Building my first enclosure! Russian Tortoise

turtlebean

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2020
Messages
190
Location (City and/or State)
Connecticut
Hey everyone! I am brand new to these forums and fairly new to the tortoise life. I have had my fair share of experiences with aquatic turtles, especially babies, but as I have learned, tortoises are very different. About a two months ago I really decided I was ready to commit to getting a tortoise, so I started doing my research. As well, I am very thankful for these forums and all of you who have so far supplied me with sufficient knowledge to start on this beautiful journey! I hope you enjoy my build thread, don't be shy to point out if you see I have done something wrong. As I have said, I am new to this and I am always open to learn!

When I started shopping for enclosures, all the Zoo Med tortoise enclosure boxes were popping up online for me to buy, but I think they just look so small and depressing. I have read that 4 by 8 is the MINIMUM space you want to provide a russian tortoise, so obviously I thought building my own box would be the best option. However, my loft, the room I will be putting my enclosure in has some furniture that is going to be moved out for more enclosure space, but in about a month or so. With this is mind, I have built a TEMPORARY enclosure for my tortoise to go into. Sort of a happy medium between the Zoo Med boxes they sell and my dream enclosure for my little guy. My tortoise is about 3 inches so I figured this would be okay for the time being, but obviously is in our best interest to expand his enclosure asap. During the month I will be constructing the second half of his enclosure so that all I will have to do is remove one of the walls of the current enclosure and piece them together to create MEGA enclosure. Sorry that is probably confusing to follow lol.

So, here I have the construction of my tortoise's temporary enclosure:
IMG_7513-1.jpeg

It is so far 2.5ft by 7 ft! This is as big of a box that can fit safely in my loft, but as I said I am adding a second half to this box soon. I cut all the wood and nail gunned it into place. There are no nails or sharp edges exposed in the enclosure. (Don't mind the hectic shop in the back lol, car work never stops!)

Next, I have sanded, vacuumed, blown out and now cauked all the seams, edges, and places needed to be filled in.
IMG_7514.jpeg
Next, I painted the floor and walls of the enclosure and added an overhead beam, with multiple supports to hang my lights and heater off of. I did scour the forms to see which types of sealants and paints were safe and which were not and made my choice based off of those factors. I am choosing not to go with a liner or plastic sheet below my substrate, which is why the I chose such a sealer and paint that would not mold or become defunct with any sore of moisture or humidity added.
IMG_7519.jpeg
I am adding two more supports in the back for my overhead beam (you can never be too careful!). And will be sanding and painting the outside of the enclosure as well. I am also adding some sort of safety so he can not try to crawl our of the walls of the enclosure. As well I kept in mind exactly which part of the wall I will be knocking down and replacing with the second half of my enclosure. It will be L shaped and will trace the wall of my loft, but all in due time!

I have also purchased some coco coir and cyprus mulch to put into my enclosure. As well as two slates, one for under the heating section and one for food. A little hide log for him, a hide box I'll be filling with sphagnum moss, a reptisun 22" MVB tube and a ceramic heater and thermometer (it never drops below 60 in my house but as said before, you can never be too careful). I will post pictures of the enclosure all filled up and set up when it is back at my house. As well, I'll be posting some pictures of my new little one when he arrives, in less than a week.

Hopefully this gives some inspiration to people trying to build their own enclosure and do not know where to start (me a week ago lol). As said before, this space is halfway temporary and I was just so excited to share with you guys!
-Julia R
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,485
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Hello and welcome Julia. Fine work. Outstanding.

Here are my few constructive comments:
  • I wouldn't use any moss. All of them try to eat it and it can cause impaction. Dampening the substrate in your hides will do the same thing.
  • Once you add 3-4 inches of substrate, it looks like the walls might be a little low for an adult. Fine for a 3" baby though. Putting a 3" overhanging lip into the enclosure and capping the corners will hold the tortoise in.
  • I love your planning of adding on and making an "L".
 

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 23, 2008
Messages
89,050
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
Hi, and welcome to the Forum!

I'm much impressed, Julia. As I was reading your thread and looking at your pictures, in my mind I'm picturing some guy somewhere in Connecticut building in his garage. But then I see at the end of the post you've signed your name "Julia R"! I'm an old lady, and I do carpentry and yard stuff myself out of necessity, but I have to admit, I never think other women do that sort of work. Good job on the enclosure.

Some folks have seen their tortoises eating the sphagnum moss. I never had that trouble, but some have, so you may want to reconsider adding the moss.
 

bouaboua

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Dec 7, 2013
Messages
11,813
Location (City and/or State)
San Jose CA
Hello and welcome to the forum. The above suggestion from Tom is great. Looking forward to seeing the finished product of yours.
 

Blackdog1714

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2018
Messages
4,108
Location (City and/or State)
Richmond, VA
What? No one is gonna mention anything about WHERE it is being built! 1. Giant roll up door, 2. two vehicle lifts, 3. Tools galore and 4. At least one TRACK SIDE Toolbox.. ! I bet it gets load with that heater. My dad gave the one he had for his garage years ago when we lived in Ohio-Heat is awesome/ Noise is jet like!! This tortoise shall not want for anything that could be built or repurposed! Welcome
 

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 23, 2008
Messages
89,050
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
What? No one is gonna mention anything about WHERE it is being built! 1. Giant roll up door, 2. two vehicle lifts, 3. Tools galore and 4. At least one TRACK SIDE Toolbox.. ! I bet it gets load with that heater. My dad gave the one he had for his garage years ago when we lived in Ohio-Heat is awesome/ Noise is jet like!! This tortoise shall not want for anything that could be built or repurposed! Welcome
. . . and it looks like a classic car under the tarp.
 

Viola B

Active Member
Joined
Jul 13, 2018
Messages
225
Location (City and/or State)
Idaho Falls, Idaho
Welcome to the forum. Nice job on your enclosure. I started out with a box and and then added on in 'L' shape. Also added height to sides as tortoise got bigger. I also added corner pieces to set on top of corners, as tortoises try to climb corners. Although my tortoises as very tried to climb out of her enclosure.
 

turtlebean

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2020
Messages
190
Location (City and/or State)
Connecticut
Hi everyone!

First I wanted to say thank you to all of you who have replied to this thread, all of your information was very helpful, appreciated, and put to good use! :)

Since we last left off, I've made some finishing touches to my enclosure!
IMG_7534.jpeg
I went with this color on the outside, again only using materials safely suggested here on the forum.

Next I added some corner supports, and a 2.5 inch lip to the edge. As said before, my little guy is about 3 inches now, so this should be okay. If it proves to be too narrow I will replace them with wider pieces asap! We have a laser cutter at the shop which makes small wood cuts like that super easy to make!
IMG_7544.jpeg
IMG_7546.jpeg
Next I went through the entire box, inside and out and made sure there were no nails or sharp edges poking out anywhere! I vacuumed the box one last time and have been letting it air out at the shop.

This brings us to tonight! THE BOX IS HOME!! I am so happy and excited! IMG_3891.jpeg
This is the space we are working with right now! Once the cabinets on the left side of the box have moved, the enclosure will be moving down that wall, to the opposite side of the room and then we can make it into a mansion for my little tort.

I'll be filling the box up tomorrow with all the goodies! Stay tuned to see how it looks!

Also, I saw some comments above about the classic car under the cover lol! For all wondering, that's my project car, and I've been working on it for about four years now! Complete resto-mod from literally the ground up. GTR engine swap, wide body kit molded on, and complete paint and body work done. It has a long way to go but it'll be on the roads this summer. I included a picture below of it's current state :)
Screen Shot 2020-03-03 at 12.11.27 AM.png
Okay back to tortoises! Thanks again everyone!
-Julia R
 

Attachments

  • IMG_7547.jpeg
    IMG_7547.jpeg
    1.4 MB · Views: 1

Sa Ga

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 19, 2019
Messages
654
Location (City and/or State)
MN
Wow!

Given my carpentry skills, I think I will just let Morla have the house and I'll just move into her (too small, temporary) enclosure.... 😜
 

Blackdog1714

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2018
Messages
4,108
Location (City and/or State)
Richmond, VA
Saw this riding at work on the weekend a while ago and convinced the guy to give a look. Awesome guy-A Marine- that had gotten stationed in Okinawa with sole intent to bring one back. I got the picture for my brother that back in the day did just about all the Fast N' Furious stuff except the larcenies. He even ran a shop and imported parts and engines from Japan.

Your overall work shines in everything you have done so far. That is gonna be one spolied Russian. The big question is which tort the next one will be :p
 

turtlebean

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2020
Messages
190
Location (City and/or State)
Connecticut
Hi all, I’m back with more updates!

The first thing I did after I got my box upstairs was fill it up! I used three 3 packs of dried coco coir. I had never worked with this stuff before so I didn’t know exactly what to do, but I followed the instructions on the package and it went great! I put all the coco coir in a plastic bin (on my kitchen counter lol sorry mom) and filled it with a bunch of water. Then I crushed it all up with my hands and brought the whole bin upstairs. I would squeeze out all the excess water with my hands and toss it in.

Then I dumped probably about half a bag of cyprus mulch on top. I could’ve used the whole bag but I liked the texture I had achieved with just that little of an amount. It was soft, moist and a little packed, a little fluffy underneath, with a top layer of the prickly cyprus on it. I figured my little guy would love it! I made it about 2-3 inches deep so he could burrow down a bit if he wanted.

I put my slate beneath where I was going to be putting my heat lamp setup. I buried it about an inch or so under the substrate and made it look nice. The stone had a little texture, nothing too gritty but also wasn’t smooth either. It was also not too bright so the reflection didn’t hurt my tortoise‘a eyes.

Then I added a terra cotta dish, even with the substrate so he wouldn’t struggle or flip over getting in or out. I also added a log hide and a temp and humidity gauge at each end of the box. I have to add my plastic hide box tomorrow!

Next, I unboxed my reptisun hood and UVB light and to my surprise the tube did NOT provide heat like I thought it would! It was advertised to me on amazon as a mercury vapor tube setup but I guess I was wrong! No biggie though, I set it up with some chain and keytags I had laying around and grabbed two spot heat lamps I had laying around from when I had baby turtles! This setup will do fine until I buy the light I am looking for. The UVB light was a 10 not a 5 so I hung it about 15 inches above where the tortoise’s shell would be F9749B5D-B63A-45CD-8FA9-456001C61D4E.jpeg

I usually don’t like spot lamps because in my experience the heat isn’t as well distributed as I would like, hence the spot aspect lol. They also don’t cover as much area either so in this case I used two! I used them to my advantage, making one slightly higher than the other to give my little tortoise a gradient of heat. I played around with their heights for probably twenty minutes or so until I was satisfied with the output of heat I had. I also zip tied the clamps for extra reinforcement so they would not fall. D38E6071-9E81-4512-9F48-B5200B8E4C97.jpeg
The bigger number is the humidity under the lamp, and the higher number is degrees.

Here are the temps and humidity for my box, first in the hot end, and second in the cool end.
73286B25-C13F-4B91-83BF-9C763BE38D44.jpeg 67E365D7-2A38-442D-952F-71F4217702DF.jpeg

I also added a lighting timer, and a ceramic heater with a thermostat, but that probably won’t be in use for a while since it rarely if ever drops below 60 in my house! Also I added a whoops section to his substrate, my tortoise will be a 2stroke boy for life (if you know, you know).
82E60948-D1BF-4784-A5C0-084C7F2931CD.jpeg
Okay so we have here, the UVB tube lamp, two (temporary) spot heat lamps, slate, water dish, log hide, CHE, (making a plastic humid hide today), and all the temps are up to my liking!
E9EAB4A1-54C9-47F0-AD08-27808A7C4ED4.jpeg
THIS LEADS TO THIS PAST MORNING.

MY TORTOISE HAD ARRIVED.
Meet Tortillini. I went through several names before i reached this one (squishy, ice cube, dale (3), carl, and toad), but Tortillini just felt right. He seemed to really really like his little house as soon as he got in it. I soaked him in warm water when I got him, he had some spring mix and escarole and then he started running around the enclosure like a maniac lol. It was super cute and I was so happy all my hard work paid off! He’s currently asleep in his log hide as I’m writing this. I’ll be building his other humid hide tomorrow and I will be shopping around for a more permanent heat setup as well.
24B728C9-A54B-43C8-92DD-A6B1F0A343A4.jpeg
All these pictures included in this post are from tonight, if you look close enough you can see a tortillini dreaming in the little log!

Well guys, this pretty much concludes my build! Everything done now, until the enclosure is added upon and morphed into a mansion, will be small changes and updates to better suit my little Tortillini.

If you have any suggestions, helpful tips or advice for a new tortoise mom please share all your thoughts below! Also, please don’t hesitate to point out any flaws or wrong doings on my part, this is my first tortoise and I am always eager to learn more, especially if that means improving the life of my tortoise!

Thanks for reading!
-Julia R
 

HoosierTort

Member
Joined
Aug 20, 2019
Messages
95
Location (City and/or State)
Indianapolis
Hi all, I’m back with more updates!

The first thing I did after I got my box upstairs was fill it up! I used three 3 packs of dried coco coir. I had never worked with this stuff before so I didn’t know exactly what to do, but I followed the instructions on the package and it went great! I put all the coco coir in a plastic bin (on my kitchen counter lol sorry mom) and filled it with a bunch of water. Then I crushed it all up with my hands and brought the whole bin upstairs. I would squeeze out all the excess water with my hands and toss it in.

Then I dumped probably about half a bag of cyprus mulch on top. I could’ve used the whole bag but I liked the texture I had achieved with just that little of an amount. It was soft, moist and a little packed, a little fluffy underneath, with a top layer of the prickly cyprus on it. I figured my little guy would love it! I made it about 2-3 inches deep so he could burrow down a bit if he wanted.

I put my slate beneath where I was going to be putting my heat lamp setup. I buried it about an inch or so under the substrate and made it look nice. The stone had a little texture, nothing too gritty but also wasn’t smooth either. It was also not too bright so the reflection didn’t hurt my tortoise‘a eyes.

Then I added a terra cotta dish, even with the substrate so he wouldn’t struggle or flip over getting in or out. I also added a log hide and a temp and humidity gauge at each end of the box. I have to add my plastic hide box tomorrow!

Next, I unboxed my reptisun hood and UVB light and to my surprise the tube did NOT provide heat like I thought it would! It was advertised to me on amazon as a mercury vapor tube setup but I guess I was wrong! No biggie though, I set it up with some chain and keytags I had laying around and grabbed two spot heat lamps I had laying around from when I had baby turtles! This setup will do fine until I buy the light I am looking for. The UVB light was a 10 not a 5 so I hung it about 15 inches above where the tortoise’s shell would be View attachment 287309

I usually don’t like spot lamps because in my experience the heat isn’t as well distributed as I would like, hence the spot aspect lol. They also don’t cover as much area either so in this case I used two! I used them to my advantage, making one slightly higher than the other to give my little tortoise a gradient of heat. I played around with their heights for probably twenty minutes or so until I was satisfied with the output of heat I had. I also zip tied the clamps for extra reinforcement so they would not fall. View attachment 287310
The bigger number is the humidity under the lamp, and the higher number is degrees.

Here are the temps and humidity for my box, first in the hot end, and second in the cool end.
View attachment 287313 View attachment 287314

I also added a lighting timer, and a ceramic heater with a thermostat, but that probably won’t be in use for a while since it rarely if ever drops below 60 in my house! Also I added a whoops section to his substrate, my tortoise will be a 2stroke boy for life (if you know, you know).
View attachment 287312
Okay so we have here, the UVB tube lamp, two (temporary) spot heat lamps, slate, water dish, log hide, CHE, (making a plastic humid hide today), and all the temps are up to my liking!
View attachment 287311
THIS LEADS TO THIS PAST MORNING.

MY TORTOISE HAD ARRIVED.
Meet Tortillini. I went through several names before i reached this one (squishy, ice cube, dale (3), carl, and toad), but Tortillini just felt right. He seemed to really really like his little house as soon as he got in it. I soaked him in warm water when I got him, he had some spring mix and escarole and then he started running around the enclosure like a maniac lol. It was super cute and I was so happy all my hard work paid off! He’s currently asleep in his log hide as I’m writing this. I’ll be building his other humid hide tomorrow and I will be shopping around for a more permanent heat setup as well.
View attachment 287315
All these pictures included in this post are from tonight, if you look close enough you can see a tortillini dreaming in the little log!

Well guys, this pretty much concludes my build! Everything done now, until the enclosure is added upon and morphed into a mansion, will be small changes and updates to better suit my little Tortillini.

If you have any suggestions, helpful tips or advice for a new tortoise mom please share all your thoughts below! Also, please don’t hesitate to point out any flaws or wrong doings on my part, this is my first tortoise and I am always eager to learn more, especially if that means improving the life of my tortoise!

Thanks for reading!
-Julia R
Fantastic job! Congrats!!
 

jessebritches

New Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2020
Messages
2
Location (City and/or State)
Chandler
Thank you for this post. I am currently researching everything I need to do to get ready for my first tortoise and this thread was awesome. Thank you!
 
Top