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Hay pellets for Russian Tortoises

11 Mar


Russian Tortoises are grass and weed eaters. In the Wintertime I feed them fresh greens from the grocery store and also these Timothy Hay pellets.


I bought this 40 pound bag at Theisen’s, a farm supply store.


I spray water on the pellets to soften them.


They eat a lot of Collard Greens and Kale.


Occasionally sprinkle Calcium powder on the tortoise food. Once a week is good.


I found a good use for these thin limestone pieces. They make a nice dinner plate for the tortoises.


These Redfoots can eat the greens and pellets, but they also get fruits and some protein (cat food).

This 40 pound bag of pellets will last me 10 years. Now I need to get a rabbit.


Annnnd one more tortoise picture because we love tortoises!


Annnd, one more picture of my turtles eating Collard Greens. A Red-eared Slider and a Northern Red-bellied Cooter.

Water sprayer for indoor tortoises

10 Mar

It’s too dry for the tortoises indoors in the Winter so here’s a fast way to spray their shells and habitat.

Peggy the Central American Wood Turtle. 29 years and counting.

Buy a brand new garden sprayer. Here’s mine. It only holds a gallon of water. I don’t want something too heavy.

Here’s the most important thing. Buy a new sprayer. DO NOT use one that might have had pesticides in it.

Costs about $15 at Walmart.

My Yellow-Bellied Slider is not.

10 Mar


The big turtle I got a couple years ago has baffled me. She’s so dark. She disappears in the pond and then rises out of the depths. I call her The Creature From The Black Lagoon.


I thought she was a Yellow Belly because she had a yellow belly, sorta.

This winter I have noticed the colors in her shell are changing. She has gotten lighter and I see red edges on the shell. The plastron (bottom) has become more orange or pink.


I wondered. Is she really a Yellow Belly? I posted that question online and got my answer in a matter of minutes. My Yellow-Bellied Slider is a Northern Red-Bellied River Cooter.

She is mainly vegetarian. Her favorite food is Guppy Grass (Naja guadalupensis). She is peaceful, graceful and still growing.

It makes me wonder…how did a Northern Red-Bellied River Cooter end up in an animal shelter in Eastern Iowa?

This picture of wild Red-bellied Cooters confirms the identification of my turtle.

Turtle food grown in an aquarium

10 Mar

A ten-gallon tank can provide a great source of food for aquatic turtles.

My turtles will eat Water Lettuce, Duckweed, and other plants. They LOVE Guppy Grass (Naja guadalupensis).


I occasionally collect snails for the turtles. That would be great for Puffers and various Cichlids, too.

The snail bait is a slice of cucumber.


If you have guppies in the tank the excess can be fed to other fish and turtles.

All this can come from one aquarium.

baby turtles in 2016

17 Jan

I found two nests from my Red-eared Slider in 2016. Each clutch had six eggs.

See the eggs! The Mom always picks a nice warm, rainy day to go digging.

I incubated the eggs in a plastic tub. I put a layer of sand on the bottom with a heat source, then a smaller plastic tub with moist coir (coconut fiber), and that small tub loosely enclosed in a clear plastic bag to hold humidity. I set the temperature where the eggs were  to about 80-82 F. (27 C)




The first group of eggs never developed at all. From the second group of eggs I had 5 hatchlings. They took 70-80 days to hatch.

After hatching, the babies sit for a few days absorbing their yolk sac. Then I place them in shallow water with smooth rocks to crawl up on.

I have a UV light over them but I also put them outside whenever possible. Their shells harden up and they eat like mad. Mostly bloodworms, shrimp, and earthworms. High protein for fast growth.

They are so cute but I can’t keep them. I advertise them and give them away to good homes. I ask a few questions. It’s easy to tell who knows what they are doing. I don’t expect miracles, just an honest effort to give the babies a good home.


Thinking outside the tank

16 Jan

My water turtles spend the winter indoors in a 100-gallon horse trough. Let’s call it a turtle trough instead.

This year I acquired two more adult sliders A female Red-ear and a female Yellow Belly.

The basking spot I had was an upside-down bucket with a smooth rock on the top. There was not enough room for 4 turtles to bask.


One day, a teeny little light bulb went off in my teeny little brain. I went to the garage and cut a few 2″x4″ boards. I drilled them into the studs along the wall behind the turtle trough. Then I added a piece of plywood. The plywood is very important. It keeps the turtles inside their habitat, rather than falling off the logs and onto the floor.



I added 4 random pieces of wood. I drilled the first piece through the plywood and into a 2″x4″.

Then I added the other pieces of wood. I just played around with them and made them fit together so the turtles could climb up under the basking light. They are all screwed together with 3 1/2″ wood screws.


A big benefit is that I can now fill the turtle trough almost completely to the top. They gained at least 20 gallons of water and now have a big natural basking platform.


Eventually , I will finish this project. I’ll paint the plywood board in a solid, natural color like green or brown. Then, I’ll drill maybe a dozen holes into the board. Why, you ask? What is this madness?  I’ll tell you!  I’ll push ARTIFICIAL plants into the holes, creating a solid wall of fake greenery and flowers. When I do that I’ll post some pictures so you can see how it turns out.

A new tortoise pen

30 Apr

Here’s a quick photo summary of the tortoise pen I built yesterday.


I used 2″ x 10″ boards.


I used 2″x 4″s for the top. I stapled the wire to the bottom of the boards. The white plastic ties are only there because I used the wire that I had, which was in two pieces, instead of buying a single piece. Cheap cheap cheap, that’s me.


Two hinges on the back.


A latch on the front. I probably don’t need to lock it. I’m not aware of any turtle thieves running around but, my Red-foot Tortoise is worth $200 and if she were taken it would likely be bad for her.


Now we’re getting fancy. A handle on the front. Cost me $1.99


I bought a bag of Cypress Mulch (three bucks) and the sun came out for an hour so…


…the tortoises got to come out to eat and sunbathe. I get these organic dandelions from my neighbors yard (thanks NW). He says he grows them just for me!


But it’s still too chilly in Iowa so I took them indoors for the rainy days to come. If this Red-foot keeps growing I’ll be building a bigger pen before too long.

The important point to make is this: If you have a tortoise try to take it outside when you can. Even if you have UV lights, I believe nothing is like the real thing. A sluggish tortoise will totally perk up when exposed to natural sunshine. Even a few hours per week will do wonders. Same for some popular lizards, like Iguanas and Bearded Dragons. Remember to provide shade and water if it’s hot outside. My Red-eared Sliders spend the summer in a pond but if you can get yours out in a swimming pool (not a chlorinated pool for humans, I mean a small kiddie pool) once in a while they will love it.

One more thought. My previous tortoise pen had wire buried underneath the entire thing to prevent burrowing out. I never saw any indication that mine were ever close to digging all the way out. Therefore, I did not add wire to this set-up. So consider that, depending on your tortoise. All tortoises dig and burrow. Mine nestle in the mulch and then only dig down an inch or so. They are lazy, even by tortoise standards.