Keeping 1:2 MF enclosure

Flanman

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Hi all, I have a 55 gallon feeding trough that is about 15-20 square feet (+ about 5 inch deep substrate) where I keep my russian tortoises. I currently have a 5.5” female and a 4.5” male in the enclosure. While my male has not shown any excessive breeding aggression besides the mating that occurs probably once a fortnight, I’m getting worried after reading all the stories about suddenly really aggressive males harassing one female because they didn’t have any others to choose from. Is the enclosure big enough to add another female? They have more than enough basking space and hides, and getting more food is not an issue for me.
 

Blackdog1714

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Hi all, I have a 55 gallon feeding trough that is about 15-20 square feet (+ about 5 inch deep substrate) where I keep my russian tortoises. I currently have a 5.5” female and a 4.5” male in the enclosure. While my male has not shown any excessive breeding aggression besides the mating that occurs probably once a fortnight, I’m getting worried after reading all the stories about suddenly really aggressive males harassing one female because they didn’t have any others to choose from. Is the enclosure big enough to add another female? They have more than enough basking space and hides, and getting more food is not an issue for me.
That trough is not even big enough for just one. Keeping three together is just brewing trouble. My Russian shell butts my hand while I am cleaning the enclosure. BUllying and causing the others to fail to thrive are the most common effects with Russians which are some of the meanest little boogers. Check this thread and get them there own enclosures using one very large enclosure (20' X10') to put two into breed. https://www.tortoiseforum.org/threa...together-a-lesson-learned-the-hard-way.94114/
 

Tom

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Hi all, I have a 55 gallon feeding trough that is about 15-20 square feet (+ about 5 inch deep substrate) where I keep my russian tortoises. I currently have a 5.5” female and a 4.5” male in the enclosure. While my male has not shown any excessive breeding aggression besides the mating that occurs probably once a fortnight, I’m getting worried after reading all the stories about suddenly really aggressive males harassing one female because they didn’t have any others to choose from. Is the enclosure big enough to add another female? They have more than enough basking space and hides, and getting more food is not an issue for me.
I agree with Blackdog. One of them alone needs 4x8 feet. Putting more than one in an enclosure would require something substantially larger than that, and they should NEVER be kept in pairs.

Best thing to do would be separate them into their own enclosures. If you want another female, you'll need a quarantine period of several months, and there is no guarantee that any of the three will get along once you finally add her. With Russians the females can be as aggressive, territorial, and combative as the males.

I do strongly support any breeding efforts, as we are still taking substantial numbers of these from the wild to meet the demands of the pet market. That demand would be much better met by captive bred animals. If they are housed separately and introduced periodically for breeding in spring and fall, you should have good success.
 

Flanman

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I can’t get another feeding trough in my reptile room, much less an 8x4 one or a 20x10 feet enclosure to fit inside my house.

I have the woodworking skills to create an outdoor enclosure, but I live in Indiana so I’m really not sure how they’d handle the very cold nights that occasionally happen here, the rain, or the late fall/winter.

Image
 

Tom

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What are all the white bits in your substate? If that is soil with perlite in it, you need to remove it ASAP.

Here is the care info for your species. In this thread I explain how to use a temperature controlled outdoor night box to extend their outside time deeper into fall, and get them out earlier in spring, regardless of the weather. You can either hibernate them, or bring them inside and keep them up for winter.

If you can't fit more or bigger enclosures in your reptile room, or somewhere else, then I would not recommend adding any more animals. Have you considered a rack system? I used to have a stack of three 3x5' tubs in a rack I made of 2x4s. I had it on casters so I could roll it around if needed.
 

wellington

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I absolutely agree with the other members. Way too small and they should not be together. What you read on here is all very true.
In indiana there is no reason they can not live outside spring summer and fall. I live in Chicago. My russian lives outside most of the year. Either build a heated night box for the colder spring and fall days or bring them in at night.
They must have seperate enclosures unless you can give them a giant yard size enclosure
 

Flanman

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What are all the white bits in your substate? If that is soil with perlite in it, you need to remove it ASAP.

Here is the care info for your species. In this thread I explain how to use a temperature controlled outdoor night box to extend their outside time deeper into fall, and get them out earlier in spring, regardless of the weather. You can either hibernate them, or bring them inside and keep them up for winter.

If you can't fit more or bigger enclosures in your reptile room, or somewhere else, then I would not recommend adding any more animals. Have you considered a rack system? I used to have a stack of three 3x5' tubs in a rack I made of 2x4s. I had it on casters so I could roll it around if needed.

The white bits are small vermiculite pebbles that make up the bottom drainage layer of the trough that they have dug up before

Also I would try my hand at a rack system but how would I afford them proper lighting? I’ll check out your post on the outdoor thing
 

Tom

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The white bits are small vermiculite pebbles that make up the bottom drainage layer of the trough that they have dug up before

Also I would try my hand at a rack system but how would I afford them proper lighting? I’ll check out your post on the outdoor thing
Vermiculite isn't white. Is it perlite? If yes, that stuff is deadly to tortoises. Whatever it is, you ought to remove it ASAP. They don't need a drainage layer. 3-4 inches of dampened orchid bark, cypress mulch, or hand packed coco coir will do it.

In the rack system there are gaps between the tubs. Plenty of room to hang lights, and still get into the tubs for food and water.
 

Flanman

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Vermiculite isn't white. Is it perlite? If yes, that stuff is deadly to tortoises. Whatever it is, you ought to remove it ASAP. They don't need a drainage layer. 3-4 inches of dampened orchid bark, cypress mulch, or hand packed coco coir will do it.

In the rack system there are gaps between the tubs. Plenty of room to hang lights, and still get into the tubs for food and water.

After closer inspection this is perlite, the entire bottom layer is made up of it... I was sold it under the guise of gravel rocks... Is there any particular reason it has to be removed?

Image
 

Tom

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After closer inspection this is perlite, the entire bottom layer is made up of it... I was sold it under the guise of gravel rocks... Is there any particular reason it has to be removed?

View attachment 321665
Perlite is deadly to tortoises. They eat it. It breaks down and lines their intestinal tract preventing digestion and possibly causing a blockage. I know this because I necropsied two baby sulcatas that were failing to thrive. They had been incubated on perlite and the vet found a gray sandy sludge (broken down perlite) lining the intestinal tract.

Tortoises are attracted to white bits in their substrate. It may already be too late. I would make sure the diet is very high fiber and up the soaks for a few weeks to try and help it all pass through.

And gravel or rocks should never be used either. As you can see, it will be dug up and come to the surface where it poses a serious impaction risk.

No sand, no soil, no rocks, no vermiculite, no perlite.
 

Flanman

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Perlite is deadly to tortoises. They eat it. It breaks down and lines their intestinal tract preventing digestion and possibly causing a blockage. I know this because I necropsied two baby sulcatas that were failing to thrive. They had been incubated on perlite and the vet found a gray sandy sludge (broken down perlite) lining the intestinal tract.

Tortoises are attracted to white bits in their substrate. It may already be too late. I would make sure the diet is very high fiber and up the soaks for a few weeks to try and help it all pass through.

And gravel or rocks should never be used either. As you can see, it will be dug up and come to the surface where it poses a serious impaction risk.

No sand, no soil, no rocks, no vermiculite, no perlite.

You’re telling me all I need is orchid bark? They can dig in that stuff? I used to use it but cleaning the urates was hard because it would seep around a bunch of pieces of wood.
 

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You’re telling me all I need is orchid bark? They can dig in that stuff? I used to use it but cleaning the urates was hard because it would seep around a bunch of pieces of wood.

You an use Orchid Bark and/or Coco Coir. Coco better simulates soil but is messy. And yes Russians can dig into fine grade orchid bark just as easily as they dig into soil.
 

Tom

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You’re telling me all I need is orchid bark? They can dig in that stuff? I used to use it but cleaning the urates was hard because it would seep around a bunch of pieces of wood.
Yes. That is all I ever house Russians on indoors.

If you soak more often, you won't have have urates to clean up, and your tortoise will also be better hydrated.
 

Flanman

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Revisiting this thread after a lot of planning... I underestimated the size of 20x10 or even 8x4. My backyard shed is 8x6 feet alone. Do I really need this much space just for one? It seems like an exorbitant amount compared to what I’ve seen, and just the wood frame for setting up something like this would cost me 400+ dollars alone.
 

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Revisiting this thread after a lot of planning... I underestimated the size of 20x10 or even 8x4. My backyard shed is 8x6 feet alone. Do I really need this much space just for one? It seems like an exorbitant amount compared to what I’ve seen, and just the wood frame for setting up something like this would cost me 400+ dollars alone.
Sigh...it’s so hard coming up against the reality of the true needs of these ”little” tortoises. They may be small, but they encompass large territories. This is the reason I have avoided temptation and kept to just one male. You can try to provide less, but it isn’t fair to them, and you will probably regret it in the end. Sorry...
 

Flanman

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Sigh...it’s so hard coming up against the reality of the true needs of these ”little” tortoises. They may be small, but they encompass large territories. This is the reason I have avoided temptation and kept to just one male. You can try to provide less, but it isn’t fair to them, and you will probably regret it in the end. Sorry...
If it’s really that important to have an enclosure this big I’m fine with doing it, plus I can reuse the trough to incubate if I get eggs. It just surprised me that they need this much space.
 

Blackdog1714

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If it’s really that important to have an enclosure this big I’m fine with doing it, plus I can reuse the trough to incubate if I get eggs. It just surprised me that they need this much space.
Pick those grumpy buggers up more they will kick you to show how strong their legs are. As a 6 month old baby mine could cross 10' of the yard so fast.
 

Yossarian

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If it’s really that important to have an enclosure this big I’m fine with doing it, plus I can reuse the trough to incubate if I get eggs. It just surprised me that they need this much space.

Having the necessary space to encourage them to walk around a lot is important for their digestion, respiration and overall health. If the enclosure is too small they dont really walk around naturally, they either tend to walk the couple feet from hide to bask and back again, or they spend hours trying to escape. In the wild a small tort like a russian or greek would cover a large territory, potentially more than a sq mile. 4x8 is honestly a compromise to make it even possible to keep them indoors, it is still a poor substitute considering their natural behaviour but any smaller is moving into the territory of neglect. When you start adding additional torts, it becomes about giving them enough space to get away and out of sight of one another and to be able to avoid each other for the most part. This requires a lot more space than the 4x8 normally reccomended.
 

Tom

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If it’s really that important to have an enclosure this big I’m fine with doing it, plus I can reuse the trough to incubate if I get eggs. It just surprised me that they need this much space.
Yes it is. Don't go by what you've seen, or what the pet store says. Most people are keeping tortoises all wrong in many ways.

Your tortoise won't instantly drop dead if you drop it into a 40 gallon tank. The damage is done over time as they lose fitness and condition. Tortoises need to walk. A lot. Much like a horse, they require locomotion to help move things along in the gut. Got any horse experience? What do you do when a horse starts to colic? Put it on the hot walker, right? Get it moving.

Tortoises need a large amount of space to establish a territory and remain mentally and physically fit. But it needs to be a contained space so they don't get lost, killed or injured somehow. Letting them loose on the floor, or turning them loose in the yard is a sure way to lose, injure or kill them.

Here is a recent observation: I think most people know that zoos have minimal success breeding the two species of giant tortoises. Very few zoos have produced many offspring at all. I know a few private keepers that have them and most of them get no babies either. Just in the last few months, my perception of this issue has changed drastically. I've always thought breeding them was difficult and problematic. I was wrong. They breed as easily as any other species, when housed correctly. I've recently met multiple people that are breeding them by the 100s. A primary difference between those who have success with the two giant species and those who fail year after year is enclosure space. Most zoos and backyard keepers have them in relatively small enclosures. Think of the last Galapgos or Aldabra enclosure you saw at a zoo. Or think of the size of a normal back yard. Its too small. The guys who are breeding these things and getting babies reliably year after year are housing them on acres of land. I'm talking group pens on 5-10 acres. What difference does the size of the pen make? Exercise. Locomotion. Galapagos tortoises in the wild migrate up and down the giant slopes of volcanoes for miles. How can those exercise needs be met in a suburban back yard? They can't.

What does this have to do with your Russian? The same thing applies to all species. Keeping them in relatively small enclosures when they would roam for miles in the wild, does not meet their needs. Unlike many other reptile species, tortoises need lots of room. Much more than most lizards or snakes. MUCH MUCH more.
 

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