Care Guide and General Information
Russian tortoises (Testudo horsfieldii) are found in southern Russia, and parts of China and Pakistan. If you learn to care for them properly, they will live to be 80-100 years old. They are one of the most popular tortoises because they do not get over-sized, and are hardy creatures.
The Russian tortoise gets 8-10 inches in length, staying relatively small. They have bumpy legs with four toes and claws protruding from the toes.
Many tortoises are imported from the wild and may contain parasites. Wild caught reptiles should be taken to the vet to make sure they are in good health. More and more tortoises are being captive bred however.
You should wash hands with soap both before and after handling any pet reptile. Tortoises are not really a social pet, but can be handled normally.
If you do need to lift your tortoise, make sure it feels safe and that it thinks there is a sturdy foundation underneath it. This will minimize the stress. Do not use jerky or sudden movements when handling.
Russian tortoises can eat a wide variety of plants like clovers, watercress, romaine lettuce, red leaf lettuce, and alfalfa. A mix of these works as a great meal. A Russian tortoise?????????????????Ñ¬s diet should be low in protein and sugar, but high in calcium.
These guys get all of their protein from the plants they eat, and never should be offered meat. Too much protein will cause renal failure, meaning death for your tortoise. You can also buy tortoise food, and this should be fed as instructed on the box. Tortoise food is great, with the right amount of proteins. You will still want to provide some plant food if you choose the dried tortoise food.
Tortoises do not swim, and need room for roaming. They like having plenty of room. A 40 gallon tank is the recommended minimum for a Russian Tortoise. The bigger the cage, the better.
Young tortoises can start in a 10 or 20 gallon cage, and graduate up in size, as they get older. The cages you use do not need to be high at all. Height is of no use for them.
Cages can be anything from plastic tubs to elegant all glass sided. It is up to you on how fancy you want to get. If you do use wood, make sure you let it sit because the smell of wood can be bad for any reptile.
Russian tortoises like it dry, and fine sand works well. Do not use calci-sand or else they may get an overdose of calcium, and can cause death. For younger tortoises, use paper towel, newspaper, or reptile carpet. Sand can cause impaction in babies, although it is rare.
Other suitable substrates include rabbit bedding, or crushed walnut shells. If you chose a loose substrate, it should be 3-4 inches deep, because tortoises have been known to dig a little.
Shelters can be pretty basic and you can use things like overturned flower pots and pieces of drift wood. There should be a variety of different hides for younger tortoises especially. Hides will help provide a secure habitat.
The whole point of shelters and a proper cage is to minimize the stress. If you give your tortoise a good home, it will thank you.
Temperatures are best if kept just above room temperature at 75-80F. Provide a basking area around 95F. If your tortoise stays in the basking area all day for many days, you may need to raise the overall heat of the tank. Heat rocks should not be used because they are infamously known for overheating in particular areas, and may burn or scar a reptile.
A turtle and tortoise shell are made out of bone, and for them to mantain a strong shell, UVA and UVB lights are needed. These bulbs need to be kept within 6 inches of the shell or else the rays will not be powerful enough for them to benefit from them. They should receive 10-12 hours of UVA lighting a day.
A Russian tortoise cage should be kept dry, and you do not need to mist it at any time. For water, you may want to supply a small dish with water but they will rarely use it if you are giving them live plants. Clean the water dish when needed, and remove any sand when it gets in there.
Remove feces as you see them to prevent bacterial infections, and replace and clean the water dish if it is needed. Since there is no live food, it makes the clean up much easier.
If you give them a 4-6 month cool down period and bring the temperatures back up and feed them like crazy, they will be very eager to breed. When the temperatures pop back up again, males will be very active looking for females. Females may be uneasy and stop eating as much as normal.
Then, 6-8 weeks after they have mated eggs are laid. A clutch will be a maximum of 5 eggs. Females will have two clutches of eggs. When she lays her eggs, the will be nearly 2 inches underground. A plastic shoebox filled with moist, un-fertilized soil is where they will lay their eggs. Provide plenty of dirt for them to dig. They need to incubate for about 70 days at a temperature of 86-91F.
Hatchlings appear round, and will fit in the palm of your hand. They can be kept together until you can determine their sex. Males need to be kept separate after they are fully grown or else they will breed with females or fight over land with other males.
It may take up to 2 whole weeks before they touch any scrap of food. Once they have used all their yolk reserves, they will need to be fed every day. Tortoises grow fast, and need to eat a lot.
They can eat the same food adults eat, but in a smaller quantity. Growing tortoises need plenty of calcium until they reach the age of 4, when they are mostly done growing.
Conclusion Russian tortoises can live to 100 if cared for properly, and make great and hardy pets. They are good first reptiles as long as you know the care. Go around and look at other care sheets as well so you have a happy tortoise that thrives.
Carl Hepler - September 26, 2013
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Joseph Ingram - April 16, 2017
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