CanadaTorter

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Aug 5, 2022
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Ontario, Canada.
Hello and good afternoon!

I am happy to now be a part of this community. I am about to become the very fortunate owner a 3-month old Testudo Kleinmanni. I have spent the last couple of months absorbing as much information about these little critters as I can, but I have a few questions that I would like addressed specifically. I have also read through the forum's FAQs. Firstly, I have questions regarding plants. I have taken the advice in other threads and ventured over to TTT, but I am still missing information on a few species that I have purchased for the enclosure. I intend on planting a few grass varieties for aesthetics, humidity, and dietary supplementation. I am hoping that some of you will have personal experience with these. I am mostly looking to ascertain whether or not these can be safely ingested, and if so, whether or not their nutritional benefit makes them advantageous/detrimental.

The species in question are as follows:

Grasses

'Little Bunny' Miniature fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides)
'Blue Dart Rush' (Juncus tenuis ‘Blue Dart’)


Non-grasses:

Aloe Vera
Echeveria
Sedum Succulents
Phlox Subulata 'blue emerald'


If there are other additions to the enclosure that any of you can think of, I would be interested in hearing your perspective(s). Furthermore, does including any of the aforementioned plants in an enclosure introduce detrimental dietary potential? For example; do some of those plants contain elevated levels of oxalic acids or protein? I do not want to interfere with their curated diet by having them "fill up on bread", either. I am aware that excessive succulent consumption may lead to loose stools.

I have read on this forum that crushed oyster shell is the optimum substrate for this species. However, I do not believe that this will facilitate plant growth, so I have arrived at something of a compromise. I am intending on mixing a loam/peat moss mixture with some plain 'ol sand. I am thinking 60% sand, 40% loam/peat moss. I am then going to layer an inch and a quarter or so of oyster shell on top. This way, I feel that the plants can have a better growing medium, and the Tort can have the substrate that is seemingly best for it. Please, let me know if there are any pitfalls or just poor husbandry involved with this approach. I will be introducing a cleanup crew of isopods and arid springtails to the moist undersides of the grasses and within the overturned terracotta pots. I know that these will not entirely remove the need for spot cleaning, but I am hoping that their waste will benefit the substrate and that they themselves will facilitate the removal of dead and decaying organic matter.

I will be providing a slate slab for the Tort to eat off of to avoid the accidental ingestion of any substrate. I understand that oyster shell is pure calcium, and that their native environments are full of things that a tort might accidentally ingest, but I feel less anxious this way. I will also provide a terracotta saucer from which it may bathe or drink. Now, as far as the basking spot is concerned, I have read many conflicting opinions. I have seen temperatures between 95F-110F. This does not concern me as I am intending on providing a temperature/humidity gradient, but is it okay to to provide a slate slab or similar rock in the meat of the heat? I know that electric heat rocks are not recommended for most, if any, reptiles as they can result in burns, so I would like to ensure that the slate will not heat up excessively and injure its underside. Are there specific values I should be attempting to hit in regards to humidity? I was thinking that an ambient 35% would suffice, with the base of the grasses being upwards of 70%, and inside the terracotta it would be 50-55%, initially, and lessen throughout the day. I will be taking the tortoise out every morning and soaking it in lukewarm water. I do not know if there is an ideal temperature or duration for this. 75-80F, and for about 20 minutes? I would appreciate guidance here.

Are there any "must haves" as far as diet is concerned? I see dandelion, clover, mustard greens, hibiscus leaves/flowers, and grasses/hays...I feel as though there are other staples? I know to avoid spinach, parsley, and chives due to their oxalic acid content, but I want to ensure that I absolutely nail their diet. Would it be fine if I purchased hay that has been packaged for small animal use? I have access to Timothy, Alfalfa, and some other varieties that I can't currently recall. I understand that the goal is high fiber, low protein, and high calcium. I would really appreciate advice and anecdotes here. I have read the supplementation guide on TTT and understand the general gist...but I am interested in hearing about the calcium/vitamin dusting regimen that others have established. Also, does the community include a cuttlebone in their Egyptian's enclosures?

Finally, my remaining concern is the enclosure itself. I intend on housing it in a glass 36X24X26 front-opening enclosure. This would suffice for it during its juvenile years, but I am concerned about the make of the tank itself. Many people believe that tortoises cannot perceive glass. I have read the FAQs of this forum, and my understanding is that the consensus here is that this belief is more myth than fact. I, however, have never kept a tortoise, and therefore cannot proceed with full confidence. I do have some strategies for making the sides opaque if this does turn out to be the case with my animal. I will be providing UVB by way of a 160W Fluker's mercury vapor bulb. I have a CHE for the other side should I need help in establishing a further temperature gradient. I have a Sunblaster LED that spans the width of the enclosure, also.

I feel as though I have summarized my care and concerns as well as I can. I appreciate any answers, critiques, or suggestions. My intention is to provide the best care possible, and I will be posting photographs of the enclosure and Tort as soon as I am able. Thank you, all.

Caleb
 

TammyJ

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Hi and welcome! I hope you will soon get some valuable help.
 
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@G-stars breeds Egyptians also.

One thing I did catch is you intend to use an MVB type lighting, but that is recommended against as harmful for tortoises. I double checked before I put this here, because I’m not the expert on that and want to give good info. I have read it dozens of times here. Tom was just typing up an explanation on lighting in another post on a dead pancake tort who seems to have suffered in some part due to lighting choices (wouldn’t open eyes). It’s also in Tom’s care guide on temperate species.

Edited to add: additional food staples for me include weeds, grape leaves, mulberry leaves, squash leaves and flowers, and cactus. I’m hoping to add Rose of Sharon leaves (hardier than hibiscus) and flowers too, trying to grow from cuttings and seed.
 

Tortenkainen

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May 18, 2022
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Provo, UT
As a soon-to-be kleinmanni owner myself, I have many of the same questions! To me, the only thing that jumps out from your description is the mercury vapor bulb; I've read a few times here that those are to be avoided. But I'm happily following to see what answers you get from the community!
 

CanadaTorter

New Member
Joined
Aug 5, 2022
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Ontario, Canada.
Hi Caleb,
The following resources from GST answer most of your questions:



Take care,
Astrid
Thank you, Astrid. I have reviewed that document a few times now. It is quite informative. I am getting conflicting information on whether or not mercury vapor bulbs can be safely utilized with this species. I will keep reviewing the forum for the time being.

Caleb
 

CanadaTorter

New Member
Joined
Aug 5, 2022
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Ontario, Canada.
Welcome from South Florida
Thank you, Pilot.

Pilot, I see that you are a long-time member and also a moderator...do you know of any informative threads on mercury vapor bulbs that you could link me? I have read on several care sheets that that they are a viable option, but many people on TortoiseForum are of the opinion that they are harmful. I am wanting to ensure that my animal receives the best care possible, and I am wanting to avoid causing it undue harm at all costs. Thank you.
 

TeamZissou

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Albuquerque, NM
Use of MVBs is often recommended by Europeans, especially German keepers. In general they've been found to cause pyramiding since they are such an intense and concentrated heat source, so they dry out the scute boundaries and the result is pyramiding. Another downside is the UV output varies over time and is inconsistent. Either way, you will need a Solarmeter 6.5 to change the lamp height and dial in the correct UV level.

I think the peat moss isn't a good idea. Egyptians are said to be susceptible to infections from being on damp substrate. This is the main reason that people in the US use oyster shell. It's possible to raise the humidity in the enclosure but have the substrate be dry. German keepers often use a mix of sand and loam (more of a clay material) to give the substrate firmness. Chris Leone (in the video) does a similar method for the setup in the video. Sand is generally not a good idea due to impaction risk, but it may work if you feed the tortoise on a dish and it doesn't track a lot of the sand onto the food. It's possible the added clay mixture could help with this, but I have not tried it so cannot say. Despite using MVBs, German keepers often raise smoother Egyptians than you typically see in the US. I suspect this is due to having moist sand for the tortoises to bury themselves in while not basking. Many US keepers maintain too dry of conditions, often from hatching, and probably do not soak enough. Forum member PA2019 has had success with his group keeping them on oyster shell, yet with high enough humidity to minimize pyramiding. He also had the advantage of getting them from a young age. Check out his threads in this forum.

I see no real advantage to having plants grow in the soil. Another option is to have small potted plants of whatever and just bury them in the substrate so that the tortoise can access it if you are determined to do so.

On temperatures, I have found keeping the ambient temp no higher than about 82 F has produced the most activity in my group. I kept them around 88 F for a while but they did not come out. I suspect this was the onset of estivation. I do maintain a basking spot of 100 F.

On lighting brightness, I have found that they rarely came out when I had relatively high lighting intensity (via LED lights) of about 7000 lux. I dialed it back to around probably 3000-4000 lux and they come out a lot more. One tortoise that has it's own enclosure is very secretive, and I dimmed the light to probably 1500 lux and still she rarely emerges. Anyway, it's something to consider. If I got them from a younger age I expect they could handle higher intensity light better.

Regarding enclosure size, go as large as you can as early as you can. That way, you've set aside the room in your house which the tortoise will eventually occupy. A good size 6 x 3 ft enclosure or 8 x 4 ft enclosure would suit it for the long term. 2 x 3 ft is a bit small, and once it starts being more active you'll want to give it more room to explore. You could block off a section and gradually increase the size if you wanted.

I currently soak mine every other day. I was doing once every three days for a while, but I started to notice some dehydration so increased to every day for a couple weeks, but backed off to every other day.

If it's only 3 months old when you get it, start introducing as many weeds and other food as possible to get it used to different stuff. That's still fairly young so it'll be easier to introduce foods now rather than later.

Get the book "The Egyptian Tortoise" by German keepers Schramm and Biedenweg
 

ZEROPILOT

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Thank you, Pilot.

Pilot, I see that you are a long-time member and also a moderator...do you know of any informative threads on mercury vapor bulbs that you could link me? I have read on several care sheets that that they are a viable option, but many people on TortoiseForum are of the opinion that they are harmful. I am wanting to ensure that my animal receives the best care possible, and I am wanting to avoid causing it undue harm at all costs. Thank you.
I just did a forum search for MVB lights and it's interesting. They start about ten years ago and they are a testimony to what we've discovered about them and chronicle how we started to see that they didn't work well for us in this hobby case by case until we all started preaching against them.
The mvb bulb isn't a knee jerk reaction by one individual. It's from the experiences of the collective.
I can also tell you from my own first hand experience that they do nothing very well. In fact I still have 6 of them in a box under my bed. I'm still hoping I'll be able to use them for something else one day. (They were about $300)

What type of tortoise do you have and what size and type is your enclosure? We can give you a good general idea of what you need for heat, light and UVB that will be suitable, reliable and safe.
 
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