Hey there! First- time tortoise Mom here

Joined
Apr 23, 2021
Messages
21
Location (City and/or State)
Castle Rock, Colorado
Hey guys! My name is Molly and I live in a suburb of Denver, CO. I am an animal lover of all types and I brought home my first tortoise on Wednesday! He is a Russian tortoise and I named him Otis. I am excited to learn with you all and have the support of this group. So far, he has been very active, loves bull-dozing the aloe plants in his enclosure, and has a huge appetite! I am unsure of his age but believe he is a juvenile. I have a mix of mulch and repti-soil as his substrate (I could not find organic topsoil at the store). He does not like soaks yet so I have kept them pretty short and has been misting his shell in addition.
 

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timus

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Hello and welcome! This is the best place to be as there’s loads of info and a lot of very experienced and friendly people here. You have a handsome boy there!
 

KarenSoCal

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Low desert 50 mi SE of Palm Springs CA
Hello Molly, and welcome to the forum!

You have definitely found the very best place to learn how to care for Otis! We have up to date info, and that's good because there is so much bad info out there on torts.

First, it sounds like you bought Otis from either Petco or Petsmart. If I am correct on that, he is most likely 5-10 years old, or older, and he is wild caught vs captive bred.
That's all fine...it's just info for you, and depends on if my guess of where you got him is correct. Regardless, he is very handsome!

Enclosures, lights, heaters, etc can be confusing at first, but we want to make sure you have things set up properly. Sadly, most pet shops just don't know how to actually care for a tortoise, so they just sell you lots of stuff that might be all wrong for him, or at worst, downright dangerous.

Here is our care sheet for Russians, which are a very popular species! Russians are escape artists, so don't underestimate his abilities at climbing. Torts have been known to move objects in order to climb out of their enclosure, so be watchful.

Read the care sheet, and then come back with your questions and concerns. We're here to help you help Otis, and we love talking about torts. We also love pictures...more of Otis, and of his enclosure, types of lights, etc.

BTW, it's good that you didn't use soil...we would have advised you to remove it.


 

Jan A

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Joined
Jan 9, 2021
Messages
1,313
Location (City and/or State)
Boulder, CO
Hey guys! My name is Molly and I live in a suburb of Denver, CO. I am an animal lover of all types and I brought home my first tortoise on Wednesday! He is a Russian tortoise and I named him Otis. I am excited to learn with you all and have the support of this group. So far, he has been very active, loves bull-dozing the aloe plants in his enclosure, and has a huge appetite! I am unsure of his age but believe he is a juvenile. I have a mix of mulch and repti-soil as his substrate (I could not find organic topsoil at the store). He does not like soaks yet so I have kept them pretty short and has been misting his shell in addition.
Welcome to the forum. Handsome little guy you have there!!
 
Joined
Apr 23, 2021
Messages
21
Location (City and/or State)
Castle Rock, Colorado
Hello Molly, and welcome to the forum!

You have definitely found the very best place to learn how to care for Otis! We have up to date info, and that's good because there is so much bad info out there on torts.

First, it sounds like you bought Otis from either Petco or Petsmart. If I am correct on that, he is most likely 5-10 years old, or older, and he is wild caught vs captive bred.
That's all fine...it's just info for you, and depends on if my guess of where you got him is correct. Regardless, he is very handsome!

Enclosures, lights, heaters, etc can be confusing at first, but we want to make sure you have things set up properly. Sadly, most pet shops just don't know how to actually care for a tortoise, so they just sell you lots of stuff that might be all wrong for him, or at worst, downright dangerous.

Here is our care sheet for Russians, which are a very popular species! Russians are escape artists, so don't underestimate his abilities at climbing. Torts have been known to move objects in order to climb out of their enclosure, so be watchful.

Read the care sheet, and then come back with your questions and concerns. We're here to help you help Otis, and we love talking about torts. We also love pictures...more of Otis, and of his enclosure, types of lights, etc.

BTW, it's good that you didn't use soil...we would have advised you to remove it.


Thank you for all of the information! You are correct- he is from Petsmart. I know this isn't the best place to get an animal, but he still needed a home too! I knew I could provide him a much better life and would put in the time and effort to meet his needs. Is he full grown then? And is there a way to tell his age more closely?
Also- this is the set up I have him in and I would like some more information on proper lighting/ heating. I will post pictures of his current set up and the lights/ hoods that I bought (and can easily return). The temperature under the ceramic heat dome is sitting around 80-82 degrees. Should this be replaced with a basking light instead?

Lastly, the coloration of the plastic bin seems to be clouded enough that he can tell he cannot get through it (I was concerned about it being clear) but let me know if I need to add to the sides.
 

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Joined
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Messages
21
Location (City and/or State)
Castle Rock, Colorado
I made some modifications! I returned both lights and got stronger ones. Warm basking spot is sitting at 100-102 now and I got one of the reptisun 10.0 bulbs! Let me know what you think.
 

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TheTattooedTortoise

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North Wales, UK
I made some modifications! I returned both lights and got stronger ones. Warm basking spot is sitting at 100-102 now and I got one of the reptisun 10.0 bulbs! Let me know what you think.
Nice job, only thing I'd watch out for is possible escape over the edge from the top of the log... torts are awesome climbers and diggers, specially russians.
 
Joined
Apr 23, 2021
Messages
21
Location (City and/or State)
Castle Rock, Colorado
Nice job, only thing I'd watch out for is possible escape over the edge from the top of the log... torts are awesome climbers and diggers, specially russians.
Thanks for the advice! I actually have it blocked off with a storage shelf on the outside of the cage haha but I will watch closely!
 

timus

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Those coil style uvb bulbs are notorious for being no good for for reptiles. I would suggest a t5 bulb which are much safer and have much better coverage. A Russian of that size would do well with much more space. They like to roam around. They can cover miles in a day. I know it may seem like a lot really getting a tortoise into a an enclosure that is suitable for them but they will appreciate it very much and will thrive if set up properly.
 

KarenSoCal

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Tortoise Club
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jul 8, 2017
Messages
5,202
Location (City and/or State)
Low desert 50 mi SE of Palm Springs CA
I made some modifications! I returned both lights and got stronger ones. Warm basking spot is sitting at 100-102 now and I got one of the reptisun 10.0 bulbs! Let me know what you think.
Good for you on making changes! But...the bulbs you have are not the correct ones.

As timus said, the UVB bulb you have is a type that burns tort eyes. They should not be sold for tortoises. In addition, they give off unstable amounts of UVB.

The very best you can get for UVB is a T5 HO fluorescent tube type light. The first time you need to buy both bulb and fixture. After that, you just buy bulbs. Here's a good one...


Also, your basking bulb is not good for torts. It's great for other reptiles, but torts have shells. These bulbs direct the light and heat into a narrow spot only. This hits the shell and dessicates it, sometimes actually burning it.

What you need to use is an incandescent flood bulb from Lowe's or Home Depot. It's a flood light like you might put outside to light up your yard. Not a spot...a flood. It spreads the heat out over a larger area. These bulbs are getting difficult to buy because LED's are so much more efficient. But LED's do not give off heat. It must say incandescent on the package. You can also order them from Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002CZ1E4M/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

In the pictures it's hard to tell how high the sides are in comparison to Otis. My rule of thumb is that the height of the wall from the substrate level needs to be at least 1.5 times the length of the tortoise, and twice his length would be even better. Make sure there is no place to be able to get a grip on the wall, and nothing he can climb to get high enough to go over.
 
Joined
Apr 23, 2021
Messages
21
Location (City and/or State)
Castle Rock, Colorado
Good for you on making changes! But...the bulbs you have are not the correct ones.

As timus said, the UVB bulb you have is a type that burns tort eyes. They should not be sold for tortoises. In addition, they give off unstable amounts of UVB.

The very best you can get for UVB is a T5 HO fluorescent tube type light. The first time you need to buy both bulb and fixture. After that, you just buy bulbs. Here's a good one...


Also, your basking bulb is not good for torts. It's great for other reptiles, but torts have shells. These bulbs direct the light and heat into a narrow spot only. This hits the shell and dessicates it, sometimes actually burning it.

What you need to use is an incandescent flood bulb from Lowe's or Home Depot. It's a flood light like you might put outside to light up your yard. Not a spot...a flood. It spreads the heat out over a larger area. These bulbs are getting difficult to buy because LED's are so much more efficient. But LED's do not give off heat. It must say incandescent on the package. You can also order them from Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002CZ1E4M/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

In the pictures it's hard to tell how high the sides are in comparison to Otis. My rule of thumb is that the height of the wall from the substrate level needs to be at least 1.5 times the length of the tortoise, and twice his length would be even better. Make sure there is no place to be able to get a grip on the wall, and nothing he can climb to get high enough to go over.
Thanks for the advice about the height of the enclosure! I double checked and from the top of the substrate, to the top of the wall is 2x his height so we should be good there. Also, I raised the basking light quite a bit higher than shown in the picture so it is heating a third of his enclosure (instead of a tiny spot that got too hot) and put a temp probe underneath to monitor temp of basking area- 98 degrees right now. I will look into getting a different UVB light! I am also very interested in getting a solar meter to monitor more precisely. So far I am loving watching my little guy. He is much more active the last day :) and he is officially my diet partner- salads for both of us!!
 
Joined
Apr 23, 2021
Messages
21
Location (City and/or State)
Castle Rock, Colorado
Good for you on making changes! But...the bulbs you have are not the correct ones.

As timus said, the UVB bulb you have is a type that burns tort eyes. They should not be sold for tortoises. In addition, they give off unstable amounts of UVB.

The very best you can get for UVB is a T5 HO fluorescent tube type light. The first time you need to buy both bulb and fixture. After that, you just buy bulbs. Here's a good one...


Also, your basking bulb is not good for torts. It's great for other reptiles, but torts have shells. These bulbs direct the light and heat into a narrow spot only. This hits the shell and dessicates it, sometimes actually burning it.

What you need to use is an incandescent flood bulb from Lowe's or Home Depot. It's a flood light like you might put outside to light up your yard. Not a spot...a flood. It spreads the heat out over a larger area. These bulbs are getting difficult to buy because LED's are so much more efficient. But LED's do not give off heat. It must say incandescent on the package. You can also order them from Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002CZ1E4M/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

In the pictures it's hard to tell how high the sides are in comparison to Otis. My rule of thumb is that the height of the wall from the substrate level needs to be at least 1.5 times the length of the tortoise, and twice his length would be even better. Make sure there is no place to be able to get a grip on the wall, and nothing he can climb to get high enough to go over.
Awesome, I will buy that fixture! Which bulb should I get? There are 3 options- 14%, 12%, or 6%? I am guessing the 12% Desert but would like to know your recommendation before I purchase.
 

Krista S

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Saskatchewan
Awesome, I will buy that fixture! Which bulb should I get? There are 3 options- 14%, 12%, or 6%? I am guessing the 12% Desert but would like to know your recommendation before I purchase.
It is indeed the 12% that you need.
Thanks for the advice about the height of the enclosure! I double checked and from the top of the substrate, to the top of the wall is 2x his height so we should be good there. Also, I raised the basking light quite a bit higher than shown in the picture so it is heating a third of his enclosure (instead of a tiny spot that got too hot) and put a temp probe underneath to monitor temp of basking area- 98 degrees right now. I will look into getting a different UVB light! I am also very interested in getting a solar meter to monitor more precisely. So far I am loving watching my little guy. He is much more active the last day :) and he is officially my diet partner- salads for both of us!!
Otis is so very cute!! Just to clarify, when @KarenSoCal was talking about 2 times the height of the tortoise, that is the height when the tortoise would be standing on their back legs attempting to crawl out. It does appear to me from the pictures that it would be very easy for your tortoise to climb out from any of the 4 corners. Russians are known to be escape artists, so I would get him in a deeper enclosure sooner than later. He should also be in an enclosure closer to 4ft x 8 ft. I also wanted to mention, in one of your pictures I see the grassland tortoise diet pellets in his dish. For the smaller species of tortoises like our (I have a Hermann’s), those pellets are intended to be soaked before feeding. I don’t think he’d be able to eat it straight from the container and it could be a choking hazard. Usually, people soak them and mixing them into the chopped greens. The moss in your enclosure generally isn’t recommended as tortoises have a tendency of eating it. This can cause them to become impacted. It would be a good idea to remove that too, before it becomes as issue for Otis. I know this is a lot to take in, so please don’t be scared away. It seems you are receptive to the wonderful advice that has been given to you so far, which is so nice to see. We all care about tortoises so much and just want to see them thrive in a happy and healthy environment. Welcome to the forum and please feel free to post more pics of your cute little Otis. 🙂
 
Joined
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Messages
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Location (City and/or State)
Castle Rock, Colorado
Thank you, thank you! I would not be here if I didn't want all of this great advice I have been getting! I am just starting out and I really want to do everything as perfectly as I can for him. The moss has been removed (I thought it was pretty, but not worth health probs!) and since I have reptisoil mixed in, the humidity retention should be just fine without it. Pellets are now soaking also!

I did mis-understand about the height thing! And his current enclosure is only 39.5" x 20.4". I now know that he needs more room to roam with taller walls. (Still much better than the 20 gallon fish tank they sold me to keep him in- which has since been returned!!) I am not great at building, what would be a good starter enclosure that I could buy for him?

Keep the advice coming! I am not offended at all and would like to implement these changes ASAP for Otie. :)
 
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