Hello! New Tortoise Parent - Looking for some advice on juvenile horsefield tortoise behaviour

MistakenMexican

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Hello All,

3 weeks ago myself and my partner became parents to a 1 year old Horsefield Tortoise called Ferrari (my family are car mad). We've wanted a pet for a while and research brought us to the decision that the Horsefield Tortoise would be the best for our lifestyle and conscience. We waited around for a while to find a tortoise that was a little older, as we didn't feel confident with a hatchling (as first time parents).
Anyway, we've had him/her for 3 weeks and Ferrari seems happy and healthy. Ferrari eats a variety of weeds, herbs, succulents and flowers.
Long story short, I have a question regarding juvenile Tortoise behaviour:

How long should a juvenile tortoise spend under their lamp? Is there a rough number of hours that equate to a healthy body? Or does the tortoise just instinctively know how long it needs sunlight for?

I've seen plenty of posts about how long your lamp should be on for. We've got that sorted. I'm more curious as to what is healthy behaviour for a juvenile tortoise.

IMG_6863 copy.jpgIMG_4051 copy.jpg
 

Yvonne G

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If you think he's under the lamp for too long, maybe he's not warm enough. Test the temperature all over the whole enclosure with one of those laser testers.
 

MistakenMexican

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If you think he's under the lamp for too long, maybe he's not warm enough. Test the temperature all over the whole enclosure with one of those laser testers.

Hi Yvonne, Thanks for the response :)

It's more that he's spending less time under the lamp than I expected.
The 1st week Ferrari came home, he was spending closer to 8-10 hours a day buried in the soil under the lamp but the weather outside was 10C cooler than the last 2 weeks. Recently he's only been under the lamp maybe 2-4 hours a day. The rest of the time he's sleeping in his pot where it's cooler.

I understand that more time under the lamp means he's too cold and less time under the lamp is he's too hot. What I'm trying to understand is what is a healthy amount of time under the lamp? I'm just being mindful of him getting enough UVB for healthy growth.
 

Tom

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The amount of time will vary with the temperatures, season, diet, mood, and current weather. A tortoise that spend too much time basking might need a warmer ambient. This will be difficult to do in an open topped table. There is no set time for what is a good amount. They should move in and out of the basking area to maintain the body temp that they need.

You got some other issues there that need to be dealt with ASAP. Sand is dangerous and should never be used in a tortoise enclosure. Also that water bowl is great for a lizard or a snake, but totally unsuitable for a tortoise. Pet stores usually give poor advice and sell the wrong products. Here is the correct care info for your new baby:
 

Maggie3fan

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Hi Yvonne, Thanks for the response :)

It's more that he's spending less time under the lamp than I expected.
The 1st week Ferrari came home, he was spending closer to 8-10 hours a day buried in the soil under the lamp but the weather outside was 10C cooler than the last 2 weeks. Recently he's only been under the lamp maybe 2-4 hours a day. The rest of the time he's sleeping in his pot where it's cooler.

I understand that more time under the lamp means he's too cold and less time under the lamp is he's too hot. What I'm trying to understand is what is a healthy amount of time under the lamp? I'm just being mindful of him getting enough UVB for healthy growth.
I have 2 Sulcata. They are very different. Knobby goes out the second I open his doggie door. He stays out most of the day grazing and basking in the sun. Big Sam is buried in the hay when I go in. I open his door and that causes him to turn his butt to me and he goes back to sleep. He will move about in his shed and finally will go out between 5:30 and 6 pm. He then stays out until 8 pm or so, then goes in to bed.. My point is every tortoise is different. My guys each have a 150 watt basking light. They move in and out of the direct heat. Again, each tort has different habits. I think you are too concerned with how he acts. He has instincts that tell him how to act. My tortoise lights are on from 7 am to 8 pm timers. hth
Oh and I am also 'car mad'. And I will name my next tortoise Corvette....lol
 

MistakenMexican

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I have 2 Sulcata. They are very different. Knobby goes out the second I open his doggie door. He stays out most of the day grazing and basking in the sun. Big Sam is buried in the hay when I go in. I open his door and that causes him to turn his butt to me and he goes back to sleep. He will move about in his shed and finally will go out between 5:30 and 6 pm. He then stays out until 8 pm or so, then goes in to bed.. My point is every tortoise is different. My guys each have a 150 watt basking light. They move in and out of the direct heat. Again, each tort has different habits. I think you are too concerned with how he acts. He has instincts that tell him how to act. My tortoise lights are on from 7 am to 8 pm timers. hth
Oh and I am also 'car mad'. And I will name my next tortoise Corvette....lol

Hi Maggie, Thanks for your response! This has reassured me.

We found a white paper on Tortoise growth through my partner's work. They studied and grew 30 tortoises in identical environments. After 6 months, the biggest tortoise was 3x bigger than the smallest!

Definitely! I wanted to name our tortoise Porsche or Mercedes! But Ferrari feels a bit more androgynous as we don't know the sex yet.
 

MistakenMexican

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The amount of time will vary with the temperatures, season, diet, mood, and current weather. A tortoise that spend too much time basking might need a warmer ambient. This will be difficult to do in an open topped table. There is no set time for what is a good amount. They should move in and out of the basking area to maintain the body temp that they need.

You got some other issues there that need to be dealt with ASAP. Sand is dangerous and should never be used in a tortoise enclosure. Also that water bowl is great for a lizard or a snake, but totally unsuitable for a tortoise. Pet stores usually give poor advice and sell the wrong products. Here is the correct care info for your new baby:

Hi Tom, Thanks for your response :)

I've read your post on raising tortoises. I appreciate the advice. We bought our tortoise from a breeder and followed their recommendation on set up. That being said, the advice we got from 3 different breeders was noticeably different.

We bought tortoise specific water bowls from habistat - the water level is only ~3mm deep so prevent any risk of drowning. Ferrari is large enough to crawl in and out without issue. That being said, it's better to be safe than sorry, so we'll look into terracotta saucers.

Can you explain why sand is an absolute no? In my research, I've not seen anything on sand being so dangerous I can't use it. There's bacterial concerns for sand and soil, as a result I buy sterilised soil and sterilised play sand from a wholesaler. Theres a concern of compaction, so I mix the soil:sand (3:1). We use the sand to help control the moisture/humidity. The wealth of information online can be very contradictory. We've been using HorsfieldTortoise.co.uk and tortoise table to guide our environment and care :)
 

Tom

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Hi Tom, Thanks for your response :)

I've read your post on raising tortoises. I appreciate the advice. We bought our tortoise from a breeder and followed their recommendation on set up. That being said, the advice we got from 3 different breeders was noticeably different.

We bought tortoise specific water bowls from habistat - the water level is only ~3mm deep so prevent any risk of drowning. Ferrari is large enough to crawl in and out without issue. That being said, it's better to be safe than sorry, so we'll look into terracotta saucers.

Can you explain why sand is an absolute no? In my research, I've not seen anything on sand being so dangerous I can't use it. There's bacterial concerns for sand and soil, as a result I buy sterilised soil and sterilised play sand from a wholesaler. Theres a concern of compaction, so I mix the soil:sand (3:1). We use the sand to help control the moisture/humidity. The wealth of information online can be very contradictory. We've been using HorsfieldTortoise.co.uk and tortoise table to guide our environment and care :)
Sand is an impaction risk and a possible skin and eye irritant. Mixing it with other things does not lessen this risk. I've watched sand impaction surgeries on several tortoises that were on sand soil mixes. Its not pretty, and the smell and sounds of the saw cutting through the plastron is horrific.

Soil should not be used because it is made of composted yard waste. There is no way to know what it is made of. Could be oleander and azaleas. Could be grass clippings from a lawn treated with pesticides or a host of other yard chemicals. The only way soil is safe is if you composted it yourself with known safe ingredients and even then its still messy and not a great substrate.
 

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