Thinking about adding a tort to the family...could use some opinions!

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StarSapphire22

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Hello!

My name is Jessica and I live in North Dakota. My fiance and I have been talking about adding a tortoise to the family and I could really use some advice! Thanks to living in an apartment and living in North Dakota, a large species is out of the question and an outdoor enclosure isn't an option at this point...but we may be open to one in a few years once we own a house. We do plan on taking the tortoise outside when weather permits though, for some snacks and exploring time. :) I just have some questions on selecting a breed, setup size, care, etc.

We are first time tortoise owners, but I do work in a pet store and have basic reptile knowledge and also care for the Russian tortoises in store as well as other reptilian species...so I'm not a COMPLETE tortoise noob, at least. I have also been doing lots of research on Testudo and Redfoot care (probably around 20 hours put in within the last week or so) and I've been lurking a bit on the forums around here. ;)

We would be constructing a tortoise table no matter what breed we get, and I'd like it to be something fairly long term. I'd also like to get my tortoise fairly young, so I can experience raising it from a little one. I've read from many of you that hatchlings can be difficult to successfully raise...and honestly, I'd be nervous about keeping the very young ones I've seen on some sites. At what stage is it really out of the woods in that regard? I was thinking a tortoise somewhere between 4-9 months old would be nice. Not extremely young, but still a baby. What are thoughts from those of you who have raised hatchlings before? And can I keep a hatchling in too big of an enclosure...is there such a thing? If I could build an enclosure that is what it needs at full grown size or at least close to it so that I only need to upgrade once...that would be ideal. However, if a hatchling would be too insecure in such a large space, etc...obviously I just want whats best for him/her.

The breed I like most is the Redfoot. However, I have concerns about its adult size and the space it needs, as well as humidity. I've read that tortoises won't be adults until somewhere between 5-10 years, and that a adult redfoot needs a minimum of a 4'x8'. Hopefully within 5 years, my fiance and I will have a house and more space, but as of right now, the absolute largest we could do is about 3'x9', give or take a few inches. Would this work for an adult redfoot? I've also read that Cherryheads tend to be slightly smaller...would this be a better bet for us? Are the only differences the size and coloration?

As far as humidity goes, we were thinking a tortoise table with a wired top to allow airflow and keep out our cats. It would also have to be in our living room, which is where our AC unit is mounted into the wall. The table would be across the room from the unit, but would this pose an issue? We're open to manually misting but we've also talked about installing a rain sort-of system...something like this one. What are your thoughts on systems like these? Have they been used with the more tropical tortoises with success?

If it turns out a Redfoot is really something we can't manage, our other favorite is a Hermann's. What size table is recommended by members here for them? I've read a lot of conflicting opinions there.

Which breed do you prefer and why? I understand that tortoises don't necessarily have personality like a dog or cat does, but which is the most people-friendly/outgoing in your experience?

Also, what happens if we need to go out of town? Obviously for something like a week, we'd have someone stop in to care for them, but if we left for a weekend, if we fed them Friday before leaving and again Sunday when after coming back, would they be ok?

Other thoughts, tips, product recommendations, etc. are appreciated. Also, if anyone has links to reputable breeders for either variety (or has some they are willing to sell/ship), I'd greatly appreciate it! I look forward to learning from you all! Thanks! :)
 

Tom

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Hello and welcome. That's a whole lotta questions... Most of what your are asking will be peoples opinions. You might like some and not others. I'll try to hit most of your questions.

All tortoises need some outside time. The older and bigger they are the more they need. Having them run loose in an apartment type courtyard situation is a recipe for disaster in many way in my experience. I think some other reptile will suit you better until you live in a house with a yard that you have exclusive control over.

It is near impossible to maintain humidity in an open table, unless you keep the entire room warm and humid all the time. Any of the Testudo will do fine in a large open table, including the hermanni. You will likely need a humid hide though. I think 3x9' is too small for a red foot, but fine for a hermanns or russian.

Rain systems could prove problematic for a RF as they are prone to shell rot if kept too damp too much of the time.

It will be difficult, but not impossible to find a tortoise of that age range for sale. People sell of the hatchlings as fast as they can, or keep holdbacks for longer than that age. Adults are sometimes sold, but it is lees common to see a 4-9 month old for sale. It won't hurt to look. You just might find one, but don't be surprised if it takes a while.

I like to start hatchlings with higher humidity and this is more easily accomplished in something with taller sides and a covered top. It will be very difficult in an open topped table. If you can maintain the correct temps and humidity in a large enclosure, they are fine for babies. I start sulcata hatchlings in a 4x8' closed chamber. I think the exercise is good for them.

Both of the species you mentioned tend to have outgoing unafraid personalities as adults. THey can both be somewhat "dog-like" in some people's estimation. There are no tortoise "breeds", just different species.

There are strategies that can be used for leaving them for the weekend, but its still a risk. I they flip, or there is a problem with a bulb, it could be disastrous. Just know its a risk, but if done correctly, it is usually fine.

That is all I've got for you for now, but keep asking lots more questions.
 

reatrocity

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Welcome! :) I'm a newbie but I guess I can help you with some questions I've seen since I've been here.

I think if you want to build a large adult size enclosure for a hatchling, what you can do is just section it off, and allow for more space as the tort grows. I'm doing great with one of those large under the bed plastic bins I got at Target for 19 dollars or so. Could probably get it cheaper elsewhere. I did have the same concern with the air system unit, as I decided for my tortoise to be in the living room to be with us as much as possible. It did not pose a problem at all in regards to temperature. I guess it also depends how cold you like to keep it. The cool side on my tort table (for my Hermann's) never gets below his normal cool side temp (73-77ish) and I have my AC running all the time (I keep the temp with my AC higher at night). When it comes to humidity, having an open tort table may be difficult to control the humidity, but I'm going to leave that to the experts.

For Hermann's generally a 6'4 seems to be the recommended minimum, but of course, it's always the bigger you can make it, the better.

I would take what I say with a grain of salt, but personally, if size is a concern... I would definitely go with a smaller species such as a Hermann's if you're not completely set on another species and still on the fence. You never know what your situation will be like in a few years, so it's better safe than sorry. This is purely my own personal opinion though. By all means get a redfoot if your heart desires it and you're certain you'll be able to give it a good home no matter how big it gets. Cherryheads are smaller but not by much. For me-- I got a baby Hermann's. They are always recommended as a great beginner tort, and are beautiful and personable to boot. I definitely don't regret my choice. I got a hatchling, and as a beginner I feel I'm doing great so far for my tort... as long as you do lots of reading and ask for advice, and follow through with the advice, you should be fine. Just of course, make sure to buy from a reputable breeder. :) A tort raised well in it's first couple months would likely make a world of difference for a beginner (like me!). I could tell with my tort he was well taken care of and pretty fearless, with lots of spunk!

Do remember that they need to be outside at least some, and away from predators. Many people seem to do okay keeping their tortoise inside year round, but natural sunlight as much as possible is what you should strive for.

Anyway, I wish I could be of more help, particularly for redfoots and cherryheads, but I've never owned one so I can't say much about them. Looking forward to seeing what some of the other guys/gals have to say! Good luck! You're already doing awesome by doing your research *before* buying a tort. Hope to see you around!


P.S. Look at my baby tort. Yup, I know, irresistible. You know you want one. ;) Hahahah.
 

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Welcome to the forum! You've asked a lot of great questions and are off to a great start by researching info on this forum. http://www.tortoiselibrary.com has a lot of info that helped me with redfoots. Mark, the guy who runs the site, added other species of tortoises on there as well. I only have limited experience (6 months so far) with my reds. The one thing that stood out to me in your post was about the AC. Redfoots need high humidity at all times. The AC would lower the humidity dramatically and could blow cold air into an open top tortoise enclosure. If you wanted to keep redfoots, I'd strongly suggest a "closed chamber" setup. You also mentioned if an enclosure can be too big for a baby. My enclosure is 6'x9', but since they're babies, I have a board that divides the space in half (3'x9'). When they start getting bigger, I'll get to have fun when I remove the board and add more plants and hiding spots. The other thing you mentioned was vacations. I'd say if you had your heat elements on thermostats, lights on timers, multiple water sources and vegetation, then you should be safe for the weekend. I'm unsure of the week vacation thing; there are many horror stories posted on the forums about trusting someone to watch their tort while on vacation only to find an empty water dish, a super hungry tort, or worse. Hope this helps, and check out the link that I posted. Good luck!
 

StarSapphire22

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Ha! Sorry for the zillion questions. I am a big worrier when it comes to animals, and am always trying to provide the absolute best care, nutrition, etc....drives my fiance nuts when he wakes up in the middle of the night to find me googling cat food ingredients or checking on a sick fish (I have a 75 gallon tank that, until recently, housed 5 massive fancy goldfish).

The plan was to let them run in a pen outside when we could, since we don't use pesticides that I know of, but I read your thread with the kiddie pool...absolute genius and much safer! I think we would set something like that up early in the spring with some plants and stuff and let him run around in that in the front "yard" of our building....keep it in our garage when not in use, and take it down when it gets colder. Or maybe we'll visit my mother-in-law's yard once in a while...no sprays and I know she'd love the help with some "weeding!" LOL!

I'd be open to a non-table setup, or ideas to allow air-circulation in a table while maintaining humidity, if someone could point me in the right direction to other builds that may work. All I've seen is tables and I read that aquariums/terrariums are bad because they can ram the glass?

It's not that I don't LIKE Hermanns...I do! But I've just fallen in love with the Redfoots...I love the color, and the ability to feed them a few more things (that probably sounds dumb, haha), and I love decorating habitats for animals and I would love the ability to make a lush habitat for a tropical animal. And since I will be with this animal for a long, long time, I want one that I will be truly happy with long-term. BUT, ultimately, I want a healthy, happy tortoise...if I don't think I can provide that for a Redfoot, than Hermanns it is.

Reatrocity, thanks for the input on Hermanns! And you are right...your baby is SO adorable! ;) How old was yours when you got it and how big was it/is it?

Thanks so much for the other info, everyone!
 

StarSapphire22

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...I had a thought. I was planning on scrapping my 75 gallon fish setup and selling it off on CL...if I cleaned it out super well (and obviously got the lights and other components I'm missing)...could it work for my tortoise? It doesn't have a lid now, but I could buy/make one and make more of a vivarium setup. Or would the glass be bad? That's what I read everywhere, but people seem to be doing it successfully here without papering off the bottom of their tank, etc. How long would I be able to house either species in a tank that size? It's 48x18x21, I think?

Thanks!
 

Yvonne G

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Hi Jessica, and welcome to the Forum!
 

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StarSapphire22 said:
...I had a thought. I was planning on scrapping my 75 gallon fish setup and selling it off on CL...if I cleaned it out super well (and obviously got the lights and other components I'm missing)...could it work for my tortoise? It doesn't have a lid now, but I could buy/make one and make more of a vivarium setup. Or would the glass be bad? That's what I read everywhere, but people seem to be doing it successfully here without papering off the bottom of their tank, etc. How long would I be able to house either species in a tank that size? It's 48x18x21, I think?

Thanks!

Hello and Welcome:). I think the hermanns would be better suited for you at this point. If you knew 100% that you would have your own house in a year or two then a RF would be okay to get now as a baby. The aquarium for a young one would be fine. It's old school thinking that glass is bad. Also, be careful on reading other websites on raising tortoises. A whole lot of new correct info has been discovered in the last five years and most breeders, pet stores, vets and other websites have not caught on yet. Good luck in your search.
 

StarSapphire22

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That's great to know! My fiance has been a little reluctant about getting a tortoise, cost being one of his big concerns, plus neither of us are super handy at building things...so if I can repurpose my tank for a while, hooray! How long could I keep a Hermanns in there?

Were not sure when we will be getting a house. Our goal is within 5 years...after we get married next summer and work on our credit a bit and figure out where we'd like to live...he has family near Atlanta, so moving is a big possibility. 3 years is probably the very soonest for owning, though we might rent one before then. Never know what's gonna happen! :)

Perhaps a better question would be what do you all think a minimum size enclosure is for an adult redfoot? We can make a roomier one and an outdoor area when we have a house, but for now...?

Also, how often do you all recommend cleaning their habitat, and how do you do it?

Thanks again! :)
 

Levi the Leopard

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Re: RE: Thinking about adding a tort to the family...could use some opinions!

StarSapphire22 said:
Also, is it safe to keep fake plants in the enclosure?

I have always kept fake plants in my indoor enclosures. The plants look real to us but not to them. They won't eat it but will enjoy hiding in it.

Sent from my TFOapp
 

Tom

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StarSapphire22 said:
Also, is it safe to keep fake plants in the enclosure?

All of my tortoises always try to eat fake plants.


A note on ventilation. You've mentioned it twice, so you must have read somewhere that this is important. Redfoots need high humidity but a dry-ish substrate. The air in any normal air conditioned or heated house is just too cool and dry for this. An open top with lots of ventilation allows all your warm humid air to escape. The idea behind a closed chamber or covering the top is to greatly reduce ventilation. Just the normal opening and closing of the doors, as well as any cracks or gaps during construction will allow plenty of fresh air and oxygen to reach your tortoise. Ventilation is to be avoided if you have cool dry air outside the enclosure, and you want to have warm humid air inside the enclosure.

Here's a thread I did on closed chambers to explain more:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/thread-32333.html
 

StarSapphire22

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Thanks so much guys! We're going to be going with a Hermanns if we decide to get one for sure. :)

I've sketched out an idea for a table, which I could use some feedback on, so I'll be starting a new thread in the build section. :)
 
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