Substrate for Hibernating DT (first time)

MoreCowbellAz

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We're hibernating for the first time this year (yikes) using the fridge method (double yikes) and would like to know if orchid bark is a good substrate for fridge hibernation. That's what I use in her indoor enclosure, so I have plenty and would prefer to keep using it but was wondering about the dust since she'll be digging a lot. See below for some more details if you're interested.

Second question - with the fridge method, I have an aquarium 100 L/hr air pump on hand in case that's the best way to go (as described at Tortoise Trust), but is that necessary or is it better to just open the door for a minute a few times a week? I'll do whatever is best for the DT, I've come to far to blow it now on something simple.

FYI, some of you may remember me, I rescued this few week old DT exactly 3 years ago and had to learn QUICKLY all about DT's and you all were life savers, literally. She (I think it's a she) was in rough shape when I found her, shell and skin looking dry as a bone. Fast forward 3 years to now, she's doing fantastic, beautiful shell grew from 1.5" to 5.5", weighs 674 grams, and strong and healthy. I don't know what I would've done without the info on this board.

So now that she's got the clean bill of health from the vet I'm going to hibernate her this year for the first time (super nervous already). I just got a beverage cooler I'm testing in advance to make sure I can get a stable 50 degree temp, reading a lot about getting the DT in and out of hibernation safely, found a suitable sized box (I went with a clear one 13"x11"x9" (tall enough she won't be tempted to try to climb out if she becomes active for some reason, but also has a lid), and am putting the final details together. I have 2 Acu-rite digital thermometers/hygrometers, one with a remote probe to go inside the hibernation box next to the tort, one for outside the box but still in the fridge that shows daily max/min. I chose 2 just so I can compare in case one fails. Right now she's still super active and eating a lot, but she'll be starting to slow down soon I expect.

Anyway, orchid bark ok? And air pump or no air pump?
 

Tom

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We're hibernating for the first time this year (yikes) using the fridge method (double yikes) and would like to know if orchid bark is a good substrate for fridge hibernation. That's what I use in her indoor enclosure, so I have plenty and would prefer to keep using it but was wondering about the dust since she'll be digging a lot. See below for some more details if you're interested.

Second question - with the fridge method, I have an aquarium 100 L/hr air pump on hand in case that's the best way to go (as described at Tortoise Trust), but is that necessary or is it better to just open the door for a minute a few times a week? I'll do whatever is best for the DT, I've come to far to blow it now on something simple.

FYI, some of you may remember me, I rescued this few week old DT exactly 3 years ago and had to learn QUICKLY all about DT's and you all were life savers, literally. She (I think it's a she) was in rough shape when I found her, shell and skin looking dry as a bone. Fast forward 3 years to now, she's doing fantastic, beautiful shell grew from 1.5" to 5.5", weighs 674 grams, and strong and healthy. I don't know what I would've done without the info on this board.

So now that she's got the clean bill of health from the vet I'm going to hibernate her this year for the first time (super nervous already). I just got a beverage cooler I'm testing in advance to make sure I can get a stable 50 degree temp, reading a lot about getting the DT in and out of hibernation safely, found a suitable sized box (I went with a clear one 13"x11"x9" (tall enough she won't be tempted to try to climb out if she becomes active for some reason, but also has a lid), and am putting the final details together. I have 2 Acu-rite digital thermometers/hygrometers, one with a remote probe to go inside the hibernation box next to the tort, one for outside the box but still in the fridge that shows daily max/min. I chose 2 just so I can compare in case one fails. Right now she's still super active and eating a lot, but she'll be starting to slow down soon I expect.

Anyway, orchid bark ok? And air pump or no air pump?
Orchid bark is fine. That is what I usually use. Make it slightly damp. Not wet, just a little moisture, and this will prevent dust.

I've never pumped air into a fridge, but I don't see how it will hurt anything if it makes you feel better.
 

MoreCowbellAz

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Orchid bark is fine. That is what I usually use. Make it slightly damp. Not wet, just a little moisture, and this will prevent dust.

I've never pumped air into a fridge, but I don't see how it will hurt anything if it makes you feel better.
Do you just open up the door now and again for air? I’m using a beverage cooler 4.3 cu ft capacity.
 

KarenSoCal

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Do you just open up the door now and again for air? I’m using a beverage cooler 4.3 cu ft capacity.
I brumated my DT in a mini fridge as well.

I put the tort in a plastic tote without lid. In the tote I laid several sheets of newspaper folded to fit the bottom. I put Chug in the box, and completely covered him with shredded newspaper. I put the box in the fridge and laid a cardboard lid on top. With this "ceiling" in place I never had a problem with him trying to climb out.

It's important to load a bunch of stuff into the fridge, in addition to the box. A full fridge runs more efficiently, and in the event of a power failure helps keep it cool for a period of time. I used freezer packs like you put in a cooler, stored some cans of juice, and filled the rest with bottles of water. You can use new ones, or save some bottles to refill. Just keep in mind that these items are not to be used until the tort is out of there.

Re' air...I did not use any air supplement. All I did was open the door and "fan" it daily or every other day.

The nature of thermostats is that usually an exact temp is not maintained. With 50° as your goal, don't be surprised if it varies from ~48 to 52° or thereabouts. That small variation doesn't matter, so unless it's more than that, don't change your settings.

Load the additional items into the fridge now, so they are in place for your temp tweaking prior to brumation.

If your tort is living outside full time, you can use nature to do her cooling before going into the fridge. I did it like this:

As temps began dropping a bit, I closed off Chug's burrows so he had to stay above ground. As it got cooler and the days shorter, he slept more and more. When he stopped eating, I stopped feeding him. He slept in an old igloo dog house during this time...a few inches of plain dirt in the bottom. Any type of hide that the tort likes can be used, as long as you can reach the tort while it's asleep. As the temps got cooler, I let him sleep, and watched the thermometer and weather reports. Eventually he was asleep almost all the time, and I waited for the proper weather prediction. When we had a couple nights with lows in the high 40's, I was ready. The next morning I got up around 3:30-4:00 AM. I went out, picked the sleeping Chug out of the dog house, and carried him straight in to the already prepared box, and into the running fridge. He never knew he had been moved.

This is how I did it, and I think it's the best way to brumate a tort.

Questions are welcome. Just be sure to respond to this post, or tag me. I'm not on every day any more, but I always check notifications. :) :tort:
 

MoreCowbellAz

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Regarding the hibernation box, how big should it be for a DT with a shell of 5.75” x 4.5”? I just test fitted my 13” x 11” box and its a bit of a tighter squeeze than I expected. I wanted it to be wide enough for her to turn around, so I went with 11” but maybe that’s not necessary.

Just turned the fridge on for the first time today, trying to get it so it doesn’t have these wide temperature fluctuations, but I think I have not let it sit long enough to stabilize, the temps are all over that place. That’s why I am testing all of this in advance.
 

MoreCowbellAz

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What I meant was the box was a tighter squeeze in the fridge than I expected, plenty big for the DT, perhaps unnecessarily so, that’s my question. Or it’s OCD kicking in.
 

KarenSoCal

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What I meant was the box was a tighter squeeze in the fridge than I expected, plenty big for the DT, perhaps unnecessarily so, that’s my question. Or it’s OCD kicking in.
Did you see my post? Scroll up.
As for the box size, as long as the fridge door closes you're good!
 

TammyJ

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I brumated my DT in a mini fridge as well.

I put the tort in a plastic tote without lid. In the tote I laid several sheets of newspaper folded to fit the bottom. I put Chug in the box, and completely covered him with shredded newspaper. I put the box in the fridge and laid a cardboard lid on top. With this "ceiling" in place I never had a problem with him trying to climb out.

It's important to load a bunch of stuff into the fridge, in addition to the box. A full fridge runs more efficiently, and in the event of a power failure helps keep it cool for a period of time. I used freezer packs like you put in a cooler, stored some cans of juice, and filled the rest with bottles of water. You can use new ones, or save some bottles to refill. Just keep in mind that these items are not to be used until the tort is out of there.

Re' air...I did not use any air supplement. All I did was open the door and "fan" it daily or every other day.

The nature of thermostats is that usually an exact temp is not maintained. With 50° as your goal, don't be surprised if it varies from ~48 to 52° or thereabouts. That small variation doesn't matter, so unless it's more than that, don't change your settings.

Load the additional items into the fridge now, so they are in place for your temp tweaking prior to brumation.

If your tort is living outside full time, you can use nature to do her cooling before going into the fridge. I did it like this:

As temps began dropping a bit, I closed off Chug's burrows so he had to stay above ground. As it got cooler and the days shorter, he slept more and more. When he stopped eating, I stopped feeding him. He slept in an old igloo dog house during this time...a few inches of plain dirt in the bottom. Any type of hide that the tort likes can be used, as long as you can reach the tort while it's asleep. As the temps got cooler, I let him sleep, and watched the thermometer and weather reports. Eventually he was asleep almost all the time, and I waited for the proper weather prediction. When we had a couple nights with lows in the high 40's, I was ready. The next morning I got up around 3:30-4:00 AM. I went out, picked the sleeping Chug out of the dog house, and carried him straight in to the already prepared box, and into the running fridge. He never knew he had been moved.

This is how I did it, and I think it's the best way to brumate a tort.

Questions are welcome. Just be sure to respond to this post, or tag me. I'm not on every day any more, but I always check notifications. :) :tort:
This is all so fascinating to me, and strange. We don't have Winter!
 

TammyJ

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Is this hibernation thing like cryogenics?
 

KarenSoCal

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This is all so fascinating to me, and strange. We don't have Winter!
We really don't either. What they call winter here is autumn in PA. Here, it:s just a bit cooler than autumn.
Oh, wait! This is autumn now, and temps are still over 100° most days.

I don't know what the seasons are here. 🤔
 

Tom

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Just turned the fridge on for the first time today, trying to get it so it doesn’t have these wide temperature fluctuations, but I think I have not let it sit long enough to stabilize, the temps are all over that place. That’s why I am testing all of this in advance.
Use a box just a little bigger than the tortoise, and stuff as much "stuff" around it and in the rest of the fridge as you can. Really stack it up in there. The more mass you have, the more stable the temperature will remain. The temps will not be stable in an empty fridge. This is one reason why I've never gone the mini-fridge route and always use full size fridges. More reliable and more stable.
 

KarenSoCal

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Use a box just a little bigger than the tortoise, and stuff as much "stuff" around it and in the rest of the fridge as you can. Really stack it up in there. The more mass you have, the more stable the temperature will remain. The temps will not be stable in an empty fridge. This is one reason why I've never gone the mini-fridge route and always use full size fridges. More reliable and more stable.
Of course, you stack them up like pancakes in there, right?

When you only have 1, a full size is hard to justify, despite the validity of your statements re' temp stability. :D
 

Tom

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Of course, you stack them up like pancakes in there, right?

When you only have 1, a full size is hard to justify, despite the validity of your statements re' temp stability. :D
Yes. I stack them and have rows sometimes, but I justified the larger fridge because we use it for other stuff too whether the tortoises are in there or not. Classic "garage fridge".
 

MoreCowbellAz

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Use a box just a little bigger than the tortoise, and stuff as much "stuff" around it and in the rest of the fridge as you can. Really stack it up in there. The more mass you have, the more stable the temperature will remain. The temps will not be stable in an empty fridge. This is one reason why I've never gone the mini-fridge route and always use full size fridges. More reliable and more stable.
Still working on stabilizing temps even tho I have a lot of water bottles in there. the fridge itself seems like a quality unit, I’m tracking the temps and it definitely corresponds to the compressor on/off cycle. When you say put “stuff” around it, do you mean putting some small water bottles in the hibernation box too? Maybe the hibernation boxes too tall even, I thought it was 9 inches tall but it's more like 12. There’s a lot of vacant space in the hibernation box. Maybe I should cut it down a few inches and add another row of water bottles.

This temp thing is kind of making me crazy at the moment, I’m kind of exhausted for the night.

Also, do you think 4 to 5 inches of substrate is about right for the hibernation box?
 

Tom

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Still working on stabilizing temps even tho I have a lot of water bottles in there. the fridge itself seems like a quality unit, I’m tracking the temps and it definitely corresponds to the compressor on/off cycle. When you say put “stuff” around it, do you mean putting some small water bottles in the hibernation box too? Maybe the hibernation boxes too tall even, I thought it was 9 inches tall but it's more like 12. There’s a lot of vacant space in the hibernation box. Maybe I should cut it down a few inches and add another row of water bottles.

This temp thing is kind of making me crazy at the moment, I’m kind of exhausted for the night.

Also, do you think 4 to 5 inches of substrate is about right for the hibernation box?
I like a plastic ox that is just a little larger than the tortoise. I'm not worried about them turning around.

I would not put anything inside the hibernacula, but I'd load that fridge up all around it. This will make it take longer to cool down and stabilize, but it will remain more stable once it does.
 

KarenSoCal

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This temp thing is kind of making me crazy at the moment, I’m kind of exhausted for the night.

Also, do you think 4 to 5 inches of substrate is about right for the hibernation box?
Try to relax about the temp variations. Once you get it filled up with stabilizer stuff, it will settle down and be fine. Mine varied about 2-3° either way from 50°, and it was not a problem. The only problem is when the temp gets really warm, warm enough she wakes up. I don't think that would happen until it got to 60° or higher. A few degrees is not serious. If the cooler is in the interior of your house, you may have a bit more significant variation when you turn on your house furnace. If that happens just turn it a couple degrees lower. Please don't worry....you will be fine.

I did not use substrate, only newspaper, in the box. By the time she goes into the box, she will have had nothing to eat for at least 2 weeks, so isn't likely to poop in the box.

Personally, unless the top of the box is tight against a glass shelf, I would not cut it shorter. If it's against a shelf, maybe you could just remove the shelf. That's what I did.
 

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