Leopard Tortoise Help!!!

cmtortoise

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Sep 26, 2023
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20
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Atlanta GA
Hi everyone,


I am reaching out to ask for some advice regarding my one of my baby leopard tortoises, Freddie. He/she is approximately 9-10 months old and I got Freddie in late August (so have had him/her for about 6 months). Freddie only weighs between 35-40 grams and has not grown more than 1-5 grams since I got him. Freddie is fairly active but not as active as when I first got him. Firstly, I soak him at least once a day usually 5-7 days a week! For diet, I make sure to feed him/her all the right things as I have spent countless hours researching but I would say the main portion of his diet consists of greens with chopped hay on top (usually I mix 3 of the following together with the hay on top each night: romaine, green and red leaf, turnip greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, clover and occasionally I throw in some collard greens, kale, dill, or maybe cabbage leafs and rarely but not never parsley, mint, or cilantro). Often I will go pick weeds that I ensure are okay on the tortoise table and mix those too and once or twice a week I will soak and add the zoo-med grassland tortoise food. I have been feeding Freddie about at least once a day, sometimes twice if he will eat more, because I am worried about the fact that he has not grown. I have two forms of uvb/uv basking sources in his enclosure as it is about four feet long so one was not enough. I also spray the enclosure down at least 4-5 times a day to ensure adequate humidity levels and soak the spagnum moss daily inside his hide. Finally, I ensure fresh water is located in two areas and there are multiple types of substrate down for muscle development and to mimic his natural area. I just do not know why he hasn’t grown as I think by his/her age Freddie should be a lot/ a bit bigger to say the least. Any advice or information would be great!! (Also, I got Freddie from tortoisesupply.com and he is a regular leopard not the giant South African if that is relevant!)
 

wellington

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First remove the moss it causes entanglement if eaten and they like to eat it. Can also tangle limbs
He needs to be in a closed chamber enclosure where humidity is always 80% and temps are never, day and night below 80. Basking temp needs to be 95-100.
UVb should come from a tube florescent
Basking from an incandescent flood bulb
And night heat from a ceramic heat emitter.
Water needs to be in a low sided clay saucer he can easily get in and out of
Add mazuri to his diet and no hay. Hay is not for babies.
Add more weeds and flowers if possible along with arugula, escarole, endive, cactus pads, dandelion, water cress. Less collards, mustard, kale and no cabbage.
Be sure to use a digital thermometer not one of the disc type ones. Check all temps and lights/heat and make any needed Changes.
Feed a big pile so it last all day so he can graze when he wants.
 

Tom

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Hi everyone,


I am reaching out to ask for some advice regarding my one of my baby leopard tortoises, Freddie. He/she is approximately 9-10 months old and I got Freddie in late August (so have had him/her for about 6 months). Freddie only weighs between 35-40 grams and has not grown more than 1-5 grams since I got him. Freddie is fairly active but not as active as when I first got him. Firstly, I soak him at least once a day usually 5-7 days a week! For diet, I make sure to feed him/her all the right things as I have spent countless hours researching but I would say the main portion of his diet consists of greens with chopped hay on top (usually I mix 3 of the following together with the hay on top each night: romaine, green and red leaf, turnip greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, clover and occasionally I throw in some collard greens, kale, dill, or maybe cabbage leafs and rarely but not never parsley, mint, or cilantro). Often I will go pick weeds that I ensure are okay on the tortoise table and mix those too and once or twice a week I will soak and add the zoo-med grassland tortoise food. I have been feeding Freddie about at least once a day, sometimes twice if he will eat more, because I am worried about the fact that he has not grown. I have two forms of uvb/uv basking sources in his enclosure as it is about four feet long so one was not enough. I also spray the enclosure down at least 4-5 times a day to ensure adequate humidity levels and soak the spagnum moss daily inside his hide. Finally, I ensure fresh water is located in two areas and there are multiple types of substrate down for muscle development and to mimic his natural area. I just do not know why he hasn’t grown as I think by his/her age Freddie should be a lot/ a bit bigger to say the least. Any advice or information would be great!! (Also, I got Freddie from tortoisesupply.com and he is a regular leopard not the giant South African if that is relevant!)
You've got some misconceptions due to all the things you've been reading. Its confusing and so much of the info out in the world is just plain wrong. I'll list the tings I see one by one, but Wellington already hit most of them. This is not to hurt your feelings. If no one tells you what is wrong, you can't fix it.

1. How many tortoises do you have in this enclosure?
2. Something is terribly wrong if there has been no growth in all that time. Hopefully we can help you figure it out.
3. Finely chopped hay can be used to add fiber to the diet of adults, but hay is not for babies. Its too dry and too coarse. Also, regular leopards are not really grass eaters. They can eat grass, but its generally not their favorite. The rest of what you are doing sounds pretty good. I'd try to favor the weeds when possible and avoid the grocery store foods. The additives you are using certainly make the grocery store food better.
4. You only need one source for UV. It is possible to over do it with two bulbs. Also, your UV does not need to run the length of the whole enclosure. What type of bulb are you using. Post a pic of the enclosure and we will be better able to help.
5. If you are spraying the enclosure 4-5 times a day, this tells me that you are using an open topped enclosure. This is too dry for a baby. There is no way to maintain the correct heat and humidity for a baby with an open topped enclosure. All that spraying creates evaporative cooling. In the right type of enclosure, there is no need to spray ever.
6. Sphagnum moss should not be used. They will eat it and it can cause impaction. This could be your problem.
7. You only need one type of substrate, and there are three that are safe and suitable. What are you using?
8. What are your four temperatures? Warm side, cool side, basking area, and over night low?

With some more info and maybe some pics, we can offer more help.

This thread should help. There is a leopard tortoise care sheet and a heating and lighting breakdown near the bottom.
 

cmtortoise

New Member
Joined
Sep 26, 2023
Messages
20
Location (City and/or State)
Atlanta GA
Thank you…Tom to the rescue. Yes, I had him in a closed chamber and recently moved him to a tortoise table fearing the reason he was not growing was because the size of the closed chamber tub was too small. I believe I had sent a picture to you some time ago. It is only my baby leopard that has not grown in the tortoise table right now as I acquired another leopard from a different breeder some time ago and am still quarantining that one before putting them together. That one is doing great and has been putting on weight which is the weird thing as I do all the same exact stuff for all three of mine (I have a baby star which is also healthy but separate as well).
You've got some misconceptions due to all the things you've been reading. Its confusing and so much of the info out in the world is just plain wrong. I'll list the tings I see one by one, but Wellington already hit most of them. This is not to hurt your feelings. If no one tells you what is wrong, you can't fix it.

1. How many tortoises do you have in this enclosure?
2. Something is terribly wrong if there has been no growth in all that time. Hopefully we can help you figure it out.
3. Finely chopped hay can be used to add fiber to the diet of adults, but hay is not for babies. Its too dry and too coarse. Also, regular leopards are not really grass eaters. They can eat grass, but its generally not their favorite. The rest of what you are doing sounds pretty good. I'd try to favor the weeds when possible and avoid the grocery store foods. The additives you are using certainly make the grocery store food better.
4. You only need one source for UV. It is possible to over do it with two bulbs. Also, your UV does not need to run the length of the whole enclosure. What type of bulb are you using. Post a pic of the enclosure and we will be better able to help.
5. If you are spraying the enclosure 4-5 times a day, this tells me that you are using an open topped enclosure. This is too dry for a baby. There is no way to maintain the correct heat and humidity for a baby with an open topped enclosure. All that spraying creates evaporative cooling. In the right type of enclosure, there is no need to spray ever.
6. Sphagnum moss should not be used. They will eat it and it can cause impaction. This could be your problem.
7. You only need one type of substrate, and there are three that are safe and suitable. What are you using?
8. What are your four temperatures? Warm side, cool side, basking area, and over night low?

With some more info and maybe some pics, we can offer more help.

This thread should help. There is a leopard tortoise care sheet and a heating and lighting breakdown near the bottom.
 

cmtortoise

New Member
Joined
Sep 26, 2023
Messages
20
Location (City and/or State)
Atlanta GA
Thank you for the reply…Tom to the rescue! Anyways I only have Freddie in the table as I had him in a closed chamber setting but the tub was only about 3 feet long and 1-1.5 ft long so I given I had tried everything and also read that an enclosure too small can stunt their growth, I moved Freddie to a bigger enclosure. However, this was only within the last 3 weeks so I do not know if humidity is the primary factor of whats going on. I have another leopard who has is separated as I wanted to make sure Freddie was not ill before introducing them and he is growing just fine! I have reptibark in the enclosure and then just a small section with bigger stones around a plant and then pebbles (but I made sure that the pebbles were too big to be consumed) around the water. The weird thing is Freddie is still rather active and eats a lot of food but I have noticed that bottom of his shell has always been softer than my other leopard tortoise. I also forgot to mention I give them both the vitamin powder every other week and calcium with vitamin d once or twice a week in their food. I will implement whatever I need to do as I have a special place in my heart for Freddie. I am now super worried so I think it is time I get Freddie to the vet…Tom would you agree its time to seek out a third party for help? I am going to go ahead and order a new light so if you could share a link for tell me the exact name/brand of which one to get so I can make that happen asap.
 

Tom

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Thank you for the reply…Tom to the rescue! Anyways I only have Freddie in the table as I had him in a closed chamber setting but the tub was only about 3 feet long and 1-1.5 ft long so I given I had tried everything and also read that an enclosure too small can stunt their growth, I moved Freddie to a bigger enclosure. However, this was only within the last 3 weeks so I do not know if humidity is the primary factor of whats going on. I have another leopard who has is separated as I wanted to make sure Freddie was not ill before introducing them and he is growing just fine! I have reptibark in the enclosure and then just a small section with bigger stones around a plant and then pebbles (but I made sure that the pebbles were too big to be consumed) around the water. The weird thing is Freddie is still rather active and eats a lot of food but I have noticed that bottom of his shell has always been softer than my other leopard tortoise. I also forgot to mention I give them both the vitamin powder every other week and calcium with vitamin d once or twice a week in their food. I will implement whatever I need to do as I have a special place in my heart for Freddie. I am now super worried so I think it is time I get Freddie to the vet…Tom would you agree its time to seek out a third party for help? I am going to go ahead and order a new light so if you could share a link for tell me the exact name/brand of which one to get so I can make that happen asap.
I need more info.
1. What types of UV bulbs are you using?
2. What substrate is Freddie on?
3. What are your four temps?

If we can eliminate these possibilities, then I see at least three possible explanations:
1. Disease of some sort from somewhere.
2. Impaction from the moss or substrate.
3. This baby had too dry of a start wherever it came from.

Vets don't know what to do with this sort of thing. Misdiagnosis and then mistreatment is likely. It wouldn't hurt to take in a fecal sample to check for excessive amounts of worm eggs, but I wouldn't involve a vet beyond that.
 

zovick

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I need more info.
1. What types of UV bulbs are you using?
2. What substrate is Freddie on?
3. What are your four temps?

If we can eliminate these possibilities, then I see at least three possible explanations:
1. Disease of some sort from somewhere.
2. Impaction from the moss or substrate.
3. This baby had too dry of a start wherever it came from.

Vets don't know what to do with this sort of thing. Misdiagnosis and then mistreatment is likely. It wouldn't hurt to take in a fecal sample to check for excessive amounts of worm eggs, but I wouldn't involve a vet beyond that.
There are actually couple of good tortoise vets in the greater Atlanta area (Marietta). These are competent vets I have used for my own tortoises over the years. One of them used to work at ZooAtlanta and now works at Atlanta Botanical Garden in addition to the private practice.

It is probably good to see if cmtortoise can turn things around for Freddie on his/her own first, but if not, these vets would be a viable option.
 

Tom

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There are actually couple of good tortoise vets in the greater Atlanta area (Marietta). These are competent vets I have used for my own tortoises over the years. One of them used to work at ZooAtlanta and now works at Atlanta Botanical Garden in addition to the private practice.

It is probably good to see if cmtortoise can turn things around for Freddie on his/her own first, but if not, these vets would be a viable option.
That is good to know. Thank you. Good ones are so few and far between. I'm lucky to know a couple of good ones personally, but overall what I have seen has been disappointing, if not appalling. I've been working with vets as part of my career since the mid 80s, and my wife was a vet consultant for 15 years here in Southern CA, so I have really seen the good, the bad, and the ugly as the decades have passed. I'm certain you have too.
 

cmtortoise

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Atlanta GA
I need more info.
1. What types of UV bulbs are you using?
2. What substrate is Freddie on?
3. What are your four temps?

If we can eliminate these possibilities, then I see at least three possible explanations:
1. Disease of some sort from somewhere.
2. Impaction from the moss or substrate.
3. This baby had too dry of a start wherever it came from.

Vets don't know what to do with this sort of thing. Misdiagnosis and then mistreatment is likely. It wouldn't hurt to take in a fecal sample to check for excessive amounts of worm eggs, but I wouldn't involve a vet beyond that.
Okay, he is now on repti bark
I need more info.
1. What types of UV bulbs are you using?
2. What substrate is Freddie on?
3. What are your four temps?

If we can eliminate these possibilities, then I see at least three possible explanations:
1. Disease of some sort from somewhere.
2. Impaction from the moss or substrate.
3. This baby had too dry of a start wherever it came from.

Vets don't know what to do with this sort of thing. Misdiagnosis and then mistreatment is likely. It wouldn't hurt to take in a fecal sample to check for excessive amounts of worm eggs, but I wouldn't involve a vet beyond that.
Okay, he is now on repti bark
I need more info.
1. What types of UV bulbs are you using?
2. What substrate is Freddie on?
3. What are your four temps?

If we can eliminate these possibilities, then I see at least three possible explanations:
1. Disease of some sort from somewhere.
2. Impaction from the moss or substrate.
3. This baby had too dry of a start wherever it came from.

Vets don't know what to do with this sort of thing. Misdiagnosis and then mistreatment is likely. It wouldn't hurt to take in a fecal sample to check for excessive amounts of worm eggs, but I wouldn't involve a vet beyond that.
Okay, he is now on repti bark from florest floor and I took out all the spagnum moss. I use two kinds of lights because I was worried one was not doing it (which clearly is not the case that two is helping since he hasn’t grown). One of them is the thrive 3-in-1 mercury vapor bulb and the other is a HOSUN from amazon but I put it very far away because I was worried about burning his eyes. The temperature is between 95-103 degrees and then a warmer mid side that sits around 85-95 and a cooler side between 75-85 degrees. My first concern is the lighting which I am so confused about and have spent so much money trying to figure out. I am scared to cause blindness and really just have no idea what all the voltages mean, what brand to get, and how far away to keep uvb vs uva etc. Also, I have been looking on the web (I know there is a lot of conflictual advice but trying to research as much as possible) at conditions and I notice that a thing called mouth rot can make them not gain weight and cause their mouth to be dark. I do not know if I am overthinking this but I notice how dark Freddie’s mouth is and wondering if that could be from the dark greens or something else. However, my two other tortoises have dark mouths so now I am getting very concerned. I keep there water so clean and spot clean their enclosures everyday. Maybe I am just spinning in my head but I work so hard for these guys and just feel I am now doing all the wrong things.…
 
Last edited:

TammyJ

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Can you take some pictures of them showing these dark mouths? It's likely just from the food. Is Freddie in a separate enclosure?
 

MaNaAk

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First remove the moss it causes entanglement if eaten and they like to eat it. Can also tangle limbs
He needs to be in a closed chamber enclosure where humidity is always 80% and temps are never, day and night below 80. Basking temp needs to be 95-100.
UVb should come from a tube florescent
Basking from an incandescent flood bulb
And night heat from a ceramic heat emitter.
Water needs to be in a low sided clay saucer he can easily get in and out of
Add mazuri to his diet and no hay. Hay is not for babies.
Add more weeds and flowers if possible along with arugula, escarole, endive, cactus pads, dandelion, water cress. Less collards, mustard, kale and no cabbage.
Be sure to use a digital thermometer not one of the disc type ones. Check all temps and lights/heat and make any needed Changes.
Feed a big pile so it last all day so he can graze when he wants.
Dear @wellington,

Do you think that daily soaking is a bit too much?

MaNaAk
 

wellington

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Dear @wellington,

Do you think that daily soaking is a bit too much?

MaNaAk
Not for a hatchling. For a tortoise that is about 3 years and up yes.
I used to soak my hatching twice a day. Back when I joined that was recommended more for hatchlings. It has since changed to once a day at least 1/2 hour and longer being okay if not better.
 

Tom

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Okay, he is now on repti bark

Okay, he is now on repti bark

Okay, he is now on repti bark from florest floor and I took out all the spagnum moss. I use two kinds of lights because I was worried one was not doing it (which clearly is not the case that two is helping since he hasn’t grown). One of them is the thrive 3-in-1 mercury vapor bulb and the other is a HOSUN from amazon but I put it very far away because I was worried about burning his eyes. The temperature is between 95-103 degrees and then a warmer mid side that sits around 85-95 and a cooler side between 75-85 degrees. My first concern is the lighting which I am so confused about and have spent so much money trying to figure out. I am scared to cause blindness and really just have no idea what all the voltages mean, what brand to get, and how far away to keep uvb vs uva etc. Also, I have been looking on the web (I know there is a lot of conflictual advice but trying to research as much as possible) at conditions and I notice that a thing called mouth rot can make them not gain weight and cause their mouth to be dark. I do not know if I am overthinking this but I notice how dark Freddie’s mouth is and wondering if that could be from the dark greens or something else. However, my two other tortoises have dark mouths so now I am getting very concerned. I keep there water so clean and spot clean their enclosures everyday. Maybe I am just spinning in my head but I work so hard for these guys and just feel I am now doing all the wrong things.…
Forest floor is okay too, but I do prefer the orchid bark.

Here is a breakdown of the four heating and lighting essentials:
  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. In most cases 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. Some people in colder climates or with larger enclosures will need multiple CHEs or RHPs to spread out enough heat.
  3. Ambient 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.
The dark mouth is from eating food or poop. Mouth rot is only on the inside and it looks like gross cheesy stuff growing in there. This is rarely seen in tortoises, and I doubt this is your issue.

Almost everything you find on the web is going to be all wrong, confusing, and very frustrating. Eventually, you will learn what works and what doesn't the hard way after many years and many tortoises. I offer a short cut. Here it is:
 

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