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12 Best Tortoise Beddings And Substrates

Tortoises normally spend the first year or two of their lives in an indoor terrarium before progressively moving outside until they are around six years old, at which point they may be kept outside most of the time. Your tortoise will require a good substrate or bedding whenever it is in its terrarium.

The temperature and humidity of the entire terrarium may be influenced by the substrate. Some can be painful on your little shelled friend's feet, causing shell rot and perhaps impaction.

When it comes to the substrate, there are numerous options: multiple materials, even different types of substrate, and many producers that make the things.

Here are reviews of the best tortoise beddings and substrates listed by BestForPets (bestforpets.org) to help you narrow down your options and choose the one that's right for you, whether you're searching for sulcata tortoise bedding or Hermann's tortoise substrate.


Premium Repti Bark Natural Fir Reptile Bedding by Zoo Med

Zoo Med Premium Repti Bark Genuine Fir Reptile Bedding is composed entirely of natural fir bark.

It absorbs moisture and releases it into the terrarium environment, is quite soft underfoot, and looks nice in the enclosure’s bottom. It also allows for some light burrowing.

Tortoises burrow in terrariums to avoid predators in the wild, to manage temperature, or simply to seek some peace.

The bark can be reused. Remove it from the terrarium every two months, place it in boiling water for five minutes, drain the water, and allow the bark to dry before reintroducing it to your tortoise.

Because of its reusability, this reptile bedding provides excellent value for money, however you may wish to replace it after a few washes.

While the bark is reasonably priced and will survive for months with frequent washing, it has not been heat-treated, and Zoo Med does not use chemical cleaners, so the odd bag may include mites.


  • Natural fir bark was used to make this product.
  • Burrowing friendly
  • It is washable and reusable.
  • Reasonable cost


  • Because mites are not treated, there may be an occasional problem.


Eco Earth Compressed Coconut Zoo Med

Zoo Med Eco Earth Compressed Coconut is a substrate that has been compressed. This suggests it has been dehydrated and compacted before to packing.

It must be rehydrated after opening and before use by adding water and wrung out. After rehydrating, you’re left with a loose substrate composed entirely of natural coconut husks.

It is very soft and delicate, allows for some digging, and takes up less space in the storage closet due to its lower package weight.

This box comprises three bricks, each of which expands to generate 7 or 8 liters of loose substrate: enough to fill a 40-gallon tank with one inch of substrate.

Although it appears that you are getting less when you first open the packaging, compressed substrate is usually less expensive than the loose substrate, and with the low price of the Zoo Med Eco Earth Compressed Coconut substrate, this is our choice as the best tortoise bedding and substrate for the money.

If you have a tiny tank arrangement, it is difficult to break down the substrate and just rehydrate a portion of the brick, which might be wasteful if the tank volume is less than 40 gallons. It may take a long time to dry completely before using.


  • Saves space by being compressed.
  • Cheap
  • Soft and ideal for digging


  • The block cannot be broken up into smaller portions.
  • It takes a long time for the paint to dry.


Ground English Walnut Shell Zilla

Zilla Ground English Walnut Shell is advised for desert residents as a replacement for sand, but it is also appropriate for tortoises, particularly desert varieties.

It is simple to scratch and dig, looks nice in a desert terrarium, and transfers heat nicely. It should only need to be replaced once a month, depending on how unclean your tortoise is and how efficient your cleaning program is.

It has a nice natural scent from the walnuts when fresh, and it is quick and easy to clean and replace.

It’s rather pricey, especially because it can’t be reused like the Repti Bark in the top location and you need between one and two inches of substrate on the bottom of your terrarium.


  • It smells like walnuts.
  • Heat conducts and holds well.
  • Simple to clean


  • Expensive
  • Keep an eye out for sharp edges.


Eco Carpet by Zoo Med

Tortoises may dig in loose substrates, which can replicate a natural setting in an indoor terrarium. However, if you have to clean them frequently, they might be difficult to clean and costly.

Substrate carpets are an option that is easier to install and remove, and because they can typically be washed and reinstalled, they are less expensive in the long term as well as at the time of purchase.

This type of substrate cannot be consumed by your pet, albeit this is less of an issue for tortoises and more of an issue for bearded dragons.

It is soft and non-abrasive, plus it is constructed of recycled plastic bottles, making it ecologically beneficial.

The substrate carpet is simple to maintain, economical in the long run, and can be cleaned and replaced, eliminating the need to purchase and store replacements.

Natural substrate, on the other hand, looks nicer in the terrarium, and tortoises like digging, albeit only shallow hides, which they will clearly be unable to accomplish if the substrate is carpet.


  • Simple to include in your terrarium
  • Made with recycled plastic bottles
  • It’s a good deal.


  • It does not have the same appearance as natural substrate.
  • There are no digging opportunities.


Reptile Bedding Zoo Med Forest Floor Natural Cypress Mulch

Zoo Med Forest Floor Natural Cypress Mulch Reptile Bedding is made entirely of natural cypress mulch.

It allows you to create a terrarium that closely resembles a forest floor, and it absorbs moisture to provide humidity in the tank, which is very useful for tropical tortoises.

It smells lovely when you put it in the tank, as do most natural substrates, but there is no assurance it will keep a pleasant fragrance after a few weeks of usage.

Because it is a loose, squishy foundation, your child may dig and burrow at will. It is inexpensive and has not been heating treated.

Heat treatment is used to clean and sterilize substrate, but it also hinders the resultant bedding from adequately storing moisture, decreasing its potential to improve tank humidity.

Because of the texture and propensity of the mulch to hold moisture, it can be difficult to clean, and because it is a wood mulch, there are some sharp edges and rougher individual pieces of bedding.


  • Cheap
  • Allows for digging
  • That looks excellent.


  • Cleaning is difficult.
  • A few jagged bits


Aspen Chip Zilla Lizard Litter

A natural aspen chip substrate is the Zilla Lizard Litter Aspen Chip. It is extremely absorbent as a wood chip, which means it will absorb moisture and may be used to adjust humidity in a terrarium setting.

It has a woody odor and seems reasonable on the tank’s bottom, yet it does not resemble the floor of a rainforest or tropical area.

This relatively cost substrate has been treated, thus mite infestations should be avoided, albeit this has happened on unusual instances.

Although your tortoise may dig down into these chips, they tend to fall back and do not keep the burrowed form as well as some other substrate materials do; yet, it is an ecologically friendly, natural substrate that is moderately priced and relatively easy to clean.


  • Natural appearance and aroma
  • Mite prevention treatment


  • Not suitable for burrowers
  • There are more appealing substrates.


Terrarium Liner Zilla

Terrarium liners are more practical and easier to use than loose substrate and, in most cases, can be washed and reused, making them good value for money.

The Zilla Terrarium Liner is constructed of recyclable materials and is treated with an enzyme to help keep smells at bay. It cannot be consumed by your tortoise because it is a solid carpet.

The carpet is simple to clean. Remove it about once a month and run it under a cold tap to keep it looking and smelling good.

However, like other liners, it does not allow for digging or burrowing and does not replicate your tortoise’s native environment.

Another issue with carpets and liners is that they are meant to match normal terrarium sizes, yet cage construction uses a variety of alternative measurements.

It is best to select a size larger than you require and then trim it down to the precise length and breadth of your setup.


  • Simple to install
  • Washable and replaceable
  • An enzyme was used to decrease smells.


  • It must fit in your terrarium.
  • Burrowing is not permitted.


Exo Terra Tropical Terrarium Reptile Substrate Forest Moss

Exo Terra Forest Moss Tropical Terrarium Reptile Substrate is a natural moss that has been crushed. This implies that it will need to be rehydrated before usage.

Add water, ensuring that the moss is thoroughly saturated, and then remove and allow to dry. If you use too little water, your tortoise may become dusty and unpleasant. Mold will grow if you use too much water or do not thoroughly wring out the water.

Once rehydrated, this is a very absorbent substrate that is helpful for humidity management but can be difficult to clean correctly, and it has a very strong and fairly unpleasant stench that will repel many owners, much alone their tortoises.


  • Moss that grows naturally
  • Excellent for humidity management.


  • The rehydration procedure must be perfected.
  • It has a pungent odor.
  • It may be tough to clean.


Exo Terra Desert Sand Mat Terrarium

The Exo Terra Sand Mat Desert Terrarium is a substrate carpet roll that is great for desert tortoises and is fit for ordinary 40-gallon tanks.

Carpets are easy to add to the tank, however they may need to be chopped down to fit the exact dimensions of your terrarium design.

A sand carpet should prevent impaction caused by a tank resident accidently ingesting loose sand, and it is simple to remove when it needs to be replaced. This one does resemble the look of a desert floor.

However, unlike some liners, this one is not washable, therefore it must be removed and replaced fully when it becomes soiled. This is especially true because the roll, which is like sandpaper, is extremely difficult to clean.

It is also more costly than alternative liners, and the sand granules do break or rub off, leaving the possibility of inadvertent ingestion.


  • Simple to include into your terrarium
  • It appears to be a sandy desert floor.


  • It is not reusable.
  • Cleaning is quite difficult.
  • Sand shatters


All Natural Vitamin-Fortified Calcium Carbonate Substrate Zoo Med Vita-Sand

Zoo Med Vita-Sand All Natural Vitamin-Enriched Calcium Carbonate Substrate is a natural sand substrate fortified with vitamins and minerals to assist boost your pet’s beta carotene intake. It is safe for desert tortoises and contains no artificial colors or color sealers.

However, the substrate is costly, and while it does not include artificial colors, it does stain everything that comes into contact with it, including your tortoise’s feet and belly, as well as the objects you place within.

Because the sand is so fine, dust clouds can build, especially if your turtle loves digging or burrowing. It is, however, quite easy to clean and does not have the unpleasant odor that other sand substrates might have.


  • There are no artificial colors.
  • Sand with added vitamins
  • Simple to clean


  • Expensive
  • Dusty
  • Everything it touches is stained.

Final Decision

For the best tortoise beddings and substrates, BestForPets (bestforpets.org) thinks that Zoo Med Premium Repti Bark Natural Fir Reptile Bedding offers the best blend of natural materials and affordable pricing, while Zoo Med Eco Earth Compressed Coconut is a great low-cost option that comes in compressed blocks.

How to Selecting The Best Tortoise Beddings & Substrates?

The substrate is the material that is placed at the bottom of a terrarium or tank to simulate the natural circumstances of a tortoise’s home.

Given that there are around 50 distinct species of tortoise, all of which originate in various regions of the world, it is not surprising that different tortoises prefer different types of bedding.

Although it may be difficult to acquire tortoise-specific substrates, they can use reptile bedding made up of wood chips, mulch, and sand.

There are additional choices such as substrate carpet. These are designed to look like the floor but are easy to add to the tank and are frequently reusable.

Substrate Types

There are several materials used in the production of tortoise and reptile substrate, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

If you’ve had tortoises before, you probably have a favorite as well as ones you avoid. The following are some of the most common substrate types that are available and have made our list.


Sand clearly resembles the topography of deserts and dry places. It is an extremely fine grain that, while appreciated with certain owners, can cause some issues.

The most serious issue is impaction. Tortoises are not as prone to impaction as lizards such as bearded dragons, but it is still a possibility. It is caused by the inadvertent intake of sand while eating.

Because sand cannot be digested, it accumulates at the bottom of the colon and can cause major gastrointestinal issues in your tortoise.

Another issue with small sand grains is that, while it is feasible to excavate and move sand, it tends to sink back down. Tortoises like burrowing, however burrowing in sand is quite tough.


Soil is another substrate that is supposed to closely resemble a tortoise’s natural habitat. It enables for digging and holds its shape once a hole has been dug, far better than sand.

Sterilized soil has been heat-treated, which should kill any mites or other potential parasites that might harm your tortoise.

However, there are certain issues using dirt as a substrate. First, when it rains, it becomes muddy. This makes digging tough, difficult, and messy.

Another issue is cleaning since tortoise dung can be difficult to notice among muddy dirt clumps.

Chips of wood

Wood chips look nice and are usually natural. Some chips also have a great natural scent, at least when first placed in the terrarium.

Large chunks can be cleaned and reused, but they must be properly dried before being replaced or they will grow moldy.

Other issues include the likelihood of sharp wood chips causing discomfort and harm to your tortoise’s feet and belly, as well as the danger of your tortoise eating one of these sharp pieces.


Carpeted substrate is available in rolls or sheets and is often tailored to fit regular terrarium sizes. You unroll the carpet, place it in the terrarium’s bottom, and then add hides and other objects.

When a carpet becomes soiled, it is removed and either washed and reused or discarded and replaced.

Carpets can be produced of synthetic or natural materials, with natural carpets being preferred.

They can imitate sand, woodland, or soil floors, and the reusable versions are less expensive since they can be cleaned numerous times before being discarded.

Some carpets, particularly sand carpets, are difficult to clean, and the hooked material can catch on your tortoise, causing discomfort and harm.

Substrate in Compressed Form

A compressed substrate is often formed of loam soil or moss. It is dehydrated and packed before shipping, and to use it, you must first rehydrate it and then dry it.

This technique takes time and practice to ensure that you do it correctly the first time, but compressed substrate costs less to package and transport, so it may cost you less at the checkout. It is also more convenient to keep in the back of a cabinet.

However, if you don’t utilize one entire brick, it’s tough to retain a portion of the compressed substrate until you need it, and the rehydration process must be perfect.

It might be dusty if not enough water is used. The substrate might become moldy if you use too much water.

How many substrates Will You Require?

Your tortoise’s terrarium should be continuously maintained to ensure that the temperature and humidity levels are optimal.

As a result, tortoises no longer need to burrow for temperature regulation, yet they still love digging. As a result, many owners want to give enough substrate so that they may dig down at least a little bit.

You’ll need to give substrate at a depth of around two inches to allow for appropriate digging, but you don’t have to do this throughout the terrarium.

You may create a digging area in one corner or one-quarter of the tank while keeping the remainder of the enclosure to one inch of substrate. However, the substrate should cover the whole tank floor.

How Frequently Should It Be Changed?

A variety of factors influence how frequently the substrate must be changed. The tank’s temperature and humidity, what and where you feed your tortoise, and even how untidy your specific pet is.

However, in general, you should change loose substrate every two or three weeks and remove feces every day.

If you’re using a substrate that has to be washed and replaced, you might need enough for two rotations so you can wash and dry one substrate while the other is in the tank.

Some carpets may be kept down for longer periods of time, but you should have a clear notion of how frequently your selected substrate has to be changed immediately after putting it in the tank.

Author Image

Dr. Deborah Fletcher

Deborah R. Fletcher, DVM, is a skilled veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience dealing with companion and exotic animals. She has experience caring for a variety of animals, including household cats and dogs, reptiles, birds of prey, and even primates. Dr. Fletcher is a valuable part of the BestForPets team, where she contributes to their aim of providing pets and their owners with the finest possible treatment and services.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Deborah Fletcher


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