Questions about Hector's Care

Use this forum to discuss general questions about any aspects of tortoise care.
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Hector's Family
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Joined: 03 Jun 2017, 13:11

Questions about Hector's Care

Post by Hector's Family » 03 Jun 2017, 13:46

Hector is a 9-month-old Russian Tortoise. He came to us in November. I've spent the last year researching, but still have many questions. I will attempt to be as clear as possible.

1. I purchased Miracle Grow Potting Soil. Is it safe for him if I use this to grow his food? The seeds were purchased from Carolina Pet Supply (broadleaf and Russian mix.)

2. How much food and how often? He isn't showing signs of obesity, but I haven't been weighing him, either. The only information I could find was if they can't suck themselves in, they're fat. He leaves food when he's had enough and he takes his time eating. We have cactus pads growing in the enclosure and he munches on them from time to time.

3. He gets daily soaks because he loves his routine. He gets very grumpy when we don't follow it, lol! Is this ever a problem... like can he soak TOO much? We can't adequately keep water in the enclosure because it evaporates too quickly. I like the better safe than sorry theory.

4. We put TNT powder and calcium powder (homemade from the breeder) on his food Mon., Wed., and Fri. Is this too much? Is it not enough? We put a small pinch of each scattered over his greens after we've misted them.

5. Concerning an outdoor enclosure: we will not ever allow him to be outside unattended. We live on 6.5 wooded acres and the opportunity for predation is enormous. That being said, we are making him a 3x3 enclosure for his use outside (100% attended.) We will put coconut coir as the substrate, plant it a little, and allow him to bask. What exact temperature marks a safety zone for him to be outside? We live in Salem County, NJ, USA. We are zone 7a according to the USDA. As I stated earlier, he's still little and I've not had him outdoors yet.

6. He LOVES his baths. He seems to get feisty when the water drops below 90 degrees. What is the maximum temperature we can start the water at so we can keep him comfortable longer? We now start his water at 95 degrees, as I once read the range of 85 - 95 is proper.

As an aside, I love your site, I love who you guys are, and I love what you do. Our family has learned much from the site! I had a very pleasant and helpful e-mail exchange with (I believe) Lin a few months back when I got mad at all the conflicting information on tortoise care! I seriously appreciate what you do. If my family can ever help, please don't hesitate to reach out!

The added page on how you do your research and deem something unsafe/safe is AWESOME! Just sayin'.

Hector now has his own dedicated greenhouse so we don't mess up and offer him something unsafe. Keep up the great work and I look forward to supporting your site in the near future.


Michelle Darby and family

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Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Questions about Hector's Care

Post by Nina » 03 Jun 2017, 14:50

Well, hi to Hector and his family (it sounds to me like Hector was very lucky to have found you guys, as you are giving him a great home! Here are some response to your questions, and I'll use the same numbering that you did:

1. Miracle Grow Potting Soil will have lots of fertilizers in it, to help the plants grow, and you don't really want that for Hectors plants, as they can build up too much nitrogen in their leaves. So use the Miracle Grow for your geraniums and house plants and see if you can buy some ordinary plain topsoil. In the UK we can buy bags of sterilized topsoil at garden centres, but I'm not too sure about the USA. Or you could just use soil from your yard. Weeds actually prefer a soil with poor nutrients, and most plants will grow in poor soil for a while anyway.

2. How much food. I'm afraid that by the time he can't tuck himself in any more it has gone way too far. You really do need to weigh him regularly -- some digital kitchen scales are good -- and aim for him to be gaining no more than 1g - 4g per month. We use grams to measure tortoise weight because it's a smaller amount and so more accurate. To give you an idea, one ounce = 28 grams. This is just an average, and some months he will gain more and some less. You can download and print out a record chart on our website here, to keep your records. ... bf15da.pdf
Horsfields are an especially greed species (I can tell you why if you are interested) and tend to overeat, so you might well have to monitor his amounts.

3. Daily soaks in the summer when it is hot are great, as tortoises -- especially small ones -- can dehydrate easily, so keep those up.

4. The TNT and Calcium powder are absolutely fine, so keep those up. I can't remember now, but does TNT powder have Vitamin D3 in it? Tortoises need vitamin D3 to enable them to metabolize calcium, and the UVB from the sun is the best source of this (better than your UVB light indoors), so it's good to have a supplement like Nutrobal or something similar that also has D3 (but if he ends up spending a long time outdoors than that isn't as necessary).

5. Outdoor accommodation. Wow -- how wonderful for you to have all that land -- but I do understand the dangers of predators. Some people fix a heavy chicken wire lid to outdoor accommodation to prevent predation, but there are always animals that can get round that. I don't think that the coconut coir is essential for outdoors, and in fact if you have a rainy spell it could hold the moisture and grow mould. Is it possible just to have him on the ground? Russians are a burrowing species so indoors and out he should have an area where he can dig down. If your outdoor enclosure has a floor to it, then I would make sure you drill holes in the bottom so a sudden thunderstorm doesn't result in a flash flood for him. He should also have a little covered area that he can go into to get out of the heat. Horsfields can take pretty high temperatures -- say up into the low 90s, but a shady area would be appreciated. And it can fall down into the mid- to high 60s and he will be absolutely fine.

6. Re baths. i'm afraid I've never measured the temperature at which I bathe mine. We just use a guideline that the temperature should be nice and warm -- the temperature at which you bathe a baby is our rough guideline.

And thank you so much for your compliments! It really does make it all worthwhile to know that we are being useful to people and that our efforts are appreciated. And I have to blush, as I was the person who wrote the article on how we do our research. It was in response to someone on one of the forums saying that they assume that we just google a plant name and look at what Wikipedia has to say about it. Lin and I (who do most of the research) were absolutely infuriated, as some plants can take weeks or even months of research (others can be done more quickly), and we spend many many hours checking and double checking to ensure we've got stuff right. And of course there is always new research being published, so we often revise existing entries in the light of new scientific findings. If you ever see anything on our website that looks wrong, or incomplete, or needs changing, do let us know -- we really welcome that sort of feedback.

If you have a minute it would be great to see a photo of the now famous Hector (we never get tired of looking at photos of tortoises, and I'm sure that Hector is a handsome Horsfield)!


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