How To Raise Sulcata Hatchlings and Babies discussion thread

Turt☆

New Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Messages
19
Location (City and/or State)
Los Angeles
2mfm79i.jpg
Tom, about how old was this tort when you took the picture?
 

Sandijoco

New Member
Joined
Aug 2, 2022
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
Zephyrhills
Here are my thoughts on how to house, feed and care for hatchling and small sulcatas:

Indoor Housing: The bigger the better. Got room for a 4x8' tortoise table? Great! Sweater boxes and Christmas tree storage bins work great. Contrary to the popular trend right now, I actually PREFER glass tanks for all the reasons people say they are bad. "They are too tall and restrict airflow." Great! More humidity. "The tall sides hold in too much heat." Great! I can use a lower wattage bulb and my tortoise will stay warmer for less $. "They can see out and this invisible barrier causes stress." After 20 years of sulcatas in glass tanks, this has never been a problem for me. You can tape something opaque to the glass, if they constantly rub their nose on it or try to walk through it. I have never had to do this. I like them being able to see me, and me them. You can also use horse watering troughs, cement mixing tubs or large reptile tubs. I generally prefer something waterproof because babies need high humidity and moisture. Wood does not hold up well when its wet all the time and must be sealed somehow.

Substrate: Coco coir. Cypress mulch. Orchid bark. Plain, additive free, soil. Sphagnum peat moss. Pick one or any combination. I recommend you do NOT use any sand, wood shavings, corn cob bedding, walnut shell bedding, alfalfa or grass pellets, newspaper bedding, any type of hay or any other new fad bedding that comes along. Keep your substrate damp to increase the humidity in the enclosure. If you can keep your humidity around 80% at tortoise level, you'll have a healthy, well hydrated, pyramid free, happy tortoise. Sometimes I cover part of the top of the enclosure to hold in humidity.

Humid hide boxes: Use at least one. These will help prevent dehydration and pyramiding and simulate the humid burrows that they would have in the wild, to a degree. I like to use plastic shoe boxes for these and semi-bury them in the substrate. I use a Dremel tool to cut out the right size door hole and a quarter inch drill bit to make a couple of ventilation holes on opposing sides. If they don't use them on their own, I try to "train" them to use them by putting them in the boxes after lights out. Here's an example of a couple:
2rhqtxg.jpg

I use fine coco coir inside them as it does not mold or grow any fungus. I like to keep it wet in there.

Heat: I like to use small, 35-50watt, overhead, spot or flood bulbs for this. Always use ceramic fixtures, never the cheaper plastic ones. In a cool house, I'll use a bulb like this AND a ceramic heating element (CHE). Keep them both over one side. This will be the "warm" side and it should be 80-90 degrees. Directly under your bulb will be the "basking spot" and it should be 100-110 degrees, but only in that one spot. The other side of the enclosure should be around 75-80 and will serve as the "cool" side. "Night" temps should stay 75-80ish. These temps will insure that your little tort does not get sick with all the humidity in there. These are the four temps to be concerned with. They should be regularly checked with a temp gun AND a remote probed thermometer. Temps can be adjusted by raising or lowering your bulbs or raising or lowering the wattage. You do not need Mercury Vapor Bulbs or any other UV bulbs if your tortoise gets regular sunshine. 20-30 minutes twice a week is adequate, more is better. Put your light bulb on a timer for around 12 hours a day. They need it dark at night. This is where the CHE comes in. It keeps them warm AND dark at night. Also, I like to project my spot bulb down onto a flat rock or a piece of slate. They can bask on it and it absorbs and radiates the heat from the bulb over a larger area when they are not on it. This also gives you a good place to measure your basking temp with your heat gun. Here's an example of a basic enclosure to show what I'm talking about:
1tnajt.jpg


Here's a digital thermometer with a wireless, remote probe.
rrjhgl.jpg


Food: Weeds; mallow, filaree, dandelion, sow thistle, plantain, etc... Grass. Mulberry, rose, hibiscus and grape leaves. Hibiscus and rose flowers. Spineless opuntia cactus. Mazuri mixed in with other greens a couple of times a week. Spring mix and leafy greens from the grocery store. Variety is good. Avoid fruit, and use foods like spinach, broccoli, cabbage, iceberg lettuce, very infrequently, if ever. When they get big, over a foot, you can try to introduce dry grass hay. But babies usually won't eat it.

Supplements: This is debatable and the opinions run the whole spectrum from "none ever" to "lots every day". I like to use Rep-cal twice a week in a very small amount. I use Herptivite once a week in a small amount on one of the days that I didn't use the calcium. Because my torts get sun year round, I do not generally use any calcium with D3 added.

Water: Use a terra cotta plant saucer, or something similar, and bury it so that its flush with the substrate. It will need to be cleaned at least once a day, maybe more.

Sunshine/Outdoor enclosures: Sunshine is necessary. 20-30 minutes twice a week will prevent MBD, but more is better. I like to do an hour or two a day for hatchlings and gradually more as they get bigger. Here is a thread with more info on how to do this safely:
http://tortoiseforum.org/Thread-Cheap-Easy-Simple-Sunning-Enclosure
Putting them out for some sun will also get them to exercise more which is also very good for them.

Pyramiding prevention: This is all new stuff. You won't see it on an internet care sheet. It is my opinion and the product of 20 years of utter failure and tons of research, observation and trial and error. Lot's of other people helped me to reach these findings, so its not just me. Here is how to grow a smooth, healthy sulcata: Keep them humid, hydrated, warm and spray their shells 3-4 times a day. Yes they are desert animals, but the babies stay hidden in burrows, root balls and leaf litter, where it is HUMID. Babies don't just walk around out in the open in the hot dry air in the wild. They'd get eaten if they did. Once they get to around 6-8" humidity and moisture is much less critical. It is important to get them sunshine, exercise and a good diet too, but hydration, humidity, and moisture is the KEY to preventing pyramiding. Soak them in shallow, warm water at least once a day. I soak them first thing in the morning and again after a sunning session in the hot, dry air here. Sometimes, I'll soak them a third time before lights out. Sulcatas are very resistant to shell rot and fungus. I have never seen a single case of shell rot on a sulcata. As long as they are kept warm (75 or warmer) they will not get respiratory infections either. I have tried to keep one too wet and could not induce any sort of problem. You don't have to go crazy, but do keep them well hydrated. Pyramiding has nothing to do with excess protein or too much food. It has everything to do with MOISTURE, HUMIDITY and HYDRATION.


These things are MY opinion and are based on MY experiences with sulcatas and other torts over the last 20 years. My way is not the only way and other people have also raised smooth sulcatas, but it is very rare and can usually be traced back to high levels of humidity and or hydration. Much of this can also be applied to other species, but as of now, sulcatas are the only one that I have kept THIS wet.

If anyone wants to debate or question any of this please PM me or start a new thread.

The end.
2mfm79i.jpg
I love this information. My head was spinning with so much. I have everything you suggest but my hatchling is more interested in sleeping than eating. I haven't seen it eat, even after am soak, but has been pooping ok and it looks fine. All the videos I have seen shows babies running to food and they devour it. Mine, now. I have been using mix of grasses, weeds, flowers. I have tried mazuri diet mixed in. I have tried spring mix and butter lettuce. I'm at a loss. Any ideas??
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
58,045
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
I love this information. My head was spinning with so much. I have everything you suggest but my hatchling is more interested in sleeping than eating. I haven't seen it eat, even after am soak, but has been pooping ok and it looks fine. All the videos I have seen shows babies running to food and they devour it. Mine, now. I have been using mix of grasses, weeds, flowers. I have tried mazuri diet mixed in. I have tried spring mix and butter lettuce. I'm at a loss. Any ideas??
This is the old care sheet. Here is the current one:

Most sulcata babies are not started correctly at the breeders place, and many don't survive. What other symptoms are you seeing? What does your tortoise weigh in grams?
 

GingerRene

Member
Joined
May 26, 2022
Messages
36
Location (City and/or State)
Houston Texas
Here are my thoughts on how to house, feed and care for hatchling and small sulcatas:

Indoor Housing: The bigger the better. Got room for a 4x8' tortoise table? Great! Sweater boxes and Christmas tree storage bins work great. Contrary to the popular trend right now, I actually PREFER glass tanks for all the reasons people say they are bad. "They are too tall and restrict airflow." Great! More humidity. "The tall sides hold in too much heat." Great! I can use a lower wattage bulb and my tortoise will stay warmer for less $. "They can see out and this invisible barrier causes stress." After 20 years of sulcatas in glass tanks, this has never been a problem for me. You can tape something opaque to the glass, if they constantly rub their nose on it or try to walk through it. I have never had to do this. I like them being able to see me, and me them. You can also use horse watering troughs, cement mixing tubs or large reptile tubs. I generally prefer something waterproof because babies need high humidity and moisture. Wood does not hold up well when its wet all the time and must be sealed somehow.

Substrate: Coco coir. Cypress mulch. Orchid bark. Plain, additive free, soil. Sphagnum peat moss. Pick one or any combination. I recommend you do NOT use any sand, wood shavings, corn cob bedding, walnut shell bedding, alfalfa or grass pellets, newspaper bedding, any type of hay or any other new fad bedding that comes along. Keep your substrate damp to increase the humidity in the enclosure. If you can keep your humidity around 80% at tortoise level, you'll have a healthy, well hydrated, pyramid free, happy tortoise. Sometimes I cover part of the top of the enclosure to hold in humidity.

Humid hide boxes: Use at least one. These will help prevent dehydration and pyramiding and simulate the humid burrows that they would have in the wild, to a degree. I like to use plastic shoe boxes for these and semi-bury them in the substrate. I use a Dremel tool to cut out the right size door hole and a quarter inch drill bit to make a couple of ventilation holes on opposing sides. If they don't use them on their own, I try to "train" them to use them by putting them in the boxes after lights out. Here's an example of a couple:
2rhqtxg.jpg

I use fine coco coir inside them as it does not mold or grow any fungus. I like to keep it wet in there.

Heat: I like to use small, 35-50watt, overhead, spot or flood bulbs for this. Always use ceramic fixtures, never the cheaper plastic ones. In a cool house, I'll use a bulb like this AND a ceramic heating element (CHE). Keep them both over one side. This will be the "warm" side and it should be 80-90 degrees. Directly under your bulb will be the "basking spot" and it should be 100-110 degrees, but only in that one spot. The other side of the enclosure should be around 75-80 and will serve as the "cool" side. "Night" temps should stay 75-80ish. These temps will insure that your little tort does not get sick with all the humidity in there. These are the four temps to be concerned with. They should be regularly checked with a temp gun AND a remote probed thermometer. Temps can be adjusted by raising or lowering your bulbs or raising or lowering the wattage. You do not need Mercury Vapor Bulbs or any other UV bulbs if your tortoise gets regular sunshine. 20-30 minutes twice a week is adequate, more is better. Put your light bulb on a timer for around 12 hours a day. They need it dark at night. This is where the CHE comes in. It keeps them warm AND dark at night. Also, I like to project my spot bulb down onto a flat rock or a piece of slate. They can bask on it and it absorbs and radiates the heat from the bulb over a larger area when they are not on it. This also gives you a good place to measure your basking temp with your heat gun. Here's an example of a basic enclosure to show what I'm talking about:
1tnajt.jpg


Here's a digital thermometer with a wireless, remote probe.
rrjhgl.jpg


Food: Weeds; mallow, filaree, dandelion, sow thistle, plantain, etc... Grass. Mulberry, rose, hibiscus and grape leaves. Hibiscus and rose flowers. Spineless opuntia cactus. Mazuri mixed in with other greens a couple of times a week. Spring mix and leafy greens from the grocery store. Variety is good. Avoid fruit, and use foods like spinach, broccoli, cabbage, iceberg lettuce, very infrequently, if ever. When they get big, over a foot, you can try to introduce dry grass hay. But babies usually won't eat it.

Supplements: This is debatable and the opinions run the whole spectrum from "none ever" to "lots every day". I like to use Rep-cal twice a week in a very small amount. I use Herptivite once a week in a small amount on one of the days that I didn't use the calcium. Because my torts get sun year round, I do not generally use any calcium with D3 added.

Water: Use a terra cotta plant saucer, or something similar, and bury it so that its flush with the substrate. It will need to be cleaned at least once a day, maybe more.

Sunshine/Outdoor enclosures: Sunshine is necessary. 20-30 minutes twice a week will prevent MBD, but more is better. I like to do an hour or two a day for hatchlings and gradually more as they get bigger. Here is a thread with more info on how to do this safely:
http://tortoiseforum.org/Thread-Cheap-Easy-Simple-Sunning-Enclosure
Putting them out for some sun will also get them to exercise more which is also very good for them.

Pyramiding prevention: This is all new stuff. You won't see it on an internet care sheet. It is my opinion and the product of 20 years of utter failure and tons of research, observation and trial and error. Lot's of other people helped me to reach these findings, so its not just me. Here is how to grow a smooth, healthy sulcata: Keep them humid, hydrated, warm and spray their shells 3-4 times a day. Yes they are desert animals, but the babies stay hidden in burrows, root balls and leaf litter, where it is HUMID. Babies don't just walk around out in the open in the hot dry air in the wild. They'd get eaten if they did. Once they get to around 6-8" humidity and moisture is much less critical. It is important to get them sunshine, exercise and a good diet too, but hydration, humidity, and moisture is the KEY to preventing pyramiding. Soak them in shallow, warm water at least once a day. I soak them first thing in the morning and again after a sunning session in the hot, dry air here. Sometimes, I'll soak them a third time before lights out. Sulcatas are very resistant to shell rot and fungus. I have never seen a single case of shell rot on a sulcata. As long as they are kept warm (75 or warmer) they will not get respiratory infections either. I have tried to keep one too wet and could not induce any sort of problem. You don't have to go crazy, but do keep them well hydrated. Pyramiding has nothing to do with excess protein or too much food. It has everything to do with MOISTURE, HUMIDITY and HYDRATION.


These things are MY opinion and are based on MY experiences with sulcatas and other torts over the last 20 years. My way is not the only way and other people have also raised smooth sulcatas, but it is very rare and can usually be traced back to high levels of humidity and or hydration. Much of this can also be applied to other species, but as of now, sulcatas are the only one that I have kept THIS wet.

If anyone wants to debate or question any of this please PM me or start a new thread.

The end.
2mfm79i.jpg
 

Attachments

  • IMG_20220808_172715.jpg
    IMG_20220808_172715.jpg
    2 MB · Views: 4

GingerRene

Member
Joined
May 26, 2022
Messages
36
Location (City and/or State)
Houston Texas
Here are my thoughts on how to house, feed and care for hatchling and small sulcatas:

Indoor Housing: The bigger the better. Got room for a 4x8' tortoise table? Great! Sweater boxes and Christmas tree storage bins work great. Contrary to the popular trend right now, I actually PREFER glass tanks for all the reasons people say they are bad. "They are too tall and restrict airflow." Great! More humidity. "The tall sides hold in too much heat." Great! I can use a lower wattage bulb and my tortoise will stay warmer for less $. "They can see out and this invisible barrier causes stress." After 20 years of sulcatas in glass tanks, this has never been a problem for me. You can tape something opaque to the glass, if they constantly rub their nose on it or try to walk through it. I have never had to do this. I like them being able to see me, and me them. You can also use horse watering troughs, cement mixing tubs or large reptile tubs. I generally prefer something waterproof because babies need high humidity and moisture. Wood does not hold up well when its wet all the time and must be sealed somehow.

Substrate: Coco coir. Cypress mulch. Orchid bark. Plain, additive free, soil. Sphagnum peat moss. Pick one or any combination. I recommend you do NOT use any sand, wood shavings, corn cob bedding, walnut shell bedding, alfalfa or grass pellets, newspaper bedding, any type of hay or any other new fad bedding that comes along. Keep your substrate damp to increase the humidity in the enclosure. If you can keep your humidity around 80% at tortoise level, you'll have a healthy, well hydrated, pyramid free, happy tortoise. Sometimes I cover part of the top of the enclosure to hold in humidity.

Humid hide boxes: Use at least one. These will help prevent dehydration and pyramiding and simulate the humid burrows that they would have in the wild, to a degree. I like to use plastic shoe boxes for these and semi-bury them in the substrate. I use a Dremel tool to cut out the right size door hole and a quarter inch drill bit to make a couple of ventilation holes on opposing sides. If they don't use them on their own, I try to "train" them to use them by putting them in the boxes after lights out. Here's an example of a couple:
2rhqtxg.jpg

I use fine coco coir inside them as it does not mold or grow any fungus. I like to keep it wet in there.

Heat: I like to use small, 35-50watt, overhead, spot or flood bulbs for this. Always use ceramic fixtures, never the cheaper plastic ones. In a cool house, I'll use a bulb like this AND a ceramic heating element (CHE). Keep them both over one side. This will be the "warm" side and it should be 80-90 degrees. Directly under your bulb will be the "basking spot" and it should be 100-110 degrees, but only in that one spot. The other side of the enclosure should be around 75-80 and will serve as the "cool" side. "Night" temps should stay 75-80ish. These temps will insure that your little tort does not get sick with all the humidity in there. These are the four temps to be concerned with. They should be regularly checked with a temp gun AND a remote probed thermometer. Temps can be adjusted by raising or lowering your bulbs or raising or lowering the wattage. You do not need Mercury Vapor Bulbs or any other UV bulbs if your tortoise gets regular sunshine. 20-30 minutes twice a week is adequate, more is better. Put your light bulb on a timer for around 12 hours a day. They need it dark at night. This is where the CHE comes in. It keeps them warm AND dark at night. Also, I like to project my spot bulb down onto a flat rock or a piece of slate. They can bask on it and it absorbs and radiates the heat from the bulb over a larger area when they are not on it. This also gives you a good place to measure your basking temp with your heat gun. Here's an example of a basic enclosure to show what I'm talking about:
1tnajt.jpg


Here's a digital thermometer with a wireless, remote probe.
rrjhgl.jpg


Food: Weeds; mallow, filaree, dandelion, sow thistle, plantain, etc... Grass. Mulberry, rose, hibiscus and grape leaves. Hibiscus and rose flowers. Spineless opuntia cactus. Mazuri mixed in with other greens a couple of times a week. Spring mix and leafy greens from the grocery store. Variety is good. Avoid fruit, and use foods like spinach, broccoli, cabbage, iceberg lettuce, very infrequently, if ever. When they get big, over a foot, you can try to introduce dry grass hay. But babies usually won't eat it.

Supplements: This is debatable and the opinions run the whole spectrum from "none ever" to "lots every day". I like to use Rep-cal twice a week in a very small amount. I use Herptivite once a week in a small amount on one of the days that I didn't use the calcium. Because my torts get sun year round, I do not generally use any calcium with D3 added.

Water: Use a terra cotta plant saucer, or something similar, and bury it so that its flush with the substrate. It will need to be cleaned at least once a day, maybe more.

Sunshine/Outdoor enclosures: Sunshine is necessary. 20-30 minutes twice a week will prevent MBD, but more is better. I like to do an hour or two a day for hatchlings and gradually more as they get bigger. Here is a thread with more info on how to do this safely:
http://tortoiseforum.org/Thread-Cheap-Easy-Simple-Sunning-Enclosure
Putting them out for some sun will also get them to exercise more which is also very good for them.

Pyramiding prevention: This is all new stuff. You won't see it on an internet care sheet. It is my opinion and the product of 20 years of utter failure and tons of research, observation and trial and error. Lot's of other people helped me to reach these findings, so its not just me. Here is how to grow a smooth, healthy sulcata: Keep them humid, hydrated, warm and spray their shells 3-4 times a day. Yes they are desert animals, but the babies stay hidden in burrows, root balls and leaf litter, where it is HUMID. Babies don't just walk around out in the open in the hot dry air in the wild. They'd get eaten if they did. Once they get to around 6-8" humidity and moisture is much less critical. It is important to get them sunshine, exercise and a good diet too, but hydration, humidity, and moisture is the KEY to preventing pyramiding. Soak them in shallow, warm water at least once a day. I soak them first thing in the morning and again after a sunning session in the hot, dry air here. Sometimes, I'll soak them a third time before lights out. Sulcatas are very resistant to shell rot and fungus. I have never seen a single case of shell rot on a sulcata. As long as they are kept warm (75 or warmer) they will not get respiratory infections either. I have tried to keep one too wet and could not induce any sort of problem. You don't have to go crazy, but do keep them well hydrated. Pyramiding has nothing to do with excess protein or too much food. It has everything to do with MOISTURE, HUMIDITY and HYDRATION.


These things are MY opinion and are based on MY experiences with sulcatas and other torts over the last 20 years. My way is not the only way and other people have also raised smooth sulcatas, but it is very rare and can usually be traced back to high levels of humidity and or hydration. Much of this can also be applied to other species, but as of now, sulcatas are the only one that I have kept THIS wet.

If anyone wants to debate or question any of this please PM me or start a new thread.

The end.
2mfm79i.jpg
Hello Sir. Thank you for such an informative post. I have been following those guidelines for my baby. 3 month old. But in the last few days the skin around his head and neck has begun to change color. I read that he may be shedding, so I upped the humidity a bit. Today when I checked on him, I found the old skin to be grey and puffy, and very wet looking. I don't know if this is normal. It doesn't look healthy. Do you know?
 

Attachments

  • IMG_20220808_172715.jpg
    IMG_20220808_172715.jpg
    2 MB · Views: 4

Sandijoco

New Member
Joined
Aug 2, 2022
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
Zephyrhills
This is the old care sheet. Here is the current one:

Most sulcata babies are not started correctly at the breeders place, and many don't survive. What other symptoms are you seeing? What does your tortoise weigh in grams?
 

Sandijoco

New Member
Joined
Aug 2, 2022
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
Zephyrhills
Weighs 41g. Did nibble on grass outside today, would take a few bites then rest. Has pooped ok, formed log. Not much else. Just sleeping a lot. Put it in the hide last night for bed but just crawled out.
 

UnHooked

Member
Joined
Jul 24, 2022
Messages
40
Location (City and/or State)
Kilgore Texas
I'm so glad I seen this. I was told I was keeping Johnny too wet and that scared me. Thanks this makes me feel better.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
58,045
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
I'm so glad I seen this. I was told I was keeping Johnny too wet and that scared me. Thanks this makes me feel better.
This is the old one. Here is the current one:
 

New Posts

Top