Pine or fir bark for outside enclosure

jasmin1

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Hi

I know this topic has been discussed and debated alot.

Pine bark..... some threads say that it's ok to use..... and others say that it could kill them....(terrabark is pine bark and sold alot here especially for tortoises. )

Fir bark...(or orchid bark) seems to be more favorable......(.reptibark is fir bark.... not sold alot here but can be got hold of.)

I'm asking as im making a larger outside enclosure and wanted the best ideas on substrate.
There will be a mix of substrate areas,
gravel ( small smooth stones rather than the road sized gravel. )
Grass and eating area...tortoise seed mix area.
Normal earth area
Last area is to be bark.

I didn't realise that when bought the bark for her brumation it was terrabark( pine ) not repti bark ( fir )
I don't want to make the same mistake again and have her on the wrong bedding.

Please could somebody confirm which is the safest to use ?
There's a lot of conflicting advice about it.

Many thanks in advance
 

The_Four_Toed_Edward

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I am not sure about the pine bark, but I would prefer fir bark if possible. I would wait for some one more knowledgeable to give advice on the bark question. The rocks sound concerning, are they small enough for him to swallow? In captivity you shouldn't trust tortoises not to eat something that might be harmful.
 

wellington

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Outside just use the ground that is there. Do not put small stones or gravel, they will try to eat it and if they swallow it you have bigger problems. No sand either.
I would not use pine but I would also use what the ground naturally is.
 

The_Four_Toed_Edward

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Outside just use the ground that is there.
Except if it is not well drained, has pesticides, doesn't hold moisture or it is just too hard for the tortoise to dig. There might be multiple reasons to not use the ground you already have in your garden/yard. Plus I understand wanting to provide a variation of terrain for your tortoise to walk on and there is nothing inherently bad about it.
 

jasmin1

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I am not sure about the pine bark, but I would prefer fir bark if possible. I would wait for some one more knowledgeable to give advice on the bark question. The rocks sound concerning, are they small enough for him to swallow? In captivity you shouldn't trust tortoises not to eat something that might be harmful.
Hi
Thanks, yes I understand about the size of gravel/ stones, yes they can try to eat them.
The ones we have are called gravel but the size is actually about 2cm and larger.
Im not sure that she could get one in her mouth but I will double check, I can always easily change that bit of the enclosure.
Probably thinking about it, may change to earth or the bark.
Thanks for help
 

Alex and the Redfoot

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Hi

I know this topic has been discussed and debated alot.

Pine bark..... some threads say that it's ok to use..... and others say that it could kill them....(terrabark is pine bark and sold alot here especially for tortoises. )

Fir bark...(or orchid bark) seems to be more favorable......(.reptibark is fir bark.... not sold alot here but can be got hold of.)

I'm asking as im making a larger outside enclosure and wanted the best ideas on substrate.
There will be a mix of substrate areas,
gravel ( small smooth stones rather than the road sized gravel. )
Grass and eating area...tortoise seed mix area.
Normal earth area
Last area is to be bark.

I didn't realise that when bought the bark for her brumation it was terrabark( pine ) not repti bark ( fir )
I don't want to make the same mistake again and have her on the wrong bedding.

Please could somebody confirm which is the safest to use ?
There's a lot of conflicting advice about it.

Many thanks in advance
Pine bark contains oils and fumes which are known to be toxic and irritating. That's especially a concern for indoors enclosures with poor ventilation. However, sometimes you can get treated (aged, mulched, composted or air cured) pine bark which doesn't smell like pine at all and, perhaps, is suitable for outdoor pens.

Unfortunately, "recommended for tortoises" label means nothing. As in case with substrate with limestones pieces in it.

As for the different substrates "for enrichment", I think it's better to plant the whole space. But you may use suitable soils for different plants: some like ferns benefit from shade and moist soil e.g. soil/coco coir mix, others like succulents like full sun with well-drained, more sandy (not sand) soil and thirds do fine on clay. Some flat rocks or slates will provide climbing and basking place.
 

Tom

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Except if it is not well drained, has pesticides, doesn't hold moisture or it is just too hard for the tortoise to dig. There might be multiple reasons to not use the ground you already have in your garden/yard. Plus I understand wanting to provide a variation of terrain for your tortoise to walk on and there is nothing inherently bad about it.
Well drained doesn't matter as long as the torts isn't walking in pools, but that is a different issue.

No one with a tortoise should be using toxic chemicals near or in their tortoise pens, and that is a different issue than what substrate to use.

The ground doesn't need to hold moisture, and there is no such thing as regular dirt that is too hard for a tortoise to dig in. We have some of the hardest, rockiest soils around here in the American South West and tortoises of all species are able to dig their nests into it, and the burrowing species are able to burrow right into it. When Mother Nature drops water from the sky on to my dry hard rocky dirt, it gets wet and holds moisture just as well as orchid bark. Possibly better. She's going to be giving a demonstration of that later today.

There absolutely might be something inherently bad about it if people like the OP decided to use gravel, or watch an erroneous YT video that says to use sand, or something like that. I'll agree that there is no harm in it if the correct substrates are used, but I would respectfully argue that there is also no need for it or benefit from it.
 

The_Four_Toed_Edward

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Well drained doesn't matter as long as the torts isn't walking in pools, but that is a different issue.

No one with a tortoise should be using toxic chemicals near or in their tortoise pens, and that is a different issue than what substrate to use.

The ground doesn't need to hold moisture, and there is no such thing as regular dirt that is too hard for a tortoise to dig in. We have some of the hardest, rockiest soils around here in the American South West and tortoises of all species are able to dig their nests into it, and the burrowing species are able to burrow right into it. When Mother Nature drops water from the sky on to my dry hard rocky dirt, it gets wet and holds moisture just as well as orchid bark. Possibly better. She's going to be giving a demonstration of that later today.

There absolutely might be something inherently bad about it if people like the OP decided to use gravel, or watch an erroneous YT video that says to use sand, or something like that. I'll agree that there is no harm in it if the correct substrates are used, but I would respectfully argue that there is also no need for it or benefit from it.
I was thinking more like wet clay, than rocks. At least here in Finland there are areas where water seems to be pooling etc. because of that hard, compressed clay is the natural dirt under their yard. And many people do use fertilizers etc. not knowing the harm. But yes I agree with what you are saying.
 

Tom

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Hi

I know this topic has been discussed and debated alot.

Pine bark..... some threads say that it's ok to use..... and others say that it could kill them....(terrabark is pine bark and sold alot here especially for tortoises. )

Fir bark...(or orchid bark) seems to be more favorable......(.reptibark is fir bark.... not sold alot here but can be got hold of.)

I'm asking as im making a larger outside enclosure and wanted the best ideas on substrate.
There will be a mix of substrate areas,
gravel ( small smooth stones rather than the road sized gravel. )
Grass and eating area...tortoise seed mix area.
Normal earth area
Last area is to be bark.

I didn't realise that when bought the bark for her brumation it was terrabark( pine ) not repti bark ( fir )
I don't want to make the same mistake again and have her on the wrong bedding.

Please could somebody confirm which is the safest to use ?
There's a lot of conflicting advice about it.

Many thanks in advance
This can get very confusing as "fir" is a type of "pine". Mix in language barriers and translations, and the whole subject can get very confusing. I would not use "pine" bark for a tortoise, but I would wonder of the bark you are looking at is really pine. I've never seen actual pine bark for sale, though I suppose it is certainly possible, and certainly possible in other countries that do things differently than what we do here in the USA.

I would not use any kind of gravel or pebbles for an outdoor enclosure. The native dirt is best. If this is some sort of large container outside for an enclosure, then fir/orchid bark certainly works well in that capacity, and so does cypress mulch or hand packed coco coir.
 

Tom

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I was thinking more like wet clay, than rocks. At least here in Finland there are areas where water seems to be pooling etc. because of that hard, compressed clay is the natural dirt under their yard. And many people do use fertilizers etc. not knowing the harm. But yes I agree with what you are saying.
For an area like that, I would use more dirt to create a slope so it could drain in a heavy rain, or perhaps remove a little dirt or cut a channel on the downhill side so the excess water could run off. I'm familiar with the sort of ground you are referring to as we have that here too. In Arizona, they have a silt/clay based soil called "caliche" and when dry, it is almost like concrete. You can break a pick axe on it, but the sulcatas and desert tortoises dig right through it to make their burrows, and the little Testudo dig right into it to make their nests.

Fertilizers are fine, as long as it is plain fertilizer and not some sort of toxic "weed n' feed" type product that seems to be so popular here in the US. The other caveat is that the tortoise should never have direct access to any sort of fertilizer product like slow release granules, or powder. But once the fertilizer is absorbed into the soil, it is harmless for the tortoise, and good for the growing plants that will feed the tortoise.
 

Alex and the Redfoot

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Location (City and/or State)
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This can get very confusing as "fir" is a type of "pine". Mix in language barriers and translations, and the whole subject can get very confusing. I would not use "pine" bark for a tortoise, but I would wonder of the bark you are looking at is really pine. I've never seen actual pine bark for sale, though I suppose it is certainly possible, and certainly possible in other countries that do things differently than what we do here in the USA.

I would not use any kind of gravel or pebbles for an outdoor enclosure. The native dirt is best. If this is some sort of large container outside for an enclosure, then fir/orchid bark certainly works well in that capacity, and so does cypress mulch or hand packed coco coir.
Terrabark content on the label is "coniferous tree bark", so it can be anything. But in the garden centers in Cyprus "pine bark" (and "orchid bark" too) is usually maritime pine (Pine pinaster) bark, I guess the same is across EU.
 
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jasmin1

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Joined
May 8, 2023
Messages
59
Location (City and/or State)
France
Well drained doesn't matter as long as the torts isn't walking in pools, but that is a different issue.

No one with a tortoise should be using toxic chemicals near or in their tortoise pens, and that is a different issue than what substrate to use.

The ground doesn't need to hold moisture, and there is no such thing as regular dirt that is too hard for a tortoise to dig in. We have some of the hardest, rockiest soils around here in the American South West and tortoises of all species are able to dig their nests into it, and the burrowing species are able to burrow right into it. When Mother Nature drops water from the sky on to my dry hard rocky dirt, it gets wet and holds moisture just as well as orchid bark. Possibly better. She's going to be giving a demonstration of that later today.

There absolutely might be something inherently bad about it if people like the OP decided to use gravel, or watch an erroneous YT video that says to use sand, or something like that. I'll agree that there is no harm in it if the correct substrates are used, but I would respectfully argue that there is also no need for it or benefit from it.
Hi
Thanks for clearing it all up
Basically now decided on no bark for outside.
Bark... fir bark for her winter enclosure and then brumation.
Outside.... leaving as is... just bigger... mixture of large rocks, soil, humid hide, hidey hole... basking areas and lots of shade, alot of various Mediterranean plants, most established and some new. Large area of all her food plants. It's classed as the Mediterranean where I live so mostly pretty natural for her.
Many thanks for all advice
😁
 

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