Rate My Leopard Tortoise Enclosure

Rodrigo

New Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2018
Messages
5
Location (City and/or State)
Watsonville, CA
Hello, I'm new to caring for reptiles, I'm a high school student in California and I might not have all the time for my tortoise. I'm making this so that I can see what I'm doing wrong and right and what I need to change. I've had my leopard tortoise for about a week now and it's a baby. I've done research and I've set up my enclosure as suggested.

Enclosure Size: The enclosure itself measure 15.25 inches (width) x 20.5 inches (length) x 7 inches (height) the walls are all black so the tortoise can't see through.

Humidity: The humidity of the enclosure is usually around 40%-60% according to an Analog Zoo Med dual thermometer and humidity gauge.

Temperature: The temperature of the enclosure is usually at around 80 degrees Fahrenheit; keep in mind that I only have one thermometer gauge and it's in the whole enclosure and it's in the middle (i'm thinking about getting more that are digital). The warmest area is about 85-95 degrees Fahrenheit (a guess) and the coldest area is about 75 degrees Fahrenheit and above (a guess).

Substrate: The substrate for the enclosure is "Reptichip" a coconut substrate, this was a recommended substrate for tortoises (although I've seen my tortoise nibble on the substrate, I've never seen it eat it).

Heating & UVB: For UVB I use a Zoo Med ReptiSun mini compact bulb and I just turn this on in the morning and then turn it off in the afternoon. For heating, I use a Ceramic Infrared Heat emitter and I leave this thing on the whole time even through the night. If necessary sometimes I turn on an Exo Terra Heat-Glo Infrared Spot Lamp for extra heat (I usually turn it on after it eats then later I turn it off) I've noticed that this bulb gets really hot so that's why I only have it on sometimes.

Hide & Moisture: I also do have a hide inside the enclosure; normal, basic hide. Within the hide, I have moist orchid moss (not sure if it's a suitable substitute for sphagnum moss or if it's the same). I also have the same moss inside its water plate because it was also recommended (the water plate is linked here; I also have the same plate for the food).
Daily Care & Food: My daily care is I turn on its UVB light and if it's during the weekdays that's all I do for the morning. After school is over which is at 3 PM (PDT) I soak him in lukewarm water for about 15 minutes then I prepare its food, which usually consists of dandelion leaves and a Mazuri Tortoise Diet pellet soaked in water. I'm planning on planting dandelions, timothy grass, and crimson clovers so I could grow its food.

The baby tortoise whenever it is soaked it kind of poops but it looks like pieces of poop instead of a single turd (I wonder if this is normal?). Usually after eating the baby tortoise goes into its hide and it sleeps ( I also wonder if this is also normal?). I've also noticed the tortoise burrow sometimes in the corner after eating usually in its basking spot (I wonder if this is normal because I've read somewhere that leopard tortoises don't burrow). Feel free to critique what I have set up and provided advice and or alternatives to what I'm doing.

IMG_1134.JPG IMG_1135.JPG IMG_1136.JPG IMG_1137.JPG IMG_1139.JPG IMG_1140.JPG IMG_1141.JPG IMG_1142.JPG
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
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Jan 9, 2010
Messages
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Location (City and/or State)
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Hello and welcome Rodrigo. The bad news is that you've gotten the wrong advice from the wrong source and your score would be very low. I'm sorry to be a bummer, but that brings me to the GOOD news, which is that you obviously care about this tortoise and want to do this right, and you have now found the right care info.

I'll begin with the things that are wrong, so you'll know what to fix:
  1. Shallow tubs are the worse possible way to house babies. The low sides allow all your heat and humidity to escape, and your tub is much too small. They need something at least 18x36 to start in and bigger than that is better. Glass tanks are fine. I've used them for decades without a problem. Closed chamber works best.
  2. I like coco chips for some reptiles, but this is the wrong substrate to use under a baby tortoise. It doesn't give them the proper footing. Fine grade orchid bark will work much better.
  3. No colored bulbs. Use a ceramic heating element or a radiant heat panel to maintain ambient temps day and night and run whichever you choose on a thermostat.
  4. No cfl bulbs. Those are ineffective UV sources and sometimes harmful to tortoise eyes. Use a long tube for indoor UV if you need it.
  5. You need a basking bulb. I use regular flood bulbs form the hardware store. 65 watt ones are good for many applications, but use a thermometer to figure out which is best in your enclosure.
  6. Those stick on dial type thermometers are not accurate or reliable. Get a digital one.
  7. The log hide looks nice, but your tortoise needs a humid hide.
  8. 75 is too cool. The temp should not drop below 80 anywhere in the enclosure day or night, and you need to know the temperature, not guess.
  9. You don't need the moss and most of them try to eat it. If they do it can cause an impaction. Everytime I try to use moss with any species, they all try to eat it.
Here is the correct care info and an example of a closed chamber set up:
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/how-to-raise-a-healthy-sulcata-or-leopard-version-2-0.79895/
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/new-stack-of-animal-plastics-closed-chambers.165626/

Skip the text and scroll down to the food suggestion list:
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/for-those-who-have-a-young-sulcata.76744/
Leopards don't need as much grass in their diet, and if you are going to grow grass, I wouldn't grow timothy. There is a link to the best grass mix I've found in this thread.

Please feel free to question any of this. The more you ask the more you will learn.
 

Rodrigo

New Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2018
Messages
5
Location (City and/or State)
Watsonville, CA
Hello and welcome Rodrigo. The bad news is that you've gotten the wrong advice from the wrong source and your score would be very low. I'm sorry to be a bummer, but that brings me to the GOOD news, which is that you obviously care about this tortoise and want to do this right, and you have now found the right care info.

I'll begin with the things that are wrong, so you'll know what to fix:
  1. Shallow tubs are the worse possible way to house babies. The low sides allow all your heat and humidity to escape, and your tub is much too small. They need something at least 18x36 to start in and bigger than that is better. Glass tanks are fine. I've used them for decades without a problem. Closed chamber works best.
  2. I like coco chips for some reptiles, but this is the wrong substrate to use under a baby tortoise. It doesn't give them the proper footing. Fine grade orchid bark will work much better.
  3. No colored bulbs. Use a ceramic heating element or a radiant heat panel to maintain ambient temps day and night and run whichever you choose on a thermostat.
  4. No cfl bulbs. Those are ineffective UV sources and sometimes harmful to tortoise eyes. Use a long tube for indoor UV if you need it.
  5. You need a basking bulb. I use regular flood bulbs form the hardware store. 65 watt ones are good for many applications, but use a thermometer to figure out which is best in your enclosure.
  6. Those stick on dial type thermometers are not accurate or reliable. Get a digital one.
  7. The log hide looks nice, but your tortoise needs a humid hide.
  8. 75 is too cool. The temp should not drop below 80 anywhere in the enclosure day or night, and you need to know the temperature, not guess.
  9. You don't need the moss and most of them try to eat it. If they do it can cause an impaction. Everytime I try to use moss with any species, they all try to eat it.
Here is the correct care info and an example of a closed chamber set up:
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/how-to-raise-a-healthy-sulcata-or-leopard-version-2-0.79895/
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/new-stack-of-animal-plastics-closed-chambers.165626/

Skip the text and scroll down to the food suggestion list:
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/for-those-who-have-a-young-sulcata.76744/
Leopards don't need as much grass in their diet, and if you are going to grow grass, I wouldn't grow timothy. There is a link to the best grass mix I've found in this thread.

Please feel free to question any of this. The more you ask the more you will learn.
Thanks for the advice and links, will take into consideration.
 

Rodrigo

New Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2018
Messages
5
Location (City and/or State)
Watsonville, CA
Update: I'm thinking of making a substrate from Scott's premium topsoil and play sand Quikrete 50#. something along the ratio of 2.5 play-sand: 1/2topsoil or something around those ratios. topsoil.jpg playsand.jpg
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,398
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Update: I'm thinking of making a substrate from Scott's premium topsoil and play sand Quikrete 50#. something along the ratio of 2.5 play-sand: 1/2topsoil or something around those ratios. View attachment 238788 View attachment 238787
Bad idea. Sand should never be used. It is a big impaction risk and possible skin and eye irritant. Sand and sand mixes have been recommended for years. I used to use and recommend it. We now know better. I've seen far too many impaction cases. There are better, safer alternatives.

Likewise with the soil. There is no way to know what composted material that bought-in-a-bag soil is made of. Is it grass clippings with pesticides and weed killers? Is it azalea and oleander leaves? Or is it something safe? A mixture of many things? No way to know. Don't risk it. Use something safer.

Fine grade orchid bark works best for this species.

I'm glad that you came here and asked first. We might have just averted a disaster.

Did you make the other recommended changes from your previous post? How are things going with your new baby?
 

Rodrigo

New Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2018
Messages
5
Location (City and/or State)
Watsonville, CA
Bad idea. Sand should never be used. It is a big impaction risk and possible skin and eye irritant. Sand and sand mixes have been recommended for years. I used to use and recommend it. We now know better. I've seen far too many impaction cases. There are better, safer alternatives.

Likewise with the soil. There is no way to know what composted material that bought-in-a-bag soil is made of. Is it grass clippings with pesticides and weed killers? Is it azalea and oleander leaves? Or is it something safe? A mixture of many things? No way to know. Don't risk it. Use something safer.

Fine grade orchid bark works best for this species.

I'm glad that you came here and asked first. We might have just averted a disaster.

Did you make the other recommended changes from your previous post? How are things going with your new baby?

I'm currently building a new enclosure for the tortoise way bigger than the tub it has about an area of 755 inches squared more or less (rough measurements). I'm making it out of wood and with a removable plexiglass top and for the open area in the front I'm planning on using the window screen material that keeps out bugs and flies for extra protection and some air flow. I'm no longer using the colored bulb as suggested not to use. I'm also going to be getting two digital thermometers for the hot and cold spots of the enclosure and a heat mat just in case it's necessary. I'll make sure to get some fine orchid bark for its substrate too. I want to replace the Zoo Med 10.0 UVB compact 13 W CFL bulb I have but funds are really low right now and cant be spending big on an MVB or tube type of light. I've seen @Tom suggest a regular incandescent light bulb works fine but it wasn't clear if the bulb was used for heat or UV-B. If the incandescent light bulbs are fine replacing the CFL bulb I have, it would be nice to know, and if it isn't some alternatives that aren't too expensive and won't make my tortoise go blind would be fine too. I'm open to any further advice on the enclosure itself and the necessities I'm planning on using for the tortoise. IMG_0028.JPG
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,398
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
I'm currently building a new enclosure for the tortoise way bigger than the tub it has about an area of 755 inches squared more or less (rough measurements). I'm making it out of wood and with a removable plexiglass top and for the open area in the front I'm planning on using the window screen material that keeps out bugs and flies for extra protection and some air flow. I'm no longer using the colored bulb as suggested not to use. I'm also going to be getting two digital thermometers for the hot and cold spots of the enclosure and a heat mat just in case it's necessary. I'll make sure to get some fine orchid bark for its substrate too. I want to replace the Zoo Med 10.0 UVB compact 13 W CFL bulb I have but funds are really low right now and cant be spending big on an MVB or tube type of light. I've seen @Tom suggest a regular incandescent light bulb works fine but it wasn't clear if the bulb was used for heat or UV-B. If the incandescent light bulbs are fine replacing the CFL bulb I have, it would be nice to know, and if it isn't some alternatives that aren't too expensive and won't make my tortoise go blind would be fine too. I'm open to any further advice on the enclosure itself and the necessities I'm planning on using for the tortoise.

You are on the right track. Here are some of my thoughts:
  • Unless the air in the room where the enclosure will sit is warm and humid 24/7, using the screen in front will prevent you from maintaining the correct conditions in your new enclosure. This creates the same problem as your tub. The idea is to close the enclosure off from the colder drier room air, not make it easier for your warm humid enclosure air to escape. Air flow is bad in this case, unless the enclosure is sitting in a heated humidified reptile or tropical fish room. Don't worry. Your enclosure will not be air tight, and there will be plenty of air movement around the cracks and doors for your tortoise to get fresh air to breathe.
  • There are four elements to heating and lighting:
    1. Basking bulb. I use 65 watt floods from the hardware store. I run them on a timer and adjust the height to get the correct basking temp under them.
    2. Ambient heat maintenance. I use ceramic heating elements or radiant heat panels set on thermostats to maintain ambient above 80 degrees day and night for tropical species.
    3. Light. I use florescent tubes for this purpose. Something in the 5000-6500K color range will look the best. Most tubes at the store are in the 2500K range and they look yellowish.
    4. UV. If you can get your tortoise outside for an hour 2 or 3 times a week, you won't need indoor UV. If you want it anyway, get one of the newer HO type fluorescent tubes. Which type will depend on mounting height.
  • Don't use a heat mat for a baby indoors. Too risky, and not how a tortoise should be heated.
  • What are the dimensions of the new enclosure?
 
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