Russian Tortoise drinking a lot?

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sheldonRT

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Hi!

I recently bought a russian tortoise 3.5 weeks ago (my first reptile!). She's about 4.5 inches (I don't have a ruler) which I think makes her a young adult? Correct me if I'm wrong please! I have some questions about her care that I keep getting conflicting advice on.

As background, we currently have her in a large rubbermaid (we live in an apartment building). We are planning on constructing a bigger enclosure soon. For now, we let her out to wander around the apartment every couple days, always keeping an eye on her. I know a lot of people don't necessarily approve, but she seems to enjoy the chance to explore the apartment and we put her back in the tank as soon as she settles in one area for a while. We use coconut coir as the substrate, have a UVB and heat lamp, and the enclosure contains a log hide, a food dish, and a large shallow water dish. The enclosure is 85-90 degrees in the light (we don't have a thermometer on the dark side, so I'm not sure of the temp there). We currently keep the UVB on 10-12 hrs a day and used to keep the heat lamp on permanently, although conflicting advice now has us turning it off at night. What should we do with the heat lamp - keep it on all the time or turn it off at night?

So my major question is about food and water. We keep standing water in the shallow water dish in her enclosure, and also soak her in a tub every 2 weeks or so (we've done it once so far, and she doesn't seem to be a huge fan of the process). She enjoys the water dish, and spends a good amount of time in there. She tends to release urate while soaking, which we clean up promptly. However, in the past several days the water has vanished at a surprising rate (aka we refill it every morning and it's gone by the night - we then refill it at night and then it's gone by the morning!). I'm not sure if it's pure evaporation or if she is drinking it for some reason. It seems unlikely to be evaporation since the temperature hasn't changed (although maybe the humidity in our apartment has? I don't think so but it's possible). However, we have seen her soaking a lot more and even drinking occasionally. Again, this "water disappearing act" is new (aka 3-5 days) and thus is disturbing us quite a bit, since we don't know the reason. Could she be too hot or not humid enough so she needs to drink a lot?

There's a similar situation with food. She has always been a good eater, and has eaten whatever we've given her - romaine, red/green lettuce, kale, spring mix, with (very rarely) carrots or apples and always a dusting of Repti-vite (is this a good supplement? It's what the pet store recommended). She is also incredibly active, always moving around inside her enclosure or our apartment when we let her out. We are unsure of how often and how much to feed her. At first we fed her once a day in the morning about a handful of lettuce (it took her ~30 mins to eat it all). But now she recognizes us, and whenever we check on her in the rubbermaid she stands in the food bowl, looks up and begins clawing in our direction. It it possibly the cutest thing I've ever seen, and as a result we end up feeding her again (about 1/2 the amount in the evening). The main problem is we don't know HOW much to feed her, or how often. Whenever she looks like she wants food, I supply it and she always gobbles it up. I definitely don't want to overfeed her though, so I'd like some guidance on exactly how much to feed.

So in conclusion, my main concerns are about the water disappearing (evaporation? drinking?) and how much/how often to feed my RT. All help would be appreciated!

Thanks for all your help!
 

dmmj

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babies you might want to feed twice a day like you re doing. Be warned they will try and get you to feed them all day long, and they are quite good at it. As for the water mine hate to be soaked all 3 wild caught, but love their water dish, so as long as she drinks let her drink, I don't see a problem with her drinking that much, remember they still have wild instincts and probably think that there might not be any water again for a while so they drink it while it is there. They quickly recognize people as a source of food, and use that to their advantage,.
 

Yvonne G

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Hi sheldonRT:

Welcome to the forum!! May we know your name and where you are?

If you're using a clay saucer that isn't glazed and "fired," the water seeps out. Also, because of the lights, the water evaporates. This is a good indicator to how fast your tortoise dehydrates under the lights.

I feed my adult tortoises once a day, and sometimes I'll skip a day. I just put a big handful of food down. If he eats it all up and seems to want more I know I didn't give enough. If he eats then walks away, leaving some I may have given too much. Russian are very much like red ear sliders in the begging department. They teach you very quickly that they're "starving to death and you'd better feed me some more!!!" But unless your tortoise is outside, its not a good idea to give them too much because Russians tend to get fat with too much food and not enough exercise.
 

dolfanjack

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Hello SheldonRT
I have always turned my heat light off at night and have never had any problems, it will save you a higher electric bill that can go for other things. Just remember this is how I do it, if you feel better keeping it on then you need to make that decision. Jack
 

GBtortoises

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Is the light that you're using for the basking area an actual light bulb (white or clear) or a true heat bulb (red or ceramic)? If it is one of the latter it should be replaced with a true light producing bulb that also produces heat. Tortoises will naturally bask under a light source that produces heat (a.k.a.-the sun). But are not accustomed to an overhead heat source and no light. One of the two light sources needs to be on at least 14 hours a day to simulate a normal day length. While heat is important to a tortoises activity, so are the length of daylight and the intensity of light. Russian tortoises should have a differential temperature of 15-20 between daytime and night. So unless your apartment temperature drops below 55-60 degrees at night there is no need for night time heat. Ambient daytime temperatures should be in the range of 75-85 degrees. Basking temperature directly under the light source for an adult Russian should be 100-110 degrees with the bulb mounted at least 12" away (or farther).

Generally speaking, adult wild caught Russian tortoises aren't normally fond of being in water and aren't usually big drinkers. If you are filling a water dish at night and it's gone by morning it's extremely doubtful that your tortoise is drinking it. Especially at night. Either another family pet is drinking it, it's being dumped by the tortoise in the early morning if the tortoise is active. More than likely it's probably evaporating overnight. Ambient indoor humidity is typically low during the winter. This would also make sense if you were keeping the heat source on in the enclosure at night too. If your tortoise has suddenly changed it's habit of not caring for water and is now soaking and drinking much more I would say that it's environment is much too dry. It's important to know what your humidity level is within the tortoise's enclosure and ambient level within the room the enclosure is located in. It should be in the range of 50-70% within the enclosure. Although Russian tortoises come of a very dry environment in nature they also have ability to retreat to burrows in the ground where the humidity level is higher. This is difficult to accurately replicate in captivity so the compromise is to raise the ambient humidity level some and provide humid hide boxes. This satisfies the tortoises need to escape the dry heat absorb (or retain) body moisture.

Feeding amounts and frequencies is always debated topic here. Everyone has their own methods that work for them. Much of the amount and frequency can be based on the tortoises activity level and the amount of space it has to be active. Temperatures also play a role in food consumption & digestion. Higher temperatures (too a point) will usually cause a tortoise to be more active. Higher humidity (again to a point), light duration and intensity also play a role in activity levels. As do cagemates and human interaction. Feeding once a day is probably fine in most cases. I wouldn't be too concerned about the time it takes for your tortoise to consume the food. Some tortoises will eat everything in front of them, others will eat some and come back again and again throughout the day. The latter is actually the more "normal" activity for most tortoises species. Russians, along with the majority of other species are considered browsers. They eat a little bit and rest, come back later and do it again. Or they will eat a little in one area, move to another spot and do it again over and over. They don't typically sit at one spot and completely consume everything in site. Unfortunately, in captivity that is usually how they are fed simply because it fits our human schedules to do so. Sometimes there is no getting around that. Once they become accustomed to food being there in a big pile and then disappearing for a good part of their day they begin to develop the routine of eating everything in sight until it's gone. Soem tortoises will naturally do that anyway. They do so because they have a built in instinct to eat what is in front of them not always knowing when the next meal will present itself. Many people put a large amount of food in their tortoise enclosure in the morning and take the empty plate out at night. I believe in feeding a good quality diet as wide and varied as possible. Russian tortoises are "designed" to consume and digest rough, somewhat dry greens that are usually low in nutrients in the wild. In captivity they usually get fed a diet that is far richer than they would encounter in the wild. Personally I would feed a diet that is about 80-85% greens and the rest good quality varied vegetables like squash, pumpkin, some carrot, yams and so on. I would not feed any true fruits like apple, banana, grapes etc... They are the type of foods that a Russian tortoise is not designed to digest. I would resist the food begging too. It's a learned recognition, your tortoise now associates your with food. It's a very common association with tortoises in captivity. It doesn't necessarily mean that your tortoise is starving, just that it now knows where the food comes from!
Food quality is a given. Food quantity should be based on activity level. Activity level will be based mainly on heat, light and enclosure space. Water intake is very important to maintain body hydration. Ambient air humidity, moisture content of the substrate and drinking water all contribute to body hydration.

If you haven't already, check out: www.russiantortoise.org
 

pdrobber

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Hi,
what pet store did you buy your tortoise from? a petco or a chain store 4.5 inch tortoise could be an adult, definitely more than a few years old. But hey, they live pretty long so does it really matter?

I kept my Russian in bins like that for years, I recently upgraded her to a bookcase about 2'X4'.

I'm not sure if anyone addressed letting your tortoise out around the apartment. I'm not sure how you're gauging how much the tortoise "likes" or "enjoys" it...walking around or moving around quickly might possibly and probably mean that it's looking for cover (which you say it does, when it settles in one place after awhile) because it's unfamiliar and uncomfortable with it's surroundings. Even if your floor is clear of things that can be swallowed, and you live off the ground floor so your floor isn't too cold, the hard floor with strange objects is not normal to the tortoise, it is scared and looking to get away from where it is (even if it looks "happy" because it's moving around how it does when it sees you coming with food)

Russians are pretty good with dealing with night time temp drops (to about 60, from daytime basking 100-110) but if you prefer or think the temps could go below, you could get a ceramic heat emitter and keep it on at night or 24/7.

You use coco coir, I do too, but I find when it's damp as it should be, it sticks a lot to food and the tortoise. I mix it with cypress to cut down on the sticking.

The water may be being displaced by the tortoise's body if it's in there often. I don't think it's drinking all of the water, or it's all evaporating. In the winter, humidity in the home is down and heat is up. Warmer air can hold more moisture. More evaporation will take place to fill that potential for humidity in the air. The water is the dish could be evaporating at a rapid rate but not all THAT fast.

Feeding is twice a day for mine, a clump of greens somewhere between the size of my fist and the size of my tortoise.
 
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