Enclosure set up help.

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lucas339

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I currently have 2 torts. I have a leopard that I have had for close to a year now and a sulcata that I just got. I thought I had a pretty good set up for them but after browsing the site, I know I need to make some immediate changes.

First of, I am not new to reptiles. I have been keep snakes for some time now. But torts are a totally different animal (literally). I also should add that I live in Florida and the torts are kept in my animal room where the temp stays at 78.

The current set up (and yes i did research this) is 2 extra large sterilite tubs with newspaper and timothy hay for substrate. both have "walk in" type water bowls and hides. they are heated by a retpile dome heater that has a heater and UV light in one. I also have 2 domes with dester compact floresent bulbs. I soak the torts every other day. I only offer fresh, home grown foods usually in a mix. I got a list of acceptable plants from africantortoise.com and it cross references with this site.

Apparently I fell into the "desert torts don't need humidty" trap and need to change my substrate. On a positive note, the leopard came to me with pyramiding but under my care, I can see the shell is flattening out even with the crappy set up. I was told by a guy in my herp club that breeds sulcatas to stay away from mulch because they will eat it, yet I see many set ups on here where people use mulch so I am curious about this. What would be a good soil to use for both animals? I also have scorpions and tarantulas and keep them on a mix of coco fiber, peat moss, and vermiculite. I assume the vermiculite is not a good way to go due to possible ingestion but what about the other two?

After reading up a bit on this site, when I switch over to a new type of soil, I plan on misting the animals more. Should I still soak them even with misting?

I am also getting a lot of differences in reccomended temperatures. I was keeping the warm end of both at 90 degrees but the sulcata was just sleeping all day and wasn't active. After reading a site that states sulcatas should be kept at 85 when young, i droped the temp and noticed a quick improvement on the animals activity. What are the good temps for both animals? The leopard seems fine with a 90 degree warm end but not the sulcata. And what is the reccomended bulb? Are the mercury vapor bulbs the best? I plan on suspending them above the enclosures and the mercury vapors are in the 100 watt range. How far up is to far up in terms of UVB will I lose the wave lenghts needed by the animals?

I must say the variation of information on torts is astounding! There is some variation with snakes but no where near the variation as with torts. And sorry for so many questions!! I just really want to get this right before it becomes a problem.
 

Yvonne G

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Hi Lucas:

Welcome to the forum!!

There are many ways to keep tortoises...there is no one-size-fits-all type of habitat or keeping. You use what works for you and for the tortoise. Because they thermoregulate, I have a hot side and a room temperature side. Oh, and by the way, we don't recommend using the compact flourescent bulbs. They have been known to injure the eyes. So directly under the light it should be upwards of 100 or 110 degrees. That way the tortoise can sit at the edge of the light or directly under it, or go to the room temp side...whatever he needs at the moment. I also use the heat/uv light. I like the T-Rex 100 watt UV/heat bulb, but there are several that are just as good.

Yes, some tortoises do eat their substrate. That is a problem with any kind of substrate you use. I like cypress mulch. The pieces are usually too large for babies to eat, but if they do eat some, its not harmful. You can keep it moist and it doesn't sour. Coco fiber is very good. Quite a few folks use that. I'm not too sure about the peat moss. Seems that would be a bit acidic for them. I know that some use sphagnum moss in the hides, but haven't heard about peat.

Because the tortoises are babies, I think soaking three or four times a week is good. In essence, we have our babies on "slow cook." So they dehydrate rather quickly. A moist environment helps keep them hydrated, but soaking can't hurt.

Please bear in mind that these tips are my own experience and opinion. I'm NOT the be-all end-all in tortoise-keeping. We all have our own ways of doing things. You have to read all about it, and make your own decisions. Most of the folks here on the forum have good ways to care for baby tortoises. And you can look at them all and decide what will work for you and your babies.

Its best to follow the directions on the box the bulb comes in. My T-Rex instructions were to place the bulb at least 12" above the substrate. Some folks say you should place it above the height of the tortoise's back. But follow the directions on the box.

When you get the hang of the forum, I'd love to see pictures of your babies and their habitats!
 

Missy

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I agree with Yvonne and just wanted to add a couple things. First are you keeping them together? If so that is usually not a good idea. I can only give advise on your Sulcata because I have never lived with any other tort. The cypress mulch does work for most torts but mine tried to eat it and nearly choked. He had a hard time getting the chunk down and then I worried for days about him getting plugged up:( I now use a mixture of loam, play sand coconut coir (the kind you buy in a brick and add water) You can use dirt in place of loam but make sure there is no chemicals. You are correct about the virmiculite its not a good idea. That mixture stays moist nicely. Good luck.
 

Floof

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Nice to see you on TFO, Lucas! Good luck getting your torts set up right... And I agree, you must post pics! ;)
 

lucas339

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I am not keeping them together. During "play time" out side in the yard, the leopard was not too happy with the new sulcata. He chased the sulcata around and was tyring to bite him. I say chased like it was high speed but you know....they are torts!! It wasn't unsupervised or anything and the leopard never really bit the sulcata. Just tried before we grabbed him. They are both in seperate enclosures but the enclosures are pretty much the same. I picked up some cypress mulch last night and bought some supplies to make the lights hang over the tubs. I had a couple of bricks of eco earth (coco fiber) laying around that I expanded last night. This morning, I misted both of them with warm water.

So three more questions:
1. Is the one UV/heat bulb per enclosrue enough UV for them? I keep them close to a window but they don't get direct sun. i doubt that helps but it gives them a natural day/night cycle.

2. What about the impaction risk with the sand? I used to keep bearded dragons about 10 years ago on sand but everyone is now saying that sand substrates are no good due to impaction risks.

3. About the temp....when I had the sulcata at 90, he would just sleep all day. After lowering it to 85ish, he is out and about and a lot more active. is 100-110 too hot for a hatchling? Keep in mind that this little one is only a few weeks old.

Attached is two pictures of the leopard. I haven't snapped any of the sulcata yet. I am trying to leave him alone as much as possible so he gets adjusted to his new home. We call him/her Tort and the sulcata Tuga. As you can see, Tort's shell is pyramiding (he came to us that way) and I don't want it to get any worse which is why I really want to get the set up right.

tort.jpg


tort2.jpg
 

Missy

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The 100-110 refers to the basking spot not the whole area. I believe 85 is a ok temp. The UV should be fine if you are going to take them outside for the real thing as often as you can. As for the sand I was talking about when it is mixed in with the other medium it works to help with moister. I would never suggest the calcium sand alone because it can impact them if they eat it and it is so dusty I would worry about them breathing it. Try the Cypress and coir that you have and see if that works for you and them. The pics are great, they look professional. I think you are doing a great job and your torts are very lucky.
 

lucas339

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I understand that you meant mixed in. I was still curious about impaction even when mixed. For example, if the animal ingested a small amount of the mix, the rest of the mix might be able to pass but due to the coarseness (if thats a word) of the sand, it may not be able to pass through the digestive tract. That is more where I was coming from with that question. I have heard many horror stories about the calicium sand! I can't belive they still sell it!

Thank you for the compliments on my pictures! Hopefully I can get the enclosures buttoned up and Ill post pics of them.
 
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