This page was created to help my friends look after my Tortoise, Tippy. When I moved from the US I couldn’t bring her with me (she was a rescue and lacked the necessary paperwork to import to the UK).

Some friends kindly agreed to adopt her so I set up this page as an instruction manual.

Indoor enclosure

Lighting

Tippy needs a special bulb for Reptiles that provides UV and heat.  The best light for this is a MegaRay 100w bulb, available from ReptileUV.  The bulb should be replaced every six months as the UV output degrades over time.  If Tippy is kept outside you can replace the bulb less often (as long as it is turned off it won’t wear out).  The bulb should be on for about 12 hours a day, use a timer plug to do this automatically.  There is a switch on the power cable which you can use to turn off the light if she is being kept outside.

Shelter

Tippy should have at least one place she can hide and sleep.  You can use bricks and the slate to make a cave that she will sleep in (sometimes).  In addition you should try to make the enclosure interesting as she likes to clamber around and explore.  Try to avoid any tight corners she might get stuck in.

Water

At a minimum you should replace Tippy’s water every 2 days (unless away from home).  She often pees or poos in the water so you’ll need to change it as soon as you notice.  Tortoise pee looks like tooth paste!  Make sure the water dish is big enough for her to get in as she likes to take a bath.  If possible have the top of the water dish level with the soil as she prefers that to having to climb up the side to get in.

When she drinks she puts her entire head under the water, so don’t worry if you see that.  You can see her gulp the water down, it’s very cute.

She also likes to put just her front legs in the water, you should see her do that quite often.

Food

She should be fed every 2-3 days, or 3 times a week.  The easiest option is a fist full of the dry food you can buy from Carolina Reptile supply (Herbal salad mix).  This is a mix of dried leaves and flowers from plants she likes and will give her all the nutrients she needs.  You can mix it with water but Tippy prefers it dry.

Other easy foods you can give her are:

  • Hand full of Kale
  • Spring mix or other salad mix that is leaves only and does not contain Spinach
  • Dandelion leaves and flowers (her favorite)
  • Romaine or other types of lettuce (not Iceberg lettice*)
  • Collard greens
  • Carrot leaves (not the actual vegetable part)
  • Beet leaves (not the actual vegetable part)
  • Cucumber (as a treat only)
  • Cuttlefish bone

*Iceberg lettice is safe to feed her but contains no nutrition, so it can be a treat but shouldn’t be her normal food.

It’s important to provide a varied diet.  It is OK to feed only Kale for a week, but follow it up with a different food the next week.  Spring mix is good for this as it provides a variety.

When feeding anything except the dry salad mix you should add a light dusting on the calcium plus D3 powder as it ensures good bone and shell growths.


Outdoor enclosure

Tippy does not need lighting in the outdoor enclosure as the sun will provide the warmth and UV she needs (it is far better at this than the light bulb).

Water should be provided as with the indoor enclosure.

Shelter

Outside it is very important that she have a place to get out of the sun.  The best option is a hole or cave dug into the ground, using a slate or other flat surface as the roof.  Earth can then be placed onto the roof to insulate the cave from the heat.  Tippy loves to dig and she will probably extend this cave, so place it away from the sides of the enclosure.

Offer two or three locations for her to hide from the sun, with at least one cave as described above.  hollow half logs can be used to provide smaller shelters or bricks and slate as described for the indoor enclosure.

With good shelter options Tippy will be able to move around and maintain a happy temperature, basking in the sun in the morning and hiding at midday.

Water

Tippy should have clean water provided at all times.  Most days the water can be refreshed by pouring in clean and letting it overflow to wash out the older water.  If the water becomes very dirty the container will need to be cleaned out.

As with indoor water, Tippy likes to bathe and the dish should be large enough to allow this.

Food

Offer the same foods as with the indoor enclosure.  Tippy is usually more active when outdoors so you can feed her every other day.  She’ll enjoy a cuttlefish bone.

Temperature

Russian tortoises are very hardy and she can  manage a large temperature range.  As long as she has shelter to get out of the sun she will be happy in any high temperatures Birmingham AL can throw at her.  She will be OK with temperature down to 5c (41f) but to be safe you can bring her inside if the forecast is lower than 10c (50f).  At lower temperatures she will be less active so you can reduce feeding to every 3rd day.