Looking for criticism, Russian Tortoise

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Chifte

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Hello all,

My name is Eric, I recently purchased a Russian tortoise. I'm simply looking for ways to improve what I already have.

74QT under bed storage
60 Eco earth/40 sand substrate mixture
Solar Glo 160W UVB/Heat source
A single hiding space
The humidity is about 50
The heat is currently 96.7 and stable

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I have not put a water dish in his enclosure yet, simply because I think it takes away from the room he has. I read conflicting info, it would seem soaking every other day and his food would provide more than enough hydration but please correct me if I'm wrong.

I had taken strong warning from various websites that I should obtain a captive bred Russian only, however I have been searching for about a month now and it has become VERY difficult. I used Kingsnake markets several times, most of the dealers there sell "WC but doing well in captivity" type deals or they didn't respond to my emails when I asked about captive breds. I did find a single person that claimed captive bred but would not ship to me until Spring(I agree, 15 degree weather here in Pennsylvania) and the Russian was also $240, it wasn't so much the money but the wait as I've been wanting to do this since August.

Anyway, the Russian I purchased was after several trips to 6 different pet shops in my area. Two being independent stores, the other 4 were Petsmarts and Petcos. I examined every Russian to the best of my knowledge(eyes won't open, mucus eyes, odd breathing, shell rot, soup can weight), asked questions but overall I received soso info from all the stores, none knew whether they were WC or CB.

I finally ended up going back to a Petco I've been going to for years for my ferret supplies that's had the same guy take care of the reptile for years and he always talks to them playfully and overall treats them well.

Overall the tortoises were in fair condition(compared to the other stores), one had an eye problem, 3 felt under weight(though they were simply smaller tortoises but just didn't feel right), one more simply wasn't responsive but there was one that I noticed the first time I went to the store. He's about as heavy as a Campbells chicken and dumpling can, clear eyes, no caked poop on his butt, and he was always walking and digging when I was there. The employee said the tortoise I chose had been there almost a year(ALMOST A YEAR?!), I thought that was strange as there's nothing wrong visually wrong with him other than his claws seem too long, he's just a good bit bigger than all the other tortoises so perhaps people buy smaller tortoises for the cute factor. Overall he's in good condition, his shell does seem to have EVER SO SLIGHT pyramid, but then again I've never had a tortoise so it could be natural.

I plan to take him to the vet this coming week, are there any things I should ask for in particular? How exactly do I do a stool sample for a tortoise? He's all ready pooped when I soaked him today but I threw it out not thinking, is the poop in the water still viable for the lab?

Some pics of him, I don't want to pick him up and disturb him anymore today so his poses are his own, haha.

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I look forward to your responses! I'll take some much better pictures with a real camera in a few weeks.
 

Sweetpea

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What a lucky tort! I'm not an expert, still learning more about my RT, sweetpea. When you get a chance, measure and weigh her (or him). That will give you a baseline for the vet. Good luck and keep reading. :)
 

earthyman71

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hi chifte! my name is sean and i have 12 russians. you're off to a good start with his home but ideally a few modifications would help make him more comfortable. (visit www.russiantortoise.org to confirm - it's THE authoritative site for russians.)

a few suggestions:

1) add a repti-ramp water bowl (the kind that the lil guy can walk in and out of). zoomed makes a good one. expensive at petco - 30 each - but you can find them cheaper on the web.
2) moisten his substrate more - it looks kind of dry. russiantortoise.org can give you the details. russians like it humid in their burrows and dryness causes eye and respiratory problems.
3) add some timothy hay (away from the light) for him to burrow in and eat. (don't use alfalfa and other hays)
4) get a UVA/UVB 100 w t-rex or mega-ray for his heat/light needs.
5) fresh greens every day (a good list is on russiantortoise.org)
6) his shell looks good (but will take portioned feeding and uva/uvb to keep it that way. you might be seeing slight pyramiding on hus center scute in front. all of my russians have this with zero pyramiding anywhere else.
7) regarding a vet visit, i think they need a fresh stool sample and can try to get one there. only take the little guy to a reputable reptile vet. otherwise you're wasting your money and potentially putting him in harm's way.

hope that helps!!
 

Chifte

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Sweetpea said:
What a lucky tort! I'm not an expert, still learning more about my RT, sweetpea. When you get a chance, measure and weigh her (or him). That will give you a baseline for the vet. Good luck and keep reading. :)

I'll have to pull out the 'ole brass scale! He's small enough!

earthyman71 said:
hi chifte! my name is sean and i have 12 russians. you're off to a good start with his home but ideally a few modifications would help make him more comfortable. (visit www.russiantortoise.org to confirm - it's THE authoritative site for russians.)

a few suggestions:

1) add a repti-ramp water bowl (the kind that the lil guy can walk in and out of). zoomed makes a good one. expensive at petco - 30 each - but you can find them cheaper on the web.
2) moisten his substrate more - it looks kind of dry. russiantortoise.org can give you the details. russians like it humid in their burrows and dryness causes eye and respiratory problems.
3) add some timothy hay (away from the light) for him to burrow in and eat. (don't use alfalfa and other hays)
4) get a UVA/UVB 100 w t-rex or mega-ray for his heat/light needs.
5) fresh greens every day (a good list is on russiantortoise.org)
6) his shell looks good (but will take portioned feeding and uva/uvb to keep it that way. you might be seeing slight pyramiding on hus center scute in front. all of my russians have this with zero pyramiding anywhere else.
7) regarding a vet visit, i think they need a fresh stool sample and can try to get one there. only take the little guy to a reputable reptile vet. otherwise you're wasting your money and potentially putting him in harm's way.

hope that helps!!

Excellent! I do have a couple questions then.

What's the best way to gauge his substrate moistness? What I've been doing since I put the set up together a week ago is pick up the substrate, squeeze it and see how long it takes to break a part. The substrate under the lamp does clump but only for a moment and the substrate on the cool side could be considered slightly damp. I figured as long as it clumps it should be of sufficient moistness because they're from a drier climate.

Timothy hay, would the packaged timothy hay for rabbits found in chain pet stores be safe for consumption?

Much appreciated!
 

Yvonne G

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Hi Eric:

Welcome to the forum!!

May we know where you are?

Here's a suggestion for you: I think the sides of your habitat are too short. You can take the lid, and cut out the middle of it so that all you have left is a lip that fits around the edges of the habitat. That way you don't have to worry that he'll pile up the substrate to escape or get on top of his house and escape the pen.

Its a nice big habitat with lots of room for your Russian to wander around.
 

RianSeeking

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I spray down (and mix) my substrate probably twice a day. I like it dry on the top and damp (clumpy/crumbly) toward the bottom, but not dripping. In the morning, if the water bowl is poop free, I usually just over turn it into the substrate and mix it in as well.

I'm not sure, but I'm betting the experts in the forum will tell you that eventually a larger (longer) enclosure would be preferable. I'm told Russians like to roam. :) My two are in a table that is just *barely* acceptable. I plan to build something bigger this summer when I won't slip on the ice every time I venture outside for power tools.

I don't know about the timothy hay. I get mine from the barn where my horses are boarded. My Russians ignore it and it dries out very quickly.

Woops, I was wrong. Yvonne says your enclosure is just fine. :) And she knows better than I!
 

earthyman71

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following up - re: substrate moistness. when you first mix your coir (more than likely by letting the brick soak in water - a 1 brick to 1 gallon of warm water ratio), you want it to be damp but not dripping when you squeeze it.

in the cooler and winter months, i only have to remix several gallons of water into it once a week. i pull everything out of the pen, wash the ramp bowl and slate for feeding in the dishwasher, give the torts a good soak and put everything back together. (in the warmer months i may have to do it twice a week.)

almost forgot! you are going to want a slate (or a slate type feeding rock) for the pen. it's not so good to let the torts eat direcly off the substrate as they'll ingest too much - and the slate helps file down their beaks.

also, you'll want to get some cuttlebone as a source of calcium. just put it in the pen and your lil dude will nibble when he needs it.

and lastly, check out carolinapetsupply.com and TNT powder for your tort's food. a dusting once or twice a week and you're set.

it's all a lot to take in at first but you can do it! :)
 

Yvonne G

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Hi Eric:

Every time I see your subject line come up on the forum I think, "You're hair's too short. You need to wash your hands. That tank top makes you look fat. You can't do anything right. You drive too slow." I'm really good at criticizing!! :D
 

Chifte

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I've an update.

I'm getting a piece of slate tomorrow from work, bought a water bowel/ramp from Amazon AND I cut the middle of the lid and put it on. I'll tell you, using no saw horses and a jigsaw with an incorrect blade is an amazing experience, I highly suggest no one try it, haah! I used duct tape to cover up my hack job.

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I attempted at getting him to eat but I got the result I expected, he only took a couple nibbles and overall seemed uninterested. I'm not worried though, still only day 2 and he's a good weight so he had to be eating at the store. The food right there is organic collard green, dandelion and a little romaine.

Laura said:
watch the height of the walls.. russians are great climbers.. and will go right over the sides.

Indeed, while I was wrestling with this "hood" of mine I walked to the room the tort is in and there he was, on top of the hide, one foot on the hide, his body teetering on the edge of the tub and his right foot scratching at the dry wall.
 

Yvonne G

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LOL! Duct tape...gotta' love it! Good job. that'll keep that little bugger inside.
 

Chifte

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Woot! Ice storm day off!

However, a bad morning as well. About an hour after the timer for the Solar Glow went on, the bulb blew, white bright light came and BOOM gone.

So I'm returning it to the store later this evening as that's certainly not acceptable.

Earthyman, I noticed you said I should switch to Megaray or T-rex, I suppose that's because Solar Glo's are unreliable? After reading about this bulb(I was irritated, $45 bulb!) a little more on forums rather just info websites it seems like it doesn't emit much UVB at all, which is the whole reason I went with MVB over a strip/basking light combo, less hassle.

Would a Reptisun 10.0 strip light + 100W basking light be better than a Megaray?

I hate to bother with asking so many questions BUT if I do a strip light should I have a separate timer for that? I'm reading strip UVB emit too much UVB.
 

Mean Guy

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about your lamp, It looks like you are using a standard 100 watt lamp. I have been told that if the bulb is a 75 watt it will burn out very quickly. Most of the standard lamps do not have the ability to step down wattage and kill smaller bulbs. Not so sure if this is true but when I stepped up to a 100 watt bulb it quit blowing them.
 

Chifte

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Eh, it's a porcelain 300W lamp, bought from Lowes. When I bought I figured I should get almost double wattage to be safe, hehe.
 

Yvonne G

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I would go with either the Zoo Med Power Sun MVB or a T-Rex Active UV/Heat MVB.
 

earthyman71

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hi chifte - check out russiantortoise.org to explore your uva/uvb options. i always use the combos so not sure on the specs for separate bulbs.
 

tortoises101

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I really think that a MVB is the true ideal bulb. Sure, you can use those fluorescent UVB emitting tubes, but in the long run, MVB's are cheaper, emit more beneficial UV rays, and are psychiologically healthier for the animals. I remember hearing about a turtle keeper with an alligator snapper who wouldn't eat until a Mega Ray MVB was installed in the setup. They also emit lots of light and heat so for a small-medium tort enclosure, a good sized MVB will be all you'll need.
 
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