Advice for upgraded indoor enclosure

uberlou

New Member
Joined
Oct 12, 2021
Messages
2
Location (City and/or State)
California
Hello,

I've been an intense lurker and reader for the last month and have been trying to soak up as much knowledge as I can, since this has seemed like the best resource.

Some quick background on Tannie the Tort:
He’s a juvenile sulcata we took in from some close friends over the summer. I don't know his hatch date, but our friends adopted him from a co-worker when he was “palm-sized”. They realized after a year that they couldn't give it the proper care along with their young children. We are animal lovers and took him in from there, not knowing what was expected! Lol We approximate him to be about 3 or 4 years old? He's about 7" or 8" in his carapace length.

Enclosures:
His prior home was a terrarium with a mesh lid. After reading about how useless open tops are, we ordered a PVC enclosure made by Dragonhaus (48" x 24" x 15") that I just built this weekend. He has an outdoor enclosure that is covered, deluxe and well maintained, but 1.) we haven't rigged power yet to create a nightbox in that area 2.) he's still small enough that bringing him in at night is overall better from what I’ve read here. I am posting today specifically about the indoor enclosure and some questions I have.

Enclosure details:
Heating - Zoo Med Labs Habitat Heater (RHP) attached to a thermostat controller

Lighting - SunBlaster NanoTech T5HO w/ a Zoo Med Reptisun 10.0 T5HO UVB 39W bulb

Substrate - Mix of cypress mulch and coco coir

I currently do not have a basking light in this enclosure. Since it's a closed top, i'm not sure of the best option. I've seen people attach sockets with the bulbs directly on top, but haven't found the best instructions on how to do this? I'm not entirely handy (despite putting this enclosure together myself), so some tips might be helpful if anyone can offer. When it's sunny and warm enough, he goes to his outdoor yard enclosure and gets about 5 or 6 hours outdoor time. We live in Simi Vallley, California. Warmer days right now are about 80. With the outdoor sun time, does he still need indoor basking? There may be a streak of days to a week (possibly multiple weeks) that it might be too cold to let him out, so that's my biggest concern.

This enclosure has two vents on the back, should these be covered up?
My wife and I had a discussion on this, I thought it should be covered, she thinks they should stay as-is.

In his enclosure, it's holding steady at about 85% humidity, but the thermometer mostly reads between 76-78 degrees. Though the temperature probe for the heat mat controller read at about 82 degrees. Thermometer/hygrometer is located in the top corner of the enclosure. Any ideas to heat it up a little more (assuming covering the vents?) or should my thermometer/hygrometer be in a different spot?

Here are some pictures of his enclosure and of Tan the man himself. I'm open to all advice, i've been an avid reader of the forums as I mentioned and have tried to take in all the info especially from Tom's guides. I know this is still a work in progress and trying my hardest to work out what's best for Tannie. Thank you!
 

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Maro2Bear

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
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Messages
13,605
Location (City and/or State)
Glenn Dale, Maryland, USA
Greetings & Welcome to the Forum.

Its great that you adopted this Sully and are looking to improve its living & care arrangement. A few key things with Sulcatas is that they grow large & need a lot of room from the start to roam & graze. They need lots of humidity, coupled with minimum overall ambient temps of 80F, a nice warmer basking area, and of course food (weeds, grass, flowers, leaves) and water. No fruit (they don’t digest sugars easily). As youngsters, especially, 30-45 minute soaks in warm shallow water does wonders for their overall health (hydrates them, their skin & exoskeleton). Moisture is key to nice even healthy shell growth.

Since you are in California, you should be able to get your tortoise out for some grazing & to soak in the benefits of bright sunshine. Many TFO folks live in California & can address this, namely tortoise guru @Tom and TFO keeper extraordinaire @Yvonne G . Don’t worry about daily sunshine - but frequent is good, less frequent is bad.

Now on to your enclosure - I’m afraid to say that it is way too small to properly house a growing Sulcata. Think very large enclosure so they can roam about. Hard to tell scale of things, but your current set-up might be good for a few more months. Id cover up the holes you have in order to keep the humidity inside. The higher humidity, the better. Air will get inside each & every time you open it up to feed, water, soak & check. Lastly, I’m not sure what kind of substrate you are using? The best is medium grade orchid bark, 100% cypress mulch, or coco coir. All of these work well - don’t mold or rot & hold moisture. Stay away from sand or dirt or any garden soil.

For heat - you need to add in an overhead CHE or a RHP - connected to a thermostat. Your temps right now are too cold.

Sensors - should be mounted at TORT level, not up high. Place where your tort sits. Many folks use more than one sensor, including a point & shoot infrared temperature reader.

Good luck - happy torting
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
56,827
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Hello,

I've been an intense lurker and reader for the last month and have been trying to soak up as much knowledge as I can, since this has seemed like the best resource.

Some quick background on Tannie the Tort:
He’s a juvenile sulcata we took in from some close friends over the summer. I don't know his hatch date, but our friends adopted him from a co-worker when he was “palm-sized”. They realized after a year that they couldn't give it the proper care along with their young children. We are animal lovers and took him in from there, not knowing what was expected! Lol We approximate him to be about 3 or 4 years old? He's about 7" or 8" in his carapace length.

Enclosures:
His prior home was a terrarium with a mesh lid. After reading about how useless open tops are, we ordered a PVC enclosure made by Dragonhaus (48" x 24" x 15") that I just built this weekend. He has an outdoor enclosure that is covered, deluxe and well maintained, but 1.) we haven't rigged power yet to create a nightbox in that area 2.) he's still small enough that bringing him in at night is overall better from what I’ve read here. I am posting today specifically about the indoor enclosure and some questions I have.

Enclosure details:
Heating - Zoo Med Labs Habitat Heater (RHP) attached to a thermostat controller

Lighting - SunBlaster NanoTech T5HO w/ a Zoo Med Reptisun 10.0 T5HO UVB 39W bulb

Substrate - Mix of cypress mulch and coco coir

I currently do not have a basking light in this enclosure. Since it's a closed top, i'm not sure of the best option. I've seen people attach sockets with the bulbs directly on top, but haven't found the best instructions on how to do this? I'm not entirely handy (despite putting this enclosure together myself), so some tips might be helpful if anyone can offer. When it's sunny and warm enough, he goes to his outdoor yard enclosure and gets about 5 or 6 hours outdoor time. We live in Simi Vallley, California. Warmer days right now are about 80. With the outdoor sun time, does he still need indoor basking? There may be a streak of days to a week (possibly multiple weeks) that it might be too cold to let him out, so that's my biggest concern.

This enclosure has two vents on the back, should these be covered up?
My wife and I had a discussion on this, I thought it should be covered, she thinks they should stay as-is.

In his enclosure, it's holding steady at about 85% humidity, but the thermometer mostly reads between 76-78 degrees. Though the temperature probe for the heat mat controller read at about 82 degrees. Thermometer/hygrometer is located in the top corner of the enclosure. Any ideas to heat it up a little more (assuming covering the vents?) or should my thermometer/hygrometer be in a different spot?

Here are some pictures of his enclosure and of Tan the man himself. I'm open to all advice, i've been an avid reader of the forums as I mentioned and have tried to take in all the info especially from Tom's guides. I know this is still a work in progress and trying my hardest to work out what's best for Tannie. Thank you!
Hello and welcome! I'll go over everything point by point, and questions or conversation are welcome.

First the bad news:
1. That enclosure is way too small. Its a GREAT enclosure, but that is the size you'd need to start a tiny hatchling.
2. 15 inches is too low. There is no way to get the basking lamp far enough away, even with a flat ceiling mount. This is the case for a hatchling, but even more so due to the size of yours.
3. If you are not handy and don't know electricity, best to get help. I do somethings myself, but I call in qualified help whenever I'm not sure of what I'm doing.
4. The UV tube you bought is a good one, but it is much too close to him. It can burn his eyes at that distance. Your tortoise does not need indoor UV at all because it gets so much real sunshine. I'd turn it off and replace it with an LED strip if you intend to keep using this enclosure, which I recommend against.

Now the GOOD news:
1. Simi has EXCELLENT tortoise weather most of the year. I'm just over the hill in SCV. Your little guy is large enough to just go live outside full time, with a heated night box, if you don't want to get a larger indoor enclosure.
2. I normally wait until they are 8-10 inches to move them outside, but the addition of a heat lamp inside the night box will help this little guy make the adjustment while he gains some size. Heat lamps are no good for larger sulcatas, but for small ones like this in a 24" tall insulated night box, they can work for a while, and they help a lot on those cooler winter days we sometimes get.


Here are two examples of night boxes and some threads to help explain them more:

This next thread is NOT the correct care info for your species, but I include it because it shows a night box with heat lamps installed. Your tortoise will need much warmer temperatures than what is listed in this thread. I include it only for the night box pictures:
 

uberlou

New Member
Joined
Oct 12, 2021
Messages
2
Location (City and/or State)
California
Thank you Tom! Was hoping you'd chime in with some insight. This enclosure was mainly a purchase for the season since we didn't have time to set up anything outdoors for this SoCal Winter and the terrarium seemed too confined.

I did not think this enclosure would be too low until it was put together and comparing it to the more compact terrarium. It has more floor space, but the height does seem to be lacking. I'll nix the UV tube since it's too low and look into LED strip lighting per your suggestion.

For days like today it is mainly used for night warmth. He goes in at sunset, when it warms up enough by about 10 or 11am, he's out of there. I am hoping this will suffice until we get outdoor heating and give him as much outdoor roaming time as we can as weather permits. Since not sure we can turn around and expand this quickly. Poor planning on that end.

I have saved your night box plans and we hope to get that executed within next year since we think another spurt could happen anytime. I am happy to hear your thoughts that he can thrive outside with the proper heating.

I will get to researching and do appreciate your input on this. Will try to work to get out of these constraints.

Hello and welcome! I'll go over everything point by point, and questions or conversation are welcome.

First the bad news:
1. That enclosure is way too small. Its a GREAT enclosure, but that is the size you'd need to start a tiny hatchling.
2. 15 inches is too low. There is no way to get the basking lamp far enough away, even with a flat ceiling mount. This is the case for a hatchling, but even more so due to the size of yours.
3. If you are not handy and don't know electricity, best to get help. I do somethings myself, but I call in qualified help whenever I'm not sure of what I'm doing.
4. The UV tube you bought is a good one, but it is much too close to him. It can burn his eyes at that distance. Your tortoise does not need indoor UV at all because it gets so much real sunshine. I'd turn it off and replace it with an LED strip if you intend to keep using this enclosure, which I recommend against.

Now the GOOD news:
1. Simi has EXCELLENT tortoise weather most of the year. I'm just over the hill in SCV. Your little guy is large enough to just go live outside full time, with a heated night box, if you don't want to get a larger indoor enclosure.
2. I normally wait until they are 8-10 inches to move them outside, but the addition of a heat lamp inside the night box will help this little guy make the adjustment while he gains some size. Heat lamps are no good for larger sulcatas, but for small ones like this in a 24" tall insulated night box, they can work for a while, and they help a lot on those cooler winter days we sometimes get.


Here are two examples of night boxes and some threads to help explain them more:

This next thread is NOT the correct care info for your species, but I include it because it shows a night box with heat lamps installed. Your tortoise will need much warmer temperatures than what is listed in this thread. I include it only for the night box pictures:
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
56,827
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Thank you Tom! Was hoping you'd chime in with some insight. This enclosure was mainly a purchase for the season since we didn't have time to set up anything outdoors for this SoCal Winter and the terrarium seemed too confined.

I did not think this enclosure would be too low until it was put together and comparing it to the more compact terrarium. It has more floor space, but the height does seem to be lacking. I'll nix the UV tube since it's too low and look into LED strip lighting per your suggestion.

For days like today it is mainly used for night warmth. He goes in at sunset, when it warms up enough by about 10 or 11am, he's out of there. I am hoping this will suffice until we get outdoor heating and give him as much outdoor roaming time as we can as weather permits. Since not sure we can turn around and expand this quickly. Poor planning on that end.

I have saved your night box plans and we hope to get that executed within next year since we think another spurt could happen anytime. I am happy to hear your thoughts that he can thrive outside with the proper heating.

I will get to researching and do appreciate your input on this. Will try to work to get out of these constraints.
Another year? Oh no... He needs this right now. It will be much easier for you too to leave him outside and just shut the door nightly and open it every morning.
 

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