Help!! New tortoise owners🐢

BowzerMom0424

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Apr 3, 2020
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Nevada
Hello everyone!! My daughter was gifted a testudo tortoise for her 10th birthday. Just feeling a little overwhelmed. Doing our very best to research lighting, soaking, feeding, (little) handling... lots, but conflicting research. I don't want to mess anything up. She is soooo excited!🐢 Any advise would be great. What are the most important things? Anything you wish you would have known? This is day one. We think he's male, Bowzer. Thankful to have found this site.
 

KarenSoCal

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Low desert 50 mi SE of Palm Springs CA
Hi, and welcome to the forum.

We're glad you found us, because here we have the most up to date info available.

In order for us to help you the most, we need to know exactly what kind of tortoise you have. Please post some pictures.

Also, if you know, where did the tortoise come from? Pet store, breeder?

And then we will want to see how you are housing your tort. Pet shops are terrible places to get info...usually they just don't know what they're talking about, and they sell you stuff you don't need at a premium price.

We can help you with all of that.

Oh, when you send pics of the tort, include a shot of his plastron (the bottom shell).
 

Yvonne G

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Hi, and welcome!

There are many different species of tortoise in the Testudo group. Please post pictures of your new tortoise so we can better help you.
 

BowzerMom0424

Member
Joined
Apr 3, 2020
Messages
26
Location (City and/or State)
Nevada
Hi, and welcome to the forum.

We're glad you found us, because here we have the most up to date info available.

In order for us to help you the most, we need to know exactly what kind of tortoise you have. Please post some pictures.

Also, if you know, where did the tortoise come from? Pet store, breeder?

And then we will want to see how you are housing your tort. Pet shops are terrible places to get info...usually they just don't know what they're talking about, and they sell you stuff you don't need at a premium price.

We can help you with all of that.

Oh, when you send pics of the tort, include a shot of his plastron (the bottom shell).
I replied below, I wasn't sure if I replied correctly. Thank you so much!!!
 

Armadillogroomer

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Jul 15, 2019
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65
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NC
It showed up fine, those are good pictures! It’s sometimes a little slow here, but someone that‘s familiar with your species will likely help out soon (and if not, you can message Karen or Yvonne directly). Welcome to the forum! 😊
 

BowzerMom0424

Member
Joined
Apr 3, 2020
Messages
26
Location (City and/or State)
Nevada
It showed up fine, those are good pictures! It’s sometimes a little slow here, but someone that‘s familiar with your species will likely help out soon (and if not, you can message Karen or Yvonne directly). Welcome to the forum! 😊
Thank you so much, I really appreciate your response!
 

BowzerMom0424

Member
Joined
Apr 3, 2020
Messages
26
Location (City and/or State)
Nevada
Welcome great looking tort!
Thank you!! Any advise is appreciated, first owners🙃 Doing our best of 12 hours day and 12 hours night. He (We think?) seems to be pretty active most of the day with a few naps. Pooped quite a bit, watery and a lot. Seems to be normal from what I've read. How much sun is ok? Any temperature? We live in Las Vegas. Conflicting information here. Also heat lamp temp I have heard a few different numbers. Above 80? Thank you all so much!!
 

KarenSoCal

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Ok, here we go!
I agree that it's a he, and an adult Russian. That also means that he is wild caught. All those scuffs and dings are from his previous life in the wild. This is just FYI...doesn't make any difference in his care.

This is a link to our care sheet for Russians. It will answer most of your questions, especially re' heat and lights.

The tank he is in is much too small. Torts need a large amount of space. They have to walk a lot in order to digest their food. As Tom says in the care sheet, he needs a minimum enclosure size of 8ft x 4ft. And instead of a glass tank, he can live in a "tortoise table" that you would build. Lots of keepers get hold of a bookcase, remove the shelves, and line it with plastic, maybe an old shower curtain. Fill it with substrate and his "furniture" and you're good to go! Just make sure the sides can't be climbed...Russians are the Houdinis of tortdom!

His water dish is pretty, but not safe or convenient for him. Tort bodies don't bend in the middle, so those steep sides make it easy to flip onto his back. This can spell death to him, especially if he is in his water dish. Much better is a terra cotta flower pot saucer, big enough for him to lay in. Push it down into the substrate so it's flush with the substrate...easy to walk straight into and out of.

Take him outside as much as you want! In fact, he could live outside most of the year where you live if he had a large predator and escape proof enclosure. Just make sure he has shade available. They can overheat in our desert sun.

Inside, in the daytime, he needs a basking area around 100 deg. If he goes outside for an hour or two 3-4 times a week, he does not need any UV light. At night, he does not need heat if your house is at least in the 60's, and he has his basking light in the morning. At night, it should be dark. He doesn't want a nightlight. :D

Read over the care sheet, then come back with questions!
 

jeneliza

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Mar 30, 2020
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529
Location (City and/or State)
burton michigan
Hello!! I posted some info and pictures below... sorry still getting the hang of it. Purchased from Petsmart. Thank you so much for your help 🙌
Don't, please don't use there care sheets, there not complete, and so information is very wrong, and most employees don't know know much about the care, and one other note YOU do need a big encloser, there's if you bought it there are way to small for your little dude for long, and most don't know how to sex them so don't go by that either
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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Thank you!! Any advise is appreciated, first owners🙃 Doing our best of 12 hours day and 12 hours night. He (We think?) seems to be pretty active most of the day with a few naps. Pooped quite a bit, watery and a lot. Seems to be normal from what I've read. How much sun is ok? Any temperature? We live in Las Vegas. Conflicting information here. Also heat lamp temp I have heard a few different numbers. Above 80? Thank you all so much!!
All the advise Karen just gave you is spot on.

I would add that it looks like you went to the pet shop and got sold all the usual wrong stuff:
  1. No colored bulbs should be used and Russians don't need night heat.
  2. No cfl type UV bulbs. Those are ineffective at delivering the needed UV and some of them burn tortoise eyes. Remove it ASAP before any damage is done. If you need indoor UV use an HO type florescent tube. You rally don't need it where you are.
  3. The indoor basking bulb needs to be a lower wattage flood bulb. The pet store probably sold you an over priced 75-100 watt "spot" bulb. These aren't good for tortoises as they concentrate too much heat into too small of an area.
  4. There is no way to know the age of your tortoise. Probably somewhere between 5 and 10 years old.
  5. Definitely remove that ramped water dish ASAP. Your tortoise is likely to flip and drown in that, or just avoid it entirely because it has some common sense. Does the water in the bowl get dirty? If not, your tortoise isn't using it. Get an 8" terra cotta plant saucer from the hardware store, and sink it into the substrate. Get a 6" saucer to use for food. I like to have extras on hand in case I break one, and these are cheap, so get two of each.
  6. I agree that the tank is much too small. You'll need to fix that part ASAP too.
  7. Some good news! They sold you the right substrate.
  8. The fixtures they sold you make me nervous. They are on the small side, and they tip over too easily. I prefer these from Home Depot, and they are cheaper too: https://www.homedepot.com/p/Woods-3...-10-in-Reflector-and-Bulb-Guard-166/301132854
  9. These are the right bulbs to get. I sued to tell people to go buy them at the hardware store, but incandescent bulbs are being phased out and replace wit only LEDs. Be sure not to buy an LED "65 watt replacement" bulb. They don't generate any heat. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002CZ1E4M/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20
  10. I would take all these things back to the pet shop for a refund and tell them why. They need to stop selling the wrong stuff to people, and this is how they learn. That will give you plenty of money to get the right stuff.
  11. More help on the lighting:
  12. There are four elements to heating and lighting:
    1. Basking bulb. I use 65 watt floods from the hardware store. I run them on a timer for 12 hours and adjust the height to get the correct basking temp under them. You can mount a fixture on the ceiling, or hang a dome lamp from the ceiling. Go lower or higher wattage if this makes the enclosure too hot or not warm enough. Do not use "spot" bulbs, mercury vapor bulbs or halogen bulbs.
    2. Ambient heat maintenance. Unless your house gets unusually cold at night, you can skip this step for a Russian or other Testudo species. Night lows above 60 require no night heat for Testudo species.
    3. Light. I use florescent tubes for this purpose. Something in the 5000-6500K color range will look the best. Most tubes at the store are in the 2500K range and they look yellowish. I've been using LEDs lately and they are great, and run cooler than a florescent. This can be set on the same timer as the basking bulb. If your tortoises room is already adequately lit, you don't need this one either.
    4. UV. If you can get your tortoise outside in a safe secure enclosure for an hour 2 or 3 times a week, you won't need indoor UV. If you want it anyway, get one of the newer HO type fluorescent tubes. Which type will depend on mounting height. It helps to have a UV meter to test and see what your bulb is actually putting out at your mounting height. Plexi-glass or screen tops will filter out some or all of the UV produced by your bulb. Regular "T 8" type UV tubes produce hardly any UV. CFL type UV bulbs are also ineffective, and sometimes dangerous, and should not be used.

One more helpful thread: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/


This is a lot of info to take in. Read through it all and keep a list of questions. We welcome and expect skepticism and more questions.
 
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