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    AFRICAN SPURRED TORTOISE (GEOCHELONE SULCATA) CareSheet

    Metal Maniac
    Metal Maniac
    Administrator-Founder-Owner
    Administrator-Founder-Owner

    Male Number of posts : 2242
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    Location : From the River Bed of the Rio Negro
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    Registration date : 2009-03-05

    AFRICAN SPURRED TORTOISE (GEOCHELONE SULCATA) CareSheet Empty AFRICAN SPURRED TORTOISE (GEOCHELONE SULCATA) CareSheet

    Post by Metal Maniac on Fri 03 Apr 2009, 12:56

    AFRICAN SPURRED TORTOISE (GEOCHELONE SULCATA)

    Veterinarian Information
    Upon first purchase of your tortoise, you should have the tortoise examinedby a qualified reptile vet. Preferably one who is familiar with treating terrestrial land tortoises such as Sulcatas. Most regular vets have only had exposure to common water turtles and box turtles. You want to try to find someone who is familiar with Sulcatas. You would want to have the vet do a complete fecal culture to check for all parasites, including Giardia. If your tortoise is wild caught (which you should try to steer clear from), it will probably have a better chance of having internal parasites than a captive bred tortoise. However, all tortoises can have parasites, so that needs to be checked for. If you do not have a reputable reptile vet n your area or are not sure where to begin, access Melissa Kaplan's Herp Vets section of her web site at:
    http://www.sonic.net/melissk/society.html#societies. You should then choose your stat,e and you will be provided with a list of reptile vets in your state. Designate a the ones within driving distance to you and begin calling around to find out which vet has had the most experience dealing with Sulcatas. Then, make an appointment for an exam. You will want your vet to record an accurate weight in his file. Then, every few months, you should return to have your tortoise weighed. The vet will not charge you to weigh the tortoise, and it is a good idea to have a running recorded file of weight and measurement.

    Heating
    To begin with, never use a hot rock as a heat source. Hot rocks are the worst, especially for a tortoise! Your tortoise (especially a hatchling) has very a sensitive shell and skin, and any contact with the hot rock can cause severe skin and shell burns, which could be, in a worse case scenario, fatal! The very best thing for tortoises (and all reptiles) is an under-tank heater. Find one that sticks to the underside of your tank, on the outside, providing necessary belly heat without potential burn factor. Make sure you get the correct size under-tank heater, which corresponds to the size of your tank. As a precautionary note, it is important to remember that most of these heaters raise the temperature 15 degrees F (8 degrees C) or so above ambient. In the event that you home gets over 80 degrees F (27 degrees C) this pad must be shut off or you can possibly cook your hatchling. The tank size should either be 10 or 20 gallon for a hatchling, nothing smaller than that. My hatchling was in a 10 gallon for 5 months, then a 20 gallon long for 5 months, now he is in a 135 gallon because I got a good buy. After a few years in different sized tanks, your Sulcata will probably outgrow any tank altogether and be better suited in an indoor pen, outdoor pen, or in your yard (depending on the temperatures and weather where you live). on the temperatures and weather where you live).

    Outdoor Housing
    If you eventually do keep your tortoise in your yard, you want to make sure that your grass is natural, and not sprayed with any pesticides or fertilizing agents if possible. If you have a garden with fertilizer in it, you might want to fence that particular area in. You should take pains to ensure your fence is sturdy enough to withstand digging and burrowing that may take place, which may mean you need to have the fence sunk into the ground a few inches. Many people do this now for their dogs that tend to dig, so I'm sure you won't be the first to ask your local fence company to sink a fence. Also, be sure to furnish your yard with plants and grasses that are edible for the tortoises. There are a few place to get this information. Melissa Kaplan's African Spurred Tortoise care sheet will give you a list of the safe and appropriate plants and grasses with which to landscape your tortoise's pen. That link is:
    http://www.sonic.net/~melissk/#chelonian.Also, the Tortoise Trust web site has a video you can order on that subject. For a detailed list of which plants are edible for the tortoises, click on this link:
    http://www.tortoise.org/general/edibplan.html. For a detailed list of which plants are poisonous or toxic, click on this link:
    http://www.tortoise.org/general/poisonp.html. Additionally, you should make sure your tortoise has a shelter to use in case of inclement or cold weather. These tortoises can take light, warm rain, it is even good for them to be stimulated by their changing environment. However, the Sulcata cannot be left outside for long periods of cold, damp, rainy weather, or in the cold winters of northern areas. You can provide an insulated shed with a access ramp for shelter. You should also furnish this shed with some pig farrowing heat pads, heat lamps, etc. You can find some great pictures and ideas for building an outdoor tortoise enclosure at the Tortoise Country web site.

    Lighting
    If outdoor time is not provided a fluorescent full spectrum UVB bulb is necessary to the development of your tortoise, from the hatchling stages through adult, and should always be provided, along with a basking bulb. This is necessary for the animal to produce Vitamin D3, which is necessary for calcium utilization for healthy shell growth. Remember, all so-called "full spectrum" lights do not provide UVB rays, remember to check the lighting info on each brand, it must at least say UVB on the box. Most incandescent heat bulbs will state that they are full spectrum, but really do not have UVB rays. The lights that you will want that have the UVB rays are long, skinny, fluorescent bulbs. There has been some research that indicates that if a calcium supplement that contains Vitamin D3 is used the UVB is not necessary, I use both as I consider the added light to be necessary for the proper behavior of the animal.

    Temperature
    It is most important to monitor temperatures. Get a good thermometer and mount it to the glass. What I have are two of the Radio Shack indoor/outdoor digital mountable thermometers. They run about $10 each and are excellent, and extremely accurate. They have velcro and can mount to the glass, but the actual thermometer section can be removed and moved around to monitor all cage temps! I have two in my big tank. For a small 10/20/30 gallon tank, one would probably be fine. However, move the thermometer around to make sure it is not too hot in the middle, right under the heat lamp, and in the cool zone. For a small tank, it is difficult to make a hot zone and a cool zone, but you can try. In a larger tank or enclosure, you should have the under-tank heater and can place a heat lamp in one area. Then, nothing in the cool zone. In my large tank, I only have an under-tank heater and no heat lamps, as the room the tank is in never goes below 70 degrees. I find I am able to maintain the proper temperatures without heat bulbs. You can still offer an under-tank heater, even if you find that you don't need a heat bulb. If you find that you don't need a heat lamp to maintain proper temperatures, do not use one. The only light source that is necessary is the UVB lighting. A heat lamp is not necessary.
    Important: everyone says to keep these tortoises at high temps, but it is not true! Sulcatas max out for eating and mobility at 77 degrees F (25 degrees C). Past 86 degrees, they are pretty much inert. A good temperature zone is 85 degrees in the hot zone and 72-75 in the cool zone. These would be considered proper temperature ranges. If it gets too hot, 90-100 degrees F, (32 - 37 degrees C) they can become very dehydrated and lose appetite, develop bladder stones and additional problems, etc. I listened to all the conflicting info and made it too hot for the first few months I had my hatchling. I did not realize the importance of soakings, and consequently, my tortoise developed a bladder stone, which I am treating with lowered temperatures and frequent soakings. Don't make the same mistake!

    Soaking
    Also, it is important to soak your hatchling at least a few times per week, and you can even soak each day,. Soak your juvenile 2-3 times a week without fail. Your tortoise will be considered a juvenile and no longer a hatchling after about 1 year of age. An adult Sulcata should be still be soaked 1 time per week for the rest of its life. The water should be
    lukewarm and no deeper than the bottom shell (plastron). I use a plastic kitty-litter pan as a "bath tub", which is good, as the tortoise likes to see out over the rim, and it makes for an easy clean-up. I used to use a deep bowl, but my tortoises seemed to like to see out and would sit longer in a short, flat pan-like receptacle. You should soak for about 5-10 minutes each time and make sure the tortoise is clean and dry when he goes back in his tank, or for a walk around. Further reading on proper soaking techniques can be found at: http://home.earthlink.net/~rednine/soak.htm.

    Substrate
    Also, it is important for your tortoise to be able to burrow. In the wild, Sulcatas spend 85% of their time in scrapes and burrows. They maintain humidity in their micro climates that way, and retain the necessary moisture to live. Make sure you have a good substrate on the tank bottom. I am using Aspen Particles. It comes in a press pack. It is probably not the best thing to use, as it is not digestible and Aspen is not the best substrate choice for reptiles, but the tortoise loves it, never eats it, and is able to burrow somewhat into it. It is also easy to clean. You should put about two layers of newspaper on the bottom of the tank under any substrate, so that any urine or water can soak through the substrate, not sit in it. It also makes for a quick clean-up and is safe for the reptile. A really good substrate is a 50/50 mixture of sterile soil (topsoil) and soft sterile playground sand. That can be messy for a small tank though.

    Feed Information
    Food is an important factor in healthy growth. You should not overfeed your tortoise. Once a day is enough. I would say about to cup of greens for a hatchling up to 1 year. After one year, the juvenile should get no more than 1 cup of greens per day. Full adults, of course, get larger rations. If they are overfed or fed as much as they will eat, they can grow too fast, causing shell problems, bone problems, and mineral deficiencies. Slow, Steady, growth is the key. I use the lid of a Tupperware for feeding and easy cleaning. Make sure your tortoise can easily access its food bowl. The food bowl should be relatively flat. If the tortoise has to climb or reach to get at its food, the tortoise could tip over and not be able to right itself. If this happens and goes undiscovered, worst-case scenario is that the tortoise's lungs could fill up and it will eventually die.

    Diet
    The majority of their intake should be from a variety of dark, leafy greens, grasses, and some lettuces, but NEVER iceberg. You can feed mixtures of turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, chicory, green leaf lettuce, butter and boston lettuces, watercress, dandelion greens and flowers (untreated with pesticides), and fresh grass clippings (untreated). The lettuces such as boston, butter, and green leaf should be given in small amounts as it is not really a roughage, however, the tortoises usually love them. You should only be giving fruits as treats, and in small amounts. My tortoise likes strawberries, melons, papaya, grapes, apples, and carrots (shredded). You can also try some watermelon and squash as treats. Stay away from legumes. No beans, bananas, peas, tomatoes, corn. Also, stay away from spinach and sprouts. You can get fresh grass seedlings trays and other specialty tortoise foods from Pipin's Roost. You can e-mail for further information at: piproost@aol.com. Also, you can feed hibiscus plants and blossoms if they are untreated. You can get great untreated hibiscus plants from A.J. Calisi at T&C Terrariums. You can e-mail him for prices at: a.j.calisi@worldnet.att.net. Please mention my name in your e-mail to A.J. He also has great terrarium plants if you keep chameleons, or other terrarium-type reptiles. Sulcatas can also have Opuntia Cactus. The Cactus King web site is online. They will ship you a variety of edible Opuntia cactus for about $25 or so, which you can then plant and continue to cut from. Their e-mail address is: cactus@cactusking.com. Shake up the diet and give a variety of foods that are allowed, to keep your tortoise interested in meals. Buy different lettuces and experiment on what your tortoise likes. Each tortoise is different and each tortoise has different food preferences, just like people!

    Supplementation
    It is important to use supplements. I use Rep-Cal 2:1 ratio phosphorous-free calcium supplement. I also use Nekton-Rep multi-vitamins. You should use 2 parts calcium supplement to 1 part vitamin supplement. You can mix up your own pre-rationed calcium/vitamin mixture in a empty salt shaker if you want, to avoid having to open and sprinkle from two different containers all the time. You should sprinkle the 2:1 ratio mixture on the food every day, or at least 3 times per week for optimum vitamin supplementation. With my tortoise, I supplement every day. If the supplements are too powdery on top of the food, just spray with a little water to dissolve it into the greens. I use a regular plant mister filled with water, which I keep on hand.

      Current date/time is Sun 25 Aug 2019, 12:19