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Which Tortoise/ Land Turtle Should I Get?

MichaelL

Active Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2018
Messages
183
Location (City and/or State)
Ocala, Fl
So I have an extra outdoor pen, and some space indoors for the cold. I already have several Russians, and want to get something that is the opposite of them. Like something that has a different personality, different diet needs, etc. It has to stay small, because the enclosure is only about 6 by 5 feet.

In that enclosure, it is completely empty of any decor, except the grass/weeds that were already there. I can add ferns, plants, several inches of topsoil, hides etc. to create a microclimate. I can hose it down every day if I get a species that needs it more humid. Right now that area gets about 8-9 hours of direct sun during summer. However, shade can be added with plants if the species does not need direct sun.

So what is a good land turtle or tortoise species that has a diet slightly different than a russian, different shell coloration, different personality, but stays around the same size? Thank you for any suggestions!

IMG_1970.jpg
Btw the larger enclosure in the picture below is for the Russians, the one lower in the picture is the empty pen.
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MichaelL

Active Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2018
Messages
183
Location (City and/or State)
Ocala, Fl
Since your in Florida I vote Redfoot. I'm a little bias though.
I would LOVE a redfoot. I've always wanted one, but the size is the issue. I would have to make a completely different, larger pen as well as make a heated house for the cold days, since they're too big to make an indoor enclosure. If only they stayed smaller!
 

ZenHerper

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 27, 2020
Messages
242
Location (City and/or State)
New Jersey
Are box turtles legal in Florida? Because local types would not be bothered by the climate.

I would certainly do a lot of shade plantings, and some kind of shallow water feature.
 

MichaelL

Active Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2018
Messages
183
Location (City and/or State)
Ocala, Fl
Are box turtles legal in Florida? Because local types would not be bothered by the climate.

I would certainly do a lot of shade plantings, and some kind of shallow water feature.
I'm pretty sure they are legal, the only law I've heard about is not having more than two fl box turtles per person of the household, or buying one from someone in Florida. I would definitely want a box turtle. They have a similar diet to redfoots and I really want something that can have protein. They also look amazing. I rarely see the Florida ones, It makes my day if I see one. Which box turtle do you recommend?

Also, a lot of shade planting and a water feature would make it look amazing too!
 

ZenHerper

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 27, 2020
Messages
242
Location (City and/or State)
New Jersey
I'm pretty sure they are legal, the only law I've heard about is not having more than two fl box turtles per person of the household, or buying one from someone in Florida. I would definitely want a box turtle. They have a similar diet to redfoots and I really want something that can have protein. They also look amazing. I rarely see the Florida ones, It makes my day if I see one. Which box turtle do you recommend?

Also, a lot of shade planting and a water feature would make it look amazing too!
Yeah, contrary to rumor BTs do like to wet their feet, and some individuals will readily swim a shallow stream with ease.

Eastern and Three-Toed seem easiest to acclimate. I had an EBT as a child. It was brought to me WC by friends, missing an eye and a foot. He was a gentle, unafraid delight for more than 10 years (until my mother neglected him to death my first semester at university).

Ornate Box Turtles have the poorest rating for ease of keeping. But if you set yourself to be devoted to cracking the code, go for it! Look for CBs that are at least well-started and used to being handled. This might help prevent timidity and aggression (Ornates have a bitey rep).

Florida Box Turtles have a similar difficulty rating to Ornates (though they are taxonomically separate). But they are beauties! Again, the major Plus being they are native to your climate.
 

maggie18fan

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2018
Messages
557
Location (City and/or State)
Corvallis Oregon
Yeah, contrary to rumor BTs do like to wet their feet, and some individuals will readily swim a shallow stream with ease.

Eastern and Three-Toed seem easiest to acclimate. I had an EBT as a child. It was brought to me WC by friends, missing an eye and a foot. He was a gentle, unafraid delight for more than 10 years (until my mother neglected him to death my first semester at university).

Ornate Box Turtles have the poorest rating for ease of keeping. But if you set yourself to be devoted to cracking the code, go for it! Look for CBs that are at least well-started and used to being handled. This might help prevent timidity and aggression (Ornates have a bitey rep).

Florida Box Turtles have a similar difficulty rating to Ornates (though they are taxonomically separate). But they are beauties! Again, the major Plus being they are native to your climate.
I too, have heard that T.ornata ornata are hard to keep...That is not my experience...I currently keep ornata, eastern and 3 toed...all are extremely personable, easy keepers and the ornata are the best eaters. I have a large outdoor habitat with a deep pool that used to be for a large Sulcata...winters in they are kept in numerous large tortoise tables...example in the photos...
BTW...all of my turtles and tortoises are rescues or given to me already damaged. The Ornata in the close up is missing her left rear leg as an example...in fact...the humane soc in Bend Oregon called me saying they had received a male Russian tortoise who had his leg cut off by the gardener at the Mt Bachelor ski lodge. He had recovered but they didn't know how to care for him and would I come get him...so 250 miles later...I picked up a 3 legged female Ornata and brought her home...lol (secretly glad she wasn't a Russian)


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MichaelL

Active Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2018
Messages
183
Location (City and/or State)
Ocala, Fl
Yeah, contrary to rumor BTs do like to wet their feet, and some individuals will readily swim a shallow stream with ease.

Eastern and Three-Toed seem easiest to acclimate. I had an EBT as a child. It was brought to me WC by friends, missing an eye and a foot. He was a gentle, unafraid delight for more than 10 years (until my mother neglected him to death my first semester at university).

Ornate Box Turtles have the poorest rating for ease of keeping. But if you set yourself to be devoted to cracking the code, go for it! Look for CBs that are at least well-started and used to being handled. This might help prevent timidity and aggression (Ornates have a bitey rep).

Florida Box Turtles have a similar difficulty rating to Ornates (though they are taxonomically separate). But they are beauties! Again, the major Plus being they are native to your climate.
I guess I'll either get an Eastern or Florida. We'll see. Thanks!!
 

MichaelL

Active Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2018
Messages
183
Location (City and/or State)
Ocala, Fl
I too, have heard that T.ornata ornata are hard to keep...That is not my experience...I currently keep ornata, eastern and 3 toed...all are extremely personable, easy keepers and the ornata are the best eaters. I have a large outdoor habitat with a deep pool that used to be for a large Sulcata...winters in they are kept in numerous large tortoise tables...example in the photos...
BTW...all of my turtles and tortoises are rescues or given to me already damaged. The Ornata in the close up is missing her left rear leg as an example...in fact...the humane soc in Bend Oregon called me saying they had received a male Russian tortoise who had his leg cut off by the gardener at the Mt Bachelor ski lodge. He had recovered but they didn't know how to care for him and would I come get him...so 250 miles later...I picked up a 3 legged female Ornata and brought her home...lol (secretly glad she wasn't a Russian)


View attachment 288909View attachment 288911View attachment 288912View attachment 288913
Beautiful tortoises and enclosures! Thanks for the advice!
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
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Messages
47,083
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Michael, I think 5x6' is too small for any adult chelonian for an outside enclosure. They just need more room than that. That would be a good sunning pen size for babies, but too small for any adults.

You've got so much space there in that picture. Go BIG man!
 

MichaelL

Active Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2018
Messages
183
Location (City and/or State)
Ocala, Fl
Michael, I think 5x6' is too small for any adult chelonian for an outside enclosure. They just need more room than that. That would be a good sunning pen size for babies, but too small for any adults.

You've got so much space there in that picture. Go BIG man!
All right, yeah thanks! I was thinking it might be too small, as a Russians minimum is 4x8. I'll look into expanding it before I get anything, going bigger is always better and I have tons of space!
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
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Messages
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Location (City and/or State)
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All right, yeah thanks! I was thinking it might be too small, as a Russians minimum is 4x8. I'll look into expanding it before I get anything, going bigger is always better and I have tons of space!
I'm the one who came up with the 4x8' measurement years ago. Admittedly, it is arbitrary, but I needed an actual size to suggest to people. 4x8 is easy because anyone can get a standard sheet of plywood and screw some walls onto it. There is not a bank of scientific studies that have been done on tortoise enclosure size and its effects on our tortoises. I made that number up based on what I've seen over my lifetime and what I think works best. If someone keeps their tortoise in something a little smaller than that, its not the end of the world. If they use something double that size, it doesn't make their tortoise more healthy.

I just don't want you or anyone reading to think they need to go outside with a tape measure and make their pens exactly 4x8', and one inch smaller is a tragedy. 4x8' is just a useful guideline. A helpful suggestion. I do think bigger is better, and I do think going any smaller is getting a bit crowded, but this is just my "feelings" on the matter. There is a point at which an enclosure doesn't leave enough room for a tortoise to walk around with the food dish, water dish, hides and any furniture. Tortoises need locomotion to help with gut motility, similar to a horse, and smaller enclosures limit and discourage this walking. I think we can all agree that an adult Russian in a 40 gallon tank is too crowded. What I don't know that we can all ever agree on is exactly what size is too small, and exactly what size is "adequate".

Anyhow, just more explanation on where that number comes from, and why I say what I say on this matter. When it comes to enclosure size, I always tell people to GO BIG!!!
 

maggie18fan

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2018
Messages
557
Location (City and/or State)
Corvallis Oregon
Beautiful tortoises and enclosures! Thanks for the advice!
Thanks Michael...but they are not tortoises, they are box turtles...your area is too small for any tortoise (imo)...but might not be too small for a box turtle. Box turtles are very personable and out going...I suggested box turtles as your area is not the best...even 1 box turtle might not fit in your space...with all the space that I see, and where you live...might as well go bigger and get a Redfoot...You can also use boards for a pen, I use cinder block...that board in there laying flat floats when there is water in the pool, and the box turtles swim out to the board, then lay and bask on it...there, is where my box turtles live when they can go outside...here's my Sulcata outside pens. I have considerably less space than you do...but here I keep 3 tortoises and 15 box turtles...they all have enough room...019.JPG
 

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maggie18fan

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Joined
Jun 30, 2018
Messages
557
Location (City and/or State)
Corvallis Oregon
I would LOVE a redfoot. I've always wanted one, but the size is the issue. I would have to make a completely different, larger pen as well as make a heated house for the cold days, since they're too big to make an indoor enclosure. If only they stayed smaller!
Are you sure you'd need a heated hide for a Redfoot in your area? Does it get cold enough?
 

MichaelL

Active Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2018
Messages
183
Location (City and/or State)
Ocala, Fl
Thanks Michael...but they are not tortoises, they are box turtles...your area is too small for any tortoise (imo)...but might not be too small for a box turtle. Box turtles are very personable and out going...I suggested box turtles as your area is not the best...even 1 box turtle might not fit in your space...with all the space that I see, and where you live...might as well go bigger and get a Redfoot...You can also use boards for a pen, I use cinder block...that board in there laying flat floats when there is water in the pool, and the box turtles swim out to the board, then lay and bask on it...there, is where my box turtles live when they can go outside...here's my Sulcata outside pens. I have considerably less space than you do...but here I keep 3 tortoises and 15 box turtles...they all have enough room...View attachment 288960
Face palm😖 yeah of course, they are box turtles. I have no idea why I said tortoises haha, You also said it in the post above the pictures lol😅. Also, during the winter there are many nights in the 40s and 30s even, with daytimes in the 60s or 70s usually. So I would probably have to use a night box.Also, should I just upgrade and getwood boards or cinder blocks for the enclosures and make them way bigger? I'm kind of feeling that the rocks I have currently limit the size of the enclosure.
 

MichaelL

Active Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2018
Messages
183
Location (City and/or State)
Ocala, Fl
I'm the one who came up with the 4x8' measurement years ago. Admittedly, it is arbitrary, but I needed an actual size to suggest to people. 4x8 is easy because anyone can get a standard sheet of plywood and screw some walls onto it. There is not a bank of scientific studies that have been done on tortoise enclosure size and its effects on our tortoises. I made that number up based on what I've seen over my lifetime and what I think works best. If someone keeps their tortoise in something a little smaller than that, its not the end of the world. If they use something double that size, it doesn't make their tortoise more healthy.

I just don't want you or anyone reading to think they need to go outside with a tape measure and make their pens exactly 4x8', and one inch smaller is a tragedy. 4x8' is just a useful guideline. A helpful suggestion. I do think bigger is better, and I do think going any smaller is getting a bit crowded, but this is just my "feelings" on the matter. There is a point at which an enclosure doesn't leave enough room for a tortoise to walk around with the food dish, water dish, hides and any furniture. Tortoises need locomotion to help with gut motility, similar to a horse, and smaller enclosures limit and discourage this walking. I think we can all agree that an adult Russian in a 40 gallon tank is too crowded. What I don't know that we can all ever agree on is exactly what size is too small, and exactly what size is "adequate".

Anyhow, just more explanation on where that number comes from, and why I say what I say on this matter. When it comes to enclosure size, I always tell people to GO BIG!!!
Oh for sure, I also agree that that size is appropriate. Yeah, I won't be measuring exactly but I just use that as a helpful guide. I am starting to now think, should I just ditch those old rocks for the enclosures and go with wooden boards or cinder blocks, and make them way bigger.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
47,083
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Also, should I just upgrade and getwood boards or cinder blocks for the enclosures and make them way bigger? I'm kind of feeling that the rocks I have currently limit the size of the enclosure.
I vote yes. I also worry that a motivated tortoise, especially a Russian, could climb up the side of that like a ladder. I see you have the top covered, but those Russians can perform some magical feats of escapery. (I just made that word up! :) "Escapery". Spell check is mad at me now.)
 

MichaelL

Active Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2018
Messages
183
Location (City and/or State)
Ocala, Fl
I vote yes. I also worry that a motivated tortoise, especially a Russian, could climb up the side of that like a ladder. I see you have the top covered, but those Russians can perform some magical feats of escapery. (I just made that word up! :) "Escapery". Spell check is made at me now.)
Hahaha, I may just start using that word. Also, with all this time I might need to start planning a huge enclosure!
 

maggie18fan

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2018
Messages
557
Location (City and/or State)
Corvallis Oregon
Face palm😖 yeah of course, they are box turtles. I have no idea why I said tortoises haha, You also said it in the post above the pictures lol😅. Also, during the winter there are many nights in the 40s and 30s even, with daytimes in the 60s or 70s usually. So I would probably have to use a night box.Also, should I just upgrade and getwood boards or cinder blocks for the enclosures and make them way bigger? I'm kind of feeling that the rocks I have currently limit the size of the enclosure.
Remember...this is MY opinion and experience...I use cinder block...it's not pretty or fancy but they do the job, especially since I keep Sulcata...but with Redfoots they are normally not as destructive I think, so you might not have to use 3 high blocks...but Redfoorts maybe just one block high...015.JPG
 

maggie18fan

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2018
Messages
557
Location (City and/or State)
Corvallis Oregon
I vote yes. I also worry that a motivated tortoise, especially a Russian, could climb up the side of that like a ladder. I see you have the top covered, but those Russians can perform some magical feats of escapery. (I just made that word up! :) "Escapery". Spell check is mad at me now.)
I like that word, and it sure fits Russians...escape artists...
 
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