New Russian Tortoise Owner. Checking my approach.

Relic1882

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A brief story of Cecil Baron's current lifestyle.

Ok then. I bought a Russian tortoise(Cecil) for my boys for Christmas. He is from Petsmart and I can only assume what they told me that he's between, 2 and 3 years old at most. It's really for me because I saw one that I really wanted cause he just looked a certain way. (You know how it is when the animal picks you because the second you see it you think "Aw man! I have to bring him home with me!) , but they really wanted a turtle more than anything so I killed two birds with one stone on that one. :) Don't worry, I'm not a "see it must have it" kind of pet owner. I am responsible. :)

Anyway, I did the whole 50 gallon terrarium (upgrading to a table but I'll get into that in a couple paragraphs), bark substrate, hiding log and food/water dishes along with a heat light, UV Bulb and I've been steadily keeping the temps at about 100 on the hot side and 70 on the cool side during the day, and the whole thing stays about 65 all night. I mist a few times a day and keep him at 50% humidity. Give or take 5% throughout the day. I also make sure to pay attention to where he is all the time and I keep is UV bulb over him to make sure he gets enough of its light.

He refuses to eat the commercial pellet I bought for him, no matter how I try to serve it, so while I experiment with other foods I've been giving him a wide assortment of different types of leafy greens from Wegmans a couple times a day, sprinkled with calcium every other day. I plan on getting some recommended seed mix to grow him a nice variety. I keep a shallow water dish full all the time as well. He gets soaked 2-3 times a week in room temp water (treated to remove chlorine, etc using a water conditioner for turtles).

He is an awesome little dude. The first week he was extremely shy. Hid in the shell as soon as I would come near him. He's warming up nicely though as I spent 2 or 3 times a day taking him out and letting him roam around my bedroom to explore. Now when I bother him he doesn't hide at all and he takes off like a bullet (a slow one) as soon as I bring him out. Everyone loves him and since I could stop hiding him from the kids Christmas morning, I let him roam the bottom floor wherever he wants to go for 20-30 minutes at a time a couple times a day. He really seems to love it. I lay him on my lap with a towel over most of him too and he rests there for a while before he climbs up my chest, across my arm and to the top of the sofa, where he walks around the top edge like he owns the place already. (It's against a wall, so he can't fall down).

So far, I'd just like to hear from the experts here if I'm doing things right. I AM DEFINITLY getting rid of the terrarium in favor of a tortoise table of some sort. I will be building my own, and I'd like to base it off of these designs. I just have a couple questions:

http://www.tortoise-protection-group.org.uk/common/files/forum/sam76/9460/main_tortoise_table.jpg

http://www.pets4homes.co.uk/images/...37/large/442ec293a56b353d1beedb5e3abce5ea.JPG

It's going to house just one Russian. What is the most appropriate size for him for indoors?
If I change the substrate to sand/soil or playsand/coir mix (which I plan on doing) will I have a hard time maintaining the humidity being the table will be shallow and open topped? I read that some people say that a good substrate will keep humidity well enough right at the ground level where he reaches.
Is having a UV lamp for general light and a spot heat area for basking still a good setup for him On a table? As long as the heat lamp still provides 90-100 degrees where is points?\

I am sparing no expense to make his home the best it can be cause I dearly love all of my animals. If there's anything you guys can see that's not good for him at all, please tell me. If there are things that I am doing well, please tell me that too. :) I have had everything from dogs and cats to goats and ducks throughout my life. Never owned a reptile. I want to make sure I'm doing everything right.
 

lismar79

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Stay away from sand. Causes all kinds of prblems and is not worth the risk. Reptibark or coco coir is good for a russian, they like to dig. Pellets are not a good main diet so no worries if he doesn't eat them. If you live some where warm find some safe weeds -
http://m.thetortoisetable.org.uk/m/plants_19.asp. if you have to buy food then- endive, escrole, dandelion greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, raddichio, kale and spring mix but not too much spinach.
Everything else sounds good. Welcome!
 

Tom

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You've gotten some good info along with the bad there. You are doing okay. Here is what I see:
1. They have no idea what the age is. It literally could be anywhere from 4 to 400. For a wild caught to be 4" or more (legal for sale) it would have to be older than 2 or 3. Your tortoise is most likely 8-10 years old, but there is no way to know.
2. 50 is way too small. I like a minimum of 4x8' indoors for an adult russian. I'd return that tank and get a horse watering trough or giant kiddie pool instead.
3. Don't let him run loose in the house. That is a very dangerous practice for a variety of reason and it often ends in tragedy.
4. Your bark substrate is excellent. Don't change it and certainly don't add any sand.
5. What sort of water bowls did they sell you? Ramped ones? Take them back for a refund. Those are literally tortoise death traps. Great for lizards and snakes though. Use terra cotta plant saucers sunk into the substrate for tortoises. They are cheap and easily found at any hardware store.
6. What sort of UV bulb did they sell you? Coil type cfl? Those can burn tortoise eyes. Return it and get a long florescent tube or mercury vapor bulb instead. No need to chase him with the bulb. He will get under it as needed.
7. An adult male only needs calcium once a week, if that. Very small pinch. Too much is not good.
8. Soak in warm water.
9. No need to use chemicals in the water. If it is safe for you to drink, its safe for your tortoise.
10. Skip the fruity pebbles and favor endive, escarole, spring mix, and lots of weeds and leaves when weather permits.


All this and more is covered in these care sheets and links:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/thread...or-other-herbivorous-tortoise-species.107734/
 

leigti

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Congratulations on your new tortoise. Pet stores are notorious for giving bad information, I know mine did when I got my Russian. all the information you will need is here on this forum. if you post a picture of the underside and tail of your tortoise we will be able to confirm, probably :), If it is a male. If it is a female it may need calcium more often. welcome to the forum.
 

Relic1882

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Ok. Advice noted. This is currently the light bulbs I have set up --> http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00361HC9C/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20 It came with a "U" shaped cfl.

If I swap out the two for a mercury vapor like this one -> http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0002AQDJK/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20
will the single mercury vapor bulb be enough over a tortoise table? I was thinking of hanging it over one side of the table. This way he can get under it for the hottest spot and work his way away from it when he wants to be cooler. My whole house stays at 68-70 degrees all winter long. The size of the table will be quite large. My boys have a nice big room with plenty of space for it.

The water bowl is just a tiny bowl that's probably no more than a half inch high. I keep it stocked and clean. It's plenty small enough where he can just walk over it. Today actually, he decided he was going to dig under it and sleep. :) He dug his way into the bark and flipped the water bowl over the back of his shell. He's content now. I use a shallow pyrex dish to soak him. I put a towel on the bottom of it for him to be able to walk around on.

One of my main concerns is when I build he table I want to make sure I can keep his temps and humidity correct. Is 50% humidity best for him? Is 68 degrees cool side and night good for him?
 

Yellow Turtle01

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Welcome!
I have one 60w floodlight and a tube light (I'm not an MVB person, but they are high rated!) over one side of a 5x3 table, and it keeps the hot spot a toasty 88-90, and the cool side a nice 70.
Terra cotta plant saucers work awesome for dishes, plus only about 3$ a piece (size varies) Heavy and grippy! 50% humidity is okay for an adult, so I usually keep mine at 60-70%. Partially covering the top (foil, plexi... so on:D) can help keep it contained.
Keeping the soil moist helps too.
68 is great at night, and great for sliver of his table! :D
Here's another nice plant list-
http://russiantortoise.net/edible_plants.htm
 

Relic1882

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I gave him his first carrot today. Man, I don't know if it was cause it's new or what, but he went to town on that thing! I wanted to ask another question though. Is a carrot something that I can only give him once in a while? A couple times a week? I read mixed answers and I thought I'd ask here.
 

Tom

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I gave him his first carrot today. Man, I don't know if it was cause it's new or what, but he went to town on that thing! I wanted to ask another question though. Is a carrot something that I can only give him once in a while? A couple times a week? I read mixed answers and I thought I'd ask here.

Carrots are too high in sugar. If you feed carrot at all, it should be infrequently, in very small amounts and mixed in with a lot more of something else like leaves, weeds, or leafy greens.
 

Tom

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If I swap out the two for a mercury vapor like this one -> http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0002AQDJK/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20
will the single mercury vapor bulb be enough over a tortoise table? I was thinking of hanging it over one side of the table. This way he can get under it for the hottest spot and work his way away from it when he wants to be cooler. My whole house stays at 68-70 degrees all winter long. The size of the table will be quite large. My boys have a nice big room with plenty of space for it.

This all sounds good.
 

Tom

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The water bowl is just a tiny bowl that's probably no more than a half inch high. I keep it stocked and clean. It's plenty small enough where he can just walk over it. Today actually, he decided he was going to dig under it and sleep. :) He dug his way into the bark and flipped the water bowl over the back of his shell. He's content now. I use a shallow pyrex dish to soak him. I put a towel on the bottom of it for him to be able to walk around on.

One of my main concerns is when I build he table I want to make sure I can keep his temps and humidity correct. Is 50% humidity best for him? Is 68 degrees cool side and night good for him?

No need for the towel in the soaking dish. I use plastic dishwashing tubs from Walmart. They only cost $1.82 and the side are plenty tall enough.

Just offer a humid hide on the warm side, slightly damp substrate all over, and don't worry about the humidity for an adult russian.

68 for the cool side and night is fine for him, as long as he has that warm basking area during the day. If summertime ambient temps creep up, that is fine too.
 

Relic1882

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Awesome. Thanks for all of the input. Too bad about the carrots though. That's the fastest I've ever seen him go for new food. But that's ok. I'm sure I'll find more things he loves a lot as I get more experience. I hope to build this table within the next couple of weeks. Thanks again for the advice! I'll be putting pics up of him maybe tomorrow when he wakes up. :) He's asleep and it would be really cruel to wake him now.
 

leigti

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I gave him his first carrot today. Man, I don't know if it was cause it's new or what, but he went to town on that thing! I wanted to ask another question though. Is a carrot something that I can only give him once in a while? A couple times a week? I read mixed answers and I thought I'd ask here.
I feed my Russian a small carrot
Tops and all a couple times a year. He loves it. I give it to them whole and just let them go at it. That was his Christmas present this year :) another favorite treat that you can give much more often is cactus. I buy it at my local grocery store and scrape off most of the spines.
 

Russianuncletwo

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Try romaine lettuce. They seem to like that best (the greener part the better.) Then... start diverting. I gave mine a full vegetarian buffet with it and her literally on a large dining room table for Xmas (lace tablecloth weighted down by crystal and sterling make for great traction-what a sight!) and discovered she seems to like food in different locations so she can browse, then nibble, explore, then nibble -like a cocktail party w/separate hors d'oeuvre trays around different corners. Some supermarkets are carrying dandelion greens this season-low priced and they're good for the tort. You don't have to wait for them blooming/growing in spring in your yard. Anyway, start w/romaine.
 
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Relic1882

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I can see the nibble and explore thing. When I had him upstairs hidden from the kids I would put him on the floor to let him roam and then put some food right in front of him. Then he would walk right over the food and then circle the room. When he came back to where the food was he would look at it like "SCORE!" and start eating it as if he found it all on his own. He's very independent like that haha! :) Anyway, I bought him escarole and endive and romaine from the store yesterday. We'll see what he likes best.
 
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