Are you looking to buy a substrate for your Sulcata tortoise but are not sure which one to buy, and to use? Confused by the types and the brands?
Well, you’ve come to the right place.
Today, I’ll be introducing you to the best three recommendations as confirmed by tortoise husbandry experts to save you all the time and hassle of trying to figure it out by yourself.
So without further ado, onto the top picks:
Here are the best substrates for Sulcata tortoises:
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
👍 Holds moisture well and is splinter-free.
👍 Does not mold even with high humidity.
👍 Will does not stain your tortoise’s skin like other substrates have been known to.
👍 Dust-free substrate that is also soft on tortoises feet.
👎 Somewhat more expensive than other substrates on the market.
Critters Comfort Coconut Reptile Bedding Organic Substrate
- PERFECT BEDDING MATERIAL: Ideal for snakes, lizards, geckos, iguanas, turtles, frogs, crabs
- SUPERB ODOR CONTROL: Enjoy living with your pet – odor free because of coconut coir’s incredible ability to absorb, encapsulate, retain and break down moisture
- PEACE OF MIND: 100% organic coconut coir is non-toxic, dust free, and chemical and fragrance free giving you peace of mind knowing that it’s safe for your pets and you, too
👍 Easy to use and does not require breaking apart like some other substrates.
👍 Easy to clean and replace.
👍 Encourages Sulcatas to burrow.
👎 Requires drying time to reduce moisture.
👎 Bag size is smaller than it appears.
Zoo Med Eco Earth
👍 Holds great moisture for humidity.
👍 Has a really pleasant, subtle smell
👍 Easy to use and work with.
👍 Doesn’t get moldy.
👍 Soft for the feet of your sulcata.
👎 Requires breaking up prior to use.
👎 Requires you to add water and it is easy to overdo it and oversaturate it if you haven’t used it before.
👎 Been known to carry mites.
What Type Of Substrate Should You Use For A Sulcata Tortoise?
Sulcata tortoises are native to dry, arid environments. As such, they require a dry substrate that is similar to one that they would experience in such places.
Now, different substrates are made of different materials; including wood, sand, cypress mulch, coconut fiber among many others.
Not all are the same.
When it comes to Sulcata, you want to opt for a substrate that will allow moderate humidity (between 30-50%) in the enclosure.
Any higher and this can lead to issues such as shell rot, or stress on your tortoise as they will struggle to keep warm.
Yet, if it is too low, your Sulcata can suffer through dehydration.
Cypress mulch and coconut fibers are two such substrates that are known to keep and allow you to maintain, optimal humidity.
Wood, on the other hand, can cause splinters or impaction if swallowed.
Pine or cedar shavings as wood substrates, in particular, give off aromatic hydrocarbons (phenols) that are actually toxic.
Can You Use Sand For A Sulcata Tortoise?
It is not recommended to use sand for a Sulcata tortoise. It is an impaction risk and possible skin and eye irritant.
Many owners who have proceeded to use sand have also noted it getting stuck in areas such as the eyes and mouth, and that it is not particularly practical or beneficial either.
How Much Substrate Should You Use At A Time?
It is recommended to add at least 4+” of the substrate to your Sulcata enclosure at a time. This will allow them to dig and burrow – a natural, instinctive behavior of the species.
Now, this species of tortoise will dig for a multitude of reasons.
Whether it is to cool off, to keep themself occupied, attempt to relieve stress (in the context of escaping predators), to create a nest to lay eggs, or to brumate throughout the winter.
Therefore, it is essential that you provide sufficient depth to enable them to do so.
Of course, the deeper you go, the more substrate you need to use.
5 or 6″ is preferable, but naturally more expensive than 4″ of depth which is the recommended minimum.
How Often Should You Change The Substrate?
It is recommended to change the substrate in your Sulcatas enclosure every few months, on average.
However, individual circumstances and factors may influence this time. For instance, the type of substrate you use, how much substrate you have used, how clean it appears, if there are any odors, how many tortoises you have etc.
Generally, if you engage in regular spot cleans, particularly after feeding, you should notice that you do not need to change the substrate so often.
So there you have it.
Three of the best substrates that you can use for your Sulcata.
Now, for simplicity, I would not look any further than the Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding.
You’ll soon see why when you look at the customer reviews over at Amazon.
As an all-natural cypress mulch, it will look fantastic when laid down but most importantly, will retain sufficient moisture and resulting humidity for your Sulcata’s needs.
Besides, it’s a big bag, and these tortoises aren’t small!
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.