Best Substrate for Russian Tortoise (2022) | Buying Guide and Reviews

Larry Mills
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Most Russian tortoises should be kept outdoors in a vivarium, but if you want to keep a Russian tortoise in a terrarium, you’ll need to provide a substrate for them to dig burrows. You need a substrate for a Russian tortoise that is deep enough for them to burrow in, but not so deep that they cannot easily move around.

The best substrate for a Russian tortoise is one that is non-toxic, absorbs humidity, helps to maintain a healthy humidity within the vivarium, and provides a firm foundation for healthy root systems.

We will go over the pros and cons of each substrate that you can purchase, along with honest reviews from a Russian tortoise owner to help you make the right choice.

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1. Sandtastik Sparkling White Play Sand

Our rating: 9 / 10

Sandtastik Sparkling White Play Sand

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  • Another white sand that’s great for pet reptiles
  • Produces virtually no dust
  • A thorough cleaning of the tank can be made by simply sifting through the sand


  • Sand needs to be dried before using in your enclosure
  • It’s not a perfect choice for tortoises that love to burrow

The 25 Pounds Sandtastik sparkling white sandy mix is a storeroom addition to any substrate for reptiles that is sold in the 25 pound box. What to like about this sandy mix is not only is it cheap to buy, but it also helps to combat problems with the development of humidity in your terrarium.

Another thing to like about Sandtastik sparkling white sand mix is it benefits from having an absorption rate that is higher than the normal play sand. The filteration of this particular well-rounded play sand is 1/2 and ounce to an inch.

Its chemical make-up of crushed quartz, washed mica and feldspar creates an extremely attractive and all-natural environment that will leave you with nothing but positive remarks.

2. Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate

Our rating: 9 / 10

Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate

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  • Effectively absorbs and retains humidity
  • Easy to use
  • Eco-friendly
  • 100% organic
  • Available in different particle sizes 1-2 inch, 2-3 inch, and 3-4 inch
  • Great for Russian Tortoises
  • None

The Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate is made of coco fiber which is 100% organic. They are cool, dry, and retain humidity. This product is meant for live plants but it is not designed to be used with live plants so it has to be sterilized before using it for reptile pets.

This product is very useful for your turtles and tortoises. It is easy to use and is also cheaper compared to other substrates. You will get the most out of this product in the long term. This is because the layer of this substrate is loose and not very thick so it allows easy and fast draining moreover it is also very easy to clean.

As time goes it can get to a point, after several months of usage, this substrate may tend to get compact and hard like soil. This is where you can upgrade to a bark or earth product.

3. 1 X Natural Tan Kraft Crinkle Shred Gift Basket Shred Crinkle Paper Filler Bedding

Our rating: 9 / 10

1 X Natural Tan Kraft Crinkle Shred Gift Basket Shred Crinkle Paper Filler Bedding

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  • It absorbs moisture
  • It will not impact the temperature of the tank
  • It is non-toxic and free from harmful chemicals
  • It is super absorbent
  • It helps keep your reptile healthy and reduces the risk of illness
  • It is easy to clean up after your animal has been on it to eat or drink
  • It maintains a neutral Ph balance
  • It has a smooth texture that your reptile’s skin will love


  • It is very lightweight so it will not work well in a tank that has a shallow layer of substrate
  • It may not work on colder reptiles
  • It does not hold together well when it has been chewed by your reptile

Craft (4.19 CuFt)

What makes this product unique?

The Shred Crinkle Paper Filler Bedding is a great reptile bedding option for corn snakes, leopard geckos, and other reptile pets that need a smooth surface. Although it is not absorbent like many of the other options available, it is perfect for residents who spend time on top of the bedding. As it is so light, you can layer it with another option that absorbs moisture if you want a less dusty flooring area or want to support extra moisture absorption.

4. Reptile Prime Coconut Fiber Bedding Substrate

Our rating: 9 / 10

Reptile Prime Coconut Fiber Bedding Substrate

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  • Made from 100% recycled coconut husk fiber
  • Extremely absorbent and provides great drainage for your reptile
  • Promotes and maintains an optimum micro-environment within your reptile habitat
  • Natural, sustainable, chemical-free, and safe for your reptile
  • Minimum odor and it is also easy to clean
  • Hypoallergenic and will not cause a rash or any allergies for your pet


  • Not ideal for aquatic animals or burrowing critters as it does not float
  • Might be slippery for some reptiles and for ones that are arboreal

If you really want to ensure that you are giving your pet its best, you should choose biological bedding substrate product made from coconut husk fibers of the highest quality. The Reptile Prime bedding is the perfect choice!

This product is safe for use with most reptile, small animal and amphibian species. You can use it on its own or mixed in with your pet’s existing substrate material to provide a more customized micro-environment.

This handy substrate bedding is also ideal for use in terrariums or other housing units, or can be used as a deep litter substrate.

5. ReptiChip Premium Coconut Reptile Substrate

Our rating: 9 / 10

ReptiChip Premium Coconut Reptile Substrate

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  • Has a good depth for burrowing
  • Good size for a substrate
  • The coconut shell helps maintain a constant temperature
  • A very lightweight substrate, especially for a coconut based substrate
  • Very high quality pine shavings that is dust free
  • It is safe for a wide range of species
  • The coconut fibers create a natural burrowing and hiding area
  • The shredded coconut shell makes a natural foot saver for your reptile’s feet


  • It might take longer than one would like for the substrate to settle
  • Some customers report the Repti-Chips came extremely wet with the plastic bag holding the chips, dripping with water
  • The cost may be higher than some would like
  • It does not ship across the country
  • Some reports of the coconut chips being cut too short and only about half the length of the bag but this has not stopped most customers from using a pair of scissors to cut the bags down to its best fit

6. Kinetic Sand

Our rating: 8 / 10

Kinetic Sand

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  • You get to partner this product with a sandcastle building set to make your child’s playtime even more fun
  • There is no mess or sticky residue


  • This product is not a toy. You need to supervise your children while they use it
  • It is available in only one color option

This product lets children form castles and sculptures. It is safe for children as it does not contain any harmful chemicals. Your child can also pack the sand into a box to make piles that can be used as steps.

The product is convenient and easy to store as you can pour it back into the original container. It does not stick to hands or leave a sticky residue behind.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the best substrate for Russian tortoise?

Substrates are commonly used for pet reptiles, amphibians, and other reptiles as a primary or secondary, substrate (substitute for floor space). They help in keeping the animals warm and comfortable as well as providing them with an area to hide and sleep well. Some substrates are additionally helpful in mimicking the natural habitat of species.

A substrate also serves an important function in aiding with sanitation and preventing the spread of infectious diseases among animals housed in the same enclosure. Therefore, understanding the various kinds of substrate available is important for any animal lover.

There are several types of substrate commercially available and one should choose the appropriate substrate based on the species and the number of animals housed in one enclosure. If given ample time and space to dig, omnivorous tortoise are apt to ingest substrate particles, which can affect their health adversely eventually, and therefore they should be provided with an easy to clean substrate.

What's the best substrate for tortoises?

A substrate is the material you put on the floor of your tortoise's enclosure, and it can have a large influence on the animal's overall health and well being.

In a tortoise's natural environment, he would walk around on the ground and not necessarily have a substrate to stand on. His diet would also be far more varied, since he would be feasting on natural plants. For that reason, any substrate you use should be able to stand up to his natural diet and be filled with the vitamins and minerals he needs through a variety of vegetables and fruits.

Any type of substrate you choose has to have one basic function: it must support the tortoise's body weight in a healthy manner. Any substrate you use in an enclosure should also be able to absorb moisture and keep it away from the tortoise.

Can I use wood shavings for my tortoise?

As you probably already know, tortoises, if given the choice, would pick to live in a forest of grass and leaf litter. This makes it hard for them to behave naturally if you keep them at the same.

Thus, it is a good idea to find substrate that has wood in it, and this is because the wood will add to its natural look and feel.

Wood shavings are great for providing essential nutrients for a Russian tortoise, since the animal needs to gnaw on it for food. Even though wood shavings have been previously treated, you need to make sure that you remove any kind of sawdust regularly so that your pet does not ingest it.

How often should I change tortoise substrate?

It's important to be aware that tortoises have unusual bowel movements which can incur additional risk of impaction when they're housed on deep substrates such as Alfafa.

Furthermore, tortoise faeces are not very odour-producing compared to other creatures – so you may not be aware that they are soiling their substrate.

With all the above in mind, many people change the substrate on their tortoises at least once a month. If you are noticing odours or noticing your tortoise burrowing into the substrate, it is time to change it.


Think of providing good substrate for your Russian tortoise (or any kind of tortoise) as the foundation of its enclosure. It is going to serve as the foundation for the walls, the platform, and the roof of the cave, so to speak. Therefore, selecting a good substrate requires some forethought and research as you need to determine what your budget is and the long-term needs of your tortoise.

Our Recommendation

Sandtastik Sparkling White Play SandBest OverallSandtastik Sparkling White Play Sand
1 X Natural Tan Kraft Crinkle Shred Gift Basket Shred Crinkle Paper Filler BeddingBudget Pick1 X Natural Tan Kraft Crinkle Shred Gift Basket Shred Crinkle Paper Filler Bedding
ReptiChip Premium Coconut Reptile SubstrateUpgrade PickReptiChip Premium Coconut Reptile Substrate