Tortoise enclose

Use this forum to discuss any aspect of tortoise housing and enclosures. Upload and show pictures of your set ups (enclosures).
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Toast the Tort
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Joined: 17 Mar 2021, 22:34

Tortoise enclose

Post by Toast the Tort » 17 Mar 2021, 22:47

I am really confused by all the mixed info online regarding my horsfields enclosure. Here it says vivs are absolutely a no go and other forums are saying they are ideal. I have just rehomed an 18 month old Horsfield from someone who no longer wanted him and he came with a viv. He was housed on a sand only substrate and had no fresh water available. I've changed the substrate to top soil and of course he now has fresh water. I have also been soaking him daily incase he was dehydrated. He loves the soil and is buying down into it over night but now of course I am worried about him being in a viv rather than a table.

I was wondering if it would be suitable to build a "wall" that extends out from the viv, effectivly converting it into a table? That would allow me to remove the glass and I can build a small ramp for him to climb in and out, the ledge is only around 2 inches high.

I also am slightly confused by basking temps, I've seen anywhere from 32-40c recommended. Because he is young I've read a higher temp is better?
I currently have the thermostat set to 35c. What should the cool end drop to though? Room temp is only around 16 degrees so would that not be too cool for him if I was to open up the viv into a table?

I turn the UVB and basking bulb off over night but am concerned he will be too cool! Over night temps can drop to 14c.

Sorry for all the info and questions, advice is so conflicting! I just want him to live a perfect life.

I have ordered plenty of seeds to begin growing him fresh food as the previous people had been feeding him cucumber romaine and meal worms!

Thanks in advance

Toast the Tort
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Joined: 17 Mar 2021, 22:34

Re: Tortoise enclose

Post by Toast the Tort » 17 Mar 2021, 22:54

By the way, his new name is Toast!
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Nina
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Re: Tortoise enclose

Post by Nina » 18 Mar 2021, 09:12

Hi Toast the Tort, and welcome to The Tortoise Table! And many congratulations on welcoming a Horsfield into your home -- they are a great species with lots of personality (but then I'm biased because I keep Horsfields!). It is great that you have changed the sand to topsoil (you can mix some sand together with topsoil if you want, as in the wild they tend to live on sandy soils, but it's not essential), and that you are providing fresh water and bathing him -- I think you have almost certainly saved this tortoise's life.

If you don't have one already, here is a link to a care sheet for Horsfields: https://www.tortoise-protection-group.o ... 014New.pdf

One of the reasons we started The Tortoise Table was because of all the information on the Internet. I would love to know which sites say that a vivarium is good for tortoises (you used to see people saying that, but very few would now, due to the latest research and scientific evidence). I could go on about why vivs are bad for tortoises (they are good for snakes and lizards but very bad -- even dangerous -- for torts), but have a read of this article from The Tortoise Trust (the most authoritative body in the UK). Scroll down a bit to the section on 'Vivarium tanks': https://www.tortoisetrust.org/articles/vivarium.htm

So he really needs to be in a tortoise table, which is very easy to make (think set of book shelves on its back with the shelves taken out) -- any open box with walls high enough so that he can't climb out will do, and we have an article on our website about how to build one. Good tip though -- make it as large as your space will allow, and if possible incorporate an upper level (reached by a ramp), as tortoises get bored in small spaces and can become lethargic.

However, if you don't want to build or buy a table, then your idea of building a wall sounds very workable, and I've attached two photos of ways that you can convert a vivarium which seem similar to what you are suggesting, plus here is a link to a lovely (and amusing) article on our website from someone who converted her viv into a super little enclosure with the help of an old coffee table: https://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/tor ... FMTTdynwZY Have a read -- I think you will like it.

Your basking temperature is a bit too high at the moment, and it is really important that you are measuring the temperature directly under the heat source, and at the height of your tortoise's shell, as a thermometer mounted on a nearby wall will give you an artificially low temperature. What you should aim for is 30C directly under the light -- which should ideally be at one end of the enclosure -- and 20C at the other end. Tortoises are ectothermic and need to wander from warm to cool areas to regulate their body temperature. Any temperature over about 35C or so can be very dangerous for the tortoise, and this is why in the wild they tend to come out to feed in the early mornings and early evenings when the temperatures are a bit lower. At night you shouldn't need any extra heat, unless the temperature drops below about 12C. 14C is OK, so I wouldn't worry unless it goes a lot lower -- in the wild tortoises do experience a drop in temperature at night.

It's a good question about the relationship of the room temperature to the basking temperature. We always recommend that you have a lamp that you can raise and lower (so something on a chain, for example), because room temperature does have an effect on the table. If you have, say, a 100W lamp, it should be sufficient to achieve the temperature you want, even in a cold room, and on a warm day you can raise it up so that the temperature in the table is cooler. Do you have a separate UVB source from the heat and light source -- or is it the combined heat/light/UVB bulb?

Oh my goodness -- meal worms! :o As I'm sure you know, tortoises are vegetarians and need a high fibre/low protein diet -- although they will attack the odd slug when out in the garden (not good for them, but we all eat things sometimes that aren't good for us). How great that you will be growing plants for him! One thing you can do is to sow the seeds in really small trays (like A5 size -- you can use plastic trays that chicken breasts come in), and sow them in succession, every couple of weeks, so that after one tray has been eaten the next will be ready. There are loads of plants, even now, outdoors that you can give him -- dandelions, sowthistle, plantain, low growing campanula from the garden. You can use the filter facility on our plant database https://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/ind ... FMX7tynwZY to produce lists of edible plants, or just type the name of any plant into the search box and then click on the result to get a full entry (or just ask us, and we're happy to let you know).

So sorry for such a long post. I really think this little tortoise (what's his name by the way -- is it Toast?) is lucky to have found a home with you and you're going to be a great tortoise keeper!

Nina
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vanrose66
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Joined: 10 Mar 2021, 19:32

Re: Tortoise enclose

Post by vanrose66 » 18 Mar 2021, 09:30

I'm glad I wasn't the only one confused by all the info.
But thanks to Nina here, I'm now all sorted with my heat. Already had a table made so that wasn't a problem. I dont read anything else now, just look it all up on the tortoise table site. I too am growing lots of weeds and plants for them. I've sown some seeds in their soil to see if it grows direct.
Love your tortys name. Mine are Spike and Petrie - yes named with the help of the grandchildren who are mad on dinosaurs.
Good luck with it all

Toast the Tort
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Joined: 17 Mar 2021, 22:34

Re: Tortoise enclose

Post by Toast the Tort » 18 Mar 2021, 12:32

Hi Nina,

Thanks for all the valuable info! The forum is called tortoiseforum.org, and they recommended the higher heat and enclosed viv based mostly on his age from what I gathered.

I will get to work on getting supplies to convert the viv into a bigger and more open table in that case! It was mostly my worry of the cooler temps that had me delaying the process (plus the conflicting info!).

I have repositioned the thermostat to directly under the heat lamp at tortoise height and adjusted it to 30c now. Perhaps the temps being too high explains why I never saw him directly under it and more off to the sides. Hopefully he can make better use of it now. It is at the end of the table to allow for more of a gradient across the enclosure. I have been opening the doors up when I am in the room with him (which is most of the time!) to ensure for airflow until its converted.

The UVB and basking light are separate and the UVB runs the length of the viv.

Yeah I was worried when the previous owners said he had been fed mealworms as they also said he preferred them over greens, but he has eaten greens with me since he's been here. Loves his dandelions and lambs leaf lettuce and has had some small amounts of cress. I am growing some sweet peas, pansies and violas so far but will research what else I can grow for him to give him as much variety as possible. I am curious how much he should eat though, as he doesn't seem to gorge himself just nibble away occasionally. Is there a specific weight he should be for his age perhaps ( approx 18 months)?

He is slowly becoming more active as the days go by and so I am taking that as a good sign. Plus I think he is enjoying his soaks a little more too!

I have seen him poop a few times but haven't seen him urinate, is this something to be concerned about? Perhaps he is still a little dehydrated, as although I have been soaking him I haven't seen him actively drink from his bowl.

Thanks again for all the info!

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Nina
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Re: Tortoise enclose

Post by Nina » 18 Mar 2021, 12:36

Hi Vanessa -- great to hear from you, and thanks so much for the compliments! Toast the Tortoise -- here's a link to Vanessa's thread if you want to see her table and her gorgeous tortoises! viewtopic.php?t=2256

Nina

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Nina
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Re: Tortoise enclose

Post by Nina » 18 Mar 2021, 13:08

Hi Toast,

Glad that the information was useful, and please don't hesitate to ask lots of questions -- it's the best way to learn.

Can't wait to see your conversion, and I meant to say in my previous email that it's a good idea to remove the doors and put a piece of wood or someting up there, so that he can't get out -- but you'd already thought of that, so well done! Yes, the higher temperature probably did keep him from basking under the light, so hopefully he will spend a bit more time under there now.

Thanks for your info about the UVB light, etc. I do prefer having them separate myself, as it means that you can raise or lower the heat lamp without worrying that you are moving your UVB source too close or too far away.

Pansies and violas are great and he will love them, but I would plant the Sweet Peas in your garden and enjoy their flowers yourself, as they aren't good to feed to tortoises (here is our entry for them): https://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/pla ... FNLUdynwZZ
You can buy mixtures of seeds especially for tortoises at places like Shelled Warriors and elsewhere. Here's a link to the Shelled Warriors site, to the seeds page https://www.shelledwarriorsshop.co.uk/s ... s-54-c.asp , and I think I would get something like the smallest quantity of the ordinary seed mix or the luxury seed mix (scroll down) to start with.

Regarding how much he should eat -- weight gain is really important with Horsfields. In the wild they live in areas where there are long cold winters and long hot summers. They hibernate for a long time in the winter and aestivate (like hibernation but in the heat) for a long time in the summer, and it's estimated that in the wild they are only awake for about three months of the year, and during that time they eat for about 20 - 30 hours. So they are sort of programmed to 'eat for England', and consequently in captivity, where they are presented with lovely meals every day, they eat too much and their shells grow too quickly and become bumpy/deformed, which can cause pyramiding and metabolic bone disease.

So we need to monitor their growth carefully and adjust feeding so that they gain weight slowly. What to aim for is a weight increase on average, of about 1g - 3g per month. This is only an average, and some months they will gain more and some less, but it's a guide. Some people feed all the tortoise can eat in 20 minutes, once a day, some use the image of a little jacket or blanket of leaves and flowers that just cover the tortoise's shell, once a day. But keeping track of weight works best. Would you like a complimentary copy of our Observations Records Booklet (you can record the weight there and have a running record of it)? Just email me at nina@thetortoisetable.org.uk and I'll put a copy in the post to you. There is no weight at a particular age to aim for because, like people, tortoises come in different sizes and weights. How much does yours weigh at the moment?

Regarding wee and poo. He might well have had a wee but it dried up quickly under the light. Or the often wee in the bath. With the wee they often produce urates -- a white substance that is quite natural. If the urates are sandy or gritty then it indicates dehydration, but if it is watery or soft like toothpaste (oh we do have some odd images in the tortoise-keeping world!), then that means he is well hydrated. So it's something to look out for.

Some torts never drink from their water bowl (or they wait until we've left the room because they want to stress us out :D ), but they often will drink in the bath. My Doris never drinks from the water bowl, but Dolly often does. The other thing you can do is to wet the leaves, etc. that you are feeding him, and that will not only get a bit more water into him, but it will also help the calcium powder to stick to the leaves and not just fall off.

Oh dear, another overly long post from me. Sorry, but if you're still awake after reading it, I hope it is of some help.

Nina

Toast the Tort
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Joined: 17 Mar 2021, 22:34

Re: Tortoise enclose

Post by Toast the Tort » 21 Mar 2021, 15:00

I have an idea on how to do the conversion now, after looking at a few attempts online and so just need to get the bits and bobs to do it!

I have lowered the temp and now his basking spot is at ~31 degrees. Still haven't seen him rest under it for long but hoping he will start soon.

I have tried to tempt him with the flowers but as of yet he isn't interested. Phew glad you mentioned the sweetness, I'll keep those for me! Picked up snapdragons instead now, think thats what I meant to grab in the first place! I'll check out shelled warriors and give their seed mixes a go :)

I am a little concerned he isn't eating enough at the moment in that case. I present him with fresh foods everyday but he's not too interested. Might take a nibble or two then he moves on. I've got some digital scales on order which should arrive tomorrow and I'll give him a weigh then. Hoping maybe he's just getting used to being in a new space and perhaps he's a little nervous and it's putting it off his food.

He did a wee the other day and the urates were quite "bitty" which I think I read somewhere meant they're dehydrated? So I'll keep up with the daily soaks. Could that be a reason why he's off his food? I've been wetting his food too but obviously he's not interested in that so it's not helping.

I'm also curious about housing him outside over the summer months. But we rarely get temperatures of 30 degrees for him to bask. At what point can they start to go out? I want him to explore and get some natural UV but don't want him to be chilly!!

Thanks again for all the info!

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Nina
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Re: Tortoise enclose

Post by Nina » 21 Mar 2021, 16:21

That's great that you're going to convert it, and we're looking forward to seeing the little torty paradise that you will create! :D

Lowering the temp in the basking spot was the right thing to do, and I think you could lower it to 30C and it will be even better. The bitty urates you are seeing do indicate that he isn't fully hydrated, and 18 month old torts are small and can dehydrate quickly under the lights. So I would definitely keep up the baths and wetting the food. I can't remember but have you measured the temperature under the lamp with a thermometer, or are you just setting the thermostat for that temperature?

Regard eating. Keeping a record of his growth will give you a good idea of what is going on. As I mentioned before, you want to aim for growth of, on average, 1g - 3g per month (just an average). Tortoises actually need to grow very slowly, and many people do overfeed their tortoises. Is he pooing? If he's pooing then he must be eating something. I was out for a walk today and there are loads of dandelions that have just come into flower in my area. Most tortoises love a dandelion flower, so you could try offering him one of those if there are any about. He might well be adjusting to his new environment, so give it a while, but if he is nibbling bits and putting on a little bit of weight regularly, I think he should be fine.
Try and weigh him roughly under the same conditions (like just before or just after a bath), and don't worry if on one weigh-in he seems to have lost weight (lol, they can lose a couple of grams just having a poo).

Re the summer. If you can provide him with an enclosure in a sunny spot outside he will love it (you can even use log roll dug a bit into the ground for walls), and not on grass but on mainly bare earth, and don't have walls that he can see out of (if they can see out they want to get out, and it's frustrating for them). Google 'outdoor tortoise enclosures' and click on Images and look at some of them.

Yes it's true we rarely have 30C temperatures, but tortoise are like little storage heaters -- they soak up the sun and get surprisingly warm. You will often see them balancing at an angle against a wall so that they get the best rays. The general rule is that if you can be outdoors in a t-shirt then your tortoise can be outside. However, even when it is cooler they can still go outside for short periods of time. Warm him up indoors, put him outside and every now and then feel his shell, and when it starts to get a bit cooler then bring him in for another warm-up. Little tortoises cool down a lot faster than larger ones, so he might not stay out for long, but the UVB from the sun is of a far higher quality than what we provide indoors, and it will do him no end of good.

All that talking about basking outdoors reminded me of my Doris when she was young. I had an outdoor enclosure with, for some reason, a mosaic plate in it (can't remember why now), and she loved to go up and sprawl out against it, angled to get the best rays of the sun (have attached a photo).

Nina
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Toast the Tort
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Re: Tortoise enclose

Post by Toast the Tort » 25 Mar 2021, 20:38

I've now lowered it to 30 on the dot, and he's enjoying it a lot more. I've measured it with a thermometer balanced on a rock so that it was sat at his shell height :) I'm keeping up with the daily soakings. He's passed some more urates that seemed gritty still, but I'll keep an eye on them and hope he begins to show signs of better hydration.

He definately isn't eating like I'd expect. I've only seen him take a handful of small nibbles. I'm hoping he is still just settling in. I've offered him a lot of variety so I don't think he's being fussy. He did poop today in his bath so he must be taking in more when I'm not looking perhaps. I've offered numerous dandelion flowers and leaves, and I've been out foraging in the garden and in the fields and I've offered pansies, flowering currant, ribwort plantain, dead nettle, orpine, rose leaves and aubretia to name a few, but he's just not interested. He weighs 106g so I'll monitor the weight. If he loses weight at what point do I panic? Is there any other factors that might affect his eating? Perhaps his UV bulb should be replaced?

I took him out into the sun the other day, just for 45 minutes or so and he seemed to be enjoying himself, was making the most of the space and exploring plenty. I'll start looking at building an outdoor enclosure for summer use, I'll have to make it dig proof I'm assuming!?

I also was after some advice regarding hibernation if possible. I've read you shouldn't hibernate a tortoise in the first year of ownership but if I don't the variety of foods for him will be more limited and I'll likely have to supplement with shop bought bits I'm assuming? Or is there a way to pick plenty through the summer months and then dehydrate it and store it for use over the winter maybe?

Thanks again for all the super useful advice!

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Nina
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Re: Tortoise enclose

Post by Nina » 27 Mar 2021, 14:47

Well done for doing the foraging -- you will have a very healthy tortoise if he is fed on a natural diet.

He's only tiny, so he won't be eating that much. Just keep a record of his weight and that is the best way to tell if his intake of food is sufficient.
When you weigh him, try and do it under roughly the same conditions (just before or aftera bath, just after a poo). It's amazing how much they can lose in just have a little poo. Let us know how he is doing and if he does lose weight then we'll try and suggest other measures. You could try smearing some cucumber juice on some of his leaves (torts tend to like cucumber and that might tempt him). And if his urates are still gritty then do keep up those baths (and wet the leaves that you are offering him, as that will help to get a bit more water into him as well.

If his UVB bulb is 18 months or 2 years old then it might need replacing -- what type is it? But that shouldn't affect his appetite.

Regarding hibernation. We do recommend that you have a tortoise for a year before hibernating, but you will have had him for nearly a year by next November or December. We can send you lots of guides on how to hibernate, and how to prepare him for hibernation (which is very important) when the time comes. Regarding food. You can dry some things, but there is one commercial food that we would recommend (and it is the only one that the Tortoise Trust recommends as well). It's called Pre-Alpin Testudo and is made entirely from meadow grasses and alpine herbs and flowers, with no additives. It comes mainly in big pellets called 'cobs' that you soak in warm water to rehydrate, and they expand enormously. You can buy it on Shelled Warrior's shop, and here is a link to that page: https://www.shelledwarriorsshop.co.uk/a ... -261-c.asp

He will love having an outdoor enclosure, and if you want some suggestions, let us know. It does need to be dig proof and climb proof (they are amazing climbers), and if you want some suggestions let us know.

Nina

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