The Best Way To Raise A Sulcata, Leopard, Or Star Tortoise

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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And just to be clear, why do you not recommend mercury lights? Also, I thought I saw you mention tube lighting - if I use tube lighting, does that mean my tortoise no longer has a "basking area"? Rather a whole enclosure to get UV from? Thanks!!
There are four elements to heating and lighting:
  1. Basking bulb. I use 65 watt incandescent floods from the hardware store. Some people will need bigger, or smaller wattage bulbs. Let your thermometer be your guide. I run them on a timer for about 12 hours and adjust the height to get the correct basking temp under them. I also like to use a flat rock of some sort directly under the bulb. You need to check the temp with a thermometer directly under the bulb and get it to around 95-100F (36-37C).
  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. You'd only need day heat for a temperate species like Testudo or DT, as long as your house stays above 60F (15-16C) at night.
  3. Light. I use LEDs for this purpose. Something in the 5000-6500K color range will look the best. Most bulbs at the store are in the 2500K range and they look yellowish. Strip or screw-in bulb types are both fine.
  4. UV. If you can get your tortoise outside for an hour 2 or 3 times a week, you won't need indoor UV. In the UK, get one of the newer HO type fluorescent tubes. Which type will depend on mounting height. 5.0 bulbs make almost no UV. I like the 12%. You need a meter to check this: https://www.solarmeter.com/model65.html
Problems with MVBs:
1. They run too hot for a closed chamber, which is what you should be using.
2. They cause too much carapace desiccation which causes pyramiding.
3. They are fragile and break easily.
4. They are temperamental sometimes and shut themselves off for 20 minutes at a time.
5. They are expensive.
6. Their UV output runs from one extreme to the other. Some produce way too much UV, and other produce none at all after two or three months.
 

Bredlawskk

New Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2021
Messages
4
Location (City and/or State)
Durham
There are four elements to heating and lighting:
  1. Basking bulb. I use 65 watt incandescent floods from the hardware store. Some people will need bigger, or smaller wattage bulbs. Let your thermometer be your guide. I run them on a timer for about 12 hours and adjust the height to get the correct basking temp under them. I also like to use a flat rock of some sort directly under the bulb. You need to check the temp with a thermometer directly under the bulb and get it to around 95-100F (36-37C).
  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. You'd only need day heat for a temperate species like Testudo or DT, as long as your house stays above 60F (15-16C) at night.
  3. Light. I use LEDs for this purpose. Something in the 5000-6500K color range will look the best. Most bulbs at the store are in the 2500K range and they look yellowish. Strip or screw-in bulb types are both fine.
  4. UV. If you can get your tortoise outside for an hour 2 or 3 times a week, you won't need indoor UV. In the UK, get one of the newer HO type fluorescent tubes. Which type will depend on mounting height. 5.0 bulbs make almost no UV. I like the 12%. You need a meter to check this: https://www.solarmeter.com/model65.html
Problems with MVBs:
1. They run too hot for a closed chamber, which is what you should be using.
2. They cause too much carapace desiccation which causes pyramiding.
3. They are fragile and break easily.
4. They are temperamental sometimes and shut themselves off for 20 minutes at a time.
5. They are expensive.
6. Their UV output runs from one extreme to the other. Some produce way too much UV, and other produce none at all after two or three months.
You don't know how much I appreciate your advice! Thank you so much. Please bear with my million questions, just dissecting all the information I can find trying to be the best owner I can, it's a bit overwhelming. Apologies in advance.

So, my tortoise even as a newborn really only needs 3-5 hours a week of UV exposure? Yes, we live in the South so we have no problem getting him outside. Does the need for UV increase or decrease with age? Yes, I took your advice and have a closed top enclosure. But, at what age/ size of this tortoise do I stop trying to make enclosures and just let him wander an outdoor pen, etc? Probably when it's not practical based on the space he needs, right? Until that point, do you have suggestions on materials to use when building him enclosures? I saw your pictures and I'm still a bit confused on what/how to make something as nice as you did for your hatchlings.

Thanks again, Brenden
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,114
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
1-2 hours of access to sun is enough to get the job done. 3-5 hours would be great.

I don't know if the need for UV increases or not, but they end up getting a lot more as they gain size and spend more time outside.

I like to have a large outdoor pen right away. I limit outside time while they are small, but some outside time is good for them. I keep them mostly indoors in their closed chambers, and give them about an hours of sunning time per inch of tortoise as a rough guideline.

I buy my indoor enclosures from @Markw84 or Animal Plastics, and use plywood, 2x4s, and blocks for my outdoor enclosures.
 

Bredlawskk

New Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2021
Messages
4
Location (City and/or State)
Durham
1-2 hours of access to sun is enough to get the job done. 3-5 hours would be great.

I don't know if the need for UV increases or not, but they end up getting a lot more as they gain size and spend more time outside.

I like to have a large outdoor pen right away. I limit outside time while they are small, but some outside time is good for them. I keep them mostly indoors in their closed chambers, and give them about an hours of sunning time per inch of tortoise as a rough guideline.

I buy my indoor enclosures from @Markw84 or Animal Plastics, and use plywood, 2x4s, and blocks for my outdoor enclosures.
Great information! I'll be sure to follow your sizing rule for time spent outdoors.

Wish us luck.

Brenden
 

sarahlovedreams

New Member
Joined
Jul 13, 2021
Messages
2
Location (City and/or State)
Mountain Home
I completely agree with you about not finding a well started baby. I have looked at many "breeder" adds and they are all on "Pets at home" substrate, or some other completely inappropriate bedding and the tortoises look dry!!
I am not going to rush this, I learnt my lesson with my last tort (who passed from Kidney issues after being started too dry)
I am going to do lots of research on breeders across the UK even if I have to drive miles to get the right baby, and I will be sure to follow your advice as far as I possibly can.
Can you get an incubator and buy a tortoise egg to hatch yourself over there?
 
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