New to horsfields...

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Hi all! I have a russian, bought in a pet store about? 3 months ago. Pretty sure it is a male, and likely over 3 years old, born in captivity. He ( pretty sure a he) was active and ate well, though only romaine lettuce. refused kale and and beet tops. I had him in a large pen outside. Then I read that even occasional subfreezing night temperatures ( we are in central Alabama) may kill a horsfield, so I moved him inside in to a 55-gallon tank. He was fine at first, eating, climbing, pooping in his water basin. then a couple of weeks ago he got into his turtle cave and does not come out. Several times I took him out and soaked him in warm water. Then put him next to food. He just sits there then leaves and goes for his cave again. I am wondering - is he trying to hibernate, or.. die?? He looks healthy when I pull him out to soak, just won't eat.
I am very concerned. Should I have him checked out by a vet? Should I get him other food - romaine lettuce is no longer available due to E. Coli scare, Mixed greens, wheat grass, beet greens - he did not eat either, and when there was still romaine available, he ignored that, too.

When sitting in his cave he digs into the reptile chips at night, and sleeps, but during hte day he sits in there looking quite awake but not moving.
His tank is next to a glass wall to outside. He has a basking lamp. Temperature is about 58F at night, high 60s l or low 70s during the day.

Right now I soaked him again for 20 minutes in luke-warm water, took him out and put him in front of food. And he is not eating... But he did turn around and went under the lamp.

Please help...
Thank you...
 

LaLaP

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Hi! Welcome to the forum. You've come to the right place for help. First we need to check your enclosure to see if something is off and causing this behavior. If the temperatures are too low or even too high it could cause this behavior. First, how are you measuring temperatures? There are lots of faulty gauges so post a pic of your gauges. It would be a good idea to get a temperature gun at a hardware store. Only about $12. It is a great way to spot check your basking spot, your cool zone, etc.
What kind of heat lamp are you using? What kind of UVB light? What kind of substrate? Can you post photos of the enclosure? Post a photo of your tort too just in case we can spot a problem with him.
Romaine lettuce isn't a nutritious diet. You'll need to change that. Broad leaf weeds are best if you can still find them outside this time of year. There is lots of info on weeds in our diet section. If you have to buy store bought food try to find escarole, radicchio, mustard greens, turnip greens, cactus pads, spring mix (without spinach).
Here are some good threads to read..
https://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/

https://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/

Oh and btw it is unlikely that your tort is captive bred. Pet stores lie about this all the time. Post a pic of his shell and we might be able to tell you for sure.
 

LaLaP

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Oh I just reread your post and I see your temps. Those are on the low side. What is the basking area? He needs a spot that he can warm up and it needs to be 95-100 degrees in that spot. If he can't get his body temp above 85 he can't digest his food and that is dangerous because it will rot in his gut and kill him. Do you have a basking lamp?
 

T Smart

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Hi,

Is the low 70s reading of the overall enclosure or the basking spot?

Remember that tortoises are cold blooded, and need heat to raise their body temperature for activity. An ideal basking temperature is around 95F.

Also, you do mind posting a picture of your enclosure? It'll be worth a thousand words.

Lastly, here's a great thread to read regarding Russian tortoise care.

Russian Tortoise Care Sheet

https://tortoiseforum.org/index.php?threads/Russian-Tortoise-Care-Sheet.80698/
 
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THANKS!
I have been reading various sites for weeks, but what I need is live advice, like here, so I am happy I joined.
No texts, handouts, care sheets have been helpful until now.

SO, the enclosure - it is a 55-gallon fishtank. He was in it before, and he was fine, nothing changed about the tank.
I used the heat gun now (thanks for the tip!), it is near 11 a.m. It is 62 F inside his cave, and 72 F under the basking lamp. At night ambient temperatures get down to 57-58 F but not lower. We have a smart house with sophisticated temperature controls.
Heat lamp - bought at the pet store, The initial bulb burst ( probably because we used it for an outside pen and it got rained on), so now I just have a regular "yellow" 40W bulb.
The substrate is Reptile Bark.
Re diet - I was worried even when he ate well and kept giving him mixes, kale, various organic greens from Sprouts. Tried grating carrots ( I saw carrots in the store in his dish), tried blueberries, strawberries slightly squished. The answer was - thanks, but no thanks. And when he stopped eating, he stopped romaine, too.
I can get escarole and radicchio, endive and spring mix today. But I doubt he will eat. :-(
Weeds are a problem, we are kind of in a rocky forest. But I can search for them, some are still green. There is something like burdock even.

Will go read the threads, thank you. And will post his picture a little later.
After being soaked he walked around some and back into his basin. He pooped white then brown.

I do wonder if fish tank was wrong, because of confusion, with glass, but he sat in one in the store ( for > 6 months, until I could not stand it and took him), and he does seem to be confused by his reflection. I could just build a wooden enclosure and see how he does then.

I guess my differential diagnosis is - either he IS indeed trying to hibernate inside and I am actively interfering, or something is truly wrong, either with him or with his environment. We weighed him recently, he was 15.5 ounces, that was 1.5 months ago, and now he is 14.8 ounce - quite a weight loss. I am so worried.
 
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Hi,

Thank you - I will increase temperature to 90.
116528_600.jpg

Reading manuals is fine, but those did not solve the problem so far - I read pages and pages of all kinds of materials...
 
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LaLaP, I will get the temperature up, but I doubt that is my problem, previously he was fine in the same temperature range, and outside when it got colder. I read that horsefields can tolerate very low temperatures, but not down to freezing. That's why I took him out of the outside pen... I did take a picture of his enclosure right now...
THANKS again.
 

LaLaP

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So your basking temp is probably the reason he won't eat. He can't get warm enough.

But you have some other issues... that enclosure is way too small. He needs room to roam and its impossible to have all the right temperature zones in something so small. He really needs a 4x8 ft enclosure. There are some easy ways to turn an old book shelf into a tortoise table. Search in the enclosure section of the forum for ideas.

The clamp on that lamp will eventually fail. They are notorious for suddenly failing and causing fires. You can get a lamp stand or suspend it from the ceiling.

That water dish and the food dish have been known to cause torts to flip over. Sometimes they can right themselves and sometimes they can't so it is potentially deadly. Also if you feed him on a flat stone or rough tile it will wear his beak and nails down so you won't have to have a vet trim them.

When you get your new enclosure I'd get another hide that is bigger and deeper. They like to be able to really tuck in somewhere.

Your going to need a UVB light.

So in summary... getting the basking temp up is top priority. Then work on a bigger enclosure and all the other things.
Getting them set up properly can be a lot of work but totally worth it once it's dialed and you have a happy tort!
 

LaLaP

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LaLaP, I will get the temperature up, but I doubt that is my problem, previously he was fine in the same temperature range, and outside when it got colder. I read that horsefields can tolerate very low temperatures, but not down to freezing. That's why I took him out of the outside pen... I did take a picture of his enclosure right now...
THANKS again.
Oh I just saw this post. They can handle lower temps but they can't digest food at low temps. He is being smart to not eat until he can warm up. If he eats it just sits in his gut and spoils. Hopefully he doesn't have undigested food in there causing him pain already.
 
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Thank you LaLaP. We are talking about a wooden enclosure that will be as wide as this tank but three times longer. Or four.
Just changed the bulb to 60 W and will get another lamp with UVB. Thanks for the warning re clamp.

I can also get a feeding stone, we have some candidates in our backyard, we used one for an island when the tort was outside ( that pen is fairly huge).

We can make a hide - this one was the biggest available in that pet store...
 

LaLaP

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Oh about the UVB light. Don't get a coil type. Only a long flourescent tube type. The coils cause eye problems. There is a company call Arcadia that makes bulbs that put out uvb longer than most. Check out the lighting section to understand the difference between t5 and t8 and HO (high output). It can seem a bit complicated but ask questions if you need to :)
 
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Thanks, will read.

We are doing a trial of a new enclosure now - without substrate, to look if he can escape. It is 3 times longer, w a bit wider, has wooden walls.
My husband is asking - are cedar chips okay, or only cypress?
 

LaLaP

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Thanks, will read.

We are doing a trial of a new enclosure now - without substrate, to look if he can escape. It is 3 times longer, w a bit wider, has wooden walls.
My husband is asking - are cedar chips okay, or only cypress?
I think cedar is toxic to them. Fir and Cyprus are safe.
 
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I think cedar is toxic to them. Fir and Cyprus are safe.
O! I as afraid of that. It smells way too strongly. I will get more reptile chips.

You know, they stopped selling bigger chips, and smaller ones were a problem not with Vova but with a box. Crappy [ pieces got under her shell and into various crevaces, I needed to wash them out. It bothered her. So did little ants. We had a real fight with those.
 
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Well you all - thank you! We remodeled the place for our Vova, entirely.
Will let you know how it goes.
Right now he is exhausted from all the transfers and interruptions, sleeping in his hide.

I got all kinds of greens, dandelions, root veggie greens, mixed salads, will try again...

And a new bulb.
 

LaLaP

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Well you all - thank you! We remodeled the place for our Vova, entirely.
Will let you know how it goes.
Right now he is exhausted from all the transfers and interruptions, sleeping in his hide.

I got all kinds of greens, dandelions, root veggie greens, mixed salads, will try again...

And a new bulb.
Well done! You're so on top of it. You're a good tort parent!!
 
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