New (Russian) tortoise mom 😊

Joined
Jun 7, 2021
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Location (City and/or State)
Colorado Springs
Hello!

I am a new owner of a Russian tortoise in Colorado. We unfortunately lost our first one within a few days, because we didn’t have her in an outdoor enclosure and she vanished within a few distracted minutes. We have a new tortoise now, a male, approximately 4” long. He is currently living in a tortoise house.

I have found a source for untreated oak. I’d love to build a larger and more permanent enclosure. I have a kind neighbor with lots of tools who is willing to help me construct an enclosure. Does anyone have any advice for how to treat the wood? If anyone has a guide for making an enclosure, Would a sheet of Coroplast suffice as a liner on the bottom? I’m currently using orchid bark as substrate.

I’ve tried a 45W and 65W incandescent flood light and neither got the basking spot above 80 degrees. I am now trying a 100W light with UV from the pet store, but that only gets the temp to 85. Do I just keep creeping up on the wattage?

Thanks for any tips. I’m excited to join the world of tortoise parents.
 

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Grace-Sophia

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hey! And a warm welcome to the TFO! We are here to help in any way you need! I would recommend mabey bumping that 65w to a 75w and see if that works, as far as substrate goes I use repti bark with my 15 year old and I would recommend, it can hold moisture quite well, and doesn’t mold and get to messy like coco coir or eco earth can, just my advice! Mabey @Tom can help with your other questions (;

Here is my little stinker Felix ~
 

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KarenSoCal

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as far as substrate goes I use repti bark with my 15 year old and I would recommend, it can hold moisture quite well, and doesn’t mold and get to messy like coco coir or eco earth can, just my advice!
Reptibark is orchid bark. Reptibark is the brand name when you buy it in a pet store.
 

KarenSoCal

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I’ve tried a 45W and 65W incandescent flood light and neither got the basking spot above 80 degrees. I am now trying a 100W light with UV from the pet store, but that only gets the temp to 85. Do I just keep creeping up on the wattage?
Stay with the incandescent flood bulbs. The UV bulbs, if it's UVB, are not good for tortoises, and can cause eye problems.

Is Scarlett's enclosure a closed chamber...does it have a solid top? That's the first way to keep heat in.

Try a 100 watt flood. If needed, you can put it in a dome. That helps direct the heat downward to the substrate. Domes can usually be bought in pet stores...this is what they look like...

519MFVj-jOL._AC_SX466_.jpg
Make sure to get at least an 8.5in. Don't use a 5.5in, too hot. Also, make sure it has a ceramic socket so it doesn't melt.
 
Joined
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Stay with the incandescent flood bulbs. The UV bulbs, if it's UVB, are not good for tortoises, and can cause eye problems.

Is Scarlett's enclosure a closed chamber...does it have a solid top? That's the first way to keep heat in.

Try a 100 watt flood. If needed, you can put it in a dome. That helps direct the heat downward to the substrate. Domes can usually be bought in pet stores...this is what they look like...

View attachment 327182
Make sure to get at least an 8.5in. Don't use a 5.5in, too hot. Also, make sure it has a ceramic socket so it doesn't melt.
 
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Scarlett is currently living in this house while I work on making an enclosure. Majority of the top is mesh.
do you think using a single hung window as part of the top would work?
If I install a “loft” that brings Scarlett closer to the light, how steep should the ramp be?
 

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KarenSoCal

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Adult Russians really don't need much heat in their houses, especially at night. All they need is that basking bulb to warm up during the day.

So don't cover the top. Get a dome, and hang it in the enclosure. Adjust the height of the dome to get a basking temp of 95-100°. I think with the dome your 65 watt might work. Get a piece of flat rock, or a piece of slate, or flooring tile, and put it directly under the light. It will get warm and Scarlett will lay on it to bask.

To check the basking temp, you want to check it at tort height. Find something about the same height as Scarlett's shell; a brick might work. Put it on the basking spot and leave it there for a good hour with a digital thermometer on it. That is the temp that Scarlett's shell will be. It should be 95-100°.

A ramp can increase the relative size of the house and be good exercise. But when a tort is chilly he's also sluggish...I would not require a tort to climb a ramp to warm up. I am surprised how steep a ramp can be and a Russian will scramble right up! If I made one I would not go more than 45°. And it must have a railing to prevent a fall.

In case you have not read it, here is our care sheet.

 
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I am already using a dome and still not above 85 degrees! Perhaps I’m measuring the temperature incorrectly. I’m using an infrared temperature gun. I have a flipped over terracotta saucer under the light. Can you recommend a specific digital thermometer?
I have a humidifier and a space heater next to the tortoise house. I’m brand spanking new to reptiles and I’m so worried the tortoise is going to fall ill!
 

Krista S

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I am already using a dome and still not above 85 degrees! Perhaps I’m measuring the temperature incorrectly. I’m using an infrared temperature gun. I have a flipped over terracotta saucer under the light. Can you recommend a specific digital thermometer?
I have a humidifier and a space heater next to the tortoise house. I’m brand spanking new to reptiles and I’m so worried the tortoise is going to fall ill!
You need to use black slate to get the temps you’re looking for. I’ve tried all kinds of things, including a dark grey porous tile…felt similar to slate and I just couldn’t get the right temps. Black slate is what will draw that heat in and bring the basking temp up.
 

Tom

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I am already using a dome and still not above 85 degrees! Perhaps I’m measuring the temperature incorrectly. I’m using an infrared temperature gun. I have a flipped over terracotta saucer under the light. Can you recommend a specific digital thermometer?
I have a humidifier and a space heater next to the tortoise house. I’m brand spanking new to reptiles and I’m so worried the tortoise is going to fall ill!
The tortoise house is far too small. You need something much bigger ASAP and you don't need to use oak to build it. Plain old plywood will work just fine for the indoor enclosure and you can just paint it for the outdoor enclosure. Make each enclosure at least 4x8 feet, and go much bigger outside if possible. One enclosure inside for bad weather and nights, and one enclosure outdoors for favorable weather.

To get the correct basking temperature, you need to raise or lower the fixture. To measure the temperature directly under the bulb set a digital thermometer from the hardware store directly under it and let it bake for an hour. You might even want to set it on some thing to raise it up an inch or two to match tortoise shell height. Lay it flat on its back. Something similar to this one:
thermopro-outdoor-hygrometers-tp-50-c3_max.jpg

Adult Russians do not need humidity and humidifiers should not be used for tortoises. Damp substrate and a humid hide will give your tortoise the humidity it needs.
 
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