Some substrates are great, and others can be lethal. We will help you to choose the best russian tortoise substrate and show you exactly how to avoid the substrates that could kill your tortoise.
Using the wrong type like sand can cause gut impaction when it gets eaten, alfala substrate can irritate the tortoise’s eyes and others can be even toxic.
There can be a lot of options but some tortoise keepers have limited time and resources to be able to try them all and figure out which one works the best for their pet.
The comfort of your pet is, of course, your priority and the choice of the substrate will go a long way in ensuring that your pet stays in an environment that is as close to its natural habitat as possible.
Having the right substrate is essential in the overall health of your tortoise and so you have to get this right, just like everything else.
The first factor to consider is the location of your tortoise.
Do you want to keep it into an indoor or outdoor enclosure?
No matter the choice you make, it will be in constant communication with the ground, and what it comes in contact with is very important.
After observing numerous russian tortoise substrates, we have a pretty firm idea of what qualities make the russian tortoise substrate, and the Zoo Med Eco Med Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate it’s our top choice.
- Ideal for a natural-looking terrarium
- Breaks down waste
- Made completely of natural substances
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The Best Type of Substrate for a Russian Tortoise
The best substrate that you can use for a Russian tortoise is a combination of play sand and soil.
Tortoises love to dig as it has many thermoregulatory advantages to them, the soil gives them the capacity to do so.
While the introduction of sand helps you regulate the humidity levels. Using sand alone is a terrible decision that can lead to many problems, but in a mixture with soil, it can be used safely.
The proportion of the mixture is not random but depends on the humidity of your area. If you live in a place with high humidity, then the amount of sand you will add is a little more than someone who lives in a place with low humidity.
Generally, the substrate mixture should be 70% to 80% of the soil, and the rest of the sand.
Substrates also help in providing temperature and footing regulation.
The soils and sand you will use is nothing special than the regular ones you can find lying everywhere.
But care should be taken that the soil and sand you use is 100% natural, free from fertilizers and other chemicals. The sand also has to be relatively small in size.
For the warmer months of the year, we recommend that you use coconut fiber as a substrate material because it is good at keeping the humidity high during the dry season.
Avoid keeping them for too long as they will develop mold.
Instead, change them in a month or two just to be sure your pet stays safe.
Constantly check them to be sure they do not get overly dry because they get dusty.
Best Substrate For Russian Tortoise
1. Zoo Med Eco Med Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate
Top on our list of best substrate for Russian tortoise is this Zoo Med Eco Med Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate.
Coconut fiber is one of the best types and is great in mimicking a natural habitat for your pet. It is not only ideal and loved by reptiles like your tortoise, but it is also loved by amphibians and invertebrates.
You can regulate the moisture content if you think it is too dry by adding a little bit of water to dampen it.
It is made from coconut husks and can be used as an alternative to soil or manure. It naturally absorbs and breaks down odor and waste products in the terrarium.
- Ideal for a natural-looking terrarium
- Absorbs odor
- Breaks down waste
- Made completely of natural substances
- Sticks to food and your tortoise could eat it
2. Reptichip Premium Coconut Substrate
The Reptichip Premium Coconut Substrate is a quality substrate that allows you to provide a comfortable and natural habitat for your Russian tortoise.
It is made of coconut chips that have been properly taken care of to be free from dust, dirt, and fiber. It is perfect for use not only with your tortoise but also amphibians and invertebrates.
Make use of a product that is easy to maintain. It is easy to clean and absorbs odor. You can regulate the humidity of your reptile’s terrarium by damping with water.
It is made completely of organic materials, making it safe for your reptile, eco-friendly and ready for use right out of the box.
- Made of quality and organic materials
- Free from dust and dirt
- Easy to use
- Free from harmful chemicals
- Provides your Russian tortoise with ideal humidity
- Few Plastic contained in blocks is of concern
3. REPTILE Prime Coconut Fiber Bedding Substrate
This is a superior product for humidity control. You can choose to use it either wet or dry, depending on the needs of your tortoise at the moment.
It is not only great for use with your Russian tortoise, but it is also great with amphibians, invertebrates, and other reptiles. For desert and tropical dwellers, you have to ensure it stays dry.
Reptile Prime Coconut Fiber Bedding Substrate has good absorbing properties and can absorb your pet’s waste, break down odor and keep the terrarium smelling fresh and clean.
It is eco-friendly and can be recycled for use as an alternative to soil or manure
- Can be used for both tropical and desert animals
- It has high humidity retention capacity
- It breaks down odor and absorbs waste
- Can be used alone and remains a great substrate
- No dust
- It’s basically dirt and causes concern for some users
4. Exo Terra Plantation Soil
This soil is made of compressed coconut fiber. It is ideal to keep the humidity levels high and meets the humidity requirements of your Russian tortoise.
It is 100% natural and totally safe for use with other pets like frogs, salamanders, and other burrowing animals.
You can recycle it for planting or as manure, and you can choose to plant on it in the terrarium. The incubation of eggs can take place here as it is hygroscopic.
For the best life, give your pet the best products. Its needs are not so demanding and Exo Terr Plantation Soil is one of the substrates that can offer your tortoise a comfortable home away from home.
- Made of natural materials
- Stimulates burrowing in your pet
- Controls humidity of the terrarium
- It is dirt and some have trouble with it
5. Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding
Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding is natural and made from cypress mulch.
This makes it a comfortable substrate for your Russian tortoise and guarantees the safety of your pet.
It is not only great for use with tortoises, but can be used in terrariums of frogs, lizards, snakes, salamanders, tarantulas, and others.
It is also great at moisture retention, regulating the humidity of the terrarium. If you desire to give your tortoise a natural-looking home, you have to look no further than this product.
- Made of natural cypress mulch
- Good for humidity control
- Great for other animals like snakes, amphibians and tropical tortoises
- It requires regular hydration to keep from getting dry
Things to Look Out For In a Good Russian Tortoise Substrate
The Type of Soil
There are a lot of substrates that can be used for your Russian tortoise, but not all are good enough for use with it.
To understand its substrate needs, you have to take your mind to what its natural habitat feels like. Russian tortoises naturally live in Asia, specifically Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran.
The soil is mostly clay to loam, and the PH and limestone levels are high.
So the best substrate for it would be one that is close to or the same as its native land.
The microclimate of your Russian tortoise’s substrate is essential for its health. Your pet is native to semi-arid and arid land that has very low humidity.
Making a home for it with a substrate that is too humid will cause health problems.
Humidity is not something that your tortoise can get used to and so to ensure it stays healthy and comfortable, make use of a substrate whose humidity can be regulated.
Microclimate also affects the insects and bugs that thrive in the soil. A different micro-climate means different insects and it is dangerous if the wrong insects cohabit with your tortoise.
They will cause harm and make it sick so you have to ensure that if insects appear, they will have no effect on the health of your tortoise.
Moisture Level of the Substrate
The humidity levels of a substrate for a Russian tortoise should be maintained at 30% to 50%.
Humidity is very important as it helps the tortoise maintain its body temperature. Tortoises rely on their environment for thermoregulation and so the wrong humidity level can have severe consequences.
If the humidity is too high, your tortoise will have shell rot, and if it is too low, the shell and skin will be dehydrated.
The Depth of the Substrate
Russian tortoises love to dig the soil. They dig for heat control and also for fun sometimes.
So you need to make the substrate as deep as possible to allow for this. An ideal depth would be around 6 inches.
It is not always possible as space is a problem for some people, but make sure your substrate is no less than 2 inches deep.
This way your Russian tortoise can dig at will with no hindrances.
Tortoise Substrate Tips
- Maintain enough heating, with temperature ranges to allow thermoregulation
- Provide proper hydration through water bowls, spraying and humid hides within the enclosure
- Keep the food off the substrate by using dishes
- House the babies/hatchlings on a paper towel or reptile carpet
- Provide furnishings that stimulate natural behaviors like climbing, basking and foraging.
- Monitor the substrate for mites and mold growth
- When using bedding for horses or small animals, make sure you filter it and remove the sharp pieces
Types of Substrates for Tortoises
These type of substrates that are not good for your tortoise and you should avoid using. One of the reasons why you should avoid using these products is because they can cause gut impaction, eye irritation and can be toxic and provoke injuries.
- Pine or Cedar Barks/Shavings – Pine and cedar can emit noxious fumes and in a confined enclosure, the tortoise cannot escape them. These types of woods are mostly used on plant gardens since fleas, moths, and microorganisms avoid this type of wood.
- Regular Sand – The tortoises can ingest this substrate and end up with a gut impactions of their gastrointestinal systems. Impactions can be difficult to treat and they can sometimes be fatal.
- Alfalfa Pellets – Make sure that your tortoise does not actively eat these substrates since they contain a high amount of protein. Materials of this type when wet they tend to get moldy very quickly. They can also be very dehydrating and has been associated with fungal eye and respiratory infections.
- Walnut Shells – Ground walnut shells are a terrible substrate for tortoise and reptiles in general. It’s made out of several tiny sharp little cubes and it can get stuck in his digestive system and even cut his insides when ingested.
Some other types of substrates that are not commonly recommended but some tortoise keepers use:
- Reptile carpets – While it may be okay to have this for your tortoise for a short time or provisional, it can get very dirty and can harbor lots of bacteria. Also this removes the option for the tortoise to burrow
- Hemp Bedding – The material is essentially manufactured as bedding for horses, but it’s being used more recently with small animals and it has been growing. There can be many pieces with very sharp ends and of sufficient strength to cause deep penetrative cuts. We also believe that its effectiveness when providing microclimates it’s not the best.
- Newspaper Bedding – You can use shredded paper in their enclosure instead of normal newspaper so they can hide in. But just as a substrate then we will say no, since they like to dig into the soil. Also if it gets soaked with water, even in the slightest, it will get very mushy. Shredded paper can be used if you have sick tortoise, as you can change it fast and efficiently.
- Hay Substrate – Hay as a substrate for tortoises is not that great, it molds easily when it gets wet and it doesn’t last for very long. Some tortoise keepers stated that they have been using hay as a substrate and had no issues. Hay can be used as part of a diverse diet.
When you ask a fellow pet owner to recommend a good substrate that would be great for your tortoise, the most common and trusted substrates will be any of the following:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Organic 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.
Commonly Asked Questions About Russian Tortoise Bedding
Q: How Often Should You Change The Substrate Of A Russian Tortoise?
Changing the substrate depends on the depth, and also the size of the terrarium. If your substrate is about 2 inches deep, then you will need to change it in 3 or 4 months. If it is 6 inches deep, then you will need to change it after 5 or 6 months.
Q: How Deep Should A Substrate Be?
Tortoises love to dig and burrow. You should keep this in mind when filling out the substrate so as to allow for this activity. The depth of your tortoise’s substrate should be anywhere from 2 inches to 6 inches.
Q: What Bedding Should I Use For My Russian Tortoise?
Since tortoises love to dig, what will come to mind is play sand. That is not a good choice as the use of sand substrate can cause many health problems.
A mixture of play sand and soil is perfect and will allow your tortoise to live happily and carry on its activities.
The overall health of your pet Russian tortoise is dependent on a number of factors, your choice of a substrate being one of them.
The endless list of choices has been narrowed down to these top 5 that provide exactly what your tortoise needs from a substrate. If you are still confused about which to choose, we would recommend Zoo Med Eco Earth Substrate.
It is natural and helps keep the terrarium clean by absorbing odor and moisture. It also helps to regulate the humidity so your pet has favorable conditions. You can also choose Reptichip Premium Coconut Substrate.
It is easy to use and free from harmful chemicals so your tortoise stays safe. It ensures good humidity levels and is free from dust and dirt.
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