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===How it began===
My brother has recently been posted out to Cyprus with his family to continue the brilliant work he's doing as a specialist dog trainer in the army. While he loved the fact they are getting to go to a lovely warm country, he was a little shocked to find out that it would cost over a grand to get the kids tortoise shipped through quarantine. Rather than paying that much, he asked if we could look after him instead. In a bit of a blind panic, we agreed and then took a dive head first into finding out about how to care for a Tortoise.
===Needs and wants===
Percy (a Testudo Hermanni Hermanni), while being tiny, is also quite fussy. He's very specific about what he needs. First things first he needs quite a large area to wander round in, preferably with some plants to forage on. He also requires not one but two different lamps. One to heat him up when he gets cold and the other to basically give him a tan. The one that gives him a tan is a fluorescent tube (much like a strip light in a kitchen but smaller) that emits UVA and UVB light. This type of light is normally received from the sun, but since Poor Percy is in captivity, he needs to get it elsewhere in the winter (and Scottish summer) months. The light basically helps his body produce Vitamin D3 which helps him absorb calcium from his diet, making his shell healthy and strong. Without it, he could get all sorts of health issues and even die prematurely. Ok, so, maybe he isn't needy, he just doesn't want to die. I guess I can understand that. Throw in that it can effect the activity levels and breeding of some species, it's a must to have one of these set up.
===Jaunting to the shop===
There are two pet stores in Dundee that would deal with reptiles, and I chose to go to the nearest one when the time came to start getting Percy's enclosure set up. Pets at Home is right up the road from me. After I picked up the fluorescent tube light, I realized that it was just a bulb. I started looking for something I could plug it into in the reptile section to no avail. Upon asking a member of staff they directed me to the fish section and pulled out the Interpet Convertagear Aquarium Lighting Starter Unit. I flinched a little at the price coming in at £36 but reminded myself that, in theory, I won't need to buy another one for a good few years. It still hurt a lot! You can get them online starting at £21 quid but if you need it quickly that may not be your best option. If you have an ounce of time for stuff to arrive, do it online you'll save a lot of money.
===Who are Interpet?===
Interpet are part of Central Garden and Pet Company who own quite a lot of brands in pet care. The only one I recognised myself was Nylabone since I used to get my dog their products. They cater for pretty much every kind of pet you can find, covering reptiles to horses, back to dogs and cats and on to rabbits and rodents of all sorts. Interpet themselves were founded by a Dr Neville Carrington. He started off with an interest in fish passed down from his fish-mad father and in the 1950s he made the first liquid fish food called Liquifry. Central Garden and Pet brought them under their wing in 2004 boosting the business and giving them some lucrative distribution deals in the UK.
If you want to get in touch with interpet, you can do so via their website contact form on www.interpet.co.uk/contact/
If you want to email them directly, their address is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you prefer the old fashioned way of doing things, they even have a postal address as follows:
===What you get===
In this pack you will get a big black box with three wires coming out of it. There's also a bulb starter in the black unit. One wire is the plug. The other two are the connecters/ end caps for either side of the light bulb which are made out of a clear and flexible plastic. Also in your box you get a two little plastic bracket set ups consisting of two parts. There's a black rectangular piece with screw holes that you can attach to the wall of your enclosure (if you have a wooden enclosure like Percy's then you just need to find screws that fit and screw them on) and a clear plastic circle clip that clicks onto the black piece once it's in place. Once you have set up your brackets where you want them, the light bulb simply clicks into place.
===Setting it up===
The set up of the unit is very easy indeed. I built Percy a wooden enclosure so the brackets simply screwed into that. We were lucky that we had collected screws that fit perfectly. If you don't have a large collection of screws then you may need to go hunting and buy extra ones, which is a little disappointing specially considering the cost of the unit. Alternatively, you could easily hang your light over the side of your enclosure. The big black box is very weighty so will keep the light in place if you tie the wires to the right length. When you are setting it up, you need to make sure that your tortoise can get at least 12-15 inches away from the bulb. If you can set it up above the enclosure at that height then fantastic. Basically the wavelength of the rays it emits won't be any use if the tortoise is closer. We have ours about 8-9 inches above him on the side of his enclosure which is 28 inches wide so he can get the full spectrum of light at different points of his enclosure. The wires anchoring the light to the starter box are quite long so it should allow a bit of freedom in where you want to place the bulb.
While setting up the bulb, it made sense to clip the bulb into the clips so I could get the right position and take them out again to screw each bracket on. As we had set up a temporary enclosure in a book shelf prior to building one from scratch, I had to clip and unclip the bulb a few times each time I was setting it up. Nothing too forceful or too frequent I thought. The clip on one of the brackets, however, disagreed. It decided it had had enough after only a few clips and re-clips and snapped in half. "URGH" was my first response since it had been the only cock-up we'd had building the new enclosure. Cock-ups and I go together hand in hand so I had gotten quite excited about the lack of them. Last thing I did... snap. URGH!!! Not to worry though, surely you can buy spares for cheap online! They are, after all, tiny bits of clear plastic. That cost £4.95 a pop before postage! I was gob smacked at the price and decided to just let the light dangle a little at one side till we could find a cheaper replacement. I guess that's what the box means when it says "unique tube clips".
===Two days in===
Everything was going well. My mum had picked the tortoise up from down south and drove him home, only getting lost three times and trying to go down two closed roads. Percy arrived late on Sunday night and was gently placed into his new home. He swiftly made a dash for the darkest corner he could find and didn't come out again till quite late the next day. Monday night arrived and Allan was getting upset that he hadn't seen the tortoise yet (he kept coming out when he wasn't there). After much berating, I went to pop his light on to see if I could find him. Alas, nothing happened. The starter didn't so much as flash. I unplugged and untangled the unit and took it to another socket to try. Again, nothing. Getting quite frustrated, I replaced the starter in the unit with the one from our kitchen light. Still nothing. The unit was simply gubbed after less than one day. The receipts had been binned accidentally and the rubbish had been collected. I started to worry. Thankfully we still had the box it came in and the two year warranty which states to simply take the unit back to the shop you bought it from to call it in.
===Returning and Replacing===
So, back to pets at home I went box in hand, rather annoyed. I presented them with the box and told them what had happened. After a slight lecture about retaining my receipt in future (and a little bit of a mix up of the voltages required: make sure you check it can handle the voltage of bulb you are buying it for!) I left to take home a new bulb and starter kit.
The new unit is now in place, plugged in and clipped into the brackets. Just lucky I decided not to package the brackets back in with the starter kit when I returned them as the other clip broke when I was trying to fit the new bulb. This is just annoying. As such I'm taking another star off for it. I figured out that it's easier to plug the bulb into the clips and then push the clips onto the brackets, rather than trying to push the bulb into an already placed clip. If that makes sense. The brackets (once the bulb is in place assuming they haven't broken in the process) are very secure and I'm quite happy that it's never going to fall out of place or cause Percy any damage. It has lasted for about a week without any issues now, so hopefully it was just a faulty kit we got first of all. I will obviously update if anything else goes wrong, however. For now, I am fairly confident this one will last.
I was quite shocked at how much the kit cost, though having had a look around, there's not a lot cheaper out there that I can see. I may just be looking in all the wrong places. Obviously I was a little put out by the fact the fist starter unit gave up the ghost after one days use so I'll be taking a star off for that. Thankfully the second one seems to be working just fine and I hopefully won't need to replace it for the couple of years that we'll have Percy. The warranty at least gives you some peace of mind that if it DOES pack in, you can get it replaced relatively easily. I just wish there was a bigger market for this stuff so the price could come down a bit. As such I'll be giving it 3 stars, but a good three stars.