Russian tortoises are great pets for those with limited space as their adult size is 8-10 inches. They are active, alert and can withstand temperature extremes when living outdoors.
Most Russian tortoises are imported to the U.S. as young adults, having been caught in the wild. The lifespan of a Russian tortoise is 40 years and more which means a long commitment to the care and well-being of these creatures.
In warm climates the Russian tortoise can live outdoors in an enclosure. The sides of the enclosure must be set 6-12 inches in the ground to prevent digging and escape. The walls should be at least 12 inches high above ground. The tortoises like to burrow and will dig their way underground to escape extreme temperatures. Placing large rocks in corners of the enclosure under the soil will help minimize digging. Sturdy boxes placed in the ground will provide safe, insulated areas for the tortoise avoiding most burrowing.
Russian tortoises enjoy a diet of plants and will eat whichever ones are available to them, so check that all are safe and non-toxic.
Indoors, Russian tortoises can be housed in a plastic container of at least 5 square feet and 8 inches high or more. A mixture of dirt and sand with some peat moss can be used as floor covering.
While Russian tortoises living outdoors will hibernate during winter months, those kept indoors at temperatures between 60-90 degrees fahrenheit do not hibernate.
Placing rocks in the enclosure allow the tortoises to climb which they enjoy. They must have a UVB light over the enclosure which helps them process calcium. Lights and heat should be kept on for 12-14 hours a day and can be turned off at night.
The tortoise’s diet consists mainly of lots of leafy greens – non-toxic weeds from outdoors such as dandelion and clover supplemented with dark lettuce leaves, turnip and collard greens, kale, veggies. They have large appetites and should be offered a variety.
Small, low-sided water dishes can be provided. But be aware that they will use the dishes as toilets.
Russian tortoises do not enjoy being handled, so keep it at a minimum. And always supervise children with these pets. Take care to see that they are not dropped. Let the tortoises do their thing on their own – you will find them very entertaining.