(New Owner) Help, is this set up good for my baby Sulcata baby!

Torta21

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His enclosure is fry wood and the dimensions are 38inch (L) x 24inch (W). His temperature is always around 80+ and his humidity in his closed chamber is usually around 70-80%, I use coconut coir mixed with Orchard bark. I live in SoCal, around the inland empire valley so it’s usually not lower than 75F, at night it gets usually around the 50’s.
Anyways, I have a sulcata baby tortoise his name is Torta! I recently got him this fry wood enclosure, he has a closed chamber that maintains 80% humidity but from what I’ve noticed he hasn’t been sleeping in there much so I’m wondering if it’s maybe not warm enough at night? As you can see I can’t exactly put a ceramic heat emitting element directly above his closed chamber as there is no opening, so I’m wondering if I should get one and just put it on the open side of his enclosure? I know I should prob set him up with some night time heating element as it’s starting to get a bit chilly at night now, so do you guys have any suggestions/ recommendations for me to improve his enclosure?

Also, let me know if this set up looks good! I wanna make sure I’m doing everything I can do to give him a good environment to grow healthy in. Lastly, should I take him for a health and wellness check up just in general is it worth it? I ask just cause although he seems healthy he eats regularly, and is active I wanna make sure he’s growing healthy and is getting everything he needs. As I’m a new owner, there’s a lot I’m not sure about and want to do my best to give him the best life. So how’s your experiences with health check ups with vets been? Thanks in advance!

P.S. Here’s pictures of his enclosure, the lights I use, and of him (let me know if he looks like a healthy baby)!

IMG_4931 2.JPG DC0D5E0A-2A52-46E2-B76D-A6B1AA1469B7.jpeg A6D91BDB-A9D4-4A37-8658-118B18996F20.jpeg 9FBA76C5-C587-4A78-BE72-2DE06889E64A.jpeg 8525400A-C58B-43A7-8C18-BBD48D913D75.jpeg 83E138A8-4542-4C4C-9EC4-12D0A6C6880B.jpeg
 

KarenSoCal

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Well, first, Torta is beautiful! Adorable!

I suspect you maybe bought Torta from a pet store, and they told you to buy the equipment that you have. I say this because other than your enclosure, what you have is exactly what pet stores sell for torts.

The thing about pet store advice is that it is all wrong. Most everything you are using is bad for Torta.
1. The basking light is a spot type. Those bulbs can easily burn the top of his carapace.
2. The UVB light should not be that compact style. They give out poor intensity UVB, and have a tendency to burn the eyes of babies. You should be using a fluorescent tube type.
3, Having the UVB light sitting on the screening blocks probably 1/2 of the UV light to the baby. UV also does not go through glass or plexiglass.
4, When speaking of a closed chamber, it means the entire enclosure is closed up. The closed chamber does not sit inside the enclosure, it is the enclosure.
5. The daytime temps: basking spot 95-100, coolest part of cage, never below 80deg.
6. Night temps: at least 80deg everywhere in the enclosure.
7. The water and food dishes can be a hazard for babies because of the straight sides. Torts can't bend at a waist to go up and over an edge like that. They stretch to scale the wall of the dish and fall backward, sometimes into the water dish. Quite a few babies die like this. Since yours look really shallow, push them down into the substrate til the lip of the dish is even with the dirt. Keep an eye on him.
Your substrate is good. You will be pouring water into it and mixing it up to create enough humidity to keep 80% at all times.
Then the entire cage needs to be enclosed.

I'm going to link you to our care sheets for sullies. Read all of them and they will tell you how we do all this from the beginning. Don't panic! We will show you how to make changes to supply Torta with all he needs.





 

Torta21

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Well, first, Torta is beautiful! Adorable!

I suspect you maybe bought Torta from a pet store, and they told you to buy the equipment that you have. I say this because other than your enclosure, what you have is exactly what pet stores sell for torts.

The thing about pet store advice is that it is all wrong. Most everything you are using is bad for Torta.
1. The basking light is a spot type. Those bulbs can easily burn the top of his carapace.
2. The UVB light should not be that compact style. They give out poor intensity UVB, and have a tendency to burn the eyes of babies. You should be using a fluorescent tube type.
3, Having the UVB light sitting on the screening blocks probably 1/2 of the UV light to the baby. UV also does not go through glass or plexiglass.
4, When speaking of a closed chamber, it means the entire enclosure is closed up. The closed chamber does not sit inside the enclosure, it is the enclosure.
5. The daytime temps: basking spot 95-100, coolest part of cage, never below 80deg.
6. Night temps: at least 80deg everywhere in the enclosure.
7. The water and food dishes can be a hazard for babies because of the straight sides. Torts can't bend at a waist to go up and over an edge like that. They stretch to scale the wall of the dish and fall backward, sometimes into the water dish. Quite a few babies die like this. Since yours look really shallow, push them down into the substrate til the lip of the dish is even with the dirt. Keep an eye on him.
Your substrate is good. You will be pouring water into it and mixing it up to create enough humidity to keep 80% at all times.
Then the entire cage needs to be enclosed.

I'm going to link you to our care sheets for sullies. Read all of them and they will tell you how we do all this from the beginning. Don't panic! We will show you how to make changes to supply Torta with all he needs.







First, thanks for the advice! After reading this, I immediately went to Home Depot to get what I needed (hopefully the correct stuff lol). So how high up should the UVB light be from his cage would you recommend?
These are the lights I got today for him, a 65watt flood light as was recommended in the "how to set up heat in new enclosure" thread, a heat lamp, and a UVB Fluorescent tube light do these look right to you?
I appreciate all the help! I'm so glad I found this forum :)
 

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KarenSoCal

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The heat lamp...does that produce light as well as heat? Or heat only? If it produces light, you could use it for additional heat and light during the day, if needed. But at night, you want darkness. So either way, I would take that back and get your money. While you're at Home Depot, find yourself a thermostat to keep that CHE set for 80deg. If you don't have one, grab a timer to plug stuff into, and an infrared temp gun. Your life will be easier for it. Then head to Petco or Petsmart and buy a ceramic heat emitter (CHE). That emits only heat, day or night.

The end of the enclosure...is that open? Or does it have a window in it? Remember, you are making a closed chamber, so that space needs to be closed off if no window.

Do you have a fixture to mount the UVB tube in? The tube needs to be mounted under the mesh, maybe just attached to the mesh itself? With a couple hooks? How high are the sides? Will you have roughly 12" from the tube to his shell?

How high the lights and CHE are is up to your new temp gun. It would be great if you could sit them on the mesh, because it will make covering the top of the enclosure much easier. You may have to experiment a bit with different wattages to get it right. Your flood bulb is your basking light, so under it on a rock or piece of tile needs to be 95-100. That's your hot side.

The other side is the cool side. That should be 80 all the time. That's where your CHE goes, along with a regular (or LED) light bulb if you want more light in the daytime. The flood bulb, and the regular bulb (if you want it) go on the timer for 12 hrs on/12 hrs off.

The CHE goes on the thermostat. Set it to 80, it will go on and off as needed to keep the minimum temp 80.

If temps don't work out this way, because of the mesh, you may need to remove the entire top. Let's hope this works because it's easier.
 

Tom

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First, thanks for the advice! After reading this, I immediately went to Home Depot to get what I needed (hopefully the correct stuff lol). So how high up should the UVB light be from his cage would you recommend?
These are the lights I got today for him, a 65watt flood light as was recommended in the "how to set up heat in new enclosure" thread, a heat lamp, and a UVB Fluorescent tube light do these look right to you?
I appreciate all the help! I'm so glad I found this forum :)
Hi! Welcome to the forum. You've gotten great advice so far.

About the three bulbs that you linked:
1. You don't need the "heat lamp". Karen explained that one very well. CHE on a thermostat fulfills that role and maintains ambient background warm temperature day and night.
2. That would would have been the correct bulb, except that its an LED "65 watt replacement" bulb. Its not 65 watts, its not incandescent, and it produces almost no heat. CA has made it illegal to sell incandescent bulbs here. You can't even buy them on Amazon and have them shipped in. This is stupid and its a big pain in the arse. I have to buy the bulbs I need to sustain the lives of my pets, have them shipped to a friend out of state, and then the friend has to ship them to me. We have great weather here, but its hard to imagine a scenario where the politicians elected and appointed to run the state could be more stupid or more corrupt. Sorry for the rant.
3. I don't know that brand of UV tube and have never heard of it. That makes me a little leery of it. I wouldn't trust it without putting a meter under it. HOWEVER, worse case scenario is that it doesn't produce the UV your tortoise needs. So what? Your climate is nearly perfect for raising baby sulcatas and giving them access to real sunshine for an hour or two several times a week for most of every year. You don't need indoor UV. You can use that bulb, or just use an LED strip or screw in bulb for some extra ambient lighting. Make a safe outdoor enclosure for your baby, and let the sun work its magic. Just not too much sun for a tiny baby, and make sure there is always lots of shade too. Babies can over heat and die in minutes when forced to stay in full sun with no shade. My general rule is an hour of sun per inch of tortoise per day. Always soak the baby after a sunning session.

All this info and conflicting info can be daunting, but remember, this indoor set up is only for a year or two until your baby is large enough to move outside with a heated night box full time. We will get to all that later.

Start planting grape vines, mulberry trees, and lots of spineless opuntia now. If you want some free starter cactus pads, come take a drive over here to Santa Clarita and I'll give you a whole box of them to plant.
 

Torta21

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The heat lamp...does that produce light as well as heat? Or heat only? If it produces light, you could use it for additional heat and light during the day, if needed. But at night, you want darkness. So either way, I would take that back and get your money. While you're at Home Depot, find yourself a thermostat to keep that CHE set for 80deg. If you don't have one, grab a timer to plug stuff into, and an infrared temp gun. Your life will be easier for it. Then head to Petco or Petsmart and buy a ceramic heat emitter (CHE). That emits only heat, day or night.

The end of the enclosure...is that open? Or does it have a window in it? Remember, you are making a closed chamber, so that space needs to be closed off if no window.

Do you have a fixture to mount the UVB tube in? The tube needs to be mounted under the mesh, maybe just attached to the mesh itself? With a couple hooks? How high are the sides? Will you have roughly 12" from the tube to his shell?

How high the lights and CHE are is up to your new temp gun. It would be great if you could sit them on the mesh, because it will make covering the top of the enclosure much easier. You may have to experiment a bit with different wattages to get it right. Your flood bulb is your basking light, so under it on a rock or piece of tile needs to be 95-100. That's your hot side.

The other side is the cool side. That should be 80 all the time. That's where your CHE goes, along with a regular (or LED) light bulb if you want more light in the daytime. The flood bulb, and the regular bulb (if you want it) go on the timer for 12 hrs on/12 hrs off.

The CHE goes on the thermostat. Set it to 80, it will go on and off as needed to keep the minimum temp 80.

If temps don't work out this way, because of the mesh, you may need to remove the entire top. Let's hope this works because it's easier.
Yeah I'll definitely get myself a CHE, however I will keep the heat lamp cause he seems to enjoy it during the day. I don't have a fixture yet still trying to figure out how to mount it on his cage since his sides are roughly 11 inches, so from his shell to the tube it would be less due to the substrate.

I don't know why I didn't look into a temp gun that would make my life so much easier! Is there one you recommend?

Here's an overview of his enclosure, I'm considering removing the part where its closed (the left side), or at least partially so I can set up some heat in there. If I remove the entire top along with the mesh what would I use to cover it that still allows me to put the lights on it?

Thanks Karen for all the help!I know temperature is everything for reptiles and as this is a new cage for us I'm still working out the kinks to make every area the right temp.
 

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Torta21

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Hi! Welcome to the forum. You've gotten great advice so far.

About the three bulbs that you linked:
1. You don't need the "heat lamp". Karen explained that one very well. CHE on a thermostat fulfills that role and maintains ambient background warm temperature day and night.
2. That would would have been the correct bulb, except that its an LED "65 watt replacement" bulb. Its not 65 watts, its not incandescent, and it produces almost no heat. CA has made it illegal to sell incandescent bulbs here. You can't even buy them on Amazon and have them shipped in. This is stupid and its a big pain in the arse. I have to buy the bulbs I need to sustain the lives of my pets, have them shipped to a friend out of state, and then the friend has to ship them to me. We have great weather here, but its hard to imagine a scenario where the politicians elected and appointed to run the state could be more stupid or more corrupt. Sorry for the rant.
3. I don't know that brand of UV tube and have never heard of it. That makes me a little leery of it. I wouldn't trust it without putting a meter under it. HOWEVER, worse case scenario is that it doesn't produce the UV your tortoise needs. So what? Your climate is nearly perfect for raising baby sulcatas and giving them access to real sunshine for an hour or two several times a week for most of every year. You don't need indoor UV. You can use that bulb, or just use an LED strip or screw in bulb for some extra ambient lighting. Make a safe outdoor enclosure for your baby, and let the sun work its magic. Just not too much sun for a tiny baby, and make sure there is always lots of shade too. Babies can over heat and die in minutes when forced to stay in full sun with no shade. My general rule is an hour of sun per inch of tortoise per day. Always soak the baby after a sunning session.

All this info and conflicting info can be daunting, but remember, this indoor set up is only for a year or two until your baby is large enough to move outside with a heated night box full time. We will get to all that later.

Start planting grape vines, mulberry trees, and lots of spineless opuntia now. If you want some free starter cactus pads, come take a drive over here to Santa Clarita and I'll give you a whole box of them to plant.

Happy to have found this forum so thanks for the welcome!

Wow I didn't know CA did that how weird, do you know why?
Well what would be my next best option for a basking light if I can't get my hands on a incandescent one? I looked up some and found these they appear to be available in my area, what do you think?

I have started planting some plants for him, I have grape vines, clovers, dandelions, grass, hibiscus, and just bought some Broadleaf Testudo Mix from tortoise supply, as well as their Herbal Tortoise Hay. However, I do love Santa Clarita so might have to take you up on that.

Yeah lots of information but hey the more I know the less problems i'll have later :)
 

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KarenSoCal

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If you can take him out into the sunshine in a safe enclosure several times a week, don't worry about the UVB for now. If you cannot take him out, could you use some hooks or short chain to hang the tube fixture from the mesh? I know it's close, but maybe it will work?

I'm trying to avoid removing the top. But if it's necessary...
you would use wood or PVC pipe to make a framework with a bar lengthwise above your enclosure. Here's a miniversion to explain:
IMG_1511635956.495114.jpg

Then you would hang your lights and CHE from the bar at a height that gives to proper values.

Then you use a shower curtain liner (from the Dollar Store), to hand over the bar, lights, and enclosure. You've made a closed chamber.

It will help LOTS to keep in heat and humidity.

Any temp gun is fine. I bought my last one at Walmart. Wherever you get it, it shouldn't be more than $25 or so. You don't need to pay hundreds.
 

TechnoCheese

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If you can take him out into the sunshine in a safe enclosure several times a week, don't worry about the UVB for now. If you cannot take him out, could you use some hooks or short chain to hang the tube fixture from the mesh? I know it's close, but maybe it will work?

I'm trying to avoid removing the top. But if it's necessary...
you would use wood or PVC pipe to make a framework with a bar lengthwise above your enclosure. Here's a miniversion to explain:
View attachment 295323

Then you would hang your lights and CHE from the bar at a height that gives to proper values.

Then you use a shower curtain liner (from the Dollar Store), to hand over the bar, lights, and enclosure. You've made a closed chamber.

It will help LOTS to keep in heat and humidity.

Any temp gun is fine. I bought my last one at Walmart. Wherever you get it, it shouldn't be more than $25 or so. You don't need to pay hundreds.
Hey, I recognize that picture! Man, I forgot that existed, it’s been so long, lol. Where’d you find it? I don’t even remember where I posted it!
 

KarenSoCal

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I don't remember, but it was on this forum, a couple years ago. While I was just looking for that one, I found another that I've "borrowed".

What can I say, Macy, you take good pix! I knew you wouldn't mind...next time I'll try to remember to give credit. 🤗
 

TechnoCheese

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I don't remember, but it was on this forum, a couple years ago. While I was just looking for that one, I found another that I've "borrowed".

What can I say, Macy, you take good pix! I knew you wouldn't mind...next time I'll try to remember to give credit. 🤗
Don’t worry about it, I’m just happy it’s being used 😂
 

Torta21

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If you can take him out into the sunshine in a safe enclosure several times a week, don't worry about the UVB for now. If you cannot take him out, could you use some hooks or short chain to hang the tube fixture from the mesh? I know it's close, but maybe it will work?

I'm trying to avoid removing the top. But if it's necessary...
you would use wood or PVC pipe to make a framework with a bar lengthwise above your enclosure. Here's a miniversion to explain:
View attachment 295323

Then you would hang your lights and CHE from the bar at a height that gives to proper values.

Then you use a shower curtain liner (from the Dollar Store), to hand over the bar, lights, and enclosure. You've made a closed chamber.

It will help LOTS to keep in heat and humidity.

Any temp gun is fine. I bought my last one at Walmart. Wherever you get it, it shouldn't be more than $25 or so. You don't need to pay hundreds.
Okay, yeah I can definitely take him out for sunshine so for now I won't worry too much about that but the hooks would prob work best if anything. Ohhhh ok I see now, wow that would be much helpful.. I'm gonna start brainstorming this thanks for the visual!

Yeah some are ridiculous expensive, I found this one from Lowes.
Lastly, for the thermostat I'm looking into buying the Zilla Temp Controller have you used this one before, is it safe to use for the CHE?
 

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Skip K

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One of the most useful devices I have besides a temp gun and a hygrometer is a UVB meter. An example...I had the exact UVB light you have at 8 inches of height. The reading from the meter read at tort level about 10-15 ( natural outdoor reading in full sun, mid spring reads around 230 on the meter). I switched to a 26 watt desert version bulb at 8 inches...and get a reading between 80 - 90. Not close to outdoor natural sun...but a reading of 80 -90 gives me more peace of mind than 10 -15. It also lets me know when a bulb is losing its ability to produce UVB though still appears to be working. Some recommend replacing bulbs every 6 months but I’ve found bulbs which have lasted longer and bulbs that have stopped or have diminishing output before 6 months
 

LasTortugasNinja

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Walmart also now carries several ceramic heaters, not nearly close to the price of petco/petsmart. I’ve had one going strong for over a year now, no probs.
 

KarenSoCal

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One of the most useful devices I have besides a temp gun and a hygrometer is a UVB meter. An example...I had the exact UVB light you have at 8 inches of height. The reading from the meter read at tort level about 10-15 ( natural outdoor reading in full sun, mid spring reads around 230 on the meter). I switched to a 26 watt desert version bulb at 8 inches...and get a reading between 80 - 90. Not close to outdoor natural sun...but a reading of 80 -90 gives me more peace of mind than 10 -15. It also lets me know when a bulb is losing its ability to produce UVB though still appears to be working. Some recommend replacing bulbs every 6 months but I’ve found bulbs which have lasted longer and bulbs that have stopped or have diminishing output before 6 months
Yes, that is a good meter to have. It's a shame that they are so expensive.

If groups of us lived close to each other, it could be a group purchase and passed around as needed. But it just doesn't seem to work out that way.
 

Skip K

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That’s EXACTLY how I got mine, Karen. Another tort/turtle group I belonged to years ago got a group discount if we bought enough of them. Paid 35.00 for mine. Same with the temp gun
 

Skip K

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It was a large group...and this was 16 years ago. We got the temp guns for under 25.00. One of the leaders/creators of the group who raises ( or did raise ) Russian tortoises.... still has a all natural online tortoise food business.
 

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