Choosing The Right Bedding For a Tortoise
Choosing a good substrate is crucial to ensuring you help raise a healthy and happy tortoise, but with so many mixed messages out there on what makes a good one – it’s often a confusing task.
Your tortoise is going to spend the majority of their life basking in and around whatever substance you choose and so critically, it needs to revolve around these key features:
- Easy to dig up
- Non Toxic
- Easy to walk on
Why Bedding Is So Important For Tortoises
Because tortoises spend their lives so close to the ground, they amazingly experience things like weather and climate much more differently to us.
They live in conditions which we call microclimates, where things like temperature and humidity are often completely different when observed just a few inches off the ground.
For example, when it’s very sunny, but has recently rained, you will likely still feel very warm. However for a tortoise, the ground would still be fairly wet, and so their microclimate would conversely be very moist, humid and warm.
Therefore, whichever substrate you choose, it has to be able to effectively replicate the microclimates your breed of tortoise naturally thrives in.
Features To Look Out For
Tortoises require lots of hydration to keep them healthy, and as well as drinking water, moisture absorbed through the air and their bedding can help them keep on top of this. That’s why it’s often a good idea to choose substrates with proven moisture retention which improve humidity and conditions for hatchlings should you require it.
Annoyingly, you’ll need to get the balance right though to ensure your pet’s well-being, as the difference between a humid substrate and a downright wet one has conversely negative effects, especially if your tortoise breed is a lover of dry climates. Too much moisture leads to a build of bacteria and can lead to problems such as shell rot and infections, while bedding that fails to dry properly will often develop mould.
Good bedding, therefore, should be able to retain moisture for just a few hours before drying up.
Although they’re not going to get to China in any hurry, tortoises do have a real love of digging and so finding a substrate that allows them to burrow away carefree. This require a bedding that is easy and fine enough to dig up, but not so feeble that the structure of your enclosure becomes uneven or collapses after one lengthy digging session
This one is really important and at the very least your bedding should be able to be swallowed without incident.
This is because in the past certain substrates that aren’t edible have been known to find their way into a tortoise’s digestive system and remain there, as they are not able to break them down. This causes a gastrointestinal blockage, or impaction, which can later cause a rupture.
Getting bedding which doubles as food or fibrous materials that are at least safe to consume will help eliminate any such dangers.
Different tortoises thrive better in different climates. If your breed is used to hot, dry climates, don’t go for a super moisture absorbing substrate and vice versa if they prefer tropical climates.
Your tortoise is going to be walking all over this substance every day, and so it needs to be hassle-free for them to make their way easily around their enclosure.
Try and find the balance between a substrate that is not so thin your tortoise slips through, or so thick and coarse they struggle to walk across it.
We obviously don’t want to insult your intelligence here, but the point here is that not everything has a big sign on it saying ‘Toxic To Tortoises!’.
For example certain types of wood release resins that are harmful to certain species and unsterilised soil can often contain fertilizers and chemicals that could be seriously harmful
The best way to avoid it? Choose a substrate which specifically states it is non-toxic!
Common Substrate Materials
The following are materials which are commonly used in many tortoise substrates and so are seen as being generally the best option for your pet.
These substrates are:
Edible Flowers/ Leaves
Bedding To Avoid
Some of these substrates are often mistakenly used by tortoise owners, but if you want to keep your tortoise free for harm, make sure you avoid them!
Substrate to avoid include:
Walnut Shells/ Corn Husks