Questions From a Prospective Tortoise Owner

SunnySideUp

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Hello there! This is my first time posting on the Tortoise Forums, although I have been doing quite a bit of reading here as of late. I'm very interested in adopting a Russian Tortoise to be my very own turtle friend, hopefully sometime by January of next year so his/her arrival can coincide with my birthday :p. This website has so many great resources, and I've already bookmarked several pages about proper heating, humidity, and diet for the Russian Tortoise, but I had a few more questions I'd love to have answered before I start seeking out any local tortoise breeders/rescue groups.

Firstly, I'd like a knowledgeable opinion about my plans for an indoor enclosure. I was thinking of constructing a tortoise table out of some natural wood - maybe cedar or some other untreated variety - and having it be 2.5' by 5' long with a plastic tarp on the bottom. I'd fill it with a mix of play-sand and topsoil substrate, probably 3 or 4 inches deep. I'd use a mercury vapor bulb for spotlight heating and maybe another fluorescent one for just normal light.

Does this set-up sound appropriate for a single Russian Tortoise? Also, how often do you clean the substrate/enclosure? And how frequently do bulbs need to be replaced?

Second, I was wondering where other members found success in purchasing healthy Russian Tortoises (not from Petco :( ), and how much they bought them for? I don't want to be overcharged, although I'm wall aware that tortoises are expensive to purchase. Are there any good organizations in Michigan that anyone knows of? Thank you so much!
 

kathyth

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I would google tortoise rescues in your area and Russian Tortoise breeders in your area.
:)
 

SunnySideUp

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kathyth said:
I would google tortoise rescues in your area and Russian Tortoise breeders in your area.
:)

I haven't had too much luck with that, unfortunately. And I don't trust any companies to ship any tortoises to me because it's so cold up here at the moment. Plus I'd like to meet the little guys in person.

I may put a thread on the "Wanted" forums here
 

WillTort2

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Welcome to the forum Sunny Side Up, I think the Russian will be a good choice for your area.

A couple of suggestions regarding your plans.

Research the wood choices, I seem to remember a problem with cedar for enclosures. Cypress might be a better choice. Most keepers use just plywood.

I started using coco coir and sand mixed, but as I read more and tested different substrates, I switched to a top soil and coco coir mix. My Russians enjoy digging into the substrate and getting comfortable in a corner rather than going into their hides. The sand has been found by some keepers to cause impaction.

All Russians belong to the family of Houdini, they can climb where "even angels fear to tread". And if they can't climb out they will try to dig out. So design your enclosure with cap rails that extend inward to allow the tortoise to see that he can't climb that wall. Make the walls at least 12" tall so you can have substrate depth and still height to prevent escape.

For cleaning, spot clean daily removing the lumps, then remix it every week or so. If you notice a lingering oder then you may need to replace the substrate. Adding sow bugs or pill bugs to your substrate will extend the time between replacement.

The light sounds good. Is there anyway you can build the enclosure longer? I would suggest 3' x 8' if possible. With you climate the outdoor time will be limited so extra roaming room is essential. Adding a partial 2nd story with a ramp is also a good way to provide space and exercise for your tortoise.

Good luck. Check craig's list for torts needing a new home.
 

Tom

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Hello and welcome.

1. That is too small for an adult. Shoot for 4x8', or bigger.
2. Cedar gives off toxic fumes. That's why the bugs don't like it. Regular plywood and pine works just fine.
3. I would never use sand, even as part of a mixture for substrate. I've seen too many radiographs of sand impacted tortoises. Plain soil or dirt from your yard can work. Or coco coir which can be found in bulk at garden centers for pretty cheap.
4. Your lighting ideas sound great. Most manufactures suggest bulb replacement every 12 months on a MVB. I would suggest replacing it every fall when the tortoise comes in for the winter. You will have to decide if you want to hibernate or not. Outdoor sunshine is best when weather permits.
5. I spot clean the substrate daily, removing poop and uneaten food, and I only replace it if that tort moves out and I intend to move another one into that enclosure.

Here is a Russian care sheet I typed up:
 

SunnySideUp

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Thanks so much for your advice, WillTort! I'll keep an eye out for cypress wood. Or do you think select pine would work? I remember seeing that at the hardware store. I'll see if I can pick up the coco coir there as well.

Unfortunately, my room is rather small, so I may have to add a second tier rather than elongating the base. Going up and down a ramp would be good exercise for the lil' guy, though. Adding cap rails is a great idea too.

If I am unable to find a Russian Tortoise, do you think a Hermanns tortoise would be suitable for Michigan living?
 

SunnySideUp

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Hello Tom. Thank you for chiming in as well! I'll definitely stay away from sand, and the cedar wood. I think I might buy the select pine wood that I saw instead. I'll also see if I can expand my tortoise table. If nothing else, I'll add that second tier WillTort2 recommended.

Once summer rolls around, I plan on constructing an outdoor enclosure that can be used on the -few- hotter days we have up here in Michigan.

That answers a lot of my questions! Thanks so much, guys. I'm going to go to a reptile expo on the 16th, so hopefully I'll be able to contact a responsible seller there. Otherwise, I may seek out a breeder here.
 

Jacqui

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Hi! Glad to see you doing your research first. :) I would suggest you read this site, as I think it has the best care information out there for Russians. Joe has lots of experience working with Russians over the years.

http://www.russiantortoise.org

Also so happy to see your planning on an outside habitat for him , when weather allows. :) Good luck at the show and be sure to show us what you get there.
 

StarSapphire22

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I live in ND and went with a Hermanns, those are also a great choice. Pretty much identical care to a Russian. And, personally, I think their shells are prettier. ;) If you decide to get a Hermanns, check out HermanniChris...he's a member here and breeds some amazing torts...and is an absolute JOY to work with. I got mine through him and am absolutely thrilled. Shipping should still be possible, mine was shipped 2 weeks ago, no worse for wear, but I wouldn't wait too much longer...darn winter. Good luck, and can't wait to see your newest addition!
 

SunnySideUp

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Unfortunately, I'm only going to be able to get my tortoise at the beginning of next year, at the soonest. I'd really hate to try shipping one here in that cold of weather, unless it was very very close, so I'm kind of hoping that I'll be able to encounter a breeder nearby at the reptile expo.
 

Jacqui

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StarSapphire22 said:
And, personally, I think their shells are prettier. ;)

I agree with you on this... and on Chris, too. :)
 

StarSapphire22

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I'm just gonna leave this little face here. ;)

Good luck at expo! :)
 

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