New Sulcata owner, need help!

Jotortoise

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Aug 2, 2017
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We just got two Sulcata Tortoises and was told they are about two years old. We have a basic enclosure with cement around all four walls at least 8 inches deep. The whole setup is a work in process for sure and my family is excited to build our new family a great enclosure.
My biggest question and concern is regarding plants and trees that are toxic. We have a couple trees/shrubs near the enclosure and have no clue what they are. Can you all please help identify them so we know whether we will have to take them down?
Pics of our two torts as well as the plants in question.
 

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Cowboy_Ken

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Here is a link for "The Tortoise Table" in the U.K.
http://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk
They are fairly reliable but often the English, non-Latin names for plants, trees, and shrubs are different on the other side of the pond then they are here in the States.
They also are pretty cautious regarding plants we deem safe as part of a varied diet. When in doubt, do as you have, supply a name and a picture. Supplying the name in both languages helps the best as well as providing something like your hand in the picture for scale helps us the most.
If you are still hitting a dead-end with the identification for the plant, something I'll do in the this situation which I find very reliable is to take a, "sample branch" to a reputable, plant nursery. Heckfire, you'll meet some new people, and these people will prove beneficial to you as you regularly maintain your tortoises play yard.
Sorry I can't identify the plants in your pictures one shrub looks to be an Oleander bush. If the lore I grew up with regarding Oleander was correct and holds true it's poisonous at least to humans and possibly livestock. Again, if it's indeed Oleander and poisonous to cattle horses and the like, I'd remove the bushes to be safe.
 

Cowboy_Ken

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As far as the age of these two tortoises, that's hard to judge. All tortoises grow at different speeds. These look as if they've received good upbringing and you're lucky. I see you're a new member. Congratulations on finding this forum which is hands down the best source for proper information regarding the care of tortoises and turtles.
Unfortunately, most information on the internet, told to you by pet stores, and even passed on by unqualified veterinarians is based on old, out of date information that is no longer valid. Please be sure to read the stickies at the top of the sulcata section in the "specie specific" area. Read here. Ask questions for anything not clear to you. Don't be shy.
I'm gonna jump right in here with a couple of questions of my own for you ; Are you aware that a pair tortoises together in the same enclosure typically doesn't work out well, especially sulcatas. Tortoises are independent, territorial animals that see other tortoises as competition for food, the best basking spot, the best mates, basically everything. So I must ask, do you now have two, separate enclosures - one for each? And are you prepared for when they are
125 lb. bulldozers? Nice and cute at this size ImageUploadedByTortoise Forum1503092243973507 and then they turn into this ImageUploadedByTortoise Forum1503092352259291
 

Bee62

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As far as the age of these two tortoises, that's hard to judge. All tortoises grow at different speeds. These look as if they've received good upbringing and you're lucky. I see you're a new member. Congratulations on finding this forum which is hands down the best source for proper information regarding the care of tortoises and turtles.
Unfortunately, most information on the internet, told to you by pet stores, and even passed on by unqualified veterinarians is based on old, out of date information that is no longer valid. Please be sure to read the stickies at the top of the sulcata section in the "specie specific" area. Read here. Ask questions for anything not clear to you. Don't be shy.
I'm gonna jump right in here with a couple of questions of my own for you ; Are you aware that a pair tortoises together in the same enclosure typically doesn't work out well, especially sulcatas. Tortoises are independent, territorial animals that see other tortoises as competition for food, the best basking spot, the best mates, basically everything. So I must ask, do you now have two, separate enclosures - one for each? And are you prepared for when they are
125 lb. bulldozers? Nice and cute at this size View attachment 215917 and then they turn into this View attachment 215918

@Cowboy_Ken I like "this" !
 

Jotortoise

New Member
Joined
Aug 2, 2017
Messages
5
Location (City and/or State)
AZ
As far as the age of these two tortoises, that's hard to judge. All tortoises grow at different speeds. These look as if they've received good upbringing and you're lucky. I see you're a new member. Congratulations on finding this forum which is hands down the best source for proper information regarding the care of tortoises and turtles.
Unfortunately, most information on the internet, told to you by pet stores, and even passed on by unqualified veterinarians is based on old, out of date information that is no longer valid. Please be sure to read the stickies at the top of the sulcata section in the "specie specific" area. Read here. Ask questions for anything not clear to you. Don't be shy.
I'm gonna jump right in here with a couple of questions of my own for you ; Are you aware that a pair tortoises together in the same enclosure typically doesn't work out well, especially sulcatas. Tortoises are independent, territorial animals that see other tortoises as competition for food, the best basking spot, the best mates, basically everything. So I must ask, do you now have two, separate enclosures - one for each? And are you prepared for when they are
125 lb. bulldozers? Nice and cute at this size View attachment 215917 and then they turn into this View attachment 215918

I appreciate your advice! Thank you! Completely aware that they grow huge so that won't be a shock. I was misinformed (online, etc) about tortoises doing well with a companion. So, if we run into problems, we will deal accordingling (separating and a second enclosure). So far they seem to stick together.

I've been slowly reading through the posts. I'm mostly confused and overwhelmed. The guy I purchased from said they were two. I weighed and measured today. The larger one (Sherman) is 6" and 384g. The smaller (Kaelee) is 4.5" and 217g. I was told he rarely if ever soaks them and grass and leafy greens were their food of choice. We are currently without grass (is sod a good choice to quickly get grass in) and otherwise they are not eating that I can tell. I found at least four turds so I suppose that's good. Based on everything I'm reading soaking is still vital so I'm implementing that. Not sure I'm doing it right though!!! And also how do you keep the water warm?
 

Tom

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We just got two Sulcata Tortoises and was told they are about two years old. We have a basic enclosure with cement around all four walls at least 8 inches deep. The whole setup is a work in process for sure and my family is excited to build our new family a great enclosure.
My biggest question and concern is regarding plants and trees that are toxic. We have a couple trees/shrubs near the enclosure and have no clue what they are. Can you all please help identify them so we know whether we will have to take them down?
Pics of our two torts as well as the plants in question.

Hello and welcome.
  • Take samples of the plants in question to a local nursery for a positive ID. Don't let the tortoises have access if there is any question.
  • Having two together is a problem now. They should never be kept in pairs. There does not have to be overt biting and ramming for this to be a problem. This is why one is half the size of the other. They need to be separated ASAP, and stay that way. Groups can sometimes work. Pairs do not work.
  • Because of their dry history, you should soak them daily for a good month or so, and then cut back to a few times per week.
  • Be careful with the intense AZ heat. Watch temps closely. They need to be able to stay below 98 degrees. There must be a cooler area available when temps top 100. You can use underground shelters, sprinklers, misters and lots of shade to help with this.
  • In your winters they will need an insulated heated shelter when they get big enough to live outside full time, for the cold nights. When that time comes, we'll show you lots of examples.
  • Here are some ideas for outdoor enclosures now: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/outdoor-enclosures.121732/
Most of the care info for this species out in the world is wrong. It is based on 30 year old incorrect assumption about their lives in the wild. Please read these for the correct info:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/how-to-raise-a-healthy-sulcata-or-leopard-version-2-0.79895/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/for-those-who-have-a-young-sulcata.76744/

Please feel free to question all of this. Happy to explain it further.
 

Jotortoise

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Joined
Aug 2, 2017
Messages
5
Location (City and/or State)
AZ
Hello and welcome.
  • Take samples of the plants in question to a local nursery for a positive ID. Don't let the tortoises have access if there is any question.
  • Having two together is a problem now. They should never be kept in pairs. There does not have to be overt biting and ramming for this to be a problem. This is why one is half the size of the other. They need to be separated ASAP, and stay that way. Groups can sometimes work. Pairs do not work.
  • Because of their dry history, you should soak them daily for a good month or so, and then cut back to a few times per week.
  • Be careful with the intense AZ heat. Watch temps closely. They need to be able to stay below 98 degrees. There must be a cooler area available when temps top 100. You can use underground shelters, sprinklers, misters and lots of shade to help with this.
  • In your winters they will need an insulated heated shelter when they get big enough to live outside full time, for the cold nights. When that time comes, we'll show you lots of examples.
  • Here are some ideas for outdoor enclosures now: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/outdoor-enclosures.121732/
Most of the care info for this species out in the world is wrong. It is based on 30 year old incorrect assumption about their lives in the wild. Please read these for the correct info:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/how-to-raise-a-healthy-sulcata-or-leopard-version-2-0.79895/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/for-those-who-have-a-young-sulcata.76744/

Please feel free to question all of this. Happy to explain it further.

Thank you for this information! I will bring cuttings from both plants in question on Monday for identification.

About housing together, age, size, etc. The person selling them had varying ages and sizes (hatchlings on up). I asked about there ages and he said two years. He also stated they may have different mom's but the dad is the same. Is it possible the smaller one is younger and not unable to eat due to the dominance of the other? They follow each other everywhere.
As far as separating them, we have one enclosure (I know it won't last past a year if even) and we're planning to just house them outdoors unless winter weather is too cold (in which case we will bring them in). We do not have a separate enclosure so the best we could do is putting one (the smaller I think into a separate tub during feedings). Is that sufficient as long as they aren't showing signs of aggression?
Speaking of feeding... I am not seeing evidence of eating other than some excrement. I've tried mixed greens (arugula mix), a little spinach, and a small amount of watermelon. The guy I purchased from stated that they are mixed greens and grazed. We are getting sod today (Bermuda. I checked and there is no mesh so that isn't a problem). I think we are going to grow grass in a plastic kid pool so they will have access to that soon also. I'm also planning on getting some wheat grass in the mean time to add to their food... How much should they be eating, how long should I leave the food out, and how often should I offer them food each day? Lastly, how long should I wait before I try something more drastic to ensure they are eating?
And in terms of enclosures... We have a "cave" which is significantly cooler (though I don't know "inside" vs outside temps). I know we will need to add to and change things in terms of their enclosure but for now, what can I do without spending an arm and a leg??? I will get pics and post soon.
 

Jotortoise

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It's difficult to get great pictures, but these are of the enclosure and cave. Also each tortoise getting weighed this morning.
 

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Eduardo Hernandez

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Following each other is not a good thing. Its called crowding, where one basically tries to make the other feel uncomfortable by being right next to him. Think of how you'd feel being forced to live with a stranger following you around your house, you wouldn't feel comfortable would you?
 

Tom

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Thank you for this information! I will bring cuttings from both plants in question on Monday for identification.

About housing together, age, size, etc. The person selling them had varying ages and sizes (hatchlings on up). I asked about there ages and he said two years. He also stated they may have different mom's but the dad is the same. Is it possible the smaller one is younger and not unable to eat due to the dominance of the other? They follow each other everywhere.
As far as separating them, we have one enclosure (I know it won't last past a year if even) and we're planning to just house them outdoors unless winter weather is too cold (in which case we will bring them in). We do not have a separate enclosure so the best we could do is putting one (the smaller I think into a separate tub during feedings). Is that sufficient as long as they aren't showing signs of aggression?
Speaking of feeding... I am not seeing evidence of eating other than some excrement. I've tried mixed greens (arugula mix), a little spinach, and a small amount of watermelon. The guy I purchased from stated that they are mixed greens and grazed. We are getting sod today (Bermuda. I checked and there is no mesh so that isn't a problem). I think we are going to grow grass in a plastic kid pool so they will have access to that soon also. I'm also planning on getting some wheat grass in the mean time to add to their food... How much should they be eating, how long should I leave the food out, and how often should I offer them food each day? Lastly, how long should I wait before I try something more drastic to ensure they are eating?
And in terms of enclosures... We have a "cave" which is significantly cooler (though I don't know "inside" vs outside temps). I know we will need to add to and change things in terms of their enclosure but for now, what can I do without spending an arm and a leg??? I will get pics and post soon.

Some more helpful notes:
  • You really should have an indoor enclosure for babies this small too. It is not good for them to be outside all day, especially in a hot dry climate like yours or mine. My general rule is an hour of outside time per inch of tortoise, and a soak on the way back in.
I'm sorry if this is more than you bargained for and that someone gave you incomplete or incorrect advice for the species, but my goal is to teach you how to do it right and keep those little babies healthy. It might no be convenient or what you wanted to hear, but its what your babies need.
 

Jotortoise

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IMG 0881 IMG 0882 IMG 0883 IMG 0884 IMG 0885 IMG 0887 IMG 0888 IMG 0889 IMG 0890 IMG 0891
Some more helpful notes:
  • You really should have an indoor enclosure for babies this small too. It is not good for them to be outside all day, especially in a hot dry climate like yours or mine. My general rule is an hour of outside time per inch of tortoise, and a soak on the way back in.
I'm sorry if this is more than you bargained for and that someone gave you incomplete or incorrect advice for the species, but my goal is to teach you how to do it right and keep those little babies healthy. It might no be convenient or what you wanted to hear, but its what your babies need.

I am working on what we can do to keep our tortoise babies happy and healthy so to that degree I am making a different and separate enclosure for them. Thank you for all of the information! It is for surely daunting but I want to make sure they do well so I will do what I need to.

With that said, I am working on planting grass in a kid pool for them to graze. I was going to do a mixture of fescue and rye grass as well as some randome flowers, etc to give my little ones variety. Please review my list and tell me if they are safe for the babies. I took pictures of each, but will list them below. I also want to mention that I compared info from a few recommended sites and it seemed like there was some discrepancies so I hoped you experts would help me out!!

Fescue
Rye
Achiella
German Chamomile
Larkspur
Echinacea
Lavender
Nasturtium
African Daisy
Dichondra

I wasn't planning on doing tons (other than the grasses) but I wanted to give them some variety for grazing. I will also plant a few flowers separate to mix in their food. And, I'm going to incorporate Timothy Hay into their diets as well.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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I am working on what we can do to keep our tortoise babies happy and healthy so to that degree I am making a different and separate enclosure for them. Thank you for all of the information! It is for surely daunting but I want to make sure they do well so I will do what I need to.

With that said, I am working on planting grass in a kid pool for them to graze. I was going to do a mixture of fescue and rye grass as well as some randome flowers, etc to give my little ones variety. Please review my list and tell me if they are safe for the babies. I took pictures of each, but will list them below. I also want to mention that I compared info from a few recommended sites and it seemed like there was some discrepancies so I hoped you experts would help me out!!

Fescue
Rye
Achiella
German Chamomile
Larkspur
Echinacea
Lavender
Nasturtium
African Daisy
Dichondra

I wasn't planning on doing tons (other than the grasses) but I wanted to give them some variety for grazing. I will also plant a few flowers separate to mix in their food. And, I'm going to incorporate Timothy Hay into their diets as well.

I don't have experience with any of the plants on your list except the grasses and nasturtium. We still don't know where in AZ you are, but my climate is similar to the Phoenix area in summer. They (You?) get a little hotter there during the day, and we have cooler nights, but its close. I've experimented a lot with this, so I hope you will let me save you some trouble.
  • I've tried to grow all sorts of grasses. Done many side by side experiments over many years. Save yourself a lot of trouble, work and wasted money. Just get this one: https://www.groworganic.com/premium-horse-pasture-mix-irrigation.html It just grows and grows. It outperforms everything else I've tried by a wide margin. It can take the heat and it can take the winter cold. And it produces more and better tortoise food than anything else. Also, seeds bought at a hardware store often have other things added in that we don't want. The seeds in my link are intended to grow food for animals, so we know they are safe.
  • Nasturtium doesn't like hot climates. I have to water the heck out of it and keep it shaded just to get it to survive in summer, and the tortoise don't like it much anyway. I don't bother with it.
  • Here are some good tortoise food plants that will survive and do well in your area: Mulberry trees, grape vines, gazanias, spineless opuntia, lavatera, alfalfa, arugula, Testudo mix from http://www.tortoisesupply.com/TestudoMix. Between this and the winter weeds like mallow, sowthislte, dandelion, clover, etc… You'll have some great tortoise food.
  • Timothy hay is too rough and stemmy. When the time comes for hay (around 12"), use orchard grass hay or bermuda grass hay.
 
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