Best substrate for Russian tortoise .


New Member
Mar 5, 2016
I have had my Russian for about 2 years . I've been experimenting with different substrates to see what he likes best and what's safest . So far I have tried coconut coir and wood chips . I heard that the wood chips could be toxic and I haven't used them since. I feel that the coconut core is the best but he hasn't been digging like he use to . Another option I'm thinking about using is the coir with play sand . What would u recommend?


Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Jul 11, 2014
Location (City and/or State)
Spokane Valley WA
I use coco coir, and put bark on top around food and water dishes to reduce the mess. My hatchling loves to dig in coir. I use just coir in one of my outside boxes to create a heated nesting area. The adults lay here and dig on a regular basis.
Avoid sand. It is a impactation risk, if ingested.


The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Jan 9, 2010
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
No sand. That is old outdated info.

I prefer coco coir for babies and orchid bark for adults. Mine live outside and they are on whatever dirt is out there. You can use that dirt inside too, but it will be dusty if too dry, and muddy if too wet.

I also do not like "soil" or "topsoil" because it is made from composted yard waste. There is no way to know if is is grass clippings covered in weed n feed chemicals or anti-fungal agents, or rose bush trimming treated with insecticides, or just plain oleander or azaleas, or something else toxic. I don't trust soil unless I composted it and made it myself.

Check these out:


New Member
Jul 16, 2016
We do not have composted soil, but I would like to grow vegetation in a tortoise enclosure. I had read a blend of soil, peat and coco noir is a good mix for Russians. I can purchase a soil called Purple Cow, organically composted soil which I use for my organic gardening - but not sure if it too heavy, rich for reptiles or a good idea. Our outdoor soil has a lot of clay in it, and I don't want to bring in ants, etc in to our home either, that are living in the soil. I have seen ZooMed makes a soil and peat blend, but it also contains sand which this forum /care sheet does not recommend. Thank you.