New tortoise table (picture heavy!)

julietteq

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Hi everybody,

First of all, thank you all very much for all the wonderful information you have given me on this form about proper tortoise care. I am the proud owner of two yearling leopard tortoises and we just finished making a new winter table for them. When we decided to have tortoises as pets, I thought I knew how to take care of them but I quickly found out (thanks to this forum!) that they have very specific needs and providing a proper habitat for them can be a daunting task. However once I got into it, it has actually become fun to think about how to create different temperature and humidity zones in a limited space.

The first decision I had to make was to give them a closed or open table. I really liked the idea of an open table because it makes the tortoises more part of our family if you can pet them without having to open a lid or door, however it makes it extremely difficult to maintain proper humidity and temperature levels to prevent pyramiding. The more I observed the tortoises the more I realized that they actually enjoy being stimulated by small changes in their home. I am not quite sure if tortoise can experience emotions like excitement and boredom, but my two torts will investigate immediately when I change as much as a plant in their enclosure.

What I did was the following. I decided to create a "modular" table
created from common seed trays.
The seedtrays allow me to grow grass and plants for them and I can exchange the trays easily without making a mess. Everyday I exchange one seed tray in the table with a new one. It gives the plants in the seedtray the chance to "recover" from the tortoises and it gives the tortoises fresh food and something "interesting" to explore. My table exists out of 6 trays making it a total size of 6 x 2 feet.
Floorplan.png

One tray is the "wet tray" and I put an under the tank heat mat on the bottom of it. Then I put in 2 smaller trays on top of the under tank heater (Since there is no direct contact between water and the heat mat it should eliminate the chance of the torts getting electrocuted!). One of the small trays serves as a water area (pond) and the other one as the humid hide.
Wet area.png

The Humid hide (or steam room as we call it) was a challenge. I filled up the tray with wet spagnum moss, used a radiant heat panel as a "roof" and then covered the sides with thick shower curtain which I "attached" to the roof using velcro. I then cut in the shower curtain into a few strips creating a way for the tortoises to walk in and out as they please. Objective of this area is to keep it warm and humid! Do not cut in the shower curtain all the way to the top, the strips will start to "stick" together creating openings and allowing the heat and moisture to escape. I also added a Zoo Med repti fogger in the steam room and use a Zoo Med Hygro Therm Humidity and Temperature controller to keep the humidity at 80% and the temperature at 92 degrees. My torts were "suspicious" about the fogger initially, so I started them off by putting it on a low setting and gradually increased the frequency of the fogger being active. My two torts will use the humid hide as a sleep area. They will go in there around 8.30 in the evening when the lights turn off and will get out around 7.30 in the morning when they wake up. It appears to prevent pyramiding perfectly !
Steamroom 1.png


The other half of the wet tray is the "pond" as we call it. We filled it up with rocks and put a small "dwarf pennyworth" mat in there. The water is heated a little by the under the tank heatmat and the fact that you can take out the pond-tray makes it easy to change the water. I still give them daily soaks and as far as we can tell, they are not using the pond to do their business in. They just drink from it and occasionally take a dip.
pond 1.png Pond 2.png

The table is then followed by 4 trays of grass and weeds. I use grasses from the Carolina Petsupply (Broad leaf mix, Clover, Grazing Tortoise seed mix, oat grass, timothy grass, wheat grass) and I have had great success growing grass mats using Jonathan Green fast growing grass seeds.
Grass 1.png Grass 2.png Grass 3.png Grass 4.png

In the "grassland" I have created a basking spot using a slate tile and 2 exa terra solar-glo High intensity self ballasted UV/Heat Mercury Vapor Lamps (160 watt).
Basking.png


The last tray is a "dry" tray where I have added 3 different plants in their pots filling the tray up using Zoo Med Floor Bedding. Since the torts will nibble from the plants so I "rotate" the plants on the table so they can "recover" This area serves as a hide and they appear to love it when the leaves stroke their carapace.
ferns.png

Lastly I created a "gutter" where I can put all the cables for the electrical equipment I need and where I "store" the plants that I am not using in the table at the moment (I leave them all in their pots so exchanging them is a breeze!).
Gutter 1.png Gutter 2.png

The amount of greens on the table creates a lot of food for the tortoises, but I still give them fresh greens, cactus leaf, aloe Vera, mazuri and zoomed. I also add calcium and Nutribac for their extra vitamins.

Please let me know your thoughts and improvements and if you have any questions feel free to contact me.

Regards

Juliette
 
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Tom

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Not how I would do it, but pretty neat and inventive none the less. I will be curious to see what results you get.

How are you keeping ambient temps up during winter in an open table with all that evaporation?
 

wellington

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WOW, that looks fantastic. However, your tort is growing so smooth, if it were me, I would put a clear piece of plastic over the whole thing. Although a humid hide is good, the results have not been as good as a humid enclosure.
 

julietteq

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Tom said:
Not how I would do it, but pretty neat and inventive none the less. I will be curious to see what results you get.

How are you keeping ambient temps up during winter in an open table with all that evaporation?

Hi Tom, Thank you for your nice comment, I was a bit worried about what you would say to be honest since it is not a closed enclosure:). The grass and the ferns are sprayed in the morning and evening and on the table the humidity is between 50% - 60%. The live plants and the grass appear to do the trick. One of the 2 torts started to pyramide withing weeks of me having it (I had them in a dry setup with no humid hide) but since I have created the steamroom and added all the grass and plants it has stopped (believe me...I watch them like hawks). The weird thing is that the "dry" setup did not affect my other tortoise. Apart from the humidity issue there must be some genetics involved that determine how likely a tortoise is to pyramid. I would be interested in seeing if there has been research about that.

Juliette
 

wellington

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Interesting. Were the two from the same breeder? I do know it as a lot to do with the way they were stated from hatching. If they were from different breeders, that would answer the difference in the effect of dry. If from the same breeder, then it would be a good guess that genetics would play a part. Interesting.
 

Tom

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julietteq said:
Tom said:
Not how I would do it, but pretty neat and inventive none the less. I will be curious to see what results you get.

How are you keeping ambient temps up during winter in an open table with all that evaporation?

Hi Tom, Thank you for your nice comment, I was a bit worried about what you would say to be honest since it is not a closed enclosure:). The grass and the ferns are sprayed in the morning and evening and on the table the humidity is between 50% - 60%. The live plants and the grass appear to do the trick. One of the 2 torts started to pyramide withing weeks of me having it (I had them in a dry setup with no humid hide) but since I have created the steamroom and added all the grass and plants it has stopped (believe me...I watch them like hawks). The weird thing is that the "dry" setup did not affect my other tortoise. Apart from the humidity issue there must be some genetics involved that determine how likely a tortoise is to pyramid. I would be interested in seeing if there has been research about that.

Juliette


Often I have been accused of promoting "my" way as the ONLY way to do it right. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact ANY way that produces a healthy smooth tortoise is "the right way", in my opinion. When I argue against someone else's way, it is because I have already done it that way, seen it done that way, and I know it does not work. Like when some members here tell me that my methods are a bit to "radical" for them, yet all my hatchlings thrive and do great, while a large percentage of their's don't. I just heard a story recently of a member here who should know better, but still chooses to use a more "moderate" or "natural" approach to starting tropical hatchlings species, even though a large percentage of them die. If this person let me start those hatchlings NONE of them would die.

If this system produces good results for you, then I will back it and promote it. If not, then it was a neat experiment that we can all learn from. I've never done it this way, so I am going to learn from you. I see many good points and advantages to it, so I hope you keep giving updates, chart their growth, and take before and after profile pics of their carapace. YOU are a pioneer now! I wish you the best of luck! :)

About the genetic aspects of pyramiding... I have pondered this a lot and I have raised many siblings side by side. Until large scale formal studies are done, this question cannot be answered with certainty, but more than genetics, my limited observations have shown stress and individual tortoise habits and choices to be more of a factor. For example in a group of tortoises the one who spends the most time in the warm humid hide grows the fastest and smoothest. The one who sleeps over in the dry area near the basking lamp grows the slowest and pyramids the most. Often when there is a noticeable difference in pyramiding in a pair, I suspect that it has to do with chronic stress. In the wild most tortoise species would not hang out in a pair. One would leave the area of the other. I think in captivity, forcing them to live this way creates a lot of chronic stress for both of them, but especially the "weaker" of the two. This long term stress can hamper the immune system, reduce appetite and sometimes I do believe it contributes to pyramiding.
 

edwardbo

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Beautiful ! The humidity is most likely 100 per cent as the vegetation is tranpiering and the torts are IN it and on it ,the grasses are touching the shells . Love the idea as a opposed to torts in a barren mixing tub (what kind of life is that?).never understood the joy of keeping reptiles in rack systems. Maybe that's why different species appeal to different people, manoria are always watching you,red foots are like puppy's ,box turtles follow you around the yard.the joy I get is as much the beautiful enclosures as it is the turtles .( check out a video on you tube called million dollar back yard /ponds) anyway,Tom your the best,I think when your ahead of your time ,people try to argue or criticize ,forget them,your above it all. ..I do think there is a genetic component to pyramiding, like anything there is a bell curve,like siblings ,some are tall some fat some smart....love the setup Julie ,I know the joy of a pretty ,stimulating environment .thank you for the pictures.are you an artist?
 

TommyZ

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Hmphm....now THAT is a really cool setup. You get major points for being genius! The lil shower curtain for the humid sauna is way cool too.... i see lotsa moisture possibilities there, im very interested in the results you get. Keep us very updated plz :)
 

julietteq

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Hi everybody and thank you for the compliments ! As to the torts, I bought them from Vicky Hale from the tortoiseyard who has been wonderful answering all my questions. The torts hatched 1 week apart from eachother and have different mothers ( I do not know about the fathers). This means they have been incubated and started off exactly the same way. They appear to spend the same amount of time in the steam room/sauna but the big difference between them is the amount of food they eat and their growth rate. Taco is growing faster then Marshmellow (he eats more) and Taco is more prone to pyramiding. Another major difference is their color. Taco is very dark while Marshmellow is predominantly yellow. I wonder if this may have something to do with how much "heat" they absorb. I have started weighing them about 2 months ago and I will post an overview in about a month.

Based on Edwardbo's comment about the humidity, I put the hygrometer in the grass where the torts spend a lot of time and indeed it measured + 95%. Amazingly when I measure 5 inches above the grass, the humidity drops to 50% - 60%.

I can see that stress would be a factor healthwise, I think they are ok since whenever they see us they will come up to the end of the enclosure, stick out their little heads and expect to be "scratched" on their necks, chin and head. I just love the way their little necks feel. It is so soft and delicate I was not expecting that! However since they spend so much time in the steam room I will start to think about how I would be able to create some "privacy" places there for them. Maybe 2 torts will mean 2 separate steamrooms....let me think about it !

Thank you all guys and I know you are all just looking out for the tortoises best interest! You have no idea how much you have already tought me! Please give me all the tips you have I will keep you posted on their progress, promise!
 

edwardbo

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Thank you Juliet ,don't separate them,with your skill try making a cave or hide damp,dark and warm.Any pics are appreciated . The sides look low ,do they try to crawl out ?...I've been experimenting with glass inside and out ,under ground hides with tempered glass roofs,you can walk over and caves with glass viewing windows.I'm going to go out and dig some of my boxies up to check on them.maybe move them to the basement.such stress.....thanks again my people,love ya.


Juliet,I love When they interact with me and the petting,that's the fun part.
 

bellamia

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This is by far the coolest table I have seen yet ! great job ! If I were a tortoise that's where I would live. :)
I understand their needs are more important than the look of the table but it's just beautiful!
 

julietteq

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edwardbo said:
Thank you Juliet ,don't separate them,with your skill try making a cave or hide damp,dark and warm.Any pics are appreciated . The sides look low ,do they try to crawl out ?...I've been experimenting with glass inside and out ,under ground hides with tempered glass roofs,you can walk over and caves with glass viewing windows.I'm going to go out and dig some of my boxies up to check on them.maybe move them to the basement.such stress.....thanks again my people,love ya.


Juliet,I love When they interact with me and the petting,that's the fun part.



Hi there, The frontsides actually turned out a little lower then planned to be honest, however I did put the option in to add a plexiglass "topwall" for the front in case it is necessary. So far they have not attempted to climb the wall and why would they :)


Hi Guys, I have been measuring humidity on the grasslands all day long and it is now 95% plus on the grass even though I have not sprayed the grass or watered the plants since this morning (so it has been over 12 hours). I hope my hunch is correct and you may not need a fully closed table, but only a +95% humidity which apparently comes naturally from live grass to keep tortoises from pyramiding. Although I am curious my torts are not an experiment which may be sacrificed for the sake of pyramiding science! As soon as I see any signs of pyramiding I will close off the table with a plexiglass top and front.

Another thing I have noticed is that my 2 torts have significantly lowered their intake of greens provided by me, they will just walk past the spring mix. They prefer the grass and the live weeds more then 'my' food. I guess that is a good thing.

The only thing that has not changed is their taste for mazuri, cactus leaf and Aloe Vera, they will come running like crazy as soon as they see/smell it :)
 

Yvonne G

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Good work, Juliett! I think it looks great.
 

Team Gomberg

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I like that it is fully planted. It's better than the traditionally plain tort table. I, too will be watching to see how your results go. Thanks for sharing.

I don't think genetics plays a role in pyramiding but I do think the pair dynamic does.
I received a pair of leopard yearlings that were raised together clutch mates. Summer was the dominant one and Bumble Bee was the submissive one. Summer was smoother. After coming to me they were no longer kept in a pair. They either spend time alone or time in a group. Since the pair dynamic was stopped, Bumble Bee has sky rocketed! He's almost doubled in size and all the new growth is perfectly smooth. You can clearly tell a difference. Summer looks like same. She has grown but not like Bumble Bee.
I always recommend that anyone keeping Leopards in a pair either splits them up or adds a third. It does make a difference :)
 

milkandsam

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So, complete newbie question... How do you grow the plants when they are not in the table? Do you have a special light to nurture the plants?
Also, very excited to see how this turns out... I might be replicating this idea soon!
 

bouaboua

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Module concept. Good idea. Thank you for sharing.
 
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