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Turtles/turtles and tortoises together


I live in southern Indiana. I have a 30x15 garden that I have fenced in and love and care for 6 turtles. I have two swimming areas and both are very easy to climb in and out of. I am thinking of getting a Russian tortoise male. I would like for the tortoise to enjoy his summer months out doors. Do you see a problem? I am concerned about the ponds and fight? I currently have a painted. Yellow and red alidsers and one old box turtle.

Hi Paula,

Kudos to your for caring so much about your turtles.  An outdoor setup is ideal for them!  For a few reasons, I would build a separate pen for your Russian tortoise if you decide to get him.  For one thing, there is a real risk of drowning, even with easy access out.  Another issue is habitat and dietary requirements--box turtles are omnivores, for example, whereas Russians are strict herbivores and should stick to greens and weeds.  They should not eat fruit or veggies.  You're also right that there may be fighting.  Russian males can be quite feisty.  But maybe most importantly, there is a risk of transferring foreign pathogens.  Your turtles are all North American species, from more or less the same ranges (or overlapping ranges).  A Russian comes from an entirely different area, which means that they can carry pathogens to which they have immunity and your other turtles don't, and vice versa.  There have been increasing incidents of more recent imports carrying the herpes virus, which can be fatal and also spread rapidly.  It's not necessarily something that will show up right away, and it seems that some tortoises may be carriers without becoming very ill.  The risk isn't huge, but my advice is always to keep species separate unless they naturally occur in the same area, just to be on the safe side.  Hope this helped, and enjoy your shelled friends!  


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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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