JackieSmiled

New Member
Joined
May 12, 2021
Messages
1
Location (City and/or State)
KREMMLING
I'm very seriously considering a Russian Tortoise as a new addition to my family. Right now I have a 55 gallon aquarium that I'm a bit lost on how to best set up for my unaquired new friend. Due to the climate that I live in I'll be able to set up a small outdoor "playpen" but the large and main enclosure will have to be indoors. I've read a lot of threads so far but I'm struggling to pull all the information together in a way that makes sense to me. I know that aquariums aren't ideal for tortoises but from what I understand they can work if executed properly. Fogging or covering the glass is a must. I also want to do something multi level to add space. I wish I could do a bigger aquarium/ enclosure but I just don't have the room. The second level won't be so large that it needs its own complete substrate layer or lights, just a space for exploring. Maybe a platform with a ramp (with safety sides) on the cool side of the enclosure? Is there a way that I could combine that with a hide away for him/her? My other concern is humidity. I've read a lot about proper humidity and it seems like a Goldilocks situation. Glass aquariums from what I understand stay more humid? I live in the rocky mountains of Colorado and it's very very dry here so I'm considering that a bit of an advantage. I also am mind boggled by the temperature shift idea. I understand the importance of a basking area - flat rock, heat lamp/ubv lamp. Is there a specific heating assistant that anyone would recommend to hit those higher 90+ degree temperatures? Also how do you maintain a temperature that high on one side of the enclosure while keeping the other side significantly cooler? Is that something that a platform and shelter would help or hurt? I have a good grasp on the 12 hours on 12 hours off light scenario. I'm just trying to whittle down the finer details to make sure my future little turtle friend will live his/her best life. I also can't find a specific water dish height. Obviously it depends on the size of the turtle but how high should the water level on his/her shell? Is there a particular brand/shape/type of dish that works best? How often do I need to completely change out the substrate vs. a basic waste removal? (I know to change water and food supply daily if not more than once a day) I also would love some tips on garnishes if you will. Ways to decorate that are appealing to look at but also beneficial for a tortoise. This was a lot but I really want to be a good tortoise mom. I had a box turtle when I was a kid who got bit by an ant in his outdoor space and didn't survive the resulting infection. I don't remember much about caring for Bob. Just that I loved him very much. Now that I'm an adult I want to do the best I can for my little friend whenever I decide I've gotten everything prepared for him/her. I want to set up and maintain the tank tortoiseless for a couple weeks to make sure I have it down before I put a little friend in it.
 

KarenSoCal

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jul 8, 2017
Messages
5,152
Location (City and/or State)
Low desert 50 mi SE of Palm Springs CA
Hi! And welcome to the forum!

It's great that you are researching and getting everything set up before you bring home your new Russian. Most of the time people do it backwards.

You had many questions, and they will all get answered. But the best way to start is for you to read our care sheet very carefully. It will give you all the basics to start out with. Are you planning to get a hatchling, adult, or somewhere in between? If you'd like a hatchling, we have a few members who breed Russians. That way you know for sure that the baby was started out the correct way. How a baby is cared for immediately after hatching makes a huge difference.

Forget everything you were told by pet shops, and most of what you've read online. There is so much bad info out there on caring for torts of all species. If you do things according to the care sheet, your tortoise will have the best care a tort can get.

You do need to reconsider the enclosure. No reptile enclosure that you can buy is going to be large enough. We recommend a minimum of 8ft x 4ft., especially for Russians. They are very active torts! Also, torts need lots of space to walk so they are able to digest their food. If you get a hatchling, your 55g tank will still be crowded. The 48" length is good, but only 13" wide is really small, since by the time you put stuff in there, there is almost no space to maneuver around. In addition, whatever enclosure you use for a baby needs to have a solid top, not screening. Plexiglas cut to fit works the best. There are good alternatives to your tank. Read the thread I've linked, and it will show you other ideas. The enclosure built by a member of the forum, markw84 , is the best there is. You can PM him...just put the @ symbol in front of his username. For a more modest budget, the grow tents work very well.

Read the care sheet, then come back with any questions you still have. We're here to help.


 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,114
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
I'm very seriously considering a Russian Tortoise as a new addition to my family. Right now I have a 55 gallon aquarium that I'm a bit lost on how to best set up for my unaquired new friend. Due to the climate that I live in I'll be able to set up a small outdoor "playpen" but the large and main enclosure will have to be indoors. I've read a lot of threads so far but I'm struggling to pull all the information together in a way that makes sense to me. I know that aquariums aren't ideal for tortoises but from what I understand they can work if executed properly. Fogging or covering the glass is a must. I also want to do something multi level to add space. I wish I could do a bigger aquarium/ enclosure but I just don't have the room. The second level won't be so large that it needs its own complete substrate layer or lights, just a space for exploring. Maybe a platform with a ramp (with safety sides) on the cool side of the enclosure? Is there a way that I could combine that with a hide away for him/her? My other concern is humidity. I've read a lot about proper humidity and it seems like a Goldilocks situation. Glass aquariums from what I understand stay more humid? I live in the rocky mountains of Colorado and it's very very dry here so I'm considering that a bit of an advantage. I also am mind boggled by the temperature shift idea. I understand the importance of a basking area - flat rock, heat lamp/ubv lamp. Is there a specific heating assistant that anyone would recommend to hit those higher 90+ degree temperatures? Also how do you maintain a temperature that high on one side of the enclosure while keeping the other side significantly cooler? Is that something that a platform and shelter would help or hurt? I have a good grasp on the 12 hours on 12 hours off light scenario. I'm just trying to whittle down the finer details to make sure my future little turtle friend will live his/her best life. I also can't find a specific water dish height. Obviously it depends on the size of the turtle but how high should the water level on his/her shell? Is there a particular brand/shape/type of dish that works best? How often do I need to completely change out the substrate vs. a basic waste removal? (I know to change water and food supply daily if not more than once a day) I also would love some tips on garnishes if you will. Ways to decorate that are appealing to look at but also beneficial for a tortoise. This was a lot but I really want to be a good tortoise mom. I had a box turtle when I was a kid who got bit by an ant in his outdoor space and didn't survive the resulting infection. I don't remember much about caring for Bob. Just that I loved him very much. Now that I'm an adult I want to do the best I can for my little friend whenever I decide I've gotten everything prepared for him/her. I want to set up and maintain the tank tortoiseless for a couple weeks to make sure I have it down before I put a little friend in it.
You got all the right info from Karen. I'll hit the individual points and questions:

  • A 55 is okay for a tiny hatchling for a few months, and then you'll need something bigger. If that is all the space you have, then a tortoise isn't the right pet for you. A bearded dragon, blue tongue skink or leopard gecko will do fine in something that size. Several snake species too, but not an adult of any species of tortoise.
  • No need to fog or cover the glass. That is an old myth, and it indicates you've been reading the old wrong info.
  • There is no room for a multilevel in such a small space.
  • 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. 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.
    3. 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 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 the UK, 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%. You need a meter to check this: https://www.solarmeter.com/model65.html
  • Terra cotta saucers sunk into the substrate make the best food and water dishes.
  • If you soak the torotise regularly, as you should, most of the urine and defecation will happen in the soaking tub. This, along with daily spot cleaning, keeps your enclosure clean and eliminates the need to change your substrate out ever.

Questions are welcome! :)
 
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