help please (lethargic sulcata)

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Catalinasgrace

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My wife and I had gotten a baby sulcata tortoise for our 5 year old daughter a few days ago. Truth be known my wife wanted it... lol... As of right now we have he/she in a 40 gallon breeder tank. It's nice and wide and a lot of room for the tiny guy/gal to roam. We have been reading all over the place and we have found sooooooooo many different answers and stories as to what to do, what not to do, what to use, what not to use ect... Well as of right now the little guy/gal on cypress mulch and he/she has a home/hole on one side of the tank with UVB light on that side and the heat lamp on the far side. We have a small dish buried a bit so he/she can get to food without worries of flipping over. there is another same size dish that has a smaller piece of cuttlebone in it. Now we have heard keep a shallow dish with water in the tank, and we have heard to not do this. Once again all the various different stories... However when we first got him/her he was a little speedy guy all over the place, ate good, ect... Now he/she is acting very lethargic, and is doing this thing and I'm not sure what to call it. He is sort of moving in and out of his shell and back in. Sometimes fast and sometimes slow, it would almost make you think he is having issues breathing or something else. I have also noticed that his legs are sort of just out there flat almost really weak... If anyone could point me in the right direction I would greatly appreciate it!!!

Sorry for all the he/she him/her stuff... lol... I think my daughter wants to name it Kelly but as of right now there really hasn't been a sure name given yet...

Thank you again for any information you can give me. The photo was taken the day we got home with him and he was dirty from eating.. hehe

Take care
Joe...

***EDIT***
I wanted to add that the little guy is eating but we can tell that something is wrong as he is not acting right at all...
 

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Tom

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RE: could use a bit of help please

You really need to get reading. No time to waste. Click the links in my signature and come back with your questions.

What are your four temps?
What type of UV bulb are you using?
How cold does it get at night in the enclosure?
 

Catalinasgrace

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RE: could use a bit of help please

Tom said:
You really need to get reading. No time to waste. Click the links in my signature and come back with your questions.

What are your four temps?
What type of UV bulb are you using?
How cold does it get at night in the enclosure?

While I appreciate your reply my wife and myself must have gone through 50 websites and read more than I really want to admit. This is not something that we did on a whim... Once again the conflicting stories of what is right and what is not right... We have been searching for two straight days trying to figure out why he/she is acting this way with NO answers.

basking side stays about high 80s to low 90s and I would say at night high 70s to low 80s. We closed off the AC vents so the cold air does not blow on the tank at night. The UV light if I remember correctly is a Zoo Med F15T8 18"... I'll have to make sure though...

"You really need to get reading. No time to waste."... THIS does not help me right now, yes I can go read everything and plan on it. However if you know what is going on or if the little guy is sick I do not want to waste time if he needs something.
 

Blakem

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could use a bit of help please

Follow what Toms threads say. What a little cutie you have there. I'm really glad that you were smart and researched right away, and found tortoiseforum! Woohoo! It looks like your little one has pyramiding, which tells us that your hatchling was raised "dry". The first 4-6 months are crucial to keeping your baby healthy and happy. Once you figure out a nice routine and setup, you're grand, at least for 1-2 years when it outgrows the living area.

I think the name Kelley would be great, it can be both genders. My 13 month old sulcatas name is Dexter. Even though you didn't care to get the little guy, you will find that sulcatas are really neat and full of personality. Be sure to be around your daughter every time she handles your sulcata, I even get nervous when my 9 year old nieces handle dexter. Also, if you have any dogs, no matter what shape, personality traits, size, keep them away from your sulcata. There has been MANY tragedies of turtles/tortoises of even large sizes becoming a chew toy.

Last but not least, READ READ READ! I researched info on how to care for sulcatas 2 years before I got one and set up for over 2 weeks. Good luck and please ask any questions.




Tom asked these questions because it will help us figure out what is wrong. As I said, the first 4-6 months are CRUCIAL. If your temps are incorrect, ex. Too low, it can make your little one nt feel well. I you follow toms threads to the T, your sulcata will hopefully feel better. Raise those temps. Hot side95-105, cool side no lower than 85 right now, ambient temp same thing, night time should also not be lower than 85 right now. Soak 2 times a day for 30 min in luke warm water, keep it warm. Humidity needs to be up to 80%. You can do this by spraying your mulch 3 times daily with a squirt bottle. Spray our sulcatas shell 4-5 times daily. The rest to do you should read the forum. I do not know what you do daily for your little one. We need more info.
Thank you for carig for this little one so much.
 

Catalinasgrace

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RE: could use a bit of help please

**Edit**

this was a double post, I'm sorry...
 

mctlong

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RE: could use a bit of help please

Welcome to the forum!

A major cause of lethargy in tortoises are temperature problems. Sulcatas do best in HOT, humid environments. A basking temp of 80s and 90s is too cold for them. During the day, aim for an ambient temp in the 80s, but keep the basking spot at around 105 (plus or minus 5 degrees). At night, keep the ambient temps up in the 80s. Its a very small change that makes a HUGE difference.

Have you noticed any other signs of illness, such as a runny nose, a soft, squishy shell, or sneezing?

I know you've done alot of reading and I understand your frustration at the mixed information. Nothing is more frustrating than having a sick baby animal and having 100 different sources give you a bunch of conflicting advise about what will help and harm your pet.

We're learning new things about these creatures everyday and so husbandry methods are constantly changing and some websites and books have trouble keeping up with that change. You'll find the newest info on sulcata care on this forum. On the top of the sulcata section of this forum are five stickied posts. These posts contain sulcata diet info, excellent hachling an adult caresheets, and general information on the species. If you read nothing else on sulcatas, read these five posts. Since your tort is still a little guy, I'd focus on the hatcling caresheet here: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/thread-63788.html (its one of the posts Tom recommended above).

Good luck and please keep us posted.
 

Catalinasgrace

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RE: could use a bit of help please

Blake m said:
Follow what Toms threads say. What a little cutie you have there. I'm really glad that you were smart and researched right away, and found tortoiseforum! Woohoo! It looks like your little one has pyramiding, which tells us that your hatchling was raised "dry". The first 4-6 months are crucial to keeping your baby healthy and happy. Once you figure out a nice routine and setup, you're grand, at least for 1-2 years when it outgrows the living area.

I think the name Kelley would be great, it can be both genders. My 13 month old sulcatas name is Dexter. Even though you didn't care to get the little guy, you will find that sulcatas are really neat and full of personality. Be sure to be around your daughter every time she handles your sulcata, I even get nervous when my 9 year old nieces handle dexter. Also, if you have any dogs, no matter what shape, personality traits, size, keep them away from your sulcata. There has been MANY tragedies of turtles/tortoises of even large sizes becoming a chew toy.

Last but not least, READ READ READ! I researched info on how to care for sulcatas 2 years before I got one and set up for over 2 weeks. Good luck and please ask any questions.




Tom asked these questions because it will help us figure out what is wrong. As I said, the first 4-6 months are CRUCIAL. If your temps are incorrect, ex. Too low, it can make your little one nt feel well. I you follow toms threads to the T, your sulcata will hopefully feel better. Raise those temps. Hot side95-105, cool side no lower than 85 right now, ambient temp same thing, night time should also not be lower than 85 right now. Soak 2 times a day for 30 min in luke warm water, keep it warm. Humidity needs to be up to 80%. You can do this by spraying your mulch 3 times daily with a squirt bottle. Spray our sulcatas shell 4-5 times daily. The rest to do you should read the forum. I do not know what you do daily for your little one. We need more info.
Thank you for carig for this little one so much.



I have seen the same basic information on other sites that Tom has there but as I stated we have seen the exact opposite information as well. We do not have a dog, only a cat so "Kelly" is not ever put on the ground to walk around alone persay. Also we do not let our daughter play with or hold Kelly unless we are right there and she certainly doesn't walk around with him/her. Basically if our daughter holds Kelly (which is not often) she is sitting on the ground with us and has her hands flat out and he sits on her hands. That might have lasted 20 seconds...

So here are my questions:
1. Is Kelly sick, or is this something that is common?
2. What is the "best" substrate for a baby?
3. Should we keep a water dish in the tank?
4. the hiding hole, does it need to be kept damp/humid?
5. Soaking, we have seen once a day to three times a day for 15 minutes. Which is it?

To be totally honest here, after reading countless webpages and talking to people it's a bit frustrating with all information being opposite of each other. All I really care about is that the little guy is healthy and will have a long life with our family. I do NOT want him to suffer in any way...

I typed all of this out before you responded again... I'll try those out and see what happens. Thank you both very much!!!
 

wellington

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RE: could use a bit of help please

Hello and Welcome:) I hate to have to be the one to tell you. But 90% of what you read on the Internet and books is wrong or outdated. Read Toms threads. Your temps are already too low. The basking needs to be 95+ the over all temp, day and night need to be 80 and this is with humidity of 80% cover the enclosure to get the humidity to stay at 80. UVB will be greatly diminished if going through fine mesh and won't go through glass or plastic, so cut holes in whatever kind of lid you use for the lights and heat. Don't use any type of coil bulbs, they cause eye damage. Don't use sand for substrate, it causes impaction. Your tort needs to be soaked every day for 20-30 minutes in warm water. The substrate you are using is fine.
Now, for the way he is acting, I would take him to a reptile vet, that has had experience treating tortoise. Get the enclosure as stated above and as stated in Toms threads and hopefully he will come around. I did the same thing you did when i first got my leopard. Then i found this forum and realized quickly that all the other info was either wrong, outdate, or only half good. If I were you, i would do what I did and forget all the other info you read out there and follow Toms threads and the other info from the knowledgeable members and years of tort experience on this forum. Good luck, I hope you are able to help the little one. BTW, All the threads at the bottom of my post are Toms, all three will pertain to your sully.
 

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RE: could use a bit of help please

Catalinasgrace said:
So here are my questions:
1. Is Kelly sick, or is this something that is common?
2. What is the "best" substrate for a baby?
3. Should we keep a water dish in the tank?
4. the hiding hole, does it need to be kept damp/humid?
5. Soaking, we have seen once a day to three times a day for 15 minutes. Which is it?

1.) Baby sulcatas should be active and not lethargic. She is acting sick.
2.) In my opinion, cypress mulch is the best for hatchlings, but you have many options that work well. Coco-coir and topsoil are popular choices among forum users here.
3.) Yes, have water available for your torotise 24/7. It needs to be wide and shallow (wide enough for her to walk into it, but shallow enough that she doesn't drown and can get in and out easily without flipping).
4.) Yes, her hide should be kept humid. Make sure that when you have a humid hide, you also keep the temps hot. Never let them drop below 80F and have a hot (105F) basking spot available during the day. Hot and humid is good, but cold and humid is not healthy.
5.) I soak my hatchlings once daily for 15-30 minutes and recommend this.
 

wellington

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RE: could use a bit of help please

1. Is Kelly sick, or is this something that is common?
2. What is the "best" substrate for a baby?
3. Should we keep a water dish in the tank?
4. the hiding hole, does it need to be kept damp/humid?
5. Soaking, we have seen once a day to three times a day for 15 minutes. Which is it?

1-Yes, I think,Kelly is sick, at least the way you describe it. Seek a reptile vet
2-Coconut coir, cypress mulch, or plain pesticide and fertilizer free dirt
3-yes keep water in a clay pot saucer big enough for him/her to self soak.
4-yes humid hide, the whole enclosures is much better.
5-soaking, one time a day for 20-30 minutes is fine, however two times a day is fine also. Three times I don't think is needed and haven't done.
 

Catalinasgrace

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RE: could use a bit of help please

wellington said:
1. Is Kelly sick, or is this something that is common?
2. What is the "best" substrate for a baby?
3. Should we keep a water dish in the tank?
4. the hiding hole, does it need to be kept damp/humid?
5. Soaking, we have seen once a day to three times a day for 15 minutes. Which is it?

1-Yes, I think,Kelly is sick, at least the way you describe it. Seek a reptile vet
2-Coconut coir, cypress mulch, or plain pesticide and fertilizer free dirt
3-yes keep water in a clay pot saucer big enough for him/her to self soak.
4-yes humid hide, the whole enclosures is much better.
5-soaking, one time a day for 20-30 minutes is fine, however two times a day is fine also. Three times I don't think is needed and haven't done.

I'm not really sure why those were double posted so I apologize and I'll see if I can remove them...
 

Catalinasgrace

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RE: could use a bit of help please

I made a little video with my phone to show exactly what Kelly is doing. Hopefully this will be better than my trying to explain the problem. Kelly is eating but isn't moving around much...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-ueDHDicPI

I tried to call a few of the Vets here in the Houston area, however none are open of course and we live about two hours or maybe a bit less to Houston from here.

Thanks again for any help.
 

Yvonne G

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RE: could use a bit of help please

Hi Joe:

You think that having to read Tom's threads would not help you, as you think you need immediate help. I'm sorry to disagree with you. What you have read on other sites is probably the wrong info. You came here for our help, and that's exactly what Tom offered you. If you would read Tom's threads on how to raise baby sulcata tortoises, your questions would all be answered. He has gone through what you are going through and has put together these tutorials. If you set your baby up like Tom tells you to, most of your baby's problems would be solved.

As to the breathing thing, baby tortoises front legs move in and out as they breathe. This is normal.

You are probably going to get differing information from us too, however if you choose one spot and go with it (Tom's threads), I'm sure it will all work out for you. Tom has written out all the answers to your questions in his threads. Why would you want him to have to write it all out again? Just read it and the light will go off over your head.
 

Catalinasgrace

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RE: could use a bit of help please

I have been reading through his posts and I'm making sure what we have matches what he suggests. So far we are on the right page, except our temps are a little low. That will be fixed tonight...
 

immayo

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RE: could use a bit of help please

I just wanted to say that I watched the video and my tort does that all the time... Usually right before he poops, like he is trying to push it out. Has your tort been pooping normally?
 

Catalinasgrace

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RE: could use a bit of help please

immayo said:
I just wanted to say that I watched the video and my tort does that all the time... Usually right before he poops, like he is trying to push it out. Has your tort been pooping normally?

only once that I have seen since we got him home. What really caused us to noticed something was up was he pretty much stopped moving or moved extremely slow. That, along with this bobbing thing just started to get us a bit worried. The first day we got him home he was pretty quick and all over the place. Then all of the sudden he/she just stopped and all of this started.
 

wellington

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RE: could use a bit of help please

My leopard will do that also when he poops. If your tort is not pooping when he does this, I would put him in the tub or a large enclosure with warm water. Have the water come up to where the top and bottom shell meet. Keep,the water warm. The moving around and the warm water may help him poop, if that is what he is trying to do and can't. You can also add a little mineral oil to his food to help things move along. Also if you haven't had him long, he may be a little off, getting adjusted to his new home and the people that hover over this tiny thing. Until they get comfy, we are like giant birds waiting to eat them, in their minds anyway.
 

Tom

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RE: could use a bit of help please

The conflicting info drives me crazy too. Here is a brief history of what's going on: Decades ago someone researched the above ground conditions where sulcatas live and concluded that these animals should be kept in dry, desert-like conditions. Other authors and "experts" came to the same conclusion and this is how the story was told for a long long time. For 8 or 9 months out of the year it IS hot and dry, but for some reason the other 3-4 months have always been ignored. the fact that sulcatas are underground during the dry season also seems to have escaped notice. When they were kept this way, they pyramided horribly, a lot of babies died (leading to the creation of the flawed "hatchling failure syndrome" term), and the survivors were often stunted. If someone happened to live in a humid area with frequent rain, like southern Louisiana or Florida, it was often not as bad once the tortoises got moved outside.

Here are the two problems with this "dry" way of keeping sulcatas. 1. Yes it is dry for 8-9 months of the year. The problem is that the sulcatas are underground in damp humid burrows during the entire dry season. It used to be thought that they starved during this time (hence it was incorrectly thought that excess protein or too much food causes pyramiding), but we now know that they drag food into their burrows during the end of the rainy season and basically eat their own gathered "hay" for the duration of the dry season. Problem 2. Babies hatch at the start of the rainy season. They are born into hot, rainy, humid conditions with puddles, marshes and all the green food they can eat. They do not eat lightly and it is not desert like. It is swamp-like and they fill,their,bellies daily. This is why the best results are obtained from simulating the African rainy season, NOT a desert.

For two decades, there was very little arguing in the tortoise community about how they should be kept. Then people like Richard Fife, Carl May, and a few notable others starting rocking that boat a bit. I have taken what I have learned from all sorts of sources applied it, tested it, and blown that boat to smithereens! This forum is full of hundreds of other people who have thought about this, seen my results (its all the stuff in those links we've all been harping about) and decided to give it a try themselves. I do not know of any failures, yet we have hundreds of success stories here.

Can you tell us where you got your baby and how it was being housed before you got it? Do you know how it was started as a hatchling? You are right that your temps and conditions are not that far off. Here is what I suspect is going on with your baby:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/thread-23493.html

The solution? Simulate the hot humid African rainy season and soak daily. Some make it and some don't. Good luck. Hope this helps.
 
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