Marginated VS Russian Tortoise

The Marginated tortoise and the Russian tortoise are the most popular species of Mediterranean tortoise and caring for the two vary. For proper caring of the two species of tortoise, you need to know their differences. Here are the differences between Marginated and Russian tortoise.


Ultimate Comparison Table

Marginated TortoiseRussian Tortoise
Common Names:n/aThe central Asian tortoise or Horsfield’s tortoise
Scientific Name:Testudo MarginataAgrionemys horsfieldii or Testudo horsfieldii
GenusTestudoAgrionemys or Testudo
SpeciesT. marginataA. horsfieldii
OriginGreeceFound in most parts of Central Asia including Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan.
HistoryMarginated tortoise is a species of tortoise found in Italy, Greece, and the Balkans in southern Europe. It was also introduced into Turkey. It was formally described by German naturalist Johann D Schoepf in 1789. Its epithet ‘marginata’ is a derivation from Latin term ‘marginated.'The Russian tortoise in the easternmost among the tortoise collectively called Mediterranean tortoise. They are called so since their native ranges occur near the Mediterranean sea.
SizeMale surpass 14” while females top out about 10 to 12”.The hatchlings measure nearly 1 inch in carapace length and reaches a maximum length of about 8 to 10 inches on reaching maturity. Usually, females are a little larger than the male ones at full size. Finding Russian tortoise greater than 6 inches long is difficult.
Agecaptivity lifespan is more than 20 yearsCan live over 40 years. With a lean and high-fiber diet, a Russian tortoise raised as a captive in low –stress environments usually have higher life expectancies.
Popularity Found in Italy, Greece and the Balkans in southern Europe.Found in Uzbekistan, the Soviet territory Kazakhstan, North Western China, Eastern and Northen Iran, Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan
DietHigh fiber, low protein and calcium rich keep Marginated tortoises healthy and stable. They spend most of the time grazing or searching for edible vegetation. Dandelion, plantain, clover, thistle, vetch and mulberry make excellent food items.Consist of dark green leafy vegetables, carrots, squash, etc. Also high calcium and fiber, fat (needed for healthy digestive tract function) and a little protein. Russian tortoise enjoys broad leaf plants. Their best diet includes a variety of weeds as well.
Housing Larger juveniles can be housed indoors during the winter. With the “tortoise table” method, an enclosure with 8x4 foot dimensions made of plywood can be constructed. This enclosure will house about six tortoises in the 4 to 6” range, but it’s recommended to go for as big as possible.Indoor enclosure should be above 36”x12,” and Outdoor enclosure should be above 48”x48” with a securely screened cover that allows the sunshine and provides protection. The walls should be buried 12” or more above the ground since the Russian tortoise will dig and should be high enough so that the tortoise can’t escape.
Temperature & LightingThe desired temperatures should be 75 – 100 F basking and 80 – 85 F ambient. For lighting, a 10 UVB emitting fluorescent bulb needs to be placed on the top and a 100 watt basking light at one end to offer a basking site of about 95 F.The pen should have a cold end with temperatures in the low 70’s and the basking spot at 90-950 F. The best light recently is the Zoo Med Power sun. The most commonly used are the 100-watt flood. Since they do put out heat, you have to add a ceramic heat emitter to obtain the right temperature. The lights should be kept on for about 13 hours a day.
Bed & SubstrateSubstrate can be a mixture of play sand and topsoil in the ratio of 50:50. It can include areas of dry orchard hay for burrowing and feeding. In the case of young tortoises, a more humid area should be provided to avoid dehydration. It can be an area of damper soil, cave or humid hide box.The ideal substrates should be 50/50 mix of garden loam and sand. The substrates should not be bone dry. In the wild, Russian tortoises live in a dry condition, but their burrows usually have up to 70% humidity.
HibernationUsually Marginated tortoises hibernate naturally to deal with harsh conditions during the cold part of the year. The length of hibernation depends on the extent of the winter in a given geographical range.While in the wind, a Russian tortoise hibernates up to 9 months. In captivity, they seem to benefit from as little as eight weeks in hibernation.
Breeding Clutch size for marginated tortoise varies from 3 eggs to 12 eggs. Usually, it's common to see 6 to 8 eggs in a given clutch.The females lay 2-6 eggs and sometimes lay two or three new clutches during the same season. The eggs incubate for 80 – 110 days in the wild. In an incubator where the eggs are kept at a constant temperature of 870 F, the incubation period takes 60 to 75 days.
HumidityHumidity should be maintained at level of 40 – 50 %In a typical indoor pen, with air conditioning, dry substrates, and basking lights, humidity is always very low. Dehydration is a significant risk.


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As we have seen the differences between the two species of Mediterranean tortoise, caring for them may require different ways and methods. If someone has to keep the two species, the different enclosure must be built to cater for the two species. They should never be placed in the same housing. Having a tortoise can be fascinating, and one should always ensure that they are kept well at all times.