My new baby tortoise suddenly died - thoughts on what could have happened?

Joined
Apr 13, 2024
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
Vancouver BC
Hello,

I got a baby on Saturday afternoon. He died probably some time this morning. He was alive and active last night - he walked around
He seemed fine but did not eat for the entirety of the 4 days I had him. He had energy though.
I tried to feed him cucumber, dandelion and green salad mix (he didn't eat)

I had two lamps one was attached to a temp gauge under the soil that would make it turn off at 83f

The general ambient temperature was 80-85f
The humidity I found was between 40-60%

I found a lot of conflicting information online about how hot or humid it should be but i thought these numbers seemed reasonable. Later I saw the humidity should have been closer to 80% , would this being off be enough to kill him?
I soaked him. Twice since I got him in warm water at knee depth

Substrate was 1/3 Zoo Med's Forest Floor, 1/3 Zoo Med's Eco Earth, and 1/3 Zoo Med's ReptiSand

I feel like garbage right now as I'm wondering if I killed him or if he was already sick -

If I get another one in the future I want to make sure this doesn't happen again the heart break is really bad.

Let me know what you think ?
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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-What species? What size and age?
-Where did you get it and how was it started in the days and weeks after hatching?
-What size and type of enclosure?
-What were the two types of lamps?
-Basking area directly under the bulb should be around 95-100. 83 is too cool.
-Thermostats should be used to control ambient temps. Your basking bulb is meant to simulate the sun. It should be on a timer for 12 hours a day, not set on a thermostat that turn it on and off all day.
-Sand should never be used as tortoise substrate. It can be deadly to them. The other two were fine, but no need to mix them. One or the other would work just as well.

Start here. There is a care sheet for both tropical and and temperate species near the bottom. You can read whichever one suits your species to see what might have gone wrong.
 
Joined
Apr 13, 2024
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
Vancouver BC
-What species? What size and age?
-Where did you get it and how was it started in the days and weeks after hatching?
-What size and type of enclosure?
-What were the two types of lamps?
-Basking area directly under the bulb should be around 95-100. 83 is too cool.
-Thermostats should be used to control ambient temps. Your basking bulb is meant to simulate the sun. It should be on a timer for 12 hours a day, not set on a thermostat that turn it on and off all day.
-Sand should never be used as tortoise substrate. It can be deadly to them. The other two were fine, but no need to mix them. One or the other would work just as well.

Start here. There is a care sheet for both tropical and and temperate species near the bottom. You can read whichever one suits your species to see what might have gone wrong.
What species? What size and age?
Russian tortoise, 2-3 months old probably not 100% clear on its age

-Where did you get it and how was it started in the days and weeks after hatching?
At a reptile expo , I don't know the other info

-What size and type of enclosure?
A glass tank that's 3 ft by 1.5 ft approximately with a mesh top

-What were the two types of lamps?
basking light 100w , mercury vapor

The other a ira and irb light

-Basking area directly under the bulb should be around 95-100. 83 is too cool.

There was a higher temp basking area, 83 is the temp max temp for under the soil, the ambient temperature was between 80-85

-Thermostats should be used to control ambient temps. Your basking bulb is meant to simulate the sun. It should be on a timer for 12 hours a day, not set on a thermostat that turn it on and off all day.

Sorry to clarify the thermostat was for one of the bulbs in particular a larger deep dome the ira and irb light this blub only emitted heat and no visible light
The one thermostat was set to shut it off if under the soil got to 83 f ( this is with the logic that the under soil should be the coolest part of the tank - if it got this hot this means the rest of the tank was too hot )
This was just a safety precaution to prevent over heating

The basking light was on 12 hours a day I turned it on in the morning and shut it off at night

-Sand should never be used as tortoise substrate. It can be deadly to them. The other two were fine, but no need to mix them. One or the other would work just as well.

Interesting - this conflicts with the other information I got from Google and from other fourms I read
I will keep this in mind
 

TammyJ

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Hi. I am sorry that your tortoise died. Although some of the conditions you were keeping him in were incorrect, I doubt that he would have died so quickly if he had been anywhere near healthy when you got him at the reptile expo. He was more than likely already sick. Try again and get another one from a reputable breeder next time, and follow all the advice that Tom gave you as to husbandry. Good luck next time!
 

The_Four_Toed_Edward

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Considering that he was with you for only four days it sounds like he had a bad start to his life before you and/or was already sick. Did he have any of the common symptoms:
  • Labored breathing/other respiratory problems like open mouth breathing
  • Drooping head or limbs
  • Inability to stand tall/lift the shell of the ground
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Lumbs or swelling
  • Runny eyes or nose
  • Closed or swollen eyelids
  • Excessive blinking
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Runny feces
 

The_Four_Toed_Edward

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311
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Hi. I am sorry that your tortoise died. Although some of the conditions you were keeping him in were incorrect, I doubt that he would have died so quickly if he had been anywhere near healthy when you got him at the reptile expo. He was more than likely already sick. Try again and get another one from a reputable breeder next time, and follow all the advice that Tom gave you as to husbandry. Good luck next time!
Yeah, none of the things OP was doing couldn't have killed the tortoise in four days, the tortoise was probably already seriously ill.
 
Joined
Apr 13, 2024
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
Vancouver BC
Considering that he was with you for only four days it sounds like he had a bad start to his life before you and/or was already sick. Did he have any of the common symptoms:
  • Labored breathing/other respiratory problems like open mouth breathing
  • Drooping head or limbs
  • Inability to stand tall/lift the shell of the ground
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Lumbs or swelling
  • Runny eyes or nose
  • Closed or swollen eyelids
  • Excessive blinking
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Runny feces

Thanks for this insight.
What does excessive sleeping mean ? Because I remember even googling how much they sleep and I also was concerned.
I would say he slept almost the entire time I had him. I saw somewhere they could sleep up to 22hours so I came to the conclusion this was normal
I would also say it seemed like he was struggling to walk around but I thought it was because he was so small.

He did not poop when he was with me.
 
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Alex and the Redfoot

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Messages
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Location (City and/or State)
Cyprus
Hello,

I got a baby on Saturday afternoon. He died probably some time this morning. He was alive and active last night - he walked around
He seemed fine but did not eat for the entirety of the 4 days I had him. He had energy though.
I tried to feed him cucumber, dandelion and green salad mix (he didn't eat)

I had two lamps one was attached to a temp gauge under the soil that would make it turn off at 83f

The general ambient temperature was 80-85f
The humidity I found was between 40-60%

I found a lot of conflicting information online about how hot or humid it should be but i thought these numbers seemed reasonable. Later I saw the humidity should have been closer to 80% , would this being off be enough to kill him?
I soaked him. Twice since I got him in warm water at knee depth

Substrate was 1/3 Zoo Med's Forest Floor, 1/3 Zoo Med's Eco Earth, and 1/3 Zoo Med's ReptiSand

I feel like garbage right now as I'm wondering if I killed him or if he was already sick -

If I get another one in the future I want to make sure this doesn't happen again the heart break is really bad.

Let me know what you think ?
I agree with Tammy. In a four days a rare thing can kill an otherwise healthy tortoise (even a hatchling) - something like serious injury, freezing or exceptionaly high temperatures. None of that happened to him, as I see from your messages.

Likely he was already dehydrated, malnourished, impacted or etc. before you've got him. Some keepers tend to think that dead tortoise hatchlings is a norm (they die in wild, aren't they?) and refuse to adjust their starting husbandry.

As for the sand - you will find conflicting advice on this and other topics. Basicaly, there are two approaches to husbandry: mimic closely everything from their natural habitat or take only essential elements for their well-being. Each has its perks and downsides, but the latter is somewhat easier to implement and has more predictable outcome. Sand is known to cause impaction in tortoises in captivity because foods are less rich in fiber, often get covered in sand, movement is limited and it's not the same sandy soil they encounter in the wild (fraction and content). You may address these concerns or just go with coco coir or orchid bark and have none of these problems.
 
Joined
Apr 13, 2024
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
Vancouver BC
I agree with Tammy. In a four days a rare thing can kill an otherwise healthy tortoise (even a hatchling) - something like serious injury, freezing or exceptionaly high temperatures. None of that happened to him, as I see from your messages.

Likely he was already dehydrated, malnourished, impacted or etc. before you've got him. Some keepers tend to think that dead tortoise hatchlings is a norm (they die in wild, aren't they?) and refuse to adjust their starting husbandry.

As for the sand - you will find conflicting advice on this and other topics. Basicaly, there are two approaches to husbandry: mimic closely everything from their natural habitat or take only essential elements for their well-being. Each has its perks and downsides, but the latter is somewhat easier to implement and has more predictable outcome. Sand is known to cause impaction in tortoises in captivity because foods are less rich in fiber, often get covered in sand, movement is limited and it's not the same sandy soil they encounter in the wild (fraction and content). You may address these concerns or just go with coco coir or orchid bark and have none of these problems.
Thanks this is helpful
 

The_Four_Toed_Edward

Active Member
Joined
Apr 6, 2024
Messages
311
Location (City and/or State)
Finland
Thanks for this insight.
What does excessive sleeping mean ? Because I remember even googling how much they sleep and I also was concerned.
I would say he slept almost the entire time I had him. I saw somewhere they could sleep up to 22hours so I came to the conclusion this was normal
I would also say it seemed like he was struggling to walk around but I thought it was because he was so small.

He did not poop when he was with me.
By excessive sleeping I mean that he only woke up when you woke him up. Sounds like you were unfortunately sold a sick tortoise. It is all too common in some reptile expos. Some Canadian keepers can probably hint you to a better seller to get your next tortoise.
 

NELSUN737

New Member
Joined
Feb 9, 2024
Messages
9
Location (City and/or State)
Queens Village, NY
Hello,

I got a baby on Saturday afternoon. He died probably some time this morning. He was alive and active last night - he walked around
He seemed fine but did not eat for the entirety of the 4 days I had him. He had energy though.
I tried to feed him cucumber, dandelion and green salad mix (he didn't eat)

I had two lamps one was attached to a temp gauge under the soil that would make it turn off at 83f

The general ambient temperature was 80-85f
The humidity I found was between 40-60%

I found a lot of conflicting information online about how hot or humid it should be but i thought these numbers seemed reasonable. Later I saw the humidity should have been closer to 80% , would this being off be enough to kill him?
I soaked him. Twice since I got him in warm water at knee depth

Substrate was 1/3 Zoo Med's Forest Floor, 1/3 Zoo Med's Eco Earth, and 1/3 Zoo Med's ReptiSand

I feel like garbage right now as I'm wondering if I killed him or if he was already sick -

If I get another one in the future I want to make sure this doesn't happen again the heart break is really bad.

Let me know what you think ?
I'm sorry for your baby, the same happened to me a few years ago,
It died in 3 days.

I have to agree that it wasn't healthy, expos are not good place to get a tortoise, they sometimes sell on consignment from people they know to make a buck!

You should try and contact them for a refund, I did, I send them pictures and got refunded within a week.

DON'T FEEL GUILTY IT WASN'T YOUR FAULT!
GOD BLESS YOU AMIGA!
ESTOS SON MIS BEBES!
 

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Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
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Joined
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Messages
63,601
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
What species? What size and age?
Russian tortoise, 2-3 months old probably not 100% clear on its age

-Where did you get it and how was it started in the days and weeks after hatching?
At a reptile expo , I don't know the other info

-What size and type of enclosure?
A glass tank that's 3 ft by 1.5 ft approximately with a mesh top

-What were the two types of lamps?
basking light 100w , mercury vapor

The other a ira and irb light

-Basking area directly under the bulb should be around 95-100. 83 is too cool.

There was a higher temp basking area, 83 is the temp max temp for under the soil, the ambient temperature was between 80-85

-Thermostats should be used to control ambient temps. Your basking bulb is meant to simulate the sun. It should be on a timer for 12 hours a day, not set on a thermostat that turn it on and off all day.

Sorry to clarify the thermostat was for one of the bulbs in particular a larger deep dome the ira and irb light this blub only emitted heat and no visible light
The one thermostat was set to shut it off if under the soil got to 83 f ( this is with the logic that the under soil should be the coolest part of the tank - if it got this hot this means the rest of the tank was too hot )
This was just a safety precaution to prevent over heating

The basking light was on 12 hours a day I turned it on in the morning and shut it off at night

-Sand should never be used as tortoise substrate. It can be deadly to them. The other two were fine, but no need to mix them. One or the other would work just as well.

Interesting - this conflicts with the other information I got from Google and from other fourms I read
I will keep this in mind
Mercury vapor bulbs are not a good option, and sand should never be used, but I agree with the other posters that these were not a likely COD. You probably got a typical dry started hatchling, and it succumbed more quickly than others. That's my best guess based on the info here.

I'm glad our info conflicts with what you found elsewhere, and that you realized that. Most of the care info found out in the world is old, wrong, and based on incorrect assumptions of how they live in the wild. We've had so many things wrong for decades, and the same wrong info just keeps getting circulated and passed down from generation to generation. Here is the correct info. Look for the temperate species care sheet near the bottom, and questions are welcome:
 
Joined
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Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
Vancouver BC
Mercury vapor bulbs are not a good option, and sand should never be used, but I agree with the other posters that these were not a likely COD. You probably got a typical dry started hatchling, and it succumbed more quickly than others. That's my best guess based on the info here.

I'm glad our info conflicts with what you found elsewhere, and that you realized that. Most of the care info found out in the world is old, wrong, and based on incorrect assumptions of how they live in the wild. We've had so many things wrong for decades, and the same wrong info just keeps getting circulated and passed down from generation to generation. Here is the correct info. Look for the temperate species care sheet near the bottom, and questions are welcome:
Thanks for this info
The breeder told me to get a mercury vapor bulb specifically - what's the reason to not use them?
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,601
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Thanks for this info
The breeder told me to get a mercury vapor bulb specifically - what's the reason to not use them?
From the link I left for you in post number 12:

19. MVBs: Mercury vapor bulbs. Heat light and UV all in one bulb. Sounds great, but it doesn't work. As mentioned in #16, we don't want high levels of UV all day every day, but the tortoise does need a basking lamp all day (except forrest species) for heat and light. These two different things need to come from different sources and be on their own timers. MVBs sometimes make way too much UV. Other MVBs stop producing any UV at all after a few months. These bulb are also fragile, temperamental, finicky about what fixture you can use them in, expensive, and unreliable. They are also high wattage and hot, which will over heat a closed chamber. You ARE using a closed chamber with the heating and lighting inside, aren't you??? On top of all those reasons not to use them, they are extremely desiccating to the carapace and cause pyramiding, even when used in an otherwise humid environment.
 
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Just a little update on this.

The breeder offered 50% off a new tortoise which I refused
After speaking to the local reptile and aquatic supply store as well as more people online and in person
The general consensus is that I should be refunded full or get a free tortoise
Also everyone agreed he was likely already sick.
So because of this I am more hopeful I'd get money back I'm honestly worried about getting another tort from him

However , after asking him for something other than 50% off a tort he seemingly ghosted me ?
It's been slightly over a week since our last correspondence so I'm not hopeful.

Overall this experience has been depressing and stressful
I fully regret getting a tort from an expo. Other avenues would have had policies for instances like this.

Anyway, if anyone reads this in the future , learn from me don't get a tort from an expo!
 

NELSUN737

New Member
Joined
Feb 9, 2024
Messages
9
Location (City and/or State)
Queens Village, NY
Just a little update on this.

The breeder offered 50% off a new tortoise which I refused
After speaking to the local reptile and aquatic supply store as well as more people online and in person
The general consensus is that I should be refunded full or get a free tortoise
Also everyone agreed he was likely already sick.
So because of this I am more hopeful I'd get money back I'm honestly worried about getting another tort from him

However , after asking him for something other than 50% off a tort he seemingly ghosted me ?
It's been slightly over a week since our last correspondence so I'm not hopeful.

Overall this experience has been depressing and stressful
I fully regret getting a tort from an expo. Other avenues would have had policies for instances like this.

Anyway, if anyone reads this in the future , learn from me don't get a tort from an expo!
Just a little update on this.

The breeder offered 50% off a new tortoise which I refused
After speaking to the local reptile and aquatic supply store as well as more people online and in person
The general consensus is that I should be refunded full or get a free tortoise
Also everyone agreed he was likely already sick.
So because of this I am more hopeful I'd get money back I'm honestly worried about getting another tort from him

However , after asking him for something other than 50% off a tort he seemingly ghosted me ?
It's been slightly over a week since our last correspondence so I'm not hopeful.

Overall this experience has been depressing and stressful
I fully regret getting a tort from an expo. Other avenues would have had policies for instances like this.

Anyway, if anyone reads this in the future , learn from me don't get a tort from an expo!
DON'T STOP COMMUNICATION KEEP AT IT!
SAY IT, IM WAITING OR ELSE I'LL TAKE LEGAL ACCTION!
NO TE RINDAS!
 

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The_Four_Toed_Edward

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Messages
311
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Finland
Just a little update on this.

The breeder offered 50% off a new tortoise which I refused
After speaking to the local reptile and aquatic supply store as well as more people online and in person
The general consensus is that I should be refunded full or get a free tortoise
Also everyone agreed he was likely already sick.
So because of this I am more hopeful I'd get money back I'm honestly worried about getting another tort from him

However , after asking him for something other than 50% off a tort he seemingly ghosted me ?
It's been slightly over a week since our last correspondence so I'm not hopeful.

Overall this experience has been depressing and stressful
I fully regret getting a tort from an expo. Other avenues would have had policies for instances like this.

Anyway, if anyone reads this in the future , learn from me don't get a tort from an expo!
If nothing happens and you don't get a proper refund, I would leave a warning for other people her on the forum at tortoise vendor reviews... With your experience it is starting to seem like no one should buy a tortoise from this vendor...
 

_The_Beast_

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Oct 3, 2021
Messages
138
Location (City and/or State)
Canada
If nothing happens and you don't get a proper refund, I would leave a warning for other people her on the forum at tortoise vendor reviews... With your experience it is starting to seem like no one should buy a tortoise from this vendor...
Agree. What reptile expo was this? You may also have luck contacting the organizers and potentially preventing them from selling there in the future. Some big reptile expos have active FB groups where you may be able to get contact info for the organizers or DM vendors.
Disclaimer: FB is absolutely terrible for tortoise husbandry advice.

Edit to add: if you're in BC, I think C&C Tortoises is the closest reputable breeder near you.
 
Joined
Apr 13, 2024
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
Vancouver BC
Agree. What reptile expo was this? You may also have luck contacting the organizers and potentially preventing them from selling there in the future. Some big reptile expos have active FB groups where you may be able to get contact info for the organizers or DM vendors.
Disclaimer: FB is absolutely terrible for tortoise husbandry advice.

Edit to add: if you're in BC, I think C&C Tortoises is the closest reputable breeder near you.
Thanks I had just contacted c&c yesterday I'm having so much buyers remorse :(
It also sucks because I'm still so attached to the little guy who died (I named him Titian , art history nerds will get it )RIP

but i did speak too soon The breeder replied and refused even half a refund. Basically said he didn't understand why anyone thought it could be sick and that I should have contacted him when I saw any red flags.
I'll be honest 4 days is really quick, the things like him not eating or sleeping a lot I thought to keep an eye out instead of jumping to conclusions. I was really naive. I've now learned.

But the person I got it from was at the vancouver REP EXPO that happened in south delta.
Specifically from Arachnophiliacs he's primarily a tarantula breeder and has a lot of positive reviews for his page overall.
I may be spreading misinformation so don't quote me but I belive he IS the organizer for that particular expo.
 
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