BladeBitten

New Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2018
Messages
3
Location (City and/or State)
Essex, United Kingdom
Hello guys.
I bought my fiancee and I a Horsfield at the start of the year (it was via www.thetortoiseshop.com) and we've called him Peewee.
When we got him, he came with a tortoise table, a lamp with a combination UVA/UVB bulb, bedding (I think it was aspen) and the food bowls etc.
(I've attached images of his current setup, including the height of his combi lamp)
We've added a few small decorative items, swapped a feeding bowl for a flat piece of slate, and we cut a plant pot in half and put that in there so he has a shaded area to cool off and tunnel - he spends a lot of time sleeping in a tunnel he dug at the back of it.

Now, we have had him since January, and up until recently we've not had a problem really (he's a slightly fussy eater - he doesn't like dried or fresh flowers except for the occasional rose leaf, he'll sometimes eat dandelion leaves, and he'll usually munch on some salad and veg like rocket, watercress, spinach, cucumber, kale etc) and we always sprinkle some Nutrobal calcium powder on his food.
There are some days when he hardly touches his food. Being only 11 months, I thought I'd read that you should feed them daily when they're still at such a young age.
He does sleep quite a lot.
It came time to change his bedding completely around a month ago or more, and we used "Tortoise Terrain" from Pets at Home (which is a mix of sterilized top soil, sand and limestone grit) mixed with "Hemp Bedding" from ProRep.
I've recently read that hemp has started to be recognized as a potentially harmful bedding due to how sharp it can be and possible fumes it gives out when heated... True?
(article: http://www.tortoisetrust.org/articles/hemp.htm )
Also, his combi lamp is turned on around 8am and then turned off around 8pm.

Today is a Sunday and my local vets shop is closed, so I will be making an appointment for him tomorrow. But over the last few days, Peewee has been rubbing his eyes a lot (one more than the other). It's gotten to a point where he only seems to open his eyes once he's had a soak in water for a while, and even then one eye only opens a small amount and the other still doesn't open fully. It also looks like there's a small light raised area under his right eye (picture attached) I'm unsure if he's scratched his eye and it's irritated or if it's something more sinister.

I'm just worried as we don't know anyone else who owns tortoises, and there are so many conflicting opinions online as to whether you should do this or do that.

Is one combi lamp enough lighting and heating for him?
Is he not eating enough?
Is he sleeping too much?
Is his bedding suitable?
Is his SETUP suitable?

If you guys could help me out I would be very grateful. Thank you very much.
 

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Lyn W

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Hi and welcome, I'm in the UK too. You will find the most up to date information on tortoises of all species on this forum from people with many years of experience who only have the best interests of torts at heart. There may be some differences of opinion but that is mainly down to which species people have and part of the world/climate keepers are based. Pet shops rarely give the correct information as the are only in it for profit so always check here before spending on what could be unsuitable or unsafe equipment.

What sort of bulb do you use? If it is a coiled or cfc type then that could be affecting his eyes and needs to be changed asap, either for a uvb tube fitting or a mvb bulb which you could use in that holder you have. Or it may be the substrate that is irritating his eyes, Sand is rarely recommended for torts as it can get on the food and cause the gut to become compacted and irritate eyes. I believe Russians like moist substrate they can dig into - but check the caresheet for that. https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/

I don't have a horsefield/Russian tort but if you follow the care sheet you will find the answers to most of your questions. It will tell you all about diet, temps, substrate and humidity etc. The Beginners Mistakes thread (link below) will also help you avoid making the same mistakes as others and the Enclosures thread has lots of great ideas for making his home as safe and torto friendly as possible. You may find answers by using the search facility too.

I do know that Nutrabal and/or calcium powder shouldn't be used every day - just a pinch a few times a week of each should be fine.
It's hard to tell without seeing the size of your tort in comparison but can he get in and out of his water dish safely? Many members use shallow terracotta plant saucers sunk level with the substrate so their torts have easy and safe access without risk of tipping backwards and drowning.
Do you have a digital temperature gun? These are ideal for spot checking your temps. Digital thermometers/hygrometers should be placed at tort level.

The Tortoise Table website (link below) is also a good guide to which plants are safe or not for torts.
Sorry I've not been able to answer all your questions but hope this has helped point you in the right direction.
 
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katieandiggy

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Hi there I’m in the U.K. too! [emoji112]

Welcome to the forum. Lots and lots of people come here only to find that they have been doing things wrong b cute pet shops have given bad information.

I’ll keep it brief, but I think this forum would concur that the best place to keep a young tortoise is in a closed chamber I.e a vivarium or terrarium type set up. Some people have been very imaginative in the way they have made theirs work.

Now, Russians don’t need the kind of humidity that day a leopard or sulcata will need but do benefit from a humidity from 60-80%.
Tables can work for Russians so let’s see if we can work out what’s going on.

It would be great to see a picture of your bulb, can’t quite see the bulb but as Lyn has said the coil type bulbs are notorious for causing eye issues in torts.
Secondly, any kind of sand is not a good substrate, it also causes eye issues and because it tends to stick to the food ingesting it can cause gut impaction.
I would say, seeing as though he’s been fine up until now, it could be the sand....
Most people around here use coco coir and fine grade orchid bark chips.
You can buy the coir bricks in Jolly’s pets for about £3.99 and they expand about 800 times their size when they are wet. Also they sell the orchid bark in the reptile section in a large bag for about £8.99.
What are you temperature inside your enclosure? Basking spot? Warm end? Cool end? Overnight temperature?

Does you Tort have any outside time in the sun?

We will get to the bottom of it.
 

BladeBitten

New Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2018
Messages
3
Location (City and/or State)
Essex, United Kingdom
Hi guys. Thanks for getting back to me.
I've made a vets appointment for him at 11 this morning so hopefully will get some insight.
I've attached photos of the bulb that we've been using since we bought him.
We don't have a temperature gun or a thermometer, but it's something that I will purchase.
I'll take your advice regarding the substrate, and the calcium powder.
The only pet shop close to me is Pets at Home, and I only remember seeing the substrate that I already have being sold there, so I'll buy him some different bedding online.
We do have a small garden with grass and he does go outside (admittedly not as often as he could/should)
As for the water dish, I've observed him getting in and out quite a few times and he seems to manage to height well. However I will bear in mind what you've said regarding the plant saucer. We did have a more shallow water dish previously but it didn't hold much water at all, plus once he got inside it it was barely a puddle.

I'll keep you updated with how we get on at the vets.
 

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katieandiggy

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Hi, is that the Only light that you are using? That light just for heat and basking it does not give any UVB.

I don’t think your tortoise needs a vet.

There are several things that are going to seriously affect your tortoise:

1. Your tort absolutely needs some kind of UVB whether from natural sunlight or from a UVB light. They need to it live. Without it your tort will end up with Metabolic Bone Disease. The light that you have is only for light and heat.

2. Temperatures are absolutely crucial. If it’s too cold your tort will hide away and not come out, if it’s too hot the same will happen. You need a basking spot of around 95-100f with a nice gradient of temperature with the cool side around 75-80.

I think there is your problem.

Please just be aware that unless you are seeing a specialist reptile vet, most vets haven’t got a clue about tortoises. The information they have is outdated and wrong most of the time.

Sorry if that was harsh sounding but I wanted to get straight to he point. Those 2 things are absolutely crucial to the health of your tort.
 
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daniellenc

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If he’s rubbing his eyes and not opening them infection is very possible. I’d see the vet. But diet and enclosure need improving so definitely read the above threads.
 

Tom

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Is one combi lamp enough lighting and heating for him?
Is he not eating enough?
Is he sleeping too much?
Is his bedding suitable?
Is his SETUP suitable?

If you guys could help me out I would be very grateful. Thank you very much.

Hello and welcome. I like to number my responses to help me keep track of each point.
  1. This one bulb might be enough for him, IF the temperatures are correct under it. You need to know four temperatures: Warm side, cool side, basking area directly under the bulb and overnight low. Reptiles are dependent on outside heat sources to maintain their body temp. You also need to put a UV meter under that bulb so you'll know how much UV it is producing. Not enough, and they can get MBD. Too much and it can burn their eyes. The only way to know is with a meter. Like this: https://www.solarmeter.com/model65.html
  2. No. He is not eating enough. They should eat like little piggies and be begging for more.
  3. Sleeping a lot is normal for little ones, but with lack of appetite and these other factors, it might be too much in your case.
  4. No. Your bedding is not suitable. It is dangerous. Whoever came up with the idea of putting limestone bits in the substrate and marketing it as reptile bedding should be smacked up side the head. The people who mindlessly sell the stuff should be smacked too. How on earth does anyone think its a good idea to encourage a tortoise to eat sandy substrate when it wants to satisfy its calcium cravings? This makes no sense. You should remove that bedding, and the hemp bedding too, and use either damp coco coir or damp fine grade orchid bark.
  5. I don't like open topped tables because it is very difficult to maintain the warm humid conditions needed by a baby. Closed chambers (Vivariums) make it much easier to maintain the necessary warmth and moderate humidity needed by this species.
  6. I agree that a vet is likely to do more harm than good. There is no semester on tortoise husbandry in vet school. Most of them want to do "vitamin" injections or administer drugs that are not needed without even addressing the CAUSE of whatever the issue is. Your first priorities should be to check your temps and make any adjustments that are needed, change the substrate, increase humidity, add a humid hide, get a meter under that bulb to see what its doing, and get him on a better diet with more of the right types of weeds, leaves and flowers, and less grocery store produce. I think if you do al of those things, you'll discover the problem, fix it, and not need a vet.
Here are those links again to make it easy:
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/
 

katieandiggy

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Okay I just had a detailed look at the light on Google and it does produce UVB so that light should be fine providing you check what Tom said above
 
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