New Russian Tortoise


New Member
Apr 24, 2021
Location (City and/or State)
Chicago, IL
Hello! I just brought my Russian Tortoise home today. I’m feeling pretty confident about how his enclosure is looking so far, but I have found some conflicting information on a few topics:

1. I have a heat lamp as well as a UVB lamp. Currently I only have a heat lamp that emits light as well. I know my tortoise needs 10-12 hours each day of the UVB, and of course needs the heat spots in his enclosure. Is it better to have a heat lamp the emits light? Should I turn the heat lamp off at night if the temp is high enough in my house?

2. I have seen a few people recommend organic top soil for substrate, and a few others say it shouldn’t be used. What is the consensus on this?

3. What are the best leafy greens and veggies for a Russian?

Thank you all for your knowledge, I’ve already learned so much just browsing!


Well-Known Member
Nov 18, 2018
Location (City and/or State)
Ocala, Fl
Congrats on the new tortoise! Russian tortoises are amazing.

1. I'm not really sure about what lights to use for UV, as mine live outside for most of the year and get natural sun. If you can provide natural sun for up to an hour every day, all you need is the heat lamp that just provides light and heat. This probably isn't possible, so I'll wait for others to chime in and help with what UV lights and fixtures to use in addition to the heat lamp. The heat lamp should be off at night, russians are a temperate species and need no night heat. They can handle pretty chilly temps as long as they are able warm up in the morning.

2. Organic topsoil is a good option. Sometimes it does have random pieces of junk in it, but if you sift through it and make sure it's safe it is a good substrate. Another great option is cypress mulch, or even a mix of both.

3. The best food for a Russian would be weeds. Weeds are so great for them. You live in Chicago, and probably can't get much access to weeds. So for the diet I would go with collard greens, endive, escarole, kale, mustard greens, dandelion greens, and beet greens with an addition of Mazuri (not the LS type) for fiber and additional nutrients. You can give romaine and spinach sparingly, mine don't like spinach and I never really feed romaine because they become addicted and it has low nutrients and fiber. I would make the majority of diet leafy greens, and overall avoid any vegetables (like peppers, carrots, cucumbers).

Lyn W

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Jul 22, 2014
Location (City and/or State)
Hi and welcome,
This is the most up to date caresheet you need and of you follow that your tort should thrive
That will tell answer most of your questions but if not or you need clarification then ask again someone will soon get back to you.
If you post pics of the enclosure you'll get good feedback to make sure your tort is as safe as possible.