Pyramiding...but not?

StarSapphire22

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Littlefoot is a 10 month old Hermann's tortoise. I've had him for 7 months and got him from Chris, so we know he was started well.

When I got him he was 1.75" and 20 grams. He's now about 2.75" and 80 grams.

I'm attaching some pictures of his shell. They aren't the best, but he wasn't in a cooperative mood today.

My concern is that when you look at his shell along the side edges of the vertebral scutes, it looks like the beginning of pyramiding...there's the depression between scutes there. However, his other scutes show fairly smooth growth. One scute has a little smushed part on a corner and has always had a slight upwards growth pattern. I don't know if that was caused by an injury or what. He likes to Geronimo off his hide. I've never seen "localized" pyramiding like this, and am wondering if that is indeed what this is?

He has been kept in a testudo-friendly version of hot and humid, though sometimes I actually struggle with excessive humidity. Right now he's in a 75 gallon tank with a plywood cover. All the temps are good, going from 76 on the cool end to basking of 100. He has access to water and has been mostly eating a mixture of mazuri and dehydrated weeds (dandelion, marshmallow, red clover, blessed thistle, violet leaf, hibiscus petals...with the occasional oat straw or Aloe Vera). I soak the mazuri and weeds with just enough water for them to soak up and rehydrate and mush it all up. He also gets the occasional produce...cucumber peelings, lettuces, very small and rare treats of canned pumpkin. Mostly over winter (it is just warming up here) it has been the mush mix. I have been attempting to grow lettuces for him but he has eaten all the sprouts, so he's had a lot of those lately. He has a cuttlebone at all times but ignores it. I supplement with repcal and herptivite once or twice a week...about 1/16th of a teaspoon each. He had a powersun for the first two months, and a flourescent uv tube after that when he moved into the tank (powersun was too hot in there)...but I was just told by another member here that it doesn't have sufficient UV output and isn't doing any good. I take him outside when I can now that it's warming up some, but he hides mostly. Overall, he is a very happy, healthy, active little thing. I guess other than the lack of UV, I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong or why his shell looks this way. I'd appreciate input.
 

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StarSapphire22

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Here is a picture of his enclosure. Plants have changed a bit and his UV light wasn't installed in that pic, but other than that everything's the same. The lid is normally shut unless I'm in there.
 

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StarSapphire22

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I don't mind so much because of the looks...he's still pretty smooth overall and is super duper cute. :D I'm worried that I may have something off in my husbandry...and if I do, I'd like to catch it early on. Plus I think it's weird that he's only pyramiding along his vertebral scutes.
 

Blakem

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Hello, although I don't own a hermann, I can still give SOME input. There are four temps you'll need to focus on: ambient (overall tank temp) , basking, cool side, and night time temperatures. If it's a baby, it shouldn't get lower than 85. I don't know what substrate you're using, but coco coir kept the best humidity for me, and it lasts quite some time if you keep it clean. If you pour water on it once a day, or as needed, and just keep it DAMP, not wet (otherwise this could make the substrate cold, causing a respiratory infection, RI) and mix it all up! Do you have a humid box? What are you using to create humidity?


Here's some great plant identification websites I use.

http://www.tlady.clara.net/TortGuide/diet.htm#plantlist

http://africantortoise.com/edible_landscaping.htm

http://m.thetortoisetable.org.uk/m/plants_19.asp
 

StarSapphire22

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Hello, although I don't own a hermann, I can still give SOME input. There are four temps you'll need to focus on: ambient (overall tank temp) , basking, cool side, and night time temperatures. If it's a baby, it shouldn't get lower than 85. I don't know what substrate you're using, but coco coir kept the best humidity for me, and it lasts quite some time if you keep it clean. If you pour water on it once a day, or as needed, and just keep it DAMP, not wet (otherwise this could make the substrate cold, causing a respiratory infection, RI) and mix it all up! Do you have a humid box? What are you using to create humidity?


Here's some great plant identification websites I use.

http://www.tlady.clara.net/TortGuide/diet.htm#plantlist

http://africantortoise.com/edible_landscaping.htm

http://m.thetortoisetable.org.uk/m/plants_19.asp

Hi Blake! That's great information for tropical species, but not so much for a Hermanns. Thanks!
 

Tom

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I see three possibilities:
1. Lack of UV might be a factor.
2. Since its only up top like that, it could be the desiccating effects of the indoor basking bulbs. What is the temp at tortoise shell height directly under the bulb? I usually get a brick, lay it right under the bulb, let it cook for a couple hours, and then put my temp probe right under the hottest spot and let the probe cook for a couple more hours on top of the brick. I raise or lower my lamp fixture to get a temp of 95ish for Testudo sp. Spritzing the carapace with water several times a day should help with this, especially on the days when he's indoors all the time.
3. Daily Mazuri? This seems the most likely cause, given your set up and routine.

Let's discuss it. What do you think?
 

StarSapphire22

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Hi Tom! Sorry, I hadn't noticed a new response on this.

Dessication is possible I suppose. There is one spot that gets about 100-101 (it's slightly higher and so closer to the bulb) but his basking area (and this IS where he does 95% of his basking) is about 95-96. There are stones there that soak up heat and I use a temp gun. It's not an mvb, just a 50w reptile basking bulb. I tried a 40w incandescent but it didn't get hot enough. Night time temps drop to room temperature, about 70.

As far as the mazuri and dried weed mush mix, this was a recommendation from Chris, who uses it on his own animals in winter when good food is harder to come by. Now that I'm able to get weeds and greens more easily, the mazuri mush is being cut back to twice a week or so. Mazuri makes up about 1/3-1/2 the mix in volume. The rest is rehydrated weeds.
 

StarSapphire22

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I should also note that that wasn't the only thing he was fed. He did get greens or veggies a couple times a week, but it was in addition to the mush, not a replacement. He is getting much more greens now....and going through a spurt right now I think...yesterday he ate 3x his normal amount and today he got seconds. Little guy is hungry!
 

StarSapphire22

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@Tom, if it IS in fact dessication, how would I fix it? Obviously, what's done is done, but what changes can I make so that he continues to grow up healthy? I can't really change the position of the bulb in my setup, and a 40w didn't get it hot enough. I will start spraying down his shell, but what else can I do?
 

gtc

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Littlefoot is a 10 month old Hermann's tortoise. I've had him for 7 months and got him from Chris, so we know he was started well.

When I got him he was 1.75" and 20 grams. He's now about 2.75" and 80 grams.

I'm attaching some pictures of his shell. They aren't the best, but he wasn't in a cooperative mood today.

My concern is that when you look at his shell along the side edges of the vertebral scutes, it looks like the beginning of pyramiding...there's the depression between scutes there. However, his other scutes show fairly smooth growth. One scute has a little smushed part on a corner and has always had a slight upwards growth pattern. I don't know if that was caused by an injury or what. He likes to Geronimo off his hide. I've never seen "localized" pyramiding like this, and am wondering if that is indeed what this is?

He has been kept in a testudo-friendly version of hot and humid, though sometimes I actually struggle with excessive humidity. Right now he's in a 75 gallon tank with a plywood cover. All the temps are good, going from 76 on the cool end to basking of 100. He has access to water and has been mostly eating a mixture of mazuri and dehydrated weeds (dandelion, marshmallow, red clover, blessed thistle, violet leaf, hibiscus petals...with the occasional oat straw or Aloe Vera). I soak the mazuri and weeds with just enough water for them to soak up and rehydrate and mush it all up. He also gets the occasional produce...cucumber peelings, lettuces, very small and rare treats of canned pumpkin. Mostly over winter (it is just warming up here) it has been the mush mix. I have been attempting to grow lettuces for him but he has eaten all the sprouts, so he's had a lot of those lately. He has a cuttlebone at all times but ignores it. I supplement with repcal and herptivite once or twice a week...about 1/16th of a teaspoon each. He had a powersun for the first two months, and a flourescent uv tube after that when he moved into the tank (powersun was too hot in there)...but I was just told by another member here that it doesn't have sufficient UV output and isn't doing any good. I take him outside when I can now that it's warming up some, but he hides mostly. Overall, he is a very happy, healthy, active little thing. I guess other than the lack of UV, I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong or why his shell looks this way. I'd appreciate input.

I've looked at the pictures, and I dont see any signs of pyramiding. Is it just me? Also, I don't understand why so many members say that temps should be warmer for baby torts than for adults. I was in the northern Mediterranean (where hermanns are native) last March. It was 15C (59F) max during the day and much colder at night and I saw 7 hermann baby torts that recently came out of hibernation from a friends yard. The adults were still hibernating.
 

StarSapphire22

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It's very slight, you can see it along the outer edges of the vertebral scutes.
 

Tom

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@Tom, if it IS in fact dessication, how would I fix it? Obviously, what's done is done, but what changes can I make so that he continues to grow up healthy? I can't really change the position of the bulb in my setup, and a 40w didn't get it hot enough. I will start spraying down his shell, but what else can I do?

Your bulb and heat parameters sound okay to me, but maybe try adding an inline rheostat to drop the basking temp a little and see what he does. Indoor heat lamps are EXTREMELY desiccating. Outdoor sunning is best. Spraying the shell seems to help too. I do it first thing in the morning, a couple of times a day and last thing at night after the lights are off. I would expect to see accelerated growth with daily Mazuri feeding and that couple with a hot over head bulb might be the cause of your issue.

Here is another thought. Is your 50 watt bulb a "spot" bulb? Those are worse case scenario and they dry out the carapace even more than other types. If it is, maybe switch to a bigger wattage "flood" bulb. As Frances phrased it, try make a warming "zone" instead of a hot spot. I use 65 watt flood bulbs for this purpose and it works well in my enclosures.
 

StarSapphire22

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It looks like it is a spot bulb, though my temp gun tells me there is a nice gradient outward from that hot spot. I will try a flood bulb...though I worry a 65w might be too much. A 60w incandescent practically cooked him when I tried that. Do floods run as hot as incandescents?

Littlefoot got a spritzing and is sulking at me now...lol.


Your bulb and heat parameters sound okay to me, but maybe try adding an inline rheostat to drop the basking temp a little and see what he does. Indoor heat lamps are EXTREMELY desiccating. Outdoor sunning is best. Spraying the shell seems to help too. I do it first thing in the morning, a couple of times a day and last thing at night after the lights are off. I would expect to see accelerated growth with daily Mazuri feeding and that couple with a hot over head bulb might be the cause of your issue.

Here is another thought. Is your 50 watt bulb a "spot" bulb? Those are worse case scenario and they dry out the carapace even more than other types. If it is, maybe switch to a bigger wattage "flood" bulb. As Frances phrased it, try make a warming "zone" instead of a hot spot. I use 65 watt flood bulbs for this purpose and it works well in my enclosures.
 

Tom

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A 50 watt spot concentrates the heat in a small spot while the flood spreads the heat out over a much greater area. Usually you need a little more wattage with a flood, but your thermometer will answer that question for you. Raising the fixture or or lowering the wattage with a rheostat should get you set up just right. You could try a 50 watt flood bulb too, but you'll need to check your temps and make adjustments whatever you do.

And regular hardware store bulbs work fine for this purpose. No need to pay extra for the "reptile" bulbs.
 

StarSapphire22

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A 50 watt spot concentrates the heat in a small spot while the flood spreads the heat out over a much greater area. Usually you need a little more wattage with a flood, but your thermometer will answer that question for you. Raising the fixture or or lowering the wattage with a rheostat should get you set up just right. You could try a 50 watt flood bulb too, but you'll need to check your temps and make adjustments whatever you do.

And regular hardware store bulbs work fine for this purpose. No need to pay extra for the "reptile" bulbs.

No, I only bought a reptile one because I was struggling to find anything in 50w...just 40 or 60.

How much is a rheostat gonna run me? I'm not sure if that's in the budget.
 

Tom

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