New owner, doing everything wrong - Need help ASAP!

asampson760

New Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2021
Messages
18
Location (City and/or State)
Morongo Valley
Hi everyone!

Really needing some speedy advice here as I am kind of in a panic. We bought a 1 year old Sulcata over the weekend from a local reptile shop. After finding this forum I have learned that we are doing everything completely wrong and I need to remedy our situation as quickly as possible. I followed the (very bad) advice of the shop owner and ended up with a glass tank (open top obviously) filled with sand. He told us to feed "greens" so I have been giving him kale, cabbage, and dandelion greens. Which I now know is also wrong. I have read he needs grass, but we live in the desert and have no grass in our yard. I do have access to Bermuda and Orchard hay. Can I give him some of that or is he too young still?

He has one of those lights with two bulbs, all I know is one provides heat and one is UVB. Are these okay or is that also wrong? The temperature in the warm side of his tank is usually around 80-90 degrees but I have seen it up near 100 in the middle of the day.

I am trying to figure out what I can get for him TODAY that can help him live better. I've read about plastic tote bins, is that a viable option? What is the best substrate option that I can find from Home Depot/local stores?

Can someone help me come up with a list of things that I can get today from Home Depot and/or local pet stores/Petco that can get him better set up immediately until we can get his ideal situation put together which will take more time.

Also, maybe this is a silly question, but with him/her being 1 year old I am assuming this is still considered to be a baby? At what point are they no longer considered to be a baby?

Thank you in advance for your help and kindness. I am so new to this and feeling devastated that we are not doing right by our little tortoise right now.
 

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
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I'm not of the "grass" school. I keep many different species of tortoise, and they all live outside where they can graze on weeds and grass. I keep the young ones in the house in closed enclosures until they're big enough to not be carried away by a bird. While in the house with no grazing access I feed them grocery store greens. I've raised many, many babies this way and they all grew up to be healthy and happy tortoises. Yes, I DO cut up a handful of grass and incorporate it into the grocery store greens, along with mulberry leaves, grape leaves and whatever edible weeds are still available, rehydrated alfafa hay, rehydrated Zoo Med Tortoise Diet, rehydrated Mazuri Tortoise Diet, but I'd say 90% of the food is grocery store greens*. I chop up my baby food into smallish particles and mix it all together. I make enough for three days.

*endive, escarole, radicchio, mustard-turnip-dandelion greens, kale, carrot tops, opuntia, zucchini, bok choy, bell pepper, mushrooms, etc.

If you DO buy some orchard grass hay, cut it up into bite sized pieces and place them in a bowl of water for about 15 minutes to soften it up, then mix it up with your greens.

For the larger in-the-house babies I like to use the Iris Christmas Tree Storage bin. It's about 4' long and makes a pretty darned nice in-the-house enclosure:

christmas tree bin 2-8-21 a.jpg christmas tree bin 2-8-21 b.jpg
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
55,050
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Hi everyone!

Really needing some speedy advice here as I am kind of in a panic. We bought a 1 year old Sulcata over the weekend from a local reptile shop. After finding this forum I have learned that we are doing everything completely wrong and I need to remedy our situation as quickly as possible. I followed the (very bad) advice of the shop owner and ended up with a glass tank (open top obviously) filled with sand. He told us to feed "greens" so I have been giving him kale, cabbage, and dandelion greens. Which I now know is also wrong. I have read he needs grass, but we live in the desert and have no grass in our yard. I do have access to Bermuda and Orchard hay. Can I give him some of that or is he too young still?

He has one of those lights with two bulbs, all I know is one provides heat and one is UVB. Are these okay or is that also wrong? The temperature in the warm side of his tank is usually around 80-90 degrees but I have seen it up near 100 in the middle of the day.

I am trying to figure out what I can get for him TODAY that can help him live better. I've read about plastic tote bins, is that a viable option? What is the best substrate option that I can find from Home Depot/local stores?

Can someone help me come up with a list of things that I can get today from Home Depot and/or local pet stores/Petco that can get him better set up immediately until we can get his ideal situation put together which will take more time.

Also, maybe this is a silly question, but with him/her being 1 year old I am assuming this is still considered to be a baby? At what point are they no longer considered to be a baby?

Thank you in advance for your help and kindness. I am so new to this and feeling devastated that we are not doing right by our little tortoise right now.
Here is the info you need:

Hay is for older larger sulcatas. Read the feeding section in the care sheet for immediate changes.

The dual deep dome fixtures are not good, and the cfl UV bulbs in them are ineffective and potentially harmful. Read the care sheet for the correct lighting and heating.

For a one year old you need a large enclosure. A large horse trough from a feed store would work in the short term, but humidity will be low. Work on longer term better housing when you can.

After one year, I consider them juveniles or yearlings, but since they usually are not started or cared for correctly, they are still so small. In these cases, I still treat and care for them like babies regardless of their age.

Questions are welcome!
 

asampson760

New Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2021
Messages
18
Location (City and/or State)
Morongo Valley
Here is the info you need:

Hay is for older larger sulcatas. Read the feeding section in the care sheet for immediate changes.

The dual deep dome fixtures are not good, and the cfl UV bulbs in them are ineffective and potentially harmful. Read the care sheet for the correct lighting and heating.

For a one year old you need a large enclosure. A large horse trough from a feed store would work in the short term, but humidity will be low. Work on longer term better housing when you can.

After one year, I consider them juveniles or yearlings, but since they usually are not started or cared for correctly, they are still so small. In these cases, I still treat and care for them like babies regardless of their age.

Questions are welcome!
Thank you for all the info! I have gone through it and still have a couple of questions for our situation.

For now it looks like we will be trying our best to keep him in a traditional tank. We will be altering it and making a plexiglass lid, but I am sure the humidity will always be an issue. Is a tank humidifier an option? I'm also assuming with the lights being turned off 12 hours a day that he needs some kind of heat mat? And I am also guessing that should go under his hide?

As far as feeding goes I think we will be doing grocery store greens for the time being until we can grow our own forage for him. I did pick up some of the Mazuri Small Tortoise Diet and was planning on mixing it with the greens, is that okay? I did come across something made by ZooMed called Flower Food Topper. Are you familiar with it? Package says it's a mixture of dried flowers: blue cornflowers, chamomile, blue mallow flowers, red cornflowers, and rose petals. Is it something that he can have or is he too young? Or is it just useless?

I ordered cuttlefish bone for him. If he has access to that do I still need to put extra calcium on his food? I am looking for the "MinerAll" you suggested in that care sheet. I found one made by a company called Sticky Tongue, is this the right one? The one I am looking at is the "Indoor" and it looks like it has calcium in it. If I purchase that one how often should I use it and will that replace the basic calcium or do I use it in addition? Also, do you have a particular multivitamin that you recommend?

From what I was told at the reptile shop and from what I have read these guys should not be handled too often? But I am guessing it's okay to pick them up a couple of times each day for the soak time and to take them outside? I have a 3 year old who really wants to hold him but I have not let her do so. So far she just gets to pet his shell once or twice a day.

Speaking of outside, I have a large tote bin that's 34inx18in that I was going to put some substrate in for his outdoor time. Would that work? We are planning of making our own lid for it with some kind of screen or metal mesh to keep out birds/predators. He would be supervised (the aforementioned 3 year old loves to be outside so we are out quite bit) and I would make sure he had some shade to get out of the heat if he needed. From what I read should he just be outside an hour a day for now?

Ideally I do want to move him outside as soon as we can. Is there a particular age/size they should be before they are moved outside? I was told he is a year old but he is very small, he fits in the palm of my hand, so I am not sure when he will be able to move? I'm also wondering if you happen to have a wonderful post somewhere about ideal outdoor enclosures from them? I'd love to get a head start on that if possible.

Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge!
 

Jan A

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2021
Messages
1,534
Location (City and/or State)
Boulder, CO
Thank you for all the info! I have gone through it and still have a couple of questions for our situation.

For now it looks like we will be trying our best to keep him in a traditional tank. We will be altering it and making a plexiglass lid, but I am sure the humidity will always be an issue. Is a tank humidifier an option? I'm also assuming with the lights being turned off 12 hours a day that he needs some kind of heat mat? And I am also guessing that should go under his hide?

As far as feeding goes I think we will be doing grocery store greens for the time being until we can grow our own forage for him. I did pick up some of the Mazuri Small Tortoise Diet and was planning on mixing it with the greens, is that okay? I did come across something made by ZooMed called Flower Food Topper. Are you familiar with it? Package says it's a mixture of dried flowers: blue cornflowers, chamomile, blue mallow flowers, red cornflowers, and rose petals. Is it something that he can have or is he too young? Or is it just useless?

I ordered cuttlefish bone for him. If he has access to that do I still need to put extra calcium on his food? I am looking for the "MinerAll" you suggested in that care sheet. I found one made by a company called Sticky Tongue, is this the right one? The one I am looking at is the "Indoor" and it looks like it has calcium in it. If I purchase that one how often should I use it and will that replace the basic calcium or do I use it in addition? Also, do you have a particular multivitamin that you recommend?

From what I was told at the reptile shop and from what I have read these guys should not be handled too often? But I am guessing it's okay to pick them up a couple of times each day for the soak time and to take them outside? I have a 3 year old who really wants to hold him but I have not let her do so. So far she just gets to pet his shell once or twice a day.

Speaking of outside, I have a large tote bin that's 34inx18in that I was going to put some substrate in for his outdoor time. Would that work? We are planning of making our own lid for it with some kind of screen or metal mesh to keep out birds/predators. He would be supervised (the aforementioned 3 year old loves to be outside so we are out quite bit) and I would make sure he had some shade to get out of the heat if he needed. From what I read should he just be outside an hour a day for now?

Ideally I do want to move him outside as soon as we can. Is there a particular age/size they should be before they are moved outside? I was told he is a year old but he is very small, he fits in the palm of my hand, so I am not sure when he will be able to move? I'm also wondering if you happen to have a wonderful post somewhere about ideal outdoor enclosures from them? I'd love to get a head start on that if possible.

Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge!
Just so you know. Petco & now I think Chewy are having a fab sale on Reptibark (fine orchid bark, a/k/a fir bark). A 24 qt. Bag for $7.98. If you're buying orchid bark at Home Depot or Lowes, you don't want it mixed with other potting mix, fertilizer or of course, chemicals.

Welcome to the forum, BTW. We love photos of torts!!
 

asampson760

New Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2021
Messages
18
Location (City and/or State)
Morongo Valley
Just so you know. Petco & now I think Chewy are having a fab sale on Reptibark (fine orchid bark, a/k/a fir bark). A 24 qt. Bag for $7.98. If you're buying orchid bark at Home Depot or Lowes, you don't want it mixed with other potting mix, fertilizer or of course, chemicals.

Welcome to the forum, BTW. We love photos of torts!!
Thanks for this! I just ordered 2 bags off Chewy! :)
 

TaylorTortoise

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
Joined
Mar 24, 2020
Messages
1,217
Location (City and/or State)
Abington
I'm not of the "grass" school. I keep many different species of tortoise, and they all live outside where they can graze on weeds and grass. I keep the young ones in the house in closed enclosures until they're big enough to not be carried away by a bird. While in the house with no grazing access I feed them grocery store greens. I've raised many, many babies this way and they all grew up to be healthy and happy tortoises. Yes, I DO cut up a handful of grass and incorporate it into the grocery store greens, along with mulberry leaves, grape leaves and whatever edible weeds are still available, rehydrated alfafa hay, rehydrated Zoo Med Tortoise Diet, rehydrated Mazuri Tortoise Diet, but I'd say 90% of the food is grocery store greens*. I chop up my baby food into smallish particles and mix it all together. I make enough for three days.

*endive, escarole, radicchio, mustard-turnip-dandelion greens, kale, carrot tops, opuntia, zucchini, bok choy, bell pepper, mushrooms, etc.

If you DO buy some orchard grass hay, cut it up into bite sized pieces and place them in a bowl of water for about 15 minutes to soften it up, then mix it up with your greens.

For the larger in-the-house babies I like to use the Iris Christmas Tree Storage bin. It's about 4' long and makes a pretty darned nice in-the-house enclosure:

View attachment 331570 View attachment 331571
This looks like a fire waiting to happen.
The lights can touch that tarp or whatever that clear covering is and absolutely set a fire in your house, living room. I would switch that covering to a raised garden top cover that are made to insulate and monitor temps without all that hazard.
 

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 23, 2008
Messages
89,558
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
This looks like a fire waiting to happen.
The lights can touch that tarp or whatever that clear covering is and absolutely set a fire in your house, living room. I would switch that covering to a raised garden top cover that are made to insulate and monitor temps without all that hazard.
The lights are securely attached to a wooden frame and are nowhere near the plastic cover.
 

Ray--Opo

Well-Known Member
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Joined
Oct 14, 2017
Messages
5,545
Location (City and/or State)
Palm Bay Fl
Welcome, for the time being you can put tin foil over the top of your enclosure you have. Rule of thumb is 2 yrs old and over 10 lbs for fulltime outside. @Tom has some great outside enclosure instructions here. Just do a search here and you will find. I see you said you are soaking your tort. Soak everyday for at least 1/2 hr in warm water. Depth of water where the carapace and plastron meet. Don't let it cool down. You can buy 3 small terracotta flower pots and get some wheatgrass seeds. Plant the seeds in 3 day intervals in the pots. You can take scissors and cut the grass on top of the other food. If you feed mazuri twice a week. You will not need any extra vitamins, soak your mazuri to soften. Do not feed any fruit. Dandelion is good, the trick is variety. Don't let your tort get stuck on only eating on thing. I prefer the powder calcium, use a small pinch twice a week on their food. What state do you live in? One of the things you should think about buying is a infrared temp sensor gun. I know you have plenty to buy,but this will come in handy to check temps in different areas of your enclosure. Also the water you use for soaking. Just don't point at anyone's eyes including pets.
Screenshot_20201118-094349_Chrome.jpg
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
55,050
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Thank you for all the info! I have gone through it and still have a couple of questions for our situation.

For now it looks like we will be trying our best to keep him in a traditional tank. We will be altering it and making a plexiglass lid, but I am sure the humidity will always be an issue. Is a tank humidifier an option? I'm also assuming with the lights being turned off 12 hours a day that he needs some kind of heat mat? And I am also guessing that should go under his hide?

As far as feeding goes I think we will be doing grocery store greens for the time being until we can grow our own forage for him. I did pick up some of the Mazuri Small Tortoise Diet and was planning on mixing it with the greens, is that okay? I did come across something made by ZooMed called Flower Food Topper. Are you familiar with it? Package says it's a mixture of dried flowers: blue cornflowers, chamomile, blue mallow flowers, red cornflowers, and rose petals. Is it something that he can have or is he too young? Or is it just useless?

I ordered cuttlefish bone for him. If he has access to that do I still need to put extra calcium on his food? I am looking for the "MinerAll" you suggested in that care sheet. I found one made by a company called Sticky Tongue, is this the right one? The one I am looking at is the "Indoor" and it looks like it has calcium in it. If I purchase that one how often should I use it and will that replace the basic calcium or do I use it in addition? Also, do you have a particular multivitamin that you recommend?

From what I was told at the reptile shop and from what I have read these guys should not be handled too often? But I am guessing it's okay to pick them up a couple of times each day for the soak time and to take them outside? I have a 3 year old who really wants to hold him but I have not let her do so. So far she just gets to pet his shell once or twice a day.

Speaking of outside, I have a large tote bin that's 34inx18in that I was going to put some substrate in for his outdoor time. Would that work? We are planning of making our own lid for it with some kind of screen or metal mesh to keep out birds/predators. He would be supervised (the aforementioned 3 year old loves to be outside so we are out quite bit) and I would make sure he had some shade to get out of the heat if he needed. From what I read should he just be outside an hour a day for now?

Ideally I do want to move him outside as soon as we can. Is there a particular age/size they should be before they are moved outside? I was told he is a year old but he is very small, he fits in the palm of my hand, so I am not sure when he will be able to move? I'm also wondering if you happen to have a wonderful post somewhere about ideal outdoor enclosures from them? I'd love to get a head start on that if possible.

Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge!
I didn't see this reply back in August. Did you find answers to these questions? How are you getting on?
 
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