Help! Sulcata hatchling squeaking, not eating


New Member
Dec 31, 2019
Location (City and/or State)
La Porte, Texas
I was given a Sulcata hatchling Sunday evening (12/29). Just the baby, no lights or any materials to help keep her alive. I went to a local exotic pet store first thing in the morning to buy as much as I could to house her, and I bought more online that should be arriving Friday (1/3). I'm doing my best to give her what she needs, but she was completely unexpected and I am woefully inexperienced.

I was told she is about 2 months old. She is 56 mm long and weighs 43.4 g.

The first night (12/29) I scooped some mulch from the yard into a box for her and put her under the fluorescent lights from my Aerogarden. She ate voraciously around 7p (a mix of kale, broccoli stems, carrots, and leaves from my tomato plants). I had no heat lamps or heating pads to keep her warm, so she spent the evening and night at 70 F (house temperature).

In the morning (12/30) I bought and set up the following for her:
Replaced the mulch with ZooMed Fir Reptile Bedding
ZooMed Desert UVB & Heat Lighting Kit (Reptisun 10.0 UVB + 75W Basking Spot Lamp)
Water dish filled chin-deep with warm water
Hide log with moistened terrarium moss stuffed inside
ZooMed ReptiCalcium with D3

She did not eat at all this day - I think because she was too cold?

Today (12/31) I started her off with a 10 min soak in warm water, then moved her into her water dish also full of fresh warm water where she stayed for a few minutes before going back to her hide. I'm a bit worried that she is choosing to spend the majority of her time on the cooler side of her enclosure in her hide. I pulled her out of her hide around 6p and tried to entice her to bask on her rock (new today) and eat some fresh food. She was active for about an hour and I got her to eat a few bites of food, but she squeaked several times and rubbed her face often. Her eyes and nose do not seem runny, but I'm worried she might be sick. Is there anything I can do for her? At what point should I take her to see a vet?

The rest of her things are arriving Friday (1/3):
Shallow water dish
2 Ceramic heat lamps
Solar Glo 160W UV Light Heat
IR thermometer
Orchard grass

My biggest concern is keeping her warm enough, especially at night, until the heat lamps arrive. The first night I tried filling a clean cotton sock with microwaved uncooked rice as a DIY hot water bottle, but she did not want to be anywhere near it. Will she be okay at 70 F at night until I get the heat lamps in? Should I leave the basking lamp on for her all night and just turn off the UV?


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The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Jan 9, 2010
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Hello and welcome.

First, stay out of the et store. You'll get terrible advice and the wrong products there.

Here is a list of what I see:
  • None of those foods are good tortoise foods, and tomato leaves are highly toxic. Kale is okay once in a while, but broccoli stems are too hard for a baby to eat, and not a good food either. Here is what to feed your baby: If you can't find these items due to the season, favor endive and escarole at the store, but amend those items with some Mazrui, fresh cut tender young grass, or soaked ZooMed pellets.
  • Wrong lights. Spot bulbs will cause pyramiding, and the cfl type UV bulbs sometimes burn their eyes and should not be used.
  • This is a tropical species from a warm area of the world. It will not be okay at 70. Put the enclosure in a bathroom of closet and run a space heater to keep ambient temps around 85. Normally 80 would be enough for night time, but since yours might be already fighting illness, warmer is better.
  • Get rid of the moss. It does nothing and its an impaction risk.
  • Get rid of the ramped water bowl. Tortoises drown in those on a regular basis and some just avoid it. Use a terra cotta saucer sunk into the substrate for food and water instead.
  • You'll never maintain the correct conditions for a tropical tortoise in a low sided sweater box like that.
This is not meant to be discouraging. Its meant to point out what is wrong so you can fix it. Here is the correct info:

Please feel free to ask questions. If anything here doesn't make sense, we are happy to explain it further.

P.S. The only place to get worse advice than the pet store is from FB tortoise groups. Consider yourself forewarned.p