Eye rubbing

hab321

New Member
Joined
Sep 7, 2019
Messages
4
Location (City and/or State)
North Florida
Good Morning All. I think I need some assistance. I live in North Florida. Back in August I bought a couple of Burmese Star Tortoises at the Daytona Breeders Expo. I decided on these after a couple year break from a Sri Lankan star. She was doing great for about 6 months. Eating, growing and just a pleasure to have. Sadly, I made a serious mistake and she was killed by my rottweiler. I pretty much swore off of tortoises at that point. Mind you I have worked in pet stores and have kept a wide variety of reptiles and fish. I am by far no expert, but not a novice either.
On to my current issues. The breeder of the two stars I bought was from Miami. At his table I purchased the two most active torts I saw. I kept them in a 10 gallon tank to observe them for a week. They were fine, good solid poops and bright eyed and active. Once cleared them from there I transferred them to an outside pen I built (made from 2x8s). The pen is small enough to move around to different areas of my backyard. I also brought them in at night (keeping them in the 10 gallon tank). No issues noted for the first 2 months. Cool weather started to reach us at this point. I decided to bring them inside with breaks outside for a couple of hours (as long as the temp was above 70 degrees). I did read the post by Tom on feeding, housing and light conditions. I followed them pretty much to a T. The only problem I have space constraints (I know, I know). I put them in the same 20 long tank I kept my Sri Lankan in. I did not think there would be a major issue. I built a solid top with cutouts for a 30" florescent UVB bulb, a cutout for an incandescent UVB bulb (as a basking spot) and lastly a cut out for a ceramic heat lamp. I put down reptibark as the bedding. Built a small humid hide for them. Put down a ceramic bowl with water. Basking area temp is 90, cool areas are around 80. Humidity averages 70%. I also put in a Pathos plant in case they wanted to nibble on it and it added a bit of greenery. I soak them daily for about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes.
Now for the problem I'm having. I feed them a wide variety of grocery bought greens. Mustard, collard, spring mix, hibiscus leaves and flowers, cactus pads as a natural diet. I have tried Mazuri Tortoise LS diet (wetted down) mushed it up and left it as a pellet. They do not like this at all. I have seen them eat a little bit, then spit it out. I also have fed them Flukers land tort food (soaked). This is about the only thing they eat now. They ate the fresh greens regularly but then started backing off. I have mixed the Flukers in with the greens and now they simply eat the Flukers and nothing else.
I also have noticed that they seem to "scratch" their eyes when waking up. Their eyes are not puffy, bulging or dry. They are bright and clear once open.
When I soak them they sometimes poop, sometimes not. I have not seen any poops in the bedding, but I will be paying greater attention to that in the future. I was weighing and measuring them almost daily, but have backed off. Initially they were 26 and 30 grams. They got to 32 and 38 grams and have stopped putting on weight.
The weight issue, sleeping and eye scratching are my main concerns. If anyone has any suggestions I would REALLY appreciate the help.
Many thanks in advance!!
Andy
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
56,774
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Good Morning All. I think I need some assistance. I live in North Florida. Back in August I bought a couple of Burmese Star Tortoises at the Daytona Breeders Expo. I decided on these after a couple year break from a Sri Lankan star. She was doing great for about 6 months. Eating, growing and just a pleasure to have. Sadly, I made a serious mistake and she was killed by my rottweiler. I pretty much swore off of tortoises at that point. Mind you I have worked in pet stores and have kept a wide variety of reptiles and fish. I am by far no expert, but not a novice either.
On to my current issues. The breeder of the two stars I bought was from Miami. At his table I purchased the two most active torts I saw. I kept them in a 10 gallon tank to observe them for a week. They were fine, good solid poops and bright eyed and active. Once cleared them from there I transferred them to an outside pen I built (made from 2x8s). The pen is small enough to move around to different areas of my backyard. I also brought them in at night (keeping them in the 10 gallon tank). No issues noted for the first 2 months. Cool weather started to reach us at this point. I decided to bring them inside with breaks outside for a couple of hours (as long as the temp was above 70 degrees). I did read the post by Tom on feeding, housing and light conditions. I followed them pretty much to a T. The only problem I have space constraints (I know, I know). I put them in the same 20 long tank I kept my Sri Lankan in. I did not think there would be a major issue. I built a solid top with cutouts for a 30" florescent UVB bulb, a cutout for an incandescent UVB bulb (as a basking spot) and lastly a cut out for a ceramic heat lamp. I put down reptibark as the bedding. Built a small humid hide for them. Put down a ceramic bowl with water. Basking area temp is 90, cool areas are around 80. Humidity averages 70%. I also put in a Pathos plant in case they wanted to nibble on it and it added a bit of greenery. I soak them daily for about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes.
Now for the problem I'm having. I feed them a wide variety of grocery bought greens. Mustard, collard, spring mix, hibiscus leaves and flowers, cactus pads as a natural diet. I have tried Mazuri Tortoise LS diet (wetted down) mushed it up and left it as a pellet. They do not like this at all. I have seen them eat a little bit, then spit it out. I also have fed them Flukers land tort food (soaked). This is about the only thing they eat now. They ate the fresh greens regularly but then started backing off. I have mixed the Flukers in with the greens and now they simply eat the Flukers and nothing else.
I also have noticed that they seem to "scratch" their eyes when waking up. Their eyes are not puffy, bulging or dry. They are bright and clear once open.
When I soak them they sometimes poop, sometimes not. I have not seen any poops in the bedding, but I will be paying greater attention to that in the future. I was weighing and measuring them almost daily, but have backed off. Initially they were 26 and 30 grams. They got to 32 and 38 grams and have stopped putting on weight.
The weight issue, sleeping and eye scratching are my main concerns. If anyone has any suggestions I would REALLY appreciate the help.
Many thanks in advance!!
Andy
Hi Andy. Congrats on the new babies, and great choice on the species. I'm going to bluntly outline the issues that I see and also share my thoughts on the food issue. Don't be discouraged. If no one tells you what is wrong, you can't fix what is wrong and make it right for your tortoises.

1. Torts should never be housed in pairs. Its a bad situation for them and the chronic stress can take a toll in many ways. Separate them ASAP, or add one or two more to make it a group. The fact that the seller let you buy a pair is a big red flag. Did they also tell you they were temp sexed?
2. A 10 gallon is way too small. So is the 20., Minimum 40, but a 60-100 would be much better. Tortoises need much more floor space than other reptiles, even when they are babies.
3. An open topped tank is not the way to go. Having a top made with the lights outside is also an open top due to the chimney effect. You need a large closed chamber with the heating and lighting all contained inside.
4. Outside all day is not good for babies. An hour or two is the most they should be outside until they gain some size. They need a large correct indoor set up, and short daily excursions into the outdoor set up are great. Climate doesn't matter. I'm familiar with the FL climate and it is great, but not for tiny babies. They do much better when kept mostly indoors, and I've done repeated side-by-side experiments with clutch mates of several species to verify this.
5. You said you have an incandescent UVB bulb for basking. This doesn't exist. Either you have an incandescent with no UVB, or you have a MVB with heat and UVB. Here is the condensed version of the heating and lighting info:
There are four elements to heating and lighting:
  1. Basking bulb. I use 65 watt incandescent floods from the hardware store. Some people will need bigger, or smaller wattage bulbs. Let your thermometer be your guide. I run them on a timer for about 12 hours and adjust the height to get the correct basking temp under them. I also like to use a flat rock of some sort directly under the bulb. You need to check the temp with a thermometer directly under the bulb and get it to around 95-100F (36-37C).
  2. Ambient heat maintenance. I use ceramic heating elements or radiant heat panels set on thermostats to maintain ambient above 80 degrees day and night for tropical species. You'd only need day heat for a temperate species like Testudo or DT, as long as your house stays above 60F (15-16C) at night.
  3. Light. I use LEDs for this purpose. Something in the 5000-6500K color range will look the best. Most bulbs at the store are in the 2500K range and they look yellowish. Strip or screw-in LED bulb types are both fine.
  4. UV. If you can get your tortoise outside for an hour 2 or 3 times a week, you won't need indoor UV. In colder climates, get one of the newer HO type fluorescent tubes. Which type will depend on mounting height. 5.0 bulbs make almost no UV. I like the 12% HO bulbs from Arcadia. You need a meter to check this: https://www.solarmeter.com/model65.html A good UV bulb only needs to run for 2-3 hours mid day. You need the basking bulb and the ambient lighting to be on at least 12 hours a day.
6. Your temps are too cool for this species. They need it hot. 80 is fine at night, but it should warm up to the high 80s or low 90s each day. I'm talking about ambient temps here. That basking area should reach 100 directly under the bulb. Cool temps will affect appetite. This might be the reason for the eye scratching. Outside all day might do it too.
7. Humidity for this species should be 80-90% all the time. 70% is a little low. Think hot humid monsoon season.


Feeding info:
1. Few tortoises like the LS at first. It takes time to introduce them to it. Same with the ZooMed pellets. Its worth the time to get them eating it.
2. To introduce any new food, start by mixing tiny amounts of the new stuff with old favorites, and gradually up the ratio over time. This will work with getting the greens back into their diet, as well as the LS and any other new food. Mince up the greens super fine, only a tiny amount at first, and mix that in with the Flukers and gradually fade out the Flukers over a period of weeks.
3. Try using the original 5M21 Mazuri. They like it better, and I have great results feeding it to my platynota. I use it once or twice a week as a supplemental food.
4. Read the care sheet for other feeding ideas. No need to re-type it here.
5. You'll have best results if you feed them in the afternoon. You may have noticed that this species is rather crepuscular. They are most active and hungry in the afternoon/evening, in contrast to most species that want to fill their bellies first thing in the morning.
6. Let them go hungry if they get picky. A hungry tort is not a picky tort. There is food right there in front of them. You are not "starving" them. They can freely eat as much as they want. Don't let the torts train you. YOU train THEM!

Questions are welcome. :)
 

hab321

New Member
Joined
Sep 7, 2019
Messages
4
Location (City and/or State)
North Florida
Hi Andy. Congrats on the new babies, and great choice on the species. I'm going to bluntly outline the issues that I see and also share my thoughts on the food issue. Don't be discouraged. If no one tells you what is wrong, you can't fix what is wrong and make it right for your tortoises.

1. Torts should never be housed in pairs. Its a bad situation for them and the chronic stress can take a toll in many ways. Separate them ASAP, or add one or two more to make it a group. The fact that the seller let you buy a pair is a big red flag. Did they also tell you they were temp sexed?
2. A 10 gallon is way too small. So is the 20., Minimum 40, but a 60-100 would be much better. Tortoises need much more floor space than other reptiles, even when they are babies.
3. An open topped tank is not the way to go. Having a top made with the lights outside is also an open top due to the chimney effect. You need a large closed chamber with the heating and lighting all contained inside.
4. Outside all day is not good for babies. An hour or two is the most they should be outside until they gain some size. They need a large correct indoor set up, and short daily excursions into the outdoor set up are great. Climate doesn't matter. I'm familiar with the FL climate and it is great, but not for tiny babies. They do much better when kept mostly indoors, and I've done repeated side-by-side experiments with clutch mates of several species to verify this.
5. You said you have an incandescent UVB bulb for basking. This doesn't exist. Either you have an incandescent with no UVB, or you have a MVB with heat and UVB. Here is the condensed version of the heating and lighting info:
There are four elements to heating and lighting:
  1. Basking bulb. I use 65 watt incandescent floods from the hardware store. Some people will need bigger, or smaller wattage bulbs. Let your thermometer be your guide. I run them on a timer for about 12 hours and adjust the height to get the correct basking temp under them. I also like to use a flat rock of some sort directly under the bulb. You need to check the temp with a thermometer directly under the bulb and get it to around 95-100F (36-37C).
  2. Ambient heat maintenance. I use ceramic heating elements or radiant heat panels set on thermostats to maintain ambient above 80 degrees day and night for tropical species. You'd only need day heat for a temperate species like Testudo or DT, as long as your house stays above 60F (15-16C) at night.
  3. Light. I use LEDs for this purpose. Something in the 5000-6500K color range will look the best. Most bulbs at the store are in the 2500K range and they look yellowish. Strip or screw-in LED bulb types are both fine.
  4. UV. If you can get your tortoise outside for an hour 2 or 3 times a week, you won't need indoor UV. In colder climates, get one of the newer HO type fluorescent tubes. Which type will depend on mounting height. 5.0 bulbs make almost no UV. I like the 12% HO bulbs from Arcadia. You need a meter to check this: https://www.solarmeter.com/model65.html A good UV bulb only needs to run for 2-3 hours mid day. You need the basking bulb and the ambient lighting to be on at least 12 hours a day.
6. Your temps are too cool for this species. They need it hot. 80 is fine at night, but it should warm up to the high 80s or low 90s each day. I'm talking about ambient temps here. That basking area should reach 100 directly under the bulb. Cool temps will affect appetite. This might be the reason for the eye scratching. Outside all day might do it too.
7. Humidity for this species should be 80-90% all the time. 70% is a little low. Think hot humid monsoon season.


Feeding info:
1. Few tortoises like the LS at first. It takes time to introduce them to it. Same with the ZooMed pellets. Its worth the time to get them eating it.
2. To introduce any new food, start by mixing tiny amounts of the new stuff with old favorites, and gradually up the ratio over time. This will work with getting the greens back into their diet, as well as the LS and any other new food. Mince up the greens super fine, only a tiny amount at first, and mix that in with the Flukers and gradually fade out the Flukers over a period of weeks.
3. Try using the original 5M21 Mazuri. They like it better, and I have great results feeding it to my platynota. I use it once or twice a week as a supplemental food.
4. Read the care sheet for other feeding ideas. No need to re-type it here.
5. You'll have best results if you feed them in the afternoon. You may have noticed that this species is rather crepuscular. They are most active and hungry in the afternoon/evening, in contrast to most species that want to fill their bellies first thing in the morning.
6. Let them go hungry if they get picky. A hungry tort is not a picky tort. There is food right there in front of them. You are not "starving" them. They can freely eat as much as they want. Don't let the torts train you. YOU train THEM!

Questions are welcome. :)
Hi Tom, Thanks for replying!! I was hoping you'd have a chance too. You have given me a lot to digest!
I had not thought of them "training me" when it comes to food. That is a very interesting thought. I will give it a try.
It sounds like they will have to be separated. When I read that initially (a while ago) I thought it wouldn't really be a problem. Can you explain further on the reason for this. They have not shown any signs of competition. They actually stay close to each other, especially at night when the lights turn off. I would really like to know more about this. It seems a little strange to me that one is ok, two nope, then three....that's ok. Interesting.
It looks like I'll be spending some time in the shop coming up with a much larger set up (for both). At least I'm retired now so I'll have the time lol.
I did notice that they were more active in the afternoon. Thats when I soak them and feed them (combo of Flukers and mixed greens). I also set greens out in the morning in case they want to nibble on anything before lunch.
The basking light is a Zoomed incandescent bulb. I thought it was UV. I guess not. I can't remember (sorry, getting old).
Again, I really appreciate you helping out. I'll keep you posted on the progress.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
56,774
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
It sounds like they will have to be separated. When I read that initially (a while ago) I thought it wouldn't really be a problem. Can you explain further on the reason for this. They have not shown any signs of competition. They actually stay close to each other, especially at night when the lights turn off. I would really like to know more about this. It seems a little strange to me that one is ok, two nope, then three....that's ok. Interesting.
Pair dynamics are totally different than group dynamics. When there are two, and only two, one is always dominant and the other submissive. As Will previously pointed out, this is true even of lower organisms like flatworms. The dominant is telling the other to get out of its territory, using tortoise posture, body language and proximity, but the submissive can't leave due to the confines of our enclosures. Staying close to each other is a way of trying to crowd the other out. Signs like this and many others are missed or simply not understood by most tortoise keepers. Following, sleeping face to face, crowding, sitting on the food... All signs of territoriality. They don't want to be together and don't "like" other tortoises. Having a pair, versus a group emphasizes this.

People who keep aquariums tend to grasp this concept more easily. You'd never keep just two tetras. You keep a group. Same with gouramis. You can't keep a pair, but in most cases 10 or 12 in a large planted tank will be fine.
 
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