Newbie and worried

A Clellan

New Member
Joined
May 10, 2021
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Buckeye, AZ
Ok, 20210511_161253.jpg 20210511_161308.jpg 20210511_161339.jpg so I received 2 Sonoran desert tortoise from friend that was moving out of the desert. We think they are about 3 years old [hard to count the rings]. Working on getting them on being able to eat yard plants. I have made a grass area for them but that will need to grow. They are on romaine lettuce for the most part. I give them hibiscus leaves 2 or 3 a day. There really isn't any grazing yet in the yard. Working on getting dandelions growing but I have picked them out of the yard.

Anything that I am not thinking of? Their water I think is wrong or to deep. They won't go near it.
 

KarenSoCal

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jul 8, 2017
Messages
5,157
Location (City and/or State)
Low desert 50 mi SE of Palm Springs CA
Hello!

Your enclosure is attractive, and will be pretty when the grass grows.

However...your first huge problem is that the two torts need to be separated, and each live in its own enclosure. Right now, 1 of 2 things is happening. Either 1) they are still young enough to still be getting along with each other, or 2) they are showing signs of bullying and you are not experienced enough yet to recognize the behavior. Bullying in torts looks like they get along great. They may be doing things that you think are cute, like following each other, laying/sleeping with each other, eating together, trying to get the best basking spot, bobbing their heads at each other...anything they do together that you think is cute is actually the first signs of aggression. If ignored, you could get up one day and find one horribly mangled, or even dead. The separation is your highest priority.

Improving the diet is next. Lettuce is terrible as a main diet. It has almost no nutrition, and really should only be fed to increase water intake, along with other good greens. If you go by the grocery store, pick up some endive/escarole, bok choi, radicchio, mustard greens, dandelion greens, chard, frisee, spring mix, ...he should enjoy these. But if he's never eaten these foods before, it can take a period of adjustment til he know it's food and he can have it. Look for hibiscus, grape leaves, mulberry leaves, dandelions, etc.

Read this care sheet thoroughly. The desert tort care is the same as that for a Russian. Then come back and ask all your questions.

 

A Clellan

New Member
Joined
May 10, 2021
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Buckeye, AZ
Hello!

Your enclosure is attractive, and will be pretty when the grass grows.

However...your first huge problem is that the two torts need to be separated, and each live in its own enclosure. Right now, 1 of 2 things is happening. Either 1) they are still young enough to still be getting along with each other, or 2) they are showing signs of bullying and you are not experienced enough yet to recognize the behavior. Bullying in torts looks like they get along great. They may be doing things that you think are cute, like following each other, laying/sleeping with each other, eating together, trying to get the best basking spot, bobbing their heads at each other...anything they do together that you think is cute is actually the first signs of aggression. If ignored, you could get up one day and find one horribly mangled, or even dead. The separation is your highest priority.

Improving the diet is next. Lettuce is terrible as a main diet. It has almost no nutrition, and really should only be fed to increase water intake, along with other good greens. If you go by the grocery store, pick up some endive/escarole, bok choi, radicchio, mustard greens, dandelion greens, chard, frisee, spring mix, ...he should enjoy these. But if he's never eaten these foods before, it can take a period of adjustment til he know it's food and he can have it. Look for hibiscus, grape leaves, mulberry leaves, dandelions, etc.

Read this care sheet thoroughly. The desert tort care is the same as that for a Russian. Then come back and ask all your questions.

Ty so much Karen. As for the aggression- they do not do anything together nor the head bobbing. I did know that I would need to separate them in time. I was told that they have always been together and not to separate them yet. I have a plan for the second enclosure but want to get it set up and growing before I separate them.
I will be working on finding the produce you suggested.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,116
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Ty so much Karen. As for the aggression- they do not do anything together nor the head bobbing. I did know that I would need to separate them in time. I was told that they have always been together and not to separate them yet. I have a plan for the second enclosure but want to get it set up and growing before I separate them.
I will be working on finding the produce you suggested.
They need to be separated now. They are a very territorial species, and they are not happy sharing their space. It causes terrible chronic stress.

Don't find produce. Find weeds, leaves, flowers, and succulents for them to eat. Grocery store food should be your last resort when you can't find anything good for them to eat. When you do have to use grocery store foods, you'll need to amend it in one of many ways. All of this is explained in the care sheet Karen linked. There are tons of mulberry trees in Buckeye. I've seen weeds and hibiscus too. Opuntia abounds. Since these guys have been fed the wrong foods for so long, it will likely take weeks or months to introduce them to the right foods. Mix in tiny amount of all these new and better foods with their old favorites. It will take time. Don't give up.

Of utmost importance is hydration. If they aren't drinking, you will need to soak them every other day or so. When they get bigger, you can cut it back to once or twice a week, and hopefully they figure out how to use their water sources. Soak them in a large tall sided tub for 30-40 minutes. Use warm water and keep it warm for the entire soak. If you do it outside in the sun, be very careful they don't over heat. Feeding them some of that spineless opuntia you have there two or three times a week will also help with the hydration.

The best water dish is a terra cotta plant saucer sunk into the ground so the rim is almost level with the surface. Get one that is two or three inches bigger around than the tortoise, so they can fit in it if they desire. Their dish should grow as they do.

I'd love to see pics of the little tortoises too! I don't know what size they are, but they are eventually going to use that lattice work to climb out like a ladder. Better to use taller strips of plywood all the way up, or I use slumpstone block 3 rows high.
 

A Clellan

New Member
Joined
May 10, 2021
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Buckeye, AZ
They need to be separated now. They are a very territorial species, and they are not happy sharing their space. It causes terrible chronic stress.

Don't find produce. Find weeds, leaves, flowers, and succulents for them to eat. Grocery store food should be your last resort when you can't find anything good for them to eat. When you do have to use grocery store foods, you'll need to amend it in one of many ways. All of this is explained in the care sheet Karen linked. There are tons of mulberry trees in Buckeye. I've seen weeds and hibiscus too. Opuntia abounds. Since these guys have been fed the wrong foods for so long, it will likely take weeks or months to introduce them to the right foods. Mix in tiny amount of all these new and better foods with their old favorites. It will take time. Don't give up.

Of utmost importance is hydration. If they aren't drinking, you will need to soak them every other day or so. When they get bigger, you can cut it back to once or twice a week, and hopefully they figure out how to use their water sources. Soak them in a large tall sided tub for 30-40 minutes. Use warm water and keep it warm for the entire soak. If you do it outside in the sun, be very careful they don't over heat. Feeding them some of that spineless opuntia you have there two or three times a week will also help with the hydration.

The best water dish is a terra cotta plant saucer sunk into the ground so the rim is almost level with the surface. Get one that is two or three inches bigger around than the tortoise, so they can fit in it if they desire. Their dish should grow as they do.

I'd love to see pics of the little tortoises too! I don't know what size they are, but they are eventually going to use that lattice work to climb out like a ladder. Better to use taller strips of plywood all the way up, or I use slumpstone block 3 rows high.
20210427_172359.jpg
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,116
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California

A Clellan

New Member
Joined
May 10, 2021
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Buckeye, AZ
  • Like
Reactions: Tom

maggie3fan

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2018
Messages
4,831
Location (City and/or State)
PacificNorthWest

A Clellan

New Member
Joined
May 10, 2021
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Buckeye, AZ
Game on! Ok back to reading.
I've got news for you. You'll have to decide if its good or bad news.

Those aren't desert tortoises. Those are sulcatas. They've been raised all wrong and they need different housing, humidity and heat than desert tortoises.

Here is the care info for this tropical species that needs high humidity and warm nights every night: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/the-best-way-to-raise-a-sulcata-leopard-or-star-tortoise.181497/
Ok first most important question- what should I change today on the enclosure to make sure they are safe and healthy?

Food of course. Separating them. Water dish different and soak tonight. Will the burrows work until they start their own?

From my reading- staying outside is warm enough right now but need to change that once it starts cooling down.
 

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 23, 2008
Messages
88,530
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
Whoo Hoo!!! You have Sulcata tortoises, NOT desert tortoises. And they need water. They have been kept entirely too dry at their previous keeper's house. The shells should be smooth, not bumpy like they are.

I would get two large tubs, with tall sides that the tortoises can't climb out of, and soak them in warm water every morning. If they don't like it, tough! Soak them for about a half hour.

If you don't have access to the weeds and grasses that Tom has suggested, then, by all means, get the grocery store foods that Karen suggested. To these you can add orchard grass hay (chopped up and mixed in) or dried additives like what can be bought at kapidolofarms.com.

See if you can figure out a way to make the burrow humid. They will benefit from living in a more humid environment. Also, run the sprinkler in their yard daily. If it makes a muddy mess, that's ok.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,116
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Ok first most important question- what should I change today on the enclosure to make sure they are safe and healthy?

Food of course. Separating them. Water dish different and soak tonight. Will the burrows work until they start their own?

From my reading- staying outside is warm enough right now but need to change that once it starts cooling down.
Main thing is they need humidity and warmth. You need to build some heated night boxes. Its too cold for them to be living outside in a burrow at night right now. Your daytime temps are great, and having a burrow to escape the mid day heat is ideal, but your nights are dropping into the mid to low 60's. This is ideal for a DT, but much too cold for a sulcata. I realize they have been surviving this way for some time, but I'm not interested in their "survival". I want them to thrive and have optimal conditions. Where they come from every day is near 100 degrees all year long, and ground temps where they live hover around 80-85 degrees 24/7/365. The cold night temps, along with the dryness is the reason they are so tiny for their age. Normal 3 year old sulcatas are around 30 pounds and 18 inches.

Here are two examples of night boxes that will work to keep them warm at night:

 

A Clellan

New Member
Joined
May 10, 2021
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Buckeye, AZ
Ok, first night changes. Soak for 40 minutes- done. Both gave the urates and dedicated. Changed water dish to ceramic pot dish. Change food dish to same but smaller. Food- edine and leaves given. Was unable to find dandelion in store. Keeping my eye out for weeks. Scoped out where to get some other style leaves near home. Grazing on leave now set up.

Can you help me age these? Mike is 1.06 lbs and Sully is 1.8 lbs.

I will get this down. Please be gentle. I will make sure that I get them to a more healthy feeding and situation.
 

Attachments

  • 20210512_164851.jpg
    20210512_164851.jpg
    1.7 MB · Views: 23
  • 20210512_164933.jpg
    20210512_164933.jpg
    1.8 MB · Views: 23
TortoiseSupply.com

New Posts

Top