Help! I think my baby Indian Stars are getting sick!

Melissa N

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First of all, let me thank everyone who responds to questions on this site. You are all so knowledgeable. Reading all the discussion threads has helped me tremendously! This is a lengthly question, so thanks for reading through all of it.

Background:
I have 3 baby indian stars. Nova, Stella, and Luna. They are 4 1/2 months old. I got them from a very reputable breeder and were doing great when I got them. I did loads of research before getting them and have been trying to give them good care. I know that they need 80-90 temps with a warmer basking area, and high humidity. This has been SO HARD!!! I've already gone through 2 thermometer/hydrometer. I feel like I can never get it warm enough or humid enough in their enclosure. They are in a 40 gallon aquarium with a Zoomed t5uv light strip and an incandescent 75 watt basking bulb. Last night I added a second bulb. Both are on for about 12-14 hours a day. At night I use one of those reptile heating pads. Daytime temps are usually around the low 80's with the hot spot around 90 degrees. Nighttime lows are around 75. It seems like I can never get the humidity over 60% for an extended period of time. I have a mix of organic soil and coconut fiber as a substrate. I spray it down several times a day. Sometimes I even put a large cup or bowl of water inside to try to help with the humidity. I soak them 1 to 2x a day for 30 minutes, during which they do their daily duty ;). After their soaks I feed them a varied diet of various types of greens, dandelions, and recently I added grated cactus pads. I give them Mazuri (original not LS) 3-4 times a week (softened) mixed with a little calcium powder. They also have cuttle bone in their enclosure. As well as a water dish.

Here's what's going on:
1. They are not gaining weight. I weigh them once a week. I've had them since the end of May (almost 2 months). Nova weighed 43.8 grams (now weighs 42.0 g). Stella weighed 33 grams (now weighs 31 g). Luna weighed 34.7 (now weighs 36.1) All of their weights have fluctuated from week to week. But basically the are about the same size as when I got them.

2. They are slowing down in their activity level and are spending the majority of the day sleeping.

3. The last few days they have had VERY small appetites, hardly eating anything.

I'm really worried about them! I'm feeling like a huge failure as a tortoise keeper!

Questions:
Do you think the problem stems solely from the temp/humidity issues? If I am able to correct those issues do you think they'll perk up and begin to thrive? If so, how long should it take?

Do I need to take them to the vet? He charges $70 a visit. So it would cost me $210 to have them all seen. If they absolutely need to go, of course I will take them. But I'd rather not if I don't have to.

I just read Tom's thread titled "Closed Chambers"( www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/closed-chambers.32333/#post-304363 ) I am 100% convinced that I need to close this enclosure up some how. Any suggestions about how to do this? What I'm trying to figure out is how to make it work with the lights. I've been trying to keep it covered with press 'n seal wrap and tinfoil. It helps some, but it needs to be better.

Should I add more substrate to try to hold more moisture in?

Should I get a thermometer gun to get a more accurate temp reading?

Sorry this is so long! Any suggestions would be much appreciated!
Thank you!!!!
Melissa
IMG_4463.JPG IMG_4464.JPG IMG_4465.JPG
 

wellington

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Do they have a basking light where they can get under it and warm upto 95 or more? I would put a top on it and make it a closed chamber. I would also not let the temps go below 80 day and night. Also how high are the lights from the torts? In the pic the enclosure looks very tall.
 

Melissa N

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I've been using the incandescent light as a basking light. I try to get the temps up that high but have been unsuccessful. I'm think maybe it's because the lights are too high. If I lower the lights and put a top on it, how do I secure the lights?
 

Melissa N

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Do they have a basking light where they can get under it and warm upto 95 or more? I would put a top on it and make it a closed chamber. I would also not let the temps go below 80 day and night. Also how high are the lights from the torts? In the pic the enclosure looks very tall.
I just measured the height of the aquarium. It's 17".
 

wellington

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That's not as tall as it looks, so that's okay. Maybe @Tom can help. Do you know how the breeder started them? Not all well known breeders start them out right.
 

Markw84

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MELISSA. Good job giving a lot of background. Makes it easier to reply

You will never get the humidity right as it is set up now. With the basking light sitting on top, even though you are trying to seal around it, there are ventilation holes in the fixture. They are there to dissipate heat. But what it does is act exactly like a chimney. Creating a draft from the heat of the bulb sucking the heat and humidity up and out

A 40 gal is 17" tall. So you should have room to hang the fixture inside the tank and switch to a lower wattage bulb. Completely cover the top with a piece of plastic or even plywood. Your t5 bulb should be about 15-20" above tortoise height and should be ok if hung barely inside unless you have a mirrored type reflector hood. In that case you wouldn't want it that close.

Your Indian stars are especially cold sensitive and with humidity it must be watched carefully. I would never let it drop below 80f anywhere in the enclosure. Right now it sounds like they are getting a bit too cold and that could certainly account for the loss of activity. I would also be sure the lights are on a timer and gives them a 14 hour photoperiod which also helps activity.

I have also found that some natural sunlight will also stimulate less active slow growers. Watch temps carefully and give them an hour or two outside in a secure setting where they can get shade if they wish. I would invest in an IR temperature gun to spot check temps for a while very frequently

I think you are doing A LOT right and if you can get that tank closed up you can get them growing

Also, I personally believe that even though a good breeder - it may be they were not started perfectly and humidity got away from them by mistake at a critical stage. Also I have heard many times that hatchling stars can be frustratingly slow starters some time

Keep us updated
 

Markw84

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Melissa

just got back to my computer instead of the iPhone and looking at your enclosure...

Stars live under bushes. Their shell pattern is great camouflage for the broken shade under a bush or in tall dry grass. It's amazing how mine really disappear when I'm looking for them and they are just sitting there under the bush. But what that means is they will feel much more secure if you can put some real or fake plants in their enclosure for them to hide under. Mine are almost always under one of the potted plants in the enclosure when I come to take them outside, or check on them. I use a heavier, low pot to plant a spider plant, or even prayer plant in. The spider plant will drape some over the edge and create that natural hide. As it grows down, they can even nibble on the plant for food.

I also am a believer in a dark, enclosed hide. I use a black plastic dishwashing tub upside down with a hole cut in the side - ala @Tom They need a place to feel secure, and Indian Stars are also a bit more shy oftentimes than other tortoises. The more secure you can make them feel, the better they will do.
 

Melissa N

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Thanks for all the good advice! I've tried to grow plants but haven't had much success. I also was a little unsure of what plants to grow. I'll try again. I'll also put more moss in to keep them cozy :) and maybe some fake plants in the meantime. My T5 bulb won't fit inside the tank. So should I leave an opening just big enough for it and close the rest up? How will I hold the light in place?

I've heard the term "wet start" a lot. Does that just mean that the breeder soaked them often? The breeder I used kept the humidity around 80% and soaked them 1x day for 20-30min.

After I make all the changes, how long do you think it will take before they get their appetite's back?

Man! These babies have been a lot harder than I thought!
 

Melissa N

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MELISSA. Good job giving a lot of background. Makes it easier to reply

You will never get the humidity right as it is set up now. With the basking light sitting on top, even though you are trying to seal around it, there are ventilation holes in the fixture. They are there to dissipate heat. But what it does is act exactly like a chimney. Creating a draft from the heat of the bulb sucking the heat and humidity up and out

A 40 gal is 17" tall. So you should have room to hang the fixture inside the tank and switch to a lower wattage bulb. Completely cover the top with a piece of plastic or even plywood. Your t5 bulb should be about 15-20" above tortoise height and should be ok if hung barely inside unless you have a mirrored type reflector hood. In that case you wouldn't want it that close.

Your Indian stars are especially cold sensitive and with humidity it must be watched carefully. I would never let it drop below 80f anywhere in the enclosure. Right now it sounds like they are getting a bit too cold and that could certainly account for the loss of activity. I would also be sure the lights are on a timer and gives them a 14 hour photoperiod which also helps activity.

I have also found that some natural sunlight will also stimulate less active slow growers. Watch temps carefully and give them an hour or two outside in a secure setting where they can get shade if they wish. I would invest in an IR temperature gun to spot check temps for a while very frequently

I think you are doing A LOT right and if you can get that tank closed up you can get them growing

Also, I personally believe that even though a good breeder - it may be they were not started perfectly and humidity got away from them by mistake at a critical stage. Also I have heard many times that hatchling stars can be frustratingly slow starters some time

Keep us updated
Any suggestions about a specific IR temperature gun? I just looked on Amazon and there are A LOT to choose from.
 

Markw84

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Yes, really like this one. It has the smallest spot it samples vs the distance you are away. So easier to get a reading on a specific spot standing up or at the bottom of an enclosure.

Etekcity Lasergrip 800 IR Thermometer.jpg
 

Markw84

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Also, you're right. If that's a T5 bulb that is high output and you wouldn't want that inside which would put it about 13" from tortoise height.

Do you have someone handy at building things. I've done tanks where I built a top with about 6" sides that fit perfectly inside the ridge in the top of the tank that is made for aquarium tops to sit on. You can divide the top in two, and hinge the front. Mount the bulbs on the back 1/2. Really pretty easy to build.
 

Sheryl

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I had the same issue with 3 Indian Star babies purchased from a breeder. After 6 months, they still had not reached 30g. A lot of sleeping, some eating, but certainly nowhere near thriving. I finally took them to my reptile vet, who found so many different parasites in their fecal sample it blew his mind.

So he prescribed Panacur, an anti parasitic liquid. The torts were so tiny, only a drop at feeding was needed. Unfortunately, 2 torts died fairly soon. But Olivia has survived and is now thriving in an outdoor enclosure with 3 male Indian Stars. Once she reached 155g, she was placed outdoors. It took almost 14 months for her to get up to that weight.
 

Melissa N

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I had the same issue with 3 Indian Star babies purchased from a breeder. After 6 months, they still had not reached 30g. A lot of sleeping, some eating, but certainly nowhere near thriving. I finally took them to my reptile vet, who found so many different parasites in their fecal sample it blew his mind.

So he prescribed Panacur, an anti parasitic liquid. The torts were so tiny, only a drop at feeding was needed. Unfortunately, 2 torts died fairly soon. But Olivia has survived and is now thriving in an outdoor enclosure with 3 male Indian Stars. Once she reached 155g, she was placed outdoors. It took almost 14 months for her to get up to that weight.
That's so sad! I'm glad Olivia is doing well now. I hope that's not the case with these little girls :(
 

Melissa N

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Update:
I've been able to maintain the temps around 90. And the humidity has been 60-85%. I ordered the IR temp gun Mark recommended. I'm going to make some changes to their enclosure today. I LOVE the one Mark made. http://www.tortoiseforum.org/thread...group-of-tortoises.138430/page-2#post-1300842 I'd like to make one like it in the future.

I think they are already starting to improve a little. They all ate this morning. I didn't even have to wake Luna up. She got up on her own and started looking for food. And Stella was a little more active also. Fingers crossed!
 

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