Setting up for a Russian Tortoise - Constructive comments welcome

David Steere

Active Member
Joined
Mar 14, 2024
Messages
64
Location (City and/or State)
Rhode Island
To @Tom @Carol S @Yvonne G and the rest of the wonderful people on TortioseForum!

My name is David Steere and this is going to be my first Tortoise. My wife Sandra who I was married for 30 years passed away last December and seeing that my children and grandchildren still live with me I figured it is a good time for me to get a new companion that will be with me to the end of my days. One wife was all I ever needed in this world. There could be no replacement.

So I figure I would get something I always wanted but never got around to get. A Russian Tortoise.

I am the typical person who bought turtles, fish, reptiles at a pet store and once I got them home I than thought of how to take care of them. Always ended terribly!

This time I want to get it right and setup an open tortoise table where I could just sit on my bench alone or with my family members and watch and care for my new companion along with how everyone's day was..

Since it would not be fair to my family to get into another relationship I am going to settle for the next best thing. A Russian Tortoise who will be called Sandy ( covers both male and female ) in honor of my wife. I am going to try to take care of the tortoise just as I did my wife. With tender loving care.

Below is what I have put together so far.

PICTURES OF TORTOISE TABLE

table 1.jpg

table 2.jpg
table 3.jpg

table 4.jpg

GENERAL
  • I am 59 years old. With proper care the tortoise will outlive me. Will be slowly having the kids, grandkids, and great grandkids who all either live with me or live five minutes drive to help take care of the tortoise. This brings me great happiness that my family lives so close. I must of done something right! With luck I can instill the love I have with tortoises to my family. So when I to pass away there will be someone who can take over for me.
  • Veterinarians. If things go sideways I have a number of veterinarians fairly close by my home. Plus TortoiseForum is only a post away! In a sense you all have now become my extended family.

Ocean State Veterinary Specialists
1480 South County Trail
East Greenwich, RI 02818
Tel: (401) 886-OSVS (6787)
Fax: (401) 886-8998

Wickford Veterinary Clinic
7440 Post Road
North Kingstown, RI 02852
Tel: (401) 295-9739
Tel: (401) 886-6787 (emergency)

That out of the way lets talk about the setup.

TABLE
  • 48"x72"x16" box. Bottom and sides are 1/2" vinyl veneered. 1/2" plywood floor and 2x construction glued and screwed. ( I selected an open table veneered with vinyl for easy cleaning. 2x construction allows me to stand/jump right in enclosure )
  • 2 1/4" interior overhang to prevent tortoise from escaping.
  • Bottom of table is 16" off floor. Inside walls are 16" high.
  • I have enough room for expansion in the future. Room to create an additional 48"x48"x16" wing.

SUBSTRATE
  • 3" Coconut Coir bottom layer. Many places OVER 3" to allow burrowing.
  • 1" Orchid Bark top layer to help keep coconut coir moist and humid.
  • In winter months the basement is dry. Plan on keeping Coconut Coir very moist to help tortoise hydrate.
LIGHTING
HIDES
  • Tipped over planter. Berm to 6" height to allow burrowing.
  • Humid hide which is 36"x18"x8" - ( Constant 75 +/- degrees temperature / 70 - 100 percent humidity 24/7. )
DIET
  • Fix a bowl about as big as the tortoises shell once a day. Add more at noon if tortoise eats everything.
  • Plan on giving the tortoise a variety of grocery, pet store and home grown foods.
  • Seed Mix: Broadleaf testudo mix - ( Plan to let grow and hand cut and feed. Never going to place tray in enclosure. )
  • Mazuri Original 5M21 Tortoise Food
  • Zoo Med Natural Grassland Tortoise Food
  • Grocery Items: Spring mix, endive, escarole, carrot tops, cilantro, mustard, turnip and collard greens, arugula, cilantro, kale, squash leaves, romaine, green or red leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, water cress, celery tops and much more.
  • Will use The Tortoise Table and try to plant more varieties. More different plant food the better.
  • HUGE VARIETY OF RECOMMENDED FOODS. EVERY DAY PER WEEK SOMETHING DIFFERENT IN THE MIX.
  • NEVER GIVE TORTOISE ANY FRUIT.
SUPPLEMENTS
SOAKING / ( HUMITITY - ADMIT ACHILLES HEEL )
  • Since table is open which I know is not recommended I would like to do the following 24/7 and 365 days a year.
  • Keep large Humid Hide which is 36"x18"x8" at 70 to100 percent humidity 24/7 and 365 days a year. Sensor is fastened at top by Velcro in the middle/ top of the container.
  • Plan on placing the soaking container within enclosure only when soaking. Water level the height where bottom/top shell meets. Tortoise will only be picked up 4 times a day. Never more than 6" off substate in case of a fall. Rest of the time the tortoise will be free to do anything it wants.
  • 24 hours/ 7 days a week/ 365 day a year. I work at home and never leave the property. That being the case I plan on soaking the tortoise 2 hours a day. Soakings will occur at 6am, 12pm, 6pm and 12am each for 30 minutes. This with hydrate the tortoise as well help keep the enclosure clean ( poop and pee while soaking ) to extend the time I need to do a total recleaning with new substrate. Will check in on tortoise every couple of hours.
  • My regular sleep schedule is 1am to 6am for the last 40 years so will not interfere with my life in the slightest. Two or more hours away from video games, yes almost 60 and still playing games, will probably do me some good. Watching the tortoise while soaking will be so much fun. Probably will be talking to the tortoise the whole time.
  • Spray with garden hose the entire surface on "Mist" setting "x" times a week to keep humidity in substrate as high as possible. Testing shows I can keep the temperature at 70 and humidity pegged at 100% percent below substrate using a Zoo Med Digital Combo Reptile Terrarium Thermometer Humidity Gauge sensors touching the bottom vinyl floor under the substrate. Substate is moist, not wet/muddy at touch. Could setup a automatic misting system, like I use to do plant cutting propagating. Something like 5 second mist every hour. This could in theory combat the never ending battle that I am in raising the humidity above substrate a little and continue to keep the below substrate ideal. Automatic would be a plus also. Would have a water source 24/7 all year.
  • Normal room humidity is between 30 and 40 during the winter months and 70 degree temperature +/-.
  • Normal room humidity is between 60 and 80 during the summer months with 90 degree temperature +/-.
My plan was to get an adult Russian Tortoise but to my dismay all the breeders I have found only have hatchlings. I did find a breeder who sells juvenile Russian Tortoises so leaning on purchasing the tortoise from that breeder. I know the younger the tortoise the less mistakes you can make. Hesitant to get a hatchling due to my humidity limitations.

MISCELLANEOUS
  • Unfortunately the tortoise will need to be always kept in enclosure. We have dogs, cats, fruit trees we spray, lawn that we fertilize and especially very young great grandchildren that could drop, kick or step on tortoise. Basement is now off limits to all pets and young children or anyone else who does not know the rules. Rule number one is DO NOT PICK UP TORTOISE. And those that do must wash hands before and after only when soaking.
  • Everything I need is one step away from my Tortoise table. No human area used for tortoise stuff.
  • Utility sink right next to tortoise table so I can have cold or hot water.
  • Garden hose with "Mist" setting attached to sink so warm water can be used to spray entire table "x" times a week.
  • New refrigerator right next to tortoise table to store tortoise food.
  • Table / Workbench right next to tortoise table to use for tortoise stuff like indoor planting, preparing food and anything else that comes up.
  • 4 - Zoo Med Digital Combo Reptile Terrarium Thermometer Humidity Gauge spread around Tortoise table.
  • Mini Non-Contact Laser Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun for quick spot checks.
  • Solarmeter Model 6.5R UV Index Meter Reptile Accessory, Green for quick spot checks.
  • Generator if power goes out for a long period of time at a bad time of year. Colder months.
DAILY ROUTINE
  • 6am-6:30am = soak / inspect enclosure ( get rid of old food, poop ) / change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise near fresh food.
  • 12pm-12:30pm = soak/ change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise under basking lamp.
  • 6pm-6:30pm = soak/ change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise under basking lamp.
  • 12am-12:30am = soak/ change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise near remaining food.
  • 12:30am = Lights out over table ( simulate dusk since other lights are still on in room ).
  • 1am = Lights out in whole room. Owner and Tortoise time to sleep.
MONTHLY ROUTINE
  • Measure and Weigh tortoise and document on this post each month. This way I have a record and forum members can observe my efforts and let me know if they notice something I overlooked. Thirty years as a computer programmer has taught me the more eyes on a project the better the project turns out.
So sorry for such a long post. I am looking forward to many years here on TortoiseForum. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to read this post. Look forward to comments, suggestions and concerns.
 

Ink

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Welcome to the forum. Sorry for your loss, hopefully Sandy the tortoise will give you so many smiles every day. There are many breeders on the forum. Their tortoises are started correctly, and not wild caught ( most pet stores).
 

wellington

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Hello and Welcome. So very sorry for your loss.
An adult Russian needs a minimum of a 4x8 foot enclosure and hopefully a bigger one outside for summer
Basking temp.should be 95-100 with an incandescent flood bulb
Uvb from a straight tube fluorescent bulb
Over all temp should range from 75-80
Night temps upper 60's to 70.
Humidity 30-50%
A Russian hatching needs a closed chamber with all same temps as above but 80% humidity.
No cfl(coil) bulbs, mercury vapor bulbs or halogen bulbs should be used.
 

Alex and the Redfoot

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Joined
Aug 21, 2023
Messages
2,076
Location (City and/or State)
Cyprus
Hello and welcome!

I'm sorry for your wife. You've done a lot of research and preparation for your shelled friend. Your setup is so well documented that may become a care sheet.

Few things looks caught my attention, though:
1. Lightning regime: your tortoise needs 12-14 hours of bright light, especially during winter time to keep it from brumating. So LEDs timing should be adjusted (e.g. from 8AM to 5PM) and basking light should be on from 6PM to 6-8PM. Incandescent lamps have more "warm" spectre which is more close to dawn/dusk sun. Having lights on from 6AM to 1AM is not quite right. They sleep in darkness and usually active from a sunrise till a few hours before sunset.
2. Much accent is put on humidity and soaking. Soaking once/twice a day is enough, for an adult tortoise - every other day or once a week. However, soaks aren't a substitute for an ambient humidity. And misting substrate is not either. I think, turning an table into a "closed chamber" will worth the efforts. Either with a "greenhouse top" or custom PVC pipes frame and such. This will help you with maintaining humidity and will simplify setup and routines and you may use a blackout cover to ensure proper day/night cycle for the tortoise if the basement is a living/working space for you. Perhaps you can make a sectioned space with a tortoise table (like an "office cube") instead of covering an enclosure.
3. An outdoor space is a something really desirable. While a tortoise can live indoors for the whole its life, they really thrive outside.
4. Basking lamp and UVB tube should light the same area. That's what tortoise expects and it's closer to the natural sunlight.

I wish you and your future tortoise many-many happy years together! You are going to be a great keeper!
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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63,864
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
To @Tom @Carol S @Yvonne G and the rest of the wonderful people on TortioseForum!

My name is David Steere and this is going to be my first Tortoise. My wife Sandra who I was married for 30 years passed away last December and seeing that my children and grandchildren still live with me I figured it is a good time for me to get a new companion that will be with me to the end of my days. One wife was all I ever needed in this world. There could be no replacement.

So I figure I would get something I always wanted but never got around to get. A Russian Tortoise.

I am the typical person who bought turtles, fish, reptiles at a pet store and once I got them home I than thought of how to take care of them. Always ended terribly!

This time I want to get it right and setup an open tortoise table where I could just sit on my bench alone or with my family members and watch and care for my new companion along with how everyone's day was..

Since it would not be fair to my family to get into another relationship I am going to settle for the next best thing. A Russian Tortoise who will be called Sandy ( covers both male and female ) in honor of my wife. I am going to try to take care of the tortoise just as I did my wife. With tender loving care.

Below is what I have put together so far.

PICTURES OF TORTOISE TABLE

View attachment 368973

View attachment 368974
View attachment 368975

View attachment 368976

GENERAL
  • I am 59 years old. With proper care the tortoise will outlive me. Will be slowly having the kids, grandkids, and great grandkids who all either live with me or live five minutes drive to help take care of the tortoise. This brings me great happiness that my family lives so close. I must of done something right! With luck I can instill the love I have with tortoises to my family. So when I to pass away there will be someone who can take over for me.
  • Veterinarians. If things go sideways I have a number of veterinarians fairly close by my home. Plus TortoiseForum is only a post away! In a sense you all have now become my extended family.

Ocean State Veterinary Specialists
1480 South County Trail
East Greenwich, RI 02818
Tel: (401) 886-OSVS (6787)
Fax: (401) 886-8998

Wickford Veterinary Clinic
7440 Post Road
North Kingstown, RI 02852
Tel: (401) 295-9739
Tel: (401) 886-6787 (emergency)

That out of the way lets talk about the setup.

TABLE
  • 48"x72"x16" box. Bottom and sides are 1/2" vinyl veneered. 1/2" plywood floor and 2x construction glued and screwed. ( I selected an open table veneered with vinyl for easy cleaning. 2x construction allows me to stand/jump right in enclosure )
  • 2 1/4" interior overhang to prevent tortoise from escaping.
  • Bottom of table is 16" off floor. Inside walls are 16" high.
  • I have enough room for expansion in the future. Room to create an additional 48"x48"x16" wing.

SUBSTRATE
  • 3" Coconut Coir bottom layer. Many places OVER 3" to allow burrowing.
  • 1" Orchid Bark top layer to help keep coconut coir moist and humid.
  • In winter months the basement is dry. Plan on keeping Coconut Coir very moist to help tortoise hydrate.
LIGHTING
HIDES
  • Tipped over planter. Berm to 6" height to allow burrowing.
  • Humid hide which is 36"x18"x8" - ( Constant 75 +/- degrees temperature / 70 - 100 percent humidity 24/7. )
DIET
  • Fix a bowl about as big as the tortoises shell once a day. Add more at noon if tortoise eats everything.
  • Plan on giving the tortoise a variety of grocery, pet store and home grown foods.
  • Seed Mix: Broadleaf testudo mix - ( Plan to let grow and hand cut and feed. Never going to place tray in enclosure. )
  • Mazuri Original 5M21 Tortoise Food
  • Zoo Med Natural Grassland Tortoise Food
  • Grocery Items: Spring mix, endive, escarole, carrot tops, cilantro, mustard, turnip and collard greens, arugula, cilantro, kale, squash leaves, romaine, green or red leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, water cress, celery tops and much more.
  • Will use The Tortoise Table and try to plant more varieties. More different plant food the better.
  • HUGE VARIETY OF RECOMMENDED FOODS. EVERY DAY PER WEEK SOMETHING DIFFERENT IN THE MIX.
  • NEVER GIVE TORTOISE ANY FRUIT.
SUPPLEMENTS
SOAKING / ( HUMITITY - ADMIT ACHILLES HEEL )
  • Since table is open which I know is not recommended I would like to do the following 24/7 and 365 days a year.
  • Keep large Humid Hide which is 36"x18"x8" at 70 to100 percent humidity 24/7 and 365 days a year. Sensor is fastened at top by Velcro in the middle/ top of the container.
  • Plan on placing the soaking container within enclosure only when soaking. Water level the height where bottom/top shell meets. Tortoise will only be picked up 4 times a day. Never more than 6" off substate in case of a fall. Rest of the time the tortoise will be free to do anything it wants.
  • 24 hours/ 7 days a week/ 365 day a year. I work at home and never leave the property. That being the case I plan on soaking the tortoise 2 hours a day. Soakings will occur at 6am, 12pm, 6pm and 12am each for 30 minutes. This with hydrate the tortoise as well help keep the enclosure clean ( poop and pee while soaking ) to extend the time I need to do a total recleaning with new substrate. Will check in on tortoise every couple of hours.
  • My regular sleep schedule is 1am to 6am for the last 40 years so will not interfere with my life in the slightest. Two or more hours away from video games, yes almost 60 and still playing games, will probably do me some good. Watching the tortoise while soaking will be so much fun. Probably will be talking to the tortoise the whole time.
  • Spray with garden hose the entire surface on "Mist" setting "x" times a week to keep humidity in substrate as high as possible. Testing shows I can keep the temperature at 70 and humidity pegged at 100% percent below substrate using a Zoo Med Digital Combo Reptile Terrarium Thermometer Humidity Gauge sensors touching the bottom vinyl floor under the substrate. Substate is moist, not wet/muddy at touch. Could setup a automatic misting system, like I use to do plant cutting propagating. Something like 5 second mist every hour. This could in theory combat the never ending battle that I am in raising the humidity above substrate a little and continue to keep the below substrate ideal. Automatic would be a plus also. Would have a water source 24/7 all year.
  • Normal room humidity is between 30 and 40 during the winter months and 70 degree temperature +/-.
  • Normal room humidity is between 60 and 80 during the summer months with 90 degree temperature +/-.
My plan was to get an adult Russian Tortoise but to my dismay all the breeders I have found only have hatchlings. I did find a breeder who sells juvenile Russian Tortoises so leaning on purchasing the tortoise from that breeder. I know the younger the tortoise the less mistakes you can make. Hesitant to get a hatchling due to my humidity limitations.

MISCELLANEOUS
  • Unfortunately the tortoise will need to be always kept in enclosure. We have dogs, cats, fruit trees we spray, lawn that we fertilize and especially very young great grandchildren that could drop, kick or step on tortoise. Basement is now off limits to all pets and young children or anyone else who does not know the rules. Rule number one is DO NOT PICK UP TORTOISE. And those that do must wash hands before and after only when soaking.
  • Everything I need is one step away from my Tortoise table. No human area used for tortoise stuff.
  • Utility sink right next to tortoise table so I can have cold or hot water.
  • Garden hose with "Mist" setting attached to sink so warm water can be used to spray entire table "x" times a week.
  • New refrigerator right next to tortoise table to store tortoise food.
  • Table / Workbench right next to tortoise table to use for tortoise stuff like indoor planting, preparing food and anything else that comes up.
  • 4 - Zoo Med Digital Combo Reptile Terrarium Thermometer Humidity Gauge spread around Tortoise table.
  • Mini Non-Contact Laser Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun for quick spot checks.
  • Solarmeter Model 6.5R UV Index Meter Reptile Accessory, Green for quick spot checks.
  • Generator if power goes out for a long period of time at a bad time of year. Colder months.
DAILY ROUTINE
  • 6am-6:30am = soak / inspect enclosure ( get rid of old food, poop ) / change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise near fresh food.
  • 12pm-12:30pm = soak/ change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise under basking lamp.
  • 6pm-6:30pm = soak/ change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise under basking lamp.
  • 12am-12:30am = soak/ change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise near remaining food.
  • 12:30am = Lights out over table ( simulate dusk since other lights are still on in room ).
  • 1am = Lights out in whole room. Owner and Tortoise time to sleep.
MONTHLY ROUTINE
  • Measure and Weigh tortoise and document on this post each month. This way I have a record and forum members can observe my efforts and let me know if they notice something I overlooked. Thirty years as a computer programmer has taught me the more eyes on a project the better the project turns out.
So sorry for such a long post. I am looking forward to many years here on TortoiseForum. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to read this post. Look forward to comments, suggestions and concerns.
Hello and welcome David.

Your plan is well thought out! Here are my comments and suggestions:
1. There is no need to soak an adult Russian more than a couple of times per week. Babies should be soaked daily, but none of them need it more than once a day. Soaking more often won't hurt anything, but it isn't necessary.
2. I prefer coco coir for babies and orchid bark for adults. No need and no benefit from mixing substrates, but also no harm in it either.
3. Your temperatures and humidity sound great as is. I don't think you'll need to go overboard with all the misting and what not, but your gauges will answer this definitively, and better than my guessing.
4. I agree with Alex on the outdoor enclosure. Adults really do much better in large outdoor enclosures in fair weather. There are many ways to do this safely with kids, dogs, and natural predators around. We all do it. All of my adult tortoises of all species live outside full time year round with heated shelters for night time and cold rainy winter days. I'm out in the country with all the wild life, and there are 20-30 dogs on the property at any given time.

Feel free to ask questions on how to do any of this.

I think you have probably already read this thread multiple times, but I'll leave it here just in case:
 

Yvonne G

Old Timer
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Messages
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Wow! Someone has done his research!! Good job!. I commend you on hanging the lights rather than using the clamp the fixtures come with. I love the viewing bench. My only suggestion is plants or other visual barriers. How boring his life will be to wake up every morning and see his whole world, from one side to the other, at a glance. It would be much more interesting for him to have to navigate around obstacles to see what's on the other side.

Take a look at craigslist.com several times a day. There's usually a tortoise on there looking for a home (but DON'T be suckered into getting a sulcata. Your tort table is good for a russian, but horrible for a sulcata). Watch the SPCA's site for tortoises. Contact Julie at Turtle Rescue Long Island. She's on facebook and sometimes has russian tortoises.

Good luck on your search, and be sure to keep us in the loop.
 

SinLA

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Joined
Apr 19, 2022
Messages
2,266
Location (City and/or State)
Los Angeles
Welcome to the forum, I think you are going to have one lucky tortoise! Looks like you are putting a lot of thought into your enclosure. If you do decide to get a baby get one from a good breeder (I'm you've read the link Tom provided already) but you ALSO could look for an adult that needs a home. Lots more people get tortoises than can productively keep them, and Russians seem to be sold frequently in big box pet stores, and if you get an adult you won't need to worry about an enclosed chamber and probably whatever life you are giving it will already be so much better than what it got before!

For example: This guy:
 

Cathie G

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15,305
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Hello and welcome. I got my little Russian about 17 years ago. I've never regretted choosing a Russian. He was an adult and I'm glad about that too. I didn't have to worry about a baby while I'm learning about what they are capable of. 😁They're actually easy because their needs are close to ours or at least mine. It's nice your family is involved too. My grands are different about animals because of him I think. Also a Herman's is a smaller tortoise without the escape artist reputation but with the same care needs. Don't trust that though. That could be a second choice for you. I think both types are still tortoises 😉 and capable of some crazy stuff. Have fun and best wishes.
 

David Steere

Active Member
Joined
Mar 14, 2024
Messages
64
Location (City and/or State)
Rhode Island
Thank you all for the tips! I have an idea how I can incorporate all of them but will take a little time to get the material. Stay tuned.

In meantime I have this piece of my project coming in today and want to start to experiment on how to grow in my basement during colder months. Back in the day when I owned a plant nursery I used straight perlite for my cuttings. I have no experience on this type of planting indoors.

So I have these...

18 Pot Seed Starting Tray Kit

1712492228913.png
... and this ...

SEED MIX: BROADLEAF TESTUDO MIX

1712492398480.png

I plan on letting them grow and with a pair of clean scissors ( only thing the scissors will ever be used for ) cut and feed to my tortoise.

Questions:
  • Best soil to use. Can I use any soil? Coconut Coir, Compost, Loam from garden, Potting soil?
  • What kind of lighting is needed? Do I need special lighting or bright LED enough?
  • When ready to harvest I plan on cutting about an inch above soil in pot do I throw away roots and start over or will these grow back or die?
  • Do I just cover the whole top of soil in pots with seeds or do I try to space them?
  • Do I try to separate seeds to have the same in each pot? Not sure if that is even possible.
  • How high do I let them grow?
Anyone with any experience with this product indoors let me know.
 

jaizei

Unknown Member
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Joined
Feb 5, 2011
Messages
9,170
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Earth
To @Tom @Carol S @Yvonne G and the rest of the wonderful people on TortioseForum!

My name is David Steere and this is going to be my first Tortoise. My wife Sandra who I was married for 30 years passed away last December and seeing that my children and grandchildren still live with me I figured it is a good time for me to get a new companion that will be with me to the end of my days. One wife was all I ever needed in this world. There could be no replacement.

So I figure I would get something I always wanted but never got around to get. A Russian Tortoise.

I am the typical person who bought turtles, fish, reptiles at a pet store and once I got them home I than thought of how to take care of them. Always ended terribly!

This time I want to get it right and setup an open tortoise table where I could just sit on my bench alone or with my family members and watch and care for my new companion along with how everyone's day was..

Since it would not be fair to my family to get into another relationship I am going to settle for the next best thing. A Russian Tortoise who will be called Sandy ( covers both male and female ) in honor of my wife. I am going to try to take care of the tortoise just as I did my wife. With tender loving care.

Below is what I have put together so far.

PICTURES OF TORTOISE TABLE

View attachment 368973

View attachment 368974
View attachment 368975

View attachment 368976

GENERAL
  • I am 59 years old. With proper care the tortoise will outlive me. Will be slowly having the kids, grandkids, and great grandkids who all either live with me or live five minutes drive to help take care of the tortoise. This brings me great happiness that my family lives so close. I must of done something right! With luck I can instill the love I have with tortoises to my family. So when I to pass away there will be someone who can take over for me.
  • Veterinarians. If things go sideways I have a number of veterinarians fairly close by my home. Plus TortoiseForum is only a post away! In a sense you all have now become my extended family.

Ocean State Veterinary Specialists
1480 South County Trail
East Greenwich, RI 02818
Tel: (401) 886-OSVS (6787)
Fax: (401) 886-8998

Wickford Veterinary Clinic
7440 Post Road
North Kingstown, RI 02852
Tel: (401) 295-9739
Tel: (401) 886-6787 (emergency)

That out of the way lets talk about the setup.

TABLE
  • 48"x72"x16" box. Bottom and sides are 1/2" vinyl veneered. 1/2" plywood floor and 2x construction glued and screwed. ( I selected an open table veneered with vinyl for easy cleaning. 2x construction allows me to stand/jump right in enclosure )
  • 2 1/4" interior overhang to prevent tortoise from escaping.
  • Bottom of table is 16" off floor. Inside walls are 16" high.
  • I have enough room for expansion in the future. Room to create an additional 48"x48"x16" wing.

SUBSTRATE
  • 3" Coconut Coir bottom layer. Many places OVER 3" to allow burrowing.
  • 1" Orchid Bark top layer to help keep coconut coir moist and humid.
  • In winter months the basement is dry. Plan on keeping Coconut Coir very moist to help tortoise hydrate.
LIGHTING
HIDES
  • Tipped over planter. Berm to 6" height to allow burrowing.
  • Humid hide which is 36"x18"x8" - ( Constant 75 +/- degrees temperature / 70 - 100 percent humidity 24/7. )
DIET
  • Fix a bowl about as big as the tortoises shell once a day. Add more at noon if tortoise eats everything.
  • Plan on giving the tortoise a variety of grocery, pet store and home grown foods.
  • Seed Mix: Broadleaf testudo mix - ( Plan to let grow and hand cut and feed. Never going to place tray in enclosure. )
  • Mazuri Original 5M21 Tortoise Food
  • Zoo Med Natural Grassland Tortoise Food
  • Grocery Items: Spring mix, endive, escarole, carrot tops, cilantro, mustard, turnip and collard greens, arugula, cilantro, kale, squash leaves, romaine, green or red leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, water cress, celery tops and much more.
  • Will use The Tortoise Table and try to plant more varieties. More different plant food the better.
  • HUGE VARIETY OF RECOMMENDED FOODS. EVERY DAY PER WEEK SOMETHING DIFFERENT IN THE MIX.
  • NEVER GIVE TORTOISE ANY FRUIT.
SUPPLEMENTS
SOAKING / ( HUMITITY - ADMIT ACHILLES HEEL )
  • Since table is open which I know is not recommended I would like to do the following 24/7 and 365 days a year.
  • Keep large Humid Hide which is 36"x18"x8" at 70 to100 percent humidity 24/7 and 365 days a year. Sensor is fastened at top by Velcro in the middle/ top of the container.
  • Plan on placing the soaking container within enclosure only when soaking. Water level the height where bottom/top shell meets. Tortoise will only be picked up 4 times a day. Never more than 6" off substate in case of a fall. Rest of the time the tortoise will be free to do anything it wants.
  • 24 hours/ 7 days a week/ 365 day a year. I work at home and never leave the property. That being the case I plan on soaking the tortoise 2 hours a day. Soakings will occur at 6am, 12pm, 6pm and 12am each for 30 minutes. This with hydrate the tortoise as well help keep the enclosure clean ( poop and pee while soaking ) to extend the time I need to do a total recleaning with new substrate. Will check in on tortoise every couple of hours.
  • My regular sleep schedule is 1am to 6am for the last 40 years so will not interfere with my life in the slightest. Two or more hours away from video games, yes almost 60 and still playing games, will probably do me some good. Watching the tortoise while soaking will be so much fun. Probably will be talking to the tortoise the whole time.
  • Spray with garden hose the entire surface on "Mist" setting "x" times a week to keep humidity in substrate as high as possible. Testing shows I can keep the temperature at 70 and humidity pegged at 100% percent below substrate using a Zoo Med Digital Combo Reptile Terrarium Thermometer Humidity Gauge sensors touching the bottom vinyl floor under the substrate. Substate is moist, not wet/muddy at touch. Could setup a automatic misting system, like I use to do plant cutting propagating. Something like 5 second mist every hour. This could in theory combat the never ending battle that I am in raising the humidity above substrate a little and continue to keep the below substrate ideal. Automatic would be a plus also. Would have a water source 24/7 all year.
  • Normal room humidity is between 30 and 40 during the winter months and 70 degree temperature +/-.
  • Normal room humidity is between 60 and 80 during the summer months with 90 degree temperature +/-.
My plan was to get an adult Russian Tortoise but to my dismay all the breeders I have found only have hatchlings. I did find a breeder who sells juvenile Russian Tortoises so leaning on purchasing the tortoise from that breeder. I know the younger the tortoise the less mistakes you can make. Hesitant to get a hatchling due to my humidity limitations.

MISCELLANEOUS
  • Unfortunately the tortoise will need to be always kept in enclosure. We have dogs, cats, fruit trees we spray, lawn that we fertilize and especially very young great grandchildren that could drop, kick or step on tortoise. Basement is now off limits to all pets and young children or anyone else who does not know the rules. Rule number one is DO NOT PICK UP TORTOISE. And those that do must wash hands before and after only when soaking.
  • Everything I need is one step away from my Tortoise table. No human area used for tortoise stuff.
  • Utility sink right next to tortoise table so I can have cold or hot water.
  • Garden hose with "Mist" setting attached to sink so warm water can be used to spray entire table "x" times a week.
  • New refrigerator right next to tortoise table to store tortoise food.
  • Table / Workbench right next to tortoise table to use for tortoise stuff like indoor planting, preparing food and anything else that comes up.
  • 4 - Zoo Med Digital Combo Reptile Terrarium Thermometer Humidity Gauge spread around Tortoise table.
  • Mini Non-Contact Laser Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun for quick spot checks.
  • Solarmeter Model 6.5R UV Index Meter Reptile Accessory, Green for quick spot checks.
  • Generator if power goes out for a long period of time at a bad time of year. Colder months.
DAILY ROUTINE
  • 6am-6:30am = soak / inspect enclosure ( get rid of old food, poop ) / change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise near fresh food.
  • 12pm-12:30pm = soak/ change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise under basking lamp.
  • 6pm-6:30pm = soak/ change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise under basking lamp.
  • 12am-12:30am = soak/ change water dish / when done soaking place tortoise near remaining food.
  • 12:30am = Lights out over table ( simulate dusk since other lights are still on in room ).
  • 1am = Lights out in whole room. Owner and Tortoise time to sleep.
MONTHLY ROUTINE
  • Measure and Weigh tortoise and document on this post each month. This way I have a record and forum members can observe my efforts and let me know if they notice something I overlooked. Thirty years as a computer programmer has taught me the more eyes on a project the better the project turns out.
So sorry for such a long post. I am looking forward to many years here on TortoiseForum. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to read this post. Look forward to comments, suggestions and concerns.

Repti Zoo aren't reliable UVB bulbs; Arcadia or Zoo Med are better brands.
 

David Steere

Active Member
Joined
Mar 14, 2024
Messages
64
Location (City and/or State)
Rhode Island
1. Lightning regime: your tortoise needs 12-14 hours of bright light, especially during winter time to keep it from brumating. So LEDs timing should be adjusted (e.g. from 8AM to 5PM) and basking light should be on from 6PM to 6-8PM. Incandescent lamps have more "warm" spectre which is more close to dawn/dusk sun. Having lights on from 6AM to 1AM is not quite right. They sleep in darkness and usually active from a sunrise till a few hours before sunset.
2. Much accent is put on humidity and soaking. Soaking once/twice a day is enough, for an adult tortoise - every other day or once a week. However, soaks aren't a substitute for an ambient humidity. And misting substrate is not either. I think, turning an table into a "closed chamber" will worth the efforts. Either with a "greenhouse top" or custom PVC pipes frame and such. This will help you with maintaining humidity and will simplify setup and routines and you may use a blackout cover to ensure proper day/night cycle for the tortoise if the basement is a living/working space for you. Perhaps you can make a sectioned space with a tortoise table (like an "office cube") instead of covering an enclosure.
Creating a closed chamber on my existing Tortoise Table.
  • Creating 4'x4' side walls using 2x4's 16" on center ( 2 in total. one for each side ). This wall will be secured on the 4"x4" post legs/ frame. See picture below.
  • Hanging 4 - 2x6's as the flat roof going the 6' direction in line with the 2x4 wall studs. Fastening with Galvanized Face-Mount Concealed-Flange Joist Hanger.
  • Interior space to become more humid will be 3'x4'x6'. Need the 3' height for crawl space for me to maintain table and hang the lights via the 2x6's roof.
  • So 3x4x6 = 72 square feet I need to bring up the humidity from 30% to 80%.
  • Doorway to get into tortoise table will be on the open 6' side. Will fasten to 2x construction a 36 in. x 48 in. x 0.093 (3/32) in. Clear Acrylic Sheet for access and viewing. Drapped with BLACK bag once lights out is needed.
  • Skin will be BLACK 42 Gal. Heavy Duty Clean-Up Bags. They have a thickness of 3 mil. Stretch, Overlap and staple to 2x construction. Door will be covered when lights need to go out for the tortoise.
  • Could hook up a humidifier to get more water if needed
table 3.jpg

Starting to addressing some concerns
  1. More humid environment.
  2. No exterior light used for table. All lights/heating inside box.
  3. Respect Day/Night cycle for tortoise since very bright for 16 hours in the room where the table sits.
Will let everyone know how high I can get the humidify. Lumber is on its way. Wish me luck!
 

David Steere

Active Member
Joined
Mar 14, 2024
Messages
64
Location (City and/or State)
Rhode Island
Repti Zoo aren't reliable UVB bulbs; Arcadia or Zoo Med are better brands.
Thank you!

Do I need a new complete unit or just a lamp replacement? If so can I use what I have now and when I need to replace lamp than purchase new unit/lamp?

Using Solarmeter Model 6.5R UV Index Meter Reptile Accessory, Green seems to work correctly. At least the numbers change depending how far you are to the light source.

1712588529440.png

Could you, if you have time send me a link from Chewy.com or other vendor of what you recommend?

So for bothering you and sorry for asking so may questions.
 

David Steere

Active Member
Joined
Mar 14, 2024
Messages
64
Location (City and/or State)
Rhode Island
Wow! Someone has done his research!! Good job!. I commend you on hanging the lights rather than using the clamp the fixtures come with. I love the viewing bench. My only suggestion is plants or other visual barriers. How boring his life will be to wake up every morning and see his whole world, from one side to the other, at a glance. It would be much more interesting for him to have to navigate around obstacles to see what's on the other side.

Take a look at craigslist.com several times a day. There's usually a tortoise on there looking for a home (but DON'T be suckered into getting a sulcata. Your tort table is good for a russian, but horrible for a sulcata). Watch the SPCA's site for tortoises. Contact Julie at Turtle Rescue Long Island. She's on facebook and sometimes has russian tortoises.

Good luck on your search, and be sure to keep us in the loop.
Thanks for the reply.

I am planning to put into Tortoise encloser, in pots the following plants.
  • Christmas Cactus
  • Spider Plant
  • Aloe vera
Plan on burying the pots so that the bottom of the pot is on the vinyl floor.
 

Alex and the Redfoot

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2023
Messages
2,076
Location (City and/or State)
Cyprus
Thank you all for the tips! I have an idea how I can incorporate all of them but will take a little time to get the material. Stay tuned.

In meantime I have this piece of my project coming in today and want to start to experiment on how to grow in my basement during colder months. Back in the day when I owned a plant nursery I used straight perlite for my cuttings. I have no experience on this type of planting indoors.

So I have these...

18 Pot Seed Starting Tray Kit

View attachment 368999
... and this ...

SEED MIX: BROADLEAF TESTUDO MIX

View attachment 369000

I plan on letting them grow and with a pair of clean scissors ( only thing the scissors will ever be used for ) cut and feed to my tortoise.

Questions:
  • Best soil to use. Can I use any soil? Coconut Coir, Compost, Loam from garden, Potting soil?
  • What kind of lighting is needed? Do I need special lighting or bright LED enough?
  • When ready to harvest I plan on cutting about an inch above soil in pot do I throw away roots and start over or will these grow back or die?
  • Do I just cover the whole top of soil in pots with seeds or do I try to space them?
  • Do I try to separate seeds to have the same in each pot? Not sure if that is even possible.
  • How high do I let them grow?
Anyone with any experience with this product indoors let me know.
I'm not a "green thumb". But there were some recomendations in recent threads...
1. You need to use soil without pecticides, herbicides, toxic plant leftovers and such. Coco coir is too low in nutrients. With compost you can't be 100% sure about content (unless you do it yourself). I would go with organic potting soil with some loam and bit of coco coir mixed in. You can use fertilizers as well.
2. Simple household LEDs don't give all the right light wavelengths for plants. You need either "full spectrum" or plant grow LEDs. Or just grow them by the window.
3. I think you can leave the roots. If they grow back - fine. If they die - they are source of nutrients for new plants. I guess, it depends on plants.
4. Leave some spacing between seeds (0.5 inch or so). Plant roots need some space to grow and fast growers won't choke slow growing plants.
5. No need to sort the seeds.
6. Can't tell how high to grow them. I will try to grow until they blossom (for dandelions and clover) or until leaves get dark green (for plantain).

As for the potted plants - when you get them from the store, replant them in the "tortoise safe soil". Wash the roots when replanting. It would be better to put only new propagated plants into the enclosure. With a spider plant - leave one fully grown plant out of enclosure, it will become a source of sprouts eventually. Cut the sprouts when they develop roots and put them in pots.
 

jaizei

Unknown Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Joined
Feb 5, 2011
Messages
9,170
Location (City and/or State)
Earth
Thank you!

Do I need a new complete unit or just a lamp replacement? If so can I use what I have now and when I need to replace lamp than purchase new unit/lamp?

Using Solarmeter Model 6.5R UV Index Meter Reptile Accessory, Green seems to work correctly. At least the numbers change depending how far you are to the light source.

View attachment 369059

Could you, if you have time send me a link from Chewy.com or other endor of what you recommend?

So for bothering you and sorry for asking so may questions.

It's up to you whether you want to use that lamp until it stop producing UVB or replace now. It been a while since I saw the test results with Repti Zoo bulbs, but I think the spectrum wasn't ideal though not necessarily dangerous, ie more shorter wave than sun/other bulbs but not nonterrestrial or UVC. Since you're using a UVI meter, you're probably ok using that fixture with a different bulb.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,864
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Thank you all for the tips! I have an idea how I can incorporate all of them but will take a little time to get the material. Stay tuned.

In meantime I have this piece of my project coming in today and want to start to experiment on how to grow in my basement during colder months. Back in the day when I owned a plant nursery I used straight perlite for my cuttings. I have no experience on this type of planting indoors.

So I have these...

18 Pot Seed Starting Tray Kit

View attachment 368999
... and this ...

SEED MIX: BROADLEAF TESTUDO MIX

View attachment 369000

I plan on letting them grow and with a pair of clean scissors ( only thing the scissors will ever be used for ) cut and feed to my tortoise.

Questions:
  • Best soil to use. Can I use any soil? Coconut Coir, Compost, Loam from garden, Potting soil?
  • What kind of lighting is needed? Do I need special lighting or bright LED enough?
  • When ready to harvest I plan on cutting about an inch above soil in pot do I throw away roots and start over or will these grow back or die?
  • Do I just cover the whole top of soil in pots with seeds or do I try to space them?
  • Do I try to separate seeds to have the same in each pot? Not sure if that is even possible.
  • How high do I let them grow?
Anyone with any experience with this product indoors let me know.
I've never grown this indoors, but outdoors I let it get 12-18 inches tall and then cut and feed. It grows back continuously. I would cut a 4x4 section at a time and it grows back in about two or three weeks.

I use Kellogg's garden soil to grow it. Perlite is fine to grow plants in, but perlite is deadly to them if eaten, so don't let the tortoise have any direct contact with perlite.

Full spectrum plant lighting is needed. You can get LEDs that do this and are more energy efficient.

I simply scatter the seeds on to my prepared soil, and then cover with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of top soil.

Those little pots are fine for starting seeds, but you need much more depth of soil for the roots if you want to grow them tall enough to be eaten by your tortoise.

Let them grow as high as you want. Cut any time.

Creating a closed chamber on my existing Tortoise Table.
Starting to addressing some concerns
  1. More humid environment.
  2. No exterior light used for table. All lights/heating inside box.
  3. Respect Day/Night cycle for tortoise since very bright for 16 hours in the room where the table sits.
Will let everyone know how high I can get the humidify. Lumber is on its way. Wish me luck!
You do not need high humidity or a closed chamber for an adult Russian tortoise.

Do I need a new complete unit or just a lamp replacement?
The quality of the fixture does matter, so better to scrap that one and get the Arcadia ProT5 Kit with the 12% HO bulb. The 22 inch one is plenty. You don't have to cover the entire area in UVB, but it also won't hurt anything if you want to use the 34 or 46 inch fixture and bulb either.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,864
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
@Tom If the room's ambient humidity is 30-50%, under CHEs and basking lamp it will be even lower. Is it still okay to use open table? I thought that gradient 50-70% is optimal.
Damp substrate and a humid hide are plenty for an adult Russian. Burrowing into the damp substrate will create a little humid micro climate any time the tortoise wants. Regular soaks will also maintain hydration.

Russians are also very tolerant of dry conditions.

Why do we use humidity for our tortoises?
1. Because it is natural for some of them depending on where they come from, like RFs, for example, or hatchling sulcatas that would hatch and emerge into the world in the rain at the start of the monsoon season.
2. It helps to prevent or reduce pyramiding in young growing tortoises.
3. It helps reduce water losses through respiration in smaller tortoises, which helps prevent dehydration.

None of these three things are a concern for a fully grown russian on damp substrate with frequent soaks.

50-70% is a good goal for any adult Testudo, but with damp substrate and a humid hide, it just ins't necessary or beneficial to use misters and closed chamber with Russians. A closed chamber for a Russian would be a good way to maintain heat in a cold basement over a frozen winter, but they just don't need constant high humidity as adults.
 
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