Russian Tortoise Care: Species Overview
- Common Names: Russian Tortoise
- Scientific Name: Testudo horsfieldii
- Distribution: Russia, Ukraine, Pakistan, and Western China
- Adult Size: 6-10”
- Life Expectancy: up to 40+ years
Russian tortoises are an excellent choice for beginners tortoise keepers. The Russian tortoise is small, making them easy for most people with limited space. Feisty, eager to eat, and more active than some other tortoises.
The species stays small and is tolerant of cooler temperatures. The tortoise is personable and friendly. As with all turtles and tortoises, when purchasing this species, it is a long-term commitment.
Russian Tortoise Care: Habitat Set-Up
- Russian tortoises will do best if kept outdoors in temperature that does not fall below 40° in winter.
- If being kept indoors, an adult Russian tortoise will need at least a 30-gallon terrarium.
- Zoo Med’s Tortoise House™ is an ideal enclosure to house this small species. When the temperature permits, the tortoise house can be taken outdoors to provide natural sunlight.
- Zoo Med’s Tortoise Play Pen™ is an excellent way to occasionally offer natural sunlight and grazing opportunities to your tortoise if being kept indoors.
- Daytime Terrarium Temperature: 70-80° F
- Basking Spot: 85-87° F
- Nighttime Temperature: 65-75° F
- Zoo Med’s Basking Spot Lamp, Repti Halogen™, Ceramic Heat Emitter, and ReptiTherm® Under Tank Heater are excellent choices for heating Russian Tortoise enclosures.
- UVB Lighting is essential for Russian tortoises to process calcium in captivity.
- Without UVB lighting, tortoises will develop serious health problems such as abnormal shell growth and deformities.
- UVB Lighting should be left on for 10-12 hours per day and turned off at night.
- Zoo Med’s ReptiSun® linear and Compact Fluorescent Lamps are an excellent choice for providing UVB. PowerSun® is a unique way to ensure both UVB and heat all in one lamp.
- Russian tortoises live in arid places in the wild and will do well on a variety of dry substrates in captivity.
- Create the optimum substrate mix with 1/3 Zoo Med’s Forest Floor, 1/3 Zoo Med’s Eco Earth®, and 1/3 Zoo Med’s ReptiSand® or ReptiFresh®.
- We recommend providing a deep 3+” of a substrate to allow your tortoise to burrow.
- Do not keep Russian Tortoises on a damp substrate. (Substrate must be kept dry)
About the Russian Tortoise
Russian Tortoise Care: Temperament
- The Russian tortoise has a friendly nature. Their temperament described as amicable, vibrant, and open. Adult Russian tortoises are generally resistant to handling, but all tortoises need careful handling. Avoid pinning them down or restricting them. Allow them to carry on with their intended ways.
Diet and Nutrition
- Russian Tortoises require a high-fiber, low protein diet.
- Zoo Med’s Grassland Tortoise Food™ is an excellent choice of maintenance diet because it offers long stem grasses that are similar to foods available in the wild.
- It is essential to supplement your tortoise’s diet with ReptiCalcium® and ReptiVite™ as directed to provide balanced nutrition.
- Natural fruit sugars can cause health problems, so fruit should not be offered to your Russian tortoise.
- Other quality foods for your tortoise: grasses, kale, clover, hibiscus leaves and flowers, alfalfa, hay, red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, rose petals, and sow thistle to name a few.
- Warning: Be sure that any natural grasses or plants offered not treated with pesticides or other chemicals.
- Provide fresh water every day. Zoo Med’s Repti-Ramp™ Bowl makes an ideal water dish that allows your tortoise easy access to clean water. Treat all water with ReptiSafe™ water conditioner to remove any harmful chemicals from tap water.
- Use caution when handling pets and remember they may bite or scratch (especially when stressed).
- Supervise children around pets.
- ALL ANIMALS can potentially carry viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic diseases contagious to humans.
- Thoroughly wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after contact with any pet or its habitat.
- Adults should assist children with handwashing after contact with a pet, its habitat, or aquarium water.