Hermann help!

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Cheryl
Posts: 16
Joined: 28 Aug 2020, 13:54

Hermann help!

Post by Cheryl » 28 Aug 2020, 14:25

Hey everyone, newbie here! Looking forward to ‘meeting’ you all.

So last Saturday with a day’s notice, I inherited my very first tortoise and I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with all the information ‘out there’ so I’m hoping someone can help please?
Dumbledore is 3 years old and he came to me after a friend’s marriage ended suddenly and the friend has been posted abroad with the army for 6 months.

Dumbledore arrived in a 3x2’ wooden box with a glass front and a mesh top to keep the dog out. He has a plastic box at one end with a big hole cut out of it as his hide - this has a reptile heat mat inside for heat. There is an overhead bulb attached over the main area that is an exo terra dual light bulb.
Substrate is literally a few layers of newspaper and some greenish coloured straw/hay. To say I was horrified when I saw this set-up would be an understatement.

Every day this week I have made sure Dumbledore has had some time outside (I don’t have an outdoor setup yet so he has been supervised the entire time) but the rest of the time he has just hidden away in his hide.

Clearly there is a bit of work to do to get him set up properly and settled into his new home but with the list of things to do getting longer each day, could someone please tell me what needs to be done first as a priority and I can start there?

I have a week off work after today so can see I’m going to be very busy getting things sorted for Dumbledore - all advice is greatly appreciated, thank you 😊

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Nina
Posts: 1495
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Hermann help!

Post by Nina » 28 Aug 2020, 15:45

Hi Cheryl,
Welcome to The Tortoise Table, and congratulations on getting Dumbledore (great name by the way)!

I can understand that you feel overwhelmed, but I’m really encouraged because you have all the right concerns and have pinpointed the potential problems.

First of all, here’s a link to a care sheet for Hermanns.
https://www.tortoise-protection-group.o ... 014New.pdf

Secondly 3’ x 2’ is really too small for a 3 year old, although it will do for a little while, especially if he can go outdoors. Tortoises need a fair amount of space and an interesting environment to keep them from getting bored and wanting to sleep all day. I would say that 4’x 2’ would be much better, and in that space you can accommodate a ramp up to a second level that would give him more scope for exercise. Have a look at the indoor enclosure section on our website for some ideas. Here’s a link to the general enclosures page and there are links there to the indoor and outdoor sections. https://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/tor ... 0kRscp4Wf0
You can even use something like a set of bookshelves, lying on its back with the shelves taken out.

I would take the heat mat out of the plastic box, as they don’t need extra heat in there. Also, if it is on the floor of the box then he is at risk of burns, but if on the roof then it isn’t dangerous, but not necessary.

Substrate. The best is something that approximates what they would have in the wild, which is a sandy soil, so we use a mixture of ordinary sterilised topsoil and children’s play sand (both of which can be bought at garden centres or places like Homebase). You mix them 50/50, or maybe a bit more soil than sand, and give it a light spray every day or so to keep it from getting dusty. And make it as deep as possible so that he can dig in and bury himself completely if he wants to.

The Exo Terra dual light. I assume that this is a combined heat/light/and UVB lamp. Do you know how old it is? These lamps need to be replaced every two years, as they stop putting out UVB after a while. A local reptile shop could possibly check this for you with a UVB meter.
There should be a protective shade around it to protect your eyes, as UVB can damage your eyes if you look straight into the bulb (if the bulb has a silver coating around the bottom that will offer some protection).

You will need a good thermometer that can measure the temperature directly under the bulb, at the height of Dumbledore’s shell. The digital fridge thermometers with a display unit and then a probe at the end of a long cord are good for this. Temperature is super important for tortoises, and you want a temp of about 30C directly under the lamp and about 20C at the cool end, so depending on the temperature in the room you might need to raise or lower the lamp to get it right.

It is great that you are giving him time outside! Weather not great at the moment, but if it’s warm enough for you to be in a t-shirt then it’s warm enough for him to be out (and if it’s sunny but a bit cooler he can still go out for a while and then back in to warm up under the lights and back out again).

Sorry to have gone on at such length! Sort out the heat mat and the new substrate first, and please come back with any questions or problems you have. I think you’re going to give Dumbledore an excellent home!

Nima

Cheryl
Posts: 16
Joined: 28 Aug 2020, 13:54

Re: Hermann help!

Post by Cheryl » 28 Aug 2020, 17:33

Hi Nina

Thanks for replying so quickly, and don’t worry, a lengthy post is good!

Just got in from work and re-measured the enclosure. It is 3.7ftx2ft so hopefully that should be okay for a bit longer until I can build a proper tortoise table.

At the moment Dumbledore is upstairs in a little-used bedroom so I have plans this weekend to sort out a nice area in the conservatory for him. It’s nice and warm in there all morning and cools off once the sun moves round as it’s a brick sides and glass front and roof.
I have a jack russell that is very focused on anything that moves so Dumbledore will be going on to a large desk and his enclosure has purpose-built heavy mesh panels over the top (I think this will be essential until Dotty is with us no longer)

The exo terra lamp (so I’m told by the previous owner) provides uva/uvb light but doesn’t feel overly hot. He put a new one in about 2 months ago. It is in a black holder and can be height adjusted. I don’t want to lower it down too far while there’s newspaper in there though as I’m worried about the fire risk.

I will be shopping tomorrow to get the substrate sorted out and get some ‘points of interest in there too. Once it’s all done I will post some before and after pics.

Thanks again for your advice, looking forward to giving Dumbledore an awesome forever home x

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Nina
Posts: 1495
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Hermann help!

Post by Nina » 28 Aug 2020, 20:20

Hi Cheryl,

Yes, I agree that this table will be fine for him until you can get a bigger one.

The conservatory sounds fine for him, as long as it doesn’t get too hot (but with the dark, cold weather we’ve been having that extra light will be most welcome!).

What wattage is your lamp? That is great that it’s only a couple of months old, and also that it can be raised and lowered as needed.

Temperature is so important for them that I’d make it a priority to get a thermometer. Here’s a link to the sort of thing I mean, but you can get them cheaper and in lots of places. It’s good to get one with a max/min function so that you can see how hot or cold it got since you last reset the function. You just hang the probe down into the table until it is about the height of Dumbledore’s shell, and within the circle of light.
https://thermometer.co.uk/fridge-freeze ... gIa1vD_BwE

You are right to take precautions with a dog in the house, and your mesh panels sound perfect. Just be sure that they aren’t so closely woven that they block out light or heat.

Really looking forward to before and after photos! I’d attach photos of my table, but my laptop is on the blink ( being sorted on Tuesday), and I’m on the iPad with no access to my photos.

Have a great weekend.

Nina

Cheryl
Posts: 16
Joined: 28 Aug 2020, 13:54

Re: Hermann help!

Post by Cheryl » 29 Aug 2020, 16:24

Hi Nina

Just a little update - photos will be coming soon but still have a bit of work to do.

Have been working non-stop today getting Dumbledore’s new digs sorted. So far we have lined the inside of his enclosure (who knew pond liner would be so much hard work!) and the soil/sand substrate is in. Dumbledore was outside eating dandelions under the watchful eye of my niece while work was in progress.
I’ve popped him back in, no decorations yet, and it’s like I have a different tortoise!
After a week of hiding out in his bedroom and not moving about much, he has been wandering round his enclosure all afternoon so I think he’s happy!

Thermometer will be here tomorrow so I can start monitoring temperatures. His bulb is 150W.
What heating would you recommend for when the nights start to get a bit cooler? I know I shouldn’t hibernate him this year as I don’t know all his little habits yet so would like to start thinking about heating before the cold creeps up on us.

Thank you so much for your advice it’s really appreciated.

Ok tea break over, time to go off foraging for home furnishings!!

User avatar
Nina
Posts: 1495
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Hermann help

Post by Nina » 29 Aug 2020, 16:52

Hi Cheryl,

My goodness you’re making excellent progress! Isn’t it wonderful what difference the proper substrate can make. Can’t wait to see pictures!

You are right not to hibernate him this year, but just be warned that many tortoises have a strong hibernation instinct, and they sense when the days are shorter and go into hibernation mode (Horsfields are the worst for this, but it can happen to any species). If Dumbledore goes that way, let us know and we can give you some tips.

150 W is probably more than you need if the room is warm anyway. Did you have him during that hot weather we had recently? If so then it might have been too warm for him and that might have contributed to him hiding away.

Regarding temperatures when the nights get colder — you shouldn’t have to provide any extra heat at night in most modern houses, as the temps can fall to about 13C or 14 C with no ill effects, although ideally it should be a bit higher than that. If your temps are 15C or above at night then you’re fine (and in the wild they would also experience a drop in temperature at night).

If it is likely to get colder than that there are a couple of things you can do: some people put a heat mat on the roof of the sleeping area (not on the floor) and turn it on if it is going to be very cold; you can ensure that the temperature doesn’t fall too low at night by having a little supplementary heater in the room; or you can get a ceramic heat emitter, which is like a light bulb in shape but only gives off heat and not light, and you just hang it above like your ordinary bulb. And with all these things they can be hooked up to a thermostat that you can buy, and set to turn on when the temperature drops below a certain level.

Can’t wait to see this little ‘des res’ that you’re making for him — happy foraging!

Nina

Cheryl
Posts: 16
Joined: 28 Aug 2020, 13:54

Re: Hermann help!

Post by Cheryl » 13 Sep 2020, 14:02

Hi Nina

Well it’s been a busy couple of weeks. I knocked together a basic run for Dumbledore on my week off so that he could spend some time outside safely. Glad I did as it’s beautiful this weekend and he’s been sunbathing 8-)

The indoor enclosure is still a work in progress but I’ve managed to attach a few pics for you. One of them is the ‘before’ picture and there’s 2 ‘in progress’ for you - am I on the right track?

Definitely going to need something bigger for the future, there’s not too much room left. For now I think I just need a couple of plants, what would you recommend?

Let me know if you think there’s anything I need to change/do different - only the best is good enough for my boy! :D

Thanks again for your advice so far

Cheryl
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