My baby Russian tortise passed away with in 10 days.

Sean John Young

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Joined
Feb 22, 2024
Messages
2
Location (City and/or State)
Uk
Hi there

Sorry about this post but I need to get some advice as I am very upset.

I bought a baby Russian Tortoise from a pet shop and after 10 days it passed away and I'm trying to understand why.

In the pet shop, there were a lot of babies together in an enclosure being sold and the person stopped us from buying the 1st tortoise I looked at and persuaded me to buy the one next to it as it was more active and said the one we looked at was not so active and I should rather get one who is active because it would be healthier.

I brought him straight home and put him in the enclosure I set up a week prior and gave him food and water and he was active and eating a lot.
I soaked him every 2 days for 20-30 minutes in warm water where he passed urine and was very active during this.
I left the basking light on 12-14 hours a day and switched it off at night time before this he would go dig a hole and bury himself.
Every morning I gave him a variety of food such as tortoise pellets, shredded carrots, lettuce, kale, garden cress, and shredded zucchini which he seemed to like the most.
Every day I would clean the old food out and, give him fresh food, and spray water around the enclosure for humidity.
He had water with vitamin drops we got from the pet shop

His enclosure was A wooden vivarium about 1.5m long x 0.5m wide x 0.5 m high.
I had a 100-watt basking light that generates UVB, UVA, visible light, and heat all in one lamp and an additional 18-watt T8 fluorescent tube strip light for extra light.
I had a temperature motoring device that would switch off the light and heat if the temperature exceeded 30 degrees however, the enclosure was always in the range of 25-28 degrees c as we kept the glass slightly open for airflow.
At night time with all lights off the temperature would be around 15 deg C
I had a humidity sensor in the enclosure and the range was always around 50% RH to 70%RH, I measured the temperature under the basking light was always around 40 degrees C
His bedding was a coco brick and on the other side of the enclosure some tortoise-edible hay with flowers in it from the pet shop.
There were also fake plants in the tank for decoration only and a basking platform with fake grass on it.
I will add some photos to this thread from the 1st day I got him.


On the 8th day, I noticed he was no longer eating and was not active and would lay under the basking light all day.
On day 9 he had mucus coming out of his nose causing his bedding to get stuck to his face and around his eyes was a white color.
I kept his nose and mouth clean and reading online this looked to be a symptom of a respiratory infection so I contacted the vet that afternoon and got a booking for the following afternoon. On day 10 in the morning he was still not active and was just laying under the basking light and when I got home that afternoon to take him to the vet he had already passed away.

Is there anything I have done wrong?
 

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Lyn W

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I'm so sorry for your loss. I wish you'd found the forum earlier.
It sounds as if you did your best for him with the information you had.
Pet shops rarely know about tortoise care and they are there for profit only so often sell unsuitable and unsafe equipment or give old out dated advice. There is also a lot of bad advice given on other tort websites and places like FB.

The mucus could certainly be a sign of an respiratory infection, or maybe choking? Did he nibble the fake plants/grass at all?

Without having a necropsy done it isn't possible for anyone to say exactly what happened but if you look at the Information for new people thread in FAQs which explains all the do's and don'ts, and the care sheet for Mediterranean/Temperate torts included in that, (also found in Species Specific threads) you can check to see if his temps were high enough especially at night and compare other aspects of care to see if there was anything else that could have affected him.

The caresheets here are full of up to date advice from keepers with decades of experience and cover everything so I hope you can find some answers in them.
 

Sean John Young

New Member
Joined
Feb 22, 2024
Messages
2
Location (City and/or State)
Uk
Hi Lyn thank you for the information I will have a look. The 1st day he tried to nibble on the fake grass.
 

Sarah2020

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Tortoise Club
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Mar 16, 2020
Messages
1,633
Location (City and/or State)
London, UK
Some tortoise are unhealthy. My view us deep clean the enclosure, new substrate and check heat and light. Find a different reptile shop and buy another. Horsefield are the easiest so stick to similar. If you get a good one it is energising to see your care boosting its welfare.
Do not be tempted for it to have friends, solo is the way to go with correct set up and ideally an outside space for our amazing summers!
They are active and escape artists so secure is vital.

Ask questions.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
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Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,393
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Hi there

Sorry about this post but I need to get some advice as I am very upset.

I bought a baby Russian Tortoise from a pet shop and after 10 days it passed away and I'm trying to understand why.

In the pet shop, there were a lot of babies together in an enclosure being sold and the person stopped us from buying the 1st tortoise I looked at and persuaded me to buy the one next to it as it was more active and said the one we looked at was not so active and I should rather get one who is active because it would be healthier.

I brought him straight home and put him in the enclosure I set up a week prior and gave him food and water and he was active and eating a lot.
I soaked him every 2 days for 20-30 minutes in warm water where he passed urine and was very active during this.
I left the basking light on 12-14 hours a day and switched it off at night time before this he would go dig a hole and bury himself.
Every morning I gave him a variety of food such as tortoise pellets, shredded carrots, lettuce, kale, garden cress, and shredded zucchini which he seemed to like the most.
Every day I would clean the old food out and, give him fresh food, and spray water around the enclosure for humidity.
He had water with vitamin drops we got from the pet shop

His enclosure was A wooden vivarium about 1.5m long x 0.5m wide x 0.5 m high.
I had a 100-watt basking light that generates UVB, UVA, visible light, and heat all in one lamp and an additional 18-watt T8 fluorescent tube strip light for extra light.
I had a temperature motoring device that would switch off the light and heat if the temperature exceeded 30 degrees however, the enclosure was always in the range of 25-28 degrees c as we kept the glass slightly open for airflow.
At night time with all lights off the temperature would be around 15 deg C
I had a humidity sensor in the enclosure and the range was always around 50% RH to 70%RH, I measured the temperature under the basking light was always around 40 degrees C
His bedding was a coco brick and on the other side of the enclosure some tortoise-edible hay with flowers in it from the pet shop.
There were also fake plants in the tank for decoration only and a basking platform with fake grass on it.
I will add some photos to this thread from the 1st day I got him.


On the 8th day, I noticed he was no longer eating and was not active and would lay under the basking light all day.
On day 9 he had mucus coming out of his nose causing his bedding to get stuck to his face and around his eyes was a white color.
I kept his nose and mouth clean and reading online this looked to be a symptom of a respiratory infection so I contacted the vet that afternoon and got a booking for the following afternoon. On day 10 in the morning he was still not active and was just laying under the basking light and when I got home that afternoon to take him to the vet he had already passed away.

Is there anything I have done wrong?
It is very obvious that you tried to do everything perfectly. That is commendable. It looks like the mistake you made was learning from all the usual wrong sources.

Most of what you did sounds great. I'll point out the things that are problematic that might have contributed to his death.
1. If one tortoise was unhealthy and they steered you toward a different, the whole lot of them might have been diseased.
2. I prefer to soak babies every day, but every other day wouldn't cause this tortoises demise, especially not in a humid viv.
3. More weedy foods would be better. If grocery store foods must be used, favor endive, escarole, arugula, Italian dandelions, etc. Carrots are too high in sugar. Zucchini and lettuce offer low neutron low fiber and low calcium. These are not good foods. If you must use those foods, add in amendments that make them better. Kale has goiterogens and should only be used sparingly once in a while.
4. I wouldn't use vitamin drops in the water. A little on the food one in a while is all that is needed. Hypervitaminosis is a real possibility.
5. Sounds like you have a mercury vapor bulb. Those aren't reliable and they cause pyramiding. They shouldn't be used over baby tortoises. They also run too hot for vivs, as you've seen. You don't want a thermostat on your heat lamp. The "sun" shouldn't be turning on and off all day. It should be set on a timer, and the wattage needs to be such that it doesn't overheat the whole chamber.
6. 15C is certainly survivable for any temperate species, but I prefer to keep babies no lower than 20-21C at night.
7. Hay and flowers is not suitable bedding. This species isn't a grass eater, so hay makes no sense anyway. With the necessary moisture and humidity, hay will quickly mold and that can be deadly.
8. Coco coir is great, but it needs to be kept damp and firmly hand packed.
9. Fake grass and plastic plants should not be used with tortoises as they will eat it and it can cause impaction.

For comparison sake, read through this thread for all the correct care info. There is a heating and lighting breakdown near the bottom and a temperate species care sheet.

Questions are welcome.
 

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