my russian tortoises are very inactive.pleae advise

Janet22

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i have been told not to hibernate my tortoises as they are too young(about 4-5 years).they are kept indoors in a heated enclosure with uv light.as winter approaches they are becoming less and less active-only really waking up after a soak.there is very little poop and they are hardly eating.they spend practically all their time in their little hide.is this normal or should i take them to the vet?thanks
 

Yellow Turtle01

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It's that time of year where most hibernating species (that aren't hibernating) slow down.
I have to wake my russain up to eat and to get soaked, and that's fine, it's just their biological clock ticking off, and because they aren't hibernating, they just slow down a little. Decreased appetite is fine, but make sure they both eat and drink.
Do they live together? Russain torts can get aggressive.
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/
 

Janet22

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It's that time of year where most hibernating species (that aren't hibernating) slow down.
I have to wake my russain up to eat and to get soaked, and that's fine, it's just their biological clock ticking off, and because they aren't hibernating, they just slow down a little. Decreased appetite is fine, but make sure they both eat and drink.
Do they live together? Russain torts can get aggressive.
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/
yes they do.i'm keeping an eye out for any aggression problems and i'll split them up when necessary.thanks for your help.they are due to go to the vets for their annual check up/worming etc but its miles away and i didn't want to disturb them if it wasn't needed.thanks again
 

Tom

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To keep them up, you need to warm and brighten things up. Soak daily for a while and keep the lights on for 14 hours a day until their appetite and activity level comes back up. How many do you have?

4-5 years old is plenty old enough to hibernate. I'm hibernating my 1-2 year olds this year.

No need for vet visits if nothing is wrong, in my opinion.

Here is a reply for someone else's thread that was having a similar issue:

"They will not be able to hibernate at room temp. Its too warm. You will need to decide to either keep them up, or hibernate them properly. Right now they are in a bit of a "limbo", and that is not good. I've used the following methods for dozens of DTs from babies to adults, as well as many other tortoise and reptile species that come from areas with a natural hibernation period.

While I have kept hibernating species awake through winter and I know others have successfully done it too, it is my opinion that species that hibernate in the wild should also hibernate in captivity. It just needs to be done correctly. Leaving them outside to figure it out and deal with the rigors of winter in the small spaces (like backyards) that we stick them in, is not my idea of doing it "correctly". I know far too many that have died this way. Don't let these horror stories from people who did not properly prepare, or hibernate their animals in a safe, controlled way, scare you. Hibernation is totally natural and totally safe when a few simple guidelines are observed. Simple Guidelines:
1. Bring them down, and up, gradually.
2. Make sure their gut is empty before dropping temps. Two weeks of no food with the normal warm temps should do it.
3. Make sure they are well hydrated by soaking them, before and after hibernation.
4. Make sure the temperature is consistent and cold enough for the entire hibernation time.
5. Don't let them do it in a self dug burrow in your backyard. NOT safe!

To keep them up: You will need to keep them warm, day and night. The enclosure needs to be nice and bright too, so add a 6500K florescent tube, if need be. I set lights to come on an hour or two before the sun comes up and stay on for a good two hours after the sun goes down. Daily warm soaks, or every other day, seems to help convince their brains that its not sleepy time. I would still give them outside time all winter long as long as its sunny and warm-ish. The sun really helps and we have such nice mild winters here in SoCal.

To hibernate them: The dangerous parts of hibernation (flooding, burrow collapse, rodents, temperature extremes, etc..) can all be eliminated by bringing them inside into controlled conditions and prepping them correctly. While they have adapted to survive these conditions out in the wild for millennia, our back yards are not the wild. Not even close. The shallow burrows they construct in our yards are not enough to protect them from the whims of a cruel mother nature, and as Yvonne adeptly pointed out, many of them don't survive hibernation in the wild, or outdoors in captivity either. I have hibernated all ages of DTs using the following methods: It is often said that "tortoises do better outside". True some of the time in some instances, but not all of the time in all instances. Most babies actually do better inside most of the time. As such, when night temps really start to drop, as they did about two weeks ago, I bring small hibernating species of tortoises inside to their indoor set ups every evening. I feed them up for a good two or three weeks, and soak them daily or every other day. Then I leave the timers and heat and everything on and running, but I quit feeding them. I give them around two weeks with no food, daily soaks, and warm day time temps, as usual. After those two weeks, I start adjusting the light timers down and raise the fixtures a bit to lower basking temps. I let night temps drop as low as is practical for indoors. I'll do this for another week or two. Then I put them into their individual hibernacula. I use plastic shoe boxes, or something similar, with a couple of inches of substrate on the bottom. I keep them dry at this time. In the past I've used non-functioning fridges or freezers laid on their backs in a cool area to keep the shoe boxes in. Currently the floor of my garage stays around 50-55 all winter and I've used that for the last few years. The problem is that we keep having these weird warm winters with daily highs in the 80s or 90s sometimes, for days or weeks on end. Good for my non-hibernating species, but not so good for the hibernators. This year I'm getting them a dedicated fridge, so I don't have to worry about the weather and I won't have to try to fight the temperature outside. I'll set it to around 45 degrees F. I let first timers go for 8-10 weeks under these controlled conditions. Older ones will go for 12-16 weeks. I watch the temps, but I don't mess with them during hibernation. When the weather starts to warm up, I gradually warm up the fridge and let warmer air into the hibernation area, and at some point after a few days, I pull them out, soak them in shallow room temp water, and put them back into their indoor enclosures with no heat. Just room temp. I soak daily for a bout two weeks. After a few days, I will turn the lights on. I leave the fixtures at their higher adjustment at first and gradually, over the course of a few days, lower them back down to get the right basking temps. After the tortoises activity level comes up, and they start moving around more, I will begin offering food, and letting them run around in their outdoor pens on warmer days, but I still bring them in to escape the cold nights. For older/bigger tortoises that can't come back inside, I simply use an outdoor heated night box to do just about the same thing. The night box more or less takes the place of the indoor enclosure and gives me a way to keep them warmer at night while preparing for hibernation or coming out of it.

The above methods have worked perfectly for me for many years with a wide variety of reptile species. The only time I ever lost an animal during hibernation is when I took the advice of a very knowledgeable man, who didn't understand our climate, and let my tegus hibernate outside as he did in his climate. I lost two out of three that year. It was heartbreaking.

I don't have set dates for any of this, and I sort of go by "feel" and the weather on either end of hibernation. If we have a long summer with a warm fall, I wait longer to put them down. If we have an early spring, I wake them up sooner. Generally I try to get them down by December, and get them up sometime in March.


I know that is a lot to read. Please feel free to ask lots of questions. We will help you, whichever way you decide to go."
 

johnsonnboswell

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Look into every part of your keeping practice. The vet won't be helpful if the problem lies there. How old is your bulb, and what kind is it?
 

Janet22

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i'm in liverpool,england and yes i think they are captive bred.thank you for your help.my basking bulb is only a couple of weeks old and but my uv light is about 2 years old-i didn't even give this a thought-does it need changing?i have thermometers which both say the teperature is ok.
 

lismar79

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Uv bulbs weaken over time. At about 6 months to a year you would prob need to replace. The only way to know for sure is to get a uv meter. I have one bulb that produced almost nothing sfter 6 months another that is over a year and still putting out good rays. I would say two years is too old.
 

johnsonnboswell

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Your bulb is definitely expired. I change mine every autumn.

What kind of bulbs are you using?
Rather than a basking bulb (what is that?) & separate uv, get a UVB bulb that also throws heat. Expensive but worth it.
 

Janet22

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i'm off to the shop to get a new uv light!!!!!! thank you for all your help
 

Tom

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i'm in liverpool,england and yes i think they are captive bred.thank you for your help.my basking bulb is only a couple of weeks old and but my uv light is about 2 years old-i didn't even give this a thought-does it need changing?i have thermometers which both say the teperature is ok.

Where are these two thermometers located in the enclosure and what is "ok" to you? There are four temperatures to know and monitor. Warm side, cool side, basking area and overnight low. Can you tel us what the actually temperatures are. This info will help us to offer better advice for your issue.


When you go to buy a new UV bulb, make sure to not let them talk you into a coil type cfl bulb. These are know to sometimes damage tortoise eyes. Get a long tube type or a mercury vapor bulb. This is especially critical in your climate where the tortoises will be dependent on indoor UV for months of every year. If your tortoises get sunshine in the summer, I would replace your bulb every fall when they come indoors for the winter. The added UV from a new bulb will also likely put some more pep in their step.
 

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