Any tortoise care tips?


I’ll be getting a tortoise for my birthday! We’re going to be converting the bottom bunk of my bed into a tortoise table/box, I’m looking for some ideas as to how to make it nice for my soon to be russian tortoise!

Does anyone have a pet tortoise with safe and cute decor for them? Or even plants that are safe for them to nom on. Other tips are welcome too!

Yikes!! Well we had some issues with our queue here and some posts were sent without the added info! so sorry about that.

You’ve got some great advice from our awesome tortblr community.

The best care sheet I’ve found online is this:

You’ll find housing, diet, general care info and there’s also a great list of plants you can grow that are safe for your tort to eat or stomp!  Its written by someone with a lot of experience in herpetology and years caring for russian torts. They also run 
 Carolina Pet Supply , a great site for supplies. They have  TNT supplement (for calcium which is super important) is fantastic and natural. Torts seem to like it better than the calcium supplements you get at like petco. Also no risk of too much D3. So I’ll skip the diet advice and say just check that out. I swear by it. 

I love that you’re using the bunk bed! I built Zoya and enclosure out of a twin bed!


As you know, you’lll want a large open air type enclosure. A tortoise table. Aquariums aren’t great enclosures. They don’t allow for  a good temperature gradient and the glass can be stressful and confusing for the tort.  

Decor is pretty much personal preference but I’d definitely get them a Log hide they can crawl in to sleep and dig… and maybe some logs that they can climb up and over. Russian torts love to climb and stomp. Adding stuff that they can do that on without hurting themselves is the best. Also might want to block the corners of the enclosure. Trust me when I tell you.. they are very good at using the corners to hoist themselves up and out. haha. 

Adding some plants is always great but do this knowing they will be stomped and destroyed so you’ll have to replace them regularly. Plastic plants are ok imho if you are sure they won’t try and bite them. Watch closely and make sure they aren’t nibbling. 

Other general tips:

Shallow water bowl is a must. They’ll need to be able to get in but not be covered in water. They aren’t generally the biggest fans of water but they do drink, especially when not looking. 

Adding a Cuttle Bone to the enclosure that they can nibble on is good for calcium and beak maintenance.  How much they use it is very dependent on the tort but Its always good to have it there. 

UVB is also VITAL to tortoise and turtle care. This is a bulb that mimics the vitamins you’d get from the sun. This is vital to metabolizing calcium and growing up big and strong. UVB needs to be on for 13ish hours a day. UVA and Heat is also needed here.  You’ll need a good temperature gradient with a basking spot of 95ish degrees and cool areas around 70.  I use a powersun uvb/uva combo bulb as, at the moment, it gives off the best amount of uvb and also provides heat. You might need to supplement some extra heat depending on the size of your enclosure to get the right gradient.  

It definitely seems like a lot at first but once you get things set up right its a lot easier to maintain. 

Congrats on your new friend! These shells sure do know how to burrow into our hearts. next thing you know you’ll be hunting down dandelions and perfecting your head scratch 😀 and happy birthday!


It’s been almost seven years since I got this dork. He was so happy when we took him from a woodchip filled vivarium to a proper table with soil substrate, and he has enriched our lives so much. I got him a dandelion flower for his birthday. Can’t believe he’s turning ten already! They grow up so fast. ;’) 

Happy birthday Fitzy!!!

Happy Birthday, Fitzy!!!

I’m so happy you found a forever home with humans willing ti give you the care you need to grow happy and healthy! It’s incredible what a difference proper husbandry makes.  Heres to another 10 years!


kpopfreaksgeneral submitted to thewhimsyturtle:

Thank you very much for replying <3

This is my brother’s turtle, Morten!

I did talk to my brother between the previous submission and this one.
He says Morten is allergic to UV lights, and that it almost killed him last time since he stopped breathing. Is that something that can really happen?

Hello, Morten!  What an awesome name and what a sweet grumpy face hehe.  <3

There must have been something wrong with the UV light Morten had before.  It was definitely not the UV itself that he was allergic to!  Having a proper source of UV light is absolutely CRITICAL for a healthy tortoise.  Not having UV leads to metabolic bone disease (MBD), a horrific and painful condition that is always fatal if left untreated.

We tortoises (and turtles) need a LOT of calcium to keep both our big shells and all our bones healthy.  But we can’t process calcium without vitamin D, which we get from UV light, just like humans.  When we don’t get enough UV, we become calcium deficient, which leads to soft and deformed shells (which causes deformed organs), brittle and unhealthy bones, and a myriad of health problems.  We cannot stress enough how critically important a UV light source is!!

Keep reading

Hey there, @kpopfreaksgeneral

We just wanted to second what Kirby and Whimsy said above. This is really good advice. They shared some of the best articles and places to find info with you too! ( Kirby is very wise for his age.)

Having UVB is perhaps the most important of the things Morten needs. Morten is definitely showing signs of MBD and quick changes to his home he will die 🙁

I can honestly say, and I tried to do more research after reading this to be sure, that it’s not possible for him to be allergic to UV lights.  That would mean Morten is allergic to sunlight and would not have survived long after hatching.  

Looking at the set up I’m guessing the UV lamp increased the temperature and dried out his enclosure. This creates dust and makes things like swallowing and breathing hard. This could have caused choking or him having trouble breathing.

Please check out the amazing links Kirby and whimsy shared! All of our go to info is there. You will need to change up the substrate and try a more open enclosure. That way it can be warm right under the lamp and he can move around when he’s too hot or cold, all while getting the UVB he needs to grow a strong shell.

Like they said, it seems like a lot but its totally doable, even if you don’t have that much money. I have done lots of tortoise home DIY with very little money. Things like old bookcases, big giant tubs you can get around Christmas… lots of ways to make it work. You can also find the lamps suggested on Amazon and the substrate as well.

We hope your brother gets Morten a lamp as soon as possible, and good for you for caring enough to ask questions!


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!



Hello! My friend Zoya is a pro at Russian torts because she is one! @tort-time, will you answer in the comments some recommendations for our newest tort human?

Hi! It’s true I’m a Russian tort (though my human is doing the typing so we’re part ). We will gladly try and help you here!

So! Pellets tend to make some torts stopped up (it’s important we poo freely .. sometimes we poo in protest.. that comes later). We are a picky species and like a good variety of greens. 

I am a big fan of Radicchio (It’s my favorite!!!) Also Chicory, Dandelion Greens (they sell those in the store they aren’t like outside dandies but are nutritious too) and Kale on occasion. If you have an area that you know is free from pesticides, DANDELIONS ARE GOLD! Those yellow flowers and leaves silly humans consider weeds are the yummiest tort food in the world. 

A wide variety of greens is best. After your new shell gets comfortable, start mixing up the greens every few days. It helps to make sure all the vitamins and nutrients are covered. 

There’s a great list of greens found in the store and some you can grow in the garden here:

I’m not sure where the tortoise came from but, and this is super important, I would take it to a vet soon and have them run a fecal exam to check for worms. This is common in newly acquired tortoises and a symptom is little or no appetite and loose poop (it should form a nice sculpture when its healthy poo).  If wormies are present the vet can administer some deworming panacea and it should fix things. You may have to go get a second dose in a few weeks or months and have them check to make sure the poo is worm free. This is so important, especially if appetite doesn’t pick up soon. I had wormies when I was little, but I’m all good now. 

Other stuff? 

Well you said you’ve got the basics so I’m sure you know but make sure there’s a good amount of UVB light, the substrate is slightly moist, with a temperature gradient of 95 under the basking lamp and around 70 on the sides. Also, make sure he or she gets a nice warm soak for 20 minutes once a week for hydration. They drink through their bums! heee  

A hide is always important. They like to dig and hide in a log or something like that.

I highly recommend this care sheet.

I hope this is helpful! Human made the important parts bold since I tend to talk A LOT when answering questions.  Feel free to send me any questions you might have about this or anything else! Also feel free to share any pictures you might have with us!

~Tort-time (Zoya & Humom) 


It’s turtle breeding season, and yesterday I helped this female red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) across the road. Many turtles and tortoises will be crossing roadways to breed and lay eggs, and it’s important to know what to do if you encounter one that’s in a dangerous area. If you need to pick one up, grasp it firmly behind the front legs and carry it as low to the ground as you can. Turtles can be surprisingly strong and mobile, covered in mud, and may kick at you with their claws, so if you lose your grip, you do not want them to fall very far. For very large or potentially dangerous species like snapping turtles, you are better off escorting them across the road rather than trying to handle them. (Do NOT pick them up by their rear legs or tails!)

Only carry animals as far as absolutely necessary to get them out of the road and over the curb or other obstacles, and carry them in the direction they were heading when you spotted them. They know where they want to go, so if you turn them around they will likely go right back into the road. Do NOT relocate them. While you might think that pond 10 miles away would be turtle heaven, relocation is extremely stressful and puts them in danger as they will have to rediscover food sources and shelter and compete with existing animals. Females are especially vulnerable as they are already taxed by egg-laying. If you find an injured turtle or genuinely believe the animal would be in danger if you left it where it was, contact a local wildlife rescue or licensed rehabilitator and ask for their advice. Though it may be tempting, don’t handle or linger around the animal more than necessary. Finally, remember to wash your hands, because salmonella is no fun!

IMPORTANT!! Please read This wonderful post. 

While our goal is to help turtles and tortoises, it’s important we do it in the right way! Our best intentions can cause harm for the shell! 

  • Always move the turtle or tort in the direction its heading
  • Never pick them up by the back legs or tail
  • Cary them low to the ground in case they wiggle free
  • NEVER relocate a turtle or tortoise. Only take them as far as needed to get them out of immediate danger.

Pass it on! 

Remember! Saving one turtle or tortoise can mean saving the life of a decade of hatchlings to come! 


hey what’s up? alright I just have a quick question about tortoise husbandry, and was wondering if you might know the answer (if you don’t mind) ok so I have a baby sulcata and in his enclosure I use heat pads on both sides, to keep the cool side at 77, and the warm side at 95 degrees, both are reguated by a thermastate and I check temps regularly (with a temp gun) any way I was just wondering if providing belly heat for tortoises is acceptable or if they need over head heat specifically?


So generally overhead heat is preferred. In nature the sun would heat the tortoise’s carapace and then that warmth would spread to the rest of the body, so that’s just how a tortoise is “designed” to be heated. Not to mention that overhead heat assures that the tortoise is going to bask in the same area that UVB is being provided so they get the proper amount of UVB (assuming the UVB and heat lamp are near/next to each other).

On the other hand some tortoise-keepers definitely use heat mats or even pig blankets to provide additional heat to an enclosure. These are especially common with people keeping very large species or keeping tortoises outdoors. However these are large, adult tortoises (not babies) that people are using heat mats for.

The author of Medicine and Surgery of Turtles and Tortoises found that belly heat could be very dangerous for young tortoises, even leading to ruptured plastrons and death (source). Basically in nature the plastron would be in shade below the tortoise and so is not designed to withstand a large amount of heat so directing basking-level temperatures onto the plastron can be dangerous.

Overall I would say using a heat mat to raise the ambient temperature is fine, but the basking spot should be an overhead heat source (heat lamp, ceramic heat emitter, etc) whenever possible. Also if you have to use heat mats it is much safer to use them on the sides or ceilings of the enclosure so the plastron is not being directly heated.

Hope that was helpful! Good luck with your sulcata!

Ah! @the-awkward-turt is spot on. Perfect response. I love our tortoise community!

The only thing I would add (well not add but emphasize) is that the plastron is not designed to sense ‘overheating". They are much more likely to overheat when the heat comes from below. They will sense the warmth and bask, as the would with overhead heat, but they don’t have the ability to sense that it’s too much in the same way.

if they dig down at night, near a heat mat, the temp will be warmer and they won’t know if it’s too much too long. Not to mention they aren’t getting the impact of UVB.  Make sure you’re checking the temps regularly and have a good night temp drop.

As @the-awkward-turt discussed, this is especially dangerous for smaller torts. 

But when weather is extreme and climate is thwarting all our plans,a heat mat to keep a basic but LOW steady temp can be helpful in emergency situations. Just make sure he majority of the heat comes from above, the sides etc. And plenty of UVBhas to be provided. 

Torts dig down to cool off and gain moisture.. Just like outside, a burrow is cooler than basking in the sun.. Putting a heat may down there essentially invalidates that most basic instinct. Again, this is speaking with knowledge of the smaller younger torts. When a 100 lb sulcata needs warmth? All bets are off haha well I’d probably still vote for quality insulation vs heat Matt. . 



guys can i please please get some help here or at least a signal boost?? my tortoise has really badly injured his front legs (the whole underside of them is worn or cut down to the bone, the underside rather than the front or something) and we live in the middle of fucking nowhere, the closest specialist vet is bristol which is hours away and I can’t find //anything online about this specifically. it looks like his legs might have been like this for a while, this is the first time we’ve seen him in ages, we washed them off and one started bleeding so i wrapped it in clean bandages but the other one still looks covered in mud and shit. im really really worried and i could use some advice on this, please at least signal boost.

tl;dr my tortoise is injured and i need advice, please signal boost to help

you need to get to that vet ASAP. I realize its hours away but honestly, you need to go. That sounds really serious and especially if you don’t know how it happened there could be risk of infection, etc.. vet..

Anyone know the bristol area and have vet info they could share??

Hey! Quick note for the shell parents out there. Now that spring is (supposedly) here. Things like handwarmers are on clearance. These are great for traveling and emergency power outtages (do be careful as direct contact can be too warm and you DEFINITELY don’t want any attempts at noming). That said, Its a great time to stock up! Found these on clearance for 24 cents at rite aid (and if you’re a frequent shoper and already have a discount they might be even cheaper. WIN!)


hi there. my dad (the idiot ) just got two russian torts and im afraid he didnt do any research at all. do you have a care sheet? i know absolutely nothing about caring for tortoises (im a snake person) but i really feel like he needs some advice and such because im really worried for these critters (i tried to tell him to do his research, insisted, and found out a little bit ago that he got two of them out of a whim) i love my dad but sometimes hes so stupid

Hi there! So sorry for the delay. I am so glad you’re taking an interest in helping make sure these shells are cared for properly. I can direct you to the best site I know of, that has been my go to from Zoya from the beginning:

you’ll find a basic care sheet, diet info, edible plants list, and other info you might find useful. 

I’m working on some care videos but for now, this is my go to… Hope it helps!