The Best Tortoise Substrate (2022) | Buying Guide and Reviews

Larry Mills
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Tortoise substrate is one of the most important decisions you will make for your tortoise's enclosure. Even though your tortoise might be contained in a tank for its entire life, without substrate the enclosure will look empty and feel boring for your tortoise.

Substrate provides a visual barrier for your tortoise, a place for your tortoise to burrow, and a place for your tortoise to eat from and drink from.

Substrates also allow a tortoise to get rid of excess wastes, helps maintain the level of humidity in the enclosure, and provides a place for microorganisms to grow and for your tortoise to consume necessary bacteria.

The type of substrate you choose is dependent on what kind of enclosure you have. For most tortoises, I recommend either a layer of Eco Earth (compressed coconut fiber), or a layer of aspen bedding mixed with a layer of topsoil (though feel free to use play sand and a layer of topsoil with the smaller tortoises – I don't think it matters any).

For tortoises that live in outdoor enclosures or semi outdoor setups, the choice of whether to use an indoor substrate or outdoor substrate really comes down to your local weather conditions and the health of your tortoise.

The chart below summarizes this information nicely. Be aware that these are just personal recommendations, and might not perfectly fit your local conditions.

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EXO-TERRA Plantation Soil Terrarium SubstrateBudget PickEXO-TERRA Plantation Soil Terrarium Substrate
SavvyGrow Artificial GrassUpgrade PickSavvyGrow Artificial Grass

1. 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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  • Using this service allows you to add a very personal touch to the gift you are creating
  • It is inexpensive when you compare it to other gift baskets you can create
  • Includes very high-quality paper

Small Pet Animal Reptile Cage Bedding.

This excellent product is used as a substrate for small animals such as tortoises and leopard geckos. It is widely used as the base layer for live terrariums. It is made to be able to hold moisture, while still allowing for airflow to go through it.

It also has a very interesting texture and pattern that look great no matter what it is used around. The fact that the paper is all natural and biodegradable makes it appealing for many users.

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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  • Safe for all tortoises & turtles
  • Variable diameter coconut fibers
  • Reduces odor
  • Toxic-free
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to clean
  • No harmful dust
  • Stacks well
  • Dries quickly
  • Dust-free


  • Due to its porous nature, it may not be the best for sand impaction prevention
  • Not recommended for burrowing

Coconut fiber is one of the best bedding materials for a range of turtle and tortoise species. The substrate is made from compressed coconut husks and is great for neutralizing unpleasant odors and for cleaning up any feces and other waste easily as it is loose.

This substrate is 100% organic and the fibers are renewable. It can be used for more than one animal as the fibers are removable. You can also stack this substrate with ease.

This product is rich in calcium carbonate which forms a chemical bond with dyes which is why it will not bleed.

3. Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding

Our rating: 9 / 10

Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding

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  • Comes with fun designs
  • Easy to use
  • Great for Betta tanks
  • Affordable
  • Environmentally friendly

The Zoo Med Forest Floor bedding is one of the most affordable products available. The bedding comes in a variety of colors and is very pleasing to the eye. It is very soft to the touch, which will help to keep your tortoise clean and healthy.

This bedding is made of natural and renewable materials. The material used is non-toxic as well as free of glues, resins or sawdust. It is also odor free. This bedding is made from cellulose materials.

It is sold in a pack of about 3 pounds, so you will have a lot of bedding to start with. It will last for a number of months and you can add whatever you need to to keep it fresh.

4. Exo Terra Plantation Soil

Our rating: 9 / 10

Exo Terra Plantation Soil

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  • Prevents Bacterial and Fungal Growth
  • Perfect for burrowing tortoises

Exo-Terra Plantation blend soil is a laboratory-grade soil that is used in the horticultural industries. It is a unique blend of organic ingredients mixed with natural minerals and rock that is perfect for the needs of tortoises.

This soil is perfect for the development of live plants, which is the ultimate food source for tortoises. As there are a number of versions of this soil blend, it is important to make sure you choose the right blend for your location.

Exo-Terra Plantation Blend is for use in tropical and sub-tropical environments. If you live in a cooler environment, make sure you choose one of the other blends.

5. ReptiChip Premium Coconut Reptile Substrate

Our rating: 8 / 10

ReptiChip Premium Coconut Reptile Substrate

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  • It comes in 72 quart bag
  • It is easy to use and manipulate
  • It is biodegradable
  • Authoritative choice for pet reptiles
  • This item is recommended for tropical reptiles
  • Will not support mold and is safer than wood substrates


  • Soft and prone to easy damage
  • Needs to be kept dry at all times, otherwise it will get moldy

The ReptiChili premium coconut substrate is the preferred choice of pet owners who need to dedicate a pair of turtles an enclosure as it allows for optimizing the enclosure by adding multiple kinds of basking spots. Turtles have a natural instinct to create vertically. The ReptiChili ensures that the turtles get the right amount of climbing area and a ground area to bask on.

You can also be confident about the safety of your turtle. The coconut substrate is biodegradable, and is safer than wood substrates. In addition, it does not support mold and is completely safe for any pet reptiles.

6. SavvyGrow Artificial Grass

Our rating: 7 / 10

SavvyGrow Artificial Grass

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  • This artificial grass for dogs hands down is the best.
  • Easy to install.
  • Totally maintenance free.
  • It is very durable and washes easily.
  • It looks natural and beautiful even after a couple of years.
  • It is soft and comfortable to lie on.
  • It can be used even in wet weather.
  • No harmful effects or problems caused.
  • Many color options and many sizes are available.
  • The grass feels and looks real.


  • There is no real problem to report.

We absolutely adore the AstroTurf artificial grass for dogs because it comes in different colors, various sizes, and even changed textures. We recommend this product to anyone who sweat a lot, as it is super soft to lie on.

It is also hypoallergenic. This kind of grass is also ideal if your pooch suffers from allergies. It does not require maintenance. You do not even have to water it! It is also tear-resistant. It is certainly one of our favorite dog laying pads.

7. Zoo Med Repti Bark

Our rating: 7 / 10

Zoo Med Repti Bark

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  • Eco-friendly
  • Comes in a large size
  • Safe for a wide range of reptiles
  • A great alternative to traditional substrates


  • You must soak the bark in warm water to get it ready for use
  • The bark can be difficult to clean if it gets wet from an over water dish or other spills

If you are conscientious about the earth and yourself, this may be the substrate for you. The Zoo Med Repti Bark has a lot of good qualities. It is eco-friendly, safe for many kinds of animals, and is much less expensive than other reptile substrates.

It is a lot easier to clean than many other substrates and looks great when used in a terrarium.

This substrate is made out of eco-safe coconut fiber, so you can feel good about using it. If what you are using now is not eco-friendly, why not change your substrate to this product to help protect the environment?

8. Zoo Med Eco Earth

Our rating: 6 / 10

Zoo Med Eco Earth

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  • Environmentally friendly
  • Comes in a three-pack
  • Highly absorbent
  • Perfect for humid environments
  • Completely safe
  • Produces very little in the way of dust or a bad scent

This substrate has been specifically created for tortoises since it combines the best qualities of coconut coir and natural soil. This product has been “green certified” by the ImportECO labeling system. This means that it has been specifically created with sustainable products.

The substrate is made from permeable coconut fibers that can absorb and hold up to 6-7 times their own weight in water. The substrate also contains nutrients and beneficial microbes, which produce a healthy environment for the soil microbes as well as your tortoise.

This material can easily be mixed with natural elements in order to create a specific environment for your tortoise.

9. EXO-TERRA Plantation Soil Terrarium Substrate

Our rating: 6 / 10

EXO-TERRA Plantation Soil Terrarium Substrate

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  • Easy to use since it doesn’t need to be reprocessed
  • Excellent bedding for different reptiles and amphibians
  • Sizes that are perfect for nearly all terrariums
  • Safe for all terrarium animals
  • Curbs odors


  • Doesn’t contain an adequate nutritional source for animals
  • Can clump together after wetting
  • Some dust is created during repackaging
  • Price may be prohibitive for some

Natural Coconut Fiber.

This substrate produced by Exo Terra is made without disinfectants or additives that may harm your reptile or amphibian. It’s made from the husks of coconuts and may be used with a large variety of reptiles and amphibians. It may be raked out when soiled or wet and replaced with fresh substrate. As it’s a long-lasting bedding, it’s a good substrate for hatchlings that may not be able to control their feces.

It is a very safe substrate for a wide variety of reptiles and amphibians. It may be used with tortoises, turtles, bearded dragons, anoles, skinks, monitors and many other species.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the best substrate for a tortoise?

Tortoises need substrate (bedding) to keep their habitats clean and dry. While there are some small, dry tortoises that can be kept on paper towels on a flat surface, most tortoises need some sort of deeper substrate. There are many types of substrate to choose from and choosing the right one is very important for the health and comfort of your pet.

How do you choose the right types of substrate? Do you go with substrate that offers benefits in terms of nutrition, exercise, or hygiene. Do you want to know about the best substrate based on cost or availability?

What about safety or cleanliness? In this article, we will discuss the best substrate options for tortoises based on the factors that are important to you.

What is the best substrate for leopard tortoise?

Leopard tortoises originated in Asia and their original habitats were dry grasslands. This means that they are good foragers and can digest many different plant materials.

The best substrate is one that has a combination of roughage and more fibrous things that they can graze on. For example, while most people use orchid bark chips to provide the roughage and a variety of grasses in their enclosure, I prefer using a combination of orchid bark chips with timothy hay.

When the tortoises are little, the hay provides roughage and fibrous food that they can graze on. As they grow, they begin to eat more of the hay and the bark. This creates a more varied diet and reduces the risk of them over-grazing on any one thing.

How often should I change tortoise substrate?

The answer depends on a lot of factors. If the substrate is fiberglass based and not sealed, changing it every few days is a good idea. It should be changed whenever wet or more than a few days have passed. If you do decide to switch substrates on a regular basis, you'll need somewhere to store the old substrate other than your tortoise enclosure.

When it comes to choosing your substrate for your tortoise, you have a lot of options and opinions. Some say that substrate is optional with tortoises while others would never consider a habitat without a substrate.

We believe substrate is a good idea for tortoises because it can make their tank more comfortable, it can make cleaning the cage easier, and it can make feeding easier for your tortoise. Just keep in mind that substrate, especially un-sealed substrate, is much easier to track outside of the enclosure than sand alone.

What is the best substrate for Russian tortoises?

In this article, we will provide you with the latest information on the best substrates for tortoise keeping. We will also introduce you to some substrate alternatives, like Aspen shavings, that are also very popular with turtle keepers.

We have conducted hand-on research in order to narrow down the many contenders to a handful of the best substrates available for your pet tortoise. After reading this article, you will have no trouble finding the right product for your pet turtle.

You might be surprised to hear it, but top-quality tortoise substrates are never cheap. As we will explain in the article, it's not just about finding cheap tortoise substrate; it's about having enough money to buy high-quality tortoise substrate. One thing is for sure, you definitely can't skimp on this.


So you’ve made the decision to get a tortoise. You’re on your way to becoming a savvy tortoise-owner, so you’re looking to turn your new pet into a great pet and what better way to turn an indifferent tortoise into a great pet than by making tortoise substrate choices that help your pet live a healthy and happy life. We hope this guide has been beneficial to you in helping you choose the right substrate for your tortoise.

Our Recommendation

1 X Natural Tan Kraft Crinkle Shred Gift Basket Shred Crinkle Paper Filler BeddingBest Overall1 X Natural Tan Kraft Crinkle Shred Gift Basket Shred Crinkle Paper Filler Bedding
EXO-TERRA Plantation Soil Terrarium SubstrateBudget PickEXO-TERRA Plantation Soil Terrarium Substrate
SavvyGrow Artificial GrassUpgrade PickSavvyGrow Artificial Grass