Scary - Coco too soft for tort to flip over?

MoreCowbellAz

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I have a 6-7 month old DT, about 2.5" shell width, indoor enclosure with with coco substrate. A couple times now he's managed to flip himself over onto his back (now that the weather is getting warm he's much more active and climbs at the side a lot), and to my horror he's had a difficult time flipping back over onto his belly. Scared me to death when I came home and saw him because I can't supervise him all day long and I don't want a tragedy. (I don't think he was on his back super long, he seemed fine afterwards, ate right away, etc, but still super scary). Anyway, the problem seems be the coco was too soft/fluffy and when he'd try to use his head/neck as leverage it would just dig into the substrate rather than allow him to leverage his body up and flip back over. Admittedly the coco was pretty dry on top, and it's pretty soft and fluffy when dry. So at least temporarily I started spraying down the surface now so it stays a little more packed down and firm, I think that would make the surface firm enough for him to leverage back over if he winds up on his back again. FYI I never let the substrate completely dry out all the way through, but during the winter it did get dry on top because I didn't wet it as much or as often.

Is simply keeping to sprayed/moist on top my best solution safety wise, or should I go to like Orchid bark where maybe the surface stays a little firmer than coco? Is that even the case? I've not used orchid bark before, and in fact this is my first go round with tort ownership, been educating myself since Sept when I unexpectedly became DT rescue dad. So new seasons, new problems to solve but I'm determine to get it right.
 

Tom

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The coco coir does need to be kept damp, and also hand packed down.

Why is he flipping and how? That is the question to consider. Can you post a pic of the enclosure? We might have some helpful ideas once we see what we are dealing with.
 

MoreCowbellAz

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This is essentially what it looks like, it's changed a little since the pic but the enclosure itself is the same. Go easy on me, I know I need to upgrade to a proper/larger indoor enclosure, and I'm going to build him a nice outdoor habitat as well not that the warm weather in near. I got him in Sept, a spur of the moment rescue if you recall me being on here awhile back, and this enclosure is what I fab'd up to keep him safe and comfortable through the winter and avoid brumation. It's been successful, he's healthy and growing a ton. I have him outside a fair amount when I'm home and when it's sunny and warm. So this has been ok, although I need a better solution longer term. Temps in the enclosure all winter have been around 65 at night and around 81 daytime, mid '90's under his basking lamp and CHE.

For the sake of clarity, he's (only) flipped over twice but it worries me a ton; once back in the fall because of a half log he could climb up but not down safetly (since removed), and the other day which I'm pretty sure was him climbing the side wherever he likes to turn around (he does laps or paces along one side), and he got too vertical and flopped over. I'm not confident he wouldn't do that even if the sides were higher. They are already opaque. With him figuring out the spring is about here, he's got waaayyyyyy more energy, so he walks quite a bit lately. Thats why I've been taking him outside a lot, I just can't leave him out unsupervised yet. IMG_5416.JPG IMG_5418.JPG IMG_5417.JPG IMG_5416.JPG IMG_5418.JPG


IMG_5417.JPG
 

MoreCowbellAz

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FWIW, his teracota pot I just upgraded to the same thing just a bit larger, that's his favorite sleeping spot. The hide on the right is his underground hide that he also uses sometimes. This enclosure, all shortcomings be as the they may, does at least provide some good temp and light variation. This will be our first spring and summer. He's very healthy, active, and friendly.
 

MoreCowbellAz

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Update - I’ve been wetting and packing down the coco, def seems to help and I’ve had no trouble with him flipping this week. Maybe it was a fluke, but I’m still experimenting and trying to improve his habitat. The coco does seem to dry out quickly on the surface, like the top 1/4”, even tho still damp further down.

Still curious about orchid bark, but with all the shutdowns I haven’t been able to find fine grade orchid bark anywhere but I found some Zoomed Repti Bark which is still fir bark (same stuff), just possibly different sized pieces compared to “fine grade”, looks to be around 3/8”, some smaller. This may be too large for my little DT, seems his feet may sink in between the chunks. Perhaps use coco for another few months, perhaps up to 1 year old?
 

Tom

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This is essentially what it looks like, it's changed a little since the pic but the enclosure itself is the same. Go easy on me, I know I need to upgrade to a proper/larger indoor enclosure, and I'm going to build him a nice outdoor habitat as well not that the warm weather in near. I got him in Sept, a spur of the moment rescue if you recall me being on here awhile back, and this enclosure is what I fab'd up to keep him safe and comfortable through the winter and avoid brumation. It's been successful, he's healthy and growing a ton. I have him outside a fair amount when I'm home and when it's sunny and warm. So this has been ok, although I need a better solution longer term. Temps in the enclosure all winter have been around 65 at night and around 81 daytime, mid '90's under his basking lamp and CHE.

For the sake of clarity, he's (only) flipped over twice but it worries me a ton; once back in the fall because of a half log he could climb up but not down safetly (since removed), and the other day which I'm pretty sure was him climbing the side wherever he likes to turn around (he does laps or paces along one side), and he got too vertical and flopped over. I'm not confident he wouldn't do that even if the sides were higher. They are already opaque. With him figuring out the spring is about here, he's got waaayyyyyy more energy, so he walks quite a bit lately. Thats why I've been taking him outside a lot, I just can't leave him out unsupervised yet.
I didn't see your pics when you posted earlier in the week. I'm sorry about that.

I see the problem. The sides are too low, and because the walls are translucent, he can see out enough to want to climb. I think your set up is excellent over all, except for those low sides. I think if you switched to a larger tub with taller opaque sides, you would not see any more flipping. The change might stress him out for a few days, and make him pace or hide for a bit, but it would be worth it.

Outdoors unsupervised is possible now if you just make an enclosure. Here is just one simple idea:
IMG_2515.JPG

You can do the same thing with cinderblocks instead of the 2x12s, and if you don't have suitable flat ground, you can make this whole thing on a sheet of plywood with legs and wheels and move it around.
 

MoreCowbellAz

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Thanks Tom, that’s helpful, The sides on mine actually aren’t translucent, I have gray duct tape on the outside so he can’t see through it, but still the sides are low, That makes sense the low sides may give him too much of a view over. The reason for this particular tub is I couldn’t find a tub as big as this one with tall sides, that’s why I got this one, so there’s more room to roam. So I’m probably looking at making a new indoor enclosure in my near future. Or maybe create some makeshift taller sides, idk. I probably need to get through this whole shut down stuff before I can do much shopping which is why I’m trying to make do with this one. As I said, wetting down the coco seems to be working in the interim, haven’t had any problems in the past week but I want to be thinking ahead.

So what the story on the 3/8” orchid bark, think that’s too big for little tortoise feet? I don’t want to make matters worse, and after looking at it I am starting to think that maybe the coco is better for a while still. Or maybe something different altogether?

I think I’ll construct an outdoor enclosure like in your pic. What’s the purpose for the upside down tub on top? Do you have substrate in there rather than regular dirt?
 

Tom

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Thanks Tom, that’s helpful, The sides on mine actually aren’t translucent, I have gray duct tape on the outside so he can’t see through it, but still the sides are low, That makes sense the low sides may give him too much of a view over. The reason for this particular tub is I couldn’t find a tub as big as this one with tall sides, that’s why I got this one, so there’s more room to roam. So I’m probably looking at making a new indoor enclosure in my near future. Or maybe create some makeshift taller sides, idk. I probably need to get through this whole shut down stuff before I can do much shopping which is why I’m trying to make do with this one. As I said, wetting down the coco seems to be working in the interim, haven’t had any problems in the past week but I want to be thinking ahead.

So what the story on the 3/8” orchid bark, think that’s too big for little tortoise feet? I don’t want to make matters worse, and after looking at it I am starting to think that maybe the coco is better for a while still. Or maybe something different altogether?

I think I’ll construct an outdoor enclosure like in your pic. What’s the purpose for the upside down tub on top? Do you have substrate in there rather than regular dirt?
I've seen large tubs with tall sides at Home Depot and Lowes before. Not sure if those are open in your area or not. I've been told grocery stores and hardware store are considered "essential" and are staying open.

I prefer the coco coir for small Testudo and DTs. I switch them to fine grade orchid bark when they are between 3-4 inches, but that is really just a preference, and not a necessity for any reason. I don't like to use any other substrates. All have too many drawbacks.

The upside down tub was just to offer a little bit of shade. This picture was taken on a damp lawn, late morning, and ambient temp was only in the 70s. I wanted mostly sun to warm things up, but wanted to offer s all amount of shade so they could get out of the sun if needed. In mid summer, I'd put a large beach umbrella next to the enclosure and cover most of it. I adjust the amount of shade depending on the weather. This is another reason that wheels and a bottom make this a nice enclosure. You can keep it under an awning and push more or less of it out into the sun depending on the weather.
 

SPILL

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Still curious about orchid bark, but with all the shutdowns I haven’t been able to find fine grade orchid bark anywhere but I found some Zoomed Repti Bark which is still fir bark (same stuff), just possibly different sized pieces compared to “fine grade”, looks to be around 3/8”, some smaller.
If you go to the website for most hardware stores you can special order for in store pick-up.
 

MoreCowbellAz

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Tom - I’m thinking an outdoor box with wheels as well, I like the idea of being able to move it around. As the seasons and weather changes. With the warm sunny days in Phoenix most of the year, there’s really not that many days he couldnt be outside at least part of the day even in winter. If it’s sunny out, 65 degrees ambient, his shell temp is still well into the Upper 80’s or even more. He loves that.

If you don’t mind, could I message you if I have any specific questions about the build?
 

Tom

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Tom - I’m thinking an outdoor box with wheels as well, I like the idea of being able to move it around. As the seasons and weather changes. With the warm sunny days in Phoenix most of the year, there’s really not that many days he couldnt be outside at least part of the day even in winter. If it’s sunny out, 65 degrees ambient, his shell temp is still well into the Upper 80’s or even more. He loves that.

If you don’t mind, could I message you if I have any specific questions about the build?
Of course! I wouldn't be here if I didn't want to talk about tortoises!!! This build is about as simple and straight forward as it gets!
 

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