New Leopard tortoise owner, getting overwhelmed. Enclosure/humidity??

Aarison

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Hello, my name is Allison. This is my first post here and I have a lot of questions and hoping for some help.

We acquired two leopard tortoise hatchlings a few months ago. We did research but clearly not well enough. We found this forum after getting my babies. Tortellini and Ziti seem to be doing well but my anxiety is growing thinking I’m not doing what’s best for them. There is so much split information on these tortoises! I swear it was easier and less anxiety with raising my three human children! I have been reading through topics on here and gathering information but I’m still overwhelmed. If I’m posting in the wrong place, I apologize.

Tortellini is around 9 weeks old and Ziti is around 11 weeks old. Tortellini is a lot bigger than Ziti. Is this cause for alarm? They both are active, eat, go to the bathroom, bask, drink water and gaining weight... I believe they are doing good. Surviving vs thriving, I’m hoping the later. It’s just I’m not experienced enough to know.

I started them both in an open enclosure with a humid hut. Then I started reading and I didn’t feel like the humid hut was good enough. I surrounded enclosure with plexiglass and added moss. Humidity went up but still not good enough. Luckily, I have a very flexible work schedule and I am able to mist regularly, control temperatures. However, there has to be a better way and I’m going on vacation... so I really need to get this under better control. I don’t trust anyone to do for them what I do.

My person and I have decided that we should build them a better home. We want to do this right and large. We live in Ohio so once they are big enough to go outside, in the winter they are coming inside. This enclosure will be their home for the next 10 years. We are thinking of building an 4’x8’ tortoise table with a 2’x4’ enclosed to keep humidity in. But this leads me to a few questions. First of all, is this big enough for two 10 year olds? Secondly, do they always need high humidity? As of now, they both stay away from the moss area, which is where the highest humidity is. It’s like they don’t like it. Can we keep hatchling torts in an enclosure that has the option for high humidity area and a lesser humidity area with free range? Finally, making the best humid area... we are thinking of making a barrier between the dry area and humid area. How do we do this best? We are thinking of lining the floor and walls with rock/tile (moss on top) and putting a heating mat under the humid part of the enclosure with a plexiglass top. That way the heat goes up and the plexiglass keeps the humidity in. Does this sound like something that would work? Or would it be better to mount a ceramic heat bulb to the top of enclosure? My thinking with that is heat rises and wouldn’t be as effective but I’m new with this whole thing and like I stated before, overwhelmed. We are doing our best and trying. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you!

Allison and Aaron
 

dmmj

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wellington

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Make it a closed chamber and use orchard bark or coconut coir for substrate. Get the substrate really wet with warm water. Use a tube florescent for uvb and che's for heat or radiant heat panels. Keep the temps never lower then 80 with basking of 95-100.
This will be easy with a closed chamber.
Be prepared to separate them. You might make it around 6 months too a year before needing too. Tortoises should not be in pairs. Watch closely if one starts hiding, sleeping more losing weight or being chased/followed or kept from food, water, hide etc they will need to be separated at that time.
Stick with the info on this forum and you wont go wrong. The info outside this forum is wrong or outdated.
Check out the leopard or even the sulcata cate care sheets. Care is same for both.
.
 
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wellington

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To your enclosure size. No two 10 year olds will need to be housed alone and a 4x8 is not big enough for one as an adult unless for winters only then should be outside for summer.
 

Maro2Bear

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Greetings and Welcome

I’m sure @Tom is typing away a very thorough response to your questions. But first, make sure you read (or re-read) all of the great info in his detailed care sheet thst has info for Leopards and Sullys. No sense re-inventing the wheel. Id venture to say that all of your questions are dealt with here.

https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/how-to-raise-a-healthy-sulcata-or-leopard-version-2-0.78361/

Are you keeping them together? Lots of info in the Forum why you wouldnt want to do that.

Id say close to impossible to build an enclosure where you can separate high humidity from low.

Upload some pix! And make sure you are daily soaking!
 

Aarison

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Thank you for all the replies! Yes, they are housed together. I was under the impression if they had enough space that you could keep two leopards together. More miss information I see and correcting this is not a problem! I’ll split the 8x4 and when they get too big for it we will just build another 8x4 table and they each can have their own 8x4. They will be housed inside while they are little and during the winters. When they are around 10 all our kids will be grown and we will be selling our current house and purchasing another that is more suitable for us and, of course, the torts.

With the responses given I see that closing the whole enclosure is the best option and we will be going that route. We are still in the planning stages of this. Once we start building I will post pics and, likely, have more questions. Thank you for all the help!

Tor and Z get daily soaks. Tor does not seem to enjoy it at all, never has. Z, on the other hand, does seem to have good relaxing soak. I soak them separate as they seem happier with it that way.

Can anyone explain over feeding? I feed these two twice a day. A pile of fresh mixed greens the size of their shells combined in the morning. In the afternoon I soak a mazuri pellet and mix with some fresh greens. Ziti does not touch the Mazuri though.
 

Tom

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Hello and welcome Allison.

Looks like you've discovered all the conflicting and wrong info out there waiting for new tortoise keepers. Sorry. We are trying to remedy that, but old info persists.

Through much experimentation and trial and error, I've found that a warm humid closed chamber works the best and delivers the best results for health and growth. Other people still keep them other ways, but slow growth, pyramiding and dehydration is usually the result. Many people still parrot the mistaken idea that "outside" is better for them and somehow more natural. It isn't. Climate and weather doesn't matter. In repeated side-by-side experiments with clutch mates, they simply do better when kept mostly indoors as babies. Daily excursions in a safe outdoor enclosure work well, but outside for hours a day is not helpful for babies. Adults, yes, Babies not so much.

The pair thing seems to be promoted by sellers who want to sell more babies. Pairs are never a good idea, not at any age. One is always dominant and one is always submissive and they don't want to share the space or resources. Its too personal and stressful. Groups of babies can work, but not pairs.

A 4x8' closed chamber should last 2 or 3 years and will be a great way to start your babies, but eventually, they will need more space than that to get through the winter. Your idea of dividing a 4x8 in half for them while they are small is perfect. I've done it that way myself.

Overfeeding: Can't be done if you are feeding the right foods and have a large enclosure. Tortoises are grazers and need to be able to munch all day. Exercise helps them move the food through their GI tract much like a horse, so cramped enclosures are never good.

I see the care sheet linked above, but here are two more. The one says "sulcata" in the title. Leopards can eat the same foods, just use a lower percentage of grass.
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/for-those-who-have-a-young-sulcata.76744/

Keep your questions coming. I'm glad you found us and your tortoises will be too!
 
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