Updated: February 16, 2022 by Jennifer Munsell
Maybe you are considering bringing home a new pet tortoise. You already have the perfect enclosure picked out, but what about the best substrate for tortoises?
Setting up your tortoise’s enclosure can be exciting, but there are some decisions that you don’t want to rush. For starters, choosing the wrong kind of bedding could interfere with the humidity in your tortoise’s enclosure, which can cause shedding issues or even respiratory problems. It can also mean dealing with mold or mites, which are two of every reptile keeper’s worst nightmares!
Choosing the right type of bedding for your enclosure mostly comes down to personal preference. Tortoises can thrive on many types of substrates. However, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind, such as how well the material retains humidity, how easy it is to clean, and whether or not it’s all-natural.
You will also want to consider the species of tortoise you have and what the climate is like where they come from in the wild.
It might all seem kind of overwhelming, but we’re here to help! In this article, we’ll do a deep dive into the best beddings for tortoises to help you pick the perfect option for your new scaly pet.
After carefully reviewing all of the options for tortoise bedding, our top pick is the Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate.
Although it’s not the top-rated recommendation overall, it has many excellent qualities that make it the ultimate tortoise bedding.
Not only does it break down waste – making cleanup a breeze – but it’s also perfect if you want to grow plants in a bioactive setup!
Reviews of the Best Substrate for Tortoises
Maybe you are setting up a tortoise enclosure, but you feel overwhelmed with all of the different bedding options that are available. You want to make sure your new pet is happy and healthy, but you don’t know what substrate would best mimic their natural habitat.
Read on to learn more about the best beddings for tortoises, their features, and the pros and cons you should know about each.
1. Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding — Best Bedding for Tortoises
This substrate is the ultimate option for a tropical tortoise enclosure. It’s made out of 100% all-natural cypress, and it’s perfect for a host of reptile species, including tortoises!
The mulch is made specifically to retain moisture, so it will keep the humidity in your tortoise’s enclosure up with no issues. Unlike other substrates that have a tendency to mold over time, this substrate is made to withstand high humidities without molding.
- 100% cypress mulch
- 8 liter bag
- All natural substrate
- Retains humidity
Depending on how large your enclosure is and how deep you want your substrate to be, you may need to purchase several bags of this bedding. Be sure to measure your enclosure beforehand. A general rule of thumb is to make your layer of bedding around two or three inches deep. Some species that are burrowers need a few inches more.
- Holds moisture well for tropical tortoises
- Doesn’t mold, even with a high humidity
- Splinter-free unlike other bark substrates
- Multiple bags may be needed depending on the size of your enclosure
- Some customers reported mites
If you are looking for an all-natural substrate that retains humidity without having to worry about the possibility of mold, look no further than Zoo Med’s Forest Floor Bedding!
2. Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate
This substrate resembles dirt, but it’s actually finely ground coconut fiber! Because it’s made to break down your animal’s waste, you won’t have to worry about dealing with nasty odors, and cleaning will be a breeze.
It can also be combined with Zoo Med HydroBalls to promote plant growth and create a beautiful bioactive setup!
- Loose coconut fiber
- 8 quart bag
- All natural substrate
- Breaks down waste
Because its appearance resembles that of dirt, it’s ideal for naturalistic terrarium setups. It doesn’t retain moisture as well as cypress beddings, which can be either a good or bad thing depending on whether your tortoise is a tropical or desert species.
- Ideal for naturalistic or bioactive terrarium smoney-backturally absorbs and breaks down odors as well as animal waste
- Can be safely composted or recycled into gardens after use
- Product photo shows two bags, but some customers report receiving only one
- Risk of mites
If you are looking for a substrate that looks natural, fights off bad odors, and is all natural, Zoo Med Eco Earth is the bedding for you!
3. RediChip Coconut Chip Substrate
This RediChip substrate is a great option for tropical and desert-dwelling tortoises alike. Just use it straight out of the bag for arid species, or add water for tropical species!
This is also a great option if your tortoise likes to burrow. At 12 quarts per bag, the volume is greater than some of the other substrate options on our list. It’s also relatively inexpensive, so you should have no problem affording a large enough quantity for your tortoise to burrow!
- Medium-sized coconut chips
- 12 quart bag
This chip substrate holds moisture well while remaining free of odor. So you won’t have to worry about any funky smells coming from your enclosure! Additionally, the brand is eco-friendly, so if sustainability is something that’s important to you, you’re definitely going to want to give this product a try!
- Can be used for both arid and tropical species
- 100% safe, organic, and sustainable
- Money back guarantee if you are not satisfied
- May require several bags to make a sufficient substrate layer
- Holds moisture, but not as well as other options
This substrate is the perfect option if you want something versatile. Plus, you can’t beat the money back guarantee in case you aren’t happy with your purchase!
4. SISIPAI LIFE Natural Coconut Fiber Reptile Carpet – Best Budget
You’ve probably heard of reptile carpet before, but what about coconut fiber carpet? This unique coconut mat makes a perfect terrarium liner that is simple and easy to maintain.
Because it can easily be removed, it’s less hassle to keep clean than loose substrates. It’s also very durable and can be reused many times before needing to be replaced. Because of this, it’s a great option if you’re looking to save money. And did I mention it’s the most budget-friendly option on our list?
- Carpet mat
- 36” x 18”
- Coconut fiber material
- Easy to clean
Unlike loose substrates, there is no risk of your tortoise accidentally ingesting it and becoming impacted. That makes this bedding option great for beginners who may not be able to pick up on signs of impaction quickly.
- Durable and resistant to dirt
- Can be reused, unlike loose substrates
- Safe substrate option with no risk of impaction
- May need to be cut to size depending on the size of your terrarium
- Doesn’t give your tortoise the opportunity to burrow
If you are looking for a budget-friendly option that’s easy to clean, this coconut fiber carpet is the perfect choice!
5. ReptiCasa Organic Coconut Chip Expandable Substrate Block
These large organic coconut chips are a great substrate option for retaining humidity and keeping your terrarium in perfect harmony.
Not only that, but every box is thoroughly checked for quality prior to shipping and is free of dirt, fibers, and other impurities that other substrates sometimes have.
- Organic coconut husk chips
- Covers up to 75 quarts of tank space
- Maintains humidity
This substrate includes coconut chips of varying sizes, which means you should have no problem getting adequate coverage for the bottom of your terrarium. Additionally, the husks are odor-absorbing and help prevent any bad scents from feces, urine, or spilled water.
- Features larger mixed husk sizes for optimal floor coverage
- Keeps your terrarium at a balanced humidity level
- Free of dirt, fibers, and other impurities prior to shipping
- Some customers noted dyes rubbing off on their reptiles’ skin
- Very large pieces and may be too chunky depending on your preference
If you are looking for a quality substrate that will keep your terrarium balanced and provide optimal floor coverage, this is the one for you!
How to Choose the Best Bedding for Your Tortoise
At the end of the day, the ideal substrate for your tortoise is going to come down to the specific needs of the species that you have, your personal preferences aesthetic-wise, and whether or not you want a bioactive enclosure.
There’s nothing wrong with going with something easy like reptile carpet, but if you’re looking to go bioactive with your setup, you’ll want to be a bit more strategic with your decision. You’ll also want to take into account how much work you’re willing to put in to maintain your substrate.
While there’s no one right answer when it comes to picking a substrate, the following are considerations you should think about before making a final decision.
Arid or Tropical
Some tortoises are arid, meaning they come from deserts and similar climates and thrive in a dry environment. Others are tropical and do well with lots of humidity in their enclosures.
Before deciding on a bedding for your tortoise, you should know where they are naturally from so that you can recreate their habitat as closely as possible. For arid tortoises, look for a substrate that will remain dry. On the other hand, if you have a tropical species, you should purchase something that will retain moisture and keep your enclosure’s humidity up.
Size of Enclosure
When purchasing substrate for a tortoise enclosure, you’ll want to measure the floor space of your enclosure so you can get an idea of how much bedding you will need.
Keep in mind that an even layer of two or three inches of substrate is best. Depending on the brand and density of the substrate you go with, you may need to buy several bags in order to adequately cover the bottom of the enclosure. Certain species of burrowing tortoises may need a few more inches of substrate for them to dig around in comfortably.
Ease of Cleaning
One of the most important things to consider when it comes to substrate is how it’s cleaned. Some substrates are difficult to clean and will need to be replaced often, while others are simple and will make your life easier as a reptile keeper.
Also, it’s a good idea to read reviews before purchasing a substrate to see if any other customers have had issues with mold, mites, or similar problems that might make cleaning a hassle.
FAQs on Tortoise Bedding
What do tortoises like to sleep on?
Tortoises will sleep just about anywhere. They might, for example, choose to nestle into their substrate for the night, or they might just lay their head on a rock to sleep. Some have even been known to fall asleep in their water bowls!
Unlike other pets, such as cats and dogs, tortoises don’t really need a soft, fluffy bed to lay on. In the wild, they sleep in all kinds of places, so they are comfortable almost anywhere.
You don’t need to worry about getting them anything special to sleep on. Fluffy beds can be cute, but they cannot be properly sanitized. Because of this, you should stick to naturalistic decor, like rocks and logs, in your tortoise’s enclosure.
How deep should tortoise substrate be?
The general recommendation is to provide an even layer of substrate that is about two to three inches deep.
However, there are some species of tortoises that will burrow in their natural habitat. They do this as a way to hide and also a means of cooling themselves down if they get too hot. Because of this, it might be beneficial to provide a thicker substrate layer.
For small tortoise species, two or three inches should be perfectly sufficient. If you are unable to provide enough substrate for burrowing, another option that will allow your tortoise to cool off is by providing a water bath that they can climb into.
Is hay okay for tortoise bedding?
Hay is generally not recommended as a good bedding for tortoises. Though it can work in a pinch, there are so many other better options out there.
Hay will require much more maintenance than other substrates. It molds easily, so it will need to be kept dry and changed regularly, which may not be financially feasible.
Since it must be kept dry, it’s not suitable for tropical tortoises, who need higher levels of humidity in order to thrive. Coconut husk and mulch substrates can be sprayed with water to maintain their moisture. If you spray hay, you are likely to end up with a mold problem, which is not only unhealthy for your tortoise, but also a pain to clean!
How often should I change my tortoise’s substrate?
Generally, you should do a deep clean and complete substrate change once every month or two, depending on your tortoise’s size and how messy they are. Take out everything in the enclosure, give it a scrub with reptile-safe cleaner, and throw out all your old substrate before replacing it with new.
Between these deep cleans, you should also be regularly spot-cleaning the enclosure. Clean up any feces or messes on a daily basis by scooping out the soiled substrate and throwing it away.
Making sure to keep your tortoise’s substrate as clean as possible means that it will last longer before having to do a complete replacement.
A Final Word on Substrates for Tortoises
Getting a new reptile is an exciting experience, but you’ll want to make sure you have everything prepared beforehand so you’re not stressed when they arrive.
For tortoises who need very large enclosures with a lot of floor space, choosing the wrong substrate can mean you are out a lot of money. It could also cause preventable tortoise health issues.
Remember to consider the natural climate of your tortoise. At the end of the day, you should choose the bedding that you think will best replicate their natural habitat. With that being said, you can’t go wrong with the best overall option on this list: Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate!