The Best Substrate for Leopard Tortoise (2021) | Buying Guide and Review

Larry Mills
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If you have a pet Leopard Tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) or are planning to get one, you may be wondering which substrate is best to use in the terrarium.

In this article, we will discuss the various options available and their pros and cons, so you can make a decision about which substrate is best for your Leopard tortoise.

We will also be reviewing the “Leopard Tortoise Mix”, which is a blend of two substrates … it’s not all one substrate. You can use it in both water and dry habitats without needing to change the substrate.

What Exactly Is Substrate?

Substrate is the material on the bottom of your tortoise’s terrarium. All of the tortoise’s waste will pass through it and in between it and the glass. This is where microorganisms live, recycle waste products, and become food sources for your tortoise.

The type of substrate will affect:

Zilla Ground English Walnut Shells Desert BlendBest OverallZilla Ground English Walnut Shells Desert Blend
Fluker Labs Repta-Bark All Natural BeddingBudget PickFluker Labs Repta-Bark All Natural Bedding
Reptile Sciences Terrarium SandUpgrade PickReptile Sciences Terrarium Sand

1. Zilla Ground English Walnut Shells Desert Blend

Our rating: 9 / 10

Zilla Ground English Walnut Shells Desert Blend

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  • Naturally absorbs excess moisture
  • Safe for reptile use
  • Easy to clean
  • Can be washed in the washing machine
  • Available on Amazon

The Zilla ground is a product that is quite popular with leopard tortoise owners. It is a blend of walnut shells, English, and coconut fiber. It is the perfect mediator for areas where your tortoise might want to dig or burrow. Walnut shells provide texture to help keep leopard tortoises health while the coconut fiber helps protect the tortoises from some of the excess moisture.

Natural substrates are definitely the best types for leopard tortoise habitats. Exotic shells and substrates may look nice but they do not offer the nature that your reptile needs. After all, they are also part of the natural setup.

How the substrate is left for leopard tortoises can also positively affect your leopard tortoise from a hygiene standpoint. If it is littered with harmful bacteria it can create a negative environment for your tortoise.

2. Reptile Sciences Terrarium Sand

Our rating: 9 / 10

Reptile Sciences Terrarium Sand

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  • Offers a natural feel to the terrarium
  • Easy to maintain – takes a long time to soak in water, which prevents bacteria from spreading
  • Micron size allows for easy passage of food through the gut
  • Comes at a relatively low price


  • You need to be careful as to not accidentally suck it into your filter system as it can clog other filters
  • Not waterproof

For many reptile owners, choosing the most suitable substrate for your pet can be quite a critical decision.

Terrarium sand is a major factor to consider before you purchase it.

There is a huge amount of different types to choose from, yet one name that has been tried and tested by many different owners is one of the best terrarium substrates: Reptile Sand.

3. Fluker Labs Repta-Bark All Natural Bedding

Our rating: 8 / 10

Fluker Labs Repta-Bark All Natural Bedding

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  • The color of this substrate is very similar to the bark that a Leopard tortoise will find in its natural environment
  • You can blend this substrate with natural bedding from your yard to give your tortoise a more natural experience
  • Provides a comfortable place to sleep and hide for your Leopard tortoise
  • A very affordable price


  • Can be a bit messy as it is not as stable of a substrate as other types
  • Some users found a lack of odor control

This substrate is made entirely from recycled fallen hardwood from forests all over the United States. This product is made from 90% hardwood compost and 10% agricultural lime. Needing only to be raked out with a plastic spatula every 1-3 months, this product can be a safe and affordable choice for many.

It is soft and closely mimics natural bark, allowing your Leopard tortoise to feel the comfy and familiar surroundings they need.

The recycled matter in this bedding also helps to eliminate odors and will also help to minimize mildew and fungus growth. It will also help with tracking, allowing you to keep the environment more hygienic.

4. Zoo Med ReptiFresh Odor Eliminating Substrate

Our rating: 8 / 10

Zoo Med ReptiFresh Odor Eliminating Substrate

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  • Aids in humidity control
  • Doesn’t stick to the shell of the turtle or tortoise

This is a substrate made for tortoise purposes. The zoo med ReptiFresh substrate is a perfect choice for any kind of tortoise. It is specifically formulated for proper moisture control for your tortoise and best of all it is nontoxic. It is made to fit the needs of your leopard tortoise and is made of the highest-quality components. It also has an odor eliminating additive, which is perfect for any tortoise cage.

You can simply scoop out the soiled bedding and add more fresh substrate for your tortoise to stand on and do its business on.

5. Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding

Our rating: 7 / 10

Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding

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  • Dust-free, ideal for Leopard tortoises
  • Made from recycled paper produced at a facility which uses solar power
  • Can be used with water or drip-fed
  • Low-maintenance, lightweight, and easy to handle
  • Affordable


  • Dries out quickly so requires a lot of replacement
  • Less aesthetic than many other options

This product can be used with water or drip-fed. It’s easy to handle and you’ll find it lightweight enough for you to move it around as needed.

It’s perfect for Leopard tortoises and for other reptiles because it’s dust-free. This is a product that has been made at a facility which is powered by solar energy. It’s made from recycled paper of a high quality and it will keep your tortoise very comfortable.

Once the substrate has been introduced into the tank, it may become quite dry quickly. It therefore needs to be replaced regularly. Despite this fact, you will find it remains a cost-effective and convenient option for you to choose.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the best substrate for leopard tortoise?

Leopard tortoises are incredibly adaptable in their diet, so long as they receive a varied diet.

Leopard tortoises eat a variety of greens, twigs, fruits, and flowers.

In captivity, another important part of their diet is calcium supplements.

The easiest way to supplement your leopard tortoise with calcium and other nutrients is to provide it a substrate.

It is hard to overstate the importance of substrate in a leopard tortoise habitat.

In captivity, it is one of the most neglected aspects of the care your leopard tortoise but also one of the most important.

What is the best substrate for tortoises?

It’s important to note that there is really no one answer for what is the best substrate for an animal such as a tortoise.

Each of these tortoises comes from the wild, and they all require different levels of care. For example, a leopard tortoise that is kept in a cold area will need a different setup than a leopard tortoise kept in a warmer climate.

Upkeep of a tortoise really depends on the care it needs. You’ll need to keep its environment in mind when picking a substrate to ensure that the tortoise is kept as healthy as possible.

What bedding should I use for my tortoise?

Leopard tortoises require a variety of different substrates. It can be a challenge to figure out the right combination of materials, especially when you are new to the hobby.

The first thing to note is that there is no right or wrong material to use. Every tortoise is different, so you will have to experiment to figure out what your pet likes. In the end, it is fine to simply use whatever is easiest to clean and maintain based on the tortoise’s preferences and habits.

Here are the most common substrates for leopard tortoises.

Aspen or pine shavings: These are the most common substrates and they are also the most affordable. They are notably also the most difficult to maintain because they tend to get smelly and can harbor harmful molds if the substrate stays wet for too long.

What is the best substrate for a horsefield tortoise?

The best tortoise substrate depends on many factors and each species of tortoise has different requirements. Some turtles like to dig in substrate, while others hate to dig and will prefer to burrow below the surface.

In nature, the best substrate for a tortoise is the ground itself. This doesn't equate to bare dirt, but a mixture of different elements: dirt, sand, leaves, etc.

This combination of multiple substrates is the most effective and natural way to house your tortoise. Unfortunately, you likely don't have the same environment that your tortoise would enjoy in the wild. Therefore, you'll be required to provide the substrate for your tortoise.

First, let's take a look at the various substrates most commonly used by tortoise owners.


We hope that after reading this buying guide, you can make an informed decision about which substrate is best for you. As you can see there are many choices available, and we have an in-depth look at the top 5, so you don’t have to spend your hard-earned money on something that may or may not work for you. The internet is awash with details about the best substrate for keeping leopard tortoises, and visit them.

Our Recommendation

Zilla Ground English Walnut Shells Desert BlendBest OverallZilla Ground English Walnut Shells Desert Blend
Fluker Labs Repta-Bark All Natural BeddingBudget PickFluker Labs Repta-Bark All Natural Bedding
Reptile Sciences Terrarium SandUpgrade PickReptile Sciences Terrarium Sand