Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Our Tort Fort gets a dresser

I finally finished our tort fort, and it is no longer sitting on the ground! Our friend built this for us, and now the top and bottom have finally been put together. I love having all the storage, and it looks so nice, too! (Thanks, Andy!)

Front view
The tortoise table is the first thing people see when they come into our house - I am so glad that it is finally functional AND 'pretty' - don't you love the leg design of the dresser underneath? They look just like the little half-rounded opening into the hide house.

3/4 view
Our friend Andy built this from his own design, after sitting down with me to plan it. The left side has a window that has a shutter, so I can look into the hide box, which is large, and filled with a nice deep layer of substrate for the tortoises to burrow in. I treated the oak with several layers of 2 different colors of stained polyurethane, so it matches our antique oak wardrobes, dressers and such.

The torts exploring their new substrate mound (Mount Coco) and rock pile
UPDATE: I took some more pictures of the tort fort in daylight. I added a pile of large-ish rocks for the torts to scramble over, as well as mounding the substrate up and over a very large flowerpot. The little Russians are having so much fun exploring!

The females basking together. Roz is hiding.
Our friend Andy made all the trim himself, by the way. You really have to see it up close to see how nicely he built it.

Daytime view of the tort fort.
I double-checked my temps with a temperature gun, too, after putting everything back together. The 'cool' end is room temperature, at 69-71 degrees F at substrate level. The warm side is 82 degrees, and immediately under the basking bulb, I measured 97-102 degrees.


  1. awesome ,now i want to make a bottom for my table instead of just 2x4 legs

  2. Hey there, I have 2 Russians of my own (Koopa and Zelda)and was thinking of making a nice indoor custom terrarium. This just gave me some inspiration. Question i had was, how to you go about cleaning yours? Since its modded furniture, i know you aren't dragging it outside and hosing it down. Im looking for advice on how to build one of these which is really "maintainable" with respect to Tort Hygiene.

    I've been used to 40 gallon rubermaid tubs which i hose out. Do you just have to use a "tort" pooper scooper or special substrate?

    1. That's a good question, @Socrates. The floor of the tort fort is lined with vinyl flooring, and the cracks are sealed with silicone (the kind you use around the bathtub). I sealed the wood with multiple layers of polyurethane (water based would have worked, too).
      For substrate I use coconut coir that I buy as bricks and add water to. It holds the moisture well, and the tortoises love burrowing in it.
      Whenever the tortoises poop, I just pick it up and throw it up (I check about once a day for droppings). I just use a tissue, although I have a kitty litter scoop I got for this purpose.
      When the time comes to do a complete substrate switch (about every 3 or so months?) I place a rubbermaid tub in there and shovel the old substrate into it - I actually spread it onto my garden beds, or compost it. Good stuff! Then I wipe down the vinyl flooring, let it dry, and add in the new substrate. All done! :)


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