Russian Tortoise Lifespan Facts To Know Before You Get One As a Pet

Oluniyi Akande
Oct 26, 2023 By Oluniyi Akande
Originally Published on Nov 21, 2021
Russian Tortoise Lifespan Facts To Know Before You Get One As a Pet

The small turtle that loves to dig burrows might just be the perfect pet that you can own.

They may be small, but they have big personalities. Although a baby Russian tortoise can make for the 'cutest pet on the internet', there are a few things that you should know before you get one.

The Russian tortoise, or Testudo horsefieldi, is a reptile with a lifespan of over 100 years. A fully grown Russian tortoise can weigh up to 2.5 lb (1.13 kg). The maximum length it can attain is 10 in (25.4 cm).

Interestingly, females are larger than males. They tend to grow throughout their lifespan. With age, their growth slows down. They also love to dig.

They use digging to escape out of enclosures. Wild ones can mostly be found in southeastern Russia and central Asia. After reading about the life of young adults of Russian tortoises, also check out the Russian tortoise size and can a tortoise swim.

Russian Tortoise Lifespan In Captivity

Reptiles as pets have recently gained popularity. They are fairly easy to take care of and require little to no form of human entertainment. While not all reptile species can be domesticated, several species, which are able to adapt to life outside wild forests and deserts, can be taken in as pets.

Turtles and tortoises are some of the most popular reptiles to have as pets. We all know that rodents and frogs are messy to maintain, but turtles and tortoises require little work.

Provide them with nutrient-rich food and an odd show of affection and they are happy. While the wild species cannot be groomed and owned as pets, there are several turtle species that can be kept as pets.

The Russian tortoise and baby Russian tortoises are some of the most popular pet tortoises to have. Russian tortoises are a great starter pet for children to take care of.

Russian tortoises have a large dome-like shell, tough skin, and short fat legs. They are beautiful creatures.

There are several significant differences between males and females. Those with longer tails are males and those that lack a hard bony spur at the end of their tails are females.

If you own male Russian turtles, then you would have to get them neutered, as your Russian tortoise might try and escape to go mate with female Russian tortoises, especially young adult male Russian tortoises. An adult size Russian tortoise can weigh up to 2.5 lb (1.1 kg).

At birth, these baby Russian tortoises are barely 1 in (2.5 cm) long. While the maximum length is 10 in (25.4 cm), most Russian tortoises do not grow beyond 5 in (12.7 cm).

Experts say that the average lifespan of the Russian tortoise is extremely long. Russian tortoises live for over 100 years. Although the Russian tortoise lifespan in captivity is lesser (only 50 years or so), your Russian tortoise will still be able to give you company for your entire life.

It can take up 15-20 years for baby Russian tortoises to turn into full-grown Russian tortoises. Wild ones grow faster than domesticated ones.

How do you take care of your pet Russian tortoise?

The Russian tortoise diet is fairly simple. The Russian tortoise diet should ideally consist of nutrients, high fiber, and calcium with low amounts of protein and fats. A mixture of finely chopped vegetables such as squash, zucchini, beets, yam, bell peppers, and carrots along with leafy dark greens can make an excellent and delicious meal for your Russian tortoise.

Leafy greens such as bok choy, romaine, collard greens, and mustard greens can be used. However, spinach and kale should be avoided. They tend to negatively impact the absorption of calcium.

Fruits can also be given but in lesser quantities. Every tortoise has its own preference. You can pick and choose depending on what your tortoise enjoys best.

If your Russian tortoise does not finish its food within 24 hours, throw out the food and replace it with fresh food. Spoilt food can lead to gastrointestinal problems. Thus, it is important that the food you give to your Russian tortoise is clean and freshly made.

A water bowl should also be provided. The water should be clean and fresh without any added chemicals. The bowl must be cleaned daily as some Russian tortoises like to go to the washroom in their water bowl.

Russian tortoises live in and enjoy areas that are dry and with sparse vegetation. If areas experience extremes weather these tortoises use burrows dug by other animals as shelter.

Your Russian tortoise can stay in your backyard in an outdoor enclosure. Just ensure that the enclosure provided is secure enough to prevent them from escaping.

Although Russian tortoises can survive in a wide range of temperatures, depending on where you stay, you might have to make additional adjustments to ensure that your tortoise pets are comfortable. You may even bring them inside your home under extremely cold weather conditions.

As they love to dig burrows, using sturdy enough walls for the enclosure is a must. Thus, it is extremely important to have at least 24 in (60.9 cm) tall walls and walls that go beneath the surface of the ground as well (at least 6 in (15 cm) below the ground), to avoid them from escaping.

Avoid putting fabrics and other materials near your walls that may assist your Russian tortoise in escaping. Also, ensure that the walls and do not have divots or cracks in them.

You should try to make the enclosure in a natural habitat. The enclosure you create must have grass and plants. Bermuda rye and fescue grass are a few types of grass that are good for them.

Baby Russian tortoises may also eat grass. Having additional plants is also a great idea.

Plants can provide shade and entertainment. Try and choose plants that require less water, as Russian tortoises prefer dryer areas. Plants such as palo verde trees, prickly pears, desert sage, and bristle brushes are some plants that can be used.

One can also incorporate rocks, as these small tortoises are excellent rock climbers. You can also place a few small boxes for your Russian tortoise to play with and use as shelter on hot and sunny days.

Avoid using artificial lighting in the enclosure, as the tortoise needs to get used to the natural day and night cycle. The Russian tortoise, unlike other pets such as dogs and cats, does not need or want your affection.

They are pretty solitary and love to patrol, climb, dig, eat and sleep. Therefore, other than an occasional neck rub or head scratch, they like to be left alone.

These tortoises also hibernate in captivity from anywhere between 8-12 weeks.

Reptiles as pets have recently gained popularity

Are Russian tortoises prone to diseases?

Russian turtles do not have many health issues. However, Russian tortoises, like most reptiles, are prone to two main diseases, namely, respiratory infections and metabolic bone disease.

A high humidity level can cause inflammation of the Russian tortoise’s nostrils and throat. This can be detected if your tortoise has labored breathing or a runny nose. A lack of sunlight or OVB light can lead to the inability to absorb calcium from our diet.

This is known as metabolic bone disease. If left untreated, it can lead to bone deformities, swollen limbs, and lethargy. A proper diet that is calcium-rich can help avoid this problem in this popular pet tortoise.

Symptoms To Be Aware Of

Russian tortoises are also susceptible to gastrointestinal parasites. This can cause your Russian tortoise to suffer from diarrhea and weight loss. This parasite can also be transmitted to humans. All these can be treated by visiting and consulting with a veterinarian.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for Russian tortoise lifespan facts then take a look at do tortoises hibernate or how big do Russian tortoises get.

*We've been unable to source an image of a Russian tortoise and have used an image of a tortoise instead. If you are able to provide us with a royalty-free image of a Russian tortoise, we would be happy to credit you. Please contact us at

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Written by Oluniyi Akande

Doctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

Oluniyi Akande picture

Oluniyi AkandeDoctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

With an accomplished background as a Veterinarian, SEO content writer, and public speaker, Oluniyi brings a wealth of skills and experience to his work. Holding a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan, he provides exceptional consulting services to pet owners, animal farms, and agricultural establishments. Oluniyi's impressive writing career spans over five years, during which he has produced over 5000 high-quality short- and long-form pieces of content. His versatility shines through as he tackles a diverse array of topics, including pets, real estate, sports, games, technology, landscaping, healthcare, cosmetics, personal loans, debt management, construction, and agriculture.

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