hi, sorry to bug you! I have a russian tortoise I got when I was little and I’ve had him for 11 years now. I realize his care probably isn’t ideal after looking at your blog and I was wondering what I could do to improve his quality of life! he lives in a 20 gallon long tank with cypress mulch and eats mostly spinach and baby spring mix. he’s pretty lively for the most part and the vet says he seems pretty healthy would you @ ready-2-rumble if you reply?

First, ALL of the applause to you, @ready-2-rumble , for wanting to do the best for your tort. Some torts manage to be unexplainably resilient but good husbandry will ensure your shell friend is healthy for a long time to come. 

You’re right that your setup isn’t the best for your shell friend.  The first things you’ll wanna take care of :

No tanks: Tanks don’t allow for proper air flow so you can’t get a good temperature gradient ( which is important) in the enclosure. They aren’t large enough and Torts can’t comprehend glass. It keeps them nervous and often they’ll bang their heads on the glass trying to escape which can end very badly. A tortoise table is a must. This can be created out of all sorts of things… book shelves, super large bins that they sell around Christmas, wood, etc. 20 gallons isn’t really big enough for roaming or for the temperature gradient. 

Mulch is too harsh for Russian torts. It doesn’t hold any moisture, they can’t dig down like the would in nature, and can scratch them up. A good substrate is coconut coir. ITs cheap and you can get it online in bricks. You add water and it makes a nice slightly moist dirt that’s also digestible (if they end up getting some in their bellies).

Spinach should only be fed in moderation as part of a varied diet.  It contains oxalic acid which is not good for Russian tortoises. It does have some good vitamins but too much oxalic acid can be harmful so not too much and definitely not alone. You had the right idea with dark leafy greens. I also go for spring mix. For store bought salad it’s got the best variation of greens for your tort.  That said, you’ve got to mix it up to ensure they’re getting all the nutrients they need.  Radicchio is a favorite as are dandelion greens (the kind you get at the store … if only they sold real dandies we’d be set) and Chicory.  Cactus fruit is a great treat too and cactus pads are a favorite (if you can find them). I’m attaching a site with great info that lists diet options both store bought and plants. You want to get some sorta supplement for calcium. I use TNT which is a supplement made from dried greens and weeds. (you can get that here along with lots of other supplies too). There are other calcium supplements out there as well. 

-Make sure you have a powerful UVB lamp and your temperatures are 90-95 under the basking spot with a gradient down to 70 on the cool sides. 

-I’m guessing you do this but be sure to Soak your tortoise once a week or more to make sure they’re hydrated.   

Check out this site. It’s been a life saver for me. The author is a herpetologist and has worked with Russian torts for a long time.

Good luck!! I hope this helps! let me know if you have any questions or anything. 

~NFN and Zoya 


My poor Russian Tort escaped his outdoor inclosure and crawled off into the yard somewhere (I live in a heavily wooded area). It’s been almost 2 weeks, idk what to do 🙁 (it’s been raining for a week, so I’m hoping maybe he’ll show up when the sun comes out again)

I’m so so sorry to hear this! These guys are incredibly smart an agile and it sometimes seems they can get out of anywhere no matter how hard you try to keep them in. Don’t give up hope.  I’ve heard many stories of torts gone missing only to be found having dug down for the winter and then getting up and wandering for noms like nothing happened. I hope this works out for the best. Keep looking around for dug up spots etc.

Related to this, I’ve been hearing some interesting stuff on my mailing list about owners using the TILE to keep track of their torts. I’ve never used tile but its a pretty good idea if you think about. GPS locator so these little magicians can’t escape us.

Thinking all the good thoughts. keep us updated! I hope your shell friend comes home ❤️


my tortoise has been using a large rock as a pillow, is that normal? also, is there some kind of pillow I can get him that he wont mistakenly eat and make himself sick? Sleeping face first on a rock has to suck 🙁

Well, I’m pretty sure that’ts just your tort being a tort 🙂 

I like to think of it like a sleep number preference. We humans like the softer mattress, smooshie pillows and what not. Torts? They’re more into the firm hard surfaces, like a rock!  Maybe they think they’re snuggling with another tort? (Not very likely.. our torts don’t like to share… noms or their space). 

Torts will seek out the temperature and conditions they need to be comfortable (this is why a temperature gradient is so important). There’s a possibility that they don’t think the substrate is deep enough to dig down, so you can always add more substrate to the enclosure. You can add some plants or other things for them to snuggle into or on.   

Aside from that, I’d say your shell friend is just fond of that rock. The fact they feel safe enough to sleep out in the open like that is a good thing. Not worried about any monsters coming to take them away 🙂 

So yeah, those are my thoughts. Also feel free to take adorable pictures of your sleepy shell friend here. 


Your tortoise’s carapace is jacked up because of the food you give her. The little lips at the edge are signs of a lack of calcium. Kale, lettuce, and other cruciferous veggies/brassicas are SO BAD. Feed dandelions and calcium. Please. For her.

Hi Anon,

Thanks for writing! I’m not sure which tortoise you’re talking about. Zoya pants gets a very healthy diet ( I follow that sites guide) and calcium through TNT supplement (A natural supplement designed for tortoises that you can purchase at Carolina Pet Supply.. its great! Tasty! and doesn’t risk the D3 overload that some of the calcium powders you buy at the pet store can)  She came to me with shell issues and worms but she’s been doing well. I keep a close eye on her all the time. I still worry all the time and appreciate the concern! Her wellbeing is my priority.

I’m guessing you’re worried about another tortoise you’ve seen here.  We do see a lot of poor care or visible health issues on tumblr. we try not to share those pics unless there’s a reason. When we do, we don’t keep quiet. I promise. We definitely contact the owner and share proper care info. We always try to do it in a kind way, not assuming they’re neglect, as a lot of torts on here are rescues.  We have found, over the years, that starting a private conversation and sharing suggestions in the kindest way possible is the most impactful. If you start attacking someone, especially in public, telling them they’re abusers etc,  you’re far more likely to get blown off and ignored. That’s no good for the shell in question, which defeats the purpose of all this, right?  I’ve gotten good responses from folks that way and received messages with pics of new enclosures, torts eating new food, etc.

So, I’d guess I’ve messaged or communicated with the owner of that tort and expressed my concern. I’m also sure many of my awesome followers, like you!, have also commented/shared. Folks around here are very good about that. If you want to come off Anon and talk to me specifically I’d love to chat! Thanks for caring about our shell friends! it means a lot to me and to all the torts out there!



I wish i had pics but I don’t, But… I literally put the tortoise down for half a second, and he decides “Hmmm this carpet looks edible even though it’s really ugly and I just ate my weight in kale.” The joys of taking care of a tortoise.

We shells like to make decisions based on science. This means we have to examine every item, conduct a taste testing, and then decide if its a tasty treat. Sometimes we have to repeat our studies to make sure they are accurate. Its a very long detailed process, but that’s science. we can’t help it if we’re super smart scientists. Now, about your shoe laces… 

Meet Gamagorath! My boyfriend and i rescued him from an idiot who picked him up in the wild and wanted to keep him. Unfortunately, he had been in captivity for four months, without any sources of food besides green vegetables (I do know snappers need insects as well). I’m in over my head here… I don’t know what to do. I want to release him but he’s very small and I want to fatten him up but winter is coming… any advice you have would be of great help! Love your blog. We humbly request your guidance Zoya
PS his full name is Gamagorath eater of souls. He will be a great warrior of the turtpocalypse

Hello! Gamagorath and human friends!!! Thanks for messaging us! Zoya appreciates your kind words, she’s happy to know others see the greatness she sees when she looks in the mirror heeheee 

Wow you are one gorgeous little one aren’t you, Garmagorath! He is probably very thankful to be out of the hands of that kidnapper! Way to rescue him! Its so sad that people think they have the right to just snatch an animal from its habitat for their own amusement. Its simply not ok. Ever.   

So, my instinct is to get that little one back to his habitat. That’s my instinct, but we don’t have any real experience with snapping turtles and unfortunately can’t say for sure that its safe after 4 months in captivity. I would think that Garmagorath is young enough that he might be able to integrate just fine, but I’m hoping some of the turtle/ snapper experts here on reptiblr can give you some better advice! 

We do know that snapping turtle care is very detailed, not at all ‘easy’ (no turtle or tortoise care is really easy..), getting their diet and husbandry right is vital to their health and survival. Also? They grow pretty large and need to be handled appropriately (cause they’re snappers! snap those fingers look like noms!)  

Here is a care sheet from the Chicago Exotic Vet Hospital.  We can’t verify how great the info is here but we’ve heard good things about the hospitals work with turtles and torts so its the closest to a reputable care sheet I’m able to give you.

Again we’re not snapper experts (we do think they’re awesome but sadly heart eyes aren’t the expertise you need! ha). I’d say, if at all possible, return your new friend to the wild (he’ll tell all his snapper friends how awesome you and your boyfriend are and you’ll definitely be on the right side of the turtpocalypse!) Keep checking this post and hopefully some of the awesome folks with snapper experience will have better/ more detailed advice for you! 

How about it, reptiblr, anyone with snapper experience that can help Gamagorath and his human rescuers out??


Do you know if Zoya is going to marry Jeff Musk? We want wedding buffet & cake! ❤️

*blush* well I’m only 8 and humom says that’s still young… but maybe?? He is very handsome and always a gentleman.Don’t worry! It will obviously be ab open noms wedding!! Thats the only way to wedding!  


Hey what’s up? alright so you know how when you scratch (gently) a tort’s shell and they do the little butt wiggle dance, why do they do this? is it just that it feels nice? is it a body language thing? what’s going on?

Hey Anon!

That’s a great question. You should know that, until recently, research on turtle and tortoise behavior has been lacking. From what I’ve read, and from my experience, It seems that that is a shell’s sweet spot. Dirt gets stuck around there, they can’t exactly scratch it, so it just feels sooooo nice! like scratching that spot on your back you can’t reach.  

basically this:

is a lot like



just FYI, box turtles are not tortoises. their closest relative is the wood turtle. they are true terrapins.

Hey Anon! 

Thanks so much for writing. You are absolutely right. I generally use quick tags in my posts and I realize it completely leaves out the terrapins! I’ve fixed that. 

We do use quick tags for posts we share for cute value, silly behavior, and other people’s comments. We try to identify the type of turtle, tortoise, or terrapin but sometimes we fail. Like our earlier post. We love getting messages from followers with more info so I’m very glad you wrote!

Here at torttime, despite the name, we share turtles and terrapins as well as tortoises. We tend to focus on tortoises some because the other half of our ‘staff’ is a Russian tortoise (Agrionemys horsfieldii… not actually Russian at all). The title for our blog was inspired by our friend who was taking the bar at the time and we thought it was funny to take back Torts for the shells haha! Our motto is “Turtles, Tortoises, and Terrapins 24/7″ so we haven’t forgotten. 

Thanks for reading and writing us!