When setting up a habitat for your Russian tortoise, it is important to consider whether your pet will be kept outdoors or indoors. In either situation, it is important to include bedding material which will provide your tortoise with footing and temperature regulation.
Bedding can include the following:
- Timothy hay
- Wood chips
- Pine bark mulch
- Cypress mulch
- Aspen bedding
It is best to mix several of these types of bedding together and important to note that picking just one type is not recommended. These supplies may be purchased from a pet store, landscaping supplier or home improvement retailer. Buying from a professional establishment will ensure you have high quality product. These supplies may also be found in nature, but use caution if you choose to acquire the bedding for a tortoise this way: contamination of the materials with animal excrement, pesticides, chemicals, and debris is highly probable. If you choose to include bedding from nature, make sure to examine it carefully and wash it thoroughly.
The most important part of any habitat is that it has minimal ground moisture, so ensure the outside habitat has adequate drainage to keep the ground dry. This will both replicate the natural habitat of the Russian tortoise, as well as prevent issues arising with the plastron (bottom of the shell) or respiratory problems.
A benefit of choosing outdoor housing for your Russian tortoise is that it requires less cleaning to remove soiled bedding substrate and droppings. Cleaning can occur on an as-needed basis; simply scoop out the soiled material and replace the substrate.
Be sure to address elevation change within the habitat. Dirt mounds can be formed if they are not already present. This can be done using a shovel or rake to redistribute soil to make a more uneven terrain. Each dirt mound should be 7-20 cm high and have a gradual slope so that your pet will be able to climb up and down with ease. Ensure that there are no ditches within the enclosure. Another material that can be used to create elevation changes are rocks. Russian tortoises love to climb, so you can include other items throughout the habitat that can be climbed on. Use caution when including these items to make sure that the height and slope are not so extreme as to cause your tortoise will not be injured or roll onto his back.
As mentioned above, the bedding of a habitat can be a combination of several materials. For indoor habitats, one additional example that can be used as part of a mix is shredded newspaper.Indoor habitats require more frequent maintenance. Daily inspection and cleaning should include removal of soiled material, and replacement of bedding, as well as refilling water and food. This may be done every second day at the maximum. In addition, several times a week the entire enclosure should be cleaned with a disinfectant, including the water dish and food area.
To simulate the tortoise’s natural habitat, create elevation changes by pushing the bedding into mounds, ensuring the slopes are not too extreme. In an indoor enclosure, try to do one to three mounds, including one next to the heat lamp which will act as a basking spot.
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