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Article Archive

    Russian Tortoise

    Russian Tortoise
    • Description
    • Housing
    • Diet
    • Origin: Russia, Iran, Pakistan, China
    • Habitat: Dry areas near vegetation
    • Average Size: 5-10''


    Description
    Russian tortoises stay relatively small with males only reaching 5-6 inches and females 8-10 inches. Because of their size this tortoise is more appealing than other tortoises that can weigh up to 100 lbs. Given the proper care and diet these tortoises have been recorded to live up to 100 years. Russian tortoises are native to Russia, Iran, Pakistan and Western China and they have been found at elevations of 5,000 feet in the wild. They tend live in dry areas near vegetation and some type of water source.

    Housing
    For any type of tortoise you should provide the largest enclosure as possible. A minimum of a 75 gallon tank should be provided for one adult tortoise. Ideally they should have an enclosure of 3ft x 3ft with good ventilation. Russian's can spend the summer months outside in a tortoise pen. They are excellent diggers so the walls of the enclosure should be placed at least one foot into the ground to prevent escapes!

    A clean water dish should be provided at all times for tortoises. Water should be cleaned daily and the water dish should be large and shallow enough to allow the tortoise to sit in the water pan.

    Substrate—Cypress mulch or a dry soil substrate should be provided for your Russian tortoise. Provide 3-5 inches of bedding for digging and burrowing. A hideaway should be provided with slightly moistened soil and humidity levels ranging from 50-70%. Note: The enclosure should be dry, only a hide-away or burrowing box should be humid. Timothy hay can also be used for burrowing and your tortoise can also munch on the hay. Substrate should be spot cleaned daily and any waste removed. Every 4-6 weeks new substrate should be provided.

    Heat and Lighting—Fluorescent lighting is critical to any tortoises's growth. A 5.0 UVB should be provided for 12 hours of the day. Fluorescent light provides Vitamin D which will aid in the metabolism of calcium in reptiles/tortoises. Heat lighting is also necessary to obtain the correct temperatures in an enclosure. Day time temperatures should range from 72-82° with a basking spot of 90 degrees. Night temperatures should drop into the 60s.

    Diet
    Russian tortoises require a high fiber, low protein diet. Animal protein should never be fed to Russian tortoises. Grass hays and edible weeds should make the bulk of the diet. Appropriate weeds and vegetables are listed below.

  • Hibiscus
  • geranium
  • hollyhocks
  • dandelion (leaves and flower)
  • grass clippings (not chemically treated)
  • timothy hay
  • grass hay
  • romaine lettuce
  • red and green leaf lettuce
  • turnip greens
  • mustard greens
  • endive
  • escarole
  • kale
  • collard greens
  • spring mix


  • Variety is important in a tortoise's diet. Fruit should never be offered, even as a treat because it is too high in sugar and cause digestion problems. Vitamins should be used weekly to supplement the diet and to make up for any missing vitamins or minerals in the diet. Only use vitamins once a week, too many vitamins can be toxic to your tortoise.