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Turtles/new horsefield tortoise


we have recently purchased a horsefield tortoise approximately one year old. we keep it in a viv at 32 degrees during day and 24 degrees at night. it is mostly fed lettuce carrot occasinally tomato cucumber . she doesnt appear to move very much has her food then goes and sleeps again . she has also had diahorrea for a few days.
the enclosure is approx 1 metre by 0.5 metre and has uv light and ceramic heater.thankyou

Hi Paul,

You need to make quite a few changes to how you're keeping your tortoise.  First of all, get it out of the viv.  Tortoises don't do well in glass enclosures.  Find something open and airy--a large plastic bin will do, an old bookcase turned on its back, etc.  

You didn't say what substrate you're using, but use a 50/50 mix of coir (Ecoearth here) and playsand.  Keep it slightly damp all the way through to prevent dehydration, which is very common in small tortoises under basking lamps.  Check every few days and add water as necessary.  Also make sure you soak her about three times a week for 15-20 minutes.

You don't need a ceramic heater, but you do need a basking light and a source of UVB (not UV).  The UVB is vitally important.  If you can get the Zoomed Powersun 100 watt bulb there, use that.  Get a thermometer and check the basking temperature on the substrate (not air temperature).  It should be right about 90 degrees (F).  Then you also want cooler areas down to around 70 degrees.  No heat is needed at night.

Change the diet completely.  Lettuce is OK, but not very nutritious, so shouldn't be fed too often.  Turnip and mustard greens, dandelion, collards, kale, endive, raddichio, are all good greens, along with weeds such as chicory, sow thistle, plantain, mallow, hawkbit, and so on.  Untreated flowers are also good--hibiscus abutilon, rose, viola, nasturtium, etc.  Prickly pear cactus is also good.  Don't feed veggies or fruit, and especially not cucumber because it's mostly water and will fill her up without nutrition.  Feed as much variety as you can.  The diarrhea should clear up once her diet improves.

Let me know how she's doing once you make the changes.


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Questions regarding husbandry of Russian tortoises and other Mediterranean species, sulcata, and redfoot tortoises; general tortoise and turtle care; box turtle care. If I can't answer a specific question, I can provide sources for further research. Disclaimer: My advice is not a substitute for vet care. If I think your tortoise/turtle has a specific medical condition or injury that warrants a vet visit, I'll tell you so, and if possible I'll help you locate a vet. It is neither legal nor ethical for me to provide veterinary advice.


I have kept and bred Russian tortoises for over ten years and have other Mediterranean species plus redfoots and box turtles. I've worked with other tortoise and turtle species while doing volunteer rescue work; mostly sulcata but some leopards, California desert tortoises, yellowfoots, all box turtle species, red-eared sliders, etc. I don't personally keep aquatic species, but have access to a wealth of information and research to help you with any questions you might have.

My knowledge is based on hands-on experience keeping, breeding, and working with tortoises and turtles.

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