Caveat - As most of you are aware there is a LOT of varying information out there about what is and isn’t best for optimal tortoise care. The following answers are based on “best practice” standards that I've found most effective from my experience and research.
Weather permitting, all tortoises should be kept outdoors during the day in a
protected enclosure with access to water, direct sun and shade. Bring in only at night or
when temperatures drop below 70 degrees. Also be aware that UV bulbs only emit the
essential UV rays for 3 months tops. After that it’s just a lightbulb.
Ideally about 20 times larger than the tortoise.
These are desert animals so it’s not a requirement for juveniles and adults.
However, hatchlings of all species do require moderate-high humidity during the first 1-3
years of their lives.
I use and highly recommend the Akoma Hound Heater. They’re great because
there’s only one cord and they last much longer than a bulb. The regulator, heat source
thermostat are all in one unit. It’s guaranteed not to burn the animal or the substrate if it
comes in contact with either.
As long as the tortoise has access to fresh water in a dish that they can easily enter
and exit at their discretion, then there should be no need for forced soaking.
Ideal temperature range would be 75-90 degrees. For the big guys, which are
much more tolerant of weather extremes, I usually turn on the heaters in October when
nighttime temps drop below 60. I never use the heater during our ideal San Diego summers.
As long as you offer your tortoise a well balanced, high fiber diet, then added supplements shouldn’t be necessary. Cuttlebones would be the exception. As the tortoise chews on the bone it helps keep their beak trimmed and adds calcium to their system.
This is probably the only commercial ingestible product that I feel comfortable endorsing. These pellets contain antioxidants, vitamin E, and vitamin A to help support the immune system and eye health. The LS Mazuri pellets have proven to be a better nutritional option than the original larger pellet type. I offer it to my tortoises every 3rd day.
I’ve found that Bermuda and/or Timothy hay are the best options. I use it as a substrate for their house and also put it in their favorite corners of the enclosure.
After age 3-4, a healthy sulcata should be gaining about 10 lbs each year.
Primarily any or all of the following: improper diet, insufficient access to sun, too small of an enclosure.
NO. Tortoises are solo creatures. If you look at pictures of tortoises in the wild
they are almost always by themselves. They only look for a temporary companion during mating season. If you do choose to acquire another tortoise of the opposite sex, keep in mind that one female can easily lay 100 eggs each year! It’s already a saturated market so please don’t bring any more babies into their overpopulated world.
It varies based on the tortoise. Tortoises will usually eat what they need within the first 20 minutes of it being offered. Anything left after that should be discarded.
First: I don’t often get female sulcatas in because most owners feel they’d be able to sell them on CL or some other forum.
Second: To sterilize a male or female sulcata would be upwards of $3000 (cheaper and more practical to keep them separate).
Third: If you look at any research of tortoises in the wild, you’ll notice that they’re always found by themselves, rarely if ever in colonies. That debunks the notion that tortoises get lonely and need a companion. They’re very content as a solo pet tortoise as long as they can interact regularly with their human owners.
Fourth: Male sulcatas can, and usually do, become aggressive if they’re anywhere near a female. That friendly guy that comes up to you for a rub and a snack will suddenly come charging and want to run you down.
Fifth: Male sulcatas are very persistent about their intentions if they are kept with a female. He will be on her like white on rice alllll day long. It’s not unusual to see a female with her back scutes significantly rubbed down due to her “companion’s” diligence at procreating.
Sixth: And final…We definitely don’t need any more babies!! The market is saturated with sulcatas and a lot of them end up with a rescue group as we diligently try to find good homes for them.
Vitamin A deficiency is extremely common in young aquatic (red eared sliders) and semi-aquatic turtles such as box turtles. It is usually initially recognized when the eyelids become inflamed and swollen and the animal may have difficulty breathing. Ongoing signs of illness often include loss of appetite, lethargy, buoyancy problems (e.g., floating sideways), swollen eyes, cysts, irregular shell growth, swollen limbs, and runny nose. If any of these symptoms are noted, an appointment should be scheduled to see a veterinarian specializing in chelonians.
Vitamin A is essential to the proper growth of immature epidermal or skin cells. Lack of vitamin A causes excessive growth or thickening of cells and is usually a result of improper diet. Zinc Deficiency inhibits Vitamin A
This deficiency is treated with either oral or injectable Vitamin A. Treatment should only be performed under veterinary supervision, as an overdose of vitamin A can occur.
You will want to ensure that your turtle has a healthy diet that includes dark, leafy greens, and/or yellow and orange vegetables. Name brand commercial turtle pellets and live fish tend to have enough Vitamin A to meet your turtle's needs.
As omnivores, turtles also need chopped vegetable salads that are rich in Vitamin A, such as winter squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, red peppers, collards, kale, turnip greens, carrots, and parsnips. These veggies provide a good nutritional balance. Cooked carrots, sweet potatoes or squash once a week is GREAT for your turtle’s vitamin A needs.
If you are providing your turtle the PERFECT diet, you won’t need any vitamin supplementation. Generally speaking, if you are giving your turtle a fairly-diverse range of foods it will probably get most of the overall vitamins it needs from those foods. However, there are 2 vitamins your turtle requires MORE than the others. A lack of either of these can cause serious health problems. Those being:
Vitamin D3 is produced by pigment cells located in your turtle’s skin and shell whenever it receives UV light, whether natural or artificial through a UV-producing light bulb. Keep in mind that UV light bulbs only produce the required rays for 2-3 months maximum and should be replaced accordingly. Additionally it is worth noting that the majority of UVB rays are blocked by glass.
This vitamin then helps your turtle to use the calcium in its body to help promote good healthy bones, shell, skin and more. Without this important vitamin, your turtle will not be able to metabolize the calcium in its body, and it may develop metabolic bone disease.
Interestingly, tortoises do not experience Vitamin A deficiencies nearly as much as aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles. This is largely due to the fact that the bulk of the tortoise diet consists of vegetables that are jam-packed with the vitamin.
In general, you do not need to provide additional vitamin supplementation to turtles provided they have a good, diverse diet as listed above.
The 2 most important vitamins for turtles are vitamins A and D.
You can keep your turtle(s) happy and healthy with a proper diet and exposure to UV rays.
Happy Turtle Trails
Please try to grow most of what your tortoise(s) eats. They’re grazers so it’s much healthier, easier, and less expensive than buying produce at the market. Great easy to find options are Bermuda grass, red hibiscus, grape vines, mulberry tree and buckwheat to name a few.
Hope this clears things up for you and eases your mind about your current sulcata’s temperament. As they all do, I’m sure they will bring you many years of enjoyment.
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