• Welcome! Are you interested in tortoises? If so, we invite you to join our community! Our community is the #1 place for tortoise keepers to talk online. Once you join you'll be able to post messages, upload pictures of your tortoise and enclosure, and discuss any tortoise topic with other tortoise keepers. Get started today!

New sulcata owner looking for feedback

Yo Yo Oreo

New Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Sep 28, 2014
Messages
5
Location (City and/or State)
SE Idaho
Hi everyone,

I want to start by saying I love this forum and all the info on here. My family owns a Russian tortoise that we all take care of. Here is a little background info on how I got this sulcata baby. I own ball pythons and had a guy contact me because his father just passed away and left him with a bunch of animals. He knew nothing about snakes so he asked if I could take all the snakes (8 ball pythons and two corn snakes) which I was happy to. He also begged me to take a leopard gecko and this baby sulcata. Being the big heart for animals I am, as well as having no impulse control, I took them. I am hoping to find a better suited home for the sulcata but for the time being I am trying to provide the best I can for him/her. I have questions and hope for some feedback to help me out.

Right now I have the sulcata in a 50 gal stock tank that I used to use to house ocean corals in a sort of quarantine tank. It measures around 51" long, 31" wide and 12" tall. Don't worry, it was cleaned out really well before I put substrate in. I had a few blocks of coco fiber I put in there and a lamp that I need to double check if it's UVB or not. If I can't find the box it came in I'll just buy a new bulb to be on the safe side. Right now the warm side gets up to 86 F and the cool side is room temp so around 70 F (checked with a temp gun).The humidity in my basement is at 40% due to having several large saltwater aquariums. I do have coco husk pieces I use for my snakes I could use as well as peat moss available to add if that's any good too. I'd say there is around an inch, inch and a half substrate in the container for the tortoise.

I read that grass needs to make up the bulk of their diet so I plan on buying some Orchid Grass, would that be a good choice? I thought it might be better than timothy hay. The tortoise is young, I would estimate the shell to be around 4 inches long? He/she has pyramiding happening already which I believe is caused by environment being too dry, right? I got the peat damp, but not wet, and could easily make a wood hide box if that would be good too.

I know Russian Torts need to soak every now and then, does this guy need a soak too being so young? Also how can I tell the difference in sex? I know Russians it's based on the tail but I am not sure about Sulcatas. Am I missing anything? Again, I hope to find a better suited home as my house is smaller and the wife doesn't think a sulcata would work well for us. But I want to make sure while I do have him/her I take the best care I can.

Thanks for taking the time to read all of this, if you made it this far! I would love any and all input you guys have.

sulcata tank.jpg
 

maggie18fan

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2018
Messages
351
Location (City and/or State)
Corvallis Oregon
Welcome...There will be a lot of advice for you and I am sure links to Tom's humid hide, from others....I just wanna say a couple of things...I also use horse troughs for some of my animals...and believe they are too open to use for a baby Sulcata. It is too hard to create the proper temperature gradient and humidity. Remember, most of all, you are caring for a BABY...care differs somewhat for bigger tortoises. A baby like what you say is not going to eat hay willingly. In your climate your tort is inside getting a different diet from what he will get in the growing months. Against what most keepers will say...I use packaged Spring Mix produce, cutting it up to bite sized pieces. When he is eating regularly and enough, get some fresh hay, cut it up small and start sprinkling it over his food. You'll have advice from different people so try to use what will fit you and your baby correctly. I also use scissors to cut grass (lawn, weeds blooms etc) in the warm weather for babies. Good luck with him and please stay here and ask questions. I am and have been on numerous tortoise forums and here you will get the latest and BEST advice on tortoise care...
013.JPG
 

Maro2Bear

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
May 29, 2014
Messages
8,355
Location (City and/or State)
Glenn Dale, Maryland, USA
Greetings!

Keep your overall minimum temp 80f. Increase humidity. Try to figure out how to put a lid on your tank. Your lil sully is probably too small to start eating grass as main part of the diet, but it doesnt hurt to start introducing to small cut grass. Get some regular Mazuri tort chow.

last but not least - study, read & follow Tom’s guide - https://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/how-to-raise-a-healthy-sulcata-or-leopard-version-2-0.79895/

ps - soak daily in nice warm water, 20-30 mins. Do it ‘til you can no longer pick him up

good luck!
 

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 23, 2008
Messages
83,223
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
I see a few things wrong with your enclosure. Please understand, I'm not picking on you, I only have the baby's best interest at heart.
The light is too high. It should be about 12" from the top of the baby's back.
You'll also need some sort of heat over the enclosure at night. I use this:
ceramic heat emitter.jpg
For baby tortoises I like to make sure the enclosure is 80-85F degrees all over the enclosure, day and night.
The baby needs some cover to feel safe. A hiding place and a few plants, either real or fake.
Moisten the substrate.
Like Maggie said, try to figure out how to cover the enclosure in order to keep it warm and humid inside.

This is a picture of one of my baby enclosures:


Vision Cage a.jpg Vision Cage b.jpg

Also, like Maggie said, baby tortoises don't usually eat grass or hay until they get to be a bit bigger, but cutting up fresh grass with scissors and including it along with other greens is a good thing.

Here's an example of a way to temporarily cover your tub:

 
Last edited:

Yo Yo Oreo

New Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Sep 28, 2014
Messages
5
Location (City and/or State)
SE Idaho
Thanks for the responses everyone! I will get to work on getting that hide covered up and more heat added. How much humidity am I aiming for exactly? I will get some spring mix to feed today as well.
 

vladimir

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 18, 2017
Messages
1,070
Location (City and/or State)
Pennsylvania
Welcome to the forum! Thank you for rescuing those animals. Can you post some pictures of the sulcata?
 

Tony the Tort42

Active Member
Joined
Jan 7, 2020
Messages
204
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Yes we would love to see him! Congrats on the sully, sounds like your doing great. You say he has started pyramiding, well this can be stopped if hes kept nice and humid. Good luck!
 

Maro2Bear

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
May 29, 2014
Messages
8,355
Location (City and/or State)
Glenn Dale, Maryland, USA
As high as you can get it. Strive for a rainforest :)
From Tom’s care sheet for Sullys. Key point regarding humidity....”an earthworm can live in it just as well as a hatchling....”

Indoor housing:
It must be noted that we now know sulcatas babies hatch during the start of the rainy season in Africa. It is hot, humid, rainy, and marshy in some areas. Yes the area is dry for 8-9 months out of the year, but it is a swamp during hatching season. During the dry season, sulcatas spend the vast majority of their time underground in warm, humid burrows. Keeping your hatchling in a dry, desert-like enclosure, is a big mistake and an invitation to disaster. It is also very un-natural for these animals. Imagine what would happen to an earthworm in a hot, dry enclosure with dry substrate. The same thing happens to the INSIDE of a baby tortoise. Your enclosure should be maintained such that an earthworm could live in it just as well as a hatchling tortoise. A damp substrate, a water bowl, and a humid hide should all be pre-requisites. Along with this, warm temps day and night are necessary. Sulcatas and leopards are NOT prone to shell rot at all, and they do not get respiratory infections in these damp conditions as long as temps are kept up. I shoot for no lower than 80 degrees day or night year round. Adults can tolerate colder temps in some circumstances, but this care sheet is for hatchlings and babies and is aimed at helping them thrive, not just survive.
 

New Posts

Top