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Am I taking care of my russian tortoise correctly?

SaraenNaomi

New Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Messages
1
Location (City and/or State)
Saint Augustine, FL
I have a Russian Tortoise named Ivan and I've had him for about 7 months now.

We bought him at a pet store and we have him in an 40 gal aquarium that is 36Lx18Wx151/2H. We have a very limited amount of space with where we put him and a wooden housing unit was not possible st the time and a lot of tortoise owners told us that an aquarium would be fine. We have bark substrate in that goes about 1in deep and a huge cave for home which is on the heat side, because we were told that was best for him. We tried the eco-earth and soil and it just makes a mess and makes Ivan VERY dirty. We have a UV which is about mid 80s in temp and heat lamp which is mid 90s in temp for him.

He has a medium size water dish but doesn't ever go near it. He gets fed every day but all he will eat is romaine and radicchio, he will eat greens but the minute they start to stink after a few days he won't touch them. I do put calcium powder on his food every other day, but a while back he ate this canned tortoise food with all the nutritious ingredients that he should be eating, now when I give it to him he wont eat anything until I put plain food down.

He keeps hissing at me and even though I know it's natural, and it's his protective instinct to hide in his shell, he does it every time I come near him. When I have to bathe him, when I have to change his food, and even just trying to pet him on his shell, he hisses!! So could it be possible for me to get him use to me by handling him a little bit everyday?

Last question: I've been trying to take him outside and let him roam around for a bit because he's been restless ever since his nail trimming appointment. I live in an apartment so I can't have an outdoor housing unit. How long and often should he roam around outside for?

So am I doing housing, diet and exercise correctly? Any suggestions?
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
46,222
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
I have a Russian Tortoise named Ivan and I've had him for about 7 months now.

We bought him at a pet store and we have him in an 40 gal aquarium that is 36Lx18Wx151/2H. We have a very limited amount of space with where we put him and a wooden housing unit was not possible st the time and a lot of tortoise owners told us that an aquarium would be fine. We have bark substrate in that goes about 1in deep and a huge cave for home which is on the heat side, because we were told that was best for him. We tried the eco-earth and soil and it just makes a mess and makes Ivan VERY dirty. We have a UV which is about mid 80s in temp and heat lamp which is mid 90s in temp for him.

He has a medium size water dish but doesn't ever go near it. He gets fed every day but all he will eat is romaine and radicchio, he will eat greens but the minute they start to stink after a few days he won't touch them. I do put calcium powder on his food every other day, but a while back he ate this canned tortoise food with all the nutritious ingredients that he should be eating, now when I give it to him he wont eat anything until I put plain food down.

He keeps hissing at me and even though I know it's natural, and it's his protective instinct to hide in his shell, he does it every time I come near him. When I have to bathe him, when I have to change his food, and even just trying to pet him on his shell, he hisses!! So could it be possible for me to get him use to me by handling him a little bit everyday?

Last question: I've been trying to take him outside and let him roam around for a bit because he's been restless ever since his nail trimming appointment. I live in an apartment so I can't have an outdoor housing unit. How long and often should he roam around outside for?

So am I doing housing, diet and exercise correctly? Any suggestions?
Hello and welcome. I'm glad you found us. You are making lots of common mistakes, but hopefully we can now fix them. I'll hit each thing point by point and then post the care info for you.

  • A 40 gallon tank is way too small for an adult Russian. They need something closer to 4x8'. If you don't have room for a larger enclosure, then you don't have room to house a tortoise. And loose on the floor is usually a death sentence, so that is not a solution.
  • Orchid bark substrate is the best way to go, so good job there.
  • UV bulbs don't make heat unless you are using a mercury vapor bulb. What type of UV bulb have you got?
  • What type of heat lamp are you using?
  • What type of water dish? The ramped type that the pet stores sell are unsuitable and dangerous for tortoises.
  • They need a diet of mostly broadleaf weeds, and they should have fresh food daily. Grocery store greens are not great for them. Spring mix and other grocery store foods are not a great diet. Those things lack fiber, lack calcium, some of them have the wrong Ca to Ph ratio, and some of them have compounds like goiterogens that are to be avoided or not fed too often. Spring mix in particular is low fiber because it is "baby" greens. If you must use grocery store foods, you should favor endive and escarole as the main staples. Then use lots of variety to round out the diet. Cilantro, kale, collard greens, mustard and turnip greens, etc. Soak and mix in some ZooMed Grassland pellets for variety and fiber. It will take some time to get the tortoise to accept this, or any new food, so start with just a tiny amount mixed in at first. I also highly recommend and "herbal hay" to sprinkle on top. I like the one from tortoisesupply.com.Try to use broadleaf weeds, leaves, flowers, and other such things. There are tons and tons of weeds in FL. Take some samples to a local garden center for ID help. Kudzu is good to feed some times. Hostas. Lots of good stuff grows in the south.
  • He's not hissing. He's exhaling quickly as he pulls his head in in a startle response. Time, handling, and hand feeding all help with that.
  • I would never let him roam loose outside. Apartment complexes tend to have lots of gardening chemicals, even when they tell you they don't, and you are almost guaranteed to lose him eventually if you keep doing this. They need a good escape proof enclosure for outdoor time.
Read these for more details:
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/

Questions and comments welcome. :)
 

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