Do you need to buy some substrate for your Russian tortoise? Not sure what type to buy or what brand is best? Well, this buyer’s guide is for you.
Today, I’ll be walking you through some of the most popular and highly reviewed substrates that are best suited to the Russian tortoise species.
And we won’t be hanging around.
Here are the top three picks.
Let us now look at each respective product and the pros and cons of using each particular one.
Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding
- 100% natural cypress mulch
- All natural green "product"
- Recommended terrarium substrate for many species of snakes, lizards, land turtles, tortoises, frogs, toads, salamanders, tarantulas
👍 Substrate retains moisture and holds humidity well.
👍 Promotes active digging and burrowing.
👍 Individual pieces are of a great, sufficient size preventing any accidental ingestion.
👍 Excellent value for money.
👍 Great consistency and no foul odors or smells.
👎 Can be delivered slightly wet and may need a little drying prior to use.
Exo Terra Forest Bark Substrate
- Reptile terrarium substrate made from 100% natural fir bark
- Controls air humidity levels and is ideal for humidity loving reptiles
- Hygroscopic, readily absorbs and releases moisture
- Stimulates natural digging and burrowing behavior
- 8-quart bag of natural reptile terrarium substrate
👍 Very easy to clean up and doesn’t get soggy.
👍 Again, excellent size pieces prevent ingestion.
👍 Less messy than soil bedding.
👎 Requires work prior to use; either soaking if too dry or drying if too wet.
👎 Quality has been known to vary.
Small Pet Select Aspen Bedding
- Only the Best for You and Your Furry Friend: The ideal Bedding for your rabbit, guinea pig, gerbil, hamster, chinchilla, rat, mouse, snake, reptile, or any small animal; Small Pet Select Premium Small Animal Aspen Bedding is a very low-dust, safe, high-quality product that will last
- 100% Heat-Dried All Natural Aspen Shavings: Made in the USA without any harmful dyes, chemicals or additives; Made from wood shavings directly off the tree - so no potentially dangerous fibers that may cause respiratory problems or other health issues; Breaks down easily and organically for safe disposal in your garden, compost, or organic waste bin
- Comfy Is Key: Super cozy and fluffy but still super absorbent; We have developed this product for optimal absorbency which aids in odor control without any added artificial scents; Safe for your pets and for you!
- Recommended Use: Line the bedding inside the pet's habitat; Remove and replace as used; Damp bedding can cause urine scald, so we recommend removing damp spots or soiled areas between changes and replacing the paper bedding every one to two days (or fluffing to prevent large damp areas where your animal stands); Store in a dry place
- Pawtastic Products for Your Pet: When it comes to pet care, quality should never be compromised; Small Pet Select is a family-owned company that handpicks each of our products with love; We aim to deliver the safest, most effective, and highest-quality pet essentials
👍 Soft and comfortable for tortoises
👍 Large shavings that fluff up to prevent ingestion.
👍 Highly absorbent.
👍 Pleasant smelling – a ‘natural woodsy smell’, which helps keep the enclosure smelling fresh.
👎 Can be a bit dusty.
👎 A little messy to work with and use.
Russian Tortoise Substrate Buyers Guide
What Makes A Good Substrate For A Russian Tortoise
The best substrates for a Russian tortoise are those that mimic the native land where these species originate.
And these tortoises naturally reside in central Asia, namely Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
The soil there is arid/semi-arid. In other words, it has a relatively modest humidity level.
In fact, Russian tortoises in the wild will often dig and burrow underground to cope with the low humidity of the environment. Underground burrow humidity can be as high as 70%.
So it is therefore essential that you keep your Russian tortoise on a substrate that retains some level of moisture, and therefore humidity.
This will ensure they can self-regulate their body temperature and keep sufficiently hydrated.
But you do need to be careful of extremes.
Too much humidity and tortoises can suffer from shell rot.
Too little humidity and a tortoise can suffer from dehydration.
As you can see, humidity only becomes an issue when it is too far out of whack – at either end of the spectrum.
So as a general rule of thumb, you should be opting for humidity in the 40-70% range.
How Often Should You Change The Substrate For Your Russian Tortoise?
You will need to change the substrate in your Russian tortoise enclosure every 3-6 months.
Although, it does depend on the type of substrate you use, how much you use at any one time (depth), and also the size of the enclosure.
For instance, a smaller enclosure with less substrate used will require more frequent changing, perhaps every 2-3 months.
A deeper level of substrate, around 6″, may need to be changed every 4-6 months.
How Much Substrate Should You Use For Your Russian Tortoise?
Russian tortoises are obligate burrows. Or in other words, they love to dig and burrow below the surface.
For this reason, it is advised to provide a sufficient depth of substrate, at least 3-4″, preferably up to 6″ at any one time.
This will allow your Russian tortoise to effectively dig as and when required.
What Substrates Are Unsafe To Use For Russian Tortoises
Pine/cedar shavings, regular sand, and walnut shells are among some of the substrates that you should not use for your Russian tortoise.
Pine or cedar shavings contain toxic oils and fumes which can harm your tortoise, whereas sand and walnut shells can be ingested which can result in a whole host of complications to their digestive tract and systems.
Each of the three options presented here today will serve you and your Russian tortoise well.
Besides, they are routinely used by keepers all over the world.
But, if you are looking for a quick, simple recommendation, then I would opt for the Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding.
As an all-natural cypress mulch, it will not only look amazing when it is laid down but most importantly, it will retain sufficient moisture and resulting humidity for your Russian torts’ needs ⬇️
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.