Pablo's new home! Please critique.

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tofuqueen

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Pablo (Russian Tortoise) is really starting to show his personality after only being home with us for 1 day. Today he crawled onto my palm when I slowly put it into his enclosure. I'd like to post some pictures and describe his set up to see if you all think it's adequate. He's spoiled already! :rolleyes:

He's in a large rubbermaid tote which measures 3 feet 6 inches by 1foot 8 inches. (He's about 2 years old, so still not full grown.) We had two endtables from our old apartment that we weren't using, so we put those together and put the tote on them so that it wouldn't be on the floor. I've read on this site and in my tort book that drafts are really bad!

He has a large water bowl that has a built-in ramp. We have a Britta filter on our faucet, so he gets clean filtered water twice a day. I make sure it's not too cold or hot... pretty much room temp. Today he went for a little swim and he even peed for the first time! (It's the little things that excite me! hehe!)

For a substrate, I made a mixture of about 70% top soil (no fertilizers or pesticides added, of course) and 30% playground sand (from Home Depot, so it's new and clean). On top of that, is some type of repti-bark that I'm not sure of the brand. It was in his temporary 10 gallon tank that my friend was keeping Pablo in for a few days till we were able to "adopt" him yesterday. My friend has several torts and reptiles and this is the stuff that he uses, so I'm pretty sure it's not cedar or pine or anything dangerous. I'll have to ask him what specifically it is. I have a spray bottle so that I can mist the substrate every other day or so to make sure it doesn't dry out.

At one end of the tote, there are some rocks for him to bask on . Above the rocks is a "Repta Sun Incandescent 75 Watt Basking Bulb" We had a 50W bulb yesterday, but the basking area only got up to about 80-82 degrees, so we decided to try a high wattage. Now that end gets up to 88 degrees or so. On the other end of the enclosure, near his water bowl, is an "Exo Terra repti Glo 5.0 Compact 26W" bulb so he gets UVB. That end of the enclosure is around 75 degrees. We don't have an outdoor pen for him yet... but both yesterday and today we took him out for quite some time to get some exercise and natural light. We're thinking of getting some type of "play pen" type thing with overhead netting for protection so that he can stay out longer each day.. and we hope to start working on a more permanent outdoor enclosure for him soon.

Finally, there is a terracotta clay pot for him to use as a hide. So far he hasn't gone into it yet, but maybe he'll "discover" it soon.

I have two questions right as of right now regarding the enclosure:
1. Should the UVB bulb and the basking light be at the same end? I noticed he spends way more time at the basking end than the other end.

2. So far no poops (We just got him at 11AM on Friday, so it's been less than 2 days).. .but I plan to spot clean his enclosure every day. How often should I totally empty out the substrate and put in new stuff?

Thanks for taking the time to review Pablo's new home. I want to make sure he's happy and healthy!
Pablo1.JPG Pablo2.JPG enclosure1.JPG enclosure2.JPG
 
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Yvonne G

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I always put my hiding places up next to a corner or on the wall. Its hard to tell from the pictures, but I'm thinking he's older than you were told. Can you tell me his straight-line measurement (from front to back)? Am I correct in assuming that there is no heat coming from the UVB bulb? Maybe it would be better in the center of the habitat. I don't use them, so I'm not an expert on this subject. I spot clean the substrate and only change it out completely when it starts to smell, or when it starts to grow bugs, or when its obviously dirty. Its different with each habitat. It looks like you've done a lot of research for having a happy healthy tortoise. Good job!

Yvonne
 

tofuqueen

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Thanks Yvonne! I appreciate your help! I need to get a measuring tape so that we can get proper measurements on him. I only have a ruler... which doesn't really work that well! You're right about the UVB bulb, there's no heat coming out of it. Only the basking light produces heat. I'll try moving it to the middle and moving his hide to see how that works out. I guess it's just a matter of figuring out what works best for him. Thanks!

Sonja
 

tortoisenerd

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Please figure out exactly what kind of bark it is. Yes, even bark sold for torts is sometimes a toxic wood (fir, pine, cedar). Beware of any mixes of woods that the package doesn't say exactly what it is.

If he has trouble with that dish, I find half of a slate tile works great to allow them to get up and personal with the food. Sometimes its hard for them to put their arms up on the lip and grab the food. The hard natural surface also helps with the beak and nails.

Where in relation to the heat is the water dish? It doesn't matter what temp the water is when you put it in if its in the cool area. You can even take a water temperature with a laser thermometer (I got the PE1 for $25 and I think besides my water dish it's the best tort supply investment I made). They will go in the water more when its warm. I need to put mine right to the side of the heat, but not right under it in case they flip. If that water dish is too slippery for him (it was for us but I returned it) you can rough it up with sandpaper as I've heard some on this forum do. I like to place the tort in the dish and watch them get out.

I'd personally add more hides. At least three in different temperature areas. That enclosure is probably going to be too small very soon. A timothy hay pile and fake plants are great and seem to take up a little less floor space as they can be walked over or under. Michaels has a great fake plant selection and they do sales and 40% off coupons in the newspaper ads.

He's so cute! I bet my little guy will look like that soon. Trevor is just under 3 inches now SCL.

I would empty out all the substrate every 3 months or so, or when it smells (depending on how well you can spot clean). With that type of substrate you will be very lucky if you find all the poops, and you probably won't ever spot the pee pees in the substrate. Add water as needed and mix it up every few days, especially under the heat sources. The spray bottle may be tough. It's not enough water, and tends to splatter the walls more, at least when I tried it. Most people use a cup/pitcher and their hands.

The ruler should actually work better than a measuring tape. Remember you want the straight carapace length, not curved. Either put him head into the wall with him tucked into the shell, or hold the ruler to the front of the shell and estimate to the back. I do the second one since my little guy doesn't like to tuck in without a lot of provoking.

What's the temperature gradient? Am I correct in just seeing you have a UVB and a basking bulb? No heat emitter? Please look up about the bulb you have and make sure it is not one of the dangerous coil bulbs. I know there were some problems with them when they first came out. I think they were fixed, but if it were my tort I would be very careful. For future reference you may consider a Mercury Vapor bulb as the UVB output is higher, it combines light/heat/UVB, and they last 12 months vs 6. For me with the bulbs and fixtures, the MVB was actually cheaper. I recommend the Mega Ray, T-Rex, or Powersun models. See www.uvguide.co.uk/

For a rectangular enclosure I also find placing the heat and light in the middle works well. You really need to test out the temperature gradient very carefully, at both the hottest and coolest part of the day. Remember that as the ambient temperatures change you will need to adjust the heating up or down to maintain temperatures. Are you going to need night heat in winter? Remember you need a daytime basking spot of about 95 degrees--88 as a high isn't hot enough. I find placing a hide near the basking spot encourages a tort to bask as they feel they can safely retreat.

Best wishes! Looks like you're doing a great job. Congrats again.
 

tofuqueen

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Great tips from everyone! Thank you!! I measured him today and his SCL length is 4 inches. I moved the UVB light to the middle of the enclosure, so now both the heat and light sources are together. So far it seems to be working out better!

Sonja
 

tortoisenerd

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That could be right on the age--really varies though. My Russian is almost a year old and about 2.8 inches SCL and a bit over 100 grams. I think he's grown very fast since I got him, especially with putting on weight (he was rather light when I got him and now feels like a rock and not empty, and is doing well on the McIntyre growth chart).

How is the temperature gradient with the change?
 

tofuqueen

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The cool end of the enclosure is 70-71 degrees and the basking area is 92-93 degrees. He doesn't spend a lot of time in the cooler end though. I feed him down at the cooler end, and I usually have to pick him up and plop him down near the food. I'm not sure if it's just because he's still navigating his way around and trying to figure it all out, or if there's a problem with the cool end.
 

tortoisenerd

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I'd have a spot available that is 95. Pablo can bask next to the hottest spot if he chooses. During cooler weather you may need more day heat as 70 as a low for summer is very low. That he is spending most of his time in the warm area says he prefers it a little warmer. You still need to have a cool area, but you may bump things up a bit.

I would move the food between the cool and warm area so it's in an average temperature area. Unless the tort is not eating sometime each day, I would not pick them up to move them near the food. The tort needs to move around the entire enclosure everyday. Over time he will very quickly get used to the enclosure. He should already know where the food is in that size of enclosure on the first day; I don't think that is your problem.

Are there multiple hides in different temperature areas? From the photos above you need more hides, and probably a bigger enclosure to accommodate the hides. Torts like a hide directly near their food. That could be why Pablo is not going near that end. I don't see enough ground cover. Fake plants are great!

For example: In winter I add a heat emitter to one side of my Mercury Vapor Bulb to up the temps all a little, but only use the MVB in other seasons. I have four hides in my enclosure--one on each of the cool ends, and two in the middle near the heat.
 
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