Holiday Togetherness – Interspeices noms edition 

Holiday Togetherness – Interspeices noms edition 

Holiday Togetherness – Interspeices noms edition 

Holiday Togetherness – Interspeices noms edition 

Holiday Togetherness – Interspeices noms edition 

Holiday Togetherness – Interspeices noms edition 

Holiday Togetherness – Interspeices noms edition 


Hi! I just recently got a baby russian tortoise. I’ve been checking different sources as to find what things are best to feed him, and i can’t seem to find a concrete list of things that will be good for him. Thanks!

Hey There, 

This is a good question. I had a lot of trouble with this at first. There are a lot of different sources some good, some bad, and all confusing. I know I always recommend this site, but I’ve found to be the clearest when it comes to guidelines for care/diet while also providing more in-depth info (and sources) for further reading/understanding about why things are good or bad for our shells… should you care to read further. 

Here is a list of recommended foods and foods to avoid for Russian tortoises directly from’s Diet page: ( I recommend visiting the link and reading it all through. Its not long and It explains the importance of variety, portion control for indoor torts etc. Really important stuff too. )

Most grocery stores have a decent selection of greens that Russians readily eat. Ideally the greens should be organic and pesticide free. However this is the real world and not all tortoise keepers have access to “ideal” food. So, I have this section as a starting point for a varied diet. The following greens are easily found in my local stores: 
Romaine lettuce (fed on occasion)
Red and green leaf lettuce (fed on occasion)
Turnip greens
Mustard greens

Spring Mix (mixed salad greens)
cabbage (fed on occasion)

With the above veggies one can develop a good diet. Once again (and I can’t stress this enough) variety is the key!
Don’t feed the same food day in and day out. Mix varieties and choose a different green as the basis every few days. 

Some other favorites of my tortoises that are available:
Hibiscus (flowers and leaves)
Mulberry leaves
Hen and Chicks
Ice Plants
Prickly pear flowers, fruit and pads (burn the spines off)
Plantain (not the banana type fruit….the weed plantago major)
Mallow (flowers and leaves)
Rose (flowers and leaves….make sure no systemic pesticides were used)
Chrysanthemum flowers
Cornflowers Plagiobothrys ssp
Forsythia (flowers and leaves)
Dayflower  Commelina diffusa (flowers and leaves)
Californian Poppy   escholzia  
Chia Salvia hispanica

Make sure all are pesticide and herbicide free.

The following food items should be avoided for a variety of reasons. there are many books and groups that go into great detail…so I won’t repeat them here. At the end of the page are a few links).
All fruit (although fruit is often recommended, its sugar content can lead 
to parasite blooms….just not worth it) the exception is apples due to the high quantity of pectin….but still not frequently.
Iceberg lettuce
Bok Choy
All grains (including bread, pasta etc)
Dog and cat food
All human food except what’s been listed as “good”
Pellet type foods (An often overlooked factor of pyramiding is grain based diets. These are the pellet food that some claim to be essential to health. They typically contain soy, wheat and or rice. These are high in omega 6 fatty acids which has a negative effect on health. They also have an acidifying effect which causes a leaching of bone. They are high in phytate which binds calcium and other minerals. They also have an unfavorable ca/ph ratio and a low ca/mg ratio which has a negative impact on calcium metabolism. Grains alter Vit D metabolism. Diets high in grains can have a negative impact on bone growth in spite of adequate exposure to sunshine. (

(Source Joe Heinen BS, DC, FIAMA, Dipl. Ac. (IAMA)
Copyright 2000- 2013  http://russiantortoise.org

The site also has a list of edible plants and toxic plants, useful should you want to have an outdoor enclosure/garden, or worry about any indoor plants your tortoise gets into. 

As always, its important to note that I’m not a vet of any sort. I can only share the info I’ve learned through reading, advice from others, and what seems to work for Zoya. 

I hope this helps! 


Today I experienced “bath time” which was just a nice soak in some warm water. Mommy says I deal with baths better than the dog and her Guinea pig.

Better than a lot of other shells too! 


Today I experienced “bath time” which was just a nice soak in some warm water. Mommy says I deal with baths better than the dog and her Guinea pig.

Better than a lot of other shells too! 

@JeffMusk got an exciting visit from a stuffed version of his friend @Dieseldawwg !! Interspecies friendship can overcome distance.  Zoya knows, cause she and Jeffie’s love spans the east coast 😀 


Hello~ I hate to be a bother, but I stumbled across your blog and thought you may be able to help me. I’ve got an older Russian tortoise that I’ve had for a few years now, and her beak has begun chipping in the last year or so. I mixed up her diet a little and it seemed to help with her activity level, but I still worry. Is this a more common issue or could something be worse than I thought?

Hey There!  thanks for the ask! Not a bother at all. 

First I’ll point you to this post from a few weeks ago. While the care sheet is different the issues are pretty much the same for both Russian and Sulcata tortoises. (I recommend the whole site is great!). So if you give the link below a read and it seems like your torts beak is causing trouble you might consider a vet visit as a check up and for a beak trim.

When you say this has been going on for a year, do you mean that the it continues to chip regularly or that the chipping isn’t correcting itself? Also, when you mention you changed up her diet her activity level changed, had she been particularly lethargic? The lethargy is probably the most worrisome as that, combined with beak growth issues, can be a sign of bigger issues. 

How is her shell? Do you notice white patches anywhere? Uneven growth? Those are troublesome signs as well, of Pyramiding, metabolic bone disease…

As I said in a previous post about beak chipping, its hard to tell without a picture of the beak and shell and info about behavior changes. With tortoises you want to identify particular issues but you also have to look at them as a whole. Is the issue isolated to chipping? or is it more. 

You’ll wanna make sure you’ve got the proper diet, UVB, Temperature, humidity and substrate. Humidity is a tough one if you live in colder climates. When the heat is on it dries out a lot so I make sure to ‘clean’ the substrate with boiling water once a week (without your tortie inside!) and having a warm mist humidifier close by. You always want to make sure she’s getting regular soaks in warm water for 20 minutes or so (once a week… more often if its dry). 

It should be noted that tortoises, like most reptiles, shed. They’re not snakes so you won’t see one big tortie shaped shed, you’ll see some peeling and shedding over time. That’s normal and as long as you keep up with soaks and keep humidity & temps right, they’ll take care of it themselves. Zoya had a little peeling right on her chin and it made her look like she had a beard for a week. 

You’ll also want to consider having  a cuttle bone in the enclosure. It allows your tort to manage their beak themselves by chewing on something a little harder, and it is a great source of calcium which keeps shells and beaks nice and strong. Chewing on things like cuttlebone, stones, etc can cause chips to occur. As long as they aren’t impacting eating, or accompanied by other issues, it will likely right itself with growth. Otherwise, a trip to the vet for a trim will fix things and your vet might be able to show you how to trim the beak yourself in the future. 

Varying the diet of your tort is a really important part of care. Seems strange but you want to mix up the greens so she gets a good amount of calcium and vitamins, all provided at different levels by all the greens recommended for a healthy tortoise diet. 

I know that’s not a specific “WORRY” or “NO PROBLEM” answer. You know your shell girl the best and can hopefully take this info and decide if its time for a vet visit. I’m not a vet of any sort so keep that in mind. I can only impart the information I’ve got and point you in a whats hopefully a helpful direction when making the decision. I always say its better safe than sorry. If issues continue a check up can only either identify an issue or give you piece of mind. Can’t hurt. Feel free to send some pictures, I’m happy to share with others here in case anyone has some more info that might help you. 

Keep us updated! Shell hugs to you both and I hope this helps! 

Anyone else have any thoughts? 



You can’t help but admire turtle and tortoises.  Their ancient wisdom, unfaltering character and physical characteristics make them among nature’s most interesting creatures.  The turtle is a creature of both water and the land.  Because of its great age and its slow metabolism the turtle is associated with longevity.  The oldest known tortoise died in 1965 in Madagascar at the age of 188.  The largest living species is the Galapagos tortoise weighing in some cases, over 570 pounds.  Stupendemys geographicus was a prehistoric turtle that was 10 feet long and probably weighed 4,000 to 5,000 pounds.  Turtle medicine can teach new perceptions about time and our relationship to it. It can also help us grow old gracefully and in harmony with our environment. When the pace of life becomes too hectic the turtle shows us how to slow down and go with the flow.

The turtle has its own built-in house on their back.  The upper shell is composed of about 50 bones, including modified ribs, vertebrae and bony skin plates. The shell is very much alive and not dead tissue.  If turtle has crawled into your subconscious, it may carry the message to remain mobile and flexible in your spiritual walk and not to acquire more possessions that you need.  The burden of possessions can slow our spiritual journey. 

Growth rings (scutes or scales) on a turtle/ tortoise shell cannot be used to determine its age with any degree of accuracy.  In most cases, the rings are determined largely by environmental conditions.  The size, color and other physical adaptations of the turtle are also largely determined by its environment.  The turtle teaches us to accept the world we live in and to adapt to changes when needed. 

Grandfather Turtle has amazing survival skills and strategies. They sense vibrations in the water through their skin and shell.  If turtle comes with a message for you, it may be interpreted to mean that you should listen closely to your physical and spiritual senses and vibrations and move slowly and cautiously to adapt.   

Water turtles come ashore to lay eggs and bury them in the ground. After the eggs hatch, the baby turtles crawl to the water.  This characteristic is a significant sign in pointing out connections, especially for the purpose of reproduction, between the elements of water and earth.  Turtle may be telling us to combine the deep emotional and spiritual qualities of the water element with the strong and solid grounding qualities of Mother Earth in our search for balance.

When the turtle negotiates uneven terrain and its weight causes it to flip over on to its rounded shell, it uses its strong neck to right itself.  This ability when communicated by messages from the turtle may be  a sign to use the tools at your disposal to use your inner senses and knowledge to correct the problem when your life becomes upside down.     

When old turtle slowly crawls in to your dreams and visions, it is time to get connected to your most ancient heart and delve deeply in to the shell you have constructed around yourself.  Peer deeply into that shell.  The turtle cannot be separated from its shell and we cannot separate ourselves from who we are.  We can develop ways to emerge from our shell to interact and take sustenance from the world around us, and at the same time, allow that emergence to be a blessing to all around you and your spiritual walk on earth.

The slow moving plod of the turtle does sooner or later get them to where they are going.  The turtle is famous for getting things done in its own slow-moving way and winning the race.  Could this be a sign for you to slow down and enjoy the blessings gifted by the Creator?  

Dream Analysis: Tortoise’s message is to get grounded.


Some deep shell thoughts on this first day of 2014.