Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Turtles > 10 Best Substrates for Red-Footed Tortoises in 2024 – Reviews & Top Picks

10 Best Substrates for Red-Footed Tortoises in 2024 – Reviews & Top Picks

Red-Footed Tortoise

Constructing a suitable terrarium for your tortoise is a major step in ensuring your pet is comfortable and safe in his enclosure. Many steps go into building the perfect terrarium, such as the decorations or enrichment objects you will add. However, the substrate is one of the most important elements.

Different tortoises have various needs, and finding a substrate that best mimics their natural habitat is a great way to meet those needs. If you’ve recently brought home a Red Footed tortoise, you need a high-quality substrate that suits his lifestyle. In this article, we’ll discuss 10 of our favorite substrates for Red Footed tortoises. You’ll find detailed reviews of each option, including a pros and cons list so that you can make a well-informed decision for your pet.

divider-turtle

A Glance at Our Top Picks (2024 Update)

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Reptile Substrate Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Reptile Substrate
  • Made from natural materials
  • Allows your tortoise to burrow
  • Holds humidity but can also remain dry
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Zoo Med Eco Carpet Zoo Med Eco Carpet
  • Affordable
  • Easy to wash and clean
  • Crafted from recycled plastic products
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Zilla Ground English Walnut Shell Reptile Bedding Zilla Ground English Walnut Shell Reptile Bedding
  • Easy to clean
  • Conducts and retains heat
  • Allows burrowing behavior
  • Zoo Med Premium Repti Bark Natural Fir Reptile Bedding Zoo Med Premium Repti Bark Natural Fir Reptile Bedding
  • Retains moisture well
  • Material is washable and reusable
  • Several size variations are available
  • Zoo Med Forest Floor Natural Cypress Mulch Reptile Bedding Zoo Med Forest Floor Natural Cypress Mulch Reptile Bedding
  • Affordable
  • Several size variations are available
  • Lays flat to prevent insects from hiding
  • The 10 Best Substrates for Red-Footed Tortoises 

    1. Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Reptile Substrate – Best Overall

    Material: Coconut husk
    Volume: 8 dry quarts

    Our pick for the best overall substrate for Red Footed tortoises is the Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Reptile Substrate. Zoo Med Eco Earth’s substrate is made from coconut husk materials, providing a more natural environment for your pet. A huge benefit to this substrate is that it can be used damp or dry and can be easily moistened by spraying it with a bit of water. Additionally, your tortoise can burrow through the loose material, which keeps him active and enriched.

    Cleaning your tortoise’s enclosure is convenient with this substrate. Due to its absorptive nature, the Zoo Med Eco Earth substrate can soak up waste materials and break down their odors. Furthermore, the eco-friendly material can be recycled or composted. You can reuse the substrate in your flower pots if you are an avid gardener.

    Some users report that the substrate irritates their skin when they come into contact with it. If you are prone to sensitive skin, you will want to wear gloves when handling this substrate.

    Pros
    • Made from natural materials
    • Naturally minimizes odors and waste products
    • Material can be recycled or composted
    • Allows your tortoise to burrow
    • Holds humidity but can also remain dry
    Cons
    • May irritate your skin if you come into contact with it

    2. Zoo Med Eco Carpet – Best Value

    Material: Plastic
    Volume: 10-gallon carpet

    If you’re looking for the best substrate for Red Footed Tortoises for the money, look no further than the Zoo Med Eco Carpet. It is an affordable plastic carpet suitable for a 10-gallon tank. It is crafted from recycled plastic products and is made in the United States. The way the carpet is crafted prevents your curious tortoise from taking a bite out of it, so you don’t have to worry about your pet munching on something he shouldn’t.

    Even better, the Zoo Med Eco Carpet can be easily removed and washed, making cleaning a much easier task.

    On the downside, the Zoo Med Eco Carpet does not allow your tortoise to burrow. Since it is a carpet and not made from loose materials, there is nothing for your pet to dig his claws into. You’ll have to find other sources of activity and enrichment for your turtle if you choose a carpet substrate.

    Pros
    • Crafted from recycled plastic products
    • Construction of the carpet prevents pets from ingesting it
    • Easy to wash and clean
    • Affordable
    Cons
    • Doesn’t allow burrowing

    3. Zilla Ground English Walnut Shell Reptile Bedding – Premium Choice

    Zilla Ground English Walnut Shell Reptile Bedding

    Material: Walnut shell
    Volume: 5 dry quarts

    Our premium pick is the Zilla Ground English Walnut Shell Reptile Bedding. Since it is a premium choice, it is a bit pricey, but we think the substrate’s benefits are well worth the cost.

    The fine walnut shell material looks appealing in any terrarium and mimics the appearance of sand. It also makes an excellent choice for tortoises that love to burrow. Your pet can easily dig and scratch through this substrate, keeping him entertained for long periods. The material is excellent at conducting and retaining heat, so you can more easily mimic the warmer climate your Red Footed tortoise would’ve enjoyed in the wild.

    Additionally, this substrate is easy to clean. It only needs to be replaced once per month, assuming no accidents or large messes occur.

    Pros
    • Conducts and retains heat
    • Allows burrowing behavior
    • Easy to clean
    Cons
    • Somewhat expensive

    4. Zoo Med Premium Repti Bark Natural Fir Reptile Bedding

    Material: Douglas fir
    Volume: 4 dry quarts, 8 dry quarts, or 24 dry quarts

    Another great option is the Zoo Med Premium Repti Bark Natural Fir Reptile Bedding. Zoo Med Premium is made from Douglas fir materials, providing soft flooring and an all-natural environment for your tortoise to enjoy. The Douglas fir retains moisture well, which can help mimic the tropical environment your Red Footed tortoise would thrive experience in the wild.

    This material is washable and reusable, so you can save money by not needing to purchase as many bags of substrate. After a few washes, though, you’ll want to replace it. If you have multiple terrariums to fill, Zoo Med Premium may be the perfect choice. Zoo Med comes in several size variations, including an option for 4 dry quarts, 8 dry quarts, or 24 dry quarts.

    Unfortunately, some users have reported issues with mite infestations in the Zoo Med Premium bags. Before using this substrate, be sure to check the bags thoroughly to ensure that they are free of any unwanted visitors.

    Pros
    • Several size variations are available
    • Material is washable and reusable
    • Retains moisture well
    Cons
    • May be prone to mite infestation

    5. Zoo Med Forest Floor Natural Cypress Mulch Reptile Bedding

    Material: Cypress
    Volume: 8 dry quarts or 24 dry quarts

    For an affordable option, check out the Zoo Med Forest Floor Natural Cypress Mulch Reptile Bedding. It is made from cypress mulch, which mimics the material and texture of the forest floor. It is also attractive and can make a great addition to any style terrarium. Even better, the substrate lays flat, which makes it much more difficult for insects to hide beneath loose pieces. After feeding live insects to your pet, you won’t have to worry about stowaways lurking in his enclosure.

    Furthermore, several size variations are available so that you can choose the best one for your needs. The options that you can choose from are 8 dry quarts or 24 dry quarts. While they are not as varied as the Zoo Med Premium’s options, they offer better variety than the competition.

    On the downside, users have reported that the Zoo Med Forest Floor makes cleaning their pets’ enclosures difficult. If you don’t have the time, energy, or resources to dedicate to more thorough cleanings, it may not be right for you.

    Pros
    • Affordable
    • Several size variations are available
    • Lays flat to prevent insects from hiding
    Cons
    • Difficult to clean

    6. Exo Terra Forest Moss Tropical Terrarium Reptile Substrate

    Material: Moss
    Volume: 7 dry quarts per package (2 packages total)

    Our next pick is the Exo Terra Forest Moss Tropical Terrarium Reptile Substrate. It’s affordable and comes in a two-for-one package deal. The substrate is made from moss, making it highly absorbent and allowing your tortoise to burrow. It’s also more aesthetically pleasing and can improve the enclosure’s appearance.

    One of the main issues with this substrate is that it is prone to mold. A handful of users have reported that the Exo Terra Forest Moss develops mold issues more rapidly than other options. If you plan to purchase this substrate, be aware of the possibility of mold and check the bag thoroughly before each use.

    Pros
    • Affordable
    • Highly absorbent
    • Allows for burrowing behaviors
    Cons
    • May be prone to mold

    7. Zilla Lizard Litter Aspen Chip Reptile Bedding

    Material: Aspen
    Volume: 4 dry quarts, 8 dry quarts, or 24 dry quarts

    Zilla Lizard’s Litter Aspen Chip Reptile Bedding is another great choice. It comes in sizes of 4 dry quarts, 8 dry quarts, and 24 dry quarts, so there is plenty of variation to suit your needs. The substrate is designed to combat mite infestations; at the same time, it is made with a hypo-allergenic formula.

    It is a convenient option for tortoise owners and is easy to spot-clean. If extensive cleaning is difficult for you, you can do smaller, more frequent spurts of cleaning with this substrate. Still, it is recommended that you do a full and throughout cleaning on a regular basis.

    Something to be aware of is that the fine material of this substrate may get caught in your tortoise’s eyes. Monitor your pet carefully to ensure that his eyes are in good condition. If you ever notice something amiss with his health, reach out to your vet right away.

    Pros
    • Several size variations are available
    • Combats mite infestations
    • Spot cleaning is easy
    Cons
    • The fine material may get caught in your tortoise’s eyes

    8. Zilla Terrarium Liner

    Material: Recycled materials
    Volume: 10 gallons, 15–20 gallons, 30 gallons, 40–50 gallons, 75 gallons, and 125 gallons

    The Zilla Terrarium Liner is a carpet liner that can be cut to suit various enclosure shapes and sizes. It also comes in several size variations, so no matter which tank you own, the Zilla Terrarium Liner can suit it. It is made with an absorbent material that reduces the intensity of odors, and it is easy to clean. You’ll remove the substrate, rinse it, and you’re done! The convenience of this option makes the Zilla Terrarium Liner a great choice for children or first-time tortoise owners.

    However, the Zilla Terrarium Liner does not give your pet the opportunity to burrow, which may limit his options for activity and enrichment. Of course, there are other ways to provide these needs for your pet, but it is more natural for your tortoise when the substrate itself is the enrichment.

    Pros
    • Many size options
    • Easy to clean
    Cons
    • Doesn’t allow for burrowing

    9. Exo Terra Sand Mat Desert Terrarium Reptile Substrate

    Exo Terra Sand Mat Desert Terrarium Reptile Substrate

    Material: Carpet
    Volume: 10 gallons, 20 gallons, 40 gallons, and 60 gallons

    Next, we have the Exo Terra Sand Mat Desert Terrarium Reptile Substrate. It is made from carpet and is easy to place inside your pet’s enclosure. It also comes in multiple size variations for your convenience. This is especially useful for households that own several tortoises or other reptiles, and the larger packages (such as the 60-gallon option) can be a great fit for multiple pets. The design of the carpet is meant to mimic the appearance of sand, which can create an appealing look for your tortoise’s terrarium.

    However, the Exo Terra Sand Mat does not allow your tortoise to burrow, which can prevent him from finding enrichment opportunities. Another issue users run into with this brand is that it is difficult to clean.

    Pros
    • Easy to use
    • Several size variations are available
    Cons
    • Doesn’t allow burrowing
    • Difficult to clean

    10. Zoo Med Excavator Clay Burrowing Reptile Substrate

    Material: Clay
    Volume: 10 pounds

    Finally, we have the Zoo Med Excavator Clay Burrowing Reptile Substrate. It’s great for tortoises that love to burrow, and the clay material provides plenty of opportunities for your pet to engage in natural enriching behaviors. The appearance of the substrate is appealing and mimics the natural habitat that your tortoise experienced in the wild.

    On the downside, the Zoo Med Excavator does not hold its shape very well. If your tortoise likes to bury, be aware that any tunnels he makes may collapse. Therefore, it is important to keep a close watch on your tortoise if he tends to burrow deep.

    Pros
    • Allows burrowing
    Cons
    • Doesn’t hold shape well
    • Only one size available

    divider-turtle

    Buyer’s Guide: How to Pick the Best Substrates for Red-Footed Tortoises

    The substrate is a vital part of a healthy and happy tortoise’s habitat. The greater the quality of the substrate, the greater your pet’s quality of life will be. Having said that, it can be extremely challenging to determine which substrate is truly the best for your Red Footed tortoise.

    Even after checking out our reviews, you may be uncertain about which option you should choose. That’s why we’ve created this buyer’s guide to help you make the most informed decision possible.

    To decide which substrate is right for you, there are two main factors to consider: ideal substrate qualities and the specific needs of the Red Footed tortoise.

    Ideal Substrate Qualities

    The highest quality tortoise substrates will fulfill certain conditions.

    These include:
    • An ability to retain moisture while combating the presence of mold
    • Crafted with soft materials that are unlikely to harm your tortoise when he steps or lays down
    • Made of loose materials so that your turtle can burrow
    • Made with edible material, just in case your tortoise manages to swallow it

    When searching for the right substrate for your needs, try your best to check off all of these conditions. If you can, you can rest assured knowing that your tortoise is living with a good-quality substrate.

    red-footed tortoise species in the enclosure
    Image Credit: fullframes, Shutterstock

    Understanding the Red Footed Tortoise’s Needs

    You should also consider your tortoise’s specific needs when considering a purchase.

    Below are some factors about the Red Footed tortoise’s care that you should keep in mind:
    • They thrive with natural bedding
    • Their substrate must be spot-cleaned daily and replaced each week or each month
    • Substrates that offer enrichment and exercise are best at keeping your pet entertained and active
    • Your pet will need their habitat to be frequently moistened
    • Since they do best in moist habitats, you’ll need to watch out for mold

    These are only a few factors about your Red Footed tortoise that you should consider when picking out a substrate. If you want more specialized advice for your situation, consult your vet.

    divider-turtle

    Final Thoughts

    Our choice for the best substrate for Red Footed tortoises is the Zoo Med Eco Earth, which is made from natural materials that can be composted or recycled and is loose enough for your tortoise to burrow.  If you want an economical choice, take a look at the Zoo Med Eco Carpet, which is affordable, convenient, and crafted from recycled materials. The Zilla Ground English Walnut Shell substrate is our premium choice, and it conducts heat well. We hope these reviews have pointed you in the right direction to find the substrate that best suits your pet’s needs.


    Featured Image Credit: Brenda Carson, Shutterstock

    Our vets

    Want to talk to a vet online?

    Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

    Our vets