Victoriatori

New Member
Joined
Oct 22, 2020
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
East Tennessee
I apologize for the length.

Hello, I may have jumped into this boat a bit more prematurely than planned. I had a friend post about rehoming a Russian tortoise a few months ago, and then again a couple days ago and I've owned reptiles in the past (though it's been a few years and I wasn't planning on doing so again) so I reached out, expecting to maybe get it in a week or 2 when I would have more time to research and make sure I could give it everything it needs, as our home currently has 2 guinea pigs and a hamster (none of the species are able to interact with each other), so room isn't something we have a huge amount to give while still allowing space for floor time. However, it ended up being a case where it had to be rehomed immediately so I now have a Russian tortoise. Originally I was going to be building a 2ft by 4ft enclosure for it, but now I'm learning that that is waaay to small. I can't do a 4ft by 8ft right now though. But I can give him a 2ft by 8ft for now and next year we're going to be upgrading our home situation so next year I will be able to upgrade to at minimum 4ft by 8ft (Fingers crossed for more, he'll also be able to have an indoor and outdoor and his outdoor will be much bigger). Here's the details I know, listed as what he was receiving vs what I'm doing for him at this moment. Any advice is highly highly accepted. I would have wanted to do much more research done before getting a pet like this. I've never gotten a pet before I did at least 2 months of research and already having everything it could need, but this wasn't really preventable, without risking him going to a home less suitable or staying in the same situation.

Age: Approximately 2 years old?
Size: approximately 4inches ish (measuring isn't my gift)
Gender: I was told he was male, I'm trying not to stress him out so I haven't really picked him up.

When I got him he came in a plastic container that's 36inches x 16 inches and maybe 6 inches deep. That's what he's been living in. There's about 2 inches of potting soil, they said he eats the big bark pieces so he can't have that? There was a good size log hide that covers literally almost 1/2 of the enclosure, and a chunk of yard (literally, took a shovel I think) which he honestly seems to like, but they have outside animals so I might get him one from a better area, he burrowed under it. He came with a double bulb lamp that "went out a while ago" So I don't know how long he's been with out UVB or a consistent light cycle. I know they were soaking him, I'm not sure how often. He was being fed "Lettuce and carrots" and "loves strawberries as a treat" and in the summer was taken outside maybe once a week to roam for a bit. He was also in this container, I believe in floor. They "caught the cat trying to pee in his box but don't think it ever actually did" (I've replaced it already with the same soil they were using) so I'm fairly worried about his health. My money is firstly going to building his enclosure, It'll be about a month (no more than that) and I'll be taking him to a vet to make sure he's clean of any critters.... Also he hisses. Whenever touched. Previous owners found it funny.... So that's that. Here's what I'm doing to try and improve his little (hopefully very long) life.

Today he's still in the very very sad enclosure I got him in, I got a Thrive 3 in 1 Mercury vapor bulb positioned about 13 inches from the top of where his shell would be on the side of his enclosure. I went home on break and he's relaxing under it. I'm purchasing the materials tonight so he'll be upgraded tomorrow afternoon when I get home. I have an infrared thermometer coming tomorrow. I also have a "chilling stone" that I had gotten by mistake a while back, would that be okay to place his food on? or perhaps to put under the basking light? If it would be okay to place under the basking light I'll get an actual flat rock and place his food on (I read they need it to help their beaks stay trimmed?) Once I get the enclosure set up I'm going to have the 3 in one bulb on one side of the enclosure for basking and the room it's self has a pretty alright amount of light so I might not add any other bulbs. However the ambient house temperature stays around 70 F, and I feel like that's to low for him during the day, so perhaps I should get a heat bulb and locate where the temperature in the enclosure starts to drop and put it there to even out the enclosure to around maybe 80F? I plan on trying to soak him every day for 15 minutes right now to make sure he's all and well, and then in a couple weeks just aim to do 2-4 times per week? I am having a hard time figuring out what to do for his substrate, the encloser that I'm going to be building is going to be 18 inches high so that'll give me where I can have at least 6 inches in there. I was planning on doing some soil for most of it and a safe kind of mulch or reptibark for a layer on the top but if he's going to be trying to eat that I'm not sure? Is that actually a thing?

Food wise. This is stumping me, there are so many variations. I heard that collard greens should be staple and then someone made a case that they were harmful if fed as a staple. I read that they need high calcium. Right now I have collard greens and mustard greens, I do plan on getting more and more variety tonight/ tomorrow but walmart was about to close last night (thanks covid) what all do you recommend? I live around the east tennessee region if that helps you know what might be available to me. We do have "healthy food stores" So I can probably find a variety there. I was hoping he would be good on a similar diet (only leafy wise) as the guinea pigs but it appears not quite so much, Please any recommendations on this would be great. I know fruit is a no, as well as pepper, and animal proteins and ya know, the very basics finding things they can't eat is pretty consistent but as for the stuff they CAN eat I'm at loss for how much/how often of anything.

Again I apologize for the length, I just want to give this guy the best life I can so any advice, criticism, or anything is greatly appreciated. I will not be offended, I'm aware this is an unideal situation for a critter.
 

VJRDuran

Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2020
Messages
45
Location (City and/or State)
Brooklyn Park
Thank you for rescuing the tortoise and striving to provide for him.
I'm a new tortoise owner (along with my daughter) receiving our tortoise in April.
There is also a care sheet somewhere that I'm sure someone will post for you.
Regarding food. I use this database as a guide: https://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/plant-database/#.X5IA1ohKiUl
Regarding care: Tortoises need to be soaked a couple of times a week in order to stay hydrated. Warm water, (skin warmth, what you use on a newborn baby child) about a quarter-inch deep (up to their bottom scutes). This will help them hydrate, as well as eliminate their wastes.
Regarding food: All food is to be pesticide-free! Dandelions and greens, Endive, Radicchio, Turnip Greens, Kale, Rose flowers and leaves, hibiscus flowers, plantain weed, Chia, Clover, aloe vera, yams (sometimes), arugula, escarole... I'm sure others will list plants as well.
Regarding housing: Thank you for your concern and doing what you can with the space you have.
Regarding lighting: There are others who will help address your questions about lighting.
 

Blackdog1714

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2018
Messages
4,016
Location (City and/or State)
Richmond, VA
Light- uvb T5 fixture with bulb only if you can’t get him outside a few times a week for sunlight.
Heat- a radiant heat panel (RHP) is the safest/best but most costly. CHE (ceramic heat emitter) are cheaper but surface temp is 400 degrees or more so burns if touched and they need a metal dome ceramic fixture.
Temp- Basking spot should be 95-100 and the area around it mid 80’s. Russian tolerance of temp difference is high so they like a cool side so 70’s would be fine
Substrate- you are too far from CA so cypress mulch is the cheapest/best option and the can burrow to sleep so 6” would be fine.
Humidity- general house humidity is fine for adult Russians
Hope that helps
 

Cathie G

Well-Known Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Aug 9, 2018
Messages
8,287
Location (City and/or State)
Lancaster
I apologize for the length.

Hello, I may have jumped into this boat a bit more prematurely than planned. I had a friend post about rehoming a Russian tortoise a few months ago, and then again a couple days ago and I've owned reptiles in the past (though it's been a few years and I wasn't planning on doing so again) so I reached out, expecting to maybe get it in a week or 2 when I would have more time to research and make sure I could give it everything it needs, as our home currently has 2 guinea pigs and a hamster (none of the species are able to interact with each other), so room isn't something we have a huge amount to give while still allowing space for floor time. However, it ended up being a case where it had to be rehomed immediately so I now have a Russian tortoise. Originally I was going to be building a 2ft by 4ft enclosure for it, but now I'm learning that that is waaay to small. I can't do a 4ft by 8ft right now though. But I can give him a 2ft by 8ft for now and next year we're going to be upgrading our home situation so next year I will be able to upgrade to at minimum 4ft by 8ft (Fingers crossed for more, he'll also be able to have an indoor and outdoor and his outdoor will be much bigger). Here's the details I know, listed as what he was receiving vs what I'm doing for him at this moment. Any advice is highly highly accepted. I would have wanted to do much more research done before getting a pet like this. I've never gotten a pet before I did at least 2 months of research and already having everything it could need, but this wasn't really preventable, without risking him going to a home less suitable or staying in the same situation.

Age: Approximately 2 years old?
Size: approximately 4inches ish (measuring isn't my gift)
Gender: I was told he was male, I'm trying not to stress him out so I haven't really picked him up.

When I got him he came in a plastic container that's 36inches x 16 inches and maybe 6 inches deep. That's what he's been living in. There's about 2 inches of potting soil, they said he eats the big bark pieces so he can't have that? There was a good size log hide that covers literally almost 1/2 of the enclosure, and a chunk of yard (literally, took a shovel I think) which he honestly seems to like, but they have outside animals so I might get him one from a better area, he burrowed under it. He came with a double bulb lamp that "went out a while ago" So I don't know how long he's been with out UVB or a consistent light cycle. I know they were soaking him, I'm not sure how often. He was being fed "Lettuce and carrots" and "loves strawberries as a treat" and in the summer was taken outside maybe once a week to roam for a bit. He was also in this container, I believe in floor. They "caught the cat trying to pee in his box but don't think it ever actually did" (I've replaced it already with the same soil they were using) so I'm fairly worried about his health. My money is firstly going to building his enclosure, It'll be about a month (no more than that) and I'll be taking him to a vet to make sure he's clean of any critters.... Also he hisses. Whenever touched. Previous owners found it funny.... So that's that. Here's what I'm doing to try and improve his little (hopefully very long) life.

Today he's still in the very very sad enclosure I got him in, I got a Thrive 3 in 1 Mercury vapor bulb positioned about 13 inches from the top of where his shell would be on the side of his enclosure. I went home on break and he's relaxing under it. I'm purchasing the materials tonight so he'll be upgraded tomorrow afternoon when I get home. I have an infrared thermometer coming tomorrow. I also have a "chilling stone" that I had gotten by mistake a while back, would that be okay to place his food on? or perhaps to put under the basking light? If it would be okay to place under the basking light I'll get an actual flat rock and place his food on (I read they need it to help their beaks stay trimmed?) Once I get the enclosure set up I'm going to have the 3 in one bulb on one side of the enclosure for basking and the room it's self has a pretty alright amount of light so I might not add any other bulbs. However the ambient house temperature stays around 70 F, and I feel like that's to low for him during the day, so perhaps I should get a heat bulb and locate where the temperature in the enclosure starts to drop and put it there to even out the enclosure to around maybe 80F? I plan on trying to soak him every day for 15 minutes right now to make sure he's all and well, and then in a couple weeks just aim to do 2-4 times per week? I am having a hard time figuring out what to do for his substrate, the encloser that I'm going to be building is going to be 18 inches high so that'll give me where I can have at least 6 inches in there. I was planning on doing some soil for most of it and a safe kind of mulch or reptibark for a layer on the top but if he's going to be trying to eat that I'm not sure? Is that actually a thing?

Food wise. This is stumping me, there are so many variations. I heard that collard greens should be staple and then someone made a case that they were harmful if fed as a staple. I read that they need high calcium. Right now I have collard greens and mustard greens, I do plan on getting more and more variety tonight/ tomorrow but walmart was about to close last night (thanks covid) what all do you recommend? I live around the east tennessee region if that helps you know what might be available to me. We do have "healthy food stores" So I can probably find a variety there. I was hoping he would be good on a similar diet (only leafy wise) as the guinea pigs but it appears not quite so much, Please any recommendations on this would be great. I know fruit is a no, as well as pepper, and animal proteins and ya know, the very basics finding things they can't eat is pretty consistent but as for the stuff they CAN eat I'm at loss for how much/how often of anything.

Again I apologize for the length, I just want to give this guy the best life I can so any advice, criticism, or anything is greatly appreciated. I will not be offended, I'm aware this is an unideal situation for a critter.
You found the right place to learn from so I know you'll be just fine. There's a lot of great information on this site. I have a little Russian also and they are a lot of fun. Even though tortoise keeping is really complicated a Russian is an easier one to do. Just always remember one thing! They are not called an escape artist for nothing. If you have a hide or anything close to a wall of their enclosure, they will flip themself sideways between the wall and the hide etc...then walk up the wall to be out and about. So just watch the little darling for a while and let the little monkey teach you how to build your permanent enclosures. Best wishes 🤗
 

Happytort27

Active Member
Joined
Apr 10, 2020
Messages
259
Location (City and/or State)
CA
Complied by Tom:
I wouldn't use a MVB for basking and UV. Here is the lighting info:
There are four elements to heating and lighting:
  1. Basking bulb. I use 65 watt floods from the hardware store. I run them on a timer for 12 hours and adjust the height to get the correct basking temp under them. You can mount a fixture on the ceiling, or hang a dome lamp from the ceiling. Go lower or higher wattage if this makes the enclosure too hot or not warm enough. Do not use "spot" bulbs, mercury vapor bulbs or halogen bulbs.
  2. Ambient heat maintenance. Unless your house gets unusually cold at night, you can skip this step for a DT, a Russian, or other Testudo species. Night lows above 60 require no night heat for Testudo species or DTs.
  3. Light. I use florescent tubes for this purpose. Something in the 5000-6500K color range will look the best. Most tubes at the store are in the 2500K range and they look yellowish. I've been using LEDs lately and they are great, and run cooler than a florescent. This can be set on the same timer as the basking bulb. If your tortoises room is already adequately lit, you don't need this one either.
  4. UV. If you can get your tortoise outside in a safe secure enclosure for an hour 2 or 3 times a week, you won't need indoor UV. If you want it anyway, get one of the newer HO type fluorescent tubes. Which type will depend on mounting height. It helps to have a UV meter to test and see what your bulb is actually putting out at your mounting height. Plexi-glass or screen tops will filter out some or all of the UV produced by your bulb. Regular "T 8" type UV tubes produce hardly any UV. CFL type UV bulbs are also ineffective, and sometimes dangerous, and should not be used.
Sounds like your tortoise was in a poor situation. :( Please take a look at this thread and make the correct adjustments to your care. It’ll answer some of your questions. If you have any more, feel free to ask.

 

Happytort27

Active Member
Joined
Apr 10, 2020
Messages
259
Location (City and/or State)
CA
Diet: (By Tom, once again.)
Mulberry leaves
Grape vine leaves
Hibiscus leaves
African hibiscus leaves
Blue hibiscus leaves
Rose of Sharon leaves
Rose leaves
Geraniums
Gazanias
Lavatera
Pansies
Petunias
Hostas
Honeysuckle
Cape honeysuckle
Leaves and blooms from any squash plant, like pumpkin, cucumber, summer squash, etc...
Young spineless opuntia cactus pads

Weeds:
There are soooooooo many...
Dandelion
Mallow
Filaree
Smooth Sow thistle
Prickly Sow thistle
Milk thistle
Goat head weed
Cats ear
Nettles
Trefoil
Wild onion
Wild mustard
Wild Garlic
Clovers
Broadleaf plantain
Narrow leaf plantain
Chick weed
Hawksbit
Hensbit
Hawksbeard

Other good stuff:
"Testudo Seed Mix" from http://www.tortoisesupply.com/SeedMixes
Pasture mixes or other seeds from http://www.groworganic.com/seeds.html
Homegrown alfalfa
Mazuri Tortoise Chow
ZooMed Grassland Tortoise Food
 

Victoriatori

New Member
Joined
Oct 22, 2020
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
East Tennessee
Thank you for rescuing the tortoise and striving to provide for him.
I'm a new tortoise owner (along with my daughter) receiving our tortoise in April.
There is also a care sheet somewhere that I'm sure someone will post for you.
Regarding food. I use this database as a guide: https://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/plant-database/#.X5IA1ohKiUl
Regarding care: Tortoises need to be soaked a couple of times a week in order to stay hydrated. Warm water, (skin warmth, what you use on a newborn baby child) about a quarter-inch deep (up to their bottom scutes). This will help them hydrate, as well as eliminate their wastes.
Regarding food: All food is to be pesticide-free! Dandelions and greens, Endive, Radicchio, Turnip Greens, Kale, Rose flowers and leaves, hibiscus flowers, plantain weed, Chia, Clover, aloe vera, yams (sometimes), arugula, escarole... I'm sure others will list plants as well.
Regarding housing: Thank you for your concern and doing what you can with the space you have.
Regarding lighting: There are others who will help address your questions about lighting.
Thank you! I appreciate the link and the list as well!
 

Victoriatori

New Member
Joined
Oct 22, 2020
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
East Tennessee
Light- uvb T5 fixture with bulb only if you can’t get him outside a few times a week for sunlight.
Heat- a radiant heat panel (RHP) is the safest/best but most costly. CHE (ceramic heat emitter) are cheaper but surface temp is 400 degrees or more so burns if touched and they need a metal dome ceramic fixture.
Temp- Basking spot should be 95-100 and the area around it mid 80’s. Russian tolerance of temp difference is high so they like a cool side so 70’s would be fine
Substrate- you are too far from CA so cypress mulch is the cheapest/best option and the can burrow to sleep so 6” would be fine.
Humidity- general house humidity is fine for adult Russians
Hope that helps
Thank you! I'm taking out the mercury bulb, I'm not able to do an RHP right now, but I'll replacing it with a flood light for the basking spot and a florescent tube light for UV, it's starting to turn winter so I can't consistently get him outside (one week we're in the 80's the next week 50's) right now. But I will as much as I can. And thanks as well for the cypress mulch! I am still worried about him trying to eat them? His previous owners said he had but I believe that may have potentially been a vitamin need or something along those lines so hopefully I can help fix that.
 

Victoriatori

New Member
Joined
Oct 22, 2020
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
East Tennessee
Complied by Tom:
I wouldn't use a MVB for basking and UV. Here is the lighting info:
There are four elements to heating and lighting:
  1. Basking bulb. I use 65 watt floods from the hardware store. I run them on a timer for 12 hours and adjust the height to get the correct basking temp under them. You can mount a fixture on the ceiling, or hang a dome lamp from the ceiling. Go lower or higher wattage if this makes the enclosure too hot or not warm enough. Do not use "spot" bulbs, mercury vapor bulbs or halogen bulbs.
  2. Ambient heat maintenance. Unless your house gets unusually cold at night, you can skip this step for a DT, a Russian, or other Testudo species. Night lows above 60 require no night heat for Testudo species or DTs.
  3. Light. I use florescent tubes for this purpose. Something in the 5000-6500K color range will look the best. Most tubes at the store are in the 2500K range and they look yellowish. I've been using LEDs lately and they are great, and run cooler than a florescent. This can be set on the same timer as the basking bulb. If your tortoises room is already adequately lit, you don't need this one either.
  4. UV. If you can get your tortoise outside in a safe secure enclosure for an hour 2 or 3 times a week, you won't need indoor UV. If you want it anyway, get one of the newer HO type fluorescent tubes. Which type will depend on mounting height. It helps to have a UV meter to test and see what your bulb is actually putting out at your mounting height. Plexi-glass or screen tops will filter out some or all of the UV produced by your bulb. Regular "T 8" type UV tubes produce hardly any UV. CFL type UV bulbs are also ineffective, and sometimes dangerous, and should not be used.
Sounds like your tortoise was in a poor situation. :( Please take a look at this thread and make the correct adjustments to your care. It’ll answer some of your questions. If you have any more, feel free to ask.

Thank you! I read over the attached post and I HIGHLY appreciate it. I'm getting rid of the mercury bulb immediately and replacing it with a flood bulb, I have a infrared temp gauge coming today so I'll be able to get the correct height and wattage for the temp of the basking spot. I'll be upgrading to a HO fluorescent bulb soon (still a little more research to do there) for the winter time but during the summer I'll be taking him outside. The UV meters are a little pricey at the moment but I should be able to get one before the end of the year.
 

Blackdog1714

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2018
Messages
4,016
Location (City and/or State)
Richmond, VA
Thank you! I read over the attached post and I HIGHLY appreciate it. I'm getting rid of the mercury bulb immediately and replacing it with a flood bulb, I have a infrared temp gauge coming today so I'll be able to get the correct height and wattage for the temp of the basking spot. I'll be upgrading to a HO fluorescent bulb soon (still a little more research to do there) for the winter time but during the summer I'll be taking him outside. The UV meters are a little pricey at the moment but I should be able to get one before the end of the year.
Get an Arcadia T5 as Zeropilot has been doing tests and will gladly tell you how high to mount yours using his meter and a matching bulb. His thread tells how quickly the other brands 💩 out compared to Arcadia
 

VJRDuran

Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2020
Messages
45
Location (City and/or State)
Brooklyn Park
Victoriatori, we would love to see pictures of your little tortoise. Would you be able to post pictures when you can? Does he/it have a name?
Thank you so much for rescuing the little fellow and for desiring to do the best you can for him. Don't worry, we've got your back.
Welcome to the tortoise forum!
 

Cathie G

Well-Known Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Aug 9, 2018
Messages
8,287
Location (City and/or State)
Lancaster
Thank you! I'm taking out the mercury bulb, I'm not able to do an RHP right now, but I'll replacing it with a flood light for the basking spot and a florescent tube light for UV, it's starting to turn winter so I can't consistently get him outside (one week we're in the 80's the next week 50's) right now. But I will as much as I can. And thanks as well for the cypress mulch! I am still worried about him trying to eat them? His previous owners said he had but I believe that may have potentially been a vitamin need or something along those lines so hopefully I can help fix that.
My little Russian likes Coco coir mixed with Zoo-Med repti bark in his indoor enclosure as a substrate. So that's what I use. 🤗
 

Victoriatori

New Member
Joined
Oct 22, 2020
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
East Tennessee
Victoriatori, we would love to see pictures of your little tortoise. Would you be able to post pictures when you can? Does he/it have a name?
Thank you so much for rescuing the little fellow and for desiring to do the best you can for him. Don't worry, we've got your back.
Welcome to the tortoise forum!
Absolutely, here's a few pictures of Henry, originally he was on reptibark (the only cypress mulch I could find had pine mixed in) but now he's cypress mulch with some reptibark mixed in. 20201024_104610.jpg 20201024_121223.jpg 20201024_121236.jpg 20201024_104610.jpg 20201024_121223.jpg 20201024_121236.jpg
 

Blackdog1714

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2018
Messages
4,016
Location (City and/or State)
Richmond, VA
What a good looking grumpy mug. The beak looks a little overgrown, but the feeding rock should help. Love the table size-you could add an led plant light (5000 K) to brighten up and even help grow plants in the other end without creating extra heat. My Russian will bask for hours then go dig far away or sometimes just to the edge of the CHE zone. Just be prepared with wanton destruction when you add plants. Good Luck BTW this is a plaintain weed and for the next few weeks they will be exploding!
1603560201740.png
 

Cathie G

Well-Known Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Aug 9, 2018
Messages
8,287
Location (City and/or State)
Lancaster
TortoiseSupply.com

New Posts

Top