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Why does my Russian tortoise stay buried?

Discussion in 'Russian tortoises' started by Yvonne G, Nov 15, 2012.

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  1. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Supporter

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    GBtortoises Wrote:

    Russian tortoises need a lot of light to remain active. The main question about Russian tortoises on this site is "Why did my Russian tortoise bury itself". Part of the answer to this question is that Russian tortoises require long, light intensive days (along with correct temperatures) to remain active. In the wild their activity periods are brief but are during the time of year when the days are longest and the sun is brightest. This light duration and intensity, along with temperatures tell the tortoise it's time to be active. As long as the temperatures do not get to hot, the tortoise will remain active. If the temperatures get too hot while the light is intense with 14-16 hour days the tortoise will usually aestivate to escape the extreme temperatures and dryness. If it's hot but the light in not intense or the duration is shorter than normal it will also become inactive. The three elements of light duration, intensity and correct temperatures work together to dictate to the tortoise what to do and when. In more simple terms, most people make the mistake of keeping their Russian tortoises too hot and too dark. Just as an example-my adults while indoors are in a 3' x6' enclosure with about 8" of substrate. They have a 3' wide by 18" long hide area paritially buried in the substrate. Looks somewhat like an underground parking garage! Their enclosure has a 4' UV fluorescent tube lighting the remaining part of the enclosure. At the opposite end of the hide area they have a 90 watt spot light and a 150 watt MVB lamp. I will occasionally alternate the use of these lights once or twice a week, but most of the time both basking lights, as well as the UV tube are on 15 hours a day. Both basking lights are hung about 16-18" above some flat basking rocks that are set on the substrate. I have had most of the adults in this group for about 8-10 years. Every Russian tortoise is active every day in this enclosure. None have ever buried themselves in the substrate. Many people make the mistake of providing the heat without adequate light. A single MVB lamp is probably the worse situation of all. It provides very good localized heat, light and UV but nothing outside the range of it's beam which is typically only about 12-14" in diameter. That amount of coverage isn't even adequate for a 2' x 4' enclosure.




    I know it looks like I wrote this, however it is a copy/paste from something GBTortoises wrote.
  2. Tortilla1989

    Tortilla1989 Member 5 Year Member

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    I am confused, what do you mean by MVB lamp?
    I use a 100 watt Zoo Med bulb that has UVB and UVA rays, set on a timer for 12 hours.
    Temperature stays consistant at 80 degrees and humidity is low.
    my tort wakes up, eats, then basks for the rest of the afternoon and returns to her hideout for the night, she buries herself both while she basks and sleeps so just her back legs and tail stick out, is this normal?
    Do you suggest that I get an additional light that is just UV?
    Should I extend my hours of light time?

    Sorry for so many questions... just want to make sure my tortilla is getting everything she needs...
    Thanks for your very detailed message about this.
    Danyail likes this.
  3. clopez

    clopez New Member 5 Year Member

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    MVB is short for mercury vapor bulb, and its used as a basking lamp that puts out a good deal of heat.
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  4. Ciaran

    Ciaran New Member 5 Year Member

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    Hi

    What's GBTortoises could I get a copy

    Ciaran
  5. GBtortoises

    GBtortoises Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    MVB stands for Mercury Vapor Bulb. The combination bulbs that produce UVB, heat and light are mercury vapor bulbs. The UVB is not the type of bulb but stands what the bulb produces which is ultraviolet "B" wavelength. Flourescent tube and coil type lamps also produce UVB rays and are commonly used for reptiles. In my opinion, a combination of a standard incandescent lamp and a tube type UVB are a much better combination than just a single MVB.
  6. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Supporter

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    GBTortoises is one of our members here. I don't think he has written anything that you can get a copy of, however, he is working on a care sheet for Greek tortoises.
  7. SmileyKylie623

    SmileyKylie623 Member 5 Year Member

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    Does this apply to hatchling and younger tortoises as well?? It seems like my baby is burrowed for at least 1/2 the day.
    I thought I read somewhere that hatchlings will sleep a lot more than an adult.
  8. N2TORTS

    N2TORTS Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Tortoises along with other reptiles that bury themselves can be narrowed down to a few theories’ …..The number one being “Temperature Regulation”…..
    It's not necessary for a tortoise to enter either brumation or aestivation to bury himself for temperature control. Sometimes, a tortoise just wants to be comfortable, and will retreat underground if his environment becomes too hot or too cold for comfort. In the winter, this act is the equivalent of covering up with a blanket, and in the summer, it's the tortoise’s form of air conditioning. They may even sleep while underground, but it's a normal state of sleep…..Brumation of course is when winter approaches, some species’ of tortoises enter a state of dormancy called brumation, which is similar to hybernation in mammals. Cold temperatures cause a tortoise's metabolism to slow, causing him to become lethargic, lose his appetite, and fall into a deep sleep. In the wild, tort's who experience this will bury themselves deep underground to protect themselves from the elements and from extreme temperatures prior to falling asleep. …
    Aestivation is similar to brumation, but it happens in hot climates during the summer. Tortoises are cold-blooded reptiles whose bodies can't handle prolonged exposure to intense heat. During the hottest months, outdoor tortoises will aestivate and burrow down into cool earth to wait out the blazing temperatures. During aestivation, the tort's metabolism slows and he enters a deep sleep, but not as deep as with brumation……and least but probably the most understood is just plain …“Safety” - Tortoises will sometimes bury themselves to feel safe and secure. Torts’ like to hide under things, and if their environment doesn't offer any suitable hiding places, they'll simply hide underground to protect themselves from the elements and from predators. Even indoor captive tortoises will sometimes bury themselves in their substrate to feel protected while they sleep..

    JD~:)
  9. felix161

    felix161 New Member 5 Year Member

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    as i have learned by my short time having my russian tort, and as others have mentioned here its to regulate there temp and to provide security for themselves. mine hids under the moss i provide and i also have a tipped over terra cotta planter with some substrate and moss in there as well he likes to sleep the night away in.
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  10. pandiculator

    pandiculator New Member 5 Year Member

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    Wow, thanks for posting this - our Russian has been staying buried for extended periods of time. I am thinking, currently, the light level is too low, so I'm going to try adding a second lamp!
  11. forujade00

    forujade00 Member 5 Year Member

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    I also want to thank you. I am going to buy extra lighting.

    Sent from my SCH-I545 using TortForum mobile app
  12. jvillanueva

    jvillanueva Member

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    ImageUploadedByTortForum1389070712.147328.jpg Would this type of bulb be better?? A bigger one of course, not the mini.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 12, 2014
  13. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Supporter

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    No. That type of bulb you picture doesn't offer any heat, and the compact bulbs sometimes harm tortoises' eyes. If you want to go with the fluorescent type bulb, a long tube would be best. But then you would also need a heat source, so two separate fixtures.
  14. hunterk997

    hunterk997 Member 5 Year Member

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    After reading this again I think I figured out why my Russian tortoise was inactive this past summer, I had it too hot and I had it bright. That would explain why she is oddly active during the winter, she actually has the right temperatures.
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  15. Whitneyrae

    Whitneyrae Member

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    How hot did you have it? my tort is fairly inactive and I'm worried I have it too hot
  16. hunterk997

    hunterk997 Member 5 Year Member

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    It was probably around 110 F. I didn't have a temp gun, and the gauge I used said it was only 90 F.
  17. RainsOn

    RainsOn Active Member

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    I love pictures ! ! ! They are so cute!
  18. Shakudo

    Shakudo Active Member

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    hello @Yvonne G and other forum friends,
    s
    I need some advice regarding this subject.
    We are having very hot days here in the Netherlands, and it is a steady 27 degrees or more in my city apartment.

    This resulted in the probable aestivation of my Russian tortoise. She started becoming less active when the hot days were at their hight and has buried herself now and hasn't come since the day before yesterday.


    Here is the situation

    Specs:

    • Temperature:
    The temperature under the spot is about 35 degrees Celsius, the middle part of the enclosure about 29 degrees Celcius.
    The and the cooler part I estimate 27/28 degrees Celcius.

    • Water:
    Available

    • Hide:
    cork bark and the option to dig down in the substrate.

    • Substrate:
    Coco coir/fiber

    • Light:
    MVB ( Solar Raptor 100 Watts)
    on 10:00 AM
    off 10 PM
    ( now upgraded to 9:00 AM on / 10:00 PM off , 13 hour cycle)


    I have tried to keep the heat out , but the plating ( I don't know what it's called) on the outside of my apartment absorbs heat and I can't get the heat much down.

    Yoshi hasn't eaten Yesterday and today she hasn't come out yet.
    I read in your post that the problem might be the light cycle.
    My current light cycle is 12 hours.

    My apartment is very well lit by big windows but I read in the post it might have something to do with it being too warm and too dark.

    The only thing I could think of doing is keep offering food and prolonged the light cycle with 1 hour.
    So the lights are now on from 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM , (13 hours).
    I don't want to make it that much more preferably, due to the fact it's a 100 watt lamp and not an energy saving bulb;)

    I'd appreciate advice / suggestions.

    Joey
  19. Shakudo

    Shakudo Active Member

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    Well, sadly nobody responded, so I decided to take action.
    I removed her from the hide yesterday, and soaked her for 20 minutes then gave her lunch.
    She ate fiercely and today was out and about and is eating normally.
    Still have a 13 hour light cycle it might be beneficial.

    Joey
  20. weevee52

    weevee52 New Member

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    how's Yoshi? mine has dug it's self in,and I'm getting worried. do you think I should wake and soak him?
    Shakudo likes this.
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