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Help. (doesn't eat, eyes are closed)

Erinsher

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Joined
Mar 25, 2020
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10
Location (City and/or State)
Dublin
My 1 yr old tortoise is not eating nor hasn’t done in about a month & his eyes are constantly closed.
 
Joined
Dec 13, 2019
Messages
30
Location (City and/or State)
Omaha, Nebraska
I faced a similar problem with a new hatchling. In my case, the eye problem was related to humidity. Adult Russians don't require much humidity but the younger hatchlings definitely do.

I'm not as experienced as others on here, but I would assume a 1yr old would require those same higher levels.

Can you provide more info about your setup? What are your humidity/temp levels? What kind of lighting and how many hours on/off? What kind of substrate/enclosure? What are you feeding the little guy? Are you soaking him on a regular basis and, if so, how often/how long?

I may not be able to answer all of your questions, but I can almost guarantee that the many experts on this forum will ask you for all of this info as well before they can provide an answer.

Once I know a little more, I can give you some suggestions based on my own experience and the many excellent answers that I've received from other experts on this forum myself...atleast until one of them is able to pick this up and rescue both of us! Lol
 

Erinsher

New Member
Joined
Mar 25, 2020
Messages
10
Location (City and/or State)
Dublin
I faced a similar problem with a new hatchling. In my case, the eye problem was related to humidity. Adult Russians don't require much humidity but the younger hatchlings definitely do.

I'm not as experienced as others on here, but I would assume a 1yr old would require those same higher levels.

Can you provide more info about your setup? What are your humidity/temp levels? What kind of lighting and how many hours on/off? What kind of substrate/enclosure? What are you feeding the little guy? Are you soaking him on a regular basis and, if so, how often/how long?

I may not be able to answer all of your questions, but I can almost guarantee that the many experts on this forum will ask you for all of this info as well before they can provide an answer.

Once I know a little more, I can give you some suggestions based on my own experience and the many excellent answers that I've received from other experts on this forum myself...atleast until one of them is able to pick this up and rescue both of us! Lol
Hi There,

Thanks for your reply, I was feeding him spinach, kale & carrots he didn’t seem to like tomatoes or peppers. He was eating fine up to about 4 months ago I changed his bedding on the advice of the pet shop where I got him, to a dryer bedding. I wasn’t really bathing him until recently (well he belongs to my daughter & she was supposed to be looking after him!!😀) I have started spraying him daily with water & Vit A powder. I will send you a pic of his enclosure he has a heat mat for night time & a high Watt light during the day. I have started to leave the light on low at night time to see if this will help. As I said to my daughter, with this Covid19 pandemic now & because we are stuck in now most days it’s time now Zazu starts getting the proper attention 😊
 

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Omaha, Nebraska
Ok, so before anything, I'll just remind you, I'm not a pro. I have several hatchlings that are only a few months old, which are doing well now, but I had issues in the beginning as well. So anything I say, I'd maybe wait for an expert on here to "confirm" before making any massive changes.

So the first thing, I was always told by many different people that heat mats aren't really the best for tortoises. Overhead heat lamps or CHE's (ceramic heat emitter) are better heat sources for tortoises. They can be turned off at night for indoor enclosures, it won't get cold enough to worry about. I use a "night" heat bulb, personally, but it's honestly not necessary.

I don't see a UVB fluorescent tube light. I'm really hoping you have one as it's absolutely critical. Am I just missing it, maybe?

You'll need an indoor/outdoor thermometer with a temperature probe to test temps throughout the cage. This is the most accurate way to get ambient air temp readings at shell heighth. I also use an infrared temperature gun to check surface temps. Ambient temps should be 90-95F under the heat lamp, 70-75F on the cool side.

Surface temps will run higher, that's fine. I've measured surface temps of 110-115 degrees on the bedding, but my little guys seem to love it as long as ambient temps aren't too high.

In looking at the enclosure, it seems very tall, but not so much long. Generally, longer enclosures are better for tortoises so that you can create a temperature gradient. One issue you may have at the moment is that your heat light is heating up the entire enclosure and isn't giving anywhere for your little guy to go cool off.

In terms of soaking, given he's still very young, I personally would be soaking him once a week, minimum, for 15 min or so in luke warm water. My infrared temp gun comes in handy here for testing the water temp. I usually shoot for somewhere between 90-95F. You may need to replace the water halfway through the soak if it cools off too much. Since he's having trouble right now, I'd probably soak 2-3 times per week for now.

You also need a hygrometer to test humidity, or they make the thermometers with the probes in "combos" that do both temp and humidity. For now, I'd spray down your enclosure a couple times a day so the bedding is damp, but not soaked. You can also add Sphagnum moss which holds the water better. Put a couple "clumps" close to the heat lamp to spray well and then sprinkle some throughout and mist all over. I keep my humidity readings around 65-75%. Again adults require much lower levels.

Zoo Med makes something called "Turtle Eye Drops" that you can find at any PetSmart/Petco. It's mostly just vitamin A because vitamin A deficiency is the most common cause of eyes being swollen shut. I did one drop per eye twice daily.

Lastly, food. Based on what I know (which isn't much), I was always told spinach isn't a good choice. Maybe one of the experts can confirm that, but I personally don't use it. I feed my guys collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, dandelion greens, and SOME kale. You can also use romaine or red/green leaf lettuce, but NO head lettuce. It's best to rotate all of these in and out, which I usually do weekly. I typically combine two kinds together for a week, then switch to two different kinds, then switch again, etc. You can find all of these at most grocery stores, although, I've only been able to find dandelion greens at Whole Foods or Natural Grocers. There is an app called "The Tortoise Table" you can download that will tell you what foods to feed freely, what to feed sparingly, what not to feed at all.

The one thing I can say is that tomatoes and peppers are both listed as DO NOT FEED in that app, so I would stop feeding those right away. Essentially, leafy greens is what you're looking for and should make up 99.9% of his diet.

I hope I covered everything, but feel free to ask about anything I may have missed. I'll post pictures of my enclosures and the food to give you an idea of what I have setup. I would strongly encourage a wider, shorter enclosure. As you will see in my pictures, I use a 50 gallon Rubbermaid tub from Lowes. It's cheap and does the trick (with minor modifications).
 
Joined
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Location (City and/or State)
Omaha, Nebraska
The white boxes are wireless temperature/humidity sensors velcroed to the sides that transmit to a little screen I monitor. Three sensors, one on each end, one in the middle. Found on Amazon.

As I said, 50 gallon Rubbermaid tote, used a hacksaw to cut the lid for the heat lights, used a drill to make the holes on the sides and bought wooden dowels cut to length to hold the UVA/UVB fluorescent light.

I'm happy to give you all my sources on everything I have and the brands I prefer if you want.
 

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Erinsher

New Member
Joined
Mar 25, 2020
Messages
10
Location (City and/or State)
Dublin
The white boxes are wireless temperature/humidity sensors velcroed to the sides that transmit to a little screen I monitor. Three sensors, one on each end, one in the middle. Found on Amazon.

As I said, 50 gallon Rubbermaid tote, used a hacksaw to cut the lid for the heat lights, used a drill to make the holes on the sides and bought wooden dowels cut to length to hold the UVA/UVB fluorescent light.

I'm happy to give you all my sources on everything I have and the brands I prefer if you want.
Hi There
Thanks for all that information. It’s quite the contrasting in comparison to what the pet shop where I bought him told me. They told me (he was they reckoned about 4 months old) that he didn’t need a UV light that the light I had would suffice. They were feeding him baby carrots & to give him them with the likes of spinach & kale, nothing about bathing him, I have the eye drops I got them about 2 weeks ago & I am using them. When he wasn’t eating I asked them what to do they told me to change his bedding that it might be too dusty for him (I will attach pics of what I was using & what they told me to change it too) as we don’t get much sun in Ireland I will now get a UV light. Maybe you could let me know which bedding I should use? Regarding the food I cannot get that turnip leaf here in Ireland. Any other suggestions?
 

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Erinsher

New Member
Joined
Mar 25, 2020
Messages
10
Location (City and/or State)
Dublin
Hi There
Thanks for all that information. It’s quite the contrasting in comparison to what the pet shop where I bought him told me. They told me (he was they reckoned about 4 months old) that he didn’t need a UV light that the light I had would suffice. They were feeding him baby carrots & to give him them with the likes of spinach & kale, nothing about bathing him, I have the eye drops I got them about 2 weeks ago & I am using them. When he wasn’t eating I asked them what to do they told me to change his bedding that it might be too dusty for him (I will attach pics of what I was using & what they told me to change it too) as we don’t get much sun in Ireland I will now get a UV light. Maybe you could let me know which bedding I should use? Regarding the food I cannot get that turnip leaf here in Ireland. Any other suggestions?
They also recommended I buy these to give him but he never ate them so I don’t give them to him
 

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Omaha, Nebraska
In terms of the bedding, it seems like it should be fine, either one really. I couldn't really see what kind of wood it was, but basically, cypress mulch is typically the most common.

I use coconut fiber for my bedding. I usually mix 2:1 ratio of the fine coconut fiber with the coarse chip fiber. The main reason I use coconut fiber is because it tends to be less dusty and holds moisture better. That keeps the eye irritants down and humidity up.

i don't think I would classify your substrate as "wrong" in this case. The main thing is to stay away from any woods that have strong scents (ie. Cedar).
 
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They also recommended I buy these to give him but he never ate them so I don’t give them to him
So, I don't think this food would "hurt" him, but typically, it's best to only supplement his diet with a commercial tortoise food, maybe a small amount once or twice a week. You definitely don't want it to be his primary diet.

I use a little Mazuri Small Tortoise Diet LS that I'll sprinkle onto their food occasionally. Sometimes it's best to soak these dry foods or spray them so that they get a little mushy.

Again, as a small supplement, it should be fine, but your tortoise isn't used to digesting commercial foods on a regular basis, and often times they contain higher levels of protein, which is also not good.
 

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Erinsher

New Member
Joined
Mar 25, 2020
Messages
10
Location (City and/or State)
Dublin
In terms of the bedding, it seems like it should be fine, either one really. I couldn't really see what kind of wood it was, but basically, cypress mulch is typically the most common.

I use coconut fiber for my bedding. I usually mix 2:1 ratio of the fine coconut fiber with the coarse chip fiber. The main reason I use coconut fiber is because it tends to be less dusty and holds moisture better. That keeps the eye irritants down and humidity up.

i don't think I would classify your substrate as "wrong" in this case. The main thing is to stay away from any woods that have strong scents (ie. Cedar).
Should I be dampening down his bedding too, again there was no mention of this from the pet shop! 😡
 

Erinsher

New Member
Joined
Mar 25, 2020
Messages
10
Location (City and/or State)
Dublin
So, I don't think this food would "hurt" him, but typically, it's best to only supplement his diet with a commercial tortoise food, maybe a small amount once or twice a week. You definitely don't want it to be his primary diet.

I use a little Mazuri Small Tortoise Diet LS that I'll sprinkle onto their food occasionally. Sometimes it's best to soak these dry foods or spray them so that they get a little mushy.

Again, as a small supplement, it should be fine, but your tortoise isn't used to digesting commercial foods on a regular basis, and often times they contain higher levels of protein, which is also not good.
I also have this..I have been spraying him with this also.
 

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Also when I do get the UV light to I leave both on?? The light I already have & the UV light?
I'm not positive what the light is you have now, but the simple answer is yes, absolutely.

They make MVB (Mercury Vapor Bulbs) that are both a heat source and a UVA/UVB source. That's actually what I use for my heat lights (picture below).

I also use a UVB fluorescent tube light (also picture below) at the same time. Honestly, any expert on here will tell you (and they have told me...lol) that BOTH lights is probably not necessary. The MVB light as the "all-in-one" source is quite sufficient, but since my tortoises are indoors the vast majority of the time, I went with the "overkill" option because UVB light is absolutely critical to the survival of tortoises...well, reptiles in general.

Honestly, I would just keep your heat light you have and get the UVB tube light. No need to replace both. I got the tube light below on Amazon. If you're able to find out if the light you have is already an MVB bulb, then you really don't need to change any lighting. Unfortunately, given what you have already told us that your pet store has said, I'm not sure you could even trust their answer if they told you it is.

As someone else mentioned, there are Russian Tortoise care sheets on this forum you can search for, as well as many others on the internet. I've also read a dozen books on Russian Tortoise care, all can be found on Amazon.

There are definitely minor variations in every care sheet you read, but by and large, they are all mostly similar. I would definitely familiarize yourself with atleast a few of them before returning to the pet store.

They are in the business to sell you things. While some stores are great, many will tell you things that are blatantly wrong, either due to their own ignorance or just to sell you stuff. It's happened to me here in the States as well.

If you are familiar with the major components of tortoise care when you go in there, then you can recognize when they say ridiculous things like "tortoises don't need UVB lights." I'm honestly surprised they didn't kill him before they could sell him.
 

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They also recommended I buy these to give him but he never ate them so I don’t give them to him
I forgot to answer your question on the food...you may not be able to get the "bagged" product I took pictures of...it doesn't have to be that.

It can be fresh leafy greens (collard, mustard, turnip) or kale. Red or Green LEAF lettuce or some romaine lettuce. Just no head lettuce, like iceberg. There are many others as well that you can find in The Tortoise Table app.

Using that app, I believe I've even rotated in Bok Choy once or twice, Escarole, Swiss Chard, Endives, etc. Please don't take my word on these as I'm trying to recall from memory. I would check the app for sure before you feed any of these.

You can also pick weeds in the wild as long as you can be CERTAIN that no pesticides or chemicals have been sprayed on them. That app can help identify those things also.

Basically, anything that says "Feed Freely" on the app, you can give to your tortoise, as much as you want as often as you want. Most things will say "Feed in Moderation" which means you should use the rotating method I previously discussed and change up his food periodically.

Obviously, I would avoid the "Do Not Feed" items, and then the "Feed Sparingly" items should only be very seldom, occasionally treats...tiny amounts once a week, or even every other week. Personally, I actually just avoid the Feed Sparingly items altogether just for safety sake.

There are tortoise seed mixes you can find on Amazon that you can plant in a few planters and literally grow your own weeds to feed your tortoise.

I only do the bagged greens because, frankly, I'm just lazy...lol. There have been many times they are out of stock and then I use the app to see what other stuff I can grab instead. Again, dark leafy greens are what you're after.

One note...I remember you mentioning tomatoes. I just wanted to call out that the "green parts" of the tomato plant (stems, leaves, etc.) Are actually poisonous. I realize you were feeding him only the tomato itself (which, again, you don't want to), but just as a precaution, I wanted to mention this about the rest of the plant. The Tortoise Table app will be able to tell you all of these things.

My best suggestion...download the app, go to the grocery store, then stand in the produce aisle and just start typing in everything they have. That's exactly what I did in the beginning.

Yes, I probably looked ridiculous, but I now know all the things my store has that I can get.
 
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Omaha, Nebraska
Should I be dampening down his bedding too, again there was no mention of this from the pet shop! 😡
Definitely! In some way, you have to be adding moisture to his enclosure given his age. You can keep it simple and just use a spray bottle to mist things down (remember, these aren't rain forests animals so we're not looking for torrential downpours) or you can get an automatic fogger/mister that would run on a timer. That's what I have done, but I also spend WAY more money on my little guys than probably most anyone else...lol.

Again, how much you need to spray will be determined by your humidity levels. Without a hygrometer, you don't know if your levels are too high/too low. I shoot for around 70%, but I've been as high as 90% temporarily.

The main thing is to keep your temperature up. High humidity is fine with warm temps, 75F and above. High humidity with low temps spells respiratory infections and a vet visit.

The fogger I use is below, but again a spray bottle and some Sphagnum moss would do the trick. They also have auto misting systems too if you'd prefer that over a fogger. I found the fogger on Amazon.

I honestly believe this is the largest contributing factor to your little guy not opening his eyes. I had the exact same issues. I fixed my humidity levels, kept the substrate slightly damp to keep the dust down, and used those turtle eye drops. A few days later, my little guy was opening his eyes, just like that.
 

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I also have this..I have been spraying him with this also.
We don't have that Vionate here on the States that I'm aware of. I also wouldn't spray him as I don't think that'll do much good. He needs to ingest it so I'd sprinkle it over his food. Also, he probably finds the spraying to be a little annoying, which is likely to make him hide from you more. I know mine would HATE me if I sprayed them...lol.

I'm also not sure what all the other vitamins in it are so I can't really say if it's even good for tortoises or not. Calcium is really the big one as they need that for their shell. They can only process calcium with vitamin D3, hence, the UVB light. They get their vitamin D3 from sunlight.

I posted pictures of what I use. The calcium I add to the food once or twice a week. I wouldn't do more often than that.

The electrolytes I add to their soaking water, which they will usually drink while their soaking, but again, this is probably another one of my "overkill" items.

As you can probably see by now, I'm a HUGE fan of Zoo Med products...lol
 

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Erinsher,

I sent you a private message with my email address. Feel free to use it as needed. There's a huge time difference between us, but I'll try to respond as quickly as possible.

I'll do my best to try and help you get started and setup correctly. It seems your local pet store may not be the most trusted resource for you.

Again, this forum is also another great resource with tremendously knowledgeable experts. My main concern, as with anyone else on here, is the health and well-being of your little hard-shelled companion.

I think you'll find that once his enclosure is transformed into the "ideal" space for him, your little guy will thrive and be a fascinating addition to the family. Honestly, myself and my kids can sit and watch our little guys for hours!!
 

Erinsher

New Member
Joined
Mar 25, 2020
Messages
10
Location (City and/or State)
Dublin
Erinsher,

I sent you a private message with my email address. Feel free to use it as needed. There's a huge time difference between us, but I'll try to respond as quickly as possible.

I'll do my best to try and help you get started and setup correctly. It seems your local pet store may not be the most trusted resource for you.

Again, this forum is also another great resource with tremendously knowledgeable experts. My main concern, as with anyone else on here, is the health and well-being of your little hard-shelled companion.

I think you'll find that once his enclosure is transformed into the "ideal" space for him, your little guy will thrive and be a fascinating addition to the family. Honestly, myself and my kids can sit and watch our little guys for hours!!
Hi there,
A bit of good news to share it was sunny here today in Ireland so we took him to the garden & he ate some grass & dandelion leafs 👏👏 his eyes looked much better today it’s to be nice again tomorrow so we’ll do the same, we’ll bathe him again this eve, thanks so much for your help & i will use your email address to contact you. I’m also gonna mix his bedding. I think a lot of TLC is now required & with Ireland on partial lockdown, kids not in school, me not in work we have all the time in the world to do it now! 😊
 
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That is great news! I'm sure with the extra attention he'll get, as well as the sunlight, you should notice drastic improvements rather quickly.

Let me know if you need anything else!
 
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