Russian Diet Please Help Thanks!

cynthia_085

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Hello guys.

New to tortoise keeping. Please help and guide me.

He is our family's tort, but I don't think we are doing a good job of taking care of him. The vet said he was fine, but I think I need to learn a lot more. I know we can provide a better life for him.

I was wondering if I am feeding the Russian correctly. The vet said he was too light.

I feed Envide, Escarole, Turnip Greens, Timothy hay, Bok choy, Water cress, and Opuntia cactus. He does not like the cactus or the Escarole the rest of the food he eats. He is very picky about his food.

I am sure this is not nearly enough of what he should have. I did take a look at the list of foods for desert tortoises and was wondering how you feed all those foods to your torts.

1. So how can I feed my tortoise better?
2. How often to feed?
3. How much to feed?
4. How do I know if he needs calcium supplementation. I do have cuttle bone in his pen.
5. Additional vitamin D3? In CO there is only a few months of summer and a lot more cold months. I hope that picking a dessert tortoise was not a bad decision on my part.
6. He is outside most of time (summer time) and grazes on plants, but is this enough? I always feed him anyway. Days are getting a bit cold here in Co USA.
7. Is creeping charlie (clover like plant) toxic to the Russian?
8. Can the Russian eat grape leaves? Somewhere I read that they were toxic, but I am not sure where.
9. Where can I order some grass seeds? There is specific grasses that he could eat and I would like to cultivate, but I can't find them locally. I will be honest and say I don't have a green thumb. Hopefully I can get some stuff to grow.
10. Do I need to plant them in pots or can they be fine outside? I live in CO and it gets cold here.
11. I buy a lot of greens, but the tort is small and does not eat all of it. Is there a way to not waste so much? I make a lot of veggies for my family and I, but still I end up throwing away a lot of rotting greens. I want to start cultivating some food on my own for the tort.

Sometimes my family gets mad. They say this tort is just an animal and that the vet said he was doing well. I just feel that I can do a better job in taking care of him. I am constantly trying to get my family to understand that he is an exotic pet and it is now our responsibly to look after him.

I have a lot of other questions and will be posting pictures of his pen so you guys can help me make it better.
Thanks
Cynthia
Sorry for the wall of text.
 
Last edited:

johnsonnboswell

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Grape leaves are good food. Bok choy is not. You need more variety. Offer Dandelion, mallow, rose of sharon, plantain, kale....

Go to russiantortoise.org for more info on diet & care.

Do you intend to hibernate him this winter? If not, he needs a good UVB light and proper indoor set up.
 

Shakudo

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Hi Cynthia,

I'll try and help, but I am not an expert, but I'll see what I can answer.

1. So how can I feed my tortoise better?

Research food, read www.russiantortoise.net and www.thetortoisetable.org.uk. There, you will find a lot of info on food, also buy good literature, which you can find online, some titles I use:

Tortoises as pets by Andrew and Nadine Highfield ( very knowledgeable)
Russian Tortoises as pets by George Hoppendale ( this one is written by someone as a keeper himself , very relatable)
Tortoises - Hartmut Wilke (Biologist)

2. How often to feed?
I feed daily the amount of food she can eat within half an hour.

3. How much to feed?
See above

4. How do I know if he needs calcium supplementation. I do have cuttle bone in his pen.
Well, cuttle bone is excellent, you could also sprinkle a bit of calcium dust + vitamin D3, something like Dragovit Calcium powder+ D3, don't overdo it, just sprinkle a pinch over it's dinner, 2/3 times a week.

5. Additional vitamin D3? In CO there is only a few months of summer and a lot more cold months. I hope that picking a dessert tortoise was not a bad decision on my part.

If your tortoise is kept indoors most of the time, it needs a good UVB light, this is very important, because under the influence of UVB rays the tortoise can produce vitamin d3, which is necessary to absorb calcium, with no UVB, the calcium given will not help at all. So make sure your lights are good.
He needs a heat bulb (no coillbulb, bad for their eyes) , and a UVB bulb, or you could invest in a Mercury vapor bulb, which is heat + UVB in one, like a zoomed powersun, or solar raptor bulb.

6. He is outside most of time (summer time) and grazes on plants, but is this enough? I always feed him anyway. Days are getting a bit cold here in Co USA.
I think that if he has enough to graze on he will be fine, but when you say he is a bit of a lightweight, you could offer him some more food, freshly plucked, like f.e. plantain, clover, dandelion, fresh grasses, etc... ( see links provided with food info)


7. Is creeping charlie (clover like plant) toxic to the Russian?
Yes, creeping charlie (Glechoma hederacea) should NOT be given.


8. Can the Russian eat grape leaves? Somewhere I read that they were toxic, but I am not sure where.
Yes, they can eat that, Vitis Vinifera, or Vitis Lambrusca.

9. Where can I order some grass seeds? There is specific grasses that he could eat and I would like to cultivate, but I can't find them locally. I will be honest and say I don't have a green thumb. Hopefully I can get some stuff to grow.
See links provided with food.


10. Do I need to plant them in pots or can they be fine outside? I live in CO and it gets cold here.
It depends on the plant I think, but species like clover or dandelion will do fine in moderate climates.

11. I buy a lot of greens, but the tort is small and does not eat all of it. Is there a way to not waste so much? I make a lot of veggies for my family and I, but still I end up throwing away a lot of rotting greens. I want to start cultivating some food on my own for the tort.

Biological is the best of the best, so seems like a good idea,but don't give something like bok choy, it contains goitrogens, which is a harmful substance for your tortoise.
You could grow things which are listed as good and safe, on the sites I mentioned earlier.



Hope I helped a bit,

take care,

Joey
 

Tom

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Cynthia, Good for you for trying to learn all you can and give your tortoise the best care possible. You are doing a good job of offering a variety of grocery store foods, but what would be better is to stay away from the grocery store and learn where to find more FREE natural foods. I'll go through your questions.

1. Use more weeds and leaves from the great outdoors. I'll post a list of a few suggestions at the end of this post.
2. Every day.
3. As much as he wants of the RIGHT foods. Grocery store foods are not the right foods. Best case is to put him outside every day, weather permitting, in his own secure enclosure and let him graze on as much weeds and stuff as he wants.
4. Adults males shouldn't need much. A little pinch on the food once a week will insure he's getting enough. If he feels the need for more the cuttle bone will satisfy that.
5. You can use a calcium supplement with D3. It won't hurt anything in that small of an amount. The solution to D3 in winter is to have the right indoor UV bulbs. I like the mercury vapor bulbs of the HO florescent tubes. Do NOT use the coil type cheaper bulbs.
6. This is hard to answer. You should get a kitchen scale and weigh n=him once a week or so. This is really the only way to know if he's getting enough to eat. You can find them at Sears, or Target or Walmart for about $20-30.
7. Yes. Creeping charlie is toxic according to the lists I've seen.
8. Grape leaves are an excellent food. I have a half dozen varieties.
9. Russians are not grass eaters. Get a broad leaf mix like this one from Tyler: http://www.tortoisesupply.com/TestudoMix He has lots of other ones too. Like the clover mix.
10. Yes and yes. Pots or trays are great for winter. And outside is great for the warmer months. I really don't know if some of the plants from the seed mixes might survive the winter there and come back in spring. Give it a try and see.
11. Just buy one or two types at a time and alternate each time. Once you start growing and finding your own, this problem will evaporate.



Here is that list, but collect local weed samples from safe, pesticide free areas and either post pics here, use the "Garden Compass" app, or take samples to a local garden center and ask about them. Also be aware that most tortoises don't just eat new food the first time they see them. Like the cactus pads. You might have to chop and offer some every day for a month before they will eat some. Be persistent and patient. Chop up small amounts of the new stuff and keep mixing it in with the older favorite stuff. Keep trying and keep learning! :)

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
 

cynthia_085

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Wow! Thanks guys! I am so happy to have you guys!!!!
The Russian thanks you too as he will be eating better!
I am looking at lighting (bulbs and fixtures) on past posts and finding a lot of information; time to switch mine out.
I am not going to lie. This planting business makes me nervous. I don't have a green thumb, but I can try it. Thanks for all links; I am still going through them.
Those Hibiscus....they died on me (T.T) I will try again. It just gets too cold for them here. I will see what I can do.
I am going to make a "picture dictionary" to identify what I have outside and what I can start to cultivate outside; in CO.

Thanks just in this post I learned a lot. I can't thank you guys enough.
Cynthia
 

cynthia_085

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Grape leaves are good food. Bok choy is not. You need more variety. Offer Dandelion, mallow, rose of sharon, plantain, kale....

Go to russiantortoise.org for more info on diet & care.

Do you intend to hibernate him this winter? If not, he needs a good UVB light and proper indoor set up.

Hi,
Well I am not sure. The vet said to "let him decide if he is ready". She gave me a package to read about hibernation and I have been reading it.

I will probably ask a lot more questions. She told us that stability in temperature was crucial to him going into hibernation, but I don't have experience with this and I am afraid; afraid of him not waking up or not being healthy.

The tort does have an inside pen too; I can take pictures and start a thread asking this very same question or I can look up past posts; there is just so much I don't know.. Do you have any additional information on hibernation?

Thanks :)
Cynthia
 

WillTort2

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If your vet says the tortoise feels too light then hibernation could have a large risk. I would wait a year and only hibernate a healthy well nourished tort. Many keepers do not hibernate their torts; instead they reset their timer to give 14 hours of light to counter the natural shorter days impact on the tort.
 

johnsonnboswell

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The vet...ah, what can I say? If everything were set up optimally, then the tortoise should decide when it's ready to hibernate. For that to work and be safe, the tortoise would also need to be able to freely decide where it lives and sleeps and hibernates, and what it eats. In captivity tortoises have limited choices. We do our best but we are often not replicating their natural environment. Their choices are limited to what we provide. We have to intervene.

If this tortoise is not well fed, it is not a good candidate for hibernation. If your hiberniculum is not set up properly, again, not a good candidate.

You can cover the outdoor pen to increase length of the outdoor season. Eventually the length of day will be a factor, though.
 

cynthia_085

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Thanks
Sorry I got back to you sooo late.
You are correct. I did further research. I will no be hibernating him.
I have set up an appointment with my local humane society to learn more.
I will not hibernate him. First I am going to get a poo tests done and go from there. If he is too light I won't even attempt it.

Thanks for your concern, and your reply. I greatly appreciate it.
 

cynthia_085

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My indoor set up is good. I can post some pictures tomorrow so the lighting is good. :) You guys can tell me what it needs.
 
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