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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Care Guides > Russian & Greek Tortoise Setup Steps

Russian & Greek Tortoise

Experience Level: Intermediate

Russian and greek tortoise in terrarium


Did you know? Tortoises are one of the longest living reptiles, often exceeding 50 years of age, and are the symbol for longevity in many areas of the world. It is thought that the oldest tortoise, a Giant Galapagos Land Tortoise, reached the age of 176!

Step 1Choosing a Terrarium

Tortoises originated from many different geographic areas and can adapt to different
environments. Multiple tortoises of the same type may be housed together (same-sex pairs recommended).

(A) Use a well-ventilated, 50-gallon (36" long) or larger terrarium for an adult tortoise.
(B) Screened lid, if not included with habitat.


Step 2Heating and Lighting

• Equip the habitat with (C) two thermometers (one on the cool side and one close to the basking spot) and (D) one hygrometer to monitor the humidity levels.

• The basking spot should be the warmest point in the habitat. Heat is provided by a (E) high-wattage heat bulb placed directly above the basking spot. At night, the basking light should be turned off.

• Use a ceramic heat emitter or night heat lamp as needed to maintain nighttime temperatures.


  Target Range
  Greek Tortoise Russian Tortoise
Humidity 50-80% 50%
Day - Cool Side 75-85o F (24-29o C) 70-85o F (21-29o C)
Day - Basking Spot 95-105o F (34-41o C) 95-10o F (34-38o C)
Night 65-75o F (18-24o C)  


• Tortoises are diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day. Use a daytime (F) UVA/UVB (ultraviolet) bulb for approximately 12 hours per day.

• For night viewing, use a night-specific bulb to minimize visible light provided to your pet.

Step 3Substrate and Decor

(G) For Russian Tortoises, use a 2-3" layer of coconut fiber or bark bedding to help retain humidity. For Greek Tortoises that like a slightly drier environment, a 2-3" mixture of calcium sand and soil or bark works well.

• Clean out waste weekly and completely change bedding at least once a month.

(H) Add a wood or rock hiding place in the cool area for hiding.

(I) Provide a lot of plants (artificial or live) throughout the habitat for additional hiding areas.

• Ensure decor is large and stable enough for the size of your tortoise.

Russian and greek tortoise in terrarium

New surroundings and environments can be stressful for pets. Prior to handling your tortoise, give him 3-4 days to adjust to his new surroundings while monitoring his behavior for any signs of stress or illness. Shortly after purchase, ask a veterinarian familiar with reptiles to examine your tortoise.

Things to Watch For
• Runny droppings for more than two days
• Eating or drinking less; weight loss
• Swollen joints
• Discharge from the eyes, nose or mouth
• Shell problems; discolored shells
• More time spent hiding in their shell

If you notice any of the above signs, speak with a PetSmart store associate or reptile veterinarian with questions about the health of your pet.

PetSmart Cares
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The program includes:
• Specific standards our vendors agree to meet in caring for and observing pets for common illnesses.
• Specific standards for in-store pet care.
• The PetSmart Promise: If your pet becomes ill during the initial 14-day period, or if you’re not satisfied for any reason, PetSmart will gladly replace the pet or refund the purchase price.