How to Care for a Russian Tortoise

By Zach Lazzari

The Russian tortoise is a low-maintenance pet who requires a small space and basic care. The Russian is hardy and has a life span of 40 years or more. Although they are easy pets, daily chores including feeding, watering, cage cleaning and health checks are necessary. Russian tortoises are solitary creatures; they do not socialize well with humans.

Cages and Habitat

Use a simple aquarium with a heat lamp, or a wire reptile cage with a heat lamp, to house your tortoise. Larger is better, but a 20-gallon aquarium will house a single Russian comfortably. As an alternative to expensive aquariums, a large plastic storage bin will suffice with the addition of a clip-on heat lamp. Fill the bottom of your cage with sand and add a flat rock for sunbathing. Also add a small shelter, like a half log, for the tortoise to hide and tunnel under. Russian tortoises like to burrow in the sand and take shelter under a natural object.

Clean the cage regularly to prevent parasites and maintain a healthy environment.

Dietary Needs

The tortoise requires water on a regular basis. Keep only a small dish in the cage to prevent lying and defecating in the water. Refill the water daily to maintain a fresh supply. Feed the tortoise basic vegetables and lettuce on a daily basis. They do not have any strict dietary needs; leafy plants are the basis for their diet in the wild.

Handling Tortoises

Minimize handling to prevent stress and accidental damage. The Russian tortoise is not social and does not require handling unless you are transferring between cages. When handling is required, hold the specimen by the shell to prevent damage to the head and appendages.

Health Checks

Russian tortoises have very few health issues but parasites and shell rot are both possible. If the eye are sunken and the tortoise looks unhealthy, take a stool sample to your veterinarian and have it tested for parasites. Basic medication will heal the parasites. Maintain a dry environment and keep the tortoise away from humid areas to prevent shell rot.