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Arid Tortoise Care Sheet

Arid Tortoise

Greek and Russian

These small tortoises enjoy roaming about their habitat and burrowing into their substrate. With a long life span, expect your arid tortoise to be a companion for life.

Arid Tortoise

Arid Tortoise Facts

Average Adult Size 6 to 8 inches long, depending on species
Average Life Span up to 50+ years with proper care, depending on species
Diet herbivore


A well-balanced arid tortoise diet consists of:

  • High fiber and calcium. Low protein and fat is needed to ensure good digestive tract function.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables, squash, carrots, etc.; fruit should be given sparingly as a treat.
  • Also benefit from an arid tortoise commercial diet, but should be no more than 25% of the diet.


Things to remember when feeding your arid tortoise:

  • Fresh, clean, chlorine-free water should be available at all times. Some tortoises have a tendency to go to the bathroom in their water bowl, so expect to clean and disinfect this daily.
  • Feed tortoises daily; finely chop vegetables.
  • Sprinkle food with calcium supplement daily and a multi-vitamin supplement once or twice a week.
  • Discard vegetables and fruits not eaten within 24 hours.


  • Size - Indoor enclosure should be at least 36"x12"; outdoor enclosure should be at least 48"x48" with a secure screened cover to allow sunshine but provide protection, with walls high enough that the tortoise can't escape and buried at least 12" into the ground, as tortoises will dig.
  • Habitat - Keep habitat arid and dry, with shaded areas to escape direct sunlight. Humid climates may need a dehumidifier; cool climates require supplemental heating. Provide a hiding area, such as a cave or hide box filled with additional substrate. Maintain less than 60% humidity.
  • Substrate - Tortoises are known for eating substrate. Use something that is digestible such as alfalfa pellets; substrate should be deep enough for the tortoise to burrow. Don't use coarse substrates such as sand or gravel that can scratch the shell.
  • Temperature - Temperature gradient (85°F for the warm end and 75°F for the cool end); recommend using an incandescent light or ceramic heater as primary heat source.
  • Lighting - Providing UVB lighting for 12 to 14 hours a day is required.
  • Same-species tortoises can be kept together, but do not house different tortoise species together.

Normal Behavior

  • Active, friendly and outgoing
  • Will become tame with gentle handling and time; move slowly around tortoises to avoid startling them.
  • Adept at digging to escape; hide in objects and burrow into substrate.

Habitat Maintenance

  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect the habitat at least once a week: place tortoise in a secure habitat; scrub the tank and furnishings with a 3% bleach solution; rinse thoroughly with water, removing all traces of bleach smell; dry the tank and furnishings completely and add clean substrate.

Grooming & Hygiene

  • Weekly water soaks with water level no deeper than the mid-point between the bottom of the tortoise's shell and its top.


Signs of a Healthy Animal

  • Active and alert
  • Eats regularly
  • Healthy shell
  • Clear, bright eyes
  • Healthy skin
  • Clear nose and vent

Red Flags

  • Eye, nose or mouth discharge
  • Soft, discolored or rough spots on shell
  • Lethargic
  • Bumps or spots on skin
  • Abnormal feces
  • Sneezing, mouth breathing or runny nose
  • Overgrown beak

If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian.

Common Health Issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health Issue Metabolic bone/vitamin deficiency Symptoms or Causes Inability to absorb calcium due to insufficient UVB light or diet (including supplementation). If untreated, can lead to a disorder characterized by deformities, softened bones, swollen limbs and lethargy. Suggested Action Consult your veterinarian and provide ample UVB lighting and proper diet with calcium supplementation.
Health Issue Respiratory infection Symptoms or Causes Labored breathing or runny nose. Can be caused by cold, damp habitat or infectious disease. Suggested Action Consult with your veterinarian and ensure habitat is the proper temperature.
Health Issue Ticks and mites Symptoms or Causes Parasites on the skin; can transmit disease. Suggested Action Consult with your veterinarian.
Health Issue Gastrointestinal disease Symptoms or Causes Runny stools, caked or smeared stool around the vent area and loss of appetite caused by bacterial or parasitic infection. Suggested Action Consult with your veterinarian.


Ask a store partner about Petco's selection of books on arid tortoises and the variety of private brand products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All private brand products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all reptiles are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as Salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your reptile or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing or caring for reptiles and should consider not having a reptile as a pet.

Go to for more information about reptiles and disease.

This care sheet can cover the needs of other species.

Note: The information on this Care Sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, refer to the Sources on the back of this Care Sheet or contact your veterinarian as appropriate.

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.