My First Tortoise Table (Detailed Build & Showcase!)

Tom

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Great! One last question: Would you say that this information is out of date at all? Because I'm thinking of going with option 2. https://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/uvi.174974/#post-1734639

Just making sure since you mentioned in one of your previous post replies that much information on tortoise husbandry is out of date like the glass aquarium myth.
Jeez... That was a year ago. Time flies....

Yes. Still accurate. I also prefer option #2 for people who need indoor UV.
 
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How exactly does it mount onto the fixture?
The reflector comes with 2 clips on either end that sort off snap onto the ends of bulb. I ended up just screwing the reflector into my fixture because the two bulbs were too close together to use the clips in my case, but I think you should have no problem using them.

Seeing as how the 5 in T5 represents the distance between the two prongs at each end of the bulb in mm a T6 bulb would be slightly wider so if you go with that size reflector you might just need to bend the clips in a little to hold onto the T5 bulb.
 

stiglitz

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The reflector comes with 2 clips on either end that sort off snap onto the ends of bulb. I ended up just screwing the reflector into my fixture because the two bulbs were too close together to use the clips in my case, but I think you should have no problem using them.

Seeing as how the 5 in T5 represents the distance between the two prongs at each end of the bulb in mm a T6 bulb would be slightly wider so if you go with that size reflector you might just need to bend the clips in a little to hold onto the T5 bulb.
Thank you so much, super super helpful. Not enough people describe things in proper detail to get a real sense of what is being discussed. I’m going to go ahead and order it and hope for the best! They’re super random with no reviews on Amazon; I can’t imagine how long it must have taken you to find these things, haha. But the fact that they seem to be pretty universal makes them a hidden gem IMO. It took me foreverrrrr to find 3 foot long T5 fixtures. They’re most commonly in 2 or 4 foot lengths. Pretty annoying. So if it did take you a long time to come across these as you eluded to previously, I feel your pain 😣
 

Gijoux

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Question Time!

Question 1) From brief research, I see on TFO that people generally advise against using the spot type basking bulbs sold by pet companies. Why is this?

Question 2) Here is a picture of the temperatures of the various spots in the enclosure. I used a very accurate digital infrared laser thermometer to obtain these readings.
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How does the heat distribution/gradient look? I’m thinking that some areas might be too cold. For Hector I kind of prefer more areas to be in the low to mid 80s as opposed to all these 70s seen here, but maybe it is okay? He doesn’t seem to bask more than what I think is normal, and his activity levels/behavior is healthy in my opinion. If more heat is needed, maybe I could move the first-story heat lamp towards the basking light direction (denoted by red arrows) and add a second heat lamp of perhaps a lower wattage to the empty lamp post. What do you think?
Another question: do you think the cool area (blue box) is too dark/poorly lit? If so, I could probably add a dome light to the empty light fixture and if extra heat is not needed, just use an LED bulb to light it up.

Question 3) Is 6 inches too close to the tortoise for my fixture + UVB bulb combination? I’m not talking about the amount of UVB & UVA received; more so what I am curious about is the potential for damage to the animal’s eyes or any other type of damage/detrimental effects that can occur. I haven’t really researched this aspect of UV bulbs much.
Assuming that I am in the range of a UVI level of 3-7 with my setup (I’m anticipating levels in the range of 5-7 if the guidelines that I have been reading are somewhat accurate, but I will know for sure once I get my Solarmeter), is 4 hours enough time for my tort to receive proper levels of UV? For those of you that like to have your UV bulbs on for only part of the day for a few hours to simulate the higher levels of UV from the mid-day sun, approximately what are your UVI levels and how long do you keep the bulb on?

Question 4) In my area I see baby arugula, baby bok choy, and other baby/young greens. Is this okay to feed? I feel like I read somewhere that the younger leaves do not contain as many nutrients/fiber so it’s pointless, but I have no idea where or when I read that (or if I even read that at all)

Question 5) Should I be concerned that I have never seen him drink from his water dish? I’ve definitely been busy from building the table and throwing myself into all the husbandry research, but I still feel like I should have caught him drinking at least once. I know some tortoises don’t drink out of water bowls nearly as much as others simply due to personality(?), but I thought I’d ask. I will still make sure he gets proper hydration from humidity, mistings, his diet, and regular soakings.

Question 6) When should I start soaking him again? I didn’t want to stress him out so I only did it once. He seems pretty comfortable in his cage already and his personality is really coming out, so maybe I will start tomorrow…

Question 7) He does this weird thing where he rams the walls. He only does it in two specific areas (see this video). This is what I was referring to earlier when I said he showed us that the wall below the second story is secure! What is this behavior?? He does it more often than I’d expect.
It looks like Tom handled the questions beautifully. I have a male Leopard Tortoise who upon reaching sexual maturity would ram things that I think he believed might be another Tortoise, because this is exactly what he started doing to my other male at which point they required separation. It is probably an inbred tendency to defend their territory. I love, love, love your set up.

I do hope however, that new owners of hatchling and baby tortoises realize that they need to have a set up that better holds humidity during the first few years of development. This is a phenomenal set up for an adult. Your Tortoise is one lucky guy.
 

stiglitz

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I do hope however, that new owners of hatchling and baby tortoises realize that they need to have a set up that better holds humidity during the first few years of development. This is a phenomenal set up for an adult. Your Tortoise is one lucky guy.
Yes!!!! One reason why I was a bit more comfortable adopting my particular tortoise as my first is because at his age he is basically an adult/sexually mature. Caring for a tortoise for the first time ever in my opinion is already a task that is daunting enough, but when it comes to the hatchlings, that sense of intimidation for the owner is (or at least should be) more severe. You really have to know what you’re doing and be sure that the particular enclosure that the baby is living in is suitable to adequately maintain very very high & consistent levels of humidity (i.e. closed chambers). It’s the most extreme “get it right the first time” situation because their first few years of growth have a huge impact on their overall health, shell development, and the rest of their lives.
Thank you for your kind words. Leopard tortoises are honestly my favorites and I wish I could care for one if I had more space. Maybe in the future!
 

Gijoux

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Thank you so much, super super helpful. Not enough people describe things in proper detail to get a real sense of what is being discussed. I’m going to go ahead and order it and hope for the best! They’re super random with no reviews on Amazon; I can’t imagine how long it must have taken you to find these things, haha. But the fact that they seem to be pretty universal makes them a hidden gem IMO. It took me foreverrrrr to find 3 foot long T5 fixtures. They’re most commonly in 2 or 4 foot lengths. Pretty annoying. So if it did take you a long time to come across these as you eluded to previously, I feel your pain 😣
I would like to suggest "Light Your Reptiles" for all your lighting needs. Todd is extremely helpful.
 

turtlebean

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This is such an awesome thread. I love the build and the well thought out plan and craftsmanship as well as your attention to detail. It’s also very heart warming to see how much research and effort you put into this, definitley makes you an awesome tort parent. Your tortoise is very lucky to have you, I hope he loves his new home :)
 

stiglitz

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This is such an awesome thread. I love the build and the well thought out plan and craftsmanship as well as your attention to detail. It’s also very heart warming to see how much research and effort you put into this, definitley makes you an awesome tort parent. Your tortoise is very lucky to have you, I hope he loves his new home :)
Thank you so much! Now it’s time to move on to phase 2 - building an outdoor enclosure 😅
 

Sa Ga

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There’s a lot of background information & questions that I’d like to include, but I thought I’d save all that for the post replies below and go straight to the build photos & videos since that’s what I assume most people clicked for. More information can be found below!!

July 4th, 2020, I acquired a 6-year-old male Hermann’s tortoise (we named him Hector). He came in a 40-gallon aquarium. The previous owners had him for 2 years, so I assume he lived like this all that time. No idea what his living conditions were for the first 4 years of his life. I have to move out of my place in 3 months, so I could have waited until then to build the larger enclosure to make my life much easier, but I knew I couldn’t bare to leave him in this stupid aquarium for another minute.
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Here’s a video of what he would do daily for hours on end..

The start. We have a box!
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Totally forgot to continue taking photos along the way, so here is the next one I took after the initial box was built. I especially like the horizontal molding pieces on the bottom and the thinner trim pieces up top.
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Second story is in. If you notice, it has legs as opposed to being screwed into the side walls. This is because we wanted to make it easy to slide in and out of the tortoise table in the event of cleanings and just in general it makes the entire table easier to move
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Ramp and railing installed
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The ramp is secured on by hinges. This way I can lift the ramp when I need to clean under it, and when I lift the second story out of the main cage the ramp can neatly and easily swing underneath for easy transport
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I decided to also add a wall underneath the second story, since I was hoping that he was going to use this space for sleeping. Just in case it made him feel more secure/cozy/private
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The wall is also not secured by screws in the event of a cleaning or if I decide to remove it in the future. It fits perfectly snug between the first story and second story with friction holding it in. I have no worriers of this falling down on him. It is already very secure with just the bare wood, and when the substrate is added it will hold it in even better on both sides. Hector actually proved to us that the wall is very secure, but more on that later!
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Lining the floors and walls with garbage bags to protect the wood from moisture. The wall & floor seams have also been caulked with non-toxic silicone.
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Time to move the table from the in-law’s garage to my apartment! The table was too wide to fit through my doorway, so we had to take off 4 out of the 6 legs once we completed the build just to make it fit. So not only did I have to disassemble, then reassemble the table once we were done building it, but I’m going to have to completely clean it out and do that all over again when moving out in 3 months. Yay me! But nothing is too much of a hassle when it comes to our pets, right?
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Finally in the apartment and mostly set up!
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Time to mount the lamp posts. Here I’m trying to make the fluorescent light fixture as parallel to the back wall as possible. Easier said than done
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8 stressful days later and the tortoise table is fully set up in all its glory!! He’s finally free of his glass prison.
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He’s only been in the tortoise table for a day and he’s already gotten the hang of going up and down the ramp. The incline is perfect in my opinion. He doesn’t struggle and he goes up to his basking area quite frequently. See this video
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I was a little worried that he would just end up using his normal half log hide to sleep in since he’s used to it, but it seems that he’s already taken to the closed off area underneath the second story quite well. I put some timothy hay on both ends because I’ve read Hermann’s and Russian tortoises can be known to like snuggling up into the hay when sleeping for the night. I’ve kept the area in the middle free of hay in case he still prefers to burrow in the top soil. Inside the half-log I plan to stuff it with sphagnum moss and make that his humid hide.
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This is my first reptile ever so I’m a little paranoid about the heat bulbs. I’ve set up a little nanny cam so that I can see the outlet/surge protector/timer/thermostat and the lamps themselves in case something is on fire/smoking, or if one of the lamps happens to fall into the enclosure. I’m not sure how much I trust the clamps that came with the lamps that hold them. They seem solid enough, but I’d like to avoid complacency when it comes to anything that may be a fire hazard
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One thing that sort of turns me off about tortoise tables is how cluttered and unattractive the light set ups can be. I understand that lighting and heating is one of the most important factors to get right when it comes to tortoises, but I wanted to find a way to minimize the number of lamp posts used, as well as minimize any showing cords or chains. Here I came up with the idea of utilizing the lamp posts built for the heat lamps to also support the T5 fixture that houses the UVB bulb.
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The posts holding the heat lamps are not screwed into the backwall of the enclosure yet. As I’ve said, this is my first pet reptile ever so other than the extensive research I have done online, I have no real-world experience to guide me regarding the height and lateral position of the heat lamps & UVB bulb. So, I decided to use some simple (but strong) clamps to secure the posts temporarily. If I’m happy with the light and heat distribution (and UVB levels), then I will permanently screw the posts in (much more on this later. I have many questions!).
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I’m not entirely sure what Hector’s diet consisted of when he was with his previous owners, but all they gave me were some colorful Fluker’s processed (junk) food, and Zoo Med Grassland pellets. Coming from fish, dogs, and hamsters, figuring out what to feed our little guy is a bit daunting, but I have a good baseline of knowledge from my searches on the interwebs. Now it’s time to apply that theory into the real world and start learning and adapting! So far he doesn’t seem to like kale or radish greens too much, but he DEMOLISHED the dandelions and other weeds that I picked from my uncle’s fertilizer-free lawn. He also seems to like mustard greens. See this video. (yes I know I added way too much calcium). More on food below.

I think that’s about it. Much more detailed & crucial information can be found in my post replies below. Thanks for stopping by!
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Absolutely gorgeous! Wow!!!
 

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