Russian Tortoise worrying me

Drslothington

New Member
Joined
Aug 26, 2019
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
Louisville, KY
Hello! I've been reading for quite a while on this forum but have reached a point where I haven't found any information that would apply directly to my situation. I bought our russian tortoise Terry from a local pet shop chain two or three months ago. They told me that Terry was captive bred, but i'm not sure if this was true or not. Anyway, when we first got Terry she was in a small enclosure until i could build her a table. She was fairly shy, although she ate regularly. I built the largest table that we could fit in our room for her out of melamine board, it is about 4ftx4ft. Terry herself is pretty small, at maybe 3.5 or 4 inches.

Her lighting setup and temps: One basking bulb next to an 18inch UVB tube in the corner, temp under basking bulb 100F

One 125W mercury vapor bulb over the middle of the enclosure, temp under it about 75-80F. Cool side about 70-75 in daytime, night time 65-70F. She has a half log hide and enough substrate to completely bury herself which she does sometimes in the corners. There are also several live plants in the enclosure she likes to get underneath.

I bathe her once a week in warm water treated with reptisafe. Aside from that, she has constant access to water in the form of a plate in her enclosure that I keep full of water. It is shallow, but easily deep enough for her to drink from.

Substrate used was coco coir with Reptibark on top, and I generally moisten it fairly regularly so it's not completely dry, but I do not keep it wet. We feed her collard greens, dandelion greens, turnip and mustard greens, wheatgrass, an occasional carrot, radicchio, rapini, just a general mix of leafy greens.

We did have a coiled CF light bulb (not the UV kind, just a normal household lightbulb) pointed in her general direction to provide more overall light to the area, until I read that these bulbs are harmful and i immediately got rid of it. I don't know if the normal household kind of CF bulbs are also dangerous, but if they are, I am not sure if her eyes were hurt. From what i can tell she can still see fine, she reacts to things around her normally and looks at me disapprovingly when i give her a bath.

My problem, really, is just her behavior. When we first put her in the new enclosure she was rambunctious, waking us up early in the morning crashing into stuff and climbing around. Lately, she just doesn't move. She will bury herself and stay there for days, until I eventually bring her out and put her under her lamp and then in front of her food. Two days ago she seemed to eat fairly well, but I have not seen her poop in weeks. She used to poop during her bath, but I have not seen anything. It's possible she pooped somewhere in her substrate that I just don't see, but I don't think so. She has peed with healthy looking urate, but that is it. She generally just seems to dislike being put in the heat lamp and will immediately try to go hide. Is she just scared of me to the point of hiding for days, am I worrying too much? I tend to overthink problems with my pets because I want them to be healthy and happy, but she just does not seem to be in good shape compared to how she was just a month or so ago. She also seems to be walking differently, with almost a hitch in her step. In the past couple days she seems to be rubbing her head against her arm as if there is something there bothering her, but I do not see anything at all and have bathed her twice in the past couple days to try to help if there was dirt bothering her.

I'm open to any suggestions to improve her situation. I'm really worried about her and want to make sure I'm doing everything i can here.
 

Blackdog1714

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2018
Messages
4,088
Location (City and/or State)
Richmond, VA
Please add pictures of your tortoise and the enclosure so we may help you. Also my Russian loved to dig in and hide till I pulled him out. Even does in the outdoor enclosure
 

Drslothington

New Member
Joined
Aug 26, 2019
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
Louisville, KY
20190826_180310.jpg 20190826_180310.jpg 20190826_180310.jpg 20190720_125835.jpg 20190810_152710.jpg

I dont have any super recent pictures of Terry, those are from July 20th, and August 10th.

Edit: sorry for posting same pic 3x, am on mobile
 

Truemanfoo

New Member
Joined
Aug 12, 2019
Messages
17
Location (City and/or State)
San Clemente, CA
HI there, I am having the same trouble too. My tortoise wants nothing to do with the basking area and immediately goes into his log after he eats. He never just 'hangs out' in his house, he is always hidden. I have yet to get anyone to respond to my thread :(
 

Drslothington

New Member
Joined
Aug 26, 2019
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
Louisville, KY
Yeah, cant get a reply here either. I'm going to make a vet's appointment, as she has currently not moved much in over a week. From what I can tell reading the care sheets, I've got good temps, lighting setups, food, substrate, etc. She just literally wont move a muscle for days at a time.
 

Shelwats

New Member
Joined
Sep 18, 2016
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
Carmel, California
Hello! I've been reading for quite a while on this forum but have reached a point where I haven't found any information that would apply directly to my situation. I bought our russian tortoise Terry from a local pet shop chain two or three months ago. They told me that Terry was captive bred, but i'm not sure if this was true or not. Anyway, when we first got Terry she was in a small enclosure until i could build her a table. She was fairly shy, although she ate regularly. I built the largest table that we could fit in our room for her out of melamine board, it is about 4ftx4ft. Terry herself is pretty small, at maybe 3.5 or 4 inches.

Her lighting setup and temps: One basking bulb next to an 18inch UVB tube in the corner, temp under basking bulb 100F

One 125W mercury vapor bulb over the middle of the enclosure, temp under it about 75-80F. Cool side about 70-75 in daytime, night time 65-70F. She has a half log hide and enough substrate to completely bury herself which she does sometimes in the corners. There are also several live plants in the enclosure she likes to get underneath.

I bathe her once a week in warm water treated with reptisafe. Aside from that, she has constant access to water in the form of a plate in her enclosure that I keep full of water. It is shallow, but easily deep enough for her to drink from.

Substrate used was coco coir with Reptibark on top, and I generally moisten it fairly regularly so it's not completely dry, but I do not keep it wet. We feed her collard greens, dandelion greens, turnip and mustard greens, wheatgrass, an occasional carrot, radicchio, rapini, just a general mix of leafy greens.

We did have a coiled CF light bulb (not the UV kind, just a normal household lightbulb) pointed in her general direction to provide more overall light to the area, until I read that these bulbs are harmful and i immediately got rid of it. I don't know if the normal household kind of CF bulbs are also dangerous, but if they are, I am not sure if her eyes were hurt. From what i can tell she can still see fine, she reacts to things around her normally and looks at me disapprovingly when i give her a bath.

My problem, really, is just her behavior. When we first put her in the new enclosure she was rambunctious, waking us up early in the morning crashing into stuff and climbing around. Lately, she just doesn't move. She will bury herself and stay there for days, until I eventually bring her out and put her under her lamp and then in front of her food. Two days ago she seemed to eat fairly well, but I have not seen her poop in weeks. She used to poop during her bath, but I have not seen anything. It's possible she pooped somewhere in her substrate that I just don't see, but I don't think so. She has peed with healthy looking urate, but that is it. She generally just seems to dislike being put in the heat lamp and will immediately try to go hide. Is she just scared of me to the point of hiding for days, am I worrying too much? I tend to overthink problems with my pets because I want them to be healthy and happy, but she just does not seem to be in good shape compared to how she was just a month or so ago. She also seems to be walking differently, with almost a hitch in her step. In the past couple days she seems to be rubbing her head against her arm as if there is something there bothering her, but I do not see anything at all and have bathed her twice in the past couple days to try to help if there was dirt bothering her.

I'm open to any suggestions to improve her situation. I'm really worried about her and want to make sure I'm doing everything i can here.
Hello! I've been reading for quite a while on this forum but have reached a point where I haven't found any information that would apply directly to my situation. I bought our russian tortoise Terry from a local pet shop chain two or three months ago. They told me that Terry was captive bred, but i'm not sure if this was true or not. Anyway, when we first got Terry she was in a small enclosure until i could build her a table. She was fairly shy, although she ate regularly. I built the largest table that we could fit in our room for her out of melamine board, it is about 4ftx4ft. Terry herself is pretty small, at maybe 3.5 or 4 inches.

Her lighting setup and temps: One basking bulb next to an 18inch UVB tube in the corner, temp under basking bulb 100F

One 125W mercury vapor bulb over the middle of the enclosure, temp under it about 75-80F. Cool side about 70-75 in daytime, night time 65-70F. She has a half log hide and enough substrate to completely bury herself which she does sometimes in the corners. There are also several live plants in the enclosure she likes to get underneath.

I bathe her once a week in warm water treated with reptisafe. Aside from that, she has constant access to water in the form of a plate in her enclosure that I keep full of water. It is shallow, but easily deep enough for her to drink from.

Substrate used was coco coir with Reptibark on top, and I generally moisten it fairly regularly so it's not completely dry, but I do not keep it wet. We feed her collard greens, dandelion greens, turnip and mustard greens, wheatgrass, an occasional carrot, radicchio, rapini, just a general mix of leafy greens.

We did have a coiled CF light bulb (not the UV kind, just a normal household lightbulb) pointed in her general direction to provide more overall light to the area, until I read that these bulbs are harmful and i immediately got rid of it. I don't know if the normal household kind of CF bulbs are also dangerous, but if they are, I am not sure if her eyes were hurt. From what i can tell she can still see fine, she reacts to things around her normally and looks at me disapprovingly when i give her a bath.

My problem, really, is just her behavior. When we first put her in the new enclosure she was rambunctious, waking us up early in the morning crashing into stuff and climbing around. Lately, she just doesn't move. She will bury herself and stay there for days, until I eventually bring her out and put her under her lamp and then in front of her food. Two days ago she seemed to eat fairly well, but I have not seen her poop in weeks. She used to poop during her bath, but I have not seen anything. It's possible she pooped somewhere in her substrate that I just don't see, but I don't think so. She has peed with healthy looking urate, but that is it. She generally just seems to dislike being put in the heat lamp and will immediately try to go hide. Is she just scared of me to the point of hiding for days, am I worrying too much? I tend to overthink problems with my pets because I want them to be healthy and happy, but she just does not seem to be in good shape compared to how she was just a month or so ago. She also seems to be walking differently, with almost a hitch in her step. In the past couple days she seems to be rubbing her head against her arm as if there is something there bothering her, but I do not see anything at all and have bathed her twice in the past couple days to try to help if there was dirt bothering her.

I'm open to any suggestions to improve her situation. I'm really worried about her and want to make sure I'm doing everything i can here.



I wish I had an answer for you. I have had a similar problem and thought it would get better when I put Alice in our enclosed garden for the summer, like we have done the last 4 years we've had her. What concerns me is that she keeps burying herself - deeply! It has not been as warm as normal, so this may be the problem? I had taped a ribbon to her shell so I can find her, but she managed to dig in so deep it came off. She went in under a 25 gallon bag and buried so deep I have no idea where she is. Last week I pulled her out of a hole that was at least 10-12" deep. How can they even breathe? I am sick that she is going to rot - she's been buried for about 5 days now. She never has liked baths and I've only seen her drink water once. Am torn between waiting - and tearing up the garden to find her. Just scared I might step on her or move something on top of her that she can't get out. Any ideas?
On the other hand, I am remembering last year when Alice as rubbing her head on her leg a lot. I finally noted a little piece of dirt or sawdust on her eyelid. Like you, I bathed her and eventually got the dirt off her eye. It wasn't easy because she pulls into her shell if I touch her face. It sounds like you are doing everything right. Please keep me posted.
I have had many kinds of animal friends. This is the strangest ever for me.
 

Sleppo

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 28, 2018
Messages
406
Location (City and/or State)
Philadelphia, PA
Activity is usually always related to temps and enclosure. I am not a vet and have only had my 2 Russians for the last 3 years so this is solely based on my experience only not scientific research. Russians need a lot of room, in the wild they walk miles in a single day. I just recently built a massive outdoor enclosure for mine and I can tell you they are 100% more active outside with the larger space. The walking around also aids in digestion. I would re-analyze your specs and make changes to see if you can right this on your own. Good luck all!
 

Bigred1974

Member
Joined
May 18, 2019
Messages
30
Location (City and/or State)
Manchester England
Our tortoise Crystal has been much better active wise since we made the tortoise table warmer from an idea from a member on here. We have currently put tin foil over the table until the Perspex is made for the table. Is has really improved her activity -a lot! She now wakes up each morning and does have to be woken, will go straight over to her basking spot until we get her fresh greens to feed her. We have even noticed her dipping her toes in her water dish which she didn't do before. She will then move around for a good hour before deciding where to sleep. She then wakes again around 4 pm and she will like a bath for 20 minutes. We live in England and so she will be spending more time inside from now on so I am glad from the advice on here, we are getting it right after 3 months of having her. She has slight pyramiding as well which now she is with us, we hope to correct. Good luck but I think the temps/humidity/nutrition and substrate is definitely a big contributor to their success! Here's a photo of Crystal. IMG_4689.JPG IMG_4690.JPG IMG_4689.JPG IMG_4689.JPG IMG_4690.JPG
 

Drslothington

New Member
Joined
Aug 26, 2019
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
Louisville, KY
Our tortoise Crystal has been much better active wise since we made the tortoise table warmer from an idea from a member on here. We have currently put tin foil over the table until the Perspex is made for the table. Is has really improved her activity -a lot! She now wakes up each morning and does have to be woken, will go straight over to her basking spot until we get her fresh greens to feed her. We have even noticed her dipping her toes in her water dish which she didn't do before. She will then move around for a good hour before deciding where to sleep. She then wakes again around 4 pm and she will like a bath for 20 minutes. We live in England and so she will be spending more time inside from now on so I am glad from the advice on here, we are getting it right after 3 months of having her. She has slight pyramiding as well which now she is with us, we hope to correct. Good luck but I think the temps/humidity/nutrition and substrate is definitely a big contributor to their success!


I am really skeptical that temperature or enclosure size is the sole issue here. I am not at all experienced in tortoise care, but I think if I get her any warmer it would be too much. What is Crystal's shell temp during the day?

Since my post I have taken a few steps to try to make things better. First and foremost I took her to a local exotic vet. The vet took some x-rays and said there was an area on the x-ray that looked a little suspicious, but she was not sure what that was on there, and I havent been able to find any information online either way to figure out what the xray could mean. She also said that Terry's front side looked a little swollen. I've attached a picture of the xray if anyone has experience with looking at them.

Yesterday I completely changed the substrate in her enclosure during her (extended) bathtime, and she did perk up a little bit and ran around for a little bit checking things out. She also passed urate while she was bathing. She can move around much easier on the newer substrate ( coco coir / cypress mulch mix) so I'm hopeful it will make things better.
 

Attachments

  • 20190905_171444.jpg
    20190905_171444.jpg
    1 MB · Views: 18
  • 20190907_211212.jpg
    20190907_211212.jpg
    928.5 KB · Views: 17

Bigred1974

Member
Joined
May 18, 2019
Messages
30
Location (City and/or State)
Manchester England
Sounds like your trying everything. Like you I was just waiting and hoping to see change to which I did. They are complex little things but have great characters.
 

Blackdog1714

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2018
Messages
4,088
Location (City and/or State)
Richmond, VA
Would recommend keeping up the soaks to keep her very hydrated. Don't know if that was a tiny stone or not. Hope someone can assist with that. Also Russian's are very prickly Tort's but that is why they are so beloved.
 

DARKFIRE007

Active Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2018
Messages
243
Location (City and/or State)
Birmingham Alabama
The distance on that lamp looks suspect to me, either so far away it isn't providing a good basking temp or so powerful that even at that height it is causing the whole enclosure to be too hot in turn causing the tort to seek a cooler area. I would take readings with a temp gun all over the enclosure, make sure the basking area is hot enough and the rest of the enclosure isn't too hot. Also change up your orientation, they DO get bored, mine get really active when I change up the furniture.
 

Drslothington

New Member
Joined
Aug 26, 2019
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
Louisville, KY
The distance on that lamp looks suspect to me, either so far away it isn't providing a good basking temp or so powerful that even at that height it is causing the whole enclosure to be too hot in turn causing the tort to seek a cooler area. I would take readings with a temp gun all over the enclosure, make sure the basking area is hot enough and the rest of the enclosure isn't too hot. Also change up your orientation, they DO get bored, mine get really active when I change up the furniture.

Basking temp right underneath is 100F,
The general area is about 85F daytime, with cooler areas about 75. Overnight about 60-70. Temp underneath the mercury vapor (the one higher up in the center) is about 85. Those are all with laser thermometer readings.
 

Attachments

  • 1568482351100712743509404843681.jpg
    1568482351100712743509404843681.jpg
    1.4 MB · Views: 10
  • 15684823894708388132952713911080.jpg
    15684823894708388132952713911080.jpg
    1.2 MB · Views: 11

Ray--Opo

Well-Known Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Oct 14, 2017
Messages
5,258
Location (City and/or State)
Palm Bay Fl
Basking temp right underneath is 100F,
The general area is about 85F daytime, with cooler areas about 75. Overnight about 60-70. Temp underneath the mercury vapor (the one higher up in the center) is about 85. Those are all with laser thermometer readings.
Welcome I am not a Russian owner I have a sulcata. When taking the temp at the basking area. Get a stone about the same height as Terry and leave it there for a hr. Then take the temp of the rock. You will be surprised of the temp a few inches closer to the heat supply .
Also since you haven't seen much poop do you notice a dark ring around Terry's mouth?You might have a poop eater. My sully when young was a poop eater.
Did you read the care sheet for Russians here on TFO?
I can't think of a member who has Russians but maybe @Yvonne G or @Tom can guide you to a Russian owner.
Good luck!
 

Drslothington

New Member
Joined
Aug 26, 2019
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
Louisville, KY
Welcome I am not a Russian owner I have a sulcata. When taking the temp at the basking area. Get a stone about the same height as Terry and leave it there for a hr. Then take the temp of the rock. You will be surprised of the temp a few inches closer to the heat supply .
Also since you haven't seen much poop do you notice a dark ring around Terry's mouth?You might have a poop eater. My sully when young was a poop eater.
Did you read the care sheet for Russians here on TFO?
I can't think of a member who has Russians but maybe @Yvonne G or @Tom can guide you to a Russian owner.
Good luck!


That's true, it surely is hotter at shell height than on the slate. Her mouth looks fairly dark (theres a pic above of her face if you can kind of see) so it is possible, but I'm not sure. She typically would poop during her baths but has not for probably closing in on a month now.

I did read the care sheets before we purchased Terry.

I do have some good news though. Her behavior hasnt really changed much (she wont do anything at all on her own accord I have to make her move) but, after her daily bath I offered her a big pile of dandelion greens and she absolutely voraciously devoured them. There has been fresh food continually available to her but shes shown zero interest until then. She just about ate it all and I felt a huge sense of relief that she'd at least eaten something. Ive never seen her beat that pile of lettuce up like that! Hopefully she's on the road back to running around causing mischief...
 

Blackdog1714

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2018
Messages
4,088
Location (City and/or State)
Richmond, VA
As long as your temps, humidity, and soaks are dialed in then maybe your tort was feeling bleah ! Just like people we have good weeks and bad weeks! It not like you have a show tortoise![emoji41]
 

Ray--Opo

Well-Known Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Oct 14, 2017
Messages
5,258
Location (City and/or State)
Palm Bay Fl
There is always the soaking with baby food carrot puree . Many members have suggested that to get vitamins into them.
 

Drslothington

New Member
Joined
Aug 26, 2019
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
Louisville, KY
There is always the soaking with baby food carrot puree . Many members have suggested that to get vitamins into them.
I'm not familiar with that. I have seen commercially available electrolyte/vitamin liquid to add to water but I'm guessing Terry would much prefer carrots. How much should I add in? Just in a pile in the water in front of her?
 

TammyJ

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2016
Messages
3,093
Location (City and/or State)
Jamaica
HI there, I am having the same trouble too. My tortoise wants nothing to do with the basking area and immediately goes into his log after he eats. He never just 'hangs out' in his house, he is always hidden. I have yet to get anyone to respond to my thread :(
Sometimes replies take a while coming but when they do they are worth the wait, as we have some fantastic experienced folks on this site.
It seems to me that the problem may be that your humidity is not at the correct level and the whole setup is too dry, and you need to soak your tortoise in warm water daily, not once per week. But I hope you will soon get a more detailed response from more experienced people than I as I do not know much about Russian tortoises. Anyone?
 

Ray--Opo

Well-Known Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Oct 14, 2017
Messages
5,258
Location (City and/or State)
Palm Bay Fl
I'm not familiar with that. I have seen commercially available electrolyte/vitamin liquid to add to water but I'm guessing Terry would much prefer carrots. How much should I add in? Just in a pile in the water in front of her?
I have never had to do it but have read numerous threads where it was suggested and worked. You want to mix it up in the water so if they drink some it will help. Let's see if @Yvonne G will chime in.
In the meantime I will look for a old thread with the info.
 
TortoiseSupply.com

New Posts

Top