The Russian Tortoise is a small but long-lived reptile suitable for beginners. This animal can live up to 50 years with proper care. The right substrate is a vital part of its care. You must set up an appropriate environment that satisfies the tortoise’s needs yet is also easy to clean to keep the space healthy. Our guide includes the things you need to know about choosing the right product. We’ve also included detailed reviews to make your decision easier.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites of 2023
|Best Overall||Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Reptile Substrate||
|Best Value||Zoo Med Eco Carpet||
|Premium Choice||Zoo Med Premium Repti Bark Natural Fir Reptile Bedding||
|Exo Terra Coco Husk Tropical Terrarium Reptile Substrate||
|Galapagos Cypress Tank-Mulch Natural Cypress Reptile Terrarium Bedding||
The 5 Best Substrates for Russian Tortoises
1. Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Reptile Substrate – Best Overall
|Material:||Coconut fiber and husk|
|Available Sizes:||8 and 24 quarts|
Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Reptile Substrate ticks off many boxes we like to see in these products that make it the best overall substrate for Russian Tortoises, starting with its appearance. The materials create a natural-looking environment that we believe a wild tortoise would like. It’s also eco-friendly, which is an essential property in a material you’ll replace fairly often. These benefits make it one of our best overall substrates for Russian Tortoises.
The product is compacted into bricks to solidify its value and shipping ease. You can soak it to maintain moisture in your tank. It’s light enough for your tortoise to burrow without any risk of an obstruction. It’s affordably priced to make caring for your Russian Tortoise worry-free.
2. Zoo Med Eco Carpet – Best Value
|Material:||Post-consumer, recycled plastic|
The Zoo Med Eco Carpet is our choice for one of the best substrates For Russian Tortoises for the money because it’s so easy to use. It is an absorbent liner that covers the bottom of your tank. Clean-up couldn’t be easier when it’s time to replace it. Roll it up and toss it into the trash. It can replace other substrates with single pieces. We also liked that the product is USA-made with post-consumer, recycled plastic.
The carpet is reusable because of the material with which it is made. That adds to its value You’ll still need burrowing substrate to satisfy your tortoise’s needs. It only comes in one size, which can make cleaning it more challenging.
3. Zoo Med Premium Repti Bark Natural Fir Reptile Bedding – Premium Choice
|Available Sizes:||24 quarts|
The Zoo Med Premium Repti Bark Natural Fir Reptile Bedding scores high marks for its large size. It also has a natural appearance for those who want a realistic setup for their pet. The acidity of the material allows you to get longer use out of the substrate. It also gives it a pleasant smell that makes you feel as if you’re walking in the woods.
The product is messier to use compared to other substrates. It’s also pricey for what it is. While you can reuse it, the prep is more than we’d like. The manufacturer also suggests getting another product to get the job done, which adds to the expense.
4. Exo Terra Coco Husk Tropical Terrarium Reptile Substrate
|Material:||Compressed coconut husk|
|Available Sizes:||6 and 7.2 quarts, with multi-packs|
Exo Terra Coco Husk Tropical Terrarium Reptile Substrate is an excellent choice if you want to create a naturalistic environment for your Russian Tortoise. It looks right and has a good texture and weight for burrowing as it would in the wild. It’s lightweight, but it is messy to use, especially if you have an overzealous digger on your hands.
It is absorbent and does a decent job of maintaining the proper humidity. It’s more like shavings than bigger pieces. That works for that job but adds to your work. We like the texture and assume your turtle will, too. It comes in multiple sizes and packaging for added value.
5. Galapagos Cypress Tank-Mulch Natural Cypress Reptile Terrarium Bedding.
|Available Sizes:||8-quart and multi-pack|
Galapagos Cypress Tank-Mulch Natural Cypress Reptile Terrarium Bedding is an excellent alternative to other materials that often are more dusty than mulch. You won’t have that problem with this product. The absorbency is decent but not as good as coconut fiber. Nevertheless, it is long-lasting, so you’ll get your money’s worth with this product.
We liked that it is a timber by-product, which makes it an eco-friendly purchase. The manufacturer takes the extra step to clean and filter this USA-made substrate. Those steps improve its usability. We also loved the natural look of the mulch for a more fitting reptile environment.
Your tortoise’s habitat is a critical part of its care since it will likely spend most of its time inside it. Size, temperature, and maintenance are vital considerations. The substrate can make creating a healthy environment easier. Luckily, this reptile is adaptable and handles captivity well. However, you must meet it halfway with the right conditions.
The preferred living quarters is at least a 30-gallon aquarium. That will give your pet enough space to move around and burrow. The latter trait makes your choice of substrate vital to the animal’s quality of life. You must balance your need for an affordable and easy-to-use product with the tortoise’s drive to dig into the ground.
The Russian Tortoise lives in the dry, sandy sites of Central Asia, including China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, we recommend avoiding materials like sand and gravel. The turtles may ingest some of the material as it burrows, presenting a risk of gastrointestinal blockages. They are medical emergencies requiring surgery. The other concern is sanitation. These substrates aren’t easy to clean.
The solution is a replaceable material that can absorb water to provide the necessary humidity. It should also be reasonably durable to handle the scratching of a burrowing reptile. Options you may see include moss, cypress, coconut fiber, and bamboo. We don’t recommend pine or other wood shavings because of the essential oil they contain and the sharpness of the pieces.
The availability of sizes goes hand-in-hand with affordability. A 30-gallon tank measures 36 inches L x 13 inches W x 16 inches H. Ideally, you should have a 3–4-inch layer of substrate. Bulk sizes offer a better value, especially when you consider how much substrate you’ll need. The product isn’t going to spoil, so you can afford to opt for a larger size bag, preferably at least the amount you’ll need to cover the bottom of your tank.
Ease of Use
When we speak of ease of use, we’re referring to how well the product will hold up to daily use and avoid developing an odor or mold. Remember that a tank creates an ideal environment for bacteria. Therefore, the substrate must be easy to use and that won’t encourage its development. It should also have a decent length of usability to make it affordable.
Many products are reusable if you clean them between uses. Of course, that adds to their value. It also makes some substrates harder to use if you don’t have a basement sink to rinse them. We suggest following the manufacturer’s instructions. It may mean buying another product, but it’ll ensure you are providing a healthy substrate for your Russian Tortoise.
After completing our reviews, several products stood at the head of the class. Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Reptile Substrate is an excellent choice that provides a healthy environment for your Russian Tortoise that is also aesthetically pleasing. The Zoo Med Eco Carpet makes maintaining your tortoise’s living quarters about as easy as it can get. The affordable price is an added perk. However, all of these options should be a good choice for your pet, and we hope you found one that you can use for the rest of their life!
Featured Image Credit: Busiukas, Shutterstock