Sudden deaths of RF hatchlings

Littleredfootbigredheart

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 28, 2023
Messages
1,465
Location (City and/or State)
UK
There’s definitely a ton I could write, but I’ll try to keep it as brief as possible.

But when they pip I immediately move them off of the incubation medium to hatch onto damp paper towels, and move them to another very humid incubator that I treat as the brooder box Tom mentioned. They live there until their umbilicus completely absorbs. It sort of simulates the time they would spend underground before digging out in the wild. I feed them greens as soon as they come out of the egg and only greens intially so they get taste for it, don’t want picky tortoises lol. The umbilicus is supposed to be their nutrition initially but they will very much eat right away if food is offered, and I feel the sooner to get them eating the better. Also soaked once daily and they drink sooooo deeply especially with that first soak when they first emerge from the egg. After the umbilicus heals over I move into an enclosure, and that’s when they will start to get fruit and protein mixed in with their meals.

Once moved they are of course kept in enclosed chambers 85-90% humidity. I use t5 lighting for UVB and thermostat controlled top-mounted radiant heat panels for heat. I strongly believe uncontrolled intense heat lamps are inappropriate for redfoots especially young babies they are extremely desiccating. I keep radiant heat panels set to about 86 on average. Also lots of cover so they can move in and out of the UVB / light as desired.

As far as feeding and protein I do about 60% greens (plant matter), 30% fruit and 10% protein. The protein sources I tend to use for babies are dried black soldier fly larvae, mushrooms, mazuri (or chicken layer crumbles). I’ve heard some people say that babies shouldn’t have protein, and I don’t know where that comes from. I absolutely have always given babies protein. I do the dried black soldier fly larvae versus live because it seems that they digest them better, when I used to do live, I would find lots of undigested ones in their poo.

Tons of variety in their greens and fruit, I rotate through many different things to ensure variety and also incorporate dried leaves like mulberry, clover etc on top of meals. (Both of these plants are also complete protein sources). I feel that makes their fruit even healthier for them because the dried leaves will stick fantastically to the fruit.

Daily soaks always for all babies. Adequate hydration I feel is one of the most important things.

As far as the babies I actually keep I do all of the same things and keep that up until they reach about 1000g then I feel that they can be treated more like adults and be moved outdoors and not soaked daily anymore, etc. I’m very much an OCD perfectionist and smooth shells only for my babies ❤️ I’ve attached a photo of just a few of my personal youngsters.

I hear lots of breeders / keepers say things like they don’t get this or that in the wild like soaks, etc., but when keeping them captive I believe they should be provided a utopia with every single opportunity for success.

But back to the breeders that are selling them at like 30g, if they don’t care enough to grow them up at all first before sale, Imagine everything else that they are slacking on across the board. So much wrong there and it’s a shame.
Wow! This was a wonderful read, your babies are clearly raised properly and those are some of the most beautiful red foot/cherry heads I’ve ever seen! Their colouring and marble patterns are stunning!!😍
 

cooky_luvs

Member
10 Year Member!
Joined
Aug 17, 2013
Messages
84
Location (City and/or State)
Garland, Texas
Wow! This was a wonderful read, your babies are clearly raised properly and those are some of the most beautiful red foot/cherry heads I’ve ever seen! Their colouring and marble patterns are stunning!!😍
Thank you ❤️ that youngster in the left middle is the first one I ever hatched. She’s about three years old now. When she first hatched, I was absolutely adamant that she would never pyramid, anything less than perfectly smooth was unacceptable in my mind lol and I hit these forums like crazy so these forums have been a major help! The ones I raised up before then like the mother of that baby were still pretty good and only the mildest pyramiding but hatching them myself made me feel even more responsible and determined. I’m glad it has all been paying off!
 

Littleredfootbigredheart

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 28, 2023
Messages
1,465
Location (City and/or State)
UK
Thank you ❤️ that youngster in the left middle is the first one I ever hatched. She’s about three years old now. When she first hatched, I was absolutely adamant that she would never pyramid, anything less than perfectly smooth was unacceptable in my mind lol and I hit these forums like crazy so these forums have been a major help! The ones I raised up before then like the mother of that baby were still pretty good and only the mildest pyramiding but hatching them myself made me feel even more responsible and determined. I’m glad it has all been paying off!
You’re doing a great job and it shows! hats off to you🥰
 

Alex and the Redfoot

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2023
Messages
2,342
Location (City and/or State)
Cyprus
There’s definitely a ton I could write, but I’ll try to keep it as brief as possible.

But when they pip I immediately move them off of the incubation medium to hatch onto damp paper towels, and move them to another very humid incubator that I treat as the brooder box Tom mentioned. They live there until their umbilicus completely absorbs. It sort of simulates the time they would spend underground before digging out in the wild. I feed them greens as soon as they come out of the egg and only greens intially so they get taste for it, don’t want picky tortoises lol. The umbilicus is supposed to be their nutrition initially but they will very much eat right away if food is offered, and I feel the sooner to get them eating the better. Also soaked once daily and they drink sooooo deeply especially with that first soak when they first emerge from the egg. After the umbilicus heals over I move into an enclosure, and that’s when they will start to get fruit and protein mixed in with their meals.

Once moved they are of course kept in enclosed chambers 85-90% humidity. I use t5 lighting for UVB and thermostat controlled top-mounted radiant heat panels for heat. I strongly believe uncontrolled intense heat lamps are inappropriate for redfoots especially young babies they are extremely desiccating. I keep radiant heat panels set to about 86 on average. Also lots of cover so they can move in and out of the UVB / light as desired.

As far as feeding and protein I do about 60% greens (plant matter), 30% fruit and 10% protein. The protein sources I tend to use for babies are dried black soldier fly larvae, mushrooms, mazuri (or chicken layer crumbles). I’ve heard some people say that babies shouldn’t have protein, and I don’t know where that comes from. I absolutely have always given babies protein. I do the dried black soldier fly larvae versus live because it seems that they digest them better, when I used to do live, I would find lots of undigested ones in their poo.

Tons of variety in their greens and fruit, I rotate through many different things to ensure variety and also incorporate dried leaves like mulberry, clover etc on top of meals. (Both of these plants are also complete protein sources). I feel that makes their fruit even healthier for them because the dried leaves will stick fantastically to the fruit.

Daily soaks always for all babies. Adequate hydration I feel is one of the most important things.

As far as the babies I actually keep I do all of the same things and keep that up until they reach about 1000g then I feel that they can be treated more like adults and be moved outdoors and not soaked daily anymore, etc. I’m very much an OCD perfectionist and smooth shells only for my babies ❤️ I’ve attached a photo of just a few of my personal youngsters.

I hear lots of breeders / keepers say things like they don’t get this or that in the wild like soaks, etc., but when keeping them captive I believe they should be provided a utopia with every single opportunity for success.

But back to the breeders that are selling them at like 30g, if they don’t care enough to grow them up at all first before sale, Imagine everything else that they are slacking on across the board. So much wrong there and it’s a shame.
Thank you for taking your time to write it all! Tortoises are absolutely gorgeous!

Noted on black soldier fly larvae. They have great nutritional value and Ca-P ratio.. Earthworms should be great too...

What UVB lamps do you use? Or even better - what UVI level do you target for them? As this is another controversial topic (from 0 to typical Testudo UVI 3-4 are recommended in various sources).

I absolutely agree on providing "utopia" for them. Otherwise we should better let them be in the wild...
 

wendigo

Member
Joined
Aug 10, 2021
Messages
38
Location (City and/or State)
Florida
Disease, disease, disease.

There are so many known tortoise diseases out there. New ones are being described and diseases that are associated with other type of reptiles are jumping to tortoises.

Not enough people submit dead animals for necropsy and not enough veterinarians know what they are looking at when performing them. Add to this, not all labs know how to run the diagnostic tests to screen for diseases or know what they are looking at with histology. Too many people who breed tortoises continue to sell animals after finding out that they have serious disease in their collection. People considered reputable, members of this forum, veterinarians even...

Cryptosporidium wipes out hatchling tortoises and the symptoms look EXACTLY like what this forum speculates is an improperly started tortoise. Testing for Crypto is likely to cost several times the price of the tortoise so it is almost never done. If it is diagnosed it likely cannot be treated and it not easy to clean up after. Older animals are less impacted so they continue to breed and spread disease.

TINC and probably Cryptosporidium are rampant in Florida collections. Redfoots and Galapagos are being hit particularly hard. I have had a few conversations with people from the Zoo world and there is concern about the future of tortoises in captivity with the near ubiquitous state of disease. In Florida, TINC infected Galapagos have become the norm.

I try not to get too negative about this but the situation sucks. Buying a tortoise is a roll of the dice, it doesn't matter how the tortoise was started if its sick.
What testing would you recommend for Florida keepers who will eventually have breeding tortoises (yellowfoots and Burmese star)? I just got my entire collections fecals tested. If there are other things I should be testing for, especially in breeding groups, I’d love to get started on that.
 

Christi13

New Member
Joined
Jul 5, 2024
Messages
5
Location (City and/or State)
Las Vegas
Hello!
I've been hanging around the forum for a while and one thing strikes me: there is a fair amount of topics on RF hatchlings dying unexpectedly.

Cases look similar:
1. Hatchling is several months old. Often bought from a pet store or reptile expo. Weight 30-35g.
2. Within 1-2 months of living in the new home tortoise stops eating, becomes less active and passes away. No obvious symptoms like blood, discharges, worms in feces, seizures and whatever else.

I assume that "hatchling failure syndrome" like with arid and semi-arid species is less likely to happen.

Another assumption is that we have statistics games: there are more RFs bought and deaths ratio is the same as with other species (and we get less messages from happily growing tortoises owners).

Nevertheless, maybe anyone has ideas what is happening and what we should pay attention to? Common husbandry risks like using moss are known. But may be there are others common flaws in starting RF babies? Or common diseases affecting tortoise babies without obvious symptoms?
I have hatchlings well about a year old and my boy just got sick recently and is on antibiotics. Just got swollen and lethargic and didn’t want to eat. Doing better now though.
 

Alex and the Redfoot

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2023
Messages
2,342
Location (City and/or State)
Cyprus
I have hatchlings well about a year old and my boy just got sick recently and is on antibiotics. Just got swollen and lethargic and didn’t want to eat. Doing better now though.
I'm glad he is getting better and you've got him to the vet on time! Can you post an update to your older thread? And some details there: what antibiotics were prescribed, what diagnosis and such.
 

cooky_luvs

Member
10 Year Member!
Joined
Aug 17, 2013
Messages
84
Location (City and/or State)
Garland, Texas
Thank you for taking your time to write it all! Tortoises are absolutely gorgeous!

Noted on black soldier fly larvae. They have great nutritional value and Ca-P ratio.. Earthworms should be great too...

What UVB lamps do you use? Or even better - what UVI level do you target for them? As this is another controversial topic (from 0 to typical Testudo UVI 3-4 are recommended in various sources).

I absolutely agree on providing "utopia" for them. Otherwise we should better let them be in the wild...


Anywhere from 1.0 - 3.0 on the UVI but the most important key in my opinion is that they have ways to escape the light if they don’t want it so that it’s a choice. Safe fake plants or real depending on the enclosure. I use arcadia t5s. I really don’t worry about the UVB too much for redfoots as it’s definitely somewhat questionable if redfoots really need it or how much but I like to have it set up in a way that if they want it, it’s there.

I have an older wildcaught female that actively seeks UVB when indoors for the winter. Every morning she wakes up before the timer turns on the lights, and she positions herself at the best basking spot under the UVB. I do believe UVB is important, but the set ups should allow for them to actively make the choice. The fact that the wildcaught female seeks the UVB so actively somewhat convinces me. I also don’t provide any heated basking areas (I use hot oil heaters in the adult shed that are not located near the uvb) so she is actively seeking the light / UVB and not basking for heat.

Earthworms would also be good, but they are a bit too large for hatchlings. Yes I could cut them up, but not my favorite thing to do 🤣🤣
 

cooky_luvs

Member
10 Year Member!
Joined
Aug 17, 2013
Messages
84
Location (City and/or State)
Garland, Texas
What testing would you recommend for Florida keepers who will eventually have breeding tortoises (yellowfoots and Burmese star)? I just got my entire collections fecals tested. If there are other things I should be testing for, especially in breeding groups, I’d love to get started on that.

You can do testing directly through RAL and save a ton vs going through the Vet. The tortoise respiratory panel covers a few good things to check for.

 

Attachments

  • IMG_1695.jpeg
    IMG_1695.jpeg
    311.5 KB · Views: 1

dd33

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Sep 22, 2018
Messages
564
Location (City and/or State)
Florida
What testing would you recommend for Florida keepers who will eventually have breeding tortoises (yellowfoots and Burmese star)? I just got my entire collections fecals tested. If there are other things I should be testing for, especially in breeding groups, I’d love to get started on that.
This is a tough question. Two diseases of concern, TINC and Cryptosporidium can only be detected if the animal is actively shedding the parasite. If the animal survives its initial bout with either disease it is unknown how long it can remain hidden for but the animal is likely a carrier for life. As I have mentioned before there is a published report of some redfoots breaking down with TINC 14 months after changing owners. I have personally seen confirmed TINC positive animals test negative repeatedly over a period of 16 months after being treated with ponazuril. I have also seen animals housed with TINC positive animals, get sick and still never test positive for TINC during that same 16 months.

If you had asked me two years ago about how long to quarantine and test for TINC I would say two years of quarterly testing. I do not believe that to be the case anymore. If you have the money for it, there is no harm in screening all of your animals multiple times each year. I suspect this will be a necessity for tortoise breeders in the future.

In the mean time, it is probably best to avoid breeding multiple species of tortoises on the same property. It sounds like you already have two. Definitely don't add any more. I would close your collection off as quickly as possible. Don't continue buying animals from multiple people. If you bring in more, keep them separate forever. Ask the breeders a million questions. Ask if they test for anything. Ask if they have EVER had a tortoise die and don't buy from them unless they can show you the necropsy paperwork. Ask how many other species they breed. Ask if they actually bred this tortoise or if they are just reselling someone elses animal.
Be extremely diligent about biosecurity. Keep completely separate dishes, equipment, everything for each species and each group within the species. We don't know exactly how to sanitize things that come into contact with some diseases. Soap and water is not going to be enough. Wear different shoes in each pen. Pick up all poops in the pens twice a day, every day and dispose of them.

Find a good vet that will work with UF. If you had a vet do fecals and they just looked at them with a microscope and gave you a clean bill of health its already time to find a different vet.

If you want to run regular quarantine tests, the CQP panel from UF is going to be the best choice: https://cdpm.vetmed.ufl.edu/services/zmdxlab/available-tests/chelonian-tests-and-panels/
Your vet needs to collect the samples and submit them though so it will get very costly.

edited to add: if you ever have a tortoise die it is imperative that a necropsy is performed by a competent veterinarian and that samples are sent off for histology to an experienced lab. A simple necropsy identifying the cause of death as liver/kidney failure, respiratory disease or impaction is not enough. There is going to be an underlying issue there that must be determined.
 
Last edited:

dd33

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Sep 22, 2018
Messages
564
Location (City and/or State)
Florida
You can do testing directly through RAL and save a ton vs going through the Vet. The tortoise respiratory panel covers a few good things to check for.

RAL cannot test for TINC, I have asked them about it. I have not asked if they can test for Cryptosporidium ducismarci but that species is not listed on their form. I will ask if I see them again at the Daytona show next month.
I wouldn't trust any lab other than UF for those two tests even if they specifically claim to be able to perform them.
 

cooky_luvs

Member
10 Year Member!
Joined
Aug 17, 2013
Messages
84
Location (City and/or State)
Garland, Texas
RAL cannot test for TINC, I have asked them about it. I have not asked if they can test for Cryptosporidium ducismarci but that species is not listed on their form. I will ask if I see them again at the Daytona show next month.
I wouldn't trust any lab other than UF for those two tests even if they specifically claim to be able to perform them.
Good to know. I knew the RAL test doesn’t check for everything but it’s just some good things to check for but didn’t know of the other company. I’ll have to save that info.
 

wendigo

Member
Joined
Aug 10, 2021
Messages
38
Location (City and/or State)
Florida
This is a tough question. Two diseases of concern, TINC and Cryptosporidium can only be detected if the animal is actively shedding the parasite. If the animal survives its initial bout with either disease it is unknown how long it can remain hidden for but the animal is likely a carrier for life. As I have mentioned before there is a published report of some redfoots breaking down with TINC 14 months after changing owners. I have personally seen confirmed TINC positive animals test negative repeatedly over a period of 16 months after being treated with ponazuril. I have also seen animals housed with TINC positive animals, get sick and still never test positive for TINC during that same 16 months.

If you had asked me two years ago about how long to quarantine and test for TINC I would say two years of quarterly testing. I do not believe that to be the case anymore. If you have the money for it, there is no harm in screening all of your animals multiple times each year. I suspect this will be a necessity for tortoise breeders in the future.

In the mean time, it is probably best to avoid breeding multiple species of tortoises on the same property. It sounds like you already have two. Definitely don't add any more. I would close your collection off as quickly as possible. Don't continue buying animals from multiple people. If you bring in more, keep them separate forever. Ask the breeders a million questions. Ask if they test for anything. Ask if they have EVER had a tortoise die and don't buy from them unless they can show you the necropsy paperwork. Ask how many other species they breed. Ask if they actually bred this tortoise or if they are just reselling someone elses animal.
Be extremely diligent about biosecurity. Keep completely separate dishes, equipment, everything for each species and each group within the species. We don't know exactly how to sanitize things that come into contact with some diseases. Soap and water is not going to be enough. Wear different shoes in each pen. Pick up all poops in the pens twice a day, every day and dispose of them.

Find a good vet that will work with UF. If you had a vet do fecals and they just looked at them with a microscope and gave you a clean bill of health its already time to find a different vet.

If you want to run regular quarantine tests, the CQP panel from UF is going to be the best choice: https://cdpm.vetmed.ufl.edu/services/zmdxlab/available-tests/chelonian-tests-and-panels/
Your vet needs to collect the samples and submit them though so it will get very costly.

edited to add: if you ever have a tortoise die it is imperative that a necropsy is performed by a competent veterinarian and that samples are sent off for histology to an experienced lab. A simple necropsy identifying the cause of death as liver/kidney failure, respiratory disease or impaction is not enough. There is going to be an underlying issue there that must be determined.
Are there certain species that are more susceptible to specific diseases? How common are asymptomatic carriers? I'm willing to do tests, but want to do testing that makes the most sense rather than scattershot testing everyone. Is the best set of tests the quarantine panel? When I did fecals I tested by groups, so each group that lives together got a sample tested - would it be sufficient to do the same with these tests? Thanks for taking the time to give such a detailed response.
 

dd33

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Sep 22, 2018
Messages
564
Location (City and/or State)
Florida
Are there certain species that are more susceptible to specific diseases?

I don't know the answer to that question. I can say that some diseases affect different species in different ways. I have been told that TINC generally impacts New and Old World tortoises a bit differently. In some species it will present itself as a respiratory based issue and devastate the lungs and eyes and in others it will show up as a gastric issue and wreak havoc on the the animals gut. I have been told that Cryptosporidium, specifically ducismarci also affects different parts of the digestive tract in different species of tortoises. From what I know or have been told TINC has been found in most types of tortoises and even a few turtles. Known problem species are Galapagos (major issue), Radiated (major issue, disease originally found in this species), Hingebacks (major issue), Redfoots, Leopards and Stars. It has been found in Testudo sp, yellow foots, and sulcatas as well. I don't think it has been found in Aldabras yet. I know a bit less about Crypto but it is probably more widespread.

How common are asymptomatic carriers?
Who knows, probably exceptionally common though. I can tell you that I have somewhere between 20 and 52 of them on my property alone. They are not positive today but if they were moved to a new collection and stressed, they could theoretically begin shedding and wipe out naive tortoises starting about 45-60 days later. It appears that TINC is not vertically transmitted. If you are starting with young hatchlings that never had contact with adult tortoises you are probably safe. It is much riskier to add larger animals that have been co-mingled with others.


I'm willing to do tests, but want to do testing that makes the most sense rather than scattershot testing everyone. Is the best set of tests the quarantine panel? When I did fecals I tested by groups, so each group that lives together got a sample tested - would it be sufficient to do the same with these tests? Thanks for taking the time to give such a detailed response.
With pcr and qpcr tests, you can run multiple animals in one sample. We currently batch 4 animals at a time for TINC testing via qpcr. I know that Cryptospordium can be run the same way. I don't know about Myco, Herpes and Ranavirus. I am also not sure if the last three would require serial testing the same way TINC and Crypto would.

I am not a vet and I wouldn't consider myself an expert on this subject. We keep three species of tortoises and were unlucky enough to get both TINC and Crypto amongst other things. We have treated dozens of tortoises literally thousands of times for TINC over the last ~two years. We've had a lot of time to communicate with vets and other people who are dealing with TINC.
 

New Posts

Top