Russian Enclosure

David Koshar

New Member
Dec 21, 2019
Location (City and/or State)
Watervliet, MI
Hello, this is my second post here and I haven’t been very active so I look forward to hearing from fellow keepers. I’m completely overhauling my torts enclosure so I’m wondering if anyone has any tips for a Russian tortoise habitat. From what I’ve read most people use cypress mulch but I’m not sure if there’s a better substrate. Im also wondering about decorations that would be nice and functional, obviously no plastic plants. If it has any bearing she’s somewhere between 5 and 8 years old. Thanks!


Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Jul 8, 2017
Location (City and/or State)
Low desert 50 mi SE of Palm Springs CA
The main item is to make it big! A minimum of 8ft x 4ft, and bigger is better.

I am assuming that you are making a table type enclosure, and not an enclosed chamber. Russians don't need heat at night as long as your house stays in the 60's or warmer at night.

Fine grade orchid bark is the best substrate IMO. It holds moisture well, it's a good walking surface, it's 'diggable', and it's clean. Some keepers put cypress mulch or coco coir under a layer of orchid bark, but I like plain orchid bark.

Logs, rocks, an extra hide...all are things to put in an enclosure.

Torts love real plants in their enclosures. It's best to plant them in pots, and sink the pot into the substrate if you don't like seeing the pot. It helps to keep the pot upright also, because your tortoise will knock it over and eat the plant.

The plant has to be pesticide and weedicide (is that even a word? :D ) free. Any commercially grown plant will be full of chemicals, so if you can get cuttings from friends or family it makes the process so much easier. Pothos, spider plants, Boston fern, prayer plants, African violets, any kind of bromeliad...all are tortoise safe if eaten.

Something I did in my tort's enclosure was make hills and valleys with the substrate. Climbing the hills and rock obstacles gives him good exercise.

More and more keepers are making 2 floors in their enclosures. It gives extra space, and the tortoises seem to enjoy it. I haven't read of anyone's tort not using the 2nd floor. Here's a picture of 2 of them.


And here is a gorgeous table made by a member here,
@Krista S

For more pictures of her table, go here.