Horsefield tortoise: Newbie advice

Brayo

New Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2020
Messages
14
Location (City and/or State)
Skelmersdale
Hello,
We gained a little friend last week (kids called it Sheldon), we have done research and decidinwe could care for one, but now I am worried and want to check we are doing everything right. Google keeps contradicting its self, so thought I'd ask fellow tortoise owners.

He is the cutest thing ever! We think it is a he, shop said he is 6/7 month captive bred Russian/horsefield.

What advice can you give us to ensure it grows happy and healthy? TIA
 

Attachments

  • IMG-20200628-WA0003.jpg
    IMG-20200628-WA0003.jpg
    124.4 KB · Views: 54

method89

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
May 15, 2019
Messages
1,384
Location (City and/or State)
Malverne, NY
Here you go. Read this all the way through. It will answer most of your questions and set you on the right track

 

Brayo

New Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2020
Messages
14
Location (City and/or State)
Skelmersdale
Here you go. Read this all the way through. It will answer most of your questions and set you on the right track


Can you explain what this means please: The thermostat will keep your CHE or RHP off during these times, but ready to click on after the basking lamp clicks off and the ambient temperature starts to drop too low at night.
 

Brayo

New Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2020
Messages
14
Location (City and/or State)
Skelmersdale
I have this type of heat lamp. The bulb has both UVa/b and heat
We have it set 12" from the base of the light to the substrate
 

Attachments

  • 20200701_094452.jpg
    20200701_094452.jpg
    2.1 MB · Views: 19

method89

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
May 15, 2019
Messages
1,384
Location (City and/or State)
Malverne, NY
The ceramic heat emitter (che) and/or the radiant heat panel can be controlled by a thermostat. These can help to keep the ambient temp of 70- 80° during the day. The thermostat won't let it get cooler than that. Under The basking light should be @90-95°. So when your basking turns off for the night the thermostat connected to the CHE or RHP maintains night heat without light.
 

Brayo

New Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2020
Messages
14
Location (City and/or State)
Skelmersdale
The ceramic heat emitter (che) and/or the radiant heat panel can be controlled by a thermostat. These can help to keep the ambient temp of 70- 80° during the day. The thermostat won't let it get cooler than that. Under The basking light should be @90-95°. So when your basking turns off for the night the thermostat connected to the CHE or RHP maintains night heat without light.

Thank you, I am not used to the acronyms as yet.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,858
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
I have this type of heat lamp. The bulb has both UVa/b and heat
We have it set 12" from the base of the light to the substrate
That type of bulb is called a mercury vapor bulb, or MVB. They should not be used over younger growing tortoises because they will excessively dry out the carapace.

The distance from the bulb to the tortoise should be set by your digital thermometer. The package cannot tell you the correct distance in your enclosure and neither can we.

The substrate you were sold is the wrong stuff. Encouraging a tortoise to eat dry sandy substrate to satisfy its calcium cravings is a bad idea and that stuff should be taken off the market.
 

Brayo

New Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2020
Messages
14
Location (City and/or State)
Skelmersdale
That type of bulb is called a mercury vapor bulb, or MVB. They should not be used over younger growing tortoises because they will excessively dry out the carapace.

The distance from the bulb to the tortoise should be set by your digital thermometer. The package cannot tell you the correct distance in your enclosure and neither can we.

The substrate you were sold is the wrong stuff. Encouraging a tortoise to eat dry sandy substrate to satisfy its calcium cravings is a bad idea and that stuff should be taken off the market.
I do not make it eat the su
How big is your enclosure?
It is 45cm by 80cm
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,858
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
I do not make it eat the su

It is 45cm by 80cm
I didn't think that you or anyone would make their tortoise eat the substrate, but you can't stop it from eating its substrate. If you put a cuttlebone in the enclosure your tortoise is likely to munch on it. It will do the same thing with the little limestone bits in the substrate.

You need a much larger enclosure for a Russian tortoise.
 

Brayo

New Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2020
Messages
14
Location (City and/or State)
Skelmersdale
That type of bulb is called a mercury vapor bulb, or MVB. They should not be used over younger growing tortoises because they will excessively dry out the carapace.

The distance from the bulb to the tortoise should be set by your digital thermometer. The package cannot tell you the correct distance in your enclosure and neither can we.

The substrate you were sold is the wrong stuff. Encouraging a tortoise to eat dry sandy substrate to satisfy its calcium cravings is a bad idea and that stuff should be taken off the market.

The gent we bought it off has raised many, so believed him when he said or set up was good.
He said to have a mix of the soil (in the image) and orchid bark.
We do not feed it to him. We have a tortoise block (calcium, cactus and vegetables) and calcium powder its food which we grow ourselves in unfutilized soil (it is a mix of: Dandelion, Timothy grass- Added fibre, Hoary Plantain, Broad Leaved Plantain, Tufted Vetch, Musk Mallow, White Clover, Sweet Clover, Evening Primrose, Chicory, Hawkbit, Milk Thistle, Forget me not, Betony, Red Dead Nettle, Crimson Clover, Shepherds Purse, Chickweed, Nipplewort seeds, Self Heal, Pickly Sow thistle, Field Pansy, Smooth Sow thistle, Snap Dragon, Knapweed, Aslike clover, Red clover, Common Vetch, Speedwell, common, White Dead nettle, Marsh Mallow, Speedwell, ivy leaved, Pot Marigold, Campanula, Cornflower, Corn, Field Bindweed, Hollyhock, Wild Pansy, Wild Stawberry - (Leaves can be eaten, fruit as a rare treat), Sweet Blossom Clover, Salad Burnet, Basil, Little Gem Lettuce, Water Cress, Parsley, Rubane Lettuce, Wild Rocket, Mustard, Dwarf Mallow, Bristly Ox Tongue, Meadows Cranesbill, Yellow Pansy, Hedge Woundwort, Kale, Ragged Robin (small amount), Lambs Lettuce, Alexanders, Coreopsis tinctoria, Salad Burnet, Sunflower &Sea Holly). My husband gives it the odd carrot or cucumber slice, or dried flowers like camomile.

He is 7 months and weighs 49g
We are soaking him for 5-10mins every other day and most the enclosure several times a day.

What light would you reccomend? The gent said this was the best on the market as it is all in one.

The temperature directly under the light is 109° and other areas range from 80°+
His little hide is a wooden box with 4 inches of the soil substrate (steady temp 82°)
How deep do you have yours?

He seems to dig for quite a while before settling to sleep (even when he has moved all the soil out the way).

We live in UK and have rain and gloomy weather all the time, so haven't made an outside enclosure. We do however have a pen which is 3ft by 9ft (I know this will need to change when he grows, but he seems happy enough plodding up and down).

I read through the document posted above and will be making a few adjustments, but are there any you think need changing urgently? I would hate for anything to harm it.
 

Brayo

New Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2020
Messages
14
Location (City and/or State)
Skelmersdale
I didn't think that you or anyone would make their tortoise eat the substrate, but you can't stop it from eating its substrate. If you put a cuttlebone in the enclosure your tortoise is likely to munch on it. It will do the same thing with the little limestone bits in the substrate.

You need a much larger enclosure for a Russian tortoise.
I was advised this is more than sufficient for its age/size. What size do you think it needs?
 

KronksMom

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 7, 2019
Messages
347
Location (City and/or State)
Illinois
Russian tortoises are little, and stay little, making them ideal first time tortoises. But their size needs are not small. They digest food the way a horse does, their gut motility is tied to their ability to walk around. So if he doesn't have enough room to walk around, he won't be able to properly digest his food. Also, being grazers, they are programmed to walk miles every day in search of their food. Because of this, a Russian tortoise in a small enclosure will be very unhappy. He will constantly scratch at the walls and look for any way out. Pet stores often sell these ridiculous "tortoise starter kits" or tell people that they are fine in tiny little aquariums, but that doesn't make it so. The recommended size for a Russian tort enclosure is 4 feet by 8 feet, but they'll make use of every inch you can give them.
Unfortunately, as you found out through your google searches, there is a lot of old contradictory information out there about tortoise care. Here, we have some members doing breakthrough work to understand what is actually the best for these animals, and we're trying to dispel some of the harmful old myths that still persist.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,858
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
The gent we bought it off has raised many, so believed him when he said or set up was good.
He said to have a mix of the soil (in the image) and orchid bark.
We do not feed it to him. We have a tortoise block (calcium, cactus and vegetables) and calcium powder its food which we grow ourselves in unfutilized soil (it is a mix of: Dandelion, Timothy grass- Added fibre, Hoary Plantain, Broad Leaved Plantain, Tufted Vetch, Musk Mallow, White Clover, Sweet Clover, Evening Primrose, Chicory, Hawkbit, Milk Thistle, Forget me not, Betony, Red Dead Nettle, Crimson Clover, Shepherds Purse, Chickweed, Nipplewort seeds, Self Heal, Pickly Sow thistle, Field Pansy, Smooth Sow thistle, Snap Dragon, Knapweed, Aslike clover, Red clover, Common Vetch, Speedwell, common, White Dead nettle, Marsh Mallow, Speedwell, ivy leaved, Pot Marigold, Campanula, Cornflower, Corn, Field Bindweed, Hollyhock, Wild Pansy, Wild Stawberry - (Leaves can be eaten, fruit as a rare treat), Sweet Blossom Clover, Salad Burnet, Basil, Little Gem Lettuce, Water Cress, Parsley, Rubane Lettuce, Wild Rocket, Mustard, Dwarf Mallow, Bristly Ox Tongue, Meadows Cranesbill, Yellow Pansy, Hedge Woundwort, Kale, Ragged Robin (small amount), Lambs Lettuce, Alexanders, Coreopsis tinctoria, Salad Burnet, Sunflower &Sea Holly). My husband gives it the odd carrot or cucumber slice, or dried flowers like camomile.

He is 7 months and weighs 49g
We are soaking him for 5-10mins every other day and most the enclosure several times a day.

What light would you reccomend? The gent said this was the best on the market as it is all in one.

The temperature directly under the light is 109° and other areas range from 80°+
His little hide is a wooden box with 4 inches of the soil substrate (steady temp 82°)
How deep do you have yours?

He seems to dig for quite a while before settling to sleep (even when he has moved all the soil out the way).

We live in UK and have rain and gloomy weather all the time, so haven't made an outside enclosure. We do however have a pen which is 3ft by 9ft (I know this will need to change when he grows, but he seems happy enough plodding up and down).

I read through the document posted above and will be making a few adjustments, but are there any you think need changing urgently? I would hate for anything to harm it.
That gent has not kept up with new info. As recently as 3-4 years ago, I myself was still recommending mercury vapor bulbs. Then more and more problems came to light. They were always temperamental, fragile and expensive, but I could live with that. Then a veterinarian member here started testing them with a UV meter. Results were all over the board with some producing WAY too much UV and others producing zero UV after just 90 days of use. Even that I could live with since a person could buy a UV meter and make adjustments as needed. The deal killer for me ws that they cause pyramiding in young growing tortoises. The type of light and intensity of light that these bulbs produce desiccates the growing carapace and causes tortoises to pyramid even in high humidity environments. The other deal killer for me was that these bulb run too hot to use in a closed chamber, and closed chamber is the best way to house a tortoise in the majority of situations.

109 is too hot for the basking area. Raise the bulb up a bit until that temperature is closer to 95-100F.

Small babies under 100 grams should be soaked daily for around 30 minutes. Keep the soaking water warm for the whole soak.

Here are my recommendations for housing, lighting and heating:
 

KronksMom

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 7, 2019
Messages
347
Location (City and/or State)
Illinois
I would recommend letting him stay in his soaks for a little longer, 20-30 minutes instead. Even if you don't see him drink while he's in there, he's absorbing water through his cloaca, so he is still hydrating. If you're concerned about keeping the water at a steady temp, you can put the entire tub in your enclosure and use it's heat to keep the water warm. Even if he stayed in for a few hours, it wouldn't hurt. I'm not saying you should leave him there all day, just that if you realize "oh no, it's been 45 minutes!" don't beat yourself up.
Also, definitely get rid of that substrate. Anything other than food that he eats has a risk of becoming impacted, or stuck, in his digestive system. The only way to fix a bad impaction is surgically, and that's very difficult on a tort, given that they need to cut through the shell (which is living tissue he can feel, that takes approximately 2 years to heal). So, while obviously I don't WANT my dog to get impacted, it's much more important that my tortoise's gut stay motile.

I know, there's SO MUCH bad information out there and sometimes this guy says exactly the opposite of what I'm saying so why should you listen to me... Ask any questions you have. All we want is for every tortoise to be happy and healthy.
 

Brayo

New Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2020
Messages
14
Location (City and/or State)
Skelmersdale
That gent has not kept up with new info. As recently as 3-4 years ago, I myself was still recommending mercury vapor bulbs. Then more and more problems came to light. They were always temperamental, fragile and expensive, but I could live with that. Then a veterinarian member here started testing them with a UV meter. Results were all over the board with some producing WAY too much UV and others producing zero UV after just 90 days of use. Even that I could live with since a person could buy a UV meter and make adjustments as needed. The deal killer for me ws that they cause pyramiding in young growing tortoises. The type of light and intensity of light that these bulbs produce desiccates the growing carapace and causes tortoises to pyramid even in high humidity environments. The other deal killer for me was that these bulb run too hot to use in a closed chamber, and closed chamber is the best way to house a tortoise in the majority of situations.

109 is too hot for the basking area. Raise the bulb up a bit until that temperature is closer to 95-100F.

Small babies under 100 grams should be soaked daily for around 30 minutes. Keep the soaking water warm for the whole soak.

Here are my recommendations for housing, lighting and heating:
I have read that info sheet thank you and I will be making changes. I have ordered a humidity tester and will take out the soil/substrate. I think I am feeding him correctly, it is mainly the light/heat I need to sort out (and quickly).

How can I tell if I am getting the right bulb? This doesn't say MVP on it anywhere.
 

Brayo

New Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2020
Messages
14
Location (City and/or State)
Skelmersdale
I would recommend letting him stay in his soaks for a little longer, 20-30 minutes instead. Even if you don't see him drink while he's in there, he's absorbing water through his cloaca, so he is still hydrating. If you're concerned about keeping the water at a steady temp, you can put the entire tub in your enclosure and use it's heat to keep the water warm. Even if he stayed in for a few hours, it wouldn't hurt. I'm not saying you should leave him there all day, just that if you realize "oh no, it's been 45 minutes!" don't beat yourself up.
Also, definitely get rid of that substrate. Anything other than food that he eats has a risk of becoming impacted, or stuck, in his digestive system. The only way to fix a bad impaction is surgically, and that's very difficult on a tort, given that they need to cut through the shell (which is living tissue he can feel, that takes approximately 2 years to heal). So, while obviously I don't WANT my dog to get impacted, it's much more important that my tortoise's gut stay motile.

I know, there's SO MUCH bad information out there and sometimes this guy says exactly the opposite of what I'm saying so why should you listen to me... Ask any questions you have. All we want is for every tortoise to be happy and healthy.
I really appreciate it thank you.
I am a little angry at how wrong the seller/breeder is, so all the advice is greatly accepted.
I was under the impression they would like the mud given that they like to dig, but will drag it out and have only orchid bark. We have a piece of slate (this is where we put food) and a few smooth rocks to add texture and give him something to climb on, but that is it.what do you have? Do you recommend live plants (diet friendly)?
 

Brayo

New Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2020
Messages
14
Location (City and/or State)
Skelmersdale
Is this soil any good, or Hemp?? I have a attached a picture of the bark we use to check if this is okay too.
 

Attachments

  • Screenshot_20200701-182241_Amazon Shopping.jpg
    Screenshot_20200701-182241_Amazon Shopping.jpg
    188.6 KB · Views: 12
  • Screenshot_20200701-182203_Amazon Shopping.jpg
    Screenshot_20200701-182203_Amazon Shopping.jpg
    216.5 KB · Views: 11
  • Screenshot_20200701-182153_Amazon Shopping.jpg
    Screenshot_20200701-182153_Amazon Shopping.jpg
    187.4 KB · Views: 11

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,858
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Is this soil any good, or Hemp?? I have a attached a picture of the bark we use to check if this is okay too.
Definitely NOT good. Ingredients are loam, sand, and calcium. All bad. You don't want any of those.
 
Top