mrpresitort

New Member
Joined
Dec 23, 2021
Messages
15
Location (City and/or State)
NJ
My russian tortoise is a 2 year old (ish) male. He's usually very active in the mornings and goes out in search of food, but for the past week, maybe week and a half, I have had to encourage him to come out of his burrow to eat something, and then once he's eaten he goes right back to his burrow to sleep. When I hand feed him, he eats very well, but he doesn't seem to have the energy to trot over to his food dish in the corner these days. It seems far too early for him to start brumating in early August in NJ so I'm getting really concerned.

I've inspected his eyes for puffiness, nose for runniness, and tail end for cleanliness, but nothing seems obviously wrong physically. I'd really appreciate any leads on this! I'm leaving for a week-long vacation soon and won't be able to personally monitor him or take him to a vet in that time-frame, so I'm trying to get an urgent appointment in the next few days.

Diet:
  • Collard greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Spring mix
  • Escaroles
  • Occasional kale and spinach
  • Occasional carrot or cucumber treat, very rarely a piece of strawberry
  • Last year I'd have him roam around outside more and eat the dandelions, but this year I am living in an apartment complex that sprays a lot of pesticides so he hasn't gotten as much outside time
Enclosure:
  • 24" x 40" wooden, open top enclosure with a 24"x10" second floor that he has access to via a fake log. I keep it on the floor of my bedroom.
  • Temperature: 90F in the basking area, in the 70s in the cooler areas of his enclosure during the day. At night, I have a ceramic heat emitter that keeps the temperature right below it in the 70s.
  • Humidity: ~50% in the central part of his enclosure; He's gotten seemingly very stressed out when I raise it much higher
  • Substrate: Mixture of Eco Earth coco coir, Miracle Gro peat moss, and Thrive fir bark bedding
  • I put his food on a large flat stone; He has a petsmart water dish that I refill every one or two days to a depth that isn't too shallow but also not so deep that it's dangerous.
  • Decorations: I have small colorful pebbles (bigger than he could ever even attempt to swallow) and a Rubik's cube lying around for him to play with. He doesn't really play with any of them though. There is a large log he can use as a hide or as a ramp for the second floor. He also has a fake tree-shaped humidifier, though I don't usually have it on because it doesn't work too well given the open top
Environment:
  • NJ, it is currently August and the outside temperatures are in the 90s pretty much every day, so we have the AC on most of the time set to 70-72F
  • I would let him roam around my carpeted room (approximately dorm-sized) when he got really antsy in the mornings and he would just run around for 1-2 hours until he got tired and retreated to some shady spot. Now he just goes straight to the shady spot.
 

TammyJ

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2016
Messages
7,651
Location (City and/or State)
Jamaica
My russian tortoise is a 2 year old (ish) male. He's usually very active in the mornings and goes out in search of food, but for the past week, maybe week and a half, I have had to encourage him to come out of his burrow to eat something, and then once he's eaten he goes right back to his burrow to sleep. When I hand feed him, he eats very well, but he doesn't seem to have the energy to trot over to his food dish in the corner these days. It seems far too early for him to start brumating in early August in NJ so I'm getting really concerned.

I've inspected his eyes for puffiness, nose for runniness, and tail end for cleanliness, but nothing seems obviously wrong physically. I'd really appreciate any leads on this! I'm leaving for a week-long vacation soon and won't be able to personally monitor him or take him to a vet in that time-frame, so I'm trying to get an urgent appointment in the next few days.

Diet:
  • Collard greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Spring mix
  • Escaroles
  • Occasional kale and spinach
  • Occasional carrot or cucumber treat, very rarely a piece of strawberry
  • Last year I'd have him roam around outside more and eat the dandelions, but this year I am living in an apartment complex that sprays a lot of pesticides so he hasn't gotten as much outside time
Enclosure:
  • 24" x 40" wooden, open top enclosure with a 24"x10" second floor that he has access to via a fake log. I keep it on the floor of my bedroom.
  • Temperature: 90F in the basking area, in the 70s in the cooler areas of his enclosure during the day. At night, I have a ceramic heat emitter that keeps the temperature right below it in the 70s.
  • Humidity: ~50% in the central part of his enclosure; He's gotten seemingly very stressed out when I raise it much higher
  • Substrate: Mixture of Eco Earth coco coir, Miracle Gro peat moss, and Thrive fir bark bedding
  • I put his food on a large flat stone; He has a petsmart water dish that I refill every one or two days to a depth that isn't too shallow but also not so deep that it's dangerous.
  • Decorations: I have small colorful pebbles (bigger than he could ever even attempt to swallow) and a Rubik's cube lying around for him to play with. He doesn't really play with any of them though. There is a large log he can use as a hide or as a ramp for the second floor. He also has a fake tree-shaped humidifier, though I don't usually have it on because it doesn't work too well given the open top
Environment:
  • NJ, it is currently August and the outside temperatures are in the 90s pretty much every day, so we have the AC on most of the time set to 70-72F
  • I would let him roam around my carpeted room (approximately dorm-sized) when he got really antsy in the mornings and he would just run around for 1-2 hours until he got tired and retreated to some shady spot. Now he just goes straight to the shady spot.
Is the "shady spot" also in your carpeted room? Where he runs around until he is tired?
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
64,286
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
My russian tortoise is a 2 year old (ish) male. He's usually very active in the mornings and goes out in search of food, but for the past week, maybe week and a half, I have had to encourage him to come out of his burrow to eat something, and then once he's eaten he goes right back to his burrow to sleep. When I hand feed him, he eats very well, but he doesn't seem to have the energy to trot over to his food dish in the corner these days. It seems far too early for him to start brumating in early August in NJ so I'm getting really concerned.

I've inspected his eyes for puffiness, nose for runniness, and tail end for cleanliness, but nothing seems obviously wrong physically. I'd really appreciate any leads on this! I'm leaving for a week-long vacation soon and won't be able to personally monitor him or take him to a vet in that time-frame, so I'm trying to get an urgent appointment in the next few days.

Diet:
  • Collard greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Spring mix
  • Escaroles
  • Occasional kale and spinach
  • Occasional carrot or cucumber treat, very rarely a piece of strawberry
  • Last year I'd have him roam around outside more and eat the dandelions, but this year I am living in an apartment complex that sprays a lot of pesticides so he hasn't gotten as much outside time
Enclosure:
  • 24" x 40" wooden, open top enclosure with a 24"x10" second floor that he has access to via a fake log. I keep it on the floor of my bedroom.
  • Temperature: 90F in the basking area, in the 70s in the cooler areas of his enclosure during the day. At night, I have a ceramic heat emitter that keeps the temperature right below it in the 70s.
  • Humidity: ~50% in the central part of his enclosure; He's gotten seemingly very stressed out when I raise it much higher
  • Substrate: Mixture of Eco Earth coco coir, Miracle Gro peat moss, and Thrive fir bark bedding
  • I put his food on a large flat stone; He has a petsmart water dish that I refill every one or two days to a depth that isn't too shallow but also not so deep that it's dangerous.
  • Decorations: I have small colorful pebbles (bigger than he could ever even attempt to swallow) and a Rubik's cube lying around for him to play with. He doesn't really play with any of them though. There is a large log he can use as a hide or as a ramp for the second floor. He also has a fake tree-shaped humidifier, though I don't usually have it on because it doesn't work too well given the open top
Environment:
  • NJ, it is currently August and the outside temperatures are in the 90s pretty much every day, so we have the AC on most of the time set to 70-72F
  • I would let him roam around my carpeted room (approximately dorm-sized) when he got really antsy in the mornings and he would just run around for 1-2 hours until he got tired and retreated to some shady spot. Now he just goes straight to the shady spot.
Many problems here:
1. Too much grocery store food and not enough natural food. Weeds, leaves, and flowers. No fruit ever. Cut out the carrots too. Add in some amendments of you must use grocery store greens. Read AND follow the care sheet. This is all explained there.
2. 24x40 is much too small. They need more space, even with the second floor.
3. Basking temp should be 100. 90 is too cool.
4. Temperature in the whole enclosure needs to be in the 70s at night, not just directly under the CHE. This species can tolerate it colder, but you are having an issue, so keep it warmer.
5. Peat moss should never be used as tortoise substrate. They eat it and it causes impaction. This might be your issue.
6. Pet store bowl are usually not suitable. Is it the ramped type? Get rid of it and replace it with a 6 or 8 inch terra cotta saucer sunk into the substrate. Are you soaking daily?
7. Humidifiers are fine in the room, but not blowing directly into the enclosure.
8. Let the room temp come up into the mid to high 70s this time of year. Tortoises need warmth. If you like you're apartment that cold get a large closed chamber so your tortoise can be warmer during the day.
9. Tortoises should never Roa, loose on the floor. This is a recipe for disaster in one of many ways. This could also be the cause of your problem.

What are you using for UV? Other than the basking bulb, what lighting are you using? Tortoises live outside in the sunshine. It needs to be warm and bright indoors for them.

Please read this care sheet and follow it:
 

mrpresitort

New Member
Joined
Dec 23, 2021
Messages
15
Location (City and/or State)
NJ
Thank you for the help. I have gotten a lot of conflicting advice on how to care for my tort over the past year that I've had him. The vet care sheet I got when I was living in Illinois was completely contradictory to everything else I was seeing online, and many things online have been contradicting each other too.

I'll go ahead and immediately fix the temperature and substrate issues. I didn't use to soak him frequently because I had been advised not too since he hates it so much, but after talking to pwople on this forum I've recently started a once weekly routine. I also was given advice to not use a UV bulb because it bright and can hurt his eyes, so I have been sprinkling the calcium supplement with added vitamin D on his food as a replacement.

I think I will also call a vet about potential impaction.

I have a few follow up questions:
  • Where can I get weeds/leaves/flowers if my backyard environment is riddled with pesticides? Most places in NJ seem to be sprayed with pesticides because of the spotted lanternfly, especially recently. I am moving in a month and have been asking the new landlords about this.
  • Most advice I have heard about smaller russian tortoises (he is about 10cm x 10cm) is that a minimum of 2'x4' should suffice which is what I went with since I was living with roommates at the time. Since I am 8" short, I added the second story in the meantime. My plan was to make a much bigger enclosure when he gets older. What size do you recommend?
  • Could you explain the issue with letting him roam on the floor? I make sure the floor is clear and there isn't anything that could fall or topple over. I also block off areas that might be hard for him to get out of. It has been my solution to letting him get exercise when I can't take him outside, which has been much of this summer due to the pesticide issue
 

mrpresitort

New Member
Joined
Dec 23, 2021
Messages
15
Location (City and/or State)
NJ
Many problems here:
1. Too much grocery store food and not enough natural food. Weeds, leaves, and flowers. No fruit ever. Cut out the carrots too. Add in some amendments of you must use grocery store greens. Read AND follow the care sheet. This is all explained there.
2. 24x40 is much too small. They need more space, even with the second floor.
3. Basking temp should be 100. 90 is too cool.
4. Temperature in the whole enclosure needs to be in the 70s at night, not just directly under the CHE. This species can tolerate it colder, but you are having an issue, so keep it warmer.
5. Peat moss should never be used as tortoise substrate. They eat it and it causes impaction. This might be your issue.
6. Pet store bowl are usually not suitable. Is it the ramped type? Get rid of it and replace it with a 6 or 8 inch terra cotta saucer sunk into the substrate. Are you soaking daily?
7. Humidifiers are fine in the room, but not blowing directly into the enclosure.
8. Let the room temp come up into the mid to high 70s this time of year. Tortoises need warmth. If you like you're apartment that cold get a large closed chamber so your tortoise can be warmer during the day.
9. Tortoises should never Roa, loose on the floor. This is a recipe for disaster in one of many ways. This could also be the cause of your problem.

What are you using for UV? Other than the basking bulb, what lighting are you using? Tortoises live outside in the sunshine. It needs to be warm and bright indoors for them.

Please read this care sheet and follow it:
Also thank you for the care sheet. I will read it closely when I get home today. My apologies if any of the follow up questions I just asked are answered in this sheet.
 

mrpresitort

New Member
Joined
Dec 23, 2021
Messages
15
Location (City and/or State)
NJ
Many problems here:
1. Too much grocery store food and not enough natural food. Weeds, leaves, and flowers. No fruit ever. Cut out the carrots too. Add in some amendments of you must use grocery store greens. Read AND follow the care sheet. This is all explained there.
2. 24x40 is much too small. They need more space, even with the second floor.
3. Basking temp should be 100. 90 is too cool.
4. Temperature in the whole enclosure needs to be in the 70s at night, not just directly under the CHE. This species can tolerate it colder, but you are having an issue, so keep it warmer.
5. Peat moss should never be used as tortoise substrate. They eat it and it causes impaction. This might be your issue.
6. Pet store bowl are usually not suitable. Is it the ramped type? Get rid of it and replace it with a 6 or 8 inch terra cotta saucer sunk into the substrate. Are you soaking daily?
7. Humidifiers are fine in the room, but not blowing directly into the enclosure.
8. Let the room temp come up into the mid to high 70s this time of year. Tortoises need warmth. If you like you're apartment that cold get a large closed chamber so your tortoise can be warmer during the day.
9. Tortoises should never Roa, loose on the floor. This is a recipe for disaster in one of many ways. This could also be the cause of your problem.

What are you using for UV? Other than the basking bulb, what lighting are you using? Tortoises live outside in the sunshine. It needs to be warm and bright indoors for them.

Please read this care sheet and follow it:
Tom,

I just read through this care sheet. This is incredibly thorough and does in fact answer all of my questions. I see my mistakes very clearly and will work promptly to fix everything. I will be in a new apartment soon that will have much more space for my tort enclosure, so I will expand what he currently has. I will also go ahead and change other things like the UV bulb situation, substrate, etc. I really appreciate this help.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
64,286
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
My apologies if any of the follow up questions I just asked are answered in this sheet.
No apologies. Questions are welcome.

Thank you for the help. I have gotten a lot of conflicting advice on how to care for my tort over the past year that I've had him. The vet care sheet I got when I was living in Illinois was completely contradictory to everything else I was seeing online, and many things online have been contradicting each other too.
You are not alone. There is a ton of bad care info out in the world. Most everything you find is old and wrong. Stick to TFO for updated and correct care advice, and realize that most of the rest of the world is still following the old wrong advice, and teaching it to the next generation of tortoise keepers.

Where can I get weeds/leaves/flowers if my backyard environment is riddled with pesticides? Most places in NJ seem to be sprayed with pesticides because of the spotted lanternfly, especially recently. I am moving in a month and have been asking the new landlords about this.
All over the world. Weeds and leaves are everywhere. Look for areas not likely to be poisoned. Look for insects and insect damage on the leaves. Look for spider webs. These are all indicators of a lack of pesticides. Soak any items you collect in a bucket of water to clean them.

Most advice I have heard about smaller russian tortoises (he is about 10cm x 10cm) is that a minimum of 2'x4' should suffice which is what I went with since I was living with roommates at the time. Since I am 8" short, I added the second story in the meantime. My plan was to make a much bigger enclosure when he gets older. What size do you recommend?
That is the old wrong advice. They need at least 4x8 feet and more would be better. Tortoises need huge enclosures. Cramping them in small ones does damage.

Could you explain the issue with letting him roam on the floor? I make sure the floor is clear and there isn't anything that could fall or topple over. I also block off areas that might be hard for him to get out of. It has been my solution to letting him get exercise when I can't take him outside, which has been much of this summer due to the pesticide issue
There are many issues. Impaction, cold, ingestion of foreign bodies, heads smashed in doors, tortoises accidentally kicked or stepped on, dog maulings, escapes from doors left open, splayed legs from slick floors, etc... The list is endless and we see several cases a year here. Everyone thinks they've made it safe, until they realize they were wrong, and then it is too late. It cannot be made safe. Please don't learn this lesson the hard way as so many before you have.

Please feel free to ask all your questions.
 

mrpresitort

New Member
Joined
Dec 23, 2021
Messages
15
Location (City and/or State)
NJ
Thought I would update this post! I went to the vet the day after my last post here and now President Tortellini is feeling much better! The two biggest problems were:
  1. He had a parasite infection! She gave me some meds that I feed to him twice, the second dose happening two weeks after the first. I was out of town and my usual tort-sitters couldn't give him medicine while I was away, so he's only got the first dose in thus far.
  2. The temperature in his environment was too low so he probably thought it was winter. Since I live with people who need the AC very cold to fall asleep, I have been keeping the window all day and night to warm up just his room. This living arrangement will end soon anyway so it will be easier to keep things temperate later on + replacing my heat lamp bulb.
He is already feeling much better and has started running around his enclosure again and accepting soft pets on his head.

The vet also gave me similar advice to what @Tom was saying, specifically highlighting the need for more space, more soaking, a better UV/heating setup, and feeding him more weeds, all of which I have been working on diligently. Thanks for the help!

Here's a photo of him devouring a dandelion when I took him for a walk a while ago (hand fed him the dandelion but pulled away for the pic, so he's not eating off the mulch!):

russian tortoise enjoying a dandelion
 

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