Hi everyone! New Horsefield owner looking for a little advice along the way!

HeGoesBySprout

New Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2018
Messages
9
Location (City and/or State)
Birmingham, UK
Hi basically to cut the story short I made a tortoise table for my girlfriend for Christmas but the original tortoises I bought turned out to be suffering with herpes and they had it before i purchased them. I had no idea what to look for so I never knew. after taking them to a specialist and spending money to try and make them better I had to put them down which was upsetting and it put a downer on my girlfriends christmas present! They lasted two weeks and It wasn't down to anything we did although the change of habitat may have accelerated their stress levels and didn't help?!?!

So after much back and forth messaging with the breeder he gave me the last one of the bunch for free because of how out of pocket I was. This little guy we have now (i think hes a boy but he is only 12 months) straight away has been completely different. He is eating regularly, poos maybe once a week and we bathe him every other day. His shell is not completely smooth and i think that was down to the constant romaine lettuce diet and poor conditions he was kept in (being that his enclosure was smaller than the one I have made for him and was kept with maybe 7 other torts).

We keep him on a sand/soil substrate from Komodo that is specifically designed for Russians or so it says. with patches of orchid bark around the enclosure too. He is fed different types of weed and salads on different days. I dont know what it is and this is my concern but he has put on 5g in two weeks and I know from research that is alot! There is a shallow water dish also there is a humidity hide (we got this idea while trying to save the other torts life). 2 feeding areas, 2 mounds and the substrate is about 4 inches deep. He has a house (which he never uses) and sleeps in the corner closest to the lamp. He has been sleeping alot the basking temp is kept at 90*f
and the overnight temps with all equiptment off are around 65*f. I have just switched to digital thermometers because the analogue ones are pants apparently? I will post some pictures up of the enclosure later with a heat map. Please tell me if anything is wrong with what we are doing? we just want to keep this little guy happy and healthy.

20180101_105934.jpg
 

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
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Jan 23, 2008
Messages
84,815
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
Welcome!

We have Russian tortoise care sheets pinned at the top of our Russian section.
 

HeGoesBySprout

New Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2018
Messages
9
Location (City and/or State)
Birmingham, UK
Thanks Yvonne, I just wanted someone to tell me what we are doing is right I worry about him because of our previous experience :(
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
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Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
48,480
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Hi basically to cut the story short I made a tortoise table for my girlfriend for Christmas but the original tortoises I bought turned out to be suffering with herpes and they had it before i purchased them. I had no idea what to look for so I never knew. after taking them to a specialist and spending money to try and make them better I had to put them down which was upsetting and it put a downer on my girlfriends christmas present! They lasted two weeks and It wasn't down to anything we did although the change of habitat may have accelerated their stress levels and didn't help?!?!

So after much back and forth messaging with the breeder he gave me the last one of the bunch for free because of how out of pocket I was. This little guy we have now (i think hes a boy but he is only 12 months) straight away has been completely different. He is eating regularly, poos maybe once a week and we bathe him every other day. His shell is not completely smooth and i think that was down to the constant romaine lettuce diet and poor conditions he was kept in (being that his enclosure was smaller than the one I have made for him and was kept with maybe 7 other torts).

We keep him on a sand/soil substrate from Komodo that is specifically designed for Russians or so it says. with patches of orchid bark around the enclosure too. He is fed different types of weed and salads on different days. I dont know what it is and this is my concern but he has put on 5g in two weeks and I know from research that is alot! There is a shallow water dish also there is a humidity hide (we got this idea while trying to save the other torts life). 2 feeding areas, 2 mounds and the substrate is about 4 inches deep. He has a house (which he never uses) and sleeps in the corner closest to the lamp. He has been sleeping alot the basking temp is kept at 90*f
and the overnight temps with all equiptment off are around 65*f. I have just switched to digital thermometers because the analogue ones are pants apparently? I will post some pictures up of the enclosure later with a heat map. Please tell me if anything is wrong with what we are doing? we just want to keep this little guy happy and healthy.
The first ones were put down because they had a highly contagious viral infection, and you went back to the same source and got another tortoise and put it in the same tortoise table that the infected ones were in??? If this tortoise also contracts the virus, may I suggest you burn the table and all the furniture, and never go back to that breeder again? Hopefully, the new one will dodge this bullet…

I see a few things that might help you:
  • The problem with an open topped enclosure with all that electrically generated heat, in a heated house is that it is far too dry. Baby tortoises need some moderate humidity to help keep them hydrated and to help their shell grow correctly. It is very difficult to do this in a dry room with an open topped enclosure. Damp substrate and a humid hide will help, but a closed chamber (A large Vivarium, as they are called over there…) would work much better until this one get to adult size.
  • No sand substrate. Sand is a skin and eye irritant, and s serious impaction hazard. It will be accidentally ingested as it sticks to the food daily and it will stay in the GI tract until it causes a blockage. If you catch it in time, an expensive surgery where they literally saw open the plastron to remove the blockage can save them, but better to avoid this by not using sand. Coco coir or fine grade orchid bark is the best substrate and both are mold and mildew resistant and retain good moisture to add some much needed humidity to the air.
  • Food doesn't cause the shell to pyramid. Pyramiding is caused by growth in conditions that are too dry.
  • Sounds like the new diet is good with weeds and a variety of greens.
  • 65 is a good night temp, but your daytime temp should be a bit higher. I like ambient to climb up to at least 70-75 and the basking area should reach 95-100 directly under the bulb. You can increase the temp by lowering the fixture, or by using a higher wattage bulb. Swapping to a closed chamber will allow you to keep it warmer with much lower wattage bulbs.
All of this and much more is explained in theses threads:
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/
 

HeGoesBySprout

New Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2018
Messages
9
Location (City and/or State)
Birmingham, UK
Thanks for your reply Tom.

Yeah well it was kind of a decision based on the fact I was going to get absolutely nothing back for the ones that died, so I took a chance knowing the risks. The table was completely disinfected over a period of 2 weeks and I am confident that he wouldn't catch it from my end.

Thanks for the recommendations I see so many conflicting arguments for this and that it's so hard to pin down what would be best. But I will be replacing the substrate from what you have said and I do spray the substrate as it is at the moment to increase humidity. I'll post a picture of it all set up shortly. Any reason why he isn't using his house do you think??

Ps I don't want to burn the table It was made with my own fair hands haha.
 

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 23, 2008
Messages
84,815
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
In the 'real world' russian tortoises don't use caves. They tunnel down into the ground, pushing the dirt behind them, effectively closing up the hole they're digging into. So going into his house is foreign to him.
 

HeGoesBySprout

New Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2018
Messages
9
Location (City and/or State)
Birmingham, UK
In the 'real world' russian tortoises don't use caves. They tunnel down into the ground, pushing the dirt behind them, effectively closing up the hole they're digging into. So going into his house is foreign to him.
Makes sense so maybe I could make his house smaller and open up more room in his enclosure to move about?
 

HeGoesBySprout

New Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2018
Messages
9
Location (City and/or State)
Birmingham, UK
The first ones were put down because they had a highly contagious viral infection, and you went back to the same source and got another tortoise and put it in the same tortoise table that the infected ones were in??? If this tortoise also contracts the virus, may I suggest you burn the table and all the furniture, and never go back to that breeder again? Hopefully, the new one will dodge this bullet…

I see a few things that might help you:
  • The problem with an open topped enclosure with all that electrically generated heat, in a heated house is that it is far too dry. Baby tortoises need some moderate humidity to help keep them hydrated and to help their shell grow correctly. It is very difficult to do this in a dry room with an open topped enclosure. Damp substrate and a humid hide will help, but a closed chamber (A large Vivarium, as they are called over there…) would work much better until this one get to adult size.
  • No sand substrate. Sand is a skin and eye irritant, and s serious impaction hazard. It will be accidentally ingested as it sticks to the food daily and it will stay in the GI tract until it causes a blockage. If you catch it in time, an expensive surgery where they literally saw open the plastron to remove the blockage can save them, but better to avoid this by not using sand. Coco coir or fine grade orchid bark is the best substrate and both are mold and mildew resistant and retain good moisture to add some much needed humidity to the air.
  • Food doesn't cause the shell to pyramid. Pyramiding is caused by growth in conditions that are too dry.
  • Sounds like the new diet is good with weeds and a variety of greens.
  • 65 is a good night temp, but your daytime temp should be a bit higher. I like ambient to climb up to at least 70-75 and the basking area should reach 95-100 directly under the bulb. You can increase the temp by lowering the fixture, or by using a higher wattage bulb. Swapping to a closed chamber will allow you to keep it warmer with much lower wattage bulbs.
All of this and much more is explained in theses threads:
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/

Here is the heat map of the table. Hope this helps. The table is 1100mm x 600mm as we are in a limited space flat at the moment. But we are moving to a house soon where he will have a permanent outdoor enclosure. I plan on that being 2m x 2m.
20180109_183532.jpg
 
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