Best Substrate For Russian Tortoise

The substrate is one of the most important things to consider while setting up the proper enclosure for your Russian Tortoise. Continue reading till the end as I share all the essential information you need to know to settle on the perfect substrate for your Russian Tortoise.

What Is The Best Substrate For Russian Tortoise?

The best substrate for Russian Tortoises includes Coco Coir, Orchid Bark, and Cypress Mulch. Generally, for little Russian Tortoises, the Coco Coir works best while Orchard Bark is better for larger tortoises.

You should understand that every Russian Tortoise habitat needs some form of substrate.

While there are many options, Coco coir, Cypress Mulch, and Orchid Bark are usually the best choices as substrates. You can purchase all these substrates at most hardware and garden centers..

#1. Coco Coir

The coco coir consists of Coconut fibers that are extracted from Coconut husks. If you think of using this as a substrate, try to choose the pure ones to ensure your Tortoise’s safety.

The coco coir substrate works well for Russian Tortoise babies to bury in it and create an environment for themselves.

Although the coco coir can be messy, it holds a good deal of moisture. This helps prevent mold in your tortoise enclosure. Moreover, it usually lasts long.

Before you use coco coir as a substrate, it is essential to remember that it needs a bit of preparation. For example, it is required to soak before using it (so that it becomes soft).

#2. Cypress Mulch

Another substrate to consider is the Cypress Mulch. The only issue with cypress mulch is that it can sometimes smell bad. Moreover, the pieces of cypress mulch are not uniform, so some pieces are pretty big or sharp. 

That said, it is a readily available material and doesn’t become too dusty. Also, it gives a stable platform to the Russian Tortoise for burrowing. In short, you can use it as a substrate since it is safe and suitable.

#3. Orchid Bark

The substrate that works best is the Orchid Bark. It has multiple benefits.

  • Orchid Bark is cheap as a substrate.
  • It is good at holding moisture.
  • It doesn’t smell bad.
  • It is the least messy of all the three substrates.
  • There is no ingestion hazard present.

Orchid bark is usually recommended to work best for adult Russian tortoises. Orchid bark remains less dusty when dry, so if you spot clean it every day, it can last long. If you want, you can also add some soil below this substrate.

If you want to learn more about their diet, you should check out the best food for a Russian Tortoise.

What Not To Use As A Substrate For Russian Tortoise?

Russian tortoises typically don’t need high humidity. And this is an essential factor to consider while choosing the substrate.

The ideal substrate for Russian tortoises shouldn’t hold too much moisture. (It should be slightly moist though!)

Here’s a list of substrates that you should avoid for the Russian Tortoises:

  • Wood shavings
  • Pine, Cedar, or Redwood products
  • Clay-Based bedding
  • Paper 

All these items are unsuitable for Russian Tortoises and can negatively affect them.

For instance, if you use paper as bedding for the Tortoise, it can get mushy when wet. And subsequently, develop shell rot or respiratory infection in the Tortoise. It can also be a fire hazard if you have a strong heat lamp for your Russian Tortoise.

Similarly, the pine or cedar chips are also unsuitable as substrates in the enclosure. They produce toxic fumes when heated, and that can harm the Russian Tortoise.

Also, it is good to stay away from any substrate (like gravel or sand) that is coarse, and your Russian Tortoise can ingest it (which could further lead to gastrointestinal tract blockage).

And, if you use only sand as a substrate, your Russian Tortoise would struggle to roam around. 

Their feet tend to sink into the substrate as they walk around.

Pro Tip: Ensure to include small or large flat rocks in the Russian Tortoise enclosure. That helps in keeping their long nails trimmed.

How Deep Should Substrate Be For Russian Tortoise?

Generally, you should have at least 3 inches or more of substrate for Russian Tortoises. 

Since these tortoises are great diggers and like digging in the substrate, it is good to ensure the soil is deep enough.

Due to their digging behavior, it is also essential to have the enclosure walls buried 6 inches below the surface.

How Often To Change The Russian Tortoise Substrate?

Usually, you should change the Russian Tortoise substrate every six months or sooner if it becomes foul-smelling.

However, the substrate-changing requirements can vary based on the individual tortoise type and the substrate.