Russian Tortoise 5-6" Med


$ 261.54 

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Common Group: TORTOISES
Common Name: Russian (Horsfield's) Tortoise
Scientific Name: Testudo horsfieldi
Distribution: Central Asia
Size: 5" - 6"
Natural History

Russian tortoises are found throughout much of central Asia. They are especially common in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of Iran. The climate of this region is harsh and variable, with extremely hot and dry summers and bitterly cold winters. As a result of such adverse conditions, these animals have adopted a spectacular survival tactic. They may remain safely burrowed underground for up to 9 months of the year, only emerging in the spring to breed and eat when food is plentiful.

Their rugged lifestyle and small adult size have made the Russian tortoise one of the most popular reptile pets in the United States. Most of the adult Russian tortoises currently available in this country are imported, as adults, from their lands of origin. Despite the seemingly traumatic trek, these animals seem quite resistant to the stress and illnesses often encountered with other collected species.

Captive born and bred Russian tortoises are becoming more and more common as a result of the increased demand for baby tortoises and as a means to lessen the strain on wild populations. Fortunately, Russian tortoises are extremely hardy, and will thrive when properly cared for, regardless of their origin.

Size and Longevity

Female Russian tortoises are typically larger than males once mature. However, even the largest female specimens rarely exceed 8 inches in length, making them easy to accommodate, regardless of gender. Nobody knows for certain how long a captive-born Russian tortoise can live. However, based on the longevity of animals acquired as adults, and that of similar species, life spans exceeding 50 years can be expected.


Tortoises are active animals, and should be provided with as much space as possible. Even when provided with a spacious enclosure, the use of an outdoor pen is recommended during the warmer months. These pens should be secure to prevent escapes. Tortoises housed outdoors, even if for only a few hours a day, will benefit greatly from the fresh air, natural sunlight, and opportunity to graze.

Indoor habitats should consist of the largest feasible enclosure. A single tortoise should have an enclosure that, at the very least, is equivalent in area to that of a 40-gallon terrarium. As mentioned earlier, larger enclosures are often warranted, especially when housing multiple animals together.

Glass enclosures with screen lids are acceptable, as are commercially available enclosures such as those manufactured by Vision Herpetecultural. Some keepers find that keeping these tortoises in enclosures with opaque sides will reduce pacing behavior. However, if given ample space, even clear sided (glass) enclosures work well.

Heating and Lighting

Russian tortoises fare best when provided with an ambient temperature in the low 80's and access to a basking spot that reaches 95 to 100 degrees. By providing only a localized hot spot, the tortoise may choose for itself where within the enclosure it is most comfortable at any given time.

Standard heat bulbs, infrared (red) heat bulbs, ceramic heat emitters, and under tank heat pads are all acceptable methods for keeping these animals properly warmed. The method(s) utilized and in what combinations will depend on the enclosure type, size, and the ambient conditions within the home.

Well-lit enclosures are vital to the well-being of these diurnal reptiles. Russian tortoises in captivity do well when provided with 12 hours of light followed by 12 hours of darkness. This photoperiod may be adjusted when cycling these animals for breeding.

Light should be in the form of a full spectrum bulb designed for reptile use. These bulbs, which are now available in a variety of forms and models, provide light in the Ultraviolet B (UVB) range of the spectrum. Rays of UVB light are needed by the tortoise to synthesize vitamin D3, and subsequently for the proper metabolism of dietary calcium.

Substrate and Furnishings

As obligate burrowers, Russian tortoises should be provided with a fairly deep layer of appropriate bedding. Reptile (orchid) bark, shredded aspen, clean soil, and cypress mulch are all acceptable choices. The substrate used should be easy to clean, and suitable for digging. Dusty substrates should be avoided as they may lead to ocular and respiratory ailments over time.

Russian tortoises are curious and active, and will test the sturdiness of anything placed within their domain. As a result of this unintentionally destructive behavior, excessive cage decorations are neither recommended nor necessary. The simple addition of a sturdy shelter (half-log, wooden box, etc.) on each end of the enclosure will provide adequate cover for the animals without over-cluttering their habitat.


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