New Member
May 16, 2024
Location (City and/or State)
Surrey, UK
Hi All, I am a newbie member to the forum (in fact its my first time ever posting on any forum!) and to Tortoise ownership in general. We purchased Twig the Horsfield (which I think I am right in saying is aka a Russian tortoise) on 28th April and we think 'he' is approx. 6 months old. I wanted to post here to outline what we have done so far and to see if more experienced owners have any concerns/suggestions with what we have done/observed so far as I am finding some of the care/feeding/table setup information online quite contradictory.

We purchased him from a Reptile Centre who have been really good putting up with my relentless questions prior to purchasing and who would not let us take ownership until we could demonstrate our setup was safe which I have taken to be a positive sign of a good company, and they have been helpful on subsequent visits too.

In terms of Twig and settling in he did take a few days to settle but seems to be happy now from what I can tell. He was shy and stayed quite hidden in the hide for the first day or so and did a lot of basking too but for the last few days in particular he has been super active each day (prior to that he seemed to be on a bit of a one day active, one day quiet cycle). He likes to climb on and over things but also seems to stand and try and climb at the walls, he has tipped himself backwards a few times but has always righted himself quite quickly (We were advised not to intervene for the first 20 mins unless in water or under the lamp). Within his table he is very active and is determined to climb the log hide you can see in the pictures though he is too small to do so it seems.

He seems in good health from what I can tell (his eyes are clear no nose bubbles etc.), and he seems happy to climb on my hand to come out of the table when I offer it too and doesn't seem skittish or nervous. He has been 'shedding' the odd bit of dry skin which seems to be helped by bathing (more on that in a minute)

He is eating each day (bar the odd day where he doesn't) though I always worry he isn't eating enough and he seems to have a penchant for flowers (dandelion!) but shows little interest in his water bowl (I worry its too big?) bar the odd occasion he has braved it. We are using the 'Tortoise table' app to identify foods and have also purchased fresh plants from Hever Tortoise world as well as foraging dandelions and plantain ourselves (plus planting a lot of tortoise friendly plants!) and buying Lambs Lettuce from the super market. We are including Earth Pro A dietary supplement sprinkled over the food every day and every fourth day we swap it out for Earth Pro Calcium (noting he has a cuttlefish on the table too). I also sprinkle Arcadia Flowerboost over the food every few days.

He seems to be pooing every day (bar the odd day) and weeing too (including Urea salts every now and then), which we spot clean as soon as we see it.

We have given him daily bathes of 15-25 mins in warm water and have swapped out the water for fresh when the water has gone cold. Once a week we add a small sprinke of 'Reptoboost' to the bath water.

I have also started to let him wander outside of the table around my flat under total and full supervision at all times (we have no other pets etc.) for 30 mins a day as I read Horsfield's like to explore.

The lamp on the table is a D3 basking lamp (heat and UV) from Arcadia and whilst we initially had a 100w bulb, as it reached temperatures under the lamp of 39C+ in the recent warm weather I have now swapped it for an 80w bulb of the same brand and model. The temp is still 34C+ though, the temperature elsewhere is between 22C and 24C depending on the location across the table. Please note whilst the table is by the radiator this is not on currently and we will move his location in winter so he isn't directly next to this when it is in use.

He seems to rise when the lamp goes on and broadly heads off to bed when it goes off (sometimes a little before and sometimes a little after), the lamp is on from 7am - 7pm. He had started to dig himself down in to the top left corner outside to sleep the hide but the last two nights he takes himself to bed in the hid (not really showing any inclination to dig down)

Substrate wise the place we purchased him from recommended the Habistat Tortoise substrate but having done some further reading I wonder if the substrate needs to be changed to something else (it is a 50/50 loam, sand mix with added limestone apparently)?

Enrichment wise I really want to make sure he is not bored and so I tweak the table layout every now and then and was wondering whether to remove the hide wall at the back and have the whole table open but leaving the roof on the hide itself just to give him some cover, does that sound sensible or should I leave him with a fully secluded section (it just seems a lot of sleeping space that I thought could be used to offer more enrichment if done right).

We also plan to get an outside run to have in the garden (shared with others) to give him some outdoors time in the summer but have not yet done this. This will be fully enclosed and the garden is not exposed to pesticides/weedkiller etc.)

I guess that's all the information I can give and I just wanted to hear if people had any concerns about anything above and any advice on substrate/temps/enrichment/hide removal etc. I am just desperate to do right by him and give him the best life we can (you may have noticed I am one of life's great worriers)

NB: We will of course upgrade the table size as he grows (recognising he is super diddy at the moment).

Thanks in advance.


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Well-Known Member
Apr 6, 2024
Location (City and/or State)
Substrate wise the place we purchased him from recommended the Habistat Tortoise substrate but having done some further reading I wonder if the substrate needs to be changed to something else (it is a 50/50 loam, sand mix with added limestone apparently)?
These threads are recommended for all new keepers to read:

For tortoises that young (if he is in fact 6 months old) the recommended humidity range is about 65-70%, which is hard to reach in a open top enclousure like yours, which is why we recommend a closed chamber for tortoises under the age of one. What is your humidity currently?

Coco coir or orchird bark is the recommended substrate. Sand can cause irritation to your tortoises eyes and repository system, plus it is a potential impaction risk. Limestone in the substrate can encourage eating the substrate which is dangerous. Since you provide some pure calcium powder and have a cuttle bone in the enclosure the limestone is also useless.

Also, could you tell the specific product name of your lamp? Even though UV and heat should be provided in the same spot we rarely recommend bulbs that emit both, since they usually give very low UV and some can even be unhealthy (mercury vapor bulbs).

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