Do you have any tips on how to keep tortoises warm if the power goes out in the cold? Thanks!!!

Awesome question!

Heres my go-to for power outages (and also if we go to the Vet or somewhere in the winter do this for car rides)

I always make sure I have a good number of ThermaCare heat wraps around the house and with my ‘emergency stuff’ for potential power outages during extreme cold, travel, etc.  I like these because they get warm but not Hot enough to burn and last between 4-10 hours.  You can get them at so many places, Drugstore like CVS, Walgreens, a Target type store, most grocery stores have them with band aids and things like that.They aren’t too expensive either. 

Therma care, and other similar brands, use air activated heating. Thats what you want to go for. Many other products include scents or menthol creams for the “heat” effect, and those are pretty useless when warming a tort and not so good for them either way.

If you have a pet carrier for your tort, you can open up a couple of these heat pads, line the inside of the carrier with them, add a layer of towel to prevent burrowing induced ripping, and put your tortie in there with a few more blankets they can snuggle/burrow in. You don’t want to smother them but keep the carrier semi closed to maintain the heat.

In leu of a pet carrier, I’ve used a small duffle bag (if you have a canvas bag it lets more breathable air in there while keeping in the heat) and essentially done the same. 

I like the L/XL lower back heat pads. They come in a nice cotton covering that can be wrapped around your waist or, in this case, the bottom of the pet carrier insert or a small pillow in the duffel bag. 

This has worked pretty well for keeping Zoya warm in a power outage and warm during travel. It by no means reaches the temperature of any basking spot, it simply maintains a level of warmth that simulates night time temps and will hopefully prevent any illnesses brought on by the cold. 

This is NOT for long term use. In extreme cold, if a power outage is lasting longer than an hour or two, its important that you and your tort head to somewhere with heat and electricity.

I hope this helps!!

Anyone have any other tips??

In their review of 2013, the St. Helens Reporter in the UK, chose to feature this photo of a teenage boy who rescued his pet tortoise from a fire that started in its vivarium. High Five, Karl! 


A quick-thinking teenager helped save the life of a shell-shocked pet tortoise after a light in its enclosure sparked a fire.

Emergency crews were called to Dentons Green after Karl Lyon, 14, suddenly sniffed a strong smell of smoke.

The front room, which housed Sherman the pet tortoise, was totally filled with thick black smoke after a fire broke out in his vivarium.

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?