Concerned about my African Sulcata (Ivory)

Valkorian

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Hi all, new to the forum. My Sulcata (Tarry) is what brought me here. I am concerned if something may be wrong. I have had him since September 2023 as a hatchling from a breeder. The other tortoise I have had and have are much more active and eat a lot, but he doesn't eat much, doesn't explore or dig or move much and hasn't seemed to grow at all in the past few months. The belly is still very soft and his eyesight doesn't seem to be good, when he does bite at food, on a plate or from my hand, will often miss and I sometimes have to help get it in his mouth. Is this normal for a young Sulcata (I've never gotten a hatchling before) or is there something I can do. The breeder said to feed them kale and greens but if he won't eat much I can't force feed them. I appreciate anyone's help. thanks!
 

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Littleredfootbigredheart

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Hi all, new to the forum. My Sulcata (Tarry) is what brought me here. I am concerned if something may be wrong. I have had him since September 2023 as a hatchling from a breeder. The other tortoise I have had and have are much more active and eat a lot, but he doesn't eat much, doesn't explore or dig or move much and hasn't seemed to grow at all in the past few months. The belly is still very soft and his eyesight doesn't seem to be good, when he does bite at food, on a plate or from my hand, will often miss and I sometimes have to help get it in his mouth. Is this normal for a young Sulcata (I've never gotten a hatchling before) or is there something I can do. The breeder said to feed them kale and greens but if he won't eat much I can't force feed them. I appreciate anyone's help. thanks!
Hello and welcome to the forum!🙂
I can’t advise a whole lot here because I’ve never raised a sulcata, but there’s a few questions that will be super helpful for you to answer for other members to help you best! Try not to let them overwhelm you, take your time🙂

What type of lighting are you using?
What’s your uv situation?
What are your basking temps? Temps throughout the enclosure? Night temps?
What are you humidity levels? It’s vital hatchlings have 80-85% humidity 27/4, the best way to maintain this is in a closed chamber set up.
What are you using for substrate?
What size enclosure are they kept in? If it’s the tub in the background it looks far too small, you’ll struggle with a temperature gradient and it’s open top, so your humidity will be a struggle. I can talk you through a good sized greenhouse set up whilst your guy is still a baby? They can be made very cost effectively.

A clear photo of your set up would be super helpful!

In the meantime whilst you wait for members replies, heres a useful link for you to read through😊

 

Valkorian

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well we live in Las Vegas NV so its definitely not humid and so that alone then is something I need to fix asap! I'll get a pic of the enclosure and its open not enclosed but I'll send a pic of what we have been using. thanks so much we will read this article.
 

Valkorian

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Here is the enclosure, we do move him out when the sun is there through the window
 

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Littleredfootbigredheart

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well we live in Las Vegas NV so its definitely not humid and so that alone then is something I need to fix asap! I'll get a pic of the enclosure and its open not enclosed but I'll send a pic of what we have been using. thanks so much we will read this article.
Yeah definitely sort as you as you can, I’d recommend getting something to monitor your humidity levels in the enclosure so you know you aren’t over or under doing it🙂
Perhaps the greenhouse style set up is worth looking into? People simply make some kind of base and line it with pond liner, Then secure a greenhouse frame on top, you can even hang your lights on the frame! Wrap the wires round so they’re the height you need them at(18-21inches for the uv and check with heat gun for the right height of your heat bulbs)then wrap cable ties around the wire to secure in place🙂
If you can’t find the perfect fit greenhouse for your base, simply place it over like the one with the white base in the photo, but I’d put some liner under the base and cover to stop condensate getting on your floor.
If you need to stick with something slightly smaller temporarily whilst you sort something, perhaps you could fashion something like in the third photo(doesn’t have to be that roof shape)and hang your lights from that frame.

Ignore whatever else is in these exclosures pictured, they’re just photo examples of a greenhouse set ups to give you a better idea👍🏻
Whatever changes you make, you likely won’t see a drastic change in their behaviour right away, they don’t like change and being moved into a new environment.
I guess something else to bare in mind is the possibility your guy wasn’t started properly by the breeder and will continue to struggle to thrive, I hope that’s not the case, but if it is, it’s not your fault😔
Have you been weighing him? If so I’m guessing he’s not been gaining?

Here is the enclosure, we do move him out when the sun is there through the window
Unfortunately I don’t think your enclosure has currently been suitable for him, which could possibly explain things, I’m not entirely sure what lighting it is you’re using from the pics, but the basking bulb needs to be a incandescent floodlight and whilst he’s kept indoors being so young, will need some indoor uv, it needs to be a t5 fluorescent tube bulb, I’d recommend the Arcadia brand, uv light from the sun doesn’t pass through glass, uv is very important for them.

I’m also not sure on the hay/straw as substrate because I’ve never raised this species, perhaps someone like @Tom can answer to that.

If that water bowl isn’t textured I’d recommend switching it out for a shallow terracotta saucer the same size, they’re considered the safest, especially for small babies, that have some grip in the event they accidentally flip themselves.

Sorry I can’t help a whole lot with your other queries, hopefully they’ll be some more members along soon to help, I really hope your little guy starts thriving for you!
 

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Tom

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yes any advice would be appreciated
What you describe is what happens when babies are started too dry, and/or housed too dry. Usually, the breeder does the damage, but in your case, it might have been you if this is how it has been housed since September. This is NOT a desert species. Dry conditions are not good for any species, but sulcatas hatch into the monsoon season in the wild and they need good hydration for their first few weeks and months. Did the breeder also house them dry with dry substrate and an open top? I'm guessing that is who told you to house it that way?

Here is more explanation:

Sorry to give such bad news, but at least you know what is going on now. Questions are welcome.
 

Valkorian

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thank you so much! this has been very helpful to begin to makechanges right away for him. No he hasn't grown or gained weight since March. He's my girlfriends and I only moved in with her in march and was starting to get concerned and she's overwhelmed with work so I said I would take over figuring out how to make Tarry's life and health better. I'll start working on a new enclosure and getting him situated. thank you again!!
 

Valkorian

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thank you Tom!!! I'll have plenty of reading tomorrow it seems to remedy the situation. I got very concerned today which is why i joined this forum and ready to make immediate changes to his situation. He's adorable and we want him to thrive.

yes this this how my gf was told to care for him. I'll make the changes tomorrow and hopefully get him on a path to health
 

Littleredfootbigredheart

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I’d switch your substrate to orchid bark, if you go with a greenhouse style set up, to maintain your humidity, simply pour some luke warm water into the corners, not loads but enough to keep the under layer nice and damp, the top layer being dryer, to stop that top layer getting too dry or dusty though, mix the substrate now n then, which will also boost the humidity🙂 check your humidity monitors and substrate to do the pours as and when needed😊
Bless you for taking the time to do some research on how to improve things for this little guy! I’m glad you’ve made your way to this forum! You’ll find SO much misinformation on other sites, this place has all the most up to date care information that results in thriving tortoises, I really hope things improve for you! Wishing you and Tarry all the best!!😁
 

Littleredfootbigredheart

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Also if you don’t already have one, a temperature gun is super handy when setting up a new environment! You can scan all your parameters to adjust your lamps to make sure all your ground temps are correct, and it can help confirm your temperature monitors are reading correctly, you can find them pretty cheap on Amazon🙂
 

Valkorian

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thank you so much! I've never had a tortoise so they're care is new to me. Ive done falconry and had many exotic pets but this is a new one. I'll get these updates to his condition done right away
 

Littleredfootbigredheart

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thank you so much! I've never had a tortoise so they're care is new to me. Ive done falconry and had many exotic pets but this is a new one. I'll get these updates to his condition done right away
No problem at all! We’re all happy to help in any way we can here, I remember how overwhelmed I felt when tortoise care was all new to me too, they’re unlike any other pet and have very specific care, so please if you have any further questions or need any information breaking down, ask away! There may sometimes be delays because we’re all different time zones, but someone will always eventually get back to you🙂
It’s always good to run by any purchases before you make them too, could save you some money from buying the wrong stuff👍🏻
 

Alex and the Redfoot

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@Valkorian Heating and lightning also have to be adjusted.
1. I see a lot of lamps there, yet I suppose they all aren't what he needs.
2. He needs to be housed at ambient temperature of 80F day and night. To keep it this way you will need a ceramic heat emitter with a thermostat over the middle of the enclosure.
3. He needs a basking area with 95-100F under the lamp. To provide that you need to use flood type incandescent lamp in a wide lamp dome. Like Arcadia Solar Basking Floodlight. Avoid halogen, intense and spot lights.
4. He needs really good UVB source (if you place him by the window on a sunny day - glass filters out 100% of UVB). At this size he can be outside no more than 1-2 hours a day (if temperarure outside is around 75-80F). So providing him a good artificial UVB source is crucial. Use T5 flourescent tube like ZooMed Reptisun 10.0 T5 tube or Arcadia ProT5 Desert 12% tube mounted over the basking zone.
5. Ambient LED lights if he is not in the sunny room (simple 6000K (cold or neutral daylight) LED strip, bulb or under cabinet light will do).

To help him with hydration always provide fresh clean water in a shallow dish (like terracotta saucer) so he can self-soak there and drink. Do daily soakings in a lukewarm water for 30 minutes a day. Address humidity issue by changing substrate and adding cover over the enclosure.
 

Littleredfootbigredheart

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@Valkorian Heating and lightning also have to be adjusted.
1. I see a lot of lamps there, yet I suppose they all aren't what he needs.
2. He needs to be housed at ambient temperature of 80F day and night. To keep it this way you will need a ceramic heat emitter with a thermostat over the middle of the enclosure.
3. He needs a basking area with 95-100F under the lamp. To provide that you need to use flood type incandescent lamp in a wide lamp dome. Like Arcadia Solar Basking Floodlight. Avoid halogen, intense and spot lights.
4. He needs really good UVB source (if you place him by the window on a sunny day - glass filters out 100% of UVB). At this size he can be outside no more than 1-2 hours a day (if temperarure outside is around 75-80F). So providing him a good artificial UVB source is crucial. Use T5 flourescent tube like ZooMed Reptisun 10.0 T5 tube or Arcadia ProT5 Desert 12% tube mounted over the basking zone.
5. Ambient LED lights if he is not in the sunny room (simple 6000K (cold or neutral daylight) LED strip, bulb or under cabinet light will do).

To help him with hydration always provide fresh clean water in a shallow dish (like terracotta saucer) so he can self-soak there and drink. Do daily soakings in a lukewarm water for 30 minutes a day. Address humidity issue by changing substrate and adding cover over the enclosure.
All excellent advice here, Alex is another great member who is always on the ball🙂
 

TammyJ

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Hi and welcome to the forum! I feel your anxiety about this little tortoise, who I think is in an emergency life situation...so, please follow the vital advice given here. Your little one will die of dehydration before anything else, so do this first: put him in a plastic food container with a lid, in lukewarm water up to the level of his chin. Keep changing the water to keep it warm and do this for half hour every morning and evening. Keep a close watch so he doesn't flip over while in this warm soak. It may be good also to add some Pedialyte to one of these daily warm soaks. This procedure may save his life at this crucial point. His diet also needs vast improvement! Good luck!
 

Tom

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what substrate do you recommend?
Here is all the correct care info. Read through these at least twice, and please feel free to ask all of your questions. We expect a lot of them. Ask us to explain our assertions and why they differ from what you may have been told or seen on the internet.


 

Valkorian

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thank you all so much for the advice and support. like i said I am coming into this new as he is my gf's and I am used to falconry so definitely very different.

I have changed his living space, ordered orchid bark a heat gun and humidity thermotor. He already is a bit more active so I'll keep an eye on his activity and how much he eats.
 

EppsDynasty

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@Valkorian .... I am not a expert but @TammyJ is giving you info that can help immediately. We soak our torts EVERY day, we live in between the Mojave Desert and Death Valley so I understand your humidity issues. Start soaking every day to ensure your little guy stays hydrated no matter the housing. You can even do it twice a day for the next month, it will not hurt. Your issues are air that is very dry and therefore your tort gets/is dehydrated constantly. You should also think of getting Mazuri original blend 5M21, soak it in water and then feed giving water to your tort through food. They might not drink water even when they are thirsty due to feeling bad. Soaking and feeding soaked food will dramatically change his hydration levels which should increase activity (feeling good).
 

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