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Russian Tortoise Care and Information

The Russian Tortoise is a great pet and is not very difficult to take care of and can be very entertaining.

Published Jun 8, 2007 by mjkunz
Last updated on Jun 19, 2007

The Russian tortoise is a reptile with a shell.  The top part of the shell is called a carapace, with individual sections that are called plates.  The underside or belly of you tortoise is called a plastron.  The shell actually has blood vessels and nerves running through it and grows along with the tortoise.  Tortoises have very strong eye sight and a great sense of smell, but they do not have any visible ears so no one is sure if they actually “hear” or just sense movements around them.  Reptiles cannot internally regulate their body temperatures.  That is why your tortoise will move in and out of sunny or lighted spots to help regulate their temperature.

The Russian tortoise can live for over 50 years if properly taken care of.  They range in size from 6-8 inches fully grown.  Shell ColorationThey love to burrow and in the wild they usually burrow into mud and hibernate for the winter.  This tortoise is considered a land-dwelling tortoise, as it does not swim.  They do however like to “bathe” in a shallow pond.  Some say that doing this can trigger them to defecate. So don’t be alarmed if it happens when you put your tortoise in the water!  The tortoise is a herbivore and they eat exclusively fruits and vegetables.  A home that is a suitable size is very important.  They like to move around and explore their surroundings.  Often we refer to turtles and tortoises alike as simply turtles.  Tortoise actually describes these reptiles that are land dwelling and Turtle describes those that are more aquatic dwelling such as sea turtles and fresh water turtles.  The Russian Tortoise is a very entertaining and fun addition to any home.

Living Enclosure

Since the tortoise is dependant upon outside heat sources, it is very important that the temperature of your tortoise’s enclosure stay between 65-86 degrees.  Without proper heat they are not active and they won’t eat or defecate. ceramic water bowl A means of shade or a substrate (ground cover for their living space) that allows them to burrow to escape the heat is a must.  They need at least 8-12 hours of sunlight or other direct light source.  This helps aid in keeping the shell and bones strong and healthy.  The substrate is very important.  Use part coconut fiber mixed with shredded aspen bark not pine (available at most pet stores).  Use a substrate that allows them to burrow.  Make sure you do not leave the substrate wet because tortoises are sensitive to wetness.  They like to move around and explore their enclosure.  If the area is too small they will either try to escape or become apathetic.  An adult tortoise with a carapace length of 8-10 inches should be given a least 2 sq. meters.  They are even more comfortable with more space!  They should have a place to sleep that is not in the open and is protected.  A small bathing pool is also recommended.  One made out of ceramic is nice because it helps keep their toenails filed properly.  

Tortoises also like to have some “obstacles” of sorts to entertain them.  A ramp or log to climb over is great, or you can change up the location of their food so they have to “hunt”  would work well.  

Tortoises love to be outdoors.  But be very careful to put them in a safe and contained area.  Dogs, cats, and some birds can be a danger to them.  They are also very smart at finding ways to escape, so make sure the area where they are enclosed have no obvious escape routes!  If you have a proper outside enclosure, the Russian tortoise should be able to stay outside all summer in most climates, if you  choose.  With a proper home your tortoise will be happy and thrive in your care.

Feeding and Diet

The tortoise will eat almost any fruit or vegetable.  It is not recommended however to feed them the same food all the time.  They need the nutrients and minerals in all types of food. Tortoise Eating Iceberg lettuce is not recommended.  Other fruits and vegetables high in water content and low in minerals are not recommended as a sole source of food.  Alternate lettuce types adding cucumbers, radishes, carrots, tomatoes, and even strawberries and apples!  Make sure that you peel any skin that is too hard and cut the food into small edible pieces.

You may even harvest the dandelions in your yard because tortoises love them.  Make sure they are poison free.  It is also recommended to supplement your tortoises’ diet with a store bought land tortoise food once or twice a week.  You will quickly find out what your tortoises likes and dislikes.  The amount of food needed varies from tortoise to tortoise.  If your tortoise seems “fat” then give him less food and make him work harder to find it.  If your tortoise is sick or smaller, then give him more food until he seems to be satisfied.  Feed your tortoise once a day around the same time.  Make sure that you provide fresh water every day in the tortoises’ bathing pond.  As you can see it is fairly easy to feed your Russian tortoise.  

Keeping a Healthy Tortoise

As long as you take proper care of your tortoise he will be active, have a strong healthy carapace and be a good eater.  If you notice a decrease in activity or your tortoise stops eating then it is recommended to immediately seek out the services of a veterinarian who is familiar with reptiles.  The tortoise like other animals has varying ailments that need to be addressed as soon as possible to avoid complications.  Never try to diagnose or cure a tortoises’ symptoms on your own.  Keeping a strong healthy pet is important, and will be a guarantee that you will have your tortoise around to enjoy for a long time.

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