Substrate moist or dry?

lymcBoris

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Hi, new to the forum and to keeping tortoises and have had my 19month old Horsfield for 2 months now and am finding conflicting advice for substrate. At first I mixed unfertilised soil with sand, then on this forum I've read it's all about moisture, so I changed to moistened Coco coir and got rid of all sand. I mist every day, have set up a humid hide with heat pad and moss and generally constantly keep everything moist.
So I just read an article on the tortoise library about Steppe tortoises and it says substrate must be kept dry! Nothing about moist hide or moist substrate. It even said sand/soil and clay is ideal. I am so confused and really don't want to change substrate yet again! Any advice please? Thanks.
 

katieandiggy

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Hi welcome, What you have done is correct.
There is a lot of old information out there about keeping tortoises dry but there are people on this forum who have kept tortoises for decades and used many many methods of raising them and have found by far that keeping them on moist substrate with some humidity really is the best.
It’s different for some species like a sulcata and a leopard will need 80% plus humidity, but a horsfield humidity around 50-70% is ideal.
I would possibly remove the moss as sometimes they eat it, if you notice your tortoise eating just take it out.

If you post some pictures of your enclosure then people will comment and give you advice.
 

lymcBoris

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Apr 12, 2019
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Hi welcome, What you have done is correct.
There is a lot of old information out there about keeping tortoises dry but there are people on this forum who have kept tortoises for decades and used many many methods of raising them and have found by far that keeping them on moist substrate with some humidity really is the best.
It’s different for some species like a sulcata and a leopard will need 80% plus humidity, but a horsfield humidity around 50-70% is ideal.
I would possibly remove the moss as sometimes they eat it, if you notice your tortoise eating just take it out.

If you post some pictures of your enclosure then people will comment and give you advice.
Hi and thank you very much. Put my mind at rest as I just want the best for our lovely wee Boris. I will post some pics very soon. It's way past my bedtime and here I am still on the tortoise forum[emoji3] It's a godsend. Thank you to all you amazing tortoise keepers for sharing so much info and advice.
 

lymcBoris

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So here is our little 19 month old Boris in his enclosure. It will grow with him and we would love to have him outside lots, but here in Scotland it's not very warm. Hopefully we'll get a nice summer [emoji23] (hilarious) not likely. I've posted a typical morning Scottish sky. Maybe a bit unfair as it has actually been very lovely the last 2 weeks, but still too chilly for Boris. I still can't get my head around the fact I'm chatting to people from all over the world. Yes, I am a 41 year old Mother, but still a kid at heart. Any advice on my enclosure would be greatly appreciated. Although I just know that it could go bigger. [emoji6] We will get there. IMG_20190505_090653.jpeg IMG_20190505_090950.jpeg IMG_20190505_090734.jpeg IMG_20190505_090717.jpeg 1557044116155.jpeg
 

lymcBoris

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Apr 12, 2019
Messages
102
Location (City and/or State)
Scotland
So here is our little 19 month old Boris in his enclosure. It will grow with him and we would love to have him outside lots, but here in Scotland it's not very warm. Hopefully we'll get a nice summer [emoji23] (hilarious) not likely. I've posted a typical morning Scottish sky. Maybe a bit unfair as it has actually been very lovely the last 2 weeks, but still too chilly for Boris. I still can't get my head around the fact I'm chatting to people from all over the world. Yes, I am a 41 year old Mother, but still a kid at heart. Any advice on my enclosure would be greatly appreciated. Although I just know that it could go bigger. [emoji6] We will get there. View attachment 271434 View attachment 271435 View attachment 271436 View attachment 271437 View attachment 271438
Oops, got a bit carried away with the photo sharing there! Toby and Jet, my hairy babies got in there and felt bad about slagging my beautiful Scotland's weather off so put in a nice woodland walk shot to show how lovely it can be. I'll stop now. IMG_20190330_152136.jpeg IMG-20190330-WA0000.jpeg IMG-20190330-WA0002.jpeg IMG-20181109-WA0002.jpeg
 

Tom

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Enclosure looks great. You want the substrate to be damp, but not wet. You'll have to constantly evaluate and adjust how much moisture you put into the substrate to keep it at the right level of dampness.

Boris is pyramiding a little bit. Re-evaluate the temperature directly under your basking bulb and the type of basking bulb too. Often bumping up the ambient temperature will reduce their desire to bask under the desiccating lamps to get warm.

And I love your dogs! They would help me and my hawks catch lots of rabbits here! Just keep them away from Boris at all times. I don't know if your read about it yet, but the family dog frequently mauls the family tortoise. Just a word of caution...
 

lymcBoris

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Enclosure looks great. You want the substrate to be damp, but not wet. You'll have to constantly evaluate and adjust how much moisture you put into the substrate to keep it at the right level of dampness.

Boris is pyramiding a little bit. Re-evaluate the temperature directly under your basking bulb and the type of basking bulb too. Often bumping up the ambient temperature will reduce their desire to bask under the desiccating lamps to get warm.

And I love your dogs! They would help me and my hawks catch lots of rabbits here! Just keep them away from Boris at all times. I don't know if your read about it yet, but the family dog frequently mauls the family tortoise. Just a word of caution...
Hi Tom, thanks for the advice on heat. I did think he looked a little pyramid like. The breeder I got him from never mentioned any humid hides etc, but she was really knowledgeable on everything else. I am using a 100 W basking bulb as shown and Arcadia Pro T5 12% uvb strip. Boris's enclosure is in my son's bedroom, so it's always quite warm, ambient temp about 21 Celsius. We regularly mist and add warm water to keep substrate moist. His basking spot is between 30-34 Celsius. He does seem to sleep a lot. In fact he's been sleeping all day after he ate his breakfast this morning. Do you think this is normal? Thanks, I do love my dogs and Yes, I have been well warned about dogs and tortoises and to keep them well away from Boris. He smells like a dog chew to them I've been told. [emoji849] Thanks again. Lynne
 

lymcBoris

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Messages
102
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Hi Tom, thanks for the advice on heat. I did think he looked a little pyramid like. The breeder I got him from never mentioned any humid hides etc, but she was really knowledgeable on everything else. I am using a 100 W basking bulb as shown and Arcadia Pro T5 12% uvb strip. Boris's enclosure is in my son's bedroom, so it's always quite warm, ambient temp about 21 Celsius. We regularly mist and add warm water to keep substrate moist. His basking spot is between 30-34 Celsius. He does seem to sleep a lot. In fact he's been sleeping all day after he ate his breakfast this morning. Do you think this is normal? Thanks, I do love my dogs and Yes, I have been well warned about dogs and tortoises and to keep them well away from Boris. He smells like a dog chew to them I've been told. [emoji849] Thanks again. Lynne
Basking bulb used 1557073021235.jpeg
 

Tom

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Basking bulb used

21 is quite cool for a daytime ambient. A tortoise wants to get its body temp up to around 34-36 during the day. That is a big jump from 21 and will require frequent basking for a long duration. If ambient got up to 26-29 during the day, your tortoise would bask a lot less.

Have you measured the temp directly under the basking bulb? With a digital thermometer or infrared heat gun on a flat hard surface? A 100 watt spot bulb should be making it much hotter than that. I prefer to use flood bulbs. They spread the heat out over a much greater area. Spot bulbs concentrate too much IR-A into too small of an area and it desiccates the carapace terribly, which causes the pyramiding.

Switching bulbs, adding some ambient heat for day time, frequent soaks, and some daily carapace spraying will reduce the effects of pyramiding over time.
 

lymcBoris

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Location (City and/or State)
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21 is quite cool for a daytime ambient. A tortoise wants to get its body temp up to around 34-36 during the day. That is a big jump from 21 and will require frequent basking for a long duration. If ambient got up to 26-29 during the day, your tortoise would bask a lot less.

Have you measured the temp directly under the basking bulb? With a digital thermometer or infrared heat gun on a flat hard surface? A 100 watt spot bulb should be making it much hotter than that. I prefer to use flood bulbs. They spread the heat out over a much greater area. Spot bulbs concentrate too much IR-A into too small of an area and it desiccates the carapace terribly, which causes the pyramiding.

Switching bulbs, adding some ambient heat for day time, frequent soaks, and some daily carapace spraying will reduce the effects of pyramiding over time.
I have a digital thermometer under the basking spot and am always trying to get the temp correct. It's usually about 33 -35 celcius. It's on a dimmer. Could you recommend a flood bulb I could get on Amazon perhaps please? And I can try to make ambient temp in room warmer, maybe a CHE heater? Many thanks for your advice.
 

katieandiggy

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I have a digital thermometer under the basking spot and am always trying to get the temp correct. It's usually about 33 -35 celcius. It's on a dimmer. Could you recommend a flood bulb I could get on Amazon perhaps please? And I can try to make ambient temp in room warmer, maybe a CHE heater? Many thanks for your advice.

You could up your thermostat, I also use a dimmer and mine is set to 35. At the other end I have a 100w CHE which I mainly use during the evening but sometimes if the room is chilly I turn it on.
 

lymcBoris

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Apr 12, 2019
Messages
102
Location (City and/or State)
Scotland
You could up your thermostat, I also use a dimmer and mine is set to 35. At the other end I have a 100w CHE which I mainly use during the evening but sometimes if the room is chilly I turn it on.
Thanks I'll get a CHE. And up thermostat. Poor wee guy has probably been too chilly and that's why he's always wanting to dig under and sleep! Hopefully this will make a big difference to pyramiding and his activity and wellbeing. Thanks for help.
 
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