Horsefield driving me to insanity

KayAlfGeo

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Hi everyone!

Long post alert, sorry about that.

This is my first post here, wow it has taken me a long time to work out how to post a new thread :-O

I am hoping to get a little bit of advice from a fellow horsefield owner please. I have a little horsefield, he is roughly about 20 months old so is still a little boy and we had him June this year (2018). This is my first tortoise and he just isn’t what I expected at all. He does very little. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting him to be doing cartwheels but he will literally sit under his lamp for a majority of the day, he ‘may’ take a few mouthfuls of food occasionally, however some days he doesn’t seem to eat at all (not that I am sat next to his table all day but he doesn’t appear to have touched his food). He will then take himself to bed in his log hide, usually towards the end of the day but sometimes goes early! Other than this, he doesn’t move around his enclosure to explore. His weight was 45g when we had him, within 2 - 3 weeks he went up to 49g, and then slowly dropped to 36g (once he had had a big wee). He doesn’t poo a lot at all! His weight fluctuates at the moment between 36g and 45g due to water weight (he gets bathed twice a day for 10- 15 mins each time). I have a 5* outside enclosure for him complete with a large bathing area so he can enjoy the lovely weather we are having in England at the moment, occasionally he will eat more being outside but most of the time it doesn’t make a difference and he stays in his hide! I have this week allowed him to safely have a little stroll in the actual garden on the grass (his outside enclosure is a large cage with sand/soil substrate). It has kept him awake for the longest amount of time since I have had him as he has been busy walking around. He has an occasional nibble but nothing to get excited about! He sticks his nose up at strawberries, dandelion leaves, cucumber....all the treats. He likes romaine lettuce and kale. Where am I going wrong?? I even drove out a few miles to find him dandelion flowers the other day! Is his weight normal for his age? Sometimes also he seems to have watery eyes, one in particular. I can only describe it as it sometimes looks like there is a little water bubble in it??

Wow, I’ve written a lot. So sorry! I just have nobody to ask, the shop I had him from just told me to stop weighing him so regularly but I am paranoid about him keep loosing more weight, I am a worrier.

Thank you if you have actually took the time to read this far, much appreciated:)
 

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Maro2Bear

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Welcome to the Forum. There are plenty of UK-based Horsefield’s owners that I am sure will pipe in and provide you with some ideas.

You should try and take some pix of your enclosure, describe the lighting, substrate, size of enclosure, etc.

Take a read here if yoy have yet to do so.

https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/

Welcome again and Happy Torting
 

Minority2

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I believe you're being told outdated information. Sand substrates are not ideal because tortoises may eat it and become impacted. It can also get into their eyes causing irritation.

Fruit should not be part of Horsefield/Russian diets. They're not fruit eaters. Mostly broadleaf weeds, flowers, and greens. The database from https://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/ has a great deal of information regarding safe and non-safe foods for tortoises. Also consult the care sheet in the Russian tortoise section for more information you may be unaware of. The greens you're describing are ones that should only be fed in moderation and not something you do week after week.

Are your lighting options and enclosure dimensions adequate? There can many reasons why a tortoise may not be active.
 

Yvonne G

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Hi, and welcome!

If he just sits under the lamp, then your enclosure isn't warm enough. Tortoises can't digest the food unless they can get their inner core temperature up to at least 80-85F degrees. It's pretty hard to warm up the whole inside of an open-topped tort enclosure. I'm guessing that's what you have. Try covering it some way, lights and all. Maybe show us a picture of the enclosure.
 

daniellenc

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I would post pictures of your enclosure currently. I'm guessing there are a few things off. At 20 months he should be active and gaining weight. Are you sure on his age? Babies do sleep a lot and eat smaller amounts but you should see steady weight gain each month. Have you read the Russian section on the forum? That should provide lots of good information to you as well.
 

KayAlfGeo

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48DD8819-8788-4A79-8832-4224C5F8237D.jpeg 4189F15C-C477-4882-9318-F2BC25C49261.jpeg 5C81815F-84DF-49BB-8843-22385B79891A.jpeg Thank you for your replies :)

He has a 100w UVB/UVA basking lamp which gives him a basking temp of 32 degrees which is about 90f (some times slightly warmer due to the warmer weather we have been getting lately). The room temp is never lower than 21C (70f), however has been a lot warmer lately, 24-27C (75-80f). The warmer temps doesn’t seem to make a lot of difference in his behaviour. I should also add that is spends most of the time asleep, he will wake up once prompted by picking him up but will soon fall back to sleep again once put back down. I have attached a couple of photos of my enclosures for him. He literally is only tiny so his table should be more than big enough for the time being (I would hope). I do use tortoise top app but haven’t found it particularly useful, I’ve tried him with many foods. Corn salad, rocket....he won’t eat it. He’s seems really fussy and I’m out of ideas of what to feed him with now (other than the kale and romaine lettuce - I do give him rocket and corn salad with it but he ignores it completely :-( )
 

KayAlfGeo

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I would post pictures of your enclosure currently. I'm guessing there are a few things off. At 20 months he should be active and gaining weight. Are you sure on his age? Babies do sleep a lot and eat smaller amounts but you should see steady weight gain each month. Have you read the Russian section on the forum? That should provide lots of good information to you as well.

To be honest, I’ve just been looking on the forums and found pics of tortoises that are 2 years old and mine is much smaller. I will contact the shop I had him from to make sure. They are a rescue as well as a pet shop so it’s not as if their knowledge is limited. Thanks for your advice :)
 

Minority2

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To be honest, I’ve just been looking on the forums and found pics of tortoises that are 2 years old and mine is much smaller. I will contact the shop I had him from to make sure. They are a rescue as well as a pet shop so it’s not as if their knowledge is limited. Thanks for your advice :)

The pet shop/rescue's knowledge may not be as up to date as what you'll be getting from forums such as this one. Some people may keep tortoises for decades and still rely on the very same decades old information they learned back when they new owners themselves. I don't think most employees of pet shops would gather around to debate the latest research, journal, and scholarly articles on tortoises.

I would still suggest checking back on the forums from time to time in case you have any questions. Never hurts to have more information from breeders, keepers, enthusiasts, and general tortoise lovers.
 

Yvonne G

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Yes, it would be very difficult to maintain a 80-85F overall temperature in that open-top enclosure. It's a nice size for him, but way too open. Warm under the light isn't good enough. He needs it very warm all over the whole enclosure.
 

KayAlfGeo

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I will defo be paying attention to the forums from now on as there is some great advice. The shop/breeder have been helpful, I guess I am just puzzled as to why he isnt quite right. I am so confused by the temperatures as surely nobody has their room temperature at 85f and I was told a viv wouldn’t have been right for a Russian? May I ask what type of enclosure you have and what your temperatures are kept at please? Thank you :)
 

daniellenc

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You need a closed chamber enclosure.....as in a sealed top to keep temps and humidity where they need to be. Don't feel bad we all got bad advice and had a lot of homework and enclosure redo's, lol. Look for greenhouse covers with a zipper which will seal it off relatively cheap. Also, ditch your thermometer for a digital one those things are not accurate and the digital ones run for about $10 at the hardware store. For greens ask for radicchio, endives and escaroles, and dandelion. All are readily available and good to feed. Clover, plantain, mulberry, and many other wild weeds are fantastic as well. There is a full list in the Russian care section. Once you get to know your weeds feeding is less obnoxious I promise. I know Mazuri is hard to get in the UK but there is a similar pellet sold in your end of the pond that is good as a supplement. Reading on here should help you add some good variety. However, if he is too cold he's just not going to eat well. I'd work on getting a cheap digital thermometer and sealing off his open cage. Once he's warm his appetite will pick up and if he was getting a poor diet at the pet shop his old habits may be hard to break but be patient.
 

RosemaryDW

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The Mazuri brand food is sold in the UK under the name Nutrazu tortoise diet. When/if you are interested in growing some foods for him outdoors, Shelled Warriors in UK is a good source for tortoise seed blends.

Infared thermometer: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Etekcity-L...2&sr=8-1&keywords=Infared+digital+thermometer. You will love it.

Anyone but me think that tortoise looks bit pyramided for a captive bred? In the last photo? (Don’t freak out, @KayAlfGeo, nothing that can’t be fixed/improved upon.)
 

KayAlfGeo

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Thank you for this, funnily enough I have got a tortoise mix of seeds from shelled warriors the other day, we planted them yesterday

I didn’t think he was pyramid? That’s one thing that I didn’t think he was. His appearance hasn’t changed since I had him in June

I am even more confused since joining this forum, I have read and been told so much information about the importance of not being kept in a closed vivarium as it is too humid for a Russian and can cause respiratory problems. At the moment the room temp is 26c (79f) and basking is roughly 33/34c (91-93f). He’s had a few mouthfuls of lettuce which was hand fed to him.

I have a digital thermometer, one that reads the basking temp and another that does the room temp. I have to say, if it’s this hard to keep him warm during our hottest summer since 1976 then I dread to think what it is going to be like during winter. I’ve been advised against a heat mat as it gives them red belly (I think it was called), I would be interested in how other UK owners manage it?
 

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RosemaryDW

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I don’t know that he is pyramided; that is why I asked for other opinions. I thought I *might* see something in the last photo but I’m not sure. Let’s wait to hear what others say.

I agree there is a lot of conflicting information out there! I have an outdoor tortoise so don’t want to get to far into the subject of enclosures but

(1) Yes, heat mats are not good for tortoises; they need to get their heat from the top down, onto the shell. Heat mats are okay for other reptiles that don’t have shells, such as lizards.

(2) Adult Russians do not need much humidity so you are right, no closed vivarium for them.

I’ll leave to the experts as to what is the right temp on the warm side/cool side; whether a juvenile tortoise like yours needs enough humidity that the enclosure needs to be closed or somewhat closed.

Stick with us! We’ll get things sorted out at the end. :)
 

Minority2

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Thank you for this, funnily enough I have got a tortoise mix of seeds from shelled warriors the other day, we planted them yesterday

I didn’t think he was pyramid? That’s one thing that I didn’t think he was. His appearance hasn’t changed since I had him in June

I am even more confused since joining this forum, I have read and been told so much information about the importance of not being kept in a closed vivarium as it is too humid for a Russian and can cause respiratory problems. At the moment the room temp is 26c (79f) and basking is roughly 33/34c (91-93f). He’s had a few mouthfuls of lettuce which was hand fed to him.

I have a digital thermometer, one that reads the basking temp and another that does the room temp. I have to say, if it’s this hard to keep him warm during our hottest summer since 1976 then I dread to think what it is going to be like during winter. I’ve been advised against a heat mat as it gives them red belly (I think it was called), I would be interested in how other UK owners manage it?

Closed chamber setups aren't just for humidity levels. They're also good for using lower wattage equipment. You'll get better heat and light distributing. Closed chamber setups are a safer all around enclosure that protects them from possible predators such as other house pets, animals, and or birds lurking around in your neighborhood. Respiratory issues happen when substrate becomes too wet and cold.

Basking area temperature should 95-100F. There should be an exposed cool end of about 70-75F. Humidity levels for hatchlings should hover between 40-70%. Adults Russians do not need much humidity because their shell is mostly complete. Hatchlings on the other hand, do benefit from higher levels of humidity during their development stages. Some people would also recommend humid hides to Russians for this very reason.

That tortoise table shown in your picture is too small. 1/3 of the enclosure size is completely shut out in the form of a hide. I don't think you're going to be able to get different temperature zones when the light placement is located right in the middle.

A temperature gun is going to give you a more accurate read on individual spots/area.

What type of soil is that? Perlite, often found in well drained organic soil mixes aren't ideal for tortoises. They can cause blockages when eaten. Use coconut coir, coconut peat, orchid bark, or any other approved substrate instead. Make sure you put enough substrate because Russians are burrowers. They're known for digging and submerging themselves for their warming and cooling needs. That's one of the reasons why adult Russian are so well equipped in handling a wide range of hot and cold temperature levels in the wild.
 

KayAlfGeo

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Closed chamber setups aren't just for humidity levels. They're also good for using lower wattage equipment. You'll get better heat and light distributing. Closed chamber setups are a safer all around enclosure that protects them from possible predators such as other house pets, animals, and or birds lurking around in your neighborhood. Respiratory issues happen when substrate becomes too wet and cold.

Basking area temperature should 95-100F. There should be an exposed cool end of about 70-75F. Humidity levels for hatchlings should hover between 40-70%. Adults Russians do not need much humidity because their shell is mostly complete. Hatchlings on the other hand, do benefit from higher levels of humidity during their development stages. Some people would also recommend humid hides to Russians for this very reason.

That tortoise table shown in your picture is too small. 1/3 of the enclosure size is completely shut out in the form of a hide. I don't think you're going to be able to get different temperature zones when the light placement is located right in the middle.

A temperature gun is going to give you a more accurate read on individual spots/area.

What type of soil is that? Perlite, often found in well drained organic soil mixes aren't ideal for tortoises. They can cause blockages when eaten. Use coconut coir, coconut peat, orchid bark, or any other approved substrate instead. Make sure you put enough substrate because Russians are burrowers. They're known for digging and submerging themselves for their warming and cooling needs. That's one of the reasons why adult Russian are so well equipped in handling a wide range of hot and cold temperature levels in the wild.

Thank you for the info, it has been helpful. I will start to make some changes in the hope it will help. I am unable to change his table at the moment so I will concernstate on repositioning the lamp to form a better hot/cold area. I have dropped the lamp slightly so that the basking area becomes slightly warmer by a few degrees - although since doing this he seems to have moved away from the area

The substrate is sterilised top soil, sand and limestone grit - I have not seen the coconut substrates here but I will have a look online. He does rub his eyes sometimes so I’m guessing it would be best to change anyway

Thanks again
 

KayAlfGeo

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Closed chamber setups aren't just for humidity levels. They're also good for using lower wattage equipment. You'll get better heat and light distributing. Closed chamber setups are a safer all around enclosure that protects them from possible predators such as other house pets, animals, and or birds lurking around in your neighborhood. Respiratory issues happen when substrate becomes too wet and cold.

Basking area temperature should 95-100F. There should be an exposed cool end of about 70-75F. Humidity levels for hatchlings should hover between 40-70%. Adults Russians do not need much humidity because their shell is mostly complete. Hatchlings on the other hand, do benefit from higher levels of humidity during their development stages. Some people would also recommend humid hides to Russians for this very reason.

That tortoise table shown in your picture is too small. 1/3 of the enclosure size is completely shut out in the form of a hide. I don't think you're going to be able to get different temperature zones when the light placement is located right in the middle.

A temperature gun is going to give you a more accurate read on individual spots/area.

What type of soil is that? Perlite, often found in well drained organic soil mixes aren't ideal for tortoises. They can cause blockages when eaten. Use coconut coir, coconut peat, orchid bark, or any other approved substrate instead. Make sure you put enough substrate because Russians are burrowers. They're known for digging and submerging themselves for their warming and cooling needs. That's one of the reasons why adult Russian are so well equipped in handling a wide range of hot and cold temperature levels in the wild.

Another question regarding the substrate, I’m looking online for the coconut coir, is like a compost for planting? Does it need to be a specifically for tortoises product, i.e treated in some way? I’ve found blocks of it on amazon but says you mix it in some way? Sorry to sound like somebody that has no clue, but I don’t want to get it wrong
 

Minority2

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Another question regarding the substrate, I’m looking online for the coconut coir, is like a compost for planting? Does it need to be a specifically for tortoises product, i.e treated in some way? I’ve found blocks of it on amazon but says you mix it in some way? Sorry to sound like somebody that has no clue, but I don’t want to get it wrong

Ask away. A good portion of the people in this forum were in the same very shoes as you are now.

Coconut coir is a type of inert growing medium. They're used in hydroponics as well as in customized soil mixes.

Pet branded coconut coir, peat, fiber, and chips will be much more expensive at lesser quantities than what you can buy in bulk. You'll save more money if you order by the cubic foot.

Some people change them every couple weeks to months. Some simply don't. Ever. It largely depends on how well you're able to keep your tortoise's substrate clean.
 

KayAlfGeo

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Ask away. A good portion of the people in this forum were in the same very shoes as you are now.

Coconut coir is a type of inert growing medium. They're used in hydroponics as well as in customized soil mixes.

Pet branded coconut coir, peat, fiber, and chips will be much more expensive at lesser quantities than what you can buy in bulk. You'll save more money if you order by the cubic foot.

Some people change them every couple weeks to months. Some simply don't. Ever. It largely depends on how well you're able to keep your tortoise's substrate clean.

Ok great, so I’ve just ordered some coconut coir so looking forward to changing his substrate as soon as it arrives. I will consider getting a vivarium before winter sets in here, I don’t think I have another option :-(

Thanks so much for all your great advice, no doubt I will have plenty of other questions as I don’t seem to have many things quite right. He definitely isn’t right as he sleeps an awful lot, took me a while to wake him today, but once awake he did eat a bit which made me feel a bit better
 

daniellenc

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Honestly Amazon sells greenhouse covers that you just zip over your open enclosure to close it for less than $40. I'd check those out!
 
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