Baby Sulcata concerns about weight gain

MRooty59

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Jan 18, 2019
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Boone, North Carolina
Hello Everybody!

I got my hatchling sulcata, Geode, on September 22, 2018 and today is January 21, 2018. When I got him, he weighed 50.5g and today, four months later, he only weights 59.9g. I was under the impression that slow growth was good for these babies, but after doing so more investigating, I am aware that his growth rate is seriously below expectations.

I feed him a wide range of food that I vary often so that he never gets too much of one thing including, dandelion greens, spring mix, yard grass (planted in his enclosure), various approved weeds from my yard (some planted in his enclosure), various succulents (echevaria, optuntia cactus pads, aloe, christmas cactus, aeonium, elephant bush) bok choy, kale, oregano, cilantro, spider plant, amongst others, all of which I have researched to ensure they are safe for him. He appears to eat quite plentifully and he always has access to fresh foods in his enclosure. He poops about once every other day or so, and usually it happens during his bath.

I soak him twice a day for 15 min. each in warm water and place small piece of a soaked paper towel over his shell to promote shell hydration. He also has access to water in his enclosure at all times. I often see him pee liquid which gives me the impression that he is adequately hydrated as I have read that this indicates that he is not retaining fluid as compensation for dehydration.

He currently resides in a large, open-top aquarium (about 4 ft. long). I use a 100 watt UVA/UVB mercury vapor bulb for daytime basking and use a ceramic heating element at night. His tank ranges from 65-70F on the cool side to 85-95F on the warm side. About every 3-4 days, I soak his soil so that it never quite dries out completely but I am suspicious that the humidity may not be quite enough. I just ordered a humidifier designed for terrariums (see link)

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01CO9582Y/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

and a humidity gauge so that I can more closely contorl/monitor the humidity in his environment.

I am hoping some seasoned sulcata tortoise owners out there can help me pinpoint what I might be doing wrong that's preventing my sweet baby from growing at an appropriate rate! I look forward to hearing from you and plan on absorbing any advice you can offer! Thank you.
 

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Tim Carlisle

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To start off with, the temps should be no lower than 80F on the cool side. Your enclosure should also have a top to trap the heat and humidity. Humidity should be north of 80%. If your profile pic is a more recent pic of your sully, then it looks pretty healthy to me, at least in the eyes, mouth and tongue. Some torts grow slower than others, and it's possible you may have received the runt of the litter. How much (quantity) are you feeding it per day?

Addendum:
You might (just to be on the safe side) save some of his poo for a vet to examine for parasites.
 
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MRooty59

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Jan 18, 2019
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Location (City and/or State)
Boone, North Carolina
To start off with, the temps should be no lower than 80F on the cool side. Your enclosure should also have a top to trap the heat and humidity. Humidity should be north of 80%. If your profile pic is a more recent pic of your sully, then it looks pretty healthy to me, at least in the eyes, mouth and tongue. Some torts grow slower than others, and it's possible you may have received the runt of the litter. How much (quantity) are you feeding it per day?

Addendum:
You might (just to be on the safe side) save some of his poo for a vet to examine for parasites.

Thank you for your response! That picture was taken about a week ago.

Per your suggestion, it is possible that his enclosure has not been kept warm enough, though I have ensured his basking site (on top of a flat rock) has been in the 85-90F range. The basking lamp is usually about 6-8" off of basking rock to maintain this temperature. It has been a cold winter here the North Carolina mountains, and though I keep my house pretty toasty, I should probably be promoting more heat to his enclosure. Do you think it would be wise for me to keep his ceramic heating element on in addition to the basking lamp during the day? What temperature is appropriate for directly under the basking lamp? What temperature is most appropriate for during the night?

With regards to closing in his environment, his enclosure is a large and tall aquarium so I am unsure of how I would go about doing that. Maybe I could get a mesh lid, cut the end off where the lamps are clipped on and wrap the remaining lid with plastic wrap? Do you have any other suggestions?

He eats quite a bit and has constant access to a variety of food sources. I will look into locating a vet today for getting his poo tested for parasites/worms. Are there any tests that I can order and perform at home? Or is it generally a requirement to bring them in for this kind of testing?

Thank you again, and I apologize for the plethora of questions! Any advice or suggestions is greatly appreciated!
 

Torta-geddon

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Pictures of your tank is probably the best way to get the best advice, If you want to maintain a good ambient temperature you should hook the ceramic heat emmiter to a temperature controller so that it turns on and off by itself. Shower curtains work pretty well to hold in humidity. If you're using the lamps with the clamps on them you should remove the clamps and hang the lamps. The clamps sometimes fail and can harm your tortoise
 

TriciaStringer

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Hi. Be sure you read his article. It will really help you.

https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/how-to-raise-a-healthy-sulcata-or-leopard-version-2-0.79895/

The basking temp needs to be close to 100°. The only way to keep your humidity and heat stable is with a closed chamber. A screen top will not keep the heat and humidity in. You can cover the screen with aluminum foil. It’s an inexpensive way to close the enclosure. You will put foil over everything, lights included. Also be sure the UVB light is under the screen.

After reading the article, search for close chamber threads. That will also help.

Your tort is adorable.
 

Markw84

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Your tortoise is simply too cold. Sulcatas thrive at a core body temp of 85°-90°. And they seek out areas of high humidity to keep from drying excessively. In their natural range, the temperatue of the ground never drops much below 80° in the coldest part of the year. And the daily high even in mid winter averages around 90°. So they never need to deal with cool temperatures like we have here in the US, especially in winter. For humidity, they stay buried most all the time. While growing and feeding, they stay hidden in the cover of grass clumps and bushes. When we stick them in a small enclosure, and provide an overheat light for heat, they dry too quickly and temperatures away from the light is way too cold. They naturally want to hide and seek cover, and that will draw them to the darker, coolest parts of the enclosure. Although a thermometer in the enclosure above the substrate may say it is not too cold, the temperature is often very different below the substrate, on the bottom surface of the enclosure, where the tortoise will want to dig. Cool temps + not bright lights + dry = a tortoise that will aestivate.

Keep your tortoise at 85°+ and 80%+ humidity and give plants to hide beneath and see what happens.
 

MRooty59

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Thank you everybody for your suggestions! I think you were all right in suggesting that the humidity/temp has been too low on his enclosure.
Yesterday, I bought a lid and sealed it with plastic wrap. It immediately brought the temperature in his enclosure up and I am hopeful that the humidity will also be greatly improved with this improvement. I ordered a humidity gauge as well as a terrarium humidifier so that I can get his environmental conditions up to standard. I’m going to wait a week to see how he adjusts to these changes and if his weight doesn’t improve, I will make an appointment to get his poo checked for parasites.
Thank you again for all of your knowlegr and any further suggestions will be appreciated. I’ve attached a picture of his enclosure with the new lid, and will keep you all posted on his progress!
 

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TechnoCheese

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Thank you everybody for your suggestions! I think you were all right in suggesting that the humidity/temp has been too low on his enclosure.
Yesterday, I bought a lid and sealed it with plastic wrap. It immediately brought the temperature in his enclosure up and I am hopeful that the humidity will also be greatly improved with this improvement. I ordered a humidity gauge as well as a terrarium humidifier so that I can get his environmental conditions up to standard. I’m going to wait a week to see how he adjusts to these changes and if his weight doesn’t improve, I will make an appointment to get his poo checked for parasites.
Thank you again for all of your knowlegr and any further suggestions will be appreciated. I’ve attached a picture of his enclosure with the new lid, and will keep you all posted on his progress!

Keep in mind that your tortoise needs temps no lower than 80 in the coolest part of the enclosure at night, and it also needs it to be dark. I would get a ceramic heat emitter or radiant heat panel, and have it in the middle of the tank to get ambient and night temps to the correct temperature. Be sure to have it on a thermostat.
 

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