New Russian Tortoise Am I doing this correct?

"W" Family

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Oct 12, 2021
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Florida
I am new to the tortoise thing and want to make sure I am doing it right! My daughters and I did lots of research but with all the research we came up with conflicting things. I will say the research steered us away from the Russian tortoise at the pet store. We found a breeder and received our little Russian Tortoise this week. He is 2 months. Our indoor habitat was set and everything bought and I thought I was going to do this right. I read posts today talking about the wrong kind of bulbs. I thought with the research I read I got the correct ones and now I am second guessing. I turned them off today in concern. Can someone help me determine if what I am doing is right or wrong. I have the ZooMed 10.0 UVB 13 watt desert mini compact fluorescent and the ZooMed 75W Reptile basking Spot Lamp in a Dual Dome Light Fixture on top of the tank. They are shinning on a slate stone that my little baby can get heat from above and below with the stone. The lights are on a timer for 12 hours a day.

The substrate is Coco Coir that I am spraying multiple times a day to keep moist. We are doing daily soaks in addition. His hide is moist with Coco Coir substrate as well as Sphagnum Moss. Feeding our little one: ZooMed tortoise diet pellets soaked, freshly grown collard greens and kale to come, store bought romaine, squash and other store bought vegetables until our different greens grow more. There is a calcium block he is eating on and I have calcium to put on his food once a week. I see that I need to buy a reptile vitamin supplement and MinerAll.

We started him off in a 20L tank to help with humidity and then will move him into a bigger indoor enclosure when he grows out of this.

Please Help! I want what is best for our little Russian Tortoise, Ratchet.

Thank you,
Brandy
 

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Cherryshell

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So you'll definitely want to use a different bulb, you're best bet would be using a tube light, the kind you have has been known to cause damage to their eyes. 2nd that enclosure as it's currently set up won't hold the right amount of humidity needed for a baby, to us an analogy @Tom has used in the past, its like trying to raise the heat in a house with no roof. Babies need a closed enclosure to maintain the proper humidity levels. I highly suggest reading this caresheet and come back with additional questions:

 

wellington

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The compact bulb is bad and can and has many times caused eye problems. Stop using that and get a fluorescent tube uvb light.
The screen top is blocking some uvb unless you cut a hole under where the light sits
Cover the enclosure so humidity stays around 80% a closed chamber works best.
 

"W" Family

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Thank you so much! I have the light off and will get a different bulb today! I will adjust for humidity level and the cover for the proper humidity and UVB absorption.
 

Tom

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I am new to the tortoise thing and want to make sure I am doing it right! My daughters and I did lots of research but with all the research we came up with conflicting things. I will say the research steered us away from the Russian tortoise at the pet store. We found a breeder and received our little Russian Tortoise this week. He is 2 months. Our indoor habitat was set and everything bought and I thought I was going to do this right. I read posts today talking about the wrong kind of bulbs. I thought with the research I read I got the correct ones and now I am second guessing. I turned them off today in concern. Can someone help me determine if what I am doing is right or wrong. I have the ZooMed 10.0 UVB 13 watt desert mini compact fluorescent and the ZooMed 75W Reptile basking Spot Lamp in a Dual Dome Light Fixture on top of the tank. They are shinning on a slate stone that my little baby can get heat from above and below with the stone. The lights are on a timer for 12 hours a day.

The substrate is Coco Coir that I am spraying multiple times a day to keep moist. We are doing daily soaks in addition. His hide is moist with Coco Coir substrate as well as Sphagnum Moss. Feeding our little one: ZooMed tortoise diet pellets soaked, freshly grown collard greens and kale to come, store bought romaine, squash and other store bought vegetables until our different greens grow more. There is a calcium block he is eating on and I have calcium to put on his food once a week. I see that I need to buy a reptile vitamin supplement and MinerAll.

We started him off in a 20L tank to help with humidity and then will move him into a bigger indoor enclosure when he grows out of this.

Please Help! I want what is best for our little Russian Tortoise, Ratchet.

Thank you,
Brandy
Hello and welcome to the forum. Congratulations on your new baby. You are already doing well, as you bought from a breeder instead of a pet store.

Both of those bulbs are bad.
There are four elements to heating and lighting:
  1. Basking bulb. I use 65 watt incandescent floods from the hardware store. Some people will need bigger, or smaller wattage bulbs. Let your thermometer be your guide. I run them on a timer for about 12 hours and adjust the height to get the correct basking temp under them. I also like to use a flat rock of some sort directly under the bulb. You need to check the temp with a thermometer directly under the bulb and get it to around 95-100F (36-37C).
  2. Ambient heat maintenance. I use ceramic heating elements or radiant heat panels set on thermostats to maintain ambient above 80 degrees day and night for tropical species. You'd only need day heat for a temperate species like Testudo or DT, as long as your house stays above 60F (15-16C) at night.
  3. Light. I use LEDs for this purpose. Something in the 5000-6500K color range will look the best. Most bulbs at the store are in the 2500K range and they look yellowish. Strip or screw-in bulb types are both fine.
  4. UV. If you can get your tortoise outside for an hour 2 or 3 times a week, you won't need indoor UV. In colder climates, get one of the newer HO type fluorescent tubes. Which type will depend on mounting height. 5.0 bulbs make almost no UV. I like the 12% HO bulbs from Arcadia. You need a meter to check this: https://www.solarmeter.com/model65.html
Baby temperate species do not need 80% humidity. There seems to be a lot of confusion about that on this site. They also don't need 80 degree temps at night. Damp substrate and a humid hide should give any temperate species baby (Russian, greek, hermanni, CDT, Chersina, etc...) all the humidity they need. I don't like their enclosure to be dry, but they don't need monsoon conditions like a sulcata or star tortoise either. The care sheet that cherryshell linked will explain in more detail.

I'd get a larger enclosure ASAP. A 20 is just too small even for a tiny hatchling. I suggest a minimum of 40, and something 48x24 is best for starting hatchlings.

Finally, get rd of the moss. It does nothing and its an impaction hazard. They all eat it.

Questions are welcome! :)
 

"W" Family

New Member
Joined
Oct 12, 2021
Messages
19
Location (City and/or State)
Florida
Hello and welcome to the forum. Congratulations on your new baby. You are already doing well, as you bought from a breeder instead of a pet store.

Both of those bulbs are bad.
There are four elements to heating and lighting:
  1. Basking bulb. I use 65 watt incandescent floods from the hardware store. Some people will need bigger, or smaller wattage bulbs. Let your thermometer be your guide. I run them on a timer for about 12 hours and adjust the height to get the correct basking temp under them. I also like to use a flat rock of some sort directly under the bulb. You need to check the temp with a thermometer directly under the bulb and get it to around 95-100F (36-37C).
  2. Ambient heat maintenance. I use ceramic heating elements or radiant heat panels set on thermostats to maintain ambient above 80 degrees day and night for tropical species. You'd only need day heat for a temperate species like Testudo or DT, as long as your house stays above 60F (15-16C) at night.
  3. Light. I use LEDs for this purpose. Something in the 5000-6500K color range will look the best. Most bulbs at the store are in the 2500K range and they look yellowish. Strip or screw-in bulb types are both fine.
  4. UV. If you can get your tortoise outside for an hour 2 or 3 times a week, you won't need indoor UV. In colder climates, get one of the newer HO type fluorescent tubes. Which type will depend on mounting height. 5.0 bulbs make almost no UV. I like the 12% HO bulbs from Arcadia. You need a meter to check this: https://www.solarmeter.com/model65.html
Baby temperate species do not need 80% humidity. There seems to be a lot of confusion about that on this site. They also don't need 80 degree temps at night. Damp substrate and a humid hide should give any temperate species baby (Russian, greek, hermanni, CDT, Chersina, etc...) all the humidity they need. I don't like their enclosure to be dry, but they don't need monsoon conditions like a sulcata or star tortoise either. The care sheet that cherryshell linked will explain in more detail.

I'd get a larger enclosure ASAP. A 20 is just too small even for a tiny hatchling. I suggest a minimum of 40, and something 48x24 is best for starting hatchlings.

Finally, get rd of the moss. It does nothing and its an impaction hazard. They all eat it.

Questions are welcome! :)
Tom,
Where do you recommend buying the Arcadia HO 12% bulbs and ballast from? Amazon? I went to our local pet store and they only have T8 so I guess I am needing to order it somewhere. I got a flood light from the hardware store. Today we gave the tortoise a soak in the Florida Sunshine today until I can get a proper light. I removed the moss so now we just have the Coco Coir substrate that we are keeping moist. Do you recommend any type of hay to give to eat, burrow or play with? I have the flood light on and monitoring the heat to see if I need to go up on the wattage. Thank you for your help! I read the notes and we will be working on building a bigger enclosure.

Thank you,
Brandy
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
55,050
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Tom,
Where do you recommend buying the Arcadia HO 12% bulbs and ballast from? Amazon? I went to our local pet store and they only have T8 so I guess I am needing to order it somewhere. I got a flood light from the hardware store. Today we gave the tortoise a soak in the Florida Sunshine today until I can get a proper light. I removed the moss so now we just have the Coco Coir substrate that we are keeping moist. Do you recommend any type of hay to give to eat, burrow or play with? I have the flood light on and monitoring the heat to see if I need to go up on the wattage. Thank you for your help! I read the notes and we will be working on building a bigger enclosure.

Thank you,
Brandy
Lightyourreptiles.com for the UV, but you really don't need it in FL. You can use the sun. Its fine to skip UV for several weeks at a time if needed in winter. They store D3 in their bodies for use when needed. Calcium supplements with D3, Mazuri, and ZooMed Grassland or Forest tort pellets will all give some D3.

Hay will mold in a damp environment. Since Russians are not grass eaters, and even babies of grass eating species don't eat dry hay, it serves no purpose.
 
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