New Russian tortoise and would like some help.

FatToady

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I bought a Russian tortoise from pet smart. I talked to the managers at the store and they told me that their Russian tortoises we all CB and younger then a couple years. So I got the tortoise and I have been planning on getting a Tortoise for some time. But now that I have the Tito the tortoise home it seems to be older and maybe wild caught on its behavior. Tito wants to sleep all day like 20ish hours a day. If Tito is not eating he is sleeping. Also he is very very shy of me, Just walking into the room he gets into his shell and wont come out for minutes. Tito is about 4.5 to 5 inches long. I would like some help in determining if it is wild caught and maybe a estimate on how old. Thank you.
 

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SinLA

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Rule number 1. Petstores lie. Always. Its not even necessarily the employees fault, they are saying what they are told to say, and sell you things you don't need. He or she is almost certainly a wild caught adult and there's no way of knowing how old it is, and they often don't know if its a boy or a girl.

First thing, please remove that water bowl, he can flip over in it and drown. you can just use a plant saucer, but what you have right now is a potential killer.

Time moves slowly for a tortoise, s/he is in a strange new place so is going to be scared and will take some time to come around. Plus this is their normal brumation time...

Please provide photos of his/her full enclosure, but most people are told by the pet stores they can live in a tank or tub, but a Russian Tortoise needs LOTS of space - like 4' x 8 ', but pet stores don't tell you that because you wouldn't buy one if they did.

Second thing, there is a LOT of good information here, but you have to go into it with the mind that pretty much everything you've been told and sold is probably bad information. Start with FAQs (its a LOT to digest) and answer questions. Be patient with the advice given, its always well intended:


Start looking here at questions asked and answered:


Lots more answers to come, but this is a great place to learn if you're willing...
 

Tom

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I bought a Russian tortoise from pet smart. I talked to the managers at the store and they told me that their Russian tortoises we all CB and younger then a couple years. So I got the tortoise and I have been planning on getting a Tortoise for some time. But now that I have the Tito the tortoise home it seems to be older and maybe wild caught on its behavior. Tito wants to sleep all day like 20ish hours a day. If Tito is not eating he is sleeping. Also he is very very shy of me, Just walking into the room he gets into his shell and wont come out for minutes. Tito is about 4.5 to 5 inches long. I would like some help in determining if it is wild caught and maybe a estimate on how old. Thank you.
@SinLA gave you a great answer and hit all the high points. I agree with everything she said.

In addition to all of that, it is the time of year when they would normally brumate. More info on that here:

Questions are welcome. Sorry the pet store steered you wrong. This happens to almost everyone.
 

TammyJ

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Hey there and welcome to the forum! Great place for best help and advice. Cute tortoise you got there.
 

FatToady

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Update on Tito I have a 20 square foot encloser for him but he refuses to explore past a 1 square foot area in the corner. I put a food bowl in the opposite corner from is house "Log he likes to sleep under" and he refuses to travel farther then 10 inches from his house. He will not eat unless I pressure him to by putting the food directly infront of his face. Also I can only get him to eat one type of leaf out of a organic salad mix. He wont eat any cactus broccoli or even tried to give him some strawberry to for a reward and he wouldn't touch it. Anyone have any advise.
 

SinLA

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You could be describing my situation exactly. It took MONTHS before mine would explore even a tiny fraction of his space. Give it time, it can take a long while before he feels safe
 

SinLA

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Yes, there are other good threads you can search on this forum about the good foods and how to convince him to eat otherwise but basically you have to start mixing it in and he *will* eventually eat something else.
 

Tom

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Update on Tito I have a 20 square foot encloser for him but he refuses to explore past a 1 square foot area in the corner. I put a food bowl in the opposite corner from is house "Log he likes to sleep under" and he refuses to travel farther then 10 inches from his house. He will not eat unless I pressure him to by putting the food directly infront of his face. Also I can only get him to eat one type of leaf out of a organic salad mix. He wont eat any cactus broccoli or even tried to give him some strawberry to for a reward and he wouldn't touch it. Anyone have any advise.
What substrate are you using? Is it damp?

What heating and lighting? What type of UV bulb?

What are your four temperatures? Warm side, cool side, basking area, and overnight low?

Where is Columbus? OH, GA, IL, AR...?
 

FatToady

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What substrate are you using? Is it damp?

What heating and lighting? What type of UV bulb?

What are your four temperatures? Warm side, cool side, basking area, and overnight low?

Where is Columbus? OH, GA, IL, AR...?
Its Ohio and on the warm side of his encloser it is 80ish degrees and on the cooler side its around 70. The humidity is 50% all the time. I use UVB 10 23W anywhere there is light at, but I do have a few logs and stuff he is able to get under if he wants out of the light. I use reptile mulch and reptile bark as his floor. I wanted to see which he liked more and it seems that he likes to dig and stay on the areas that use the mulch more. As of dampness of the floor its usually pretty dry I have a mister that I use to keep the humidity up but it usually doesn't need it much.
 

Tom

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Its Ohio and on the warm side of his encloser it is 80ish degrees and on the cooler side its around 70. The humidity is 50% all the time. I use UVB 10 23W anywhere there is light at, but I do have a few logs and stuff he is able to get under if he wants out of the light. I use reptile mulch and reptile bark as his floor. I wanted to see which he liked more and it seems that he likes to dig and stay on the areas that use the mulch more. As of dampness of the floor its usually pretty dry I have a mister that I use to keep the humidity up but it usually doesn't need it much.
What type of bulb is the UV bulb. Is it a long florescent tube? Compact florescent?
 

TammyJ

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FatToady, you may think that you are being asked too many questions, but just try to answer them so that we can get the information we need to be able to figure out how best to solve the issues. The more we know, the more likely you will end up with a healthy and happy tortoise!
 

Cathie G

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I live a few miles south of you. It's pretty nice when I get to see other members here on TFO from my area. I also have a Russian. Welcome 🤗. Like everyone else said, Sapphire is quiet this time of year plus you just got your tort from a pet shop. It's hard to tell what the little one went thru. Same thing with Sapphire. It took a while to get him relaxed enough with me that he doesn't really mind when I pick him up etc. Do that slowly on a day to day basis . Place him next to the food maybe once a day like you're doing and the regular care stated here. Eventually, a little Russian will warm up to you.. They are pretty social.Sapphire usually starts getting more active around mid December now.🤗
 

Tom

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Its compact florescent bulbs
Those can sometimes burn their eyes, and they are also not effective UV sources.. Gotta get rid of that.

There are four elements to heating and lighting:
  1. Basking bulb. I use 65 watt incandescent floods from the hardware store. Some people will need bigger, or smaller wattage bulbs. Let your thermometer be your guide. I run them on a timer for about 12 hours and adjust the height to get the correct basking temp under them. I also like to use a flat rock of some sort directly under the bulb. You need to check the temp with a thermometer directly under the bulb and get it to around 95-100F (36-37C).
  2. Ambient heat maintenance. I use ceramic heating elements or radiant heat panels set on thermostats to maintain ambient above 80 degrees day and night for tropical species. In most cases you'd only need day heat for a temperate species like Testudo or DT, as long as your house stays above 60F (15-16C) at night. Some people in colder climates or with larger enclosures will need multiple CHEs or RHPs to spread out enough heat.
  3. Ambient light. I use LEDs for this purpose. Something in the 5000-6500K color range will look the best. Most bulbs at the store are in the 2500K range and they look yellowish. Strip or screw-in LED bulb types are both fine.
  4. UV. If you can get your tortoise outside for an hour 2 or 3 times a week, you won't need indoor UV. In colder climates, get one of the newer HO type fluorescent tubes. Which type will depend on mounting height. 5.0 bulbs make almost no UV. I like the 12% HO bulbs from Arcadia. You need a meter to check this: https://www.solarmeter.com/model65.html A good UV bulb only needs to run for 2-3 hours mid day. You need the basking bulb and the ambient lighting to be on at least 12 hours a day.
 

FatToady

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Those can sometimes burn their eyes, and they are also not effective UV sources.. Gotta get rid of that.

There are four elements to heating and lighting:
  1. Basking bulb. I use 65 watt incandescent floods from the hardware store. Some people will need bigger, or smaller wattage bulbs. Let your thermometer be your guide. I run them on a timer for about 12 hours and adjust the height to get the correct basking temp under them. I also like to use a flat rock of some sort directly under the bulb. You need to check the temp with a thermometer directly under the bulb and get it to around 95-100F (36-37C).
  2. Ambient heat maintenance. I use ceramic heating elements or radiant heat panels set on thermostats to maintain ambient above 80 degrees day and night for tropical species. In most cases you'd only need day heat for a temperate species like Testudo or DT, as long as your house stays above 60F (15-16C) at night. Some people in colder climates or with larger enclosures will need multiple CHEs or RHPs to spread out enough heat.
  3. Ambient light. I use LEDs for this purpose. Something in the 5000-6500K color range will look the best. Most bulbs at the store are in the 2500K range and they look yellowish. Strip or screw-in LED bulb types are both fine.
  4. UV. If you can get your tortoise outside for an hour 2 or 3 times a week, you won't need indoor UV. In colder climates, get one of the newer HO type fluorescent tubes. Which type will depend on mounting height. 5.0 bulbs make almost no UV. I like the 12% HO bulbs from Arcadia. You need a meter to check this: https://www.solarmeter.com/model65.html A good UV bulb only needs to run for 2-3 hours mid day. You need the basking bulb and the ambient lighting to be on at least 12 hours a day.
I was told online to have the UV lights on all day since Russians tortoises need 8-12 hours of UV exposer a day let me know if that's wrong. With the heat lights and the UV lights the encloser stays pretty bright and under the Heat lights it stays around 90-100 degree and in areas around the heat lights it stays 70-80 degrees. Also what do you use the Ambient lights for? Are they for the tortoise or just lighting up the encloser. Also went to the store and got a variety of green leaves and found out that Tito only likes Kale. I have tied dandelion and some others that he wont touch. I even chopped them up into a minced saled and he picked through it only eating the kale the pieces. Also been trying to introduce some kind a vegie because it cant be healthy to only eat kale everyday. So far he wont eat broccoli, carrots, peppers, cactus fruit, strawberries. Let me know if there is something else I could try.
 

Tom

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I was told online to have the UV lights on all day since Russians tortoises need 8-12 hours of UV exposer a day let me know if that's wrong.
It is wrong. Almost all of the care info you find online will be wrong. The same wrong info has been parroted for decades and most people have no clue. There is no tortoise species anywhere in the world that is exposed to UV for 8-12 hours a day. UV from the sun doesn't work that way. There is almost no UV in the morning or afternoon. There is a mid day spike of UV and it tapers off fairly quickly.

The ambient light is to make it look like daytime to them. We are trying to simulate a bright sunny day indoors. A single UV tube and a basking bulb are nowhere near bright enough. If you want the tortoise to come out and be active, and also not brumate, it needs to be bright in there.

The care sheet that @SinLA linked for you in post number 2 explains what and how to feed your tortoise. The foods you are offering are not good foods. Tortoises eat what they are used to eating. Making a mixed salad isn't going to work. You have to mince up whatever this wild caught tortoise will eat, and then start adding tiny tiny amounts of minced up new foods. There should just be a few tiny flecks of the new stuff. It will take weeks or months to introduce the new and better foods. Try to find weeds and leaves instead of grocery store foods. If you can't find any more weeds due to the season changing, then favor endive and escarole. Spring mix will entice most tortoises, but don't get stuck on that. Also try arugula. Don't feed any fruit. That will upset their stomach terribly and set you back quite a ways. All of these grocery store greens need to be amended. You need to add fiber and variety. All of this is explained in the care sheet.
 

FatToady

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Okay Update on Tito. I have bought all locally organic grown plants but it seems that he only likes the kale with occasion to eating dandelion. I have grown my own grass and he seems to eat that occasionally. I have reduced his UVB intake from 12 hours a day to 6. The warm side of his house sits at 85 degrees and the cooler side 75. At knight his entire encloser is 65. I have gotten a terracotta bowl and I fill it with natural spring water every day. I also have a pet store bowl that I fill with warm spring water for him to soak everyday. I also have started to mince his salads so he don't see the difference between the leaves but he seems to take the time to pick through the tiny pieces or doesn't eat it at all after picking through it. Issues still is that he sleeps all day every day, he sleeps so much so he wont get out of his house or even stay awake in his daily bath. If I would guess he is probably awake for a total of 30 minutes a day. I can only get him to eat a couple times a week and it usually is like a few bites and he falls asleep or gets uninterested. If I take him out of his cage and let him explore around the house he seems to walk around for about 15 minutes before he kind a just plops down and sleeps. His schedule day to day is pretty much me having to pull him out of his house a couple hours after his lights come on at 8am and giving him a bath for 20 minutes. I then put him back in his encloser where he will sleep right where I put him until around 6pm where I will wake him up to feed him. If he chooses to eat he will take around 2-5 minutes to eat or to walk straight into his house after I wake him. Any suggestions on how to maybe get him more active or if I should be worried that he seems so tired.
 

Tom

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Okay Update on Tito. I have bought all locally organic grown plants but it seems that he only likes the kale with occasion to eating dandelion. I have grown my own grass and he seems to eat that occasionally. I have reduced his UVB intake from 12 hours a day to 6. The warm side of his house sits at 85 degrees and the cooler side 75. At knight his entire encloser is 65. I have gotten a terracotta bowl and I fill it with natural spring water every day. I also have a pet store bowl that I fill with warm spring water for him to soak everyday. I also have started to mince his salads so he don't see the difference between the leaves but he seems to take the time to pick through the tiny pieces or doesn't eat it at all after picking through it. Issues still is that he sleeps all day every day, he sleeps so much so he wont get out of his house or even stay awake in his daily bath. If I would guess he is probably awake for a total of 30 minutes a day. I can only get him to eat a couple times a week and it usually is like a few bites and he falls asleep or gets uninterested. If I take him out of his cage and let him explore around the house he seems to walk around for about 15 minutes before he kind a just plops down and sleeps. His schedule day to day is pretty much me having to pull him out of his house a couple hours after his lights come on at 8am and giving him a bath for 20 minutes. I then put him back in his encloser where he will sleep right where I put him until around 6pm where I will wake him up to feed him. If he chooses to eat he will take around 2-5 minutes to eat or to walk straight into his house after I wake him. Any suggestions on how to maybe get him more active or if I should be worried that he seems so tired.
What is the temperature under the basking bulb? You have a basking bulb now, right?

Did you get rid of the CFL bulb? Those burn their eyes sometimes and make them not want to come out in the light. What are you using for UV now?

Did you add ambient lighting? If you are not making it look and feel like summer in there, he is going to want to be brumating.

I finished this today. It should have some helpful info for you:
 

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