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Sulcata wandered into my life, need help with heat source.

Discussion in 'Sulcata tortoises' started by Ellie Mae, Nov 27, 2015.

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  1. Ellie Mae

    Ellie Mae Member

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    A friend found a sulcata in the road, and we haven't been able to locate his owner, so he has been gifted to me! (he's about 18 inches and 40 lbs.) I have a lot of other animals, horses, pig, donkeys, goat, fowl but this is my first tortoise. I have given the goat's dogloo to the tortoise for his warm house. I live in Southern California so it won't be that hard to keep it warm. Right now I have a halogen flood light hanging from the top and it's between 70 and 80 degrees inside. Is it safe to use a regular halogen? Is an infrared better? I know I will have other questions but right now it's most important to get him warm and comfy. Thanks in advance for any input.
  2. mike taylor

    mike taylor Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    That's a bad idea they burn and dry out the shell . A oil filled heater is way better . We use plywood boxes with a oil filled heater inside . Check out the sulcata section of the forum Tom tells you everything you will need to know and more .
  3. Team Gomberg

    Team Gomberg IXOYE 5 Year Member

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    Welcome to TFO! And welcome to the fun world of tortoise ownership.

    If you already have that many animals, adding a Sulcata to the mix won't be that hard :) you already get that each animal has specific needs and providing for them properly is rewarding.

    Many people start off with a light in a dogloo. It seems like a good idea until you understand more about the way they warm up, the heat loss through the dog doors etc.
    Don't feel bad, many start that way. I do suggest you stay open to suggestions so we can help you provide for your new pet properly.

    I'll let others chime in but you can start reading through past posts looking up things like:
    Heated night boxes
    Good foods to feed
    Shallow dishes for drinking and self soaking
    And prepare for future burrows. What's safe what's risky.

    Hope this helps!
  4. Alaskamike

    Alaskamike Well-Known Member

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    I do believe you could use a ceramic heat bulb. They give off no light - just heat.
    Depending on size & height, insulation. I would use a 60 watt. It needs to be 14" from top of his shell IMO to avoid drying / overheating him.

    The oil heater is a better idea , but then you would need to build it.

    Another possibility , which I use is a Hound Heater.
    You can look those up on Internet
  5. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Hello and welcome. Congrats on the new tortoise.

    I'm in SoCal too and a Dogloo with a heat lamp is not going to be warm enough. Dog houses are not designed for tortoises and they don't work well. Also, as Mike said, heat lamps and ceramic heating elements used in this sort of set up will slow-burn the top of the carapace, while still not warming the rest of the tortoise's body enough on a cold night.

    I've tried all sorts of different things over decades of keeping sulcatas here. I've also observed the way hundreds of other people around here have attempted it. Here is the end product of all that time, effort, trial and error, and observation.
    http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/my-best-night-box-design-yet.66867/
    http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/another-night-box-thread.88966/
    http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/double-door-night-box.129054/

    I hope we can help.
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  6. Ellie Mae

    Ellie Mae Member

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    Thanks and thanks! He's about 70 to 75 in the dogloo and that should do for tonight but am looking forward to reading all about the night boxes and getting the benefit of everyone else's research ; ))
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  7. Ellie Mae

    Ellie Mae Member

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    OK, I see lights aren't the best answer. Plus last night he left the dog loo (it wasn't too hot) and burrowed back into a giant flower pot. I'm on the hunt for a CHE today, but I'm uncomfortable using one of those or a heater because he is in the goat stall and bedded on straw. (big fire hazard?) So I guess I will have to move him but he likes to burrow so am wondering what I could use for bedding material that isn't flammable???
  8. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    A CHE does the same thing as a Bulb, but with no light. Its not suitable. Its going to burn the top of the shell. Look at this thread. This is what happens when people use over head heat like light bulbs and CHE: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/open-topped-pyramided-scute.19691/ I've seen this many more times since that old thread.

    Your tortoise needs to be contained at night and not given the choice to go out in the cold. You are courting disaster there. If you don't remedy this situation ASAP you are likely going to end up with a sick or dead tortoise.
  9. Ellie Mae

    Ellie Mae Member

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    The 150 W CHE barely does anything to warm the igloo. Now have heard from good authority that heating pads aren't good because that's where their organs are, below. People tell me to let him burrow in hay and throw blankets over him, have him in a barn where it has been getting below 60. It will take a while before I'm able to build a night box but even so, am still confused as to heat source I will be using. Now that it's winter, do I leave the heat, whether it be a heater, pad or some light, on 24/7 or should be be outside on cooler days without access to warmth (besides burrowing) Perhaps I'm overthinking this...??
  10. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Hi Ellie Mae, and welcome to the Forum!

    I think a night box with infra red heat panels would suit your purpose. I have one that was built for me:

    night house a.jpg

    night house b.jpg

    This is for smaller tortoises, so sit has a small door. Yours will need a bigger door, and you don't need much space inside because he's only going to use it at night time and won't be roaming around inside it.
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  11. Team Gomberg

    Team Gomberg IXOYE 5 Year Member

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    Hmm...
    Burrowing in hay with blankets thrown over him could work if we were taking about a mammal. Because a warm blooded mammal creates their own heat and the blankets would trap that heat in. Like us under the covers at night!
    But because your tortoise is cold blooded and does not create its own heat, heat from a source must be provided.

    I know this seems confusing. We are just trying to spare you from trial and error and spare your tortoise from burns or health risks from being too cold.
    SarahChelonoidis likes this.
  12. Ellie Mae

    Ellie Mae Member

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    Yes, I wondered about that. I have someone coming today that will help me retrofit a very big old doghouse and have decided to use an oil based radiator that I have, hope that will be the solution. I read people use hay with the radiators, probably wouldn't be a fire danger...am also thinking sand and shavings. Any preferences for bedding material? The doghouse has a wood floor, we could put something on it to water proof it.
  13. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Sand is an irritant, I wouldn't use that. You can build a little fence in front of the heater to keep bedding away from it. I don't use bedding in my tortoise sheds and they do fine without it. It's way easier to keep clean with no bedding.
  14. mike taylor

    mike taylor Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    I agree with Yvonne way easier to keep clean . Sulcatas poop and pee a lot and it smells . A oil filled heater will do the job . Just build a little wall so the tortoise can't get to it . I have Two 80 lbs sulcatas in a 4/4 heated house they're doing fine .
  15. Alaskamike

    Alaskamike Well-Known Member

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    Yes ... They will just sit on plywood w/o problems. I put Or hard hay in mine for bedding but -- I change it out every 2 weeks
  16. Ellie Mae

    Ellie Mae Member

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    Doghouse repurposed to Tortoise nightbox, the oil heater seems to work very well, thanks for all of the input, I can now sleep easier ;))
  17. Team Gomberg

    Team Gomberg IXOYE 5 Year Member

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    I love having substrate in my house. Sure people have been using plain plywood bottoms but I wanted substrate.

    I have a wood and hardware cloth divider to keep substrate away from my radiator.
    I lined the plywood with vinyl floor tiles and caulked the edges. I keep damp coco coir and recently coco husk in there and my leopard "snuggles" into it.

    In hind sight, I'd have made the substrate deeper so he could bury down more now that he's larger.

    219c95k.jpg

    2015-07-08_15.28.17-1.jpg

    I need a recent photo now that I've added the husk

    I've also been debating adding sphagnum moss. It'll give him the "hay like" fiber to bury into without the drying factor and without the risk of mold.
    Ellie Mae likes this.
  18. Ellie Mae

    Ellie Mae Member

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    Nice; yes it definitely seems that they prefer something to burrow in.
    Team Gomberg likes this.
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