Soon-to-be-tortoise-dad

Tortenkainen

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Provo, UT
Hello everyone!

I've been lurking on this site for a few weeks, reading and learning a ton. What a great resource and community! As a prospective first-time tortoise owner, I'm eyebrows deep in planning the correct setup. I currently have NO equipment at all, only aspirations. I've always loved animals, and for a long time I thought I would end up as a herpetologist. Ended up studying music instead though! In any case, I could really use a lifelong tortoise-friend.

(I was born in Cairo, Egypt, and for a while there my family looked after 8 egyptian tortoises and 1 greek tortoise from Libya, given to us by Cairo American College. We had them for a time, then gave them to a rehabilitation/breeding program there. I spent a lot of time around the tortoises, but I was young and wasn't the one who took care of them, so I consider myself a first-timer.)

For the next month or so I'm living in Utah, but hopefully moving to Idaho after that (pending first-time house purchase).

After about a month of research, I think I'm decided on purchasing a baby cherry head from a reputable breeder (perhaps Tortstork?) in a few months after I've got everything up and running smoothly. I'm certain I'll need some help, so I'm finally registering here.

Thanks both for creating the content I've read so far, as well as help in the future!

Sincerely,
Tortenkainen
 

wellington

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Hello and Welcome. Tortstork is a great place to buy from. I'm not sure they have CH but if they do, don't hesitate buying from them.
Get everything built up and running ahead if time. There is always a lot of adjusting to do and easier done beforehand.
 

Tortenkainen

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Joined
May 18, 2022
Messages
5
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Provo, UT
Hello and Welcome. Tortstork is a great place to buy from. I'm not sure they have CH but if they do, don't hesitate buying from them.
Get everything built up and running ahead if time. There is always a lot of adjusting to do and easier done beforehand.
Great to know about Tortstork! Thanks for the tip.

I know how tricky it can be to properly care for reptiles. My parents rescued a green iguana from a terrible home that let him run around the house like a dog, and eat dog food. He escaped from us after a few weeks, and shortly after we found his poor broken body in the yard where he'd fallen out of a tree. The fall shouldn't have hurt him if his bones had developed properly. It was so sad.

Anyway, like I said, I'll take all the advice I can get to make sure the enclosure is ready long before I order the tort.
 

Tom

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Hello everyone!

I've been lurking on this site for a few weeks, reading and learning a ton. What a great resource and community! As a prospective first-time tortoise owner, I'm eyebrows deep in planning the correct setup. I currently have NO equipment at all, only aspirations. I've always loved animals, and for a long time I thought I would end up as a herpetologist. Ended up studying music instead though! In any case, I could really use a lifelong tortoise-friend.

(I was born in Cairo, Egypt, and for a while there my family looked after 8 egyptian tortoises and 1 greek tortoise from Libya, given to us by Cairo American College. We had them for a time, then gave them to a rehabilitation/breeding program there. I spent a lot of time around the tortoises, but I was young and wasn't the one who took care of them, so I consider myself a first-timer.)

For the next month or so I'm living in Utah, but hopefully moving to Idaho after that (pending first-time house purchase).

After about a month of research, I think I'm decided on purchasing a baby cherry head from a reputable breeder (perhaps Tortstork?) in a few months after I've got everything up and running smoothly. I'm certain I'll need some help, so I'm finally registering here.

Thanks both for creating the content I've read so far, as well as help in the future!

Sincerely,
Tortenkainen
Hello and welcome. It will be tough to maintain a cherry head in Idaho. The weather will not be right at any time of the year, and you will have to house it indoors full time. As an adult, you will need a very large enclosure. Room sized. A smaller Testudo, like what you worked with in Egypt, would be able to live outside in the warmer months, and in a large open table the rest of the year. Just something to consider...
 

Armadillogroomer

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Agree with Tom, a proper enclosure is the reason I rehomed my red foot before moving back west. It is very tricky to keep such a large area humid, especially if it's a room in a house or wooden shed.

Tortstork has beautiful cherryheads if that's what you're sticking with. Another great breeder on this side of the country is AZ Tortoise Compound.
 

ZEROPILOT

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Hello and welcome
As you've been told. REDFOOT are very special tortoises with certain needs in order for them to thrive.
High humidity and temperatures from 80 to 88. With 84 being ideal.
A closed chamber enclosure needs to be built or sourced
 

Tortenkainen

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Wow, I'm getting some great feedback here! Thank you all for your comments so far.

Redfoots are pretty incredible animals. I lived for a couple of years in South America, but never got to see one. Alas, Uruguay's too far south for their range, I believe. I'm hoping that a smaller cherry head (if they indeed are smaller!) will be easier to keep inside. But anyway, I have been making some plans for how I intend to keep things in the proper humidity range. I'm hoping these things will help:

- I have some plans written up for a 6 x 3 indoor enclosure to last for the first years (I'm hoping it will suffice for the first 5-7ish years?) and will add to it or start from scratch and build something new for a full-size animal. (though probably something smaller, like a storage bin, to start off with a hatchling)

- I'd also like to make the enclosure bioactive, with live plants (I figure they'll get destroyed later on, but while the redfoot is little...), some isopods and springtails as cleanup crew, a good mix of substrate (coco coir, sphagnum moss, orchid bark, earthworm castings), with a false bottom beneath it all and a filtered pump to get water back to the top as a waterfall to water plants and keep the water dish fresh. We'll see how much of that actually ends up working out XD I've heard tortoises poop in their drinking water all the time, but I'm hoping that frequent soaks will help mitigate that.

- Also a good fogger, probably on the opposite side from the water feature.

- Find a nice balance between cover and ventilation to keep everything happy.

- Lastly, my wife also prefers things more humid than airy Idaho gets, and will likely put a humidifier in the room anyway.

So am I on the right track? Any other tips for raising/maintaining humidity? I'm currently looking into timers and gauges for everything and connecting it all through an app for my phone, but honestly I'm not very tech-savvy...
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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Wow, I'm getting some great feedback here! Thank you all for your comments so far.

Redfoots are pretty incredible animals. I lived for a couple of years in South America, but never got to see one. Alas, Uruguay's too far south for their range, I believe. I'm hoping that a smaller cherry head (if they indeed are smaller!) will be easier to keep inside. But anyway, I have been making some plans for how I intend to keep things in the proper humidity range. I'm hoping these things will help:

- I have some plans written up for a 6 x 3 indoor enclosure to last for the first years (I'm hoping it will suffice for the first 5-7ish years?) and will add to it or start from scratch and build something new for a full-size animal. (though probably something smaller, like a storage bin, to start off with a hatchling)

- I'd also like to make the enclosure bioactive, with live plants (I figure they'll get destroyed later on, but while the redfoot is little...), some isopods and springtails as cleanup crew, a good mix of substrate (coco coir, sphagnum moss, orchid bark, earthworm castings), with a false bottom beneath it all and a filtered pump to get water back to the top as a waterfall to water plants and keep the water dish fresh. We'll see how much of that actually ends up working out XD I've heard tortoises poop in their drinking water all the time, but I'm hoping that frequent soaks will help mitigate that.

- Also a good fogger, probably on the opposite side from the water feature.

- Find a nice balance between cover and ventilation to keep everything happy.

- Lastly, my wife also prefers things more humid than airy Idaho gets, and will likely put a humidifier in the room anyway.

So am I on the right track? Any other tips for raising/maintaining humidity? I'm currently looking into timers and gauges for everything and connecting it all through an app for my phone, but honestly I'm not very tech-savvy...
-A 6x3 will only last about a year, maybe two if you have a slow grower and underfeed.
-Moss will be eaten by any tortoise and can cause impaction. It should not be used.
-Humidifiers should not be blowing directly into a tortoise enclosure. They shouldn't be breathing that foggy air with the micro droplets. Its oaky to use a humidifier in the same room though. Humidity in the enclosure should be maintained by using a closed chamber and reducing ventilation, which from what you typed is a concept you are already familiar with.
- It is exceedingly difficult to maintain high room humidity in a dry climate. I have tried. I could seldom get my heated 10x12 foot reptile room to stay above 50-60% with three humidifiers running all the time and dumping water all over the concrete floor, and a room full of enclosures with damp substrate.
-A RF or CH needs high humidity, but they also need a dry surface, or they will get shell rot. Be careful with misters and spraying the substrate. You want it damp, but not wet. Most people end up with some shell rot and have to figure out how to maintain this balance.

Again, this species is very difficult to maintain outside of the gulf coast and southern FL. It CAN be done, but it will be with great effort and expense compared to several other species that are much better suited to your climate. That is why I don't keep them here. Too hot and dry in summer, too cold and dry in winter, and they are too big to house indoors as adults.
 

Tortenkainen

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Provo, UT
-A 6x3 will only last about a year, maybe two if you have a slow grower and underfeed.
-Moss will be eaten by any tortoise and can cause impaction. It should not be used.
-Humidifiers should not be blowing directly into a tortoise enclosure. They shouldn't be breathing that foggy air with the micro droplets. Its oaky to use a humidifier in the same room though. Humidity in the enclosure should be maintained by using a closed chamber and reducing ventilation, which from what you typed is a concept you are already familiar with.
- It is exceedingly difficult to maintain high room humidity in a dry climate. I have tried. I could seldom get my heated 10x12 foot reptile room to stay above 50-60% with three humidifiers running all the time and dumping water all over the concrete floor, and a room full of enclosures with damp substrate.
-A RF or CH needs high humidity, but they also need a dry surface, or they will get shell rot. Be careful with misters and spraying the substrate. You want it damp, but not wet. Most people end up with some shell rot and have to figure out how to maintain this balance.

Again, this species is very difficult to maintain outside of the gulf coast and southern FL. It CAN be done, but it will be with great effort and expense compared to several other species that are much better suited to your climate. That is why I don't keep them here. Too hot and dry in summer, too cold and dry in winter, and they are too big to house indoors as adults.
Good things to know! I'll run some more numbers and see what I can do for a larger habitat in the earlier years. I'd like to keep it on a table or otherwise elevated for as long as possible, since my knees aren't great, but I might be able to get my hands on a used dining room table (you know, the kind with the leaves in it to make it longer).

I had no idea moss was an impaction risk! I've seen it recommended on every site I've visited. For my substrate, I was planning on having it all mixed in with the other elements, rather than in large clumps on the surface. Hmm... I've heard that some leaf litter on top of the substrate helps to lock in humidity. Do tortoises go after dead leaves if they've got nicer stuff around to eat?

I've read about some experiences with shell rot, yeah. It doesn't sound pleasant. I wanted to go with a reptile fogger rather than a mister, to avoid the 'wet' substrate problem, but if breathing the fog in is a problem then I certainly don't want that. If the fog begins higher up in the enclosure (I'm planning on the walls being at least 18 inches above the substrate) and sort of cascades down and is broken up by plants, would that help at all with that problem? You know, rather than just covering the ground with a layer of fog.

My line of thinking for a redfoot was this: I want something that doesn't hibernate, because I don't think I could live with the anxiety of not knowing for months every year (lifelong buddy...) if the tortoise is going to wake up. I mean, obviously if you do everything right that shouldn't be a problem, but I've heard stories of people doing everything 'right' and their tortoise still not making it through hibernation, and just the thought of not knowing makes my mental health sag in a bad way. So a tortoise species that lets me keep an eye on them full-time is what I'd prefer.

As far as I understand, that leaves me with sulcata, leopard, burmese, red/yellow foot, elongated, star, hingeback, pancake, and egyptian? I hope those are right, and I'm probably missing some. Anyway, from there, I wanted something sturdy and active, but not too large. An egyptian would be adorable, but part of me is afraid (there's that anxiety again) that somehow it would get lost. Pancakes are intriguing, but supposedly are rarely seen. I don't know much about hingebacks, but I haven't seen many around when I look at breeders. Stars are beautiful, but supposedly tricky to keep and a fair bit more shy. Elongated and redfoot seem kind of similar with humidity requirements, but as I've lived in South America I feel more kinship with the redfoot. Anything larger would be way too big, and I read that most cherry head redfoots tend to be at least a bit smaller than the usual redfoot.

Lastly, there's a good chance we'll end up moving somewhere with more humidity after 3-5 years in Idaho. I spent many lovely years in Virginia, and moving back there would be a dream.

Anyway, that was a wall of text! Sorry for rambling. But if there are obvious holes in my reasonings, I would very much appreciate it if someone could point me towards a species that I would do well with!
 

Tom

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Good things to know! I'll run some more numbers and see what I can do for a larger habitat in the earlier years. I'd like to keep it on a table or otherwise elevated for as long as possible, since my knees aren't great, but I might be able to get my hands on a used dining room table (you know, the kind with the leaves in it to make it longer).

I had no idea moss was an impaction risk! I've seen it recommended on every site I've visited. For my substrate, I was planning on having it all mixed in with the other elements, rather than in large clumps on the surface. Hmm... I've heard that some leaf litter on top of the substrate helps to lock in humidity. Do tortoises go after dead leaves if they've got nicer stuff around to eat?

I've read about some experiences with shell rot, yeah. It doesn't sound pleasant. I wanted to go with a reptile fogger rather than a mister, to avoid the 'wet' substrate problem, but if breathing the fog in is a problem then I certainly don't want that. If the fog begins higher up in the enclosure (I'm planning on the walls being at least 18 inches above the substrate) and sort of cascades down and is broken up by plants, would that help at all with that problem? You know, rather than just covering the ground with a layer of fog.

My line of thinking for a redfoot was this: I want something that doesn't hibernate, because I don't think I could live with the anxiety of not knowing for months every year (lifelong buddy...) if the tortoise is going to wake up. I mean, obviously if you do everything right that shouldn't be a problem, but I've heard stories of people doing everything 'right' and their tortoise still not making it through hibernation, and just the thought of not knowing makes my mental health sag in a bad way. So a tortoise species that lets me keep an eye on them full-time is what I'd prefer.

As far as I understand, that leaves me with sulcata, leopard, burmese, red/yellow foot, elongated, star, hingeback, pancake, and egyptian? I hope those are right, and I'm probably missing some. Anyway, from there, I wanted something sturdy and active, but not too large. An egyptian would be adorable, but part of me is afraid (there's that anxiety again) that somehow it would get lost. Pancakes are intriguing, but supposedly are rarely seen. I don't know much about hingebacks, but I haven't seen many around when I look at breeders. Stars are beautiful, but supposedly tricky to keep and a fair bit more shy. Elongated and redfoot seem kind of similar with humidity requirements, but as I've lived in South America I feel more kinship with the redfoot. Anything larger would be way too big, and I read that most cherry head redfoots tend to be at least a bit smaller than the usual redfoot.

Lastly, there's a good chance we'll end up moving somewhere with more humidity after 3-5 years in Idaho. I spent many lovely years in Virginia, and moving back there would be a dream.

Anyway, that was a wall of text! Sorry for rambling. But if there are obvious holes in my reasonings, I would very much appreciate it if someone could point me towards a species that I would do well with!
This is great tortoise conversation. Lots of helpful info in your paragraphs that gives insight into what will work best for you. Here are some thoughts based on your replies:

-Open topped tortoise tables don't work for RFs or any other tropical species. You simply can't maintain the correct temperatures and humidity. This is like trying to heat your house in winter with no roof on it. Open topped enclosures DO work for temperate species where the room temp and humidity is within the the limits of what works for them. This would include all the testudo, Chersina, chacos, and CA desert tortoises.

-I've never tried leaf litter, but my tortoises eat everything they can reach in their indoor enclosures. I can't use moss of any kind, plastic plants, and live plants have to be potted and out of reach. I would worry about mold with leaf litter indoors in a warm humid enclosure. Outdoors, leaf litter is generally fine as long as it is nothing toxic.

-Just a general note of caution: Almost all of the info you find while doing "research" will be old, wrong info. Tortoises have been housed all wrong for decades, and most of the world has not kept up. You have managed to find our little community here, and this is the only place I have found with multiple experienced people sharing the correct up to date info. Vets, books, some breeders, pet shops... All parroting the same wrong info that has been parroted for generations of tortoise keepers. Youtube is awful. Facebook tortoise groups are worse. You will find the same wrong phrases repeated from all of these sources over and over, and then you come here and we tell you the opposite on many points. Question this any time you want. Allow us to explain why we make the assertions we make. You, and anyone reading, will gain tremendous insight from the explanation.

-Humidifiers are just not necessary at all with the right enclosure. You need a closed chamber, not an open top. Use a closed chamber to maintain humidity, not a humidifier.

-Hibernation horror stories are usually from people who did it outside, and/or made common mistakes. The tortoise was subject to the cruel whims of Mother Nature and wild temperature fluctuations. Done correctly, brumation (the correct term for what is happening, as I have been recently taught...) is totally safe and beneficial. I brumate lizards, snakes, and tortoises every year with no issues. Not one problem ever. I sleep well without a care knowing my animals are safe and out of harm's way. The only time I encountered a problem is when I hibernated my adult tegus outdoors on the advice of a very knowledgeable breeder from a different climate. They did not understand the weather in my area and two of the three of them died after a normal winter warm spell when they failed to dig back in correctly. That was many years ago. Lesson learned. Don't do it outside. Do it inside under controlled and monitored conditions.

-Having said all of that, you don't HAVE to brumate any species. It is not required and they will survive and be healthy if they never brumate. It is my opinion that animals that brumate in the wild should also brumate in captivity, but it has been demonstrated many times over many decades by many experienced keepers that it is not "necessary" with any tortoise species for any reason.

-Tortotise options that would be good for you: You've left out all three subspecies of hermanni, all the different greeks, and Russians. All of the above would be great for you. All are hardy, easy to keep, adaptable to a variety of climates, easy to feed, and small enough to live indoors in a large enclosure over a frozen winter. Add in marginated tortoises if you don't mind building something larger than 4x8 for indoors. Egyptians would also be in this group, but they are more of a specialty kind of thing. Russians, hermanni and greeks are great tortoises for anyone and CB babies are widely available from many breeders right here on this forum.

Sulcatas, leopards and Burmese mountain tortoises are all much too large for indoor winter housing.

Indian stars have a reputation for being delicate and shy, but Burmese stars, G. platynota, are one of the best species there are. I breed them and love them, so color me biased. They are hardy, easy to feed and house, small enough to be indoors in winter, highly adaptable to any US climate, friendly and outgoing, and gorgeous too. All these reasons are why I have chosen to work with this species over other options. I love all tortoise species, but I only have so much time, so I have to be choosy about which species to keep and breed. This species is one of my all time favorites and I produce dozens of babies a year.

Pancake personalities vary, so I would not rule them out.

Kinixsys are quite specialized. There is a group working how how best to do them, but it can be difficult.

Any of the Indotestdo (elongated) would work for you, but these have the same housing requirements as a RF and get a similar size. You'd need a giant 4x8 foot or larger closed chamber.

Hope this provides some food for thought and spurs more questions. Especially more questions about platynota. :)
 

Tortenkainen

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Joined
May 18, 2022
Messages
5
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Provo, UT
This is great tortoise conversation. Lots of helpful info in your paragraphs that gives insight into what will work best for you. Here are some thoughts based on your replies:

-Open topped tortoise tables don't work for RFs or any other tropical species. You simply can't maintain the correct temperatures and humidity. This is like trying to heat your house in winter with no roof on it. Open topped enclosures DO work for temperate species where the room temp and humidity is within the the limits of what works for them. This would include all the testudo, Chersina, chacos, and CA desert tortoises.

-I've never tried leaf litter, but my tortoises eat everything they can reach in their indoor enclosures. I can't use moss of any kind, plastic plants, and live plants have to be potted and out of reach. I would worry about mold with leaf litter indoors in a warm humid enclosure. Outdoors, leaf litter is generally fine as long as it is nothing toxic.

-Just a general note of caution: Almost all of the info you find while doing "research" will be old, wrong info. Tortoises have been housed all wrong for decades, and most of the world has not kept up. You have managed to find our little community here, and this is the only place I have found with multiple experienced people sharing the correct up to date info. Vets, books, some breeders, pet shops... All parroting the same wrong info that has been parroted for generations of tortoise keepers. Youtube is awful. Facebook tortoise groups are worse. You will find the same wrong phrases repeated from all of these sources over and over, and then you come here and we tell you the opposite on many points. Question this any time you want. Allow us to explain why we make the assertions we make. You, and anyone reading, will gain tremendous insight from the explanation.

-Humidifiers are just not necessary at all with the right enclosure. You need a closed chamber, not an open top. Use a closed chamber to maintain humidity, not a humidifier.

-Hibernation horror stories are usually from people who did it outside, and/or made common mistakes. The tortoise was subject to the cruel whims of Mother Nature and wild temperature fluctuations. Done correctly, brumation (the correct term for what is happening, as I have been recently taught...) is totally safe and beneficial. I brumate lizards, snakes, and tortoises every year with no issues. Not one problem ever. I sleep well without a care knowing my animals are safe and out of harm's way. The only time I encountered a problem is when I hibernated my adult tegus outdoors on the advice of a very knowledgeable breeder from a different climate. They did not understand the weather in my area and two of the three of them died after a normal winter warm spell when they failed to dig back in correctly. That was many years ago. Lesson learned. Don't do it outside. Do it inside under controlled and monitored conditions.

-Having said all of that, you don't HAVE to brumate any species. It is not required and they will survive and be healthy if they never brumate. It is my opinion that animals that brumate in the wild should also brumate in captivity, but it has been demonstrated many times over many decades by many experienced keepers that it is not "necessary" with any tortoise species for any reason.

-Tortotise options that would be good for you: You've left out all three subspecies of hermanni, all the different greeks, and Russians. All of the above would be great for you. All are hardy, easy to keep, adaptable to a variety of climates, easy to feed, and small enough to live indoors in a large enclosure over a frozen winter. Add in marginated tortoises if you don't mind building something larger than 4x8 for indoors. Egyptians would also be in this group, but they are more of a specialty kind of thing. Russians, hermanni and greeks are great tortoises for anyone and CB babies are widely available from many breeders right here on this forum.

Sulcatas, leopards and Burmese mountain tortoises are all much too large for indoor winter housing.

Indian stars have a reputation for being delicate and shy, but Burmese stars, G. platynota, are one of the best species there are. I breed them and love them, so color me biased. They are hardy, easy to feed and house, small enough to be indoors in winter, highly adaptable to any US climate, friendly and outgoing, and gorgeous too. All these reasons are why I have chosen to work with this species over other options. I love all tortoise species, but I only have so much time, so I have to be choosy about which species to keep and breed. This species is one of my all time favorites and I produce dozens of babies a year.

Pancake personalities vary, so I would not rule them out.

Kinixsys are quite specialized. There is a group working how how best to do them, but it can be difficult.

Any of the Indotestdo (elongated) would work for you, but these have the same housing requirements as a RF and get a similar size. You'd need a giant 4x8 foot or larger closed chamber.

Hope this provides some food for thought and spurs more questions. Especially more questions about platynota. :)
Haha yes, it's because of all the ancient information I was finding online that I went ahead and made an account here, to get the most up-to-date answers. Even on this site, so many of the conversations are about a decade old. So I appreciate everything I'm learning!

I suspect that if I knew a tortoise species would brumate in the wild, I'd want to do the same thing for my pet, or I'd feel I wasn't doing everything I could for its wellbeing. And even if I were to brumate one, I'd miss my tortoise-buddy for the time that it's under, in addition to the stress. So for my own sanity, I'm choosing not to acquire one that normally brumates. That does rule out most of the cute little tortoises, unfortunately. But for the right tortoise, I'd go so far as to build a greenhouse indoors or outdoors to help them be happy and thrive.

I didn't know that the Burmese stars are so versatile! I'll give that option a good think. Fortunately, I've got lots of time to think things through before I make a decision!

As for humidity, I agree that covered is the way to go. What I'm trying to figure out is how tall I can make the enclosure (since I'll have live plants) and how that will affect the lighting situation. I've found a bunch of differing viewpoints on exactly how much UVB a tropical species needs. My question is: How high above a redfoot could I have UVB lighting? 5.0 is usually reserved for tropical species, apparently, at about 12 inches above the tortoise. If I went with a stronger UVB bulb, like 10.0 and with a more powerful wattage, could I put the light fixture up higher? I understand at some point I'll need to get a UV meter and check things out, just looking for a ballpark estimate, if there is one.

(By the way, I'm thinking a T5 HO fixture, unless there's something more appropriate that's been developed?)

(Also, if these questions and conversations are better suited to their own thread somewhere else, I'm happy to start something up there. I appreciate your help!)
 

Tom

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(Also, if these questions and conversations are better suited to their own thread somewhere else, I'm happy to start something up there. I appreciate your help!)
This is your thread and we are discussing your topic, so it is fine here. You should also feel free to start threads elsewhere too. Make yourself right at home. :)

(By the way, I'm thinking a T5 HO fixture, unless there's something more appropriate that's been developed?)
T5 HO tubes are the best way to go right now. I like the Arcadia Pro T5 12% kits. Those can be mounted 18-22 inches over the tortoise. You are right that a meter is needed to check the height and set things correctly, and also to monitor the longevity of the bulb. You can make the ceiling as high as you want and then just hang the lights as far down as needed. 36 inches tall would be fine. 24 inches is ideal, and as low as 18 inches can work for ceiling height inside a closed chamber.

About UV: There is very little UV in the morning sun or late after noon sun. UV levels ramp up quickly mid day and then ramp right back down in the afternoon. This being the case, I like to run my 12% HO tubes for about 2-3 hours mid day, and that is it. This is plenty of time for a tortoise to meet its UV needs, it simulates the mid day UV spike that happens outside, and it makes your expensive bulbs last for several years since they are not running 12-14 hours a day.

I understand your reasoning on the brumating species. Makes perfect sense. This is good. Narrowing down the choices.
 

Jan A

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Haha yes, it's because of all the ancient information I was finding online that I went ahead and made an account here, to get the most up-to-date answers. Even on this site, so many of the conversations are about a decade old. So I appreciate everything I'm learning!

I suspect that if I knew a tortoise species would brumate in the wild, I'd want to do the same thing for my pet, or I'd feel I wasn't doing everything I could for its wellbeing. And even if I were to brumate one, I'd miss my tortoise-buddy for the time that it's under, in addition to the stress. So for my own sanity, I'm choosing not to acquire one that normally brumates. That does rule out most of the cute little tortoises, unfortunately. But for the right tortoise, I'd go so far as to build a greenhouse indoors or outdoors to help them be happy and thrive.

I didn't know that the Burmese stars are so versatile! I'll give that option a good think. Fortunately, I've got lots of time to think things through before I make a decision!

As for humidity, I agree that covered is the way to go. What I'm trying to figure out is how tall I can make the enclosure (since I'll have live plants) and how that will affect the lighting situation. I've found a bunch of differing viewpoints on exactly how much UVB a tropical species needs. My question is: How high above a redfoot could I have UVB lighting? 5.0 is usually reserved for tropical species, apparently, at about 12 inches above the tortoise. If I went with a stronger UVB bulb, like 10.0 and with a more powerful wattage, could I put the light fixture up higher? I understand at some point I'll need to get a UV meter and check things out, just looking for a ballpark estimate, if there is one.

(By the way, I'm thinking a T5 HO fixture, unless there's something more appropriate that's been developed?)

(Also, if these questions and conversations are better suited to their own thread somewhere else, I'm happy to start something up there. I appreciate your help!)
I've read your thread with great interest in the thought process & always Tom's as well. I just want to welcome you to the forum. The people make this site great. And I do like reading the old threads to see how care has changed & previously "correct ways" get changed as people report on the shortcomings of an old way or a new way. We are all here to help each other AND benefit our torts & turtles.

But you'll also find members from all over the world with other interests besides just torts that pop up in threads unrelated to tort & turtle care. And we do have breeder & vendor reviews when you get ready to buy your tort. So welcome & enjoin the ride!!
 
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