New to forum with Russian Tort

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amsousa

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Hi there! My father purchased a Russian Tortoise for my son in February. He brought over all of the supplies the pet shop told him we would need. She was very active at first and ate a lot. In April she stopped eating and slept all day. I still woke her up once a week to soak and was starting to get scared she was dying. A friend who also has a Russian said that she was probably hibernating because she was cold. I could not figure out why she was cold when we have a heating attached to her tank that she would sleep on. Anyway, about 3-4 days ago I went into another pet store to ask questions and they told me I needed another light, not just my UVB light. So I purchased a basking light and she woke up and seemed kinda active. She still hasn't eaten but she is drinking a lot when I soak her. She also woke up with one eye shut and swollen. Her eye opened up when I soaked her and I bought eye drops for her at the reptile store.
I am new to tortoises and I am trying to research as much as I can about Russians. I was told that they are easy to care for and a great pet for my 7 year old son. I don't mind taking care of her, and I worry about her. So, I am here to learn the most I can to take care of her properly.

Our Tortoise's name is Shelly. Any advise is welcome. Thank you for your expertise.
 

JoesMum

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Hello and welcome.

A picture of your enclosure would help, but I am 99% certain that you have a compact (coil) type UVB lamp. Time and again these cause eye problems in tortoises. You need to get rid of that bulb and replace it with either a tube UVB light or an MVB bulb which combined with a basking spot lamp. The eyes should clear up quite quickly, but failure to change the lamp could cause permanent blindness.

As for the lethargy. This suggests the temperatures are wrong. What are the 4 important temperatures : warm side, cool side, directly under the basking lamp and overnight minimum?

Your lighting needs to mimic a nice summer day. Use a timer to turn the lights on for a regular 12 hour period every day. If overall lighting is not bright enough that can contribute to lethargy.

This is what the lights do:
1. UVB helps your tort to make vitamin D3 which helps it process Calcium in its diet to make its bones and shell strong
2. Basking lamp provides a hotspot of 105F. A tort is cold blooded and cannot digest its food without basking at this temperature. The lamp must point vertically down and jot be at an angle.

At night your tort needs no extra light, but might need extra if the temperature drops below about 65F. To give extra night heat, use a CHE (ceramic heat emitter) which doesn't give off light.
 

mattgrizzlybear

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Welcome! Coil lights aren't the best. Try a mercury vapor bulb and save the extra money on a UVB and heat bulb. Or tube UVB
 

lynnedit

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JoesMum has given you excellent advice, and for us to help you, it is really important to answer the questions she asked, also to post pictures of your enclosure.

*accurate temps are very important so you know what you are dealing with- use a digital thermometer with a wire probe (that you can move from place to place). Here is one example:
http://lllreptile.com/store/catalog...ers/-/zoo-med-digital-thermometer-with-probe/
Or, a 'temp gun' that you point at various locations:
http://lllreptile.com/store/catalog...ermostats-and-timers/-/tg1-infrared-temp-gun/
 

Yvonne G

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Hi and welcome to the Forum!
 

JoesMum

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Re: RE: New to forum with Russian Tort

sparkle said:
I would also suggests soaking her more than once a week ....... Keep her hydrated :)

Good point. If your tort is not eating properly then dehydration becomes an issue.

Until your tort is normally active and eating, it should be soaked daily for a good 20 minutes.

Do it first thing in the morning before your tort has had chance to warm up properly.
Use a high sided bowl or box that your tort can't see out of.
Use warm, not hot, water. Get it right and your tort will really relax, so experiment with the water temperature.
The watr depth should be over the top of his plastron (undershell), but not too deep. He can't snorkel ;)
Don't worry if he poops or pees in the water, that is entirely normal. :)
 

Tom

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To add to the above excellent advice, I also wanted to note that pet stores are infamous for giving bad tortoise advice. There are a few good ones out there, but the vast majority have no idea what they are talking about and they recommend and sell products that are unsuitable or dangerous.

For example: Did they sell you some "fruity pebble" looking stuff to feed your tortoise? A coil type florescent UV bulb? A faux rock water bowl that is 2" deep with a ramp leading up to the top of the bowl? Stick-on dial thermometers?

If yes to any of the above, then anything else they told you should be suspect. We actually keep the species you have, and many of us have kept, raised and bred them for decades. We stand to gain nothing, by telling you what works for us. Our only goal is to help you have a healthy tortoise that will live with your family for decades.
 

amsousa

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JoesMum said:
Hello and welcome.

A picture of your enclosure would help, but I am 99% certain that you have a compact (coil) type UVB lamp. Time and again these cause eye problems in tortoises. You need to get rid of that bulb and replace it with either a tube UVB light or an MVB bulb which combined with a basking spot lamp. The eyes should clear up quite quickly, but failure to change the lamp could cause permanent blindness.

As for the lethargy. This suggests the temperatures are wrong. What are the 4 important temperatures : warm side, cool side, directly under the basking lamp and overnight minimum?

Your lighting needs to mimic a nice summer day. Use a timer to turn the lights on for a regular 12 hour period every day. If overall lighting is not bright enough that can contribute to lethargy.

This is what the lights do:
1. UVB helps your tort to make vitamin D3 which helps it process Calcium in its diet to make its bones and shell strong
2. Basking lamp provides a hotspot of 105F. A tort is cold blooded and cannot digest its food without basking at this temperature. The lamp must point vertically down and jot be at an angle.

At night your tort needs no extra light, but might need extra if the temperature drops below about 65F. To give extra night heat, use a CHE (ceramic heat emitter) which doesn't give off light.


I will see if I can figure out how to take a picture of the enclosure. The UVB light is long tube like bulb. I also have the heating pad on the bottom and a basking light on one side.
I also started soaking her every morning for 20-30 minutes and I have added a little pediactric electrolight to the water. I read somewhere that it helps. She does not drink every day though.
Thank you for your help.
 

amsousa

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Tom said:
To add to the above excellent advice, I also wanted to note that pet stores are infamous for giving bad tortoise advice. There are a few good ones out there, but the vast majority have no idea what they are talking about and they recommend and sell products that are unsuitable or dangerous.

For example: Did they sell you some "fruity pebble" looking stuff to feed your tortoise? A coil type florescent UV bulb? A faux rock water bowl that is 2" deep with a ramp leading up to the top of the bowl? Stick-on dial thermometers?

If yes to any of the above, then anything else they told you should be suspect. We actually keep the species you have, and many of us have kept, raised and bred them for decades. We stand to gain nothing, by telling you what works for us. Our only goal is to help you have a healthy tortoise that will live with your family for decades.

Thank you. I would like to keep a healthy and happy tortoise. The pet store sold us a UVB light that is a long tube that goes across the tank, and a heating pad for the bottom. After she started hibernating(?) I read that she might be cold still so I went and bought her a basking light. (The store did not mention basking light if there is a heating pad. They did not sell me any pellets or water bowl. They told me I could get bark for her substrate at Home Depot and that she did not need a water bowl if I sprayed her down and soaked her 1-2 times per week.

The day I logged in to this forum, I went back to the reptile store and explained Shelly's eye problem and that she has not been eating. They sold me some eye drops for her and told me to take all of the substrate out and use paper towels until her eye clears up. I guess my next step will be to get a thermometer for her.
 

amsousa

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JoesMum said:
sparkle said:
I would also suggests soaking her more than once a week ....... Keep her hydrated :)

Good point. If your tort is not eating properly then dehydration becomes an issue.

Until your tort is normally active and eating, it should be soaked daily for a good 20 minutes.

Do it first thing in the morning before your tort has had chance to warm up properly.
Use a high sided bowl or box that your tort can't see out of.
Use warm, not hot, water. Get it right and your tort will really relax, so experiment with the water temperature.
The watr depth should be over the top of his plastron (undershell), but not too deep. He can't snorkel ;)
Don't worry if he poops or pees in the water, that is entirely normal. :)

I stared soaking her for 20 to 30 minutes each morning. I have added some pediatric electrolight to the water. Thank you for the advice.
 

amsousa

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amsousa said:
Hi there! My father purchased a Russian Tortoise for my son in February. He brought over all of the supplies the pet shop told him we would need. She was very active at first and ate a lot. In April she stopped eating and slept all day. I still woke her up once a week to soak and was starting to get scared she was dying. A friend who also has a Russian said that she was probably hibernating because she was cold. I could not figure out why she was cold when we have a heating attached to her tank that she would sleep on. Anyway, about 3-4 days ago I went into another pet store to ask questions and they told me I needed another light, not just my UVB light. So I purchased a basking light and she woke up and seemed kinda active. She still hasn't eaten but she is drinking a lot when I soak her. She also woke up with one eye shut and swollen. Her eye opened up when I soaked her and I bought eye drops for her at the reptile store.
I am new to tortoises and I am trying to research as much as I can about Russians. I was told that they are easy to care for and a great pet for my 7 year old son. I don't mind taking care of her, and I worry about her. So, I am here to learn the most I can to take care of her properly.

Our Tortoise's name is Shelly. Any advise is welcome. Thank you for your expertise.

I went to talk to the people at the reptile store and they told me to take all of the substrate out of Shelly's enclosure until her eye is healed. Here is a picture of her tank with the substrate taken out. The light on top that is long is the UVB bulb. The reptile store also sold me some Flukers Reptile eye rinse for her eye and they told me to offer her carrots. I will return to the reptile store to get a thermometer. Any suggestions what type?
Thank you!
 

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franko4

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amsousa said:
amsousa said:
Hi there! My father purchased a Russian Tortoise for my son in February. He brought over all of the supplies the pet shop told him we would need. She was very active at first and ate a lot. In April she stopped eating and slept all day. I still woke her up once a week to soak and was starting to get scared she was dying. A friend who also has a Russian said that she was probably hibernating because she was cold. I could not figure out why she was cold when we have a heating attached to her tank that she would sleep on. Anyway, about 3-4 days ago I went into another pet store to ask questions and they told me I needed another light, not just my UVB light. So I purchased a basking light and she woke up and seemed kinda active. She still hasn't eaten but she is drinking a lot when I soak her. She also woke up with one eye shut and swollen. Her eye opened up when I soaked her and I bought eye drops for her at the reptile store.
I am new to tortoises and I am trying to research as much as I can about Russians. I was told that they are easy to care for and a great pet for my 7 year old son. I don't mind taking care of her, and I worry about her. So, I am here to learn the most I can to take care of her properly.

Our Tortoise's name is Shelly. Any advise is welcome. Thank you for your expertise.

I went to talk to the people at the reptile store and they told me to take all of the substrate out of Shelly's enclosure until her eye is healed. Here is a picture of her tank with the substrate taken out. The light on top that is long is the UVB bulb. The reptile store also sold me some Flukers Reptile eye rinse for her eye and they told me to offer her carrots. I will return to the reptile store to get a thermometer. Any suggestions what type?
Thank you!

Hey! Still learning how to use this forum but get your pet out of an aquarium; lots of better options, look on you tube,
 

johnsonnboswell

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The pet store was wrong. About everything. (Maybe those drops are okay. That's all.) Get rid of the heating pad. A tortoise that is too hot will not eat. Use a substrate that holds moisture. Coconut coir & plays sand makes a good mix. Have a water bowl available 24/7. Both of these are critical.

The advice about a good UVB bulb on a timer was good.

There is a misconception about hibernation. If the temperature is above 40 degrees, the animal is quietly starving. Your house is too warm for hibernation.

Check out one or more of the websites dedicated to Russian tortoises. You can get detailed help on every aspect of care. It will be easier and a more organized way of learning what you need to know.

Assume an open mind and consider that you need to learn everything all over from the beginning. You can still save your tortoise if you do.
 

amsousa

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Another question. Does Shelly still absorb water when I soak her even if she is not drinking it? I've been soaking her each morning for 30 minutes, changing out the water after 10-15 minutes to keep it warm. She barley dabs her mouth in the water.
 

JoesMum

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It is thought that may absorb a little through the skin on their upper legs... which is a throw back to their water turtle ancestry. It is not known how much, if any, is actually absorbed. Either way, a soaked tortoise that is not drinking seems to do better than one that isn't drinking and isn't soaked.
 
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