Deep shade and shade cloth for my Russian tortoises

biochemnerd808

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With warm weather coming, I wanted to share what I do about shade. You need sone DEEP shade, medium deep shade, and speckled shade.

20230524_105407.jpg

Ground temps can rise to 150°F here in the summer, which obviously isn't safe! I use 80% shade cloth (bought online - compare prices), one layer up high at a slant to catch afternoon sun, then spots attached to the lid, and I also have cool caves for the tortoises to hide in (and dig into the dirt in). On 115°F airtemp days, it is about 80°F inside the caves.

My hope is that the 'high' shade cloth will no longer be necessary when the fruit trees grow bigger.

We are now in the time of year where I remove the little greenhouses and put in upside down picnic coolers with door holes cut out.

There is always sun somewhere in each habitat throughout the day, so the tortoises can move and bask, or cool off.

I also spray everything down with cold hose water 3-4x a day to keep the habitats lush and cooler.

And because we all like torties, here is Agate chomping on some weeds. IMG_20210321_230737_229.jpg
 

EricW

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150 seems pretty high, is that heat index or actual temperature. Same with 115? I didn't think central Arkansas got that warm. Or is it because of the metal flashing?
 

biochemnerd808

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150 seems pretty high, is that heat index or actual temperature. Same with 115? I didn't think central Arkansas got that warm. Or is it because of the metal flashing?
You haven't been to central Arkansas in August. Our air temp is 115°F (hotter with heat index - weather app will say, 'feels like 120°F') during the hottest part of the day, repeatedly, for multiple weeks. It feels like dragon's breath. We live between Little Rock and Hot Springs.
20230524_204138.jpg

The 150°F is measured with laser temp gun on the dirt ground at noon in the sun. It's hotter on rocks - I took out all dark rocks and replaced them with beige and white ones after measuring over 170°F in the sun on a flat black slate rock in thw habitat the first summer we were here. Ground temps are hot, not just in the habitats, anywhere there isn't shade. That's not unique to this area.

As far as the metal flashing, I put reed mats on the inside of the metal walls, to keep it from cooking the torts.
 

EricW

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You haven't been to central Arkansas in August. Our air temp is 115°F (hotter with heat index - weather app will say, 'feels like 120°F') during the hottest part of the day, repeatedly, for multiple weeks. It feels like dragon's breath. We live between Little Rock and Hot Springs.
View attachment 357254

The 150°F is measured with laser temp gun on the dirt ground at noon in the sun. It's hotter on rocks - I took out all dark rocks and replaced them with beige and white ones after measuring over 170°F in the sun on a flat black slate rock in thw habitat the first summer we were here. Ground temps are hot, not just in the habitats, anywhere there isn't shade. That's not unique to this area.

As far as the metal flashing, I put reed mats on the inside of the metal walls, to keep it from cooking the torts.
So that was record heat, what is it normally? We hit 125 heat index where I am at last year, but that isn't anywhere close to normal. Average high temps are 93 in Little Rock and doesn't exceed 100 often, it is more of a rare occasion. But last year and 2022 were more exceptions with drought. Weather may be a bit different this year with El Nino. Already seeing all the rain and such as the weather patterns change.
 

biochemnerd808

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So that was record heat, what is it normally? We hit 125 heat index where I am at last year, but that isn't anywhere close to normal. Average high temps are 93 in Little Rock and doesn't exceed 100 often, it is more of a rare occasion. But last year and 2022 were more exceptions with drought. Weather may be a bit different this year with El Nino. Already seeing all the rain and such as the weather patterns change.
I'm not sure why you are arguing. I'm not claiming to live in the hottest place on Earth, I'm showing how I manage deep shade in my tortoise habitats.

Yes, the last two years (2021 and 2022) were crazy hot in comparison to previous also-hot summers.

Right now, in May, this last week, we had 80-87°F weather. Great tortoise weather, though in the heat of the day, ground temps (measured with infrared laser temp gun) are 120+. Not the air temp. The temperature of the ground. My tortoises actively favor the areas shaded by the cloth during the afternoon.

Little Rock, due to it's location close to the Arkansas River and Lake Maumelle is a few degrees warmer in winter and cooler in summer than where we live up here on our hill 30 mins drive from the city. We had -2°F several times this winter (both by weather app and our own little weather station). My husband keeps track of high and low temps, and we had 16 days of 115°F (not consecutive), and one day of 117°F last year (2022).

I'll post some updates here over the course of the summer.

In the meantime, point an infrared temp gun at the ground during the hottest part of the day, and see what you find.
 

biochemnerd808

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@EricW today is a good example for how important it is to use a temp gun to check ground temps. See photo below, all taken within 5 mins of each other.

Today the air is 83°F, and it's sunny.

Early afternoon, dark surfaces were 131.5°F.

Clay soil was 123°F.
Even a brown rock in dappled shade was over 100°F.

Under the shade cloth, where the tortoises were chilling, the ground was 85°F.

Don't accidentally cook your tortoises.

IMG_20230528_152823.jpg

@Tom and other CA or AZ or FL inhabitants can probably attest to just how hot the ground can get on a day when air temps are 100°F or as mentioned in the original post, 115°F.
 

EricW

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I live in Texas and I been around, including all those states. I am well aware. I also walk barefoot and work in my yard in 100 degree temps. I am well aware. You said ground temps, which is a measure of soil temperatures and are published. They do not exceed 90 degrees or so. What you are referring to is surface temperature. Which changes by surface type and if in shade or not. As you showed. If shade is provided those surface temps are not that high and at those high surface temps, the air above it isn't 150. My tortoises not only seek the shade but will also burrow in the soil for cooler temps. None of my tortoises are in wide open, no shade enclosures so they aren't going to cook. You have a surface temp rock at 150 with shade right next to it at 85 degrees. Very common in dryer climates like AZ and NM. Also, animals will dig down to cooler soils in the sun because again, it's just the surface temp. Like a hot rock. I get it, you aren't teaching me anything. I have rocks in my enclosure and burrows. 150 on a rock isn't indicative of the full environment, thus find it extreme.

I liked your last post as closure and in agreement.

My enclosure is 90- 95% shade from Junish on through the end of September due to temperatures. Accomplished with plants.
 

biochemnerd808

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I live in Texas and I been around, including all those states. I am well aware. I also walk barefoot and work in my yard in 100 degree temps. I am well aware. You said ground temps, which is a measure of soil temperatures and are published. They do not exceed 90 degrees or so. What you are referring to is surface temperature. Which changes by surface type and if in shade or not. As you showed. If shade is provided those surface temps are not that high and at those high surface temps, the air above it isn't 150. My tortoises not only seek the shade but will also burrow in the soil for cooler temps. None of my tortoises are in wide open, no shade enclosures so they aren't going to cook. You have a surface temp rock at 150 with shade right next to it at 85 degrees. Very common in dryer climates like AZ and NM. Also, animals will dig down to cooler soils in the sun because again, it's just the surface temp. Like a hot rock. I get it, you aren't teaching me anything. I have rocks in my enclosure and burrows. 150 on a rock isn't indicative of the full environment, thus find it extreme.

I liked your last post as closure and in agreement.

My enclosure is 90- 95% shade from Junish on through the end of September due to temperatures. Accomplished with plants.
It sounds like your main objection was to my use of the word 'ground temp' - what I meant was, as you correctly identified, the temperature of the surface at ground level. 🙄 Which is where our tortoises live.

Now that we have sorted out the semantics and established that neither of us are idiots, let's go enjoy our tortoises.

Side note: I envy you for being able to go in your garden barefoot. We have chiggers here that eat me alive if I so much as glance at the garden without my knee-high work boots on.
 

EricW

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Houston, TX
It sounds like your main objection was to my use of the word 'ground temp' - what I meant was, as you correctly identified, the temperature of the surface at ground level. 🙄 Which is where our tortoises live.

Now that we have sorted out the semantics and established that neither of us are idiots, let's go enjoy our tortoises.

Side note: I envy you for being able to go in your garden barefoot. We have chiggers here that eat me alive if I so much as glance at the garden without my knee-high work boots on.
I got chiggers all over, I mean all over, if you get my drift, when I lived in Missouri. Got them in other states as well, but Missouri was the only place where I got them where the sun don't shine. Very uncomfortable.
 

ZEROPILOT

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I've been using shade cloth for some of my aqua culture projects. And you're right about comparing costs. It varies a lot.
This is around 60% cloth.
I use it to primarily stop algea growth. But it also helps with small animals falling inside
 

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