluids.

After his bath I put him near his basking rock and added the lettuce, kale, chard and celery leaves I had soaking in some carrot water. About ten mins later I came to check on him and saw him angrily devouring the lettuce.

So, I got a pee out of him and I have finally seen him eat. Still a change of substrate and lighting is needed and a upgrade of humidity system and I will have to slowly introduce him to the proper food he will be needing.

I saturated his substrate more today and will monitor his behaviour through the next 24 hours.

Again, thank you!
 
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