Hydrating Russian Tortoises

Gelly

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Hi everyone,
Can anyone direct me on how to hydrate my Russians properly? I keep a water dish in their enclosures per doctors request but they never seem to drink. I bathe them about 1-2 times a week and I do see them drinking while in the water....Just looking for any advice on the best way to hydrate my girls.
Thank you,
Gelly
 

RosemaryDW

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Are your tortoises adults or juveniles? Adult Russians don’t require much in the way of water access if they are eating plenty of fresh foods; they live in a desert climate, after all.

If they are juveniles and/or thirsty, and from their drinking regularly during soaks they may be, do you maybe have one of those plastic water bowls with high sides sold by pet stores for “reptiles?” Tortoises can’t bend their necks to get into a water bowl like that. If you do not already have one, buy a cheap terra cotta saucer from a nursery that is bigger than they are and sink it even into the substrate. Something big enough to easily hold their entire body so they can climb into it as needed. Take any water bowl from a pet store and return it or throw it away.

If you already have a saucer and they don’t drink from it, hey, just keep up with the soaks.
 

Gelly

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They’re adults. I have a ramp bowl, should I just get rid of it?
I’ll pick up a big terra cotta saucer.
Being that they’re adults, should I be bathing them less? Or is twice a week ok?
 

Tom

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They’re adults. I have a ramp bowl, should I just get rid of it?
I’ll pick up a big terra cotta saucer.
Being that they’re adults, should I be bathing them less? Or is twice a week ok?
Yes, ditch the ramped bowl. Those are dangerous and frequently result in a drowned tortoise or a tortoise that won't go near the water.

Where are you? Different advice for Baton Rouge vs. Salt Lake City.

In general, you cannot soak too much. Every day wouldn't harm your tortoise. Conversely, not soaking enough can be fatal. Twice a week should be enough for most adult Russians in most housing situations.
 

jsheffield

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I've found that even though my Russian tortoise is 20+ years old, that the more I soak him the more active and interested in eating he seems to be.

Jamie
 

RosemaryDW

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I don’t agree with a frequent soaking regimen for adult Russians. They are from an extremely dry climate, bone dry with the exception of short rains in spring. The weather is so extreme they are underground for months in both summer and winter. They don’t have access to water and have systems extremely well designed to hang on to the water they do have.

I soaked my outdoor Russian weekly when I first had her, now less often. She never drinks unless she’s sick or is coming out of hibernation; when I soak her its to take the chance to give her a once over. Let me emphasize it’s often humid here and she eats plenty of fresh green food. It may be bone dry in your house all the time.

Every tortoise is different about drinking, though and not always due to the type of housing they’re in. I would soak yours until you see them self soaking in the saucer and/or stop drinking regularly during a forced soak. Since they are clearly drinking when they have access, I’d give them a few extra weeks with more frequent soaks. When they stop obviously drinking in there you can cut back to weekly.

Good luck!
 

Gelly

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Yes, ditch the ramped bowl. Those are dangerous and frequently result in a drowned tortoise or a tortoise that won't go near the water.

Where are you? Different advice for Baton Rouge vs. Salt Lake City.

In general, you cannot soak too much. Every day wouldn't harm your tortoise. Conversely, not soaking enough can be fatal. Twice a week should be enough for most adult Russians in most housing situations.

Other than by accident, I've never seen them go into the ramp. I wish asked these things sooner, I really appreciate everyone's advise here. I'm in Connecticut, it gets really cold after December through early March.
 

Sleppo

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I have had my adult Russians for about 3 years and have never seen them drink, EVER. I soak once weekly and house them indoors in the winter and outdoors in the Spring/Summer. They frequently pee and their urates are good and smooth. If you are concerned they may be dehydrated you could add sliced cucumbers to their meals once in awhile.
 

dmmj

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I soak their food( in a bucket) so it is wet when I give it to them.
 

Tom

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I don’t agree with a frequent soaking regimen for adult Russians. They are from an extremely dry climate...
Same has been said about sulcatas for decades. Same sentiment kills the majority of "desert tortoise" babies that hatch annually too.

Water does no harm. Can they survive long periods without it in the wild? Yes. Absolutely they can. No argument from me about that. But does giving them more water in captivity do any harm? No. No it doesn't. Remember that your climate is very mild. Someone in Phoenix, or Vegas, or someone housing a Russian in a typical dry open topped indoor enclosure with heat lamps, is going to need to soak more than you. There is no reason to discourage someone from soaking more often than we think they "need" to. If they soak more than is needed, nothing bad happens. If someone in a more extreme situation takes your advice, there could eventually be a problem.
 

RosemaryDW

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Other than by accident, I've never seen them go into the ramp. I wish asked these things sooner, I really appreciate everyone's advise here. I'm in Connecticut, it gets really cold after December through early March.
If I had a nickel for every pet store water bowl someone here bought I’d be a squillionaire!

Just in case you’ve never read them, check out the beginner’s mistakes: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/ as well as the adult care sheet: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/.
 

RosemaryDW

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Same has been said about sulcatas for decades. Same sentiment kills the majority of "desert tortoise" babies that hatch annually too.

Water does no harm. Can they survive long periods without it in the wild? Yes. Absolutely they can. No argument from me about that. But does giving them more water in captivity do any harm? No. No it doesn't. Remember that your climate is very mild. Someone in Phoenix, or Vegas, or someone housing a Russian in a typical dry open topped indoor enclosure with heat lamps, is going to need to soak more than you. There is no reason to discourage someone from soaking more often than we think they "need" to. If they soak more than is needed, nothing bad happens. If someone in a more extreme situation takes your advice, there could eventually be a problem.
Tom, if you’ve got data showing that Russians in an appropriate, controlled environment and soaked daily are healthier in the long run than those with “simpler” regular access to water, please share it. I don’t think it can exist; we’ve not had wild caught Russians in the U.S. long enough to run a conclusive study; they live too long for that.

A sulcata is nothing like a testudo species and I’m not talking about babies of any species. I get that you’ve raised lots of healthy babies, including Russians; I respect and am not arguing your experiences. I am disagreeing with a statement that nothing bad can happen from oversoaking. We simply can’t prove it one way or the other.

OP sorry to hijack your thread!
 

Tom

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Tom, if you’ve got data showing that Russians in an appropriate, controlled environment and soaked daily are healthier in the long run than those with “simpler” regular access to water, please share it. I don’t think it can exist; we’ve not had wild caught Russians in the U.S. long enough to run a conclusive study; they live too long for that.

A sulcata is nothing like a testudo species and I’m not talking about babies of any species. I get that you’ve raised lots of healthy babies, including Russians; I respect and am not arguing your experiences. I am disagreeing with a statement that nothing bad can happen from oversoaking. We simply can’t prove it one way or the other.

OP sorry to hijack your thread!
I have soaked many adult Russians every day, and other species too. It does no harm. I can conclusively say that because I've done it a bunch and watched other people do it too. I've also seen Russians, other Testudo, and DTs for stones because they live in hot dry climates, or hot dry enclosures, and they didn't get soaked enough, even though they had access to water. No one is ever going to do a "study" on either of these things. Why would they?

Again, we can recommend more, with no ill effect, or we can recommend less, with possibly ill effect in some cases.

And I don't think this is a thread hijack. I think our discussion directly relates to the OP's question. Gelly asked for the best way to go about hydrating his/her tortoise. You've shared what works for you, with your single Russian in your climate. I'm offering broader advice for a broader range of climates and housing situations. If you had soaked, and still continued to soak your tortoise as much as I've recommended here, no harm would come to your tortoise. For some of the people reading this, a "weekly soak" when they first get them followed by "less often" could very well result in the formation of bladder stones or constipation, both of which I've seen numerous times with multiple species in cases where the tortoise wasn't soaked often enough because people were told they didn't need it.

I'm not saying what you do for your tortoise in your climate is wrong. I'm saying what you do for your tortoise in your mild climate, might not work as well for someone living in a drier, hotter, harsher environment, such as the are where I live. Our cool SoCal nights and your moderate coastal humidity will also not be a factor in a dry indoor enclosure in a dry heated house in the frozen north, under a desiccating heat lamp all winter.
 

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