Russian Tortoise Habitat Setup: 12 Steps to Setup Ideal Russian Tortoise Habitat

Owning an exotic pet is not as easy as owning domestic pets. It is because you must think about keeping them healthy and comfortable in a world they are not assimilated.

The first step would be to think about how they live in the wild and make their stay in your home as similar as possible.

For this reason, setting up their habitat is the most critical stage that you have to plan before bringing the pet carefully.

In this article, we will give you 12 steps to set up an ideal Russian tortoise habitat. Keep reading!

Cute Reptiles as Pets
Cute Reptiles as Pets

Russian Tortoise Habitat in the Wild

Russian tortoises are natives of Asia. They are widely spread in South, East, Central, and Western Asia. 

They occupy Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Uzbekistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, and Kazakhstan. 

Arid areas are rocky hillsides, deserts, grassy, and sandy steppes. And, Russian tortoises live in those areas in the wild.

The climate in those areas is pretty harsh. During summer, the temperatures are pretty high during the day, and thus the tortoise only forages at dawn or dusk.

During winter, the temperatures go below freezing. Thus, the Russian tortoise stays in hibernation until spring.

Russian tortoises have a short period of activity in the wild. Mostly, only three months in a year during spring.

It is only during this time that they forage during the day and engage in mating. 

Captive Russian Tortoise Habitat Setup: Enclosure or Tank?

Russian tortoises are large, and thus an open enclosure would make a perfect home. However, you can still house them in a closed enclosure, but you must ensure it’s large enough to accommodate your Russian tortoise.

Outdoor enclosures are only best for people living in warm areas. And, outdoor enclosures are suitable as they allow your tortoise to roam and graze, making their habitat as natural as possible freely.

Whether outdoor or indoor enclosure, you must ensure that they are secure enough as Russian tortoises are escapades.  

How to Setup a Proper Russian Tortoise Habitat?

Before setting up a Russian tortoise’s habitat, it is critical to understand its natural habitat.

It is because it is essential to keep their habitat as natural as possible. Therefore, the first step to setting up your Russian habitat would be good research on their natural habitat.

Good research will help you understand their basic requirements, such as temperature, humidity, lighting, and bedding.

Secondly, the next step will be buying the required equipment. Then, setting up the enclosure and putting the décor.

Décor is essential for mimicking your Russian tortoise habitat and thus reducing stress to them.

Some sellers will offer ready-setup enclosures. Thus it’s up to you to choose the one that seems ideal to you.

Let’s now explain some of the steps you have to follow when setting up your Russian tortoise habitat.

 the ideal russian tortoise habitat setup
the ideal russian tortoise habitat setup

Understanding Their Natural Habitat

Understanding your Russian tortoise’s natural habitat is inevitable. It is the only way for you to know what you need to include in your Russian tortoise tank to keep them healthy and comfortable. 

Enclosure Size

The size of the Russian enclosure depends on the size of the tortoise. And Russian tortoises can get as big as 8-9 inches. 

A good thumb of rule is to get an enclosure that is at least 10times longer than your Russian tortoise, five times wide, and three times higher. 

Additionally, tortoise enclosures come in various materials, including glass, plastic, and wooden. 

Glass terrariums are great but can cause stress to your tortoise. The tortoise doesn’t understand it’s impossible to pass through and thus keeps trying to walk out.

However, you can use paint or tape to make it lucid. Glass terrariums are also not good at maintaining humidity.

Therefore, wooden or plastic enclosures would make better tanks compared to glass.

They must be at least 6-10 feet long for every 1-6 tortoises for outdoor enclosures. 

Additionally, they must go beyond 8″ under, as Russian tortoises are pretty good at digging tunnels. 

They are also good climbers, and thus, the terrarium should be high enough to prevent them from climbing out. Make sure it’s at least 16″ tall.


Russian tortoises require at least 12 hours of lighting and 12 hours of darkness. 

Therefore, it is critical to include a 100-watt incandescent lamp on their basking spot and a UVB light over it. 

UVB light is necessary for keeping your tortoise healthy and free from bone and shell illnesses. It provides your tortoise with vitamin D3, thus promoting good shell and bone development.

Russian tortoise in the wild basking
Russian tortoise in the wild basking


Russian tortoises are native to arid areas where humidity is relatively low. Thus, humidity can tremendously affect your tortoise’s health. 

Too little humidity can cause health problems, while too much can cause even greater ones.

It is because Russian tortoises have minimal tolerance to cold and humid conditions. 

Health issues such as pneumonia, eye infections, and shell rot result from too much humidity.

Therefore, you must ensure to maintain 60% moisture to keep your tortoise healthy and comfortable.


Russian tortoises come from areas where the climate is relatively hot. Thus, it is essential to ensure you provide a basking temperature ranging between 900F and 950F.

Russian tortoises dig burrows to hide from the scorching sun in the wild. Thus, you should also provide a cooling area with the temperature going as low as 700F.

During the night, you can let the temperature drop to 650F. Use a thermometer to regulate the temperature in your Russian tortoise habitat.

You can use incandescent lamps on the basking areas to raise the temperature and ceramic or under-tank heat emitters to maintain the ambient temperature.

Substrate and Bedding

It is necessary to provide a comfortable substrate to your Russian tortoise to avoid causing stress to them. 

Russian tortoises are natural burrowers. Thus, their substrate should be deep and easy to burrow in to keep them comfortable. 

The best substrate for Russian tortoise can be coconut fiber, peat moss, a mixture of garden soil and sand, or any other that is not dusty and not too dried.


The tortoise tank should always be kept clean. Therefore, you should ensure to routinely clean your Russian tortoise enclosure and change their water daily.

Additionally, you should thoroughly clean their enclosure weekly using 5% bleach. 

Also, always remember to thoroughly rinse all the accessories, including the substrate, to remove any trace of bleach.

And finally, wash your hands with soap and water to prevent bacterial contamination after cleaning your Russian tortoise cage.

Buy Products

Before buying the products for setting up your Russian tortoise cage, it is essential to know and understand what you need.

Therefore, the first step should be listing the necessary products to complete your Russian tortoise enclosure.

Secondly, you should research the prices from different sources and come up with a list of potential sellers depending on the availability, pricing, and durability.

Russian tortoises have a very long lifespan, and thus, the products should be of good quality.

They can also get pretty big, and therefore their cage should be large enough to accommodate the fast-growing tortoise.

There are several places to get these products, including online shops such as Amazon. You can also get them from pet shops near you. 

Some sellers even offer fully set up enclosures. Therefore, it is entirely up to you to choose the best place to get your Russian tortoise products.


After you have everything ready, the next step would be setting up your Russian tortoise enclosure.

If you are setting up an indoor enclosure, you must ensure that you have

  • A large tank (50 gallons and above)
  • UVB lighting to provide a 12-hour day cycle.
  • Ceramic or under-tank heat emitters to maintain the ambient temperature.
  • An excellent substrate to keep your Russian tortoise healthy and comfortable.
  • Logs and rocks to promote climbing behaviors for your Russian tortoise.
  • Accessories such as water and food dishes for healthy feeding of your tortoise.

Adding Décor

Outdoor enclosures are the best to keep your Russian tortoise happy. But, if you are setting up an indoor enclosure, you should ensure it mimics the outdoor enclosures.

The best way to make your Russian tortoise enclosure similar to their wild habitation is by adding décors such as plants and grasses. 

Logs, hide boxes, and rocks are also necessary to promote your Russian tortoise’s natural behavior. 

Additionally, if you are using a glass terrarium, ensure that you paint or use tape to make it lucid and avoid stressing your Russian tortoise.

Can you House More Than One Tortoise in the Same Enclosure?

A pair of Russian tortoise
A pair of Russian tortoise

Russian tortoises are social. In the wild, they visit other burrows and sometimes spend nights as a group in one shelter.

However, you must ensure that there is plenty of space to move around without getting territorial freely.

Also, you must ensure to provide enough food to avoid conflicts. And, don’t house more than one male in the same cage to get aggressive towards each other.

And, most importantly, include plenty of hiding spots to prevent the male from harassing the females. 

Wrapping Up

Setting up an ideal habitat for your Russian tortoise is inevitable to keep them healthy and comfortable in captivity.

A good description of an ideal habitat should include a large tank that is not less than 12 square feet.

Also, it should have a loose substrate, 12 hours UVB light, 90-950 F basking temperature, and 70-800 F ambient temperature.

Additionally, plenty of hiding spots are necessary to reduce any possible stress on your Russian tortoise when in captivity.

We wish you all the best with your Russian tortoise!

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