Russian Tortoise – Care Guide & Prices

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We cannot tell you how much fun you’d be investing in!

If you have always thought tortoises were slow, drab creatures that could add no fun quotient to your household, let us enlighten you about this feisty species of tortoise. 

Russian tortoise or Testudo horsfieldii is a wonderfully popular pet and so readily available at the most pet stores that we would be surprised if your pet dealer has not already recommended them to you. 

They are small in size, and that is why they are a welcome guest, even in more modest homes. They are very active and alert, and they love to eat. Well, Umm.

Prices:

You could look to buy a Russian tortoise for a little as $80 and $200 on the highest side. The costs can fluctuate so much that you should not freeze at one but have a dekko first at a few places before buying it. The difference in price can be attributed to 

  • The location that it originates if caught from wild and imported
  • The way it is bred if bred in captivity

Most of the Russian tortoises are imported. This is because breeding is very low here. Most of the captive-bred tortoises are not raised to reach adulthood and are sold off for cheap.

Russian tortoise desert

They are cute palm-sized pets!

At birth, they are only 1 inch in carapace length and can grow to a maximum of 8 to 10 inches only. The average size is, however, conservatively pegged at 6 inches. You will very rarely come across a Russian tortoise that is 8 inches or more in carapace length in captivity.

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The female tortoise is much more giant than the male (you go, girl), and by the time she is 6 inches in carapace length, she is ready to produce eggs. Adolescent tortoises are about 4 to 5 inches in diameter.

Life span:

Russian tortoises can be companions for life. If you look after them well and raise them on a high fiber diet and in a stress-free environment, they can live longer than that. 

Russian tortoises are burrowers by nature:

If you are living in warmer climes, then the best place for you to set up an enclosure for your Russian tortoises is in the open. Outside, a pen of 2 feet by 4 feet will be comfortable enough for a couple of tortoises. 

Russian tortoises regularly attempt to dig the ground and go underground to insulate themselves from temperature extremes. They may also burrow the ground against the cage. Therefore, set large rocks under the soil in all the four corners of the café to prevent the tortoises from digging out the cage. 

The cage must be set at least 10 to 12 inches inside the ground, and it must be a minimum of one foot above the ground. The cage must be built on a grassy turf so that it regulates moisture and helps it to stay calm.

If you grow plants, then don’t expect them to stay intact with the Russian tortoise at large. They love munching on large-leaved plants and weeds. They can eat any plant that is easily accessible to them, even grass, if that is the only option left in the end. It is a good idea to check on the plants so that they do not end up consuming toxic or poisonous plants. 

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Russian tortoise

What can you do for substratum?

It is easy peasy to create a solid substrate inside their enclosure, mix half measure of sand and dirt along with peat moss laying it inside the cage. You could even go in for coconut coir exclusively for a substrate. The problem with only dirt substrate is that the tortoises could slip, and their feet would dig inside. They cannot move about quickly.

These tortoises love climbing, consider splaying the cage with a good number of large but flat rocks that they can climb on and also eat their meals. The jagged edges of the rock can also be useful for them to file their nails.    

Remember to do all this to have a healthy tortoise in your immediate vicinity!

Russian tortoises that are kept in open cages in the lawn or the garden need to not worry about the fluctuations in temperature as they are naturally programmed to thermos regulate by burrowing and getting underground. Nothing is going to affect them whether the mercury shoots through the roof or is dipping at the lowest. 

Tortoises that you keep inside the homes may need to have an ambient temperature in the range of 60 and 80 F. Russian tortoises in the wild hibernate through the winter, but if you manage the right temperature for them, they will not even bother about it. The hibernating one goes in by fall and comes out only by mid-February.

During winters, keep the lights on for twelve to fourteen hours and make sure that their enclosure has an area that is exclusively heated with an overhead light. The temperature in the heated area must ideally be around 100F. 

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Russian tortoises are diurnal, and they need UVB light to synthesize calcium in their bodies. Night temperatures could be nippy at 50F, and the tortoises will not be affected much.

The nutrition and water needs:

Russian tortoises will chomp off any plant that is accessible to them in their enclosure. They are herbivores and will enthusiastically eat any variety of greens offered to them. Make sure you make their meals interesting by introducing and mixing varieties. 

Keep a shallow dish filled with water in one part of the enclosure. In summers, the water will need to be refilled often to ensure they do not get dehydrated. Winters can pass without much drinking. 

It’s a great idea to let your tortoise soak in water for a couple of times in a week for half hours. Younger babies can be soaked up to three times a week because they dry up faster than the adults. 

Handling:

Unless it is compulsory, avoid handling the tortoise as much as possible. They could be dropped by unsuspecting handlers and suffer much. Also, avoid pinning them on the ground. You respect them, and they will reward you with a very long time companionship. It’s a good deal, we think!

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