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Russian four-toed turtle

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Horsfield's Tortoise, Testudo Horsfieldii, Isolated On White

Russian four-toed turtle

Name Dutch: Russian four-toed turtle
Scientific name: Testudo horsfieldii
Origin: southeastern Russia, uzbekistan and central Asia
Age: 60 years
Height: 13 - 25 cm
Day temperature: 24° – 29°c
Humidity: 40 - 75%
Birth: Egg laying.
Activity: Day active
Legislation: CITES B
Climate: Steppe and dry forest area
Stay: Terrariums
Heat place: 33 – 35°c
Night temperature: 18 – 22°c
Night humidity: 80 - 90%
Minimum size: 100x50x50 young turtle / 120x50x50 or 150x50x50 adult turtle

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Description

Russian four-toed tortoises are fun animals to keep as a hobby and got their name because they only have 4 nails on each leg. Other species all have 5 nails per leg. What is very important to know that these animals do not stay small and eventually need large spacious terrariums. The animals have a sweet and gentle character and will rarely bite. Unfortunately, it is not possible to tell the sexes of young animals, so keep in mind that if you house several young animals, the animals will have to be separated at a later age. Animals can become very dominant as they get older and will injure each other severely by biting each other. This usually happens to men, but women can also be territorial. The difference in adults can be seen in the length of the tail. The males have a much longer tail than the females. The tail of the male can be 6 cm long and of the female only 2 cm.

 

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Four-toed Turtle

The Behavior and Character

The Russian four-toed tortoise is distinguished by its friendly and lively character. Despite their calm appearance, these turtles are active and curious, with a distinctive personality of their own.

As pets, they are much loved due to their friendly nature, making them perfect companions that are both fun to watch and easy to handle. In addition, they often exhibit active social behavior with their human caregivers.

By nature, the four-toed is a solitary animal that prefers a life alone, coming together only to mate and reproduce.

During the cold winter months, the tortoise goes into hibernation, slowing down their metabolism to conserve energy.

 

 

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Russian Four-toed Tortoise Uzbekistan

Where does the Russian Four-toed Tortoise come from?

The Russian four-toed tortoise is native to the steppes and semi-deserts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. You can find them in countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, China and Mongolia.

These tortoises are well adapted to dry areas with limited vegetation and grass.

A notable trait is their ability to hibernate during the cold winter months, which allows them to survive successfully in an environment where nutrition is scarce and temperatures vary.

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The Natural Environment of the Russian Fourteen

In their natural habitat, which is often characteristically rugged and dry with fluctuating temperatures that can become extremely hot during the day and cool down significantly at night, the Russian four-toed tortoise thrives as a burrow dweller.

These turtles are most active at temperatures between 20 and 32 degrees Celsius, especially in the early morning and early evening. During the hottest and coldest part of the day, the tortoise seeks refuge in its burrow, a behavior optimally adapted to the extreme conditions of their habitat.

It prefers loose, sandy soil to dig its burrow. These burrows, with a length varying between 80-200 cm, end in a spacious chamber that provides the turtle with the necessary freedom of movement to turn around. It is remarkable that the Russian four-toed tortoise does not always dig its own burrow, but uses existing burrows if available.

 

 

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Turtle

Winter hibernation at the Russian Fourteen

A notable survival strategy of the Russian Four-toed Tortoise in colder months is hibernation, as winters in their natural environment can be extremely harsh and cold.

This rest period usually begins in October and extends through March. In preparation for hibernation, the turtle finds a sheltered spot, burrows itself up to 2 meters deep into the ground, and remains there in a state of reduced activity throughout the winter.

The depth of the burrow helps insulate the turtle from the extreme cold of winter and allows it to maintain ideal body temperature during hibernation. During hibernation, the turtle's metabolism slows down drastically, resulting in a minimization of food and energy needs.

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Hibernation in Captivity

If you have a Russian four-toed tortoise as a pet, you are faced with the choice of whether you want to let your tortoise hibernate. The hibernation period carries some risks, especially for young and weakened turtles who do not always survive.

Hibernation is a natural behavior for your turtle, and if you want to breed your turtles, it is recommended that you include hibernation as part of the natural reproductive cycle. During the winter period, the female's eggs mature, and the male's sperm is produced.

Tortoises kept outside

If you choose to keep your turtle outside, it will naturally tend to hibernate due to the change in temperature. Around October you will notice that your turtle is preparing for hibernation. He eats less, becomes less active and looks for a suitable place to hibernate.

You can help your turtle by providing him with a stable, frost-free space, such as a well-ventilated box filled with a thick base in which he can burrow. This thicker base of, for example, a good layer of earth, straw or hay protects your turtle and keeps it warm.

If your turtle has its own indoor cage, create places where they can retreat. Make sure that this area is safely shielded from other animals such as rats and mice.

Some people choose to allow their tortoise to burrow in the garden, which is natural behavior, but this approach comes with risks because you cannot fully control the conditions. And you cannot protect your turtle from predators and weather influences.

 

Tortoises kept indoors

If your turtle lives indoors and you want to hibernate it, you can choose to place it in a suitable box in a frost-free and stable place, such as the shed, crawl space (make sure it is not flooded) or balcony.

Another option that offers the most control is a refrigerated incubator. This allows you to more accurately control the ambient temperature and create the ideal conditions for your turtle's hibernation.

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Russian Fourteen

Tips for a Safe Winter Hibernation

  • Weigh your Tortoise before it goes into hibernation.
  • Monitor your turtle regularly during hibernation
  • Provide a constant and suitable temperature for hibernation, ideally between 2 and 5 degrees Celsius.
  • Measuring is knowing, keep an eye on the ambient temperature with a thermometer.
  • Place your turtle in a frost-free environment to prevent frostbite.
  • Provide sufficient ventilation in the wintering room to ensure fresh air.
  • Fill the wintering space with a thick layer of bedding such as dry straw and hay.
  • Place your turtle in a well-ventilated box, shielded from other animals.
  • Consider the shed, a cool crawl space, balcony or a specially designed refrigerated incubator as a safe location for hibernation.
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A step-by-step plan for hibernation

Do you want to prepare your Russian four-teen for hibernation? Then use a step-by-step plan that takes about 4 weeks. There are of course several ways to prepare your tortoise for hibernation.

Week 1: Adjustment of Temperature and Lighting

In the first week you start to reduce the lighting and temperature.

  • Reduce the heat lamp to only 4 hours per day.
  • The temperature in this place may still be 30 degrees.
  • Reduce lighting to 8 hours a day to maintain the day and night rhythm.
  • Night temperature of the terrarium for your tortoise should be below 13 degrees.

Week 2: Food Reduction and Colder Environment

Your turtle will physically adapt to the changes you made in the first week, so it will need less food.

  • Start by giving less food.
  • Move your turtle to a colder room that has a night temperature of 12 degrees for at least 10 hours a day.
  • The rest of the time he can spend in his terrarium where the heat lamp only needs to be on for 4 hours.

Week 3: Stopping Food and Further Temperature Reduction

In this phase, you stop feeding your turtle completely and proceed to further temperature reduction.

  • Stop feeding completely.
  • At night the temperature must remain below 10 degrees.
  • Provide only 4 hours of daylight per day.
  • The heat lamp is now limited to 2 hours, within the framework of the 4 hours of daylight.

Week 4: Bathing and Final Preparation

During this week you will make the final preparations to ensure that your turtle enters hibernation with an (almost) empty intestinal tract.

  • Bathe your turtle in lukewarm water twice a day for 4 minutes for 2 days.
  • The lukewarm water stimulates the intestines to excrete food residues.
  • Keep the night temperature below 10 degrees, during the day 4 hours of light + 2 hours of heat lamp.
  • If your turtle has no stools after its bath at the end of these 4 days, you can continue until hibernation.

These optimized steps should help successfully prepare your Russian four-toed tortoise for hibernation.

 

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The Natural Diet Russian Fourteen

The Natural Diet

The natural diet of the Russian four-toed tortoise is vegetable and consists of fiber-rich plants and grasses.

In their native habitat, which spans the dry steppes and deserts of Central Asia, these turtles feed on a variety of low-growing vegetation, including dandelions, clover, plantain and various grasses. This diet, naturally low in fats and proteins, fits perfectly with their herbivorous lifestyle.

During rain showers they provide themselves with water by drinking from the puddles that form. In periods of drought and in areas with limited water supply, these turtles can partly supplement their water needs by using the water released during metabolic reactions in their bodies.

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Mimicking the Natural Diet in Captivity

To meet your Russian Fourteen's natural nutritional needs, it is essential to feed them a high-fiber diet consisting of a variety of vegetables, flowers and herbs.

Since in captivity we can never replicate the full diversity of nutrients that a tortoise receives in the wild, it is important to supplement this basic diet with specially formulated tortoise food and calcium supplements.

As basic food you can provide your tortoise with vegetables such as endive, bean sprouts, chicory, kale, dandelion, peppers and carrots.

For special tortoise food, you can opt for the Lucky Reptile Testudo mixes or the Arcadia Earth Pro Optimized52 Tortoise food consisting of no fewer than 60 types of grasses, weeds and plants that they would also eat in nature.

Adding extra Calcium

Tortoises largely consist of a beautiful shell that must be kept healthy and strong with calcium. In the wild, they obtain sufficient calcium by eating calcium-rich vegetation, which usually grows on calcareous soils.

To meet this need in captivity, it is necessary to add calcium supplements to their diet. Sepia can also serve as a supplemental source of calcium, with the rough, edible surface helping to maintain and trim the beak.

 

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Russian Four-Toed Tortoise

The appearance

The Testudo horsfieldii, also known as the Russian four-toed turtle, is a small to medium-sized turtle species with an adult shell length of 13 to 25 cm.

Adult turtles have a compact, dome-shaped carapace with a unique pattern of dark, radial markings. The carapace ranges in color from tan to pale yellow, with a mix of brown, yellow and black tones on both their carapace and skin.

Thanks to the high construction of the shell, the four-toed turtle has the opportunity to move its limbs more freely. This makes them able to move over uneven terrain, dig and climb remarkably well compared to other tortoise species.

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How big does a Russian Fourteen get?

The Russian Four-toed is a small to medium-sized tortoise, ranging in size from 13 to 25 cm.

Males typically have an average size of 13 to 20 cm. Females grow slightly larger with sizes between 15 and 25 cm to accommodate eggs.

At birth, the Russian four-toed tortoise measures approximately 32-34 mm. Their growth is slow, reaching sexual maturity at age 10 and not being considered fully grown until between 20 and 30 years of age.

The growth rate of each individual tortoise can vary, even if they come from the same nest. Healthy growth is characterized by steady progress, and it is important that the turtle continues to grow at a consistent pace.

 

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Young tortoises

How old does a Russian Fourteen get?

Russian Four-toed Tortoises have a remarkably long lifespan, varying between 40 and 80 years.

This impressive life expectancy is influenced by several factors, including genetics, living conditions, nutrition and general health care. With proper care, a balanced diet and a suitable habitat that suits their natural needs, these tortoises can easily reach old age.

Keeping a Russian Tortoise therefore requires considerable dedication. Due to their considerable lifespan, these tortoises are often passed down from generation to generation within families, so caring for these special animals involves long-term commitment and responsibility.

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How old is my Russian four-teen?

Determining the age of a Russian Four-toed Tortoise is not an easy task, as this information is not directly readable from the tortoise itself.

Females generally grow larger than males, and the sex of the turtle cannot be determined until later. As a result, the actual age often remains an estimate.

In the Netherlands, the Russian Fourteen is classified as a CITES-B animal, which means that transfer papers are always provided when purchasing a turtle. These documents contain vital information, including the tortoise's date of birth, giving owners the opportunity to find out the exact age of their Russian Four-toed.

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The Russian Fourteen and CITES

As a future owner of a Russian Four-toed Tortoise in the Netherlands, there are important rules that you must comply with. A transfer statement, which you must sign upon purchase, serves as proof of legal origin.

CITES is the “Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.” This international agreement aims to regulate and control trade in endangered wildlife.

This helps protect this unique species and ensures that trade complies with CITES regulations. As an owner, you play a crucial role in the conservation of the Russian Four-toed Tortoise population.

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Russian Four-toed Tortoise

Determining the gender of a Russian Tortoise

Unlike many mammals, turtles do not have external genitalia. This makes it more difficult to determine the sex of Russian four-toed tortoises, but it is not impossible.

The gender difference in the Russian Fourteen only becomes clearly visible from the age of 10. You can often see in younger turtles that males clearly carry their tail sideways, but unfortunately this is no guarantee!

Men: Males are smaller than females, and usually have longer tails of about 6cm that are folded sideways, as well as longer claws.

Women: Females, on the other hand, have a shorter, thicker tail of about 2cm long and shorter claws compared to males.

 

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Can you keep Russian Four Toes together?

Tortoises are best kept alone!

If you really want to herd them together, choose a full female group with more than 3 females or one male with several females.

We tend to project our human feelings onto turtles and think they want company. However, it is important to realize that turtles do not have the same feelings as we do and can be perfectly alone.

It is not always easy to determine the sex of a tortoise at a young age. If you start with several young turtles, it is a bit of a guessing game and you run the risk of having several males among them.

Males are naturally more dominant and territorial, and in captivity space is limited, making confrontations difficult to avoid. If males are kept together, there is a good chance that they will argue and fight. And despite their cute appearance, turtles can unfortunately seriously injure each other.

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Keeping Russian Four Toes together

Are you considering keeping Russian tortoises together? Please remember that these turtles are very territorial and there are risks involved. Remember that there are no benefits for your tortoise from living with another tortoise.

To have the best chance of success, it is important to keep the following points in mind, although this is still no guarantee:

  1. Make sure the turtles are approximately the same age or size.
  2. Provide enough space for several turtles.
  3. Provide multiple feeding, hiding and basking areas to prevent competition.

Complete Women's Group: Choose an all-female group with at least 3 females to prevent one tortoise from being constantly harassed. Women can also harass each other quite a bit, and keeping multiple turtles ensures that this behavior is distributed more fairly, so that no one turtle is left to suffer all the time.

Man with multiple wives: Or choose a male with several females. This prevents the female from being constantly harassed by the male who wants to mate. In captivity, excessive mating can seriously affect the female's health and even lead to death.

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Reproduction of tortoises

The Reproduction of the Russian Fourteen

When the Russian Fourteen awakens from hibernation in early spring (March-May), the search for a suitable mate begins.

They perform a unique courtship and mating ritual in which the male circles the female, then stops and looks directly at her. He cranes his neck and fixes his gaze on her, moving his head up and down rapidly. This ritual is sometimes accompanied by biting and thrusting from the male to the female. And the mating is again accompanied by a series of high-pitched squeaking and cackling sounds.

Once the female is fertilized, she will be ready to lay her eggs within 30 to 60 days. She lays an average of six eggs and can produce two (possibly three) more clutches in the same season.

Make sure there is a spot with deep, slightly moist soil that gives the female enough space to lay her eggs. Females are extremely picky when selecting the right nesting site. However, once the eggs are laid, she completely loses interest in her offspring.

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Hatching process

After the eggs have been laid, an exciting phase starts: the incubation process. Thorough preparation is crucial!

Before digging up the eggs, it is useful to have a suitable braplast container ready. This container must be large enough for the eggs and you fill it, for example, with vermiculite.

Carefully dig up the eggs, taking care not to turn them over, as accidentally turning the egg can lead to the death of the embryo.

Place the eggs halfway into the container in moist vermiculite. Cover them with a damp paper towel or a few strands of damp sphagnum moss, and place the lid loosely on top.

Check whether the incubator is at the correct temperature; it is recommended to keep the eggs at a constant temperature between 29°C and 35°C.

Sex determination is temperature dependent, with lower temperatures resulting in males and higher temperatures resulting in females. However, it is important to avoid getting the temperature too high as this can cause deformities, such as extra scales.

If all goes according to plan, the eggs will hatch after 8-12 weeks.

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Health Problems and Diseases

Although Russian Four-toed Tortoises are generally robust and resilient pets, they can still suffer from health problems. These problems can be hereditary, or arise when their natural needs are not met.

Turtles are among the oldest animals on earth and have adapted to their environment in a particularly wise way over time. If we want to keep a tortoise as a pet, it is crucial to ensure optimal natural living conditions.

A disturbance in any of the factors such as light, UV radiation, heat, temperature, substrate, humidity or nutrition can result in serious health problems.

Some common health problems in tortoises

Here are some common tortoise health problems to look out for:

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The Importance of a Bath

Bathing Russian four-toed turtles is crucial for their health. It helps them stay hydrated and has health benefits such as removing dirt from the eyes and stimulating the intestines.

It is therefore strongly recommended that, in addition to the water bowl in the enclosure, your tortoise also bathe in a lukewarm bath for 15 to 20 minutes several times a week.

It is important to remember that tortoises cannot swim. Therefore, the water in the bath should only be a shallow layer.

Newborn and young tortoises require daily bathing, which can be reduced to every other day as they grow older. Older young turtles should be bathed 2-3 times a week, while adult turtles should only be bathed weekly.

Use only fresh water and do not add cleaning agents. Avoid using oils or polishes on the shield, as these can clog the pores, as these agents do not occur in nature.

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Keeping a Russian Four-toed Tortoise as a Pet

Keeping a Russian Tortoise as a Pet

Russian tortoises are fascinating and fun pets that, if properly cared for, can reach longevity of 60 to 80 years.

These tortoises are not very difficult to keep if you ensure that you meet their natural needs.

It is important that you start with the right size terrarium so that there is enough space for your tortoise.

In addition to the right size, it is essential to create a suitable environment. Factors such as the right temperature, humidity and design play a major role.

A balanced diet is essential for your tortoise's health. Offer a varied mix of vegetables, flowers and herbs, supplemented with special tortoise food and calcium supplements.

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A suitable Terrarium

Start by creating the right environment for your turtle by housing it in a suitable terrarium. For a young turtle, a terrarium of 100x50x50 cm is sufficient, but as they get older, a minimum of 120x50x50 cm is recommended. Preferably the terrarium should be even larger, for example 150x50x50 cm, the bigger the better!

Natural Environment Temperature

Mimicking the natural environment is essential, with the right temperature, UV radiation and light intensity. This requires a heat lamp and a UV lamp, with the intensity and wattage depending on the terrarium and its placement.

In summer, your turtle needs at least 12 to 14 hours of light and warmth per day. In winter this should be reduced if your turtle does not hibernate.

During the day, the average temperature in the terrarium should be between 24 and 29 degrees Celsius, while at night you can lower the temperature to between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius.

Create an extra warm basking spot on one side of the terrarium with a temperature between 33 and 35 degrees Celsius. Here you can strategically place flat stones where your turtle can sunbathe. Make sure your turtle can choose between the warmer and cooler areas.

Humidity

Russian Four-toed Tortoises naturally come from a dry habitat, but they spend a significant amount of time in burrows, which have higher humidity levels than the surrounding environment.

Therefore, it is essential that, in addition to an environment with the correct humidity, your turtle always has access to a moist shelter. You can achieve this by placing it at the cool end of the enclosure and covering it with moist substrate to create a moist microclimate.

Humidity should be between 40-75% during the day, while a slightly higher level is acceptable at night. To maintain the moisture level, you can use a Back Zoo Nature Mist Maker daily to moisten the substrate.

Measuring is knowing!

Measuring is knowing: with the right measuring equipment such as a thermometer and hygrometer you can closely monitor the conditions and adjust them if necessary.

With a thermocontrol you can even automate the measuring and adjustment process based on the set temperatures, giving you complete control over your beloved tortoise's environment.

Ground Cover for Digging

Russian four-toed tortoises are avid diggers by nature and enjoy burrowing to sleep at night. It is therefore recommended to provide a thick layer of ground cover of at least 20 cm. The ideal mix for the soil consists of Reptile Sand and Back Zoo Nature Bark Bedding.

Ensure that one side of the terrarium is slightly damper to maintain good humidity, and this also provides the ideal environment for plant and seed growth.

Russian tortoise

Mimic Natural Environment

To simulate a natural environment, use real plants and sow a variety of seeds to promote a continuously growing food source for your turtle.

Although real plants require some maintenance, they contribute to a natural environment and are a healthy addition to the turtle's diet.

Avoid using artificial plants that your turtle can reach. Tortoises like to eat plants and will not distinguish between real and artificial plants, with all the associated risks.

If you do want to use artificial plants, hang them in a way that your turtle cannot reach.

 

Provide Shelters

Make sure your turtle also has access to hiding places. These shelters can be created by placing pieces of cork, wood or teakwood in the enclosure. Or by stacking stones on top of each other in a safe way. However, be careful with the placement of these elements so that your turtle cannot dig under them, which entails risks.

Water bowl and the opportunity to bathe

Provide a shallow water bowl that your turtle can fully fit into, as this is essential for its well-being. Bathing your turtle is an important part of keeping them well hydrated.

Since this is a tortoise, the container should be shallow enough so that they cannot drown in it and can get in and out easily. Your turtle can bathe in this, which has a positive influence on its well-being. It helps clean dirt from the eyes and also stimulates intestinal activity.

Food trough

Provide a specific place where you can provide your tortoise with food. You can use a flat stone or a special feeding bowl for this.

In the wild, turtles must actively search for food, a behavior known as foraging. Although this is no longer necessary in captivity, you can encourage this by, for example, planting fresh plants, sowing seeds and occasionally hanging food a little higher so that the turtle has to make an effort to reach it.

Power supply

The natural diet of a Russian Fourteen consists of various vegetables, flowers and herbs. As basic food you can provide your tortoise with vegetables such as endive, bean sprouts, chicory, kale, dandelion, peppers and carrots.

You supplement this with special tortoise food such as the Lucky Reptile Testudo mixes or the Arcadia Earth Pro Optimized52 Land Tortoise food and special calcium supplements and sepia.

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Everything you need to get started on a Land Turtle

Before you start keeping a Russian Four-toed Tortoise as a pet, it is very important to make sure you have all the necessary supplies at home.

  1. Terrarium dimensions:
    • For a young tortoise: 100x50x50 cm is suitable.
    • For an adult turtle: 120x50x50 cm or 150x50x50 cm – Bigger is always better!
  2. UV lighting:
    • Provide a UVB lamp to mimic natural sunlight conditions.
  3. Heat lamp:
    • A heat lamp is important for providing a heat source. Adjust the wattage to the turtle's needs and monitor the temperature in the terrarium.
  4. Thermometer:
    • Use a digital thermometer to measure the temperature in different places in the terrarium and ensure a suitable thermal gradient.
  5. Hygrometer:
    • Invest in a digital hygrometer to measure humidity. Tortoises usually require humidity of about 50-70%.
  6. Thermocontrol:
    • A thermostat can be used to automatically regulate the temperature in the terrarium.
  7. Extreme Mist Maker:
    • Use this fine mist to humidify the environment daily.
  8. Sun spot:
    • Create a special place with the heat lamp where the turtle can sunbathe. Make sure the temperature in this area is high enough.
  9. Substrate:
    • Consider a mixture of sand and Back Zoo Nature bark bedding for a suitable surface. Check regularly for the correct humidity.
  10. Plants:
    • Use real plants that are not poisonous to turtles. This helps promote a natural environment, provides hiding places and is a nice addition to their natural diet.
  11. Hideout:
    • Provide moist hiding places where the turtle can retreat.
  12. Nutrition:
    • Remember to adjust the turtle's diet based on its age and species. This is crucial for their health.
  13. Calcium supplement:
    • Add a calcium supplement to the turtle's diet. Calcium is essential for a healthy skeleton and turtle shell.
  14. Scale:
    • Use an accurate scale to weigh your turtle regularly. Monitoring weight can help identify any health problems in a timely manner.
  15. Low water tank:
    • Place a low water bowl in the terrarium that is large enough for the turtle to bathe in.
  16. Braplast container for lukewarm baths:
    • A separate Braplast container can be used to give your turtle lukewarm baths.
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We are happy to help you!

If you are looking for a reliable place to purchase a Russian Fourteen, look no further. Bee Avonturia de Vogelkelder We warmly welcome future Russian Vierteen owners in The Hague.

With over 45 years of expertise, we specialize in exotic pets and are ready to advise and guide you as you start your Russian Fourteen adventure.

Whether you're new to the world of exotic pets or already have some experience, we're here to support you. Our goal is to make sure you are well informed and have the right knowledge to take excellent care of your new companion.

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