SanctuaryHills

Active Member
Joined
Aug 29, 2021
Messages
148
Location (City and/or State)
Miami, FL
Alright, let's get right to it! I have a few questions, but first some background info:

My Aldabras have been staying in an outdoor enclosure during the entire Florida summer. Temps during this time never dip under mid 70s at night and they do have plenty of places to hide from the sun during the daytime. I religiously track both growth and weight monthly on each individual and they are growing according to normal parameters, if not a tad faster. Health-wise they all seem to be doing great and are quite active. One of them exhibits a bit of pyramiding, but that's the way I got it. If anything I feel like it's been getting smoother since being outdoors in the very humid Florida weather.

They eat mostly grass and weeds although I supplement their diet about once a week with things like Mazuri pellets, bits of fruit, romaine lettuce, baby carrots, hibiscus leaves and flowers, cucumbers, yellow squash, opuntia pads, etc.. Note that I rotate these foods, I'm not just throwing the fore-mentioned supplements in their enclosure altogether. My goal has always been to only feed them as much as they can eat within an hour or so.

I soak my 6 Aldabra tortoises at least twice a week (45min to an hour each time). Used to be daily when they were younger:
20220725_105252.jpg

However I have yet to see any of them utilize their pond, either for cooling off or drinking water.

The pond is situated in a way that it gets plenty of sunlight, yet also surrounded by plants so that the torts don't have to feel too exposed.

The picture below is totally staged since like I mentioned I have not seen them go into the pond on their own:
20220710_161344.jpg

Here is a bird's eye view of the pond (water is replaced DAILY to avoid any stagnant water/contamination. I do this by letting a hose run on the pond for about 45 mins each day):
20220704_162805.jpg

Enclosure bird's eye view:
20220704_162746.jpg

So I set up a motion camera for a week to see if maybe they were using the pond when I wasn't watching, and this is what I found:
1: By far the most common visitor: Rats. Both during daytime and nighttime, but mostly nighttime.
DSCF0007.JPG DSCF0096.JPG

2: This big toad was an almost daily visitor during nighttime. A couple of times joined by a partner:
DSCF0004.JPG DSCF0054.JPG


3: Another daily and common visitors: Crows
DSCF0045.JPG DSCF0041.JPG

4: Pigeons visited a few times:
DSCF0037.JPG

5: A few visits by Blue Jays:
DSCF0175.JPG

6: One sighting of a Red-headed Woodpecker:
DSCF0146.JPG

But the thing I didn't observe during my one week spying on the tortoise pond: Tortoises. I captured a passing butt, but that was it:
DSCF0086.JPG

So here is where I seek the forum's guidance:

1) The rats (mice?) definitely concern me. How worried should I be? How do I mitigate?

2) According to the Florida Iguana breeder he stops soaking his Aldabras after a year old, yet I'm worried about doing the same since they are not seeking the pond water. Although it makes me wonder if the reason they don't is because I'm soaking them to begin with, and hence removing any incentive for them to do so.

3) So how can I encourage the torts to use the pond? These are some ideas I've thought of:
  • Stop soakings?
  • Plant ferns around the pond (since that's by far their favorite hiding spot)?
  • Spread some beach sand around the pond (to mimic their natural habitat as well as making it easier to climb over the pond edge)?
  • Relocate the pond to a corner where there is less sunlight?
  • A combination of these things?
Was a week's time not enough to draw a conclusion?

According to everything I've read about Aldabras they like to hang out in water, so I'm obviously doing something wrong! I'd really appreciate any feedback, ideas, or scolding!
 
Last edited:

SanctuaryHills

Active Member
Joined
Aug 29, 2021
Messages
148
Location (City and/or State)
Miami, FL
I would guess your soaking is making them not seek out the pond. How close is the food source to the pond? Maybe they just have yet to really find it to enjoy.

Id start to get rid of those rats….
On feeding days I purposely place their food relatively close to the pond for this same reason.

There are times I've left uneaten bits if romaine lettuce or carrots overnight. I'll definitely correct that. I also have an old dog that routinely leaves food in his bowl. That's another thing I have to correct.
 

Levi the Leopard

IXOYE
10 Year Member!
Joined
Oct 1, 2012
Messages
7,970
Location (City and/or State)
Southern Oregon
I'm very interested to see what some of the others respond with.

I do not have Aldabran tortoises nor do I live in FL. BUT just some of my 2 cents for your consideration and perhaps to give you a larger response pool to glean from.

-I say if you don't mind putting forth the effort to continue your bi-weekly soaks, keep at it. It's good for them. They are still relatively small so it's easy enough for you to do so. Someday you won't be able to even if you wanted!

-I think your plants around the area already make the area look great. BUT I have found that shallow water gets very warm in direct sunlight. My tortoise (and my birds for that matter) do NOT like to bathe in the warm, sunny water. Well, not on warm and hot days that is. I suggest temping the water. You'd be surprised how warm it gets. If you find it is too warm, try adding a shade cloth over that area and see if the cooler water temps create more of a draw. My leopard likes to head over to his clay saucer dishes when I refill them with cool water from the hose. (remember we are talking warm seasons here people)

-beach sand or not, I don't know..but easy access into and out of the water will always make a difference.

Regarding rats, I live next to a giant field and mice/rats are going to trespass no matter what I do. So, you have to weigh the pros/cons for certain choices. In my case, mice/rats in the parrot aviary is an absolute NO-NO and the only way to keep them out is with small hardware cloth. So, I have small hardware cloth around the entire aviary. mice/rats passing through the yard, although I don't like it, isn't problem enough for me to enclose my tortoise in small hardware cloth. So, he still has an open yard. BUT I do have a night house that I will lock him in at night. That way the trespassing rodents can't chew him in his sleep. I also avoid ever feeding anything yummy like mazuri in his house. Whether mice, rats or ants, I don't want anything drawing stray critters into his night house.

Hope this helps. Let us know what you decide to do.
 

Levi the Leopard

IXOYE
10 Year Member!
Joined
Oct 1, 2012
Messages
7,970
Location (City and/or State)
Southern Oregon
According to everything I've read about Aldabras they like to hang out in water, so I'm obviously doing something wrong! I'd really appreciate any feedback, ideas, or scolding!

Keep in mind there is a difference in the behaviors of different sized tortoises. My leopard's boldness has changed as he got bigger. I'm assuming that comparing your small Aldabra to the big guys would be setting yourself up for an unrealistic expectation. Couple that with the pond being relatively new. It could take a long time for them to become comfortable with it before even trying it.
 

wellington

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Tortoise Club
Joined
Sep 6, 2011
Messages
49,308
Location (City and/or State)
Chicago, Illinois, USA
I don't think you have to worry about the rats. I would try to get rid of them but I don't think the torts are in danger. Last winter I had rats for the first time in my tort shed. They just ate the left over food. Never a bother to the torts.
Stop feeding fruit. Fruit is not good for most tortoises, aldabra being one of them.
I would not stop soaking until you can't lift them any more. Yes they may not use the pond because of the soaks but eventually they will. Do they have water bowls? That might be why they dont use the pond or it's not hot enough yet for them to feel the need?
Have you tried putting them all in it and let them do as they please whether they stay in it or get out.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,006
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Whenever I build a new night box and put it in place, the tortoises have no idea what it is or why it is there. I have to put them in it every night for at least a week or two in most cases. Some difficult cases take a couple of months before they will start using it themselves.

I suggest putting your tortoises in the middle of the pond, like in the picture, several times a day for a few weeks. They will likely walk right out of it, but in doing so, they will become more familiar and comfortable with it. Do this at different times of day. They might like the warmer water on the cooler mornings, or they may prefer the cooler water on a hotter day.

For the rats, use a variety of baited traps. Get rid of as many as you can.

I would not use the sand. It isn't necessary and is possibly harmful. Its definitely messy.

Your babies are also very small. They may take to the water better when they've gained some size.
 

SanctuaryHills

Active Member
Joined
Aug 29, 2021
Messages
148
Location (City and/or State)
Miami, FL
I'm very interested to see what some of the others respond with.

I do not have Aldabran tortoises nor do I live in FL. BUT just some of my 2 cents for your consideration and perhaps to give you a larger response pool to glean from.

-I say if you don't mind putting forth the effort to continue your bi-weekly soaks, keep at it. It's good for them. They are still relatively small so it's easy enough for you to do so. Someday you won't be able to even if you wanted!

-I think your plants around the area already make the area look great. BUT I have found that shallow water gets very warm in direct sunlight. My tortoise (and my birds for that matter) do NOT like to bathe in the warm, sunny water. Well, not on warm and hot days that is. I suggest temping the water. You'd be surprised how warm it gets. If you find it is too warm, try adding a shade cloth over that area and see if the cooler water temps create more of a draw. My leopard likes to head over to his clay saucer dishes when I refill them with cool water from the hose. (remember we are talking warm seasons here people)

-beach sand or not, I don't know..but easy access into and out of the water will always make a difference.

Regarding rats, I live next to a giant field and mice/rats are going to trespass no matter what I do. So, you have to weigh the pros/cons for certain choices. In my case, mice/rats in the parrot aviary is an absolute NO-NO and the only way to keep them out is with small hardware cloth. So, I have small hardware cloth around the entire aviary. mice/rats passing through the yard, although I don't like it, isn't problem enough for me to enclose my tortoise in small hardware cloth. So, he still has an open yard. BUT I do have a night house that I will lock him in at night. That way the trespassing rodents can't chew him in his sleep. I also avoid ever feeding anything yummy like mazuri in his house. Whether mice, rats or ants, I don't want anything drawing stray critters into his night house.

Hope this helps. Let us know what you decide to do.

Thank you for the response. I'll continue with the bi-weekly soakings. At least until I see them soaking on their own, or they get too heavy to lift as Wellington suggested.

I found your advise regarding water temps most enlightening.

Now that I think about it, none of the bird sightings show them bathing, except for one that was still in the early hours. Also the bottom of the pond is made out of an iron dome which combined with the water shallowness probably makes it way too hot. I'll measure temps and try to remedy with some additional shade plus some river pebbles on the bottom of the pond like Ivonne suggested.

Thank you for being awesome!
 

Markw84

Well-Known Member
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
5,037
Location (City and/or State)
Sacramento, CA (Central Valley)
I will tell you about my experience so far with Galapagos;

Smaller tortoises especially never seem to want to just soak in a concrete bottom pond. They do however, love Mud ponds and it attracts them like a magnet! They will soak for hours in a mud bottom pond. They do all use the concrete bottom pond several times a day to drink and will walk totally through the pond, but not just rest there. I did construct it so the grass is level with the edge and actually grows over the edge, so they sit on the grass and dip their heads into the pond. I've only seen one just soaking, almost floating, and staying there a few times so far. Up til about 2000g they do need to hide a lot and I don't see alot of drinking and use of the pond until after 2000g. When much bigger, they will start to use the concrete pond to soak. I've even watched some at the Gladys Porter Zoo soak in their concrete pond and as it is quite deep, the also frequently will go in a swim about circling around seeming to enjoy the swim and avoiding the sallow side until they are ready to get out.

Here's what i typically see at my pond so far. (not staged at all, just snapped the picture when I came out)

IMG_2826.jpg

Here's a hole they dug out in the mud where the sprinkler tends to pool:

IMG_1886.jpg
 

SanctuaryHills

Active Member
Joined
Aug 29, 2021
Messages
148
Location (City and/or State)
Miami, FL
Keep in mind there is a difference in the behaviors of different sized tortoises. My leopard's boldness has changed as he got bigger. I'm assuming that comparing your small Aldabra to the big guys would be setting yourself up for an unrealistic expectation. Couple that with the pond being relatively new. It could take a long time for them to become comfortable with it before even trying it.
You might be right. And in hindsight all the Aldabra enclosure pictures with ponds I've seen online usually feature much older tortoises. I'll definitely continue to soak for now.
 

SanctuaryHills

Active Member
Joined
Aug 29, 2021
Messages
148
Location (City and/or State)
Miami, FL
Try putting a few medium-sized river rocks in the bottom of the pond. It may seem too deep for them. You can remove the rocks as they grow.
Very good idea. that could build their confidence and also maintain cooler temps on the pond since the water is shallow and possibly getting too hot for their taste. The bottom of the pond is an iron dome too so that's definitely not going to help keep it cool.
 

dd33

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Sep 22, 2018
Messages
518
Location (City and/or State)
Florida
I think we stopped soaking our Aldabras after a year or so. The growth has stayed just as smooth. We do try to keep their night box very humid though, especially in the winter. Our night box has a dirt/sand floor so its really easy to keep it wet. That being said, there is no reason not to soak them as often as you have time and for as long as you can pick the up.

Ours don't soak. I gave them a plastic kiddie pool for about a year and they never went in once. Maybe try making them a wet mud pit and see if they like that better. I think they prefer a gross and dirty wallow over clean hot water.

If that toad is an invasive Cane/Bufo toad, please remove it.

I see a row of Clusia hedges in the background. We have been trying to find out if they are tortoise safe or not. Many places say they are toxic to horses and dogs. You may want to keep that in mind.
 

SanctuaryHills

Active Member
Joined
Aug 29, 2021
Messages
148
Location (City and/or State)
Miami, FL
I don't think you have to worry about the rats. I would try to get rid of them but I don't think the torts are in danger. Last winter I had rats for the first time in my tort shed. They just ate the left over food. Never a bother to the torts.
Stop feeding fruit. Fruit is not good for most tortoises, aldabra being one of them.
I would not stop soaking until you can't lift them any more. Yes they may not use the pond because of the soaks but eventually they will. Do they have water bowls? That might be why they dont use the pond or it's not hot enough yet for them to feel the need?
Have you tried putting them all in it and let them do as they please whether they stay in it or get out.
I was under the impression that Aldabras were a fruit eating species. Although I've definitely never given them more than a nibble I figured they were too young for fruit anyway.

No water bowl. Only way they have been getting water for the 6 months I've owned them, are through their food and soakings. Definitely going to follow your advise and keep soaking. Not worth experimenting with that in hopes they use the pond when it could lead to potential dehydration. It gets hot down here!

Yes I have tried putting them in myself maybe like 3 times in but they just run off. @Team Gomberg suggested the water might be too hot which is something that now seems obvious and I had given no thought. I'll have to measure temps and correct if necessary before attempting to put them in the pond again. Also going to try river rocks to make them feel more at ease with the water depth.
 

SanctuaryHills

Active Member
Joined
Aug 29, 2021
Messages
148
Location (City and/or State)
Miami, FL
Whenever I build a new night box and put it in place, the tortoises have no idea what it is or why it is there. I have to put them in it every night for at least a week or two in most cases. Some difficult cases take a couple of months before they will start using it themselves.

I suggest putting your tortoises in the middle of the pond, like in the picture, several times a day for a few weeks. They will likely walk right out of it, but in doing so, they will become more familiar and comfortable with it. Do this at different times of day. They might like the warmer water on the cooler mornings, or they may prefer the cooler water on a hotter day.

For the rats, use a variety of baited traps. Get rid of as many as you can.

I would not use the sand. It isn't necessary and is possibly harmful. Its definitely messy.

Your babies are also very small. They may take to the water better when they've gained some size.
I always appreciate your advise Tom! @Team Gomberg suggested the pond water might be too hot for their liking. That would makes sense given the pond is shallow and the foundation is made out of iron. I'm going to measure temps and remedy as necessary and then go for your advise of putting them in the pond throughout the day to help them get used to it.

What baited traps would you recommend that wouldn't hurt the tortoises? Although I suppose I could place them on top of the cinder blocks out of the tortoises reach. I think that might work.

And makes sense about the size being a factor, others have mentioned the same thing. I suppose it makes sense that little ones would avoid water bodies given they would be in greater danger of being carried off by a current vs a grown adult.
 

SanctuaryHills

Active Member
Joined
Aug 29, 2021
Messages
148
Location (City and/or State)
Miami, FL
I will tell you about my experience so far with Galapagos;

Smaller tortoises especially never seem to want to just soak in a concrete bottom pond. They do however, love Mud ponds and it attracts them like a magnet! They will soak for hours in a mud bottom pond. They do all use the concrete bottom pond several times a day to drink and will walk totally through the pond, but not just rest there. I did construct it so the grass is level with the edge and actually grows over the edge, so they sit on the grass and dip their heads into the pond. I've only seen one just soaking, almost floating, and staying there a few times so far. Up til about 2000g they do need to hide a lot and I don't see alot of drinking and use of the pond until after 2000g. When much bigger, they will start to use the concrete pond to soak. I've even watched some at the Gladys Porter Zoo soak in their concrete pond and as it is quite deep, the also frequently will go in a swim about circling around seeming to enjoy the swim and avoiding the sallow side until they are ready to get out.

Here's what i typically see at my pond so far. (not staged at all, just snapped the picture when I came out)

View attachment 348045

Here's a hole they dug out in the mud where the sprinkler tends to pool:

View attachment 348047

Wow! Your tortoises and custom ponds look AMAZING. And everything you said makes a LOT of sense.

Would you mind telling me a bit about your your process for building a concrete pond? If you made a post about it I'd really love to read it. I have zero experience with building ponds, but I'm always willing to learn and have a few friends that could help me out. I did look online but all I find is instructions for making deep garden ponds using those pre-formed plastic molds.

The "pond" I put together shows my inexperience in many ways.:
  • It's essentially an iron bowl sunk into some rocks with concrete poured over the edges to hold it in place( probably horrible for temps).
  • Not leveled with the grass like yours, which is probably less inviting for my young torts.
  • I was limited by the bowl diameter/depth vs something custom like your pond which just seems SOOO PERFECT.

PLEASE PLEASE teach me your ways! Same with the mud pond. I initially tried to cover the entire thing in coconut coir (see below) but the coir would quickly wick all the water out of the pond. it was impossible to keep it filled.

PS: the following pictures were staged too 😅

20220504_123956.jpg

20220504_124119.jpg

20220504_124235.jpg
 

SanctuaryHills

Active Member
Joined
Aug 29, 2021
Messages
148
Location (City and/or State)
Miami, FL
I think we stopped soaking our Aldabras after a year or so. The growth has stayed just as smooth. We do try to keep their night box very humid though, especially in the winter. Our night box has a dirt/sand floor so its really easy to keep it wet. That being said, there is no reason not to soak them as often as you have time and for as long as you can pick the up.

Ours don't soak. I gave them a plastic kiddie pool for about a year and they never went in once. Maybe try making them a wet mud pit and see if they like that better. I think they prefer a gross and dirty wallow over clean hot water.

If that toad is an invasive Cane/Bufo toad, please remove it.

I see a row of Clusia hedges in the background. We have been trying to find out if they are tortoise safe or not. Many places say they are toxic to horses and dogs. You may want to keep that in mind.
Thank you for the advise. Totally agree with the mud pit style. Seems to be a common theme with the rest of the advise I'm getting. Any advise on how to build a mud pit that retains its water? The one I tried to build would soak in the water in a couple of hours so I emptied all the coconut coir I had put in it and was left with the iron/concrete structure you see in my original post. Looked like this originally:

20220504_124235.jpg

Regarding the Clusias I'm not sure about toxicity, but I plan to fence off that part of the yard anyways since I have a mini nursery thing going on there and would hate for my torts to even come close to any chems/fertilizers.

They'll still have about an acre to themselves even with that side of the yard fenced off. Either way it won't be until couple of years. I still prefer to keep them in this makeshift cinder block enclosure due to their size. Those little f***rs are really good at hiding. Sometimes I struggle to find them even within their pen 😄
 

dd33

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Sep 22, 2018
Messages
518
Location (City and/or State)
Florida
I wouldn't stress about building one for them. When they are ready, big enough and presented with an opportunity, they will build the mud pit on their own. They can sense the right spot to do it and they are really good at maintaining/enlarging it. The soil has to be able to retain some water though and in your area that might be difficult. You could probably start the process by stripping the grass out of a small area and letting them have access to the bare dirt. If you are ready to give up on the concrete pond you could just pop it out of the ground and let them start there. Maybe fill the hole up some with some dirt (not coral rock/sand) from somewhere in your yard to help retain some moisture.

Also, I saw your comment about not providing them with a water dish. They should always have fresh water available. We didn't see ours drink for a very long time but now that they are a bit older they drink quite a bit of water every day.
 

wellington

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Tortoise Club
Joined
Sep 6, 2011
Messages
49,308
Location (City and/or State)
Chicago, Illinois, USA
I was under the impression that Aldabras were a fruit eating species. Although I've definitely never given them more than a nibble I figured they were too young for fruit anyway.

No water bowl. Only way they have been getting water for the 6 months I've owned them, are through their food and soakings. Definitely going to follow your advise and keep soaking. Not worth experimenting with that in hopes they use the pond when it could lead to potential dehydration. It gets hot down here!

Yes I have tried putting them in myself maybe like 3 times in but they just run off. @Team Gomberg suggested the water might be too hot which is something that now seems obvious and I had given no thought. I'll have to measure temps and correct if necessary before attempting to put them in the pond again. Also going to try river rocks to make them feel more at ease with the water depth.
You need to provide water bowls at least until they figure out the pond. Even tortoises soaked daily need water bowls. That is old outdated info that they get enough water from the food. Soaks help hydrate but they should always have water for when they need more.
 

SanctuaryHills

Active Member
Joined
Aug 29, 2021
Messages
148
Location (City and/or State)
Miami, FL
@wellington @dd33 note taken on the water bowl. Although I did have one on the enclosure before the pond and also never saw them use it. I'll set up the motion camera again and see how they react to the bowl now that I introduce it again.

Regarding the existing pond, I'm going to try and alter it (extra shade and river pebbles) in order to make sure the water stays cooler to see if that makes a difference. Worse case scenario it's still a nice spot for the local birds and bees to have a drink so no harm done I suppose.
 

New Posts

Top