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Golden Greek Hatchling Soft Shell HELP!

Discussion in 'Tortoise Health' started by Lindsinic, Aug 13, 2017.

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  1. Lindsinic

    Lindsinic Member

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    We have a Golden Greek hatchling and it seems that his shell has gotten softer since we got him. He gets a warm soak every day and 3 days ago we started adding Vitasol liquid to the water to try and reverse the soft shell.

    He gets calcium with D3 powder on his greens every day or two. Diet is typically a combo of Spring Mix greens, kale and parsley. He seems to eat well twice a day.

    We get our yard fertilized so I'm trying to grow some wildflowers in a raised herb garden to add that to his diet.

    Shell seems to be very soft on the sides (see pic) and look of his belly has changed (see pic). Top of his shell still seems to be in good shape. He seems alert and walking around fine when he's not sleeping.

    Enclosed table is 3'x6' with hides, CHE and basking/UVB bulb. Temps range from about 100 (basking) to 80 (inside shaded house). Open air area remains around 88 for the most part and I have the thermostat drop it down to around 80 in the open space at night. I have a large bucket of water (inaccessible) to constantly evaporate but humidity still only reads around 60%. Should I mist the coconut coir more often?

    Please help! This is my 9 year old's first tortoise and I'm trying to help do everything to keep this little guy alive.

    Attached Files:

  2. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    How long have you had the tortoise? Has it grown since you've had it? What does it weigh?
    Where did you get it and how often did it get soaked when it first hatched? Was it kept mostly outside or inside before you got it?

    Here are a few things I see:
    • The diet needs major improvement. Spring mix is okay once in a while but it is majorly lacking in fiber and calcium. Kale is also okay once in a while but should not be a large percentage of the diet. Same with parsley. They need weeds, leaves, and flowers of the right type. Skip the text of this sulcata thread, just scroll down to the list of foods: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/for-those-who-have-a-young-sulcata.76744/ Feeding a diet that is low in calcium and and has a poor calcium to phosphorous ratio could cause the issue you are seeing over time. If you must use grocery store greens, favor endive and escarole, but use lots of variety.
    • What type of UV bulb are you using? If its the coil type, they are not effective and they can be dangerous in some cases. Does the tortoise get any outside time? This could also be a factor.
    • Fertilized yards are fine, as long as the fertilizer is soaked in. What, exactly, is the yard fertilized with? If its just plain fertilizer the tortoise can be outside in an enclosure and grazing. If its a weed n' feed or insecticidal kind of thing, then its not safe for the tortoise.
    • Coir needs to be kept damp. Do not let it get dry and dusty. Damp coir should maintain your humidity all by itself.
    • This species needs a drop in night temps. 80 degrees at night is great for sulcatas, stars, and leopards, but not so great for a greek. Mid to high 60s at night is fine, but even low to mid 70s at night would be an improvement. Warm days are good, but they need cooler nights.
    Your answers to these questions and comments can help start eliminating possibilities until we can narrow down the most likely causes of your issue.
  3. Lindsinic

    Lindsinic Member

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    We have had Rocky for almost 2 1/2 months.

    Got him from Backwater Reptiles in California. I believe he was kept indoors with other hatchlings...I'm guessing.

    He was a very small hatchling. I feel like he has grown but I can't be sure how much. We have never measured or weighed him.

    Not using a coil light. It's a 100W T-Rex basking bulb with UVB.

    We do not take Rocky outside. We could for some of the year but here in Indiana he will be limited to the indoors for at least October-May.
  4. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Well… we wanted to figure out what was going on, and the info you provided above is a good clue. Do a search here for Backwater and read the reviews.

    This then is my best guess about what is going on, based on the symptoms you describe:
    http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/hatchling-failure-syndrome.23493/

    If babies are kept too dry, and/or not soaked often enough, it damages their kidneys. They survive for weeks or months and appear to be fine. Then the plastron goes soft, sometimes bruising can be seen like in your pics, then the appetite begins to wane and they become more lethargic. Soon the eyes won't open and they die. No amount of vet care or money can save them, IF this is what is going on. If the kidneys got fried before you got them, there is nothing to do but offer the best conditions you can, and hope for the best. Some pull through and some don't.

    I'm hoping for the best for you.
  5. Lindsinic

    Lindsinic Member

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    oh no!

    Changed the thermostat to 72 at night. That should keep it between 70-72 with the two degree cushion.

    Well for what it's worth we went foraging outside and got some items from your "food list". Hibiscus leaf, hosta leaf and flower, some other plant leaf, clover, thistle and some other flower. I even planted the thistle and clover inside the table in hopes MAYBE they will grow on their own? Good idea or no?

    So a 20-30 minute soak each day is not too much? I was worried too much soaking had contributed to "shell rot". But it sounds like hatchlings need the baths and the water is not what's making Rocky soft.

    So no other ideas besides moist coconut coir, vitamin soak a day, better diet (more wilds) and cooler temps at night to try and help save Rocky? This is so sad ☹️

    I've attached some pics.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Aug 13, 2017
  6. TechnoCheese

    TechnoCheese Well-Known Member

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    I love you're set up! I hope the baby makes it out all right.
    Gillian M likes this.
  7. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Get him some real sunshine immediately. Just 15 minutes a day along with calcium-rich food should harden him right up.
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  8. Shaif

    Shaif Well-Known Member

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    I feel for you. I also got a tortoise for my 10 year old son. Mine too was sickly. You are in the right place. The people here were able to help me. I hope the same for you.

    Best of luck to you and your tort.
    Gillian M and TammyJ like this.
  9. Lindsinic

    Lindsinic Member

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    We will do that beginning tomorrow! Will we find ourselves with the same issue all over again during the Indiana winter months when Rocky definitely can't go outside?
  10. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Yes, but once he gets a bit older it is not as hard to keep them hardened. Also, buy a GOOD UVB light.
  11. Lindsinic

    Lindsinic Member

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    This is the one we're using. Vet said to have it 15" above our tort for proper UV level. Is it not sufficient?

    I got a meter that measures UV levels. Does anyone have a guide for where the level should be for a Golden Greek hatchling? Does that level change as the tortoise gets older?

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  12. Shaif

    Shaif Well-Known Member

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    A few of us prefer the fluorescent UVB bulbs especially for babies. They give a much larger area of distribution of uvb. The Mercury bulbs (like yours) are very focused with a small area of targeted beam. They can also overheat the small babies.

    You have done some wonderful changes to the enclosure.

    Best wishes,
  13. Lindsinic

    Lindsinic Member

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    Thank you...we've really tried to make all of the changes recommended. Can't too much UVB be dangerous or are even the hatchlings smart enough to get away from it when they've had enough? Would you recommend a tube fluorescent? Maybe down along the shorter end and replace the T-Rex bulb with just a basking bulb?
  14. Shaif

    Shaif Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I honestly know how frustrating it is. I see how much you have had to change and also know the cost incurred. I was exactly in your shoes one year ago.
    Yes, I do recommend fluorescent uvb with an incandescent bulb for heat/basking. It's so so much easier. And I felt better too because I knew my baby was getting uvb in most of the enclosure.
    Sunlight is best, but I was too nervous to take a tiny baby outside and worry about all the new variables and safety issues.

    As far as too much UVB. Yes. That can happen too. Most of us have the fluorescents on timers. I currently do 10 hours on-- because my baby was so soft for a while. I intend to cut down even more in fall.

    The lighting section in this forum is pretty awesome. It's very in depth and scientific. I'm giving you the summary version, but please have a look. Anything from @Markw84 and @Tom is golden.
  15. Lindsinic

    Lindsinic Member

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    If I go to a local hardware store to get a fluorescent tube what wattage should I get?

    Do you know of a table that lays out what UVB levels torts should be getting at different stages? Difficult to know how high up to mount the bulbs.
  16. Shaif

    Shaif Well-Known Member

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    I went with t5ho fixtures from Light Your Reptiles. If you have 12%bulbs, mount 2ft above tort level.
    This gives me readings of 3-4 on the solarmeter throughout the back of my enclosure. My enclosure size is 8ft x 3ft x 2ft. Fluorescents are mounted in the top of the enclosure. I have many hides and plants for shade.

    My entire setup is explained on a thread called Animal Plastics in the enclosure section. It may be helpful for placement of lights. There are others that are better, I'm sure.
  17. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    I agree completely with what @Tom has surmised with your tortoise. That sure looks to be the issue. The bruising look to the plastron is not a good sign. The sides and plastron of a young tortoise will remain softer for some time as the bone growth there is very limited. The sides of a tortoise has large, mostly open spaces, or fontanelles between the bones and are the last areas to actually have bone structure. However, yours seem to be softer than normal as you describe it.

    I believe with the UVB light you have, the UVB exposure is not the issue. It does not take that much to satisfy the D3 needs. Although I too prefer the tube fluorescents as @Shaif describes, for now the one you have is certainly adequate to get your tortoise started. The issue with the one you have is that I feel they are too desiccating on a young tortoise, and then tend to overheat enclosed chambers. But for now, focus on seeing if you can get growth started. that will tell you if your tortoise has enough functioning kidney and organs to metabolize foods and start adding size and bone. I would focus on diet and high calcium low phosphorus foods to be sure there is enough available calcium in the diet for proper bone growth. You have the UVB there now. So I would not stress short term on new UVB, but really focus on diet.

    If you have an source of newer, fresh grape leaves, they are perhaps the best high calcium to weight source you can provide. Another great calcium source is opuntia cactus I grate a bit of it and put on the food for small tortoises. Most tortoises love both of those foods. With a very small tortoise duckweed is also extremely high in calcium. Mazuri regular tortoise food is something I offer ASAP to hatchlings to see if I can get them eating it as it is what I use and see as a "One A Day" vitamin for my tortoises. It also will add greatly to putting on weight. I will often soak a few pellets of Mazuri, then mash it up with some grated opuntia, along with some finely chopped fresh, young grass, add some finely chopped grape leaves or hibiscus, and see if the tortoise will eat that. You can give that every day for now. Weigh you tortoise and keep track = looking for growth. That is what you need to see now.

    I also believe making the enclosure as natural and secure feeling for the tortoise does a lot towards getting a tortoise's metabolism functioning. Stress is a major problem with inhibiting good health. A hatchling/young tortoise is the wild would never stay in the open. It would be hidden in a tuft of grass or pushed under a bush or buried in leaf litter. Add some potted plants to your enclosure with overhanging branches the tortoise can rest beneath and feel secure. I like boston fern and pothos ivy for this. Both do well in indoor situations and create overhanging foliage quickly. Your hide looks too large. A tortoise want a snug place to feel secure. Perhaps give it a small pile of hibiscus leaves to burrow into.

    Unfortunately, the biggest factor you may have to deal with is how the tortoise was started = and there's nothing you can do about that. Your enclosure looks great. Get some plants/hides in there. Your UVB is fine for now. Sounds like you have the temps good. Keep up the soaks and watch to not let the substrate dry out too much. FOCUS on DIET. Then watch for growth.

    Keep us updated!
    Shaif and TammyJ like this.
  18. TammyJ

    TammyJ Well-Known Member

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    Glad you are getting some sound advice here!
    Precious little tortoise, all the very best for his progress!
  19. Lindsinic

    Lindsinic Member

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    What does "new growth" on a baby tortoise look like?

    We have two potted hibiscus plants that we've been feeding Rocky leaves from. Also some wild honeysuckle leaves and clover. Also some radish and carrot greens. These other plants that you recommended, any idea where I might find them in Indiana? A non-store bought diet in Indiana has seemed tricky so far. Our property is surrounded by some wooded areas but I don't know what most of the ground growth actually is. I'm scared I'll poison Rocky or make things worse if I just pick some random greens from the woods.
  20. Lindsinic

    Lindsinic Member

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    Planted various ferns in Rocky's enclosure.

    He's been getting vitasol soaks and outdoor sun each day. Diet is mix of hibiscus, honeysuckle, hosta, rose and wildflower leaves. As well as beet, carrot and radish greens.

    Started a weight log. Yesterday he was 21 grams. I plan to weigh him each week. Should I also measure his shell in some way? What's best way to track shell growth?

    If he is growing and improving, will the appearance of his plastron get less "bruised?

    Attached Files:

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