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New Desert Tortoise Hatchlings

Discussion in 'North American Tortoises (genus Gopherus)' started by kthomas, Sep 30, 2018.

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  1. kthomas

    kthomas New Member

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    The wife and I recently obtained two desert tortoise hatchlings. We have named them Taco and Hatch, and we are absolutely enamored!

    I built them a tortoise table, which is lined and has a layer of cypress mulch, some rocks from the outdoors, enclosures to hide/sleep, a reptile specific combo heat/UVB lamp, and a pond with ramp and shallow layer of water. The table is 4' long, 2' wide, and has 9" tall walls with an open top. I measured the temperature directly under the heat/UVB lamp, and it is 93 deg F. The lamp is on a timer from 7 AM to 7 PM. We keep the house around 74-75 deg F, with no additional heat supply (minus the already mentioned lamp) for the tortoises. We still need to soak some of the mulch to create humidity though.

    We just received them the other day, I'm currently out of town/country for work but the wife is loving having them around! She's been feeding them, taking them outside to enjoy the AZ heat for short periods of time, and enjoying watching them move around their new enclosures.

    They seem to be loving their new home, and for the most part seem pretty healthy and active. The wife did mention that Hatch seems to be having issues with one of it's front legs - she mentioned that it is slightly discolored and Hatch seems to drag that leg underneath it's shell and fall to the side of that leg when walking. Any ideas on what that is about? And what we can do to remedy any potential issue(s)? I did mention to her that we should be soaking the hatchlings everyday, I don't think she has done that yet.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2018
  2. kthomas

    kthomas New Member

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    (These ads do not appear for registered members.)
    Here is a picture of the tortoise table through various phases of it's construction. I'm fairly happy with how it turned out!

    I also attached a picture of baby Hatch, this is not too long after she was born about a week ago. I don't have a current pic which shows any details on the leg at this moment - I'm hoping that the wife will be sending me some later today.

    IMG_20180922_221302.jpg MVIMG_20180921_141003.jpg MVIMG_20180922_153257.jpg MVIMG_20180916_184928.jpg
  3. kthomas

    kthomas New Member

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    Feel free to provide any constructive criticism or suggestions - I'm new to this and I'm on this forum to learn!
  4. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    You're Mercury Vapor Bulb needs to hang straight down. Hanging at an angle shortens the life of the bulb.

    Look at the leg in VERY bright light, with a magnifying glass, looking to see if a hair is wrapped around the leg.

    Figure out a way to cover the enclosure. It's impossible to have correct temperature, day and night, in an open-topped table.
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  5. kthomas

    kthomas New Member

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    Perfect, thanks Yvonne - appreciate the advice!
  6. kthomas

    kthomas New Member

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    Just talked and video messaged with the wife - Hatch appears to be walking normally today, and the Wife couldn't find any hairs or anything on Hatch. We'll continue to keep a close eye on them. They are active, and eating well, so overall to my amateur eyes they appear to be doing well.

    The wife is going to soak the hatchlings today, and we will continue to soak them daily as good tortoise parents would.

    The wife is going to place the lamp vertically on a reptile lamp stand, appreciate the heads up on that! I will also be building a top to the container when I get back - already have a few ideas for that!
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  7. kthomas

    kthomas New Member

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    They wife just gave them each a soak, or a bath as we call it! They seemed to enjoy it

    Attached Files:

  8. Carol S

    Carol S Well-Known Member 10 Year Member!

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    They are so adorable.

    The water dish is dangerous as they could flip over and drown when climbing in or out of it. It is recommended to use a shallow terracotta plant saucer dish, buried in the substrate, so that the tortoise does not have climb in and out, and can just walk in and out of the water dish.
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  9. kthomas

    kthomas New Member

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    Thanks!

    The wife already has changed out the water dish to something more tame, as she has already found one of the hatchlings turned upside in the old water dish.

    I'll get her to bury it in the mulch. We are on the look out for a new dish, I've already suggested the terracota dish.

    Attached Files:

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  10. Carol S

    Carol S Well-Known Member 10 Year Member!

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    I am happy that your wife found the baby in time.
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  11. kthomas

    kthomas New Member

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    I'm thinking of adding a 1/8" thick acrylic sheet to the top of the tortoise table, to enclose it for heat and humidity control. This is the specific one I am looking at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07235V3DP/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

    If I go this route, can the lamp be placed above the acrylic sheet? Or does it need to be below the acrylic sheet inside the enclosure? The walls are only 9" high, so if the lamp needs to be below the sheet, what wattage/power for the lamp do you recommend? Or do you guys recommend a different route for enclosing the tortoise table?
  12. Minority2

    Minority2 Well-Known Member

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    For low walls you'll definitely want to use linear florescent bulb and basking combo instead of a mercury vapor bulb. For a 4' x 2' x 9" enclosure I would suggest using a 25-40 watt incandescent flood bulb with either LED linear UV(B) or T5 HO linear UV(B) fixtures. A T5 HO linear fixture will give off a good amount of heat which is why you may want lower the wattage output of your basking bulb to keep the enclosure within a favorable range. Test out the 25 watt first. You may even need to go lower for 9 inch walls.

    Cut sections of the acrylic out so that your fixtures can rest directly on top of the acrylic sheet. Leave only enough room for your basking hood and linear florescent reflector to rest on. I would also suggest using a material such as aluminum foil to cover the sides and edges to really seal in all the left over exposed areas.
  13. kthomas

    kthomas New Member

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    Last edited: Oct 1, 2018
  14. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    I use the clay plant saucers. Having said that, I must explain: Some of the clay saucers are so porous that the water seeps out throughout the day and you end up with empty waterers, so instead of clay, I buy plastic. They look exactly like clay saucers, but the water stays put:

    Plastic saucer:
    [​IMG]

    Clay saucer:
    [​IMG]

    For tiny babies I add a layer of pebbles to the bottom of the saucer:
    waterer with pebbles.jpg
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  15. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Hello and welcome!

    This is one of the species that I think can be okay with an open top as long as they have damp substrate and a humid hide. Low 70s is fine for a night temp and mid 90s under the basking lamp should work, but as Yvonne pointed out, it need to be hung from over head and point straight down.

    Groups of babies can usually be housed together without issue, but not pairs. With a pair one is dominant and one is submissive and its chronically stressful for both. Best to add one or two more, or separate them into individual enclosures.

    Keep up the daily soaks until they get over 100 grams. After that you can begin skipping a day here and there. Dehydration is probably the number one killer of baby DTs and bladder stones due to chronic dehydration kill many adults annually.

    Much of the care info found for this species is old, out-dated and wrong. We've jumped to the wrong conclusion of how to care for them based on out incorrect assumptions of how they live in the wild and what they need. I raise them exactly like Russian tortoises. Give these a read for more explanation:
    https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
    https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/
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  16. kthomas

    kthomas New Member

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    Thanks so much for the thoughtful responses everyone! There's certainly a wealth of knowledge on this forum, and I (and my baby tortoises) really appreciate you guys taking the time to respond!

    I would love to keep the enclosure and open top if I'm able to, I'll be making sure that it is suitable for the little ones - I bought two climate control monitors, one to place at each side of the table, so that I can monitor the temp and humidity and ensure that the table is providing a suitable climate for the little guys. I'll be sure to make sure that the substrate is damp, and I plan on making their little sleeping huts "moisture chambers" so they get the property humidity.

    Speaking of their "sleeping huts" - I'm still working on suitable arrangements for this. I saw another poster on this forum use one of these, turned upside down with a created entrance used for some hatchlings (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LX5J3MW/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20) - is this acceptable? I really like the idea and simplicity of it, but I don't want to do anything that would harm the little ones. Specifically I'm wondering if they would try to eat the liner and cause issues?

    For pairs: is keeping them separate pretty much the general consensus on the board? Is it worth trying to keep them together? Perhaps put a bunch of objects as "sight blockers" in there? A separate heat lamp and water dish at each end? If it's not even worth experimenting with, can I put a divider in the current enclosure and effectively cut it in half? Or do I need to build a completely new enclosure for one of the tortoises?
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  17. kthomas

    kthomas New Member

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    I remember looking over those threads a few days ago, I'll be sure to look them over again! Lots of knowledge on here. I think I've spent about 5-6 hours on this forum since I've discovered it, reading through the various subfroums. So glad I found this place.
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  18. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    I wouldn't use those as humid hides. They might try to eat it, they will certainly tear it up as they grow, and I think it might allow too much airflow. I prefer to use upside down plastic tubs with a door hole cut out. No moss or sponges on the roof. Just dampen the substrate under it.

    The presence of other tortoise will cause some stress for both of them. There might not be any overt hostility like biting or pushing, but just the sight of the other one across the enclosure can be a problem. There are lots of subtle signs like following each other around, sleeping in the same area, sleeping face to face, sitting on the food, etc... Know anyone that keeps chameleons? They can usually explain this concept well. Both of them will be happier and healthier as the sole occupants of their own territories.
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  19. kthomas

    kthomas New Member

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    Thanks Tom, unfortunately that means we will have to return one of the hatchlings back to it's owners. Thankfully they are friends of ours, so that shouldn't be an issue.

    Also - appreciate the tips on the humid hides!
  20. William Lee Kohler

    William Lee Kohler Active Member

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    "Cut sections of the acrylic out so that your fixtures can rest directly on top of the acrylic sheet. Leave only enough room for your basking hood and linear florescent reflector to rest on. I would also suggest using a material such as aluminum foil to cover the sides and edges to really seal in all the left over exposed areas."

    This seems unclear. To clarify the lights should not have to "shine" through any glass or plastic as it kills the good UV rays.

    Also in a decent sized area there should not be any rivalry problems with these until they reach puberty or possibly get too crowded. My Red foots and Hingebacks do fine living together. Sometimes I see these opinions taken too far on here and vehemently disagree.
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