The Russian tortoise is the most popular tortoise pet. They are small so they are easy to keep in apartments and dormitories. The length of a tortoise is measured from the carapace. As hatchlings, they measure 1 inch in length so pet stores can carry many of them. However, almost all Russian tortoises in the US are imported. They are cheap pets to buy and keep. When buying a Russian tortoise, look for one with bright eyes.
Russian tortoises are also more active than other tortoises, making them a more enjoyable pet. They enjoy eating and moving around. If they are allowed to burrow they can be kept outdoors. The Russian Tortoise can withstand temperature extremes when burrowed. Russian tortoises prefer to be left outdoors in warm weather.
Female Russian tortoises are larger than male Russian tortoises. When a female reaches 6 inches long, she is mature. She can produce eggs at this stage. Males tend to have longer tails generally tucked to the side; females have a short, fat tail. Russian tortoises are usually imported when they are young adults at 4 to 5 inches in carapace length. Russian tortoises lay eggs. The male Russian tortoise courts a female through head bobbing, circling, and biting her forelegs.
Russian tortoises eat a lot for their size. Variety in their diet is key. They prefer broad leafed veggies. Kale, lettuce, turnip tops to name a few. Do not give them fruit. They also love dandelions. You will have to quarantine sections if allowed to graze because they will eat plants down to nothing fast. They enjoy eating plants and weeds, but will not eat grass unless there is no other option.
The best way to keep a Russian tortoise is outside in a 2 foot by 4 foot enclosure with a foot of it underground so they don’t burrow out. They like shady grass to keep cool and if you can make a burrow box underground they will be happier. Russian tortoises file their nails on rocks so make sure to put some in their enclosure.
Russian tortoises reach a maximum length of 8 to 10 inches. Females being the 10 inch and males the 8 inch.
Russian tortoises will hibernate underground all winter but if left inside at a stable temperature they will not. However, they do not need to hibernate. If kept indoors they should have a spot where they can get warm by a light.They do need a UVB light if kept indoors.
Many people use large rubbermaid containers as a terrarium. Tortoises will try to walk out of a glass terrarium. A mix of 50/50 sand/topsoil is a good starting place. They like a little tiny bit of moisture just so it is not dusty. The water needs to be changed daily as they love to dirty it up. You can use coconut fiber or peat moss. Make sure it is deep enough for them to burrow in.
They need water to drink but keep it in a shallow bowl because they will climb in themselves and defecate in it and take a bath. Soak them 10-15 minutes a week to rehydrate.They are prone to get respiratory infections if they can’t dry out though.
Russian tortoises need heat but also a place to hide from the heat. One area should be 90 degrees and another 70 degrees with a sturdy wood box to hide in. Turn off all the lights at night. You should be monitoring temperature and also humidity. It should stay at 60% humidity in their terrarium.
If you want more than one tortoise, make sure there is only one male per enclosure. Russian tortoises are aggressive with other species and males are aggressive to other males. Make sure you give each tortoise a hiding spot to. Whether it is a large rock or a wooden hiding box, they need a little space from each other some times.
In conclusion, Russian tortoises are a great starter pet and if you take care of them right they will live to be 40 years old. You can mate them when the female is 4-5 inches long and they are full grown at 8-10 inches long. They love to burrow, keep warm and be left alone.