Best substrate

  • Coco coir

  • Other (please comment)


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Plum

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Hi!

I have just collected 2 tortoises and I am overjoyed! I was given them by a friend who could no longer look after them but I felt very ill prepared!

EC383B9B-32FB-4E0B-9AA8-E31DB992FA6B.jpeg

Been to the reptile shop to get advice and before they moved in managed the following set up:

-Tort table (approx 4ft by 2ft)
-Corn cob substrate
-Heat lamp (which the guy told me has built in UV combination bulb)
-Small dish of water
-Heat mat attached to the top of their hide.

I put out a small dish of kale and broccoli in the mornings, bathe them briefly and plan to soak them once a week. They also seem to love grapes which I have given them once as a treat :)

I caught them eating the corncob bedding which I read is dangerous so have switched this for hemp bedding (since read that this can be dangerous too - finally bought some CoCo Coir which I am going to switch in the morning).

Is there anything else I can do for my babies? They are 2 x males, 6/7 years old so I am told.

I plan on taking them to the vet for a health check ASAP. They seem happy, and I am taking my best care of them (think they’re in a better situation than they were before).

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I am also SO paranoid about them getting cold - it can get quite cold on my room but have been putting the heating on extra recently - accidentally left it on overnight tonight which is why I am awake at 4:30am (and now worrying about them over heating)

Any advice will be greatly appreciated and taken on board

With love,

From a very anxious new tortoise mum! X

D89F34CB-3B51-4C1F-B14F-62F77F56857C.jpeg
 

Tom

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Hello and welcome.

You've got a few problems, and I'll point them all out so you can fix them.

  • Tortoises should never be kept in pairs. Death, injury or sickness is likely. They need separate enclosures.
  • You've already discovered that you have the wrong substrate. Fine grade orchid bark works best. Coco coir is okay too, but its messy.
  • No broccoli. Kale only occasionally. Best diet is weeds, leaves, and flowers. If those are impossible due to your climate and the season, favor endive and escarole as your main staples. Add in rocket (Arugula), cilantro, carrot tops, turnip, mustard and collar greens, water cress, bok choy, etc... for variety. Also get a prepared diet, like Komodo, and take the time to get the tortoises used to it. This will help to balance out any nutritional problems due to the grocery store greens.
  • You've also discovered that pet shops are full of bad advice, and often sell you the wrong products.
  • The table is much too small. That size is fine for a little hatchling, but too small for tortoises the size of yours. 4x8' is a good minimum.
  • Most vets don't know much about tortoise care. Be careful. You'll get bad advice and treatments you don't need or want.
Read these for more info. The care sheet says its for russian tortoise, but care is the same for both species.
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/

Questions are welcome.
 

Plum

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Thanks for all of this! Really great advice and will be taking lots on board.

Where can I buy orchid bark in the UK that is definitely safe for tortoises?

These tortoises were given to me as a pair and used to live as a 3 - what is the reason why they don’t live in pairs, because they can fight and spread illness? These two seem to get on but obviously I appreciate that you can’t guarantee this behaviour.

Why no broccoli? And which leaves are suitable that I can grow myself or buy easily in the supermarket? I’ve been advised rocket and water cress which I am sure I can get my hands on

This is a reptile specialist who has kept tortoises and other reptiles for over 40 years - I have been given so much conflicting advice, how am I supposed to know what is ‘bad’ and what is ‘good’ advice? I trust the opinion of other tortoise owners of course, but finding it difficult to know who is right!

I was advised they should see a vet once a year for health checks, can anyone recommend a good one in the Bristol area?

Thank you for your help and I hope you don’t mind my follow up questions. :)
 

Plum

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Thanks, do you know where to buy safely in the UK?
 

Plum

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P.S. Do you have any specific advice on indoor tortoise keeping - I live in the UK, it is currently minus 4 outside and I am very conscious of making sure they have the best possible set up to be able to regulate body temp?! I can heat my flat very easily, do I need to worry about them getting too warm?

I have bought a wall thermometer to measure the ambient temp. They have an all in one UV and heat basking lamp - how do I ensure it is the correct temp for basking and on the cool end of the table?

I have room for another tort table, however I have also been advised that vivariums can be distressing for torts due to the glass being confusing and not being able to find a cool enough spot... what do you advise?
 

TechnoCheese

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Thanks for all of this! Really great advice and will be taking lots on board.

Where can I buy orchid bark in the UK that is definitely safe for tortoises?

These tortoises were given to me as a pair and used to live as a 3 - what is the reason why they don’t live in pairs, because they can fight and spread illness? These two seem to get on but obviously I appreciate that you can’t guarantee this behaviour.

Why no broccoli? And which leaves are suitable that I can grow myself or buy easily in the supermarket? I’ve been advised rocket and water cress which I am sure I can get my hands on

This is a reptile specialist who has kept tortoises and other reptiles for over 40 years - I have been given so much conflicting advice, how am I supposed to know what is ‘bad’ and what is ‘good’ advice? I trust the opinion of other tortoise owners of course, but finding it difficult to know who is right!

I was advised they should see a vet once a year for health checks, can anyone recommend a good one in the Bristol area?

Thank you for your help and I hope you don’t mind my follow up questions. :)

- Try looking in plant nurseries or online. If you absolutely can’t find it, try coconut coir if cypress mulch.

- in pairs, there’s always a dominant and a subordinate. Both are constantly stressed, because one is constantly being bullied, and the other can’t get the intruder out of it’s territory. In groups, the aggression is spread out, and they are able to establish a pecking order. Signs of aggression include “cuddling”, “following”, standing on food, and just being together in general. All of these are one tortoise trying to push, chase, and stress the other out of its territory.

- broccoli and other brassicas are high in oxalic acid, which binds calcium. Rocket and watercress are good, but try looking for weeds like dandelions, henbit, filaree, hawksbeard, etc. Check on thetortoisetable.uk to see what’s edible. You can also buy seed mixes from tortoisesupply.com.

- I was in the same boat when I first joined. I had done a year and a half of research, only to find out it was all incorrect. Sadly, most tortoise info out there is completely outdated information, and “experts” and vets are the ones that perpetuate it. This forum truly is one of the best places for tortoise info, because it is constantly being updated and people are experimenting to see what works. This is the only place I trust for tortoise info.

- I would personally only bring my tortoise to a vet if something’s wrong, because a lot of times vets do more harm than good. But it probably wouldn’t hurt as long as you don’t let the vet treat anything without a diagnosis, and definitely don’t accept any vitamin injections. The tortoise often overdoses, and it can cause the skin around the injection site to literally slough off.
 

Plum

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Wow, haven’t had such great advice since I found this forum, and with reasons why I should/shouldn’t do something too!

Absolutely happy with this advice and makes me feel much more confident that I can care for them properly!
 

Tom

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Orchid bark is all called "fir bark" in some plant nurseries. I buy it cheaply in bulk from local nurseries here.
 

Kelly.324

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A uk based website called Shelled Warriors is where I get orchid bark from, or amazon. It’s cheaper on shelled warriors though. I struggled to find any from garden centres that didn’t have fertilisers already in. Hope that’s helpful.
 

Plum

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A uk based website called Shelled Warriors is where I get orchid bark from, or amazon. It’s cheaper on shelled warriors though. I struggled to find any from garden centres that didn’t have fertilisers already in. Hope that’s helpful.

So helpful! Will order do you know if it is listed on amazon as to whether they have firtiliser in already? I am just thinking of using my amazon prime for speedy delivery, if you have a link that would be helpful
 

Kelly.324

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From amazon I ordered a brand called reptibark so its specially for reptiles and has no fertilisers etc in. It’s more expensive than the stuff from the garden centre though but needs must. I’m hoping in the summer of the bigger garden centres might have some in without any nasties in and then I’ll stock up.
 

Plum

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From amazon I ordered a brand called reptibark so its specially for reptiles and has no fertilisers etc in. It’s more expensive than the stuff from the garden centre though but needs must. I’m hoping in the summer of the bigger garden centres might have some in without any nasties in and then I’ll stock up.

Thanks ordering some now!

Off topic: Does anyone else have a problem with them eating my hair, I’ve been tying my hair back but I found some hanging out one of their bums! Very gently pulled it out and he didn’t seem to notice. Going to have to wear a hair net from now on. (Sorry to be crude).

The other had one down his throat which I could not pull out for fear of hurting him, both have pooed today though so keeping an eye on things.
 

TechnoCheese

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Thanks ordering some now!

Off topic: Does anyone else have a problem with them eating my hair, I’ve been tying my hair back but I found some hanging out one of their bums! Very gently pulled it out and he didn’t seem to notice. Going to have to wear a hair net from now on. (Sorry to be crude).

The other had one down his throat which I could not pull out for fear of hurting him, both have pooed today though so keeping an eye on things.

This used to happen with my tortoise all the time, but I have no idea how. I’m not sure what I was supposed to do about it or if pulling it out was okay for me to do, though, so I won’t give any advice for that lol
 

Plum

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Fair enough! I am just being careful to tie my hair up and hoping for the best!

Going to look into solutions
 

Plum

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Hi Tom,

Do you know anything about the brand coco and coir? I have bought a ‘fibre growing medium’ which claims to be safe for reptile and worm bedding but wanted to check with someone before I go ahead and use it!

Thanks

El
 

TechnoCheese

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Hi Tom,

Do you know anything about the brand coco and coir? I have bought a ‘fibre growing medium’ which claims to be safe for reptile and worm bedding but wanted to check with someone before I go ahead and use it!

Thanks

El

I’m not Tom, but as long as it’s organic and 100% coir, it’s safe ;)
 

Plum

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I’m not Tom, but as long as it’s organic and 100% coir, it’s safe ;)
It’s just called coco peat... what is the difference between coco peat and coco coir? It does say 100% organic though
 
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