Plants Dying in Indoor Enclosure

passwordstaco

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Hi All,

I had a pretty large(3x6) tented enclosure and all plant life did not survive in it and I am not sure why. I definitely gave it enough water, the UV light was working correctly based on some measurement tools I had, and I had sections of plant soil where the plants were vs the rest of the enclosure that had a sandy mixture. My only guess is maybe lack of oxygen since it was a fully enclosed environment that I used to trap in the humidity.

Anyone have any ideas what might be wrong?
 

Tom

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Plants don't need UV. High levels of UV can actually damage them.

Tortoises shouldn't be on soil or sand.

If the oxygen levels were low enough to kill your plants, which have much lower oxygen needs than vertebrates, your tortoises would be dead too.

Many of us have a tough time keeping plants alive in indoor enclosures, myself included.
 

passwordstaco

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I had no idea about the light, sounds like it is not really possible to have plants in an indoor enclosure then right? Thanks for the data though, always learning new things!
 

Tom

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I had no idea about the light, sounds like it is not really possible to have plants in an indoor enclosure then right? Thanks for the data though, always learning new things!
Its possible. Some people do it with great success. It just seems like some of us can't seem to attain that success for reasons I don't understand.

@Markw84 is one of the ones that seems to make plants thrive indoors. I have plants that he started and that were thriving, and they died off in my care. Too much water? Not enough water? Wrong type of water? Wrong lights? Not enough light? I don't know. Hopefully Mark will share his thoughts on your issue.
 

TisMary

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Hi All,

I had a pretty large(3x6) tented enclosure and all plant life did not survive in it and I am not sure why. I definitely gave it enough water, the UV light was working correctly based on some measurement tools I had, and I had sections of plant soil where the plants were vs the rest of the enclosure that had a sandy mixture. My only guess is maybe lack of oxygen since it was a fully enclosed environment that I used to trap in the humidity.

Anyone have any ideas what might be wrong?
Hello @passwordstaco. You can do this. I suspect the problem has to do with a "mismatch" between the plants' needs and what the enclosure is providing. The environment for your tort is a "given"; so you have to have plants that will thrive in that same environment. This isn't rocket surgery, but there are a few things to get right.

A few questions: At what temperature and humidity do you "generally" keep your enclosure? For example, our chameleon (think "rainforest"), and our bearded dragon (think "desert") require very different temp and humidity levels; the tortoise's are different still. The plants that thrive in each enclosure are (for the most part) very different.

What kind of plants did you have in your enclosure and did you have a grow light set up for them? While it's true that the UV-B light won't give the plants what they need, plants do benefit from UV light (UV-A to be specific). You should get a good "full spectrum" plant light (I like SANSI LED lights myself).

Taking these 3 things into account -temperature, humidity, and light - you'll be able to find the right plants. In my experience, it's then just a matter of understanding how much to water them and whether to put them in the shady or sunny part of your enclosure. Of course, please make sure that the plants you choose (and the dirt you plant them in) are safe for your little one - they'll inevitably at least taste everything! Check out the Tortoise Table Plant Database and Tortoise Trust's Safety of Some Common House Plants. See this post for a discussion: Plants 4 Hermanns
 

Krista S

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Hello @passwordstaco. You can do this. I suspect the problem has to do with a "mismatch" between the plants' needs and what the enclosure is providing. The environment for your tort is a "given"; so you have to have plants that will thrive in that same environment. This isn't rocket surgery, but there are a few things to get right.

A few questions: At what temperature and humidity do you "generally" keep your enclosure? For example, our chameleon (think "rainforest"), and our bearded dragon (think "desert") require very different temp and humidity levels; the tortoise's are different still. The plants that thrive in each enclosure are (for the most part) very different.

What kind of plants did you have in your enclosure and did you have a grow light set up for them? While it's true that the UV-B light won't give the plants what they need, plants do benefit from UV light (UV-A to be specific). You should get a good "full spectrum" plant light (I like SANSI LED lights myself).

Taking these 3 things into account -temperature, humidity, and light - you'll be able to find the right plants. In my experience, it's then just a matter of understanding how much to water them and whether to put them in the shady or sunny part of your enclosure. Of course, please make sure that the plants you choose (and the dirt you plant them in) are safe for your little one - they'll inevitably at least taste everything! Check out the Tortoise Table Plant Database and Tortoise Trust's Safety of Some Common House Plants. See this post for a discussion: Plants 4 Hermanns
@TisMary Thank you so much for this post and sharing your knowledge! You have provided so much helpful information here.
 

autumn_0201

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Hi All,

I had a pretty large(3x6) tented enclosure and all plant life did not survive in it and I am not sure why. I definitely gave it enough water, the UV light was working correctly based on some measurement tools I had, and I had sections of plant soil where the plants were vs the rest of the enclosure that had a sandy mixture. My only guess is maybe lack of oxygen since it was a fully enclosed environment that I used to trap in the humidity.

Anyone have any ideas what might be wrong?

Maybe u overwatered it? Its just a guess but most of my house plants died last time because of overwatering. I don't think its lack of oxygen because then the tortoise wouldn't be able to breathe either.
 

TisMary

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Thank you for this info!
What wattage screw in bulb would I get for an indoor enclosure? The bulb is about 20in above the substrate.

What plants have you grown in an enclosure?
Hi @KarenSoCal - I could really geek out on this answer 🤓 (and I did a little in the last part of this post!). To keep it simple though, I'd start with either a 36W SANSI LED Grow Light or the 24W version. They both cover the same amount of square footage (see pic attached). The difference is in how much light actually gets to the plants (yep - we're talking photons here!)

There are other brands of bulbs of course, but you want to make sure you get something with similar specifications (this post has some good information on that: Grow lights in enclosure?)

As far as plants, I'd start with 2 or 3 "low" or "medium" light plants (see my list in this post: Plants 4 Hermanns). You can google "low light houseplants" or "medium light houseplants" to get more suggestions. Just remember to make sure that whatever you choose is safe for your little one - you can cross-reference your search results with the list of Tortoise Trust's Safety of Some Common House Plants.

Read about and keep an eye on your "starter" plants - learn how often they need to be watered; do they like it right under the light or away from it a bit; are they standing up to being trampled, nibbled, etc.? You'll learn to "think like a plant" after a while and know what it needs. Then you can add more plants to your collection!

Getting technical: Back to photons for a moment 😇. If you look at the spec sheet for the 2 bulbs above (or most any grow light for that matter), you'll see a measurement called PPFD (Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density) - it's the number of photons that get to the plants for a specified amount of time. The 36W bulbs have a higher PPFD than the 24W bulbs. I convert PPFD to something called DLI (Daily Light Integral) which is very useful to determine if you have sufficient amounts of light for your plants to grow well. (Fortunately, here is a good online conversion tool to get you from PPFD to DLI: Daily Light Integral (DLI) Calculator.)

Low light plants require between 5-10 DLI, medium light plants 10-15, and high light plants will require more than 15.
 

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Markw84

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I have no problem growing the plants I always recommend in our enclosures. But I also am a believer in much more light than I see most people have in theirs. I use 5500K 90+CRI leds for ambient light for a reason. I have 4 1100 lumen lights in a 4x3 enclosure. I then use the plants for shade gradients. I find the pothos very hard to kill! I even grow it in some of my aquatic tanks simply sticking it in the water. So pretty hard to overwater. The pothos will take over the enclosure unless the tortoises gain size and start eating it faster.

IMG_1172.jpg

For a lot of other plants, a grow light will help tremendously. The Sansi mentioned above by @TisMary is excellent! I even use it to start African Hibiscus from seed in an enclosure. This is a "nursery" enclosure. The Sansi light show above in @TisMary s post is in the Arcadia dome. That is necessary for a plant like hibiscus.

IMG_1738.jpg

It is of note that the UVB we use in enclosures will badly burn plants, so I keep my plants away from the basking area. A CHE will also burn the plants, so avoid directly under that. Our enclosures are wonderful places to grow plants with the nice warm, humid environment. You just have to be creative to keep the tortoises from accessing too much of it and eating it all! It is perfect for starting babies as it takes a while before they start eating the plant. In the first few months is is perfect natural hide and cover. My tortoises grow smoother than ever under plant cover. Here's an 8 month old raised in the enclosure shown above:

IMG_1736.jpg
 

Farcryjj

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I have plants in my closed enclosure. It mainly depends on what kind of plants you're keeping. Some are super easy to keep in a low light condition (I mean you just can't put plants directly under a heat source), such as pothos in Mark's pictures, and spider plants, and many other tropical plants actually. It helps if you use a pot with soil for each plant and then you can bury the pot in torts substrate for looks. :)
 

Jannra

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Plants don't need UV. High levels of UV can actually damage them.

Tortoises shouldn't be on soil or sand.

If the oxygen levels were low enough to kill your plants, which have much lower oxygen needs than vertebrates, your tortoises would be dead too.

Many of us have a tough time keeping plants alive in indoor enclosures, myself included.
Really? The pansies, dandelion and Christmas cactus in my torts enclosure love the UV light.
 

Gijoux

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Hi All,

I had a pretty large(3x6) tented enclosure and all plant life did not survive in it and I am not sure why. I definitely gave it enough water, the UV light was working correctly based on some measurement tools I had, and I had sections of plant soil where the plants were vs the rest of the enclosure that had a sandy mixture. My only guess is maybe lack of oxygen since it was a fully enclosed environment that I used to trap in the humidity.

Anyone have any ideas what might be wrong?
Slight ventilation as found with Animal Plastics allow air flow but also allows high humidity. I have and extra set of plants for each of my four enclosures. I trade out the plants every couple of weeks, which allows the plants to revive out in the sunshine. I don't really water them inside the enclosures. When it looked like they need water they get changed out and go outside to be watered and get regular sunshine. It has worked quite well for me.
 

Jannra

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Slight ventilation as found with Animal Plastics allow air flow but also allows high humidity. I have and extra set of plants for each of my four enclosures. I trade out the plants every couple of weeks, which allows the plants to revive out in the sunshine. I don't really water them inside the enclosures. When it looked like they need water they get changed out and go outside to be watered and get regular sunshine. It has worked quite well for me.
Plants definitely need some airflow
 
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