Mediterranean Tortoise Getting Started

Tortloverr

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Joined
May 6, 2016
Messages
46
Location (City and/or State)
Virginia, USA
So, I'm new to this. i don't have a tortoise just yet, I'm trying to do all my research and have everything set up before so I won't put anymore stress on my future tortoise. I've decided on a Mediterranean (specifically a Russian or Hermann's) and have done a lot of research so I think I've got most of my information but still have a few questions. (There's a picture of my enclosure in the making which measures roughly 50" by 50")

First, when do these tortoises reach adulthood? I can't seem to find anything specific, other than I know a three year old is considered a "juvenile." Also, I know I've read that there is no such thing as an enclosure being too big, does this apply to babies as well as adults? Should I get something smaller for when he/she is small?

Second, I've read a lot of conflicting information on lighting (heating and UVB). I've purchased a few things but I'm not sure if they are necessary or if I will need something more or different. For day time, I bought a 100w ceramic heat emitter with a clip lamp and a 26 watt compact florescent bulb for UVB. For night time, I bought a night red 50w mini halogen bulb for heat. I've read that you don't need a heat lamp for night, but I've also read that babies will need the heat at night. I'm considering getting a mercury vapor bulb, the only thing keeping me away initially is price but I could work with it.

Third, Diet. I've read just about everything I can find on what they eat, so I think I've got a pretty good understanding. The issue is, we have a lawn service that takes care of our yard and we don't have any weeds. I've ordered some seeds of the weeds that are edible for them (sweet violet, goats beard, catsear, hawkbit, & chicory). Do you recommend trying to grow them in the enclosure or in pots? Any advice? I would hate to have to buy all of his food from the grocery store, I know that isn't extremely healthy for them.

Any other recommendation/question/advice is welcome! As I'm just getting started I could take all the advice I can get! :)

Thanks!

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Tom

The Dog Trainer
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Hello and welcome.

The best strategy is to have a good indoor set up and a safe outdoor set up for nice weather. There are lots of examples of how to do both, for any stage of a tortoise's life, in the enclosure section.

Care for russians is similar to hermanni, so check out all of these for current and correct info:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/thread...or-other-herbivorous-tortoise-species.107734/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/sticky-hermanns-tortoise-care-sheet-updated.101410/

Be wary of pet store advice. They will typically try to sell you the wrong enclosure, the wrong bulbs, the wrong food, the wrong bowls, the wrong thermometers, the wrong substrate, and give you old, outdated, incorrect care info.

Your questions:
1a. Tortoise maturity is determined by size, not age. They grow at wildly different rates depending on many factors like: diet, temps, hydration, whether or not you hibernate, genetics, etc… With all the variables and the vastly different growth rates, and "average" is meaningless. Iw we said " they are adult at 8 years old" we could be off by 6 years in either direction. Possibly more than 6 years off in extreme cases.
1b. Babies do fine in large enclosures, but you might have trouble maintaining even moderate humidity with the open top. Tortoise tables are not good for most species as babies, even through they usually work fine for adult Testudo species.
2a. NO coil type UV bulbs. There is high probability that those will burn your tortoises eyes. They should not be sold or used, but people keep buying them. In addition to the danger, they are not effective UV sources anyway.
2b. You probably will not need the CHE. Just use a daytime basking bulb set on a timer.
2c. Hang your fixtures from over head. Don't use the clamp. The clamps fail and disaster can ensue.
2d. No colored bulbs. It messes with tortoise heads. If you need night heat, use the CHE set on a thermostat.
3a. You can grow lots of your own foods in pots or raised planters. You can also find weeds, flowers and leaves all over the place. Just use caution about pesticides and other chemicals.
I typed this up for sulcatas, so just skip all the text and scroll down to the food list. You don't need grass for a hermanni.
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/for-those-who-have-a-young-sulcata.76744/
3b. If you must use grocery store foods, favor endive, escarole and spring mix heavily, but use lots of variety. You can also amend grocery store greens with chopped grass that I just said you don't need for a hermanni. The grass will simply add much need fiber to fiber deficient grocery store foods. Soaked ZooMed Grassland pellets will do it too.

Please come back and ask for clarification on any of this, and keep your questions coming! :)
 

Rue

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Feb 29, 2016
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Canada
I'm new too. :D I understand the frustration of reading conflicting advice or getting advice that doesn't apply to one's own personal situation, etc. But you'll be able to work it out! :)

I also looked at possibly building a two story enclosure when the time comes...and have repeatedly been told 'no'. Too dangerous, too awkward to heat, too hard to clean, they don't use parts of it often enough to make it worthwhile, etc. Without having experienced one, I don't know if it's true or not, but they are points to take into consideration.
 

Tortloverr

Member
Joined
May 6, 2016
Messages
46
Location (City and/or State)
Virginia, USA
Hello and welcome.

The best strategy is to have a good indoor set up and a safe outdoor set up for nice weather. There are lots of examples of how to do both, for any stage of a tortoise's life, in the enclosure section.

Care for russians is similar to hermanni, so check out all of these for current and correct info:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/thread...or-other-herbivorous-tortoise-species.107734/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/sticky-hermanns-tortoise-care-sheet-updated.101410/

Be wary of pet store advice. They will typically try to sell you the wrong enclosure, the wrong bulbs, the wrong food, the wrong bowls, the wrong thermometers, the wrong substrate, and give you old, outdated, incorrect care info.

Your questions:
1a. Tortoise maturity is determined by size, not age. They grow at wildly different rates depending on many factors like: diet, temps, hydration, whether or not you hibernate, genetics, etc… With all the variables and the vastly different growth rates, and "average" is meaningless. Iw we said " they are adult at 8 years old" we could be off by 6 years in either direction. Possibly more than 6 years off in extreme cases.
1b. Babies do fine in large enclosures, but you might have trouble maintaining even moderate humidity with the open top. Tortoise tables are not good for most species as babies, even through they usually work fine for adult Testudo species.
2a. NO coil type UV bulbs. There is high probability that those will burn your tortoises eyes. They should not be sold or used, but people keep buying them. In addition to the danger, they are not effective UV sources anyway.
2b. You probably will not need the CHE. Just use a daytime basking bulb set on a timer.
2c. Hang your fixtures from over head. Don't use the clamp. The clamps fail and disaster can ensue.
2d. No colored bulbs. It messes with tortoise heads. If you need night heat, use the CHE set on a thermostat.
3a. You can grow lots of your own foods in pots or raised planters. You can also find weeds, flowers and leaves all over the place. Just use caution about pesticides and other chemicals.
I typed this up for sulcatas, so just skip all the text and scroll down to the food list. You don't need grass for a hermanni.
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/for-those-who-have-a-young-sulcata.76744/
3b. If you must use grocery store foods, favor endive, escarole and spring mix heavily, but use lots of variety. You can also amend grocery store greens with chopped grass that I just said you don't need for a hermanni. The grass will simply add much need fiber to fiber deficient grocery store foods. Soaked ZooMed Grassland pellets will do it too.

Please come back and ask for clarification on any of this, and keep your questions coming! :)


OHH! That would make sense about the maturity, I didn't even consider that! I do plan to create an outdoor setup when I get the time and the weather permits it. I haven't had a chance to read your response in detail but I had a few quick questions.

-Would you recommend buying from a pet store or is there another way to go about it? I've read horrible things about pet stores but haven't had much luck finding other ways to purchase or rescue a tortoise. I live in Virginia, USA, if that helps at all.

-I've read that for babies you can create a hide and put sphagnum moss in it to create a humidified area. I'm guessing that would not be sufficient?

-By daytime basking bulb, do you mean like a mercury vapor bulb? Or is there something else? (Sorry if this seems like a stupid question, I'm just trying to make sure I understand)

I'm sure I will have more questions once I've had a chance to really read through everything. Thank you so much, you've been extremely helpful!! :):tort:
 

Tortloverr

Member
Joined
May 6, 2016
Messages
46
Location (City and/or State)
Virginia, USA
I'm new too. :D I understand the frustration of reading conflicting advice or getting advice that doesn't apply to one's own personal situation, etc. But you'll be able to work it out! :)

I also looked at possibly building a two story enclosure when the time comes...and have repeatedly been told 'no'. Too dangerous, too awkward to heat, too hard to clean, they don't use parts of it often enough to make it worthwhile, etc. Without having experienced one, I don't know if it's true or not, but they are points to take into consideration.

I will be sure to let you know how it goes with my enclosure and if I'll have to make any changes!! I'm hoping it works out! I did notice that a lot of people make the ramp so that it can swivel up for easier cleaning underneath, I wish I had found that out before starting mine!
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
57,633
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
-Would you recommend buying from a pet store or is there another way to go about it? I've read horrible things about pet stores but haven't had much luck finding other ways to purchase or rescue a tortoise. I live in Virginia, USA, if that helps at all.

-I've read that for babies you can create a hide and put sphagnum moss in it to create a humidified area. I'm guessing that would not be sufficient?

-By daytime basking bulb, do you mean like a mercury vapor bulb? Or is there something else? (Sorry if this seems like a stupid question, I'm just trying to make sure I understand)

I'm sure I will have more questions once I've had a chance to really read through everything. Thank you so much, you've been extremely helpful!! :):tort:

Questions are good.

1. A pet store is the last place I would buy from. You should buy directly from the breeder who hatched and started the baby. Details matter and knowing the history is the only way to know if the baby was started correctly.
2. Every tortoise of every species I have tried eats sphagnum moss. I can't use it. Luckily, you don't need it. Just dampen the substrate under the humid hide a little more, and thee will be no need for moss of any kind.
3. The bulb thing is explained in the care sheet. You can use a regular flood bulb from the hardware store, if you have a good UV source, like the sun, or a long florescent tube. Or can can use the MVB for heat, light and UV all in one. The newer MVB bulbs seem to be stopping UV production at 3 months now, even though they still turn on and make heat and light. If you are going to rely primarily on artificial indoor UV sources, then you are going to need a UV meter: https://www.solarmeter.com/model65.html
 
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