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Discussion in 'Sulcata tortoises' started by SulcataSammy, Dec 1, 2019.

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  1. SulcataSammy

    SulcataSammy Member Tortoise Club

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    Hi,

    I have always had a turtle/tortoise since I was a little boy. Now I have my dream tortoise. Had him since he was a hatchling. His name is Sammy and he is about 15. He's always lived on a tortoise table 4' x 6'. Recently I had a carpenter build a, "enclosure" for him that is part of my indoor porch, 10' x 6'. Doing well with him, he is very healthy and active. This new environment of his has been a learning curve for both him and I. How he navigates the new space, eating and water areas etc. I will have questions that only another sulcata IMG_9083.jpg IMG_9259.jpg owner can answer. Looking forward to getting started.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019
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  2. ZEROPILOT

    ZEROPILOT Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    Hello and welcome.
    I see a few issues that could use some work.
    But, since Sulcata are not my "thing", I'll wait for a more qualified member to pop in.
    You've found the very best forum on the internet
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  3. EllieMay

    EllieMay Well-Known Member

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    Hello and welcome! When you say that Sammy is about 15, do you meant 15” long or 15 years old? Have you had a chance to navigate the forum much and find the Sulcata care sheets?
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  4. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    That's a pretty good size as it is for that tortoise, but I'm afraid when you get all the "accoutrements" set in, it's not going to be so big - a large feeding tile, a waterer large enough for him to fit in, a couple hiding places, a few plants and maybe a few sight barriers.

    Some tortoises are confused by the red light, thinking it makes objects (like substrate) seem to be edible, so watch out for that. You might think about exchanging the red light for a ceramic heat emitter or a radiant heat panel.

    I don't know what that substrate is,but it doesn't look like something for tortoises. Cypress mulch or fir bark would be better.

    Your tortoise is a lucky animal to be in the care of someone so interested in his well being.
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  5. SulcataSammy

    SulcataSammy Member Tortoise Club

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    To answer all the equations. Being that he was in a rather small enclosure for his whole life (15 years), his growth has been slower than if he had had more room as he got bigger. When my vet sees him, he says he is the best looking (shell-health) that he has ever seen. Vet came to the house to treat my cats, dogs, and parrots. So I am doing something right. Sammy is about 25lbs, his shell is 15"x12". I now have a big cardboard box (flaps folded in) in the corner for him, which he goes into and hides. He spends a lot of time out walking and exploring everyday. The substrate is what I had used for the past 15 years, shredded paper, (like Carefresh). He is used to it, eats very little of it accidentally, as his food goes off his tray. It is clean, easy to see and pick up and replace soiled areas. I can also walk in the pen without carrying dirt, fibers/bark on my shoes. It isn't cheap. I've considered changing to cypress mulches many people say is best, but am afraid to "rock the boat" on what has been successful, not to mention the dirtiness of it, hard to see waste and he is not used to it...how might he react to it? I keep the water dish for him always full and clean, and soak him in a plastic tub about 3 times a week, where he always pees. Usually poops shortly afterwards and is easy to pick up and see on the bedding. The corner light is a red heat bulb that he sits under sometimes, usually at night. He seems peaceful with it. There are two powersun UV lights hanging about 30" above him. The area he is in, is surrounded with big windows, so lots of daylight comes in. I alternate them every other day for variation for him. I have pretty much copied everything I had done in his smaller tortoise table which has worked good so far. I have also hung several plants over the pen, and put a few big ones on the top edges of the pen. I feed hime 95% orchard grass, and occasionally treats of dark greens, shredded carrots or in the summer, grape leaves and plantain and dandelion leaves.
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  6. Maro2Bear

    Maro2Bear Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Well, his diet sure seems pretty spot on.
    • 95% orchard grass, dark greens, a few carrots, grape leaves, plantain & dandelion leaves

    It probably would be good to eventually swap out your substrate with a few bags of cypress mulch. I can’t imagine the shredded paper has been the best, but it sounds like you are hooked on it.

    Good luck.
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  7. SulcataSammy

    SulcataSammy Member Tortoise Club

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    Let me ask you...if the entire area was swapped out for cypress mulch, would I just add some gradually at first? How messy is it? Is it damp and muddy? If I walked on it, which I intend to be in there with him occasionally, will I leave with a mess on my shoes, carrying into the living room? I want to do what is best for him of course, but after 15 years of success and being very healthy I would say the paper is a test that at least for Sammy, this has had no bad effects.

    **Also, should this conversation or any further one be in the sulfate forum? Where is there a link to and how do I become a member?
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  8. vladimir

    vladimir Well-Known Member

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    Hi @SulcataSammy,

    Welcome to the forum! We have a 45lb sulcata in Pennsylvania who lives inside full time during the winter. We use mulch as the substrate, and have a rubber floor mat on the ground right outside of where we enter/exit the enclosure. You can see our setup here: https://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/planning-new-indoor-enclosure.163087/
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  9. Maro2Bear

    Maro2Bear Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Personally, id remove all the paper, get two or three bags of cypress mulch and spread it in there. Personally, I find it very clean to use as a substrate. Has a nice smell, doesn't mold or mildew, doesn't stick to your shoes. You can still keep your slate & terra-cotta dishes as you have.

    https://www.lowes.com/pd/GARDEN-PRO-by-Harvest-2-cu-ft-Brown-Cypress-Bark-Blend-Mulch/50329681

    I think you might actually find it LESS messy than the paper.

    Good luck.

    Maybe moderator @Yvonne G will move this all into the Sulcata section. Nothing to really “join” .
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  10. SulcataSammy

    SulcataSammy Member Tortoise Club

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    I have looked for the mulch at the local garden center in a big bag, and I would need about 4 or 5 bags. Can I use this (pic attached) or do I need to get something "pet store" graded. Yes, I do get little paper scraps on the floor from time to time off my shoes.

    Would you suggest I clean out all paper first, then add all cypress. The bottom in a painted, wood. Do I cover it with plastic first, then the mulch? Doesn't the tortoise dig into the plastic? How deep should I make the mulch?

    mulch1.jpg
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  11. vladimir

    vladimir Well-Known Member

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    I would remove the paper first before adding mulch. I'll let @Maro2Bear confirm but I believe that's what most people use for cypress mulch.

    In my case, I put a plastic dropcloth down on the floor, then put the mulch on that. For about $7 for a 10' x 25' sheet of plastic I figured it was a worthwhile extra layer of protection. So far I haven't noticed any holes in the plastic from the tortoise.

    I put about 4" down initially, but over time it settles and I'd guess I have about 2" in there now.
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  12. SulcataSammy

    SulcataSammy Member Tortoise Club

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    I will await final opinions on the mulch, then proceed with it. Do you think suddenly changing his substrate may cause him any issues? Like maybe eating it? Afraid to walk on it? Thanks

    I love your tortoise enclosure/room. Kind the direction I am reading, but much smaller and less elaborate, due to the lack of any larger area to build.
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  13. Maro2Bear

    Maro2Bear Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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  14. Toddrickfl1

    Toddrickfl1 Well-Known Member Tortoise Club

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    I use this exact mulch in my tortoise enclosures, it's safe.
  15. Ray--Opo

    Ray--Opo Well-Known Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    I was buying my cypress mulch from home depot and Lowe's. Then about a year ago they changed suppliers. It used to be 100% cypress. Now you notice it says cypress blend. It says it has different forest products in it. I quit using it but it was at the same time I was transferring Opo outside. Not sure what the other forest products are. I did talk to a landscaping company and they said their cypress mulch was 100%. I would make it at least 3 in. deep.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2019
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  16. Maro2Bear

    Maro2Bear Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Since your enclosure is pretty small, you could easily remove your current shredded paper substrate, fold and tack in a plastic tarp that will protect 95% of the wooden bottom, then dump in your cypress mulch substrate to a good depth 3 inches or so. I’m sure your tort will appreciate the mulch over the paper. You could even lightly spray water on the mulch as well to keep it moist, and increase humidity. (Can’t wet down your shred, so another good reason to swap it out.). Anyhow, good luck with your upgrades.
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  17. SulcataSammy

    SulcataSammy Member Tortoise Club

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    Thanks everyone. I will be buying a few "frozen" bags of cypress mulch from my local garden center, and let it thaw and warm up in my basement. I guess I will have to let Sammy have some time back in the past, back to his old tortoise table, while I clean and prepare his new substrate. I'll send a picture when he is happily established.

    My next concern is his water dish. It is rather small, and he always walks over it and drags the substrate in. Still drinks it somehow. But I have been searching for ideas for a dish that is a bit bigger, that he won't walk through. Also so I can easily take it out and clean. Been curious about whether a bird cage watering (like) dish would work, screwed to the side just at or above ground level. Would he put his head over the small edge and drink? Would he learn that this is where the water is? Seems he like to fill his water dish with stuff, walk through it and still put his face in there and drink. Maybe that is what they like? I do soak him a few times a week as well.
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  18. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Move the waterer away from the edge of the enclosure out to the middle.
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  19. vladimir

    vladimir Well-Known Member

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    This may help - they tend to walk around the perimeter more than the middle. Although in my case Vladimir finds a way to walk through his water dish every day even though it's in the middle.
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  20. SulcataSammy

    SulcataSammy Member Tortoise Club

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    Mine is in the middle. Any solutions would be appreciated. Seems like this just may be what they do.
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