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How to raise a Healthy Star Tortoise.

Discussion in 'Indian Star and Burmese Star tortoises' started by Markw84, Jul 14, 2017.

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  1. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    @Khushroo Thanks for your reply. Its great you live in the native range of the Northern variety of Indian Stars. How nice it must be to see then in the wild.

    The purpose of this thread is to give best practices to people who live anywhere in the world and wish to keep and Indian star. I am not talking about what they can survive. I am talking about what conditions they will do best in. You will find, that even living where you do in their native land, they will do best if kept in a more humid and warm enclosure, especially when young a growing the most. They certainly can survive below 27°, but if you are also giving them the humidity at lower temperature, you will see them most often develop respiratory infections that will lead to death. Temperatures of 20° in captivity would invite respiratory problems even with lower humdity. Unfortuately, most people simply look at weather data and make assumptions about what a tortoise can then survive. They will usually learn the hard way when their tortoise develops a respiratory infection and dies.

    15° is not the normal temperature in the tortosies native range. Tortoises have survived by hiding from tje extremes where they live. If we look at Dhanera in the northern part of Gujarat, the coldest part of the year is January, and the average daily low there is 16°. However, the average daily high in January is 29°. You ask what a tortoise does with a 15° overnight low? It digs in under a bush or under a rock overhang paritally digging into the soil. I have place temperature data loggers in shallow pallets or burrows a tortoise digs, and in just a 3" deep pallet with a tortoise pushed in, the temperature remains at least 6°C warmer. If under thicker brush, or a pile of leaves, their retreat starts staying fairly close to the daily AVERAGE temperature. The daily average in January there is 24°. Most importantly, they can warm up in the sun with temperature quickly rising up above 27° in the sun. Also January is the middle of the dry seaon there is almost no rain from November through June. But January is not when they are growing and thriving in your area. Through the summer is when they grow and thrive. From June through September they receive over 1200 mm of rain. The average humidity is 75% at a weather station, but much higher in the bushes and leaf litter where they tortoises spend much of their time. The average temperature is 32° through that time with lows only reaching 28° and highs averaging 35°. That is the time of year the tortoises thrive. That is when the new babies hatch and can find the best foods and best chance at survival. AND... That is amazingly the temperatures, humidity and conditions I outline above in the post that we find these tortoises will do best in in captivity and not have the problems of respiratory problems, not growing, picky eating, etc, etc.

    And natural sunlight is wonderful, but again, I am talking about what can work well anywhere in the world. But even aside from that, the problem is that tortoises, and particularly young tortoises are quite good and staying hidden. Not only from predators, but from the conditions that dry them out. Not only will that drying contribute to them pyramiding, but it also is hard on their developing organs. Young tortoises need that humidity they find in pallets, in burrows, under the roots of plants and leaf litter. In a open enclosure in the sun, it is hard to duplicate those conditions. It is easy to bake our tortoises in the sun and not give them the choices they would have in the wild to protect themselves.

    So I am passing on what I know works. You can raise a healthy tortoise that will thrive with these techniques and not have the problems of respiratory infections, kidney problems, picky eating, sleeping too much, slow growth, etc, etc, etc. Try it yourself and see the difference. I certainly tried your way for years with dozens of tortoises before I learned this way.
    Tom and Bambam1989 like this.
  2. Unnati sawant

    Unnati sawant New Member

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    Hello this is unnati.
    I seriously need some answers.
    I just got two tortoise last month. The size of them is whole palm of ur hands with fingers.
    The female one is active. But the male one died the next day when i bough them.he died with a nasal discharge and he also did not eat the first day. He died inside the shell with hands in it.
    The problem is female one is still active and fine, eats a lot, sleeps and it's been a month. From last week she was sneezing. Her eyes were puffy But now she is doing fine.
    However suddenly , i noticed a hole on her shell. Like a pin hole and some brownish matter around it. Please explain me what is happening with her.
    And give me the names of vegetables which are available in india that are rich in calcium for her.
    What is that hole on the shell and why it's happening ?
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  3. kingsley

    kingsley Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Totally agree with Mark, habitat range areas consists of micro climates that supports the survival of the species. This is the main reason the tortoises are seen usually in the mornings and in the evenings on sunny and hot days and almost never seen out during cold rainy weather. This is my obsrevation on many field trips in Sri Lanka.
    Markw84 and Unnati sawant like this.
  4. AaronS40

    AaronS40 New Member

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    @Markw84 Hi Mark and all!

    Thank you so much for this superb info! My family is ramping up for a Baby Indian Star coming from a respected breeder. Our little guy is coming in a few months and I'm doing everything I can to absorb as much information as possible between now and his arrival. There is so much bad information out there on the net, go figure...

    I hope you don't mind but I may ask you some random questions here over the next few months as we get ready.

    The first question that I'm pondering is humidity control. We typically have very dry winters so we're going to need some major humidity boosters for Tug (our 6 year old son already named him). Besides keeping the substrate moist and daily soaks, do you (or any Star Owner for that matter) have an opinion on foggers or misters to assist in maintaining an 80/80? Do you think one may be better over their other? We're certainly going to introduce some live plants too, which I know, will help boost humidity.

    Thanks...

    Aaron
  5. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Aaron, Welcome to the forum. You have found the best place to get the most current and up-to-date info on tortoises.

    I feel by far the best way to provide for the "climate" your tortoise will need is with a closed chamber. That will give you the easiest and most efficient way to provide a stable 80/80. No need for humidifiers or misters then. A good substrate of fine grade orchid bark kept moist will keep the humidity you need. The enclosed chamber will also heat easily and efficiently. There is really no other way that can produce anywhere near a good results and still provide a nice enclosure in which you can view your tortoises. Save yourself the frustration of trying to fix heat and humidity issues that constantly plague tables, tanks, and tubs. With an Indian Star, a properly built enclosure can last you many years and allow your tortoise to grow and thrive.

    We have a few threads here on some builds that can give you ideas. Here's an enclosure I made for a group of Burmese Stars:

    https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/our-new-closed-chamber-for-our-new-group-of-tortoises.138430/

    If you don't wish to tackle a project and build one, you can also order a very nice enclosed chamber from animal plastics.

    www.apcages.com

    Their T-70 could be a lifelong enclosure for an Indian Star. The T-25 could work well for about 3 years before getting a bit crowded for a star.
    Tom likes this.
  6. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Hi Aaron. Welcome.

    I've got nothing to add to Marks excellent tips, but I wanted to address the above statement. Most breeders do not start this species correctly. Many of them die after a few weeks or months as a result. Read this thread for a better understanding of what I'm talking about.
    https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/hatchling-failure-syndrome.23493/

    Then, by contrast, give this one a read to see how it should be done.
    https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/how-to-incubate-eggs-and-start-hatchlings.124266/

    If the breeder doesn't soak daily, use a brooder box system of some sort, keep the baby on damp substrate with warmth and humidity, and introduce a wide variety of foods in those first few days and weeks, buy elsewhere. I also wouldn't buy a baby from anyone who incubates on perlite. We can make recommendations if you want.
    Markw84 likes this.
  7. kingsley

    kingsley Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Hello Aaron , Greetings and welcome. I have hatched close to 500 stars over the past few decades. Both Mark and Tom have provided you the most crucial aspects of keeping this species. Like to add to the fact that most published data refers to its natural habitat as a dry zones, and the dry zones in tropical localities is measured by annual rainfall that is confusing to most as the coastal humidity in these areas is very high. H&H (heat and humidity ) is the answer. Best of luck.
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  8. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Funny that you chimed in @kingsley

    You are one of the people I was going to recommend… :)
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  9. AaronS40

    AaronS40 New Member

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    Thank you so much for the warm welcome and invaluable info... I'm researching your links... thank you!
  10. AaronS40

    AaronS40 New Member

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    Hi Tom, Thank you for the warm welcome and GREAT info. We're getting our little Star from Chris at Garden State. I understand that things just go bad on occasion, but from what I've been told, Chris is a pretty responsible breeder. I'll certainly read every work of what you recommended to me. Thank you!

    Aaron
  11. AaronS40

    AaronS40 New Member

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    Hey There, Thank you and it's nice to meet you. Thanks for the reminder about the climate. I absolutely want to avoid pyramiding and make sure our new family member to be is given every chance to thrive.

    I'll keep your name handy as we'll probably want to add another star at some point.

    Thank you!

    Aaron
  12. AaronS40

    AaronS40 New Member

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    Hi Tom,

    That's very scary. I just read the hatchling failure thread.

    As a new member to this forum, I know very little about tortoise care and how to select a good breeder. However, I did spot Chris from Garden State on the site's Star breeder list and he has a pretty solid social media presence and was responsive to my questions, so I chose him. However, the types of questions that I should have asked, I didn't because I didn't know that I needed to. All I knew was to stay away from the puppy mills of tortoises... e.g. Tortoise Town / Tortoise Shack etc.

    I saw that you recommended another breeder to me, but knowing that I have already ordered with Chris, what is his reputation as a breeder in the community?

    Sorry for the sluggish response, I'm not getting e-mail updates, so I thought no one had replied to me...

    Thank you!
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2018
  13. MichaelaW

    MichaelaW Well-Known Member

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    You absolutely cannot go wrong with Chris Leone. He is among the best of the best.
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  14. AaronS40

    AaronS40 New Member

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    Super... and what a relief! :) Thank you!
  15. kingsley

    kingsley Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    You are in good hands with Chris
  16. Joetheyido

    Joetheyido Member

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    Hello, this may have been covered countless times but can't find it. Whear would you put the temp/humidity probe in relation to the che and heat lamp?
  17. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    I assume you are referring to the probe for the thermostat?? Put the temperature probe on the cool side of your enclosure. You want that to be set at 27° and the coolest your enclosure gets and kicks on the heat if it drops below. I use a heat gun to check temperatures under the basking light to ensure that is adjusted properly to give a 37° Max there. Your humidity reading can be anywhere except the basking area - as the heat from the basking light will give a lower reading directly under that.
  18. Joetheyido

    Joetheyido Member

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    Yes I was thanks mark.
  19. Mojavejaz

    Mojavejaz New Member

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    So why is it that virtually every recommendation is against keeping hatchlings in terrariums? It looks to me like your (Tom's) setups are essentially glass fronted enclosed terrariums. This is very confusing to us novices.
  20. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    What do you mean by "terrarium"? That term covers a lot of different styles including these closed chambers. Are you asking about a glass tank? That is what most commonly is called terrarium if set up dry vs with water (aquarium).

    Glass tanks are not a terrible choice for a hatchling. Normally they are of a size that is just too small for most tortoises if the tortoises are being cared for properly and growing "normally". Most tanks would just be too small withing a few months. Exercise is very important to a tortoise, especially while growing and developing muscle, bone and organ function. Movement helps their digestive system. To set up a glass tank properly, and get it working, only to have it outgrown within a few months, is not something I would recommend.

    One of the problems is trying to cover the top to keep in heat and humidity. You have to find a way to get the lights and heat elements under a cover. If you don't, they will create a very effective drafting effect and constantly draw the warm, humid air out of the tank. With humidity such a great benefit for a healthy tortoise, it is just too hard to maintain in any open topped enclosure that is retro-fitted with a top.

    Another issue is the insulation. Glass is a very good conductor of heat/cold. In my enclosure I make a double pane of glass for the doors. So it will only work if you keep a tank in a room that has a temperature fairly close to the temperature you want the enclosure. The walls and floor of the tank will be somewhere in the middle of the inside and outside temperature of your tank. So a glass enclosure in a room that is 68° will have a much cooler reading where your tortoise is digging in to the substrate to rest and to sleep at night. You may think your tank is keeping 80° at night, but in a corner under some substrate - where the tortoise is - can be substantially cooler. You will need a temperature probe stuck under the substrate there where the tortoise is to really check that temperature. My enclosures are built to be in a garage I have devoted to chelonians. I need the insulation to keep a much more even temperature in the enclosure with even more extreme temperature of the garage vs a room in the house. To try to heat or maintain humidity while heating is MUCH easier in a well insulated enclosure - top bottom and sides all insulated. As a bonus, the utilities required to maintain proper heat in these enclosures is remarkably low.

    In short - it is all about finding the best way to create a "micro climate" for our tortoises. That is far easier to do the better the enclosure is insulated and protected from the temperatures and humidity of the room in which you are keeping the enclosure.
    TechnoCheese likes this.
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