The Best Substrates for Hermann Tortoise (2022)

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best substrate for hermann tortoise

Right from its state as an egg, to a hatchling and then an adult, a Hermann tortoise is in constant communication with the ground.

The state of the floor on which your tortoise stays is important to its lifestyle and comfort and so careful consideration has to be made when choosing a substrate.

When choosing the best substrate for Hermann tortoise, you should firstly have in mind if it’s a safe substrate or a dangerous one.

A wet substrate can cause your tortoise to have shell rot and respiratory infections amongst other things.

While a dry substrate could cause dehydration.

The right substrate can help with humidity control and also encourage your Hermann tortoise to burrow.

Ultimately, your choice of a substrate should be one of the most important parts when setting up the tortoise enclosure.

RELATED READ: How To Care For A Tortoise

The Best Substrates for a Hermann Tortoise

1. Orchird Bark

These types of substrates can be gotten easily from the local garden shop. Just like the coconut coir, they hold humidity well are a good way to keep your pet hydrated.

But unlike the coconut coir, they do not get dusty and are less likely to irritate your pet’s eyes when dry.

Keep them moist nonetheless to keep the humidity level in the enclosure to optimum levels.

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Top Pick

Zoo Med Repti Bark Natural Reptile

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2. Coconut Fiber

Coconut fiber is a natural fiber extracted from the husk of the coconut.

Coir is the fibrous material located between the hard, internal shell and the external coat of a coconut.

It naturally absorbs and breaks down odor and waste products.

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Our Top Pick

Josh’s Frogs Compressed Coco Cradle Fiber

38 Quart Block | Expands up to 6 times | Great for growing plants | Moderate to high humidity

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3. Cypress mulch

Cypress mulches are materials that are or once were living plant materials that are located on the soil surface to prevent erosion, weed germination, and reduce dehydration.

Cypress mulch substrates can retain moisture to provide humidity to the tortoise enclosure.

This type of substrate makes it ideal for tropical species of tortoises.

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Our Top Pick

Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding

8 L Size | 100% natural cypress mulch | All natural green product

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4. Mosses

Mosses are small flowerless plants that typically form dense green clumps or mats, often in damp or shady locations.

They can absorb water and nutrients essentially through their leaves and harvest carbon dioxide and sunlight to produce food by photosynthesis.

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Our Top Pick

Exo Terra Forest Plume Moss

7 Quarts, 2-Pack | Good for egg-laying and incubation | Natural forest moss (no dyes or chemicals)

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5. Organic Topsoil

Topsoil is the topmost layer of soil (2-8 inch) and is a mixture of organic material and minerals.

This is the layer of earth where most of the nutrients for plants are located.

Organic simply means that it is without any pesticides, artificial fertilizers, sewage, and genetically altered ingredients, or ionizing radiation.

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Our Top Pick

Dr. Earth Fertilizer & Soil Organic

4-Pound Bag | 100% organic and pet safe | Great for growing plants

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6. Aspen Shavings

Aspen Shavings are scent-free hardwood shavings that do not hold aromatic oils.

The highly absorbent shavings make ideal bedding material for reptiles with sensitive respiratory systems.

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Our Top Pick

Living World Wood Aspen Shavings

100-percent natural aspen wood | Highly-absorbent

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Substrates for Hermann Tortoise That You Should Avoid

1. Wood

Wood should be avoided at all costs because of the many dangers that are associated with its use.

Your Hermann tortoise could get stung by wood splinters, or they could ingest it mistakenly leading to life-threatening conditions.

Substrates made of wood that are in the basking area could also catch fire.

2. Pine and Cedar

Pine and cedar even though are wood, are an even more dangerous option.

They are toxic for your Hermann tortoise and even without ingesting it, they could have negative effects on your tortoise by just being around them.

3. Sand

Sand is one of the most commonly sold substrates in pet shops.

They are great when used in combination with another substrate but can be harmful if used alone even for desert reptiles.

When used alone, sand can cause eye irritation and infection, or intestinal impaction if swallowed.

4. Using Dusty Substrates

Avoid using dusty substrates as the dust can cause respiratory problems for your tortoise.

5. Fiber

Fibers are good substrates, but when neglected they can be very dangerous.

They can get moldy very easily and this would lead to a lot of health challenges for your pet.

Also, when it gets dry it can get dusty and this would lead to respiratory problems too.

They easily catch fire if exposed to heat in the basking area and these are the reasons why they should be avoided.

But if you can care for them properly, then you should use them.

6. Paper

Paper of any kind is bad for use with your tortoise. They have no benefit whatsoever but get moldy and catch fire easily.

7. Alfalfa

Alfalfa is a very absorbent substance that helps to keep your pet’s enclosure clean.

Its absorbent nature also implies that it can easily dehydrate your tortoise.

It’s also high in protein and could cause some problems if consumed.

Things to Look Out for in A Good Substrate for Hermann Tortoise

Even though your choice of substrate depends largely on your tortoise species, there are some general rules to choosing the best substrate for your tortoise.

The Hermann tortoise is a Mediterranean tortoise and as such are native to relatively dry climates.

So when choosing or mixing your substrates you should have this in mind.

The different substances that can be used offer different moisture retention capabilities.

Clay for instance can hold in more moisture than the sandy substrate, and so is fit for tropical tortoises.

Mediterranean tortoises do not require much moisture and so would do well with a mixture of soil and sand.

When filling up the enclosure with a substrate, ensure that you fill it up to at least an inch.

Hermann tortoises are burrowers and so you’d need to fill it up some more to encourage digging.

Also, try to keep the moisture content of the substrate as low as possible.

Too much moisture can lead to shell rot and other infections from an injury or a skin that hasn’t healed from shedding.

Consider the following before buying a substrate:

  • For juveniles, you can allow an increased level of moisture as they need good hydration at this level. You should also try soaking them in a bowl of water twice a week at least. This way they also drink and stay hydrated.
  • Since Hermann tortoises don’t require much moisture, you can make use of a mixture of sand and soil as substrates for them. If you can maintain fiber, then you can use it too as it makes a good substrate.
  • Don’t use substrates of sand with your pet as its ingestion could cause impaction. If you must use sand, use it as a mixture with clay, and use the digestible kind.

Tips for Substrate Use

  • Ensure there is a good amount of heat to ensure your tortoise stays warm
  • Keep your pet hydrated by placing water bowls in the enclosure. Spraying water in the enclosure would help too.
  • Keep the substrate clean and reduce the possibility of substrate ingestion by feeding your tortoise from a dish.
  • Furnish the enclosure with decors that would stimulate natural behaviors in your pet
  • Check the substrate for mold and mites

Commonly Asked Questions About Hermann Tortoise Substrates

Do Tortoises Need a Substrate?

Yes, tortoises need a substrate.

This way they can continue their digging behavior for those that dig for thermoregulation.

How Much Substrate Should a Tortoise Have?

The depth of a tortoise substrate should be at least 2 inches deep.

Tortoises of arid environments should have an increased proportion of sand, while those of humid regions should have their sand proportion decreased.

What Is the Best Substrate for Hermann Tortoise?

Hermann tortoises are burrowers and so would need any substrate that allows them to dig freely.

Examples of such substrates are orchid bark, pulverized coconut, shredded aspen, and cypress mulch.

Can Tortoise Eat Substrate?

Yes, tortoises can eat substrate.

That’s why you must choose a less toxic and safe substrate.

Keeping your tortoise well hydrated reduces its chances of impaction.


Providing a comfortable environment for Hermann tortoise is the dream of every tortoise keeper.

That’s why we have these reviews on the best substrate for Hermann tortoise to help you give your pet more comfort.

All substrates presented here are of great comfort so no matter the one you choose, you can expect nothing but the best.