Confused by seemingly contradictory info

Ember909

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I've read a lot about mediterranean tortoise enclosures, but a lot of the information that I've found seems contradictory. There are two main points I'm confused about, any help would be great. One is what should the substrate be made of? The care sheet for them says gravel/sand, but many here seem to recommend various types of wood bits. The other is humidity. The care sheet says they are best in arid environments, but people here seem to say that high humidity is important? Any clarification would be very helpful.
 

Yvonne G

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What care sheet are you reading? There are several different sub species of greek tortpoise and the care may be different for the one you have, but Chris's care sheet mainly talks about keeping them outside.

You can use either fir bark, cypress mulch or coco coir for an indoor enclosure, but only SLIGHTLY moistened for greek tortoises. . . just enough moisture to keep the dust down. Greek tortoises do not require high humidity.
 

Maro2Bear

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Greetings. Just wondering what type of MED tortoise you have?

Here is Tom”s care sheet for Russians, a pretty common MED tortoise that lots of ppl have. The section on infoor enclosure speaks to your question specifically.


➡➡ Adults do well in open topped tables. I like a damp, natural substrate that they can dig into. Plain soil with no guano, perlite or other additives, orchid bark, cypress mulch and coco coir all work. These substrates can be bought in bulk at most hardware or garden centers at a tremendous savings over pet store prices. Regular dirt from your yard will work too, if its of a suitable composition. I don't like to use sand in any amount for Russians, or any other tortoise species. It can be a skin and eye irritant and an impaction risk. Damp substrate will help to maintain moderate humidity and allow them to dig in and create their own little microclimate. I also like to offer a humid hide box for them to sleep in and retreat to.

Here’s the link to all MEDITERRANEAN tort care info

➡️ https://www.tortoiseforum.org/categories/mediterranean-tortoises-genus-testudo.74/
 

Yvonne G

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You would do better following the portion of Chris's care sheet regarding the golden greeks. He is an expert on this type tortoise. I can't link it for you, but it's posted towards the top of our Greek section and authored by HermanniChris.
 

KarenSoCal

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The tortoise is a Mesopotamian (Golden Greek). Is it still important to provide a humid hide box?
Have you read the info posted in the links provided?
Read this. It's recent, up to date, and written by an expert.

 

Tom

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I've read a lot about mediterranean tortoise enclosures, but a lot of the information that I've found seems contradictory. There are two main points I'm confused about, any help would be great. One is what should the substrate be made of? The care sheet for them says gravel/sand, but many here seem to recommend various types of wood bits. The other is humidity. The care sheet says they are best in arid environments, but people here seem to say that high humidity is important? Any clarification would be very helpful.
For decades we have taken care of tortoises all wrong and been making many mistakes. Many people who are breeding tortoise now started keeping them a long time ago. Even 10 years ago we were all still learning and teaching the wrong info. There has been a bit of a revolution in our understanding of what works best and why in the last decade, but most of the people who learned tortoise care prior to that time still use, follow, and recommend those old ways that all of us learned back then. Soil and sand substrates are one example. Advances in vet care, and the ability to see lots of cases from all over the country due to the internet and forums like this one, have allowed us to see a bigger picture. Yes, some people have used soil for a long time, and as far as they know, it hasn't caused them any problem, but I work with a lot of reptile vets and have seen first hand the problems caused by soil, sand, and soil/sand mixtures. My vet friends all know of my tortoise affliction and they call me and tell me about the novel cases that they see. Sand impaction is a common one, as is ingestion of household items that the torts find while wandering around loose in the house or yard. Dog mauling cases come in weekly in some clinics. Trends become obvious with a large enough sample size.

The point is this: 10 people can do things 10 different ways. You'll have one or two say my tortoise died, so that way doesn't work. 8 or 9 will then say that their tortoise lived, so their way is the "right" way to do it, and they will then go on the internet and tell other people so in an emphatic and believable way. The ones with dead tortoises might have bought from a breeder that starts babies poorly, and the way they were doing things was "right" but the baby couldn't survive because of the damage done before they got it. The people with survivors might have just gotten lucky, or there might be unseen variables at play, or they very well might be doing a great job. These are obvious examples, but sometimes there are subtle differences that aren't as easy to see for the person who is raising one tortoise.

After you spend decades raising 100's or 1000's of them and trying all sorts of different ways of keeping them, and then do side-by-side comparisons with clutchmates, while strictly controlling all the variables, and after you've learned a thousand lessons the hard way, you start to see a different picture than someone who hasn't seen what you've seen and done what you've done. Then you talk to other experienced keepers and see what they've learned and what works for them. Many times you've both learned the same things.

On to your questions: In the past, soil, sand, rabbit pellets, newspaper, astroturf, walnut shell, corn cob bedding, aspen shavings, and all sorts of other things have been recommended as tortoise substrates. Over the years I've eliminated all but three of them for a wide variety of reasons from too dry, to too dangerous. The three that work best and are safest are fine grade orchid bark, cypress mulch, and coco coir. I like coco coir for baby Testudo and DTs, and fine grade orchid bark for everything else.

No baby tortoise does well in a dry enclosure. This is what we call a beef jerky maker. Babies all need a damp substrate that they can dig into, a humid hide, and a water bowl to walk in and soak in. There are two reasons for this: Humidity, and the ability to find or create little humid microclimates for themselves, helps to prevent dehydration and pyramiding. In the wild, even in arid regions, babies stay hidden amongst plants, in root balls, in little burrows, or simply buried in the dirt. All of these things help them to avoid predators, but also help to keep them hydrated. Adult Testudo of any species can handle more arid conditions, but moderate humidity is still good for them.

I don't agree with many of the things recommended on the care sheets that are available out in the world. Even the ones here. Here are my recommendations, based on what I've learned about keeping chelonians over the last 41 years: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/the-best-way-to-raise-any-temperate-species-of-tortoise.183131/

Its up to you to decide who to listen to and how you want to do it. You can lead a horse to water...
 

Ember909

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Thank you, those are really helpful! For keeping the rest of the enclosure warm, would you recommend lower-power bulbs or electric heaters?
 

Tom

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Thank you, those are really helpful! For keeping the rest of the enclosure warm, would you recommend lower-power bulbs or electric heaters?
There are so many ways to do this. It depends on the type of enclosure, size of enclosure, species being housed, room temp, season, etc...

I'd need much more info to make specific recommendations. The general outline for heating and lighting is in the care sheet.
 

Ember909

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There are so many ways to do this. It depends on the type of enclosure, size of enclosure, species being housed, room temp, season, etc...

I'd need much more info to make specific recommendations. The general outline for heating and lighting is in the care sheet.
The species or breed is Mesopotamian (Golden Greek). The enclosure will be a vivarium, 3x8 feet with an approximately 1x8 upper floor. I have a small paper model if you want to see it. The room is usually between 65 and 75 degrees. This remains fairly regular throughout the seasons, though in summer we open windows at night to cool off the house, so then it might get to 60 or so. Not less than 55.
 

Tom

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The species or breed is Mesopotamian (Golden Greek). The enclosure will be a vivarium, 3x8 feet with an approximately 1x8 upper floor. I have a small paper model if you want to see it. The room is usually between 65 and 75 degrees. This remains fairly regular throughout the seasons, though in summer we open windows at night to cool off the house, so then it might get to 60 or so. Not less than 55.
In a closed chamber with those room temps, you won't need night heat for an adult greek.

During the day the basking lamp, LEDs and UV tube will heat up the ambient temperature.
 

Ember909

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Okay, here it is. It doesn't have any of the electric stuff of roofing on it; I'm working on a bigger, more detailed one. It's made of graph paper, with about 3 squares corresponding to a foot. I'm also planning to redo the ramp, so this isn't exactly it, but fairly close.
IMG_3383.JPG
 

Ember909

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Have you read the info posted in the links provided?
Read this. It's recent, up to date, and written by an expert.

I've looked through that many times, and I don't see anything pertaining to humid hides.
 

Yvonne G

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I've looked through that many times, and I don't see anything pertaining to humid hides.
That's because Greeks don't require the high humidity some other species require.
 

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