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QUESTION: Hi, My husband and I just adopted a female turtle to place in with our male turtle. Our male turtle automatically tried to mate with her. However he did not complete the normal ritual that we are finding online with no fanning. He is more aggressive with biting and snipping. She rejects him and starts biting as well. We have separated them and placed our male outside of his tank and then reintroduced them together and this still took place.  We are worried that they may injure each other... do you have any suggestions?

ANSWER: Hi Kristen,

I need more information in order to help you.  I need to know the species of turtle and approximate sizes, along with exactly how you have them set up (tank size, type of filter, basking light, UVB source, etc., and diet).

Generally speaking, if you plan to keep a male and female together, you need a very large tank or outdoor pond.  Sometimes a male/female pair will live together relatively peacefully, but often the male will be very aggressive and the female is constantly harassed and stressed.  This can lead to illness, so obviously isn't good for the female.  In addition, there can be issues with territorial aggression, which is another reason for a large tank.  I usually don't recommend keeping a male and female together unless you can provide enough space, and even then you have to watch for problems.  If you're keeping a species that is very common, such as RES, I don't recommend keeping males and females together at all, because it's so hard to find good homes for any offspring produced (RES are flooding rescues, and are considered an invasive species worldwide).

If you can post back with the additional information, and possibly a picture of the tank setup, I can give you more specific advice.  Thank you!

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QUESTION: Our turtles are RES and we are thinking they are both around 10-15 years of age. She is a little smaller than he is. We rescued both of them from homes where they were not taken care of very well. We just bought a 55 gallon tank which we bought before we new we were going to rescue our female. We are looking into buying a larger tank but have not found one yet. I read online after I emailed you about having the turtles bond outside of the tank. I left them inside another container for probably about 20 minutes or so keeping my eyes on them at all times. They were completely different in this container. I currently have both of them in a different tank that is not our males 'normal' tank. He is being less aggressive with her, but is still trying to mate. She is not being aggressive with him either but is fluttering at him occasionally. They have been in this tank for about 10 minutes and have not bitten each other at all. We have a UV light as well as basking light with a floating dock. We are in the process of buying a bigger basking area so that both of the turtles can be basking at the same time.

ANSWER: Hi Kristen,

Female RES are much bigger than males, so if she is smaller than your male, chances are she is barely mature or possibly even sub-adult.  Eventually she may be nearly twice the size of the male--females can get up to 12", although most big ones I've seen have been around 10" or so.

Turtles don't really bond or form bonded pairs.  It's not natural behavior for them at all.  In the wild, they meet, mate, and go their separate ways.  In captivity, they're forced together (which often causes problems, as I mentioned), and may display behavior that appears like bonding, but it's really not.  They have to share food, swimming space, basking area, etc., so are often together, but isn't the same as actual bonding.  So it's best not to look at it as them "making friends" and instead provide them with what they need so as not to develop problems.  

The reason you're not seeing problems in another container is because it's a new and unfamiliar environment for them.  This is stressful, and usually keeps them from being aggressive, but doesn't really do anything to bond them.  The best way to deal with aggression, other than separation, is to provide a large tank (in this case, it should be 150 gallons or more) with a large basking area and plenty of hiding areas and sight breaks.  

Make sure you have an actual UVB light, not UV.  The ZooMed Powersun is the best one IMO, and the only one I recommend at the moment.  UVB is necessary for the metabolism of calcium for indoor turtles.  

How big are the turtles?  At 10-15 years old, the male would probably be around 7" and the female 10" or larger.

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QUESTION: Our male is about 6-7 inches. She is about 5-6 inches, but the previous owners had her for about 8 years or so. She was kept in a very small tank about 15 gallons with no filtration or lights. Would this affect her size? Also, would it be better to have two females in a tank or not? We thought about getting another female.

Yes, that's pretty small for an 8 year old female.  I'd expect her to be more like 8"+.  Small tank size won't stunt their growth (but is a common myth), but improper conditions and poor diet will, so I'd guess that's what happened with her.  You may find that she will grow considerably in the next couple of years.  

Keeping two females together is a better idea than a male/female pair, assuming that there is adequate room.  Females usually won't fight unless they have to compete for resources.  Males are just instinctively very driven to breed, and if you have an aggressive male, it's very difficult to get them out of that mode.  Females don't really seem to care about mating--maybe it's because the males have more than enough drive, lol.  But females do get large, and need large tanks, so keep that in mind when considering another female.


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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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