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How to Look After Horsefield Tortoises

Updated July 20, 2017

Horsfield tortoises, also known as Russian tortoises, are hardy creatures, able to withstand extremes in cold and heat, but they are particularly susceptible to dampness. It is particularly essential to their care to maintain a dry environment to help avoid health hazards caused by excessive moisture. Male Horsfields grow to 5 or 6 inches long, while females can grow to 8 inches, and can live for 50 years. Although Horsfield tortoises are not difficult to care for, they are not recommended as a child's first pet.

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Choose either a vivarium or a tortoise table as an enclosed habitat for your tortoise; each type of habitat has its own advantages. Since these animals like to climb and burrow, the enclosed area should be tall enough to allow for climbing and the substrate deep enough for digging.

Keep your tortoise on a substrate (ground covering) consisting of a material it can dig, such as wood chips or playground (tortoise-friendly) sand. Be sure the substrate is at least a few inches deep. Horsfield tortoises can burrow a tunnel to use for a nest.

Make sure your Horsfield tortoise has lots of logs and rocks to climb over to make the environment as realistic as possible.

Feed your tortoise coarsely chopped high-fibre vegetation, such as grasses, romaine or red leaf lettuce, hay, berries, clover, thistle and rose, hibiscus and dandelion leaves and flowers. Chop the vegetables more finely if the tortoise is young.

Always sprinkle powdered vitamins and minerals (especially calcium) over the tortoise's food. This ensures your animal is receiving all of its required nutrients.

Tip

Let your tortoise explore outside, perhaps in the backyard of your house, on dry warm days. Soft fruit can be offered to your tortoise very occasionally, as a rare treat.

Warning

Be careful when you let your tortoise explore the outdoors. These animals are able to dig under some enclosures and escape unless you keep a close watch. Don't house Horsfield tortoises with other species of tortoise; the Horsfield males can be aggressive and will bite other tortoises.

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Things You'll Need

  • Vivarium or tortoise table
  • Substrate such as wood chips or sand
  • Newspaper
  • Rocks, logs
  • Shallow water dish
  • Shallow food dish
  • Chopped vegetables
  • Chopped soft fruit
  • Vitamin and calcium powder
  • 100-watt UVB lamp

About the Author

Ann Yacono has been editing scientific books and journal articles for more than 20 years. She writes and copy edits nonfiction articles on diverse topics. Yacono earned a B.A. and M.A. in English from Lehigh University and is a board-certified editor in the life sciences (ELS).

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