Animals / Reptiles

The Central Asian Tortoise

Синонимы и названия на других языках

Russian tortoise, Horsfield's tortoise

Vierzehenschildkröte (German)


Order: testudines

Family: testudinidae

Subfamily: agrionemys

Genus: testudo

Species: agrionemys.


As the name suggests, this species is native to Central Asia. These turtles can be found in prairies from China to Uzbekistan. They prefer sandy soil, but are also seen on the grass near the water. They live in holes which they dig themselves or else they use other animals’ ones.

Due to excessive entrapment for sales, the species is endangered. 

Внешний вид

The Central Asian tortoise is relatively small, about 15-25 cm long (in the wild they can get a little bigger). Males are slightly smaller than females, otherwise they look similar.

The tortoise has protective coloration, so it can vary depending on the substrate, from sandy color to olive-brown. There are interspecies populations that live in areas with specific color of substrate, and their carapace has respective coloration too. The head and the legs are dark-yellow. These tortoises have 4 fingers on each foot.

Males and females have different shape of the tail; if the tail is long and thick at the base, it is a male. Male’s cloaca is located further down the tail than female’s. The female’s tail is shrt and doesn’t have thickenings. 


It is a peaceful tortoise, suitable for beginners. It gets tame and can be handled. If the tortoise is tame, it doesn’t hide its head when it is touched. In order to maintain better contact with the tortoise you can hand-feed it. 

Содержание и уход

A tank is a must! You mustn’t try to keep this tortoise without a tank. On the floor the reptile will be on the way of draughts and can easily catch pneumonia. Injuries are also possible. Without a tank tortoises don’t live long.

For one tortoise you will need a 60-100 l tank. For substrate you can use coconut husks or just a mat with artificial grass, it is easy to wash (should be washed daily). The tortoise needs a shallow bowl with fresh water that needs to be changed daily. You can keep tortoises in groups, they are harmless and don’t conflict with each other. In this case you will need a bigger tank.

Don’t put real plants in the tank: the tortoise will eat them. But it will need a hiding place: a cave or a wooden house for rodents.

For heating you will need a filament lamp or a reflector. The lamp has to be at least 15 cm away from the tortoise, otherwise it can get burnt. A UV lamp is a must too. The bowl is required, so that the tortoise eats in one location and doesn’t take the food all over the tank where it will rot.

The ambient temperature should be between 23°C at night to 33°C in the basking spot under a reflector.

The air humidity should be around 50 %, misting is not required.

The Central Asian tortoise needs bright light, you should use filament and UV lamps


The Central Asia tortoise is a herbivore species. In captivity it eats lettuce, dandelions, berries, squash, pumpkin, carrots and other vegetables and fruit.

You will have to add to the food calcium supplements to avoid rachitis. Every second or third month you should give to the tortoise vitamins. Young tortoises should be fed every day, adult ones can be fed every second or third day.


The Central Asian Tortoise is a peaceful and friendly reptile; a great choice for a beginner.

They are long-livers; easy to care for.

They can get tame.

It is not recommended to let them out on the grass since they can move unexpectedly fast and get lost easily. They can burrow tunnels and get out of open-air enclosures. 


Pneumonia: occurs because of draughts. The tortoise becomes sluggish, stops eating and gets discharge from the nose. If you notice such symptoms, you should contact your vet at once.

Carapace injuries occur if you drop the turtle on the floor. They can be difficult to cure; you can put on the crack BF glue, and under proper care an nutritious feeding it can heal eventually.


Females are sexually mature at the age of 10-2 years, males at the age of 5-6 years. The mating season usually lasts from February to August. The pregnancy lasts for 2 months, then the female lays 2-6 eggs and buries them in the soil. It’s best to take them out and place into an incubator. The eggs are incubated under the temperature of 28-30°С for 60-65 days. Hatchlings start eating at once; they can be fed with finely cut herbs with added vitamins. UV light is required.

Average life span in the wild is up to 40 years, in captivity they normally live less, only for 25 years.


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