You need two things for a correct Russian tortoise housing setup:
- UV light (taking up most of the housing area)
- Heat lamp (positioned in one spot/corner)
Below are the best products for each.
While getting a Russian Tortoise might seem fun and exciting, it is incredibly important that you understand this reptile’s lighting needs so that it can live a happy and healthy life!
They are herbivores and they depend on the environment around them to regulate their body temperature. This is especially important to ensuring your tortoise lives a good life. They mostly eat plants and weeds because there is protein in them. There are a various number of plants that you can buy that are safe for your tortoise. There is also dry powder that you can give your tortoise that is safe, but you must make sure you do not over feed them. Too much protein will kill them. You can identify this by checking their fecal every so often. If it is dry and paste looking they are dehydrated and they are probably being overfed. If their fecal is a little moist looking this means they are hydrated and are probably feeling good, but you just want to make sure they are right there in the middle.
Best practice would probably be to set them up in an outdoor setting with plenty of room to venture around. They love to burrow, so make sure that whatever you decide to build to keep them so they don’t run off, it is at least 6 to 12 inches in the ground because they will try to dig underneath. Make sure it is at least 8-10 inches tall above the ground. They are pretty shallow creatures and might not need that much room, but you want them to feel comfortable and accustomed to what they are used to. A 15 foot by 12 foot area outside with the correct dimensions below and above is more than a great area for your tortoise. Enclosed around plants, equal amounts of shade and sun, are ideal. Keeping your tortoise enclosed on the patio, especially in 100 degree weather is not good and this will probably kill them. Tortoises can stand pretty extreme weather elements, but they are their happiest when kept in certain temperatures and lighting.
Continue down below to learn more about lighting and temperature settings for Russian Tortoises.
Lighting Indoor and Outdoor
Proper lighting for your tortoise is very important. They need a certain amount of lighting to ensure their lifespan and their health. UVB light is especially essential to a tortoise in captivity. It enables them to process calcium for a good hearty protective shell. Without UVB lighting they can develop serious health issues like an abnormal shell, growth problems, and in some cases deformities. If you decide to keep your tortoise indoors then proper UVB lighting should be left on approx. 10-12 hours a day and turned off at night. There are a lot of good brands of fluorescent lighting that you can get for this purpose. Reptisun Linear lamps by zoo med is a great choice of lighting, or a good compact fluorescent light is ideal for providing a good light for your tortoise.
Another great choice of lighting is the Power Sun lamp. The power sun provides enough UVB lighting and heat for your pet and it takes care of both purposes all in one lamp. The outdoor sun is also a best bet, but you want to make sure that they don’t get caught in 100 degree weather or any conditions that drop 40 degrees or below. Zoo med is a great brand of retile lighting for your pet. You can find the best selections and most reasonable prices on Amazon or e-bay. The choice is endless, and if you are on a budget, this would be the first place to look.
Temperatures Indoor and Outdoor
When keeping your tortoise indoors you will need at least a 30 gallon terrarium. There are also indoor and outdoor playpens that you can purchase for your pet that suits both indoor and outdoor temperatures. Zoo Med brand makes an actual tortoise house that you can keep your tortoise in. This house can be taken outside when the weather is nice. They also make a play pen that gives your tortoise grazing and wandering room if you keep your tortoise indoors most of the time. If using a terrarium ideal temperatures are 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 65-75 degrees at night. They love to bask so the ideal basking spot is 85-87 degrees Fahrenheit. Outdoor temperatures are different and can vary throughout the day. They especially like to be outside, but you want make sure they are not stuck in 100 degree weather or weather that drops below 40 degrees. As explained earlier in the article this is very essential to the health and life of your Russian tortoise.
There is a vast amount of ways to take care of your tortoise and keep it happy. These are very cool pets and when taken care of and kept happy these little guys are cute and they can be feisty in their own little way, but they live a very long time. Just like your favorite vehicle, you always put the best gas in it. You tune it up with the best parts; give it the best oil and transmission fluid. You keep it clean and well preserved, and you love to show it off. Think of your tortoise the same way. If you really want to know the absolute best way to take care of one these. Go to a reputable zoo and ask the zookeeper in charge for some good ideas in finding out the best way to give these guys a good and plentiful life. Most of these are reptile specialists, and they know more than anyone because that’s what they do. It is not abnormal for a tortoise to outlive a human. They can live to be up to 150 years old in some cases. Either way at least 100 years is a very long life and that very well outlives the average life of a human. When deciding to invest in one of these creatures, you might want to keep this in mind.
As crazy as it may seem when filling out your will, you will have to think about who you are going to leave your tortoise with. If he is still alive and well when you are old and grey, just know you have provided a good life for this guy. He will probably miss you, but then again we are uncertain about the emotions of these pets. A good friend or a well trusted family member who is interested the same way you are about tortoises will be just fine.