Play sand type

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,529
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
and i'm only talking like an inch or 2 raised not like ridiculously high amounts

No need for this. Humidity does not harm russians. Especially not the little bit from some wet substrate around the water bowl. Look how many live outside in Florida or other parts of the South. If your top is open, or if you are using an open table, a little wet substrate will not be able to raise humidity all that much anyway.

Raising the bowl up like that is likely to make it less desirable, less usable, and less comfortable for your tortoise. All of these things make him less likely to use his water dish. Sunk into the substrate works the best. My russians live on damp coir and when I refill their water bowls water splishes and splashes all over the place.

I have been using orchid bark for a wide variety or reptiles, including tortoises, and including russian tortoises for decades and I have never had a single animal choke on it, or have any other problem on it. I have also not heard of anyone else having a problem with it from other keepers or any of the vets or vet techs that I associate with.
 

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 23, 2008
Messages
89,074
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
One thing to think about when comparing the desert sand with sand in a tortoise enclosure - when a desert animal bites off his food, he's biting off a stem, a blade, or something up off the ground. Rarely do they find something actually sitting on the ground to eat.

If you can make sure your tortoise is VERY WELL hydrated, mixing sand in with your substrate of choice isn't such a big deal.
 

Jacqui

Wanna be raiser of Lemon Drop tortoises
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Joined
Aug 28, 2007
Messages
39,497
Location (City and/or State)
A Land Far Away...
Think about it. What does sand actually "do" that other substrates don't do? Does it hold or retain more moisture than coir, mulch or orchid bark? What fantastic property is it that sand has, and no other substrate has, that we should all be taking this risk. Why not just use something that is not going to block up your tortoise regardless of circumstances. I have never used any sand substrate on any of my tortoises and year after year they are all just fine.

My experience is when mixed with the coir, it seems to hold moisture better and not be as likely to get "worn" by the tortoise. My Russians especially did not like the mulchy type substrates with all the digging they tend to do inside.

If I thought like Tom, then perhaps I would no longer let my tortoises be outside. I know (because my soil is not pure clay) that I have sand in it. I thank goodness that I do have sand in my soil, because that's why my soil is so great for plants and other life forms. I can feel it and see it. I know my land gets added sand, when there is a flood. As long as my sand is mixed into the rest of the soil and is not a high percentage then I am happy. ALL substrates have their own associated risks. I have used sand substrate mixtures inside on my tortoises and year after year they are all just fine.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,529
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
If you can make sure your tortoise is VERY WELL hydrated, mixing sand in with your substrate of choice isn't such a big deal.

This keeps being repeated here, but I don't know that this does or doesn't have anything to do with it. Where is this info coming from. In the cases of sand impaction that I have seen where I either know the person or saw pics of the enclosure, there was always water available. Admittedly, in some of the cases, I don't know if water availability was or was not a factor. Is there some study on this that I have not seen somewhere?

I know of other animals that can get sand impacted when they are perfectly well hydrated too. Horses for example. What does being well hydrated have to do with the sand building up in their gut over time?
 

Turtlepete

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 12, 2014
Messages
972
Location (City and/or State)
South Florida
How is Michael Ogle's experience any less anecdotal than mine or anyone else's? Ask one of the people who paid thousands of dollars to have their tortoise sawed open for sand removal how "anecdotal" they think this info is. How is calling my real world observations "paranoia" NOT offensive? I said above that I've seen around 20 actual veterinary cases of sand impacted tortoises and I have never even looked for these cases.. How does that meet the definition of paranoia? How much "anecdote" do you need?

On your last paragraph, this debate has been had many times here. What happens in the wild, or our perception of whatever happens in the wild, often does not work in our captive environments. This particular bit of info is no exception.

No one is saying that every tortoise that has any contact with any amount of sand is automatically going to die. What I am saying is that the risk associated with using any amount of sand is not worth it, when there are other alternatives that work perfectly and don't carry the risk.

Tom,
You seem to take everything that anyone says that differs from your own opinion as a personal insult. Are you the only one that is allowed to participate on this forum without being verbally berated?

And yes, actually. The anecdote of a herpetology professional that has been able to successfully reproduce severel critically endangered species, time and time again, is worth a lot more to me then repeated paranoia.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,529
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
My experience is when mixed with the coir, it seems to hold moisture better and not be as likely to get "worn" by the tortoise. My Russians especially did not like the mulchy type substrates with all the digging they tend to do inside.

If I thought like Tom, then perhaps I would no longer let my tortoises be outside. I know (because my soil is not pure clay) that I have sand in it. I thank goodness that I do have sand in my soil, because that's why my soil is so great for plants and other life forms. I can feel it and see it. I know my land gets added sand, when there is a flood. As long as my sand is mixed into the rest of the soil and is not a high percentage then I am happy. ALL substrates have their own associated risks. I have used sand substrate mixtures inside on my tortoises and year after year they are all just fine.

There is some sand in just about any soil anywhere in the country, that is NOT what we are talking about, and that tone is insulting. We are talking about intentionally adding large percentages of sand and what happens when tortoises are kept on it. Your implication is inflammatory and not appreciated. NOWHERE to I advocate that tortoises should not be kept outside and you know darn well that MY tortoise are kept outside, so how is that "thinking like Tom..." in any way?
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,529
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
I have used sand substrate mixtures inside on my tortoises and year after year they are all just fine.

And what do you say to all the people that have sand impacted tortoises from the practice you advocate?
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,529
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Tom,
You seem to take everything that anyone says that differs from your own opinion as a personal insult. Are you the only one that is allowed to participate on this forum without being verbally berated?

And yes, actually. The anecdote of a herpetology professional that has been able to successfully reproduce severel critically endangered species, time and time again, is worth a lot more to me then repeated paranoia.

No. I take insults as insults. Calling someone paranoid for sharing info on cases of sand impaction that they have actually seen first hand is an insult. Are you saying I didn't really see those x-rays and I imagined it? THEN I would be paranoid. Jacqui and I have different opinions on things, but we usually don't call each other names or give each other false titles, like "paranoid". Look up the definition of paranoid. It seems you don't understand what it means. When the thing you fear actually happens on a regular basis and in known preventable circumstances, it is NOT paranoia.

You are all skirting around the facts of this matter. The OP started this thread looking for advice about using sand. Because I know it to be a problem first hand and have seen it many times, I am advising against it. Because some one engaged in this practice and their tortoise didn't die (yet), does not make it a good practice to be recommended when better, safer alternatives exist.

Sand is potentially dangerous and there is no need to use it. Other substrates work just as well or better, and don't have the same risks associated with them. Its that simple.
 

smarch

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jun 24, 2012
Messages
4,061
Location (City and/or State)
Massachusetts
No. I take insults as insults. Calling someone paranoid for sharing info on cases of sand impaction that they have actually seen first hand is an insult. Are you saying I didn't really see those x-rays and I imagined it? THEN I would be paranoid. Jacqui and I have different opinions on things, but we usually don't call each other names or give each other false titles, like "paranoid". Look up the definition of paranoid. It seems you don't understand what it means. When the thing you fear actually happens on a regular basis and in known preventable circumstances, it is NOT paranoia.

You are all skirting around the facts of this matter. The OP started this thread looking for advice about using sand. Because I know it to be a problem first hand and have seen it many times, I am advising against it. Because some one engaged in this practice and their tortoise didn't die (yet), does not make it a good practice to be recommended when better, safer alternatives exist.

Sand is potentially dangerous and there is no need to use it. Other substrates work just as well or better, and don't have the same risks associated with them. Its that simple.

I didn't mean to start such a debate over a topic I didn't actually know was largely sensitive. Sorry about that, I don't mean to start conflicts...

My opinion is people can have their own opinions but in any case if someone tells me something is a poor idea and gives good facts i'll always choose to follow that because it means there is a possibility things can and have gone wrong. I do believe people can have no problems in sand under circumstances such as mentioned before growing food to graze not plates that get sandy. But with there being bad things that can happen means I won't I mean sand wouldn't GUARENTEE there would be problems, but there being a possibility doesn't make it appealing to me anymore.

that said I honestly thought when posting this origionally that for some reason the repti-sand was bad and that play sand was ok, it doesn't really make sense anymore why I would have though of that. So i'm glad I did ask because I didn't know it would have been bad husbandry.

This whole topic and debate is making me wonder about adding soil on top of the sand in his outdoor enclosure, I'd take the sand out but theres no where we can put it and its already so packed down, by literally almost 20 years of play! That way the little ecosystem going on in the sand already with the plants grubs and worms will stay but the sand will be out of access just in case. Or when I clear out the corner for soil i'll take a lot of sand space up so there's even less, because its hard because he really seems to like it, and I really think that has something to do with his past life (literally the only 2 things I didn't have a good knowledge of when I got him was how petco=wild caught and you don't want to do that and that sand is bad)

hmm thinking about it this sand topic can be compared to wild vs captive. And I mean now i'm against wild caught, and lets not make a debate out of this im only using it as an analogy. But Franklin was wild caught, wild caught is bad because they come sick and parasites and all that... franklin came with none, completely healthy just a little skiddish. So even as its not advised due to problems some people never will experience problems. only difference is Wild is kind of a one time gamble thing, while sand is like an ongoing thing. Is that a good anaology?
 

WillTort2

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2011
Messages
1,250
Here we go again! I'm believing that we will never agree on this topic; so perhaps agreeing to politely disagree may be best.

I no longer add sand to my coco coir. Not because I'm sure that it will cause impaction, but because I believe there is a possibility that it could cause impaction.

For the past 3 years I've been using a mix of coco coir and plain top soil. My Russians seem to like it, it gives a consistency that promotes digging and burrowing, which is natural for Russians. It holds moisture well which allows my Russians to dig a little obtain just the right level of moisture for their preference.

I realize that all soils have a partial content of sand; but I believe that the more sand in your soil the higher risk of impaction.

In my opinion, when living in the wild the tortoise will more often be walking and eating upon a substrate layer of decaying leaves, sticks, and organic debris rather than wondering across a barren desert of loose sand.

Thanks for listening!
 

smarch

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jun 24, 2012
Messages
4,061
Location (City and/or State)
Massachusetts
and just for the record I am paranoid, so I mean its not like its a bad thing, I see it as safe to be always skeptical before changing anything because it makes me ask questions and then I do know whats ok and whats not so ok and whats bad. They do say better safe than sorry though.
... although I have diagnosed anxiety disorder... but I honestly see a good level of anxiety and paranoia ok when it comes to care. (but that's just me)
 

smarch

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jun 24, 2012
Messages
4,061
Location (City and/or State)
Massachusetts
I no longer add sand to my coco coir. Not because I'm sure that it will cause impaction, but because I believe there is a possibility that it could cause impaction.
exactly my thoughts better than I can explain! To me its not worth that possibility, he probably could live happy and healthy in the mix I originally asked, but the possibility is what makes it not worth it, to me it would be like gambling my kids life (I have no kids right now - he is my shell-baby, i'm like the cat lady of my tortoise!)
 

smarch

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jun 24, 2012
Messages
4,061
Location (City and/or State)
Massachusetts
No need for this. Humidity does not harm russians. Especially not the little bit from some wet substrate around the water bowl. Look how many live outside in Florida or other parts of the South. If your top is open, or if you are using an open table, a little wet substrate will not be able to raise humidity all that much anyway.

Raising the bowl up like that is likely to make it less desirable, less usable, and less comfortable for your tortoise. All of these things make him less likely to use his water dish. Sunk into the substrate works the best. My russians live on damp coir and when I refill their water bowls water splishes and splashes all over the place.

I have been using orchid bark for a wide variety or reptiles, including tortoises, and including russian tortoises for decades and I have never had a single animal choke on it, or have any other problem on it. I have also not heard of anyone else having a problem with it from other keepers or any of the vets or vet techs that I associate with.

He has a screen top, so yeah its open. And I still think I want to do he bricks under it thing since he has a habit of burrowing under his food or water dishes and dumps the whole thing!! I have a makeshift cutting board barrier I have at an anle on the side of it not near the edge to stop him but bricks seem like a better solution

So the humidity wont be a problem, but the enclosure's also in my finished basement where humidity gets higher than the rest of the house, it still will be ok? I want to switch to soil because its just more natural to what I believe the natural environment is rather than mulch which is really just as I see it a human attempt to make enclosures look better (kinda like gardens, we use mulch for benefits but also for looks). how deep would a good topsoil substrate be? and i'll end up buying it rather than using clean fill from the yard due to bugs... or are bugs ok when it comes to soil? I know in the mulch they get everywhere!
 

Jacqui

Wanna be raiser of Lemon Drop tortoises
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Joined
Aug 28, 2007
Messages
39,497
Location (City and/or State)
A Land Far Away...
exactly my thoughts better than I can explain! To me its not worth that possibility, he probably could live happy and healthy in the mix I originally asked, but the possibility is what makes it not worth it, to me it would be like gambling my kids life (I have no kids right now - he is my shell-baby, i'm like the cat lady of my tortoise!)

Exactly why I won't use mulch in most every case, because I do not want to take the risk of those sharp points tearing my tortoises up. I don't want to see them scratching their eyes on those points. I see too many folks having troubles with their animals eating those kinds of substrates. Sand can be mixed into the substrate, so it's BLENDED in and becomes a part of the substrate (as it can and does in soil). We are talking of blended in sand, not left in big piles or clumps of pure sand... just to clarify.

As I said before
ALL substrates carry some risk factor, nothing is completely safe.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,529
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
I didn't mean to start such a debate over a topic I didn't actually know was largely sensitive. Sorry about that, I don't mean to start conflicts...

No need to apologize. It is discussions like this that make a forum so valuable, vs. just reading a care sheet. If everything in the tortoise world was known and one system worked well for everyone, we wouldn't have anything to discuss. It is when multiple experienced people chime in and share their thoughts and experiences that I learn the most on this forum, or any other. Sometimes I will read post after post that often just sounds like arguing or bickering, and then the one good line will hit, or the discussion will inspire a thought provoking epiphany that I would not have otherwise had. I think these discussions help new people learn, understand and make decisions about what is best for THEIR tortoises and THEIR situation.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,529
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Exactly why I won't use mulch in most every case, because I do not want to take the risk of those sharp points tearing my tortoises up. I don't want to see them scratching their eyes on those points. I see too many folks having troubles with their animals eating those kinds of substrates.

... except that simply doesn't happen. No torn up tortoises or scratched eyes from orchid bark or cypress mulch. And a tortoises propensity to eat or not eat ANY given substrate has nothing to do with whether or not sand is present. This is most often associated with improper lighting or mineral deficiencies.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,529
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
He has a screen top, so yeah its open. And I still think I want to do he bricks under it thing since he has a habit of burrowing under his food or water dishes and dumps the whole thing!! I have a makeshift cutting board barrier I have at an anle on the side of it not near the edge to stop him but bricks seem like a better solution

If that solution works for you, so be it. Just be sure he is drinking and using his water, and be sure he can't flip over getting in or out of it.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,529
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
So the humidity wont be a problem, but the enclosure's also in my finished basement where humidity gets higher than the rest of the house, it still will be ok? I want to switch to soil because its just more natural to what I believe the natural environment is rather than mulch which is really just as I see it a human attempt to make enclosures look better (kinda like gardens, we use mulch for benefits but also for looks). how deep would a good topsoil substrate be? and i'll end up buying it rather than using clean fill from the yard due to bugs... or are bugs ok when it comes to soil? I know in the mulch they get everywhere!

What is the humidity in the enclosure down in the finished basement? 50-70% should be fine for a russian. Some people go higher, and all the ones living outdoors in the south have it significantly higher with no issues. I'm not saying an adult russian NEEDS humidity that high, just that they seem to tolerate it with no problems. In most open enclosure with a heat bulb, humidity is surprisingly low, so adding a little in yours might not be all that bad.

Here is my problem with "soil" or "top soil": What is it? What is it made of? Is it mineral, vegetable, animal? Some combo? Also what did the company who bagged it and put their label on it add to it? Soil sold at most hardware stores has all kind of additives in it. Like bat guano, or chicken manure. Some times they add vermiculite or perlite to make it retain water better. Sometimes they add chemical fertilizers, or fertilizing granules that I don't want my tortoise to have direct access to. Even without the additives, that soil is basically composted yard waste that is all mulched up, mixed up and fermented for a while. What it is made of is going to depend on what yard waste the trucks picked up at that time of year from wherever they made their pick ups. In one bag that I bought there were semi-decomposed Jacaranda leaves. I know these trees, so it was unmistakable. Those are listed as toxic on most websites. What else comes in that bag that I can't ID? Is there oleander? Poison Ivy or oak? Eucalyptus?

I think you get the idea. My point is that it is a big unknown. Now I have not seen any problems that could be attributed to top soil use as an indoor substrate, but the possibility does worry me, where it doesn't worry me with other known substrates.

I sometimes use regular plain old yard dirt and that has worked well. Its the same stuff they are on when they are outside anyway. Yes it usually does have bugs and microbes in it, but that doesn't seem to bother the torts and it doesn't bother me.
 

smarch

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jun 24, 2012
Messages
4,061
Location (City and/or State)
Massachusetts
If that solution works for you, so be it. Just be sure he is drinking and using his water, and be sure he can't flip over getting in or out of it.

The bricks will be level with the substrate when I do it, no ramp bio raising since it could make him decide otherwise in using it. And its just a shallow plate like his food plate but larger (since just the other day read a post where the OP mentioned a ramp bowl and people were saying it could cause water flipping and drowning, and I didn't have the ramp bowl but it was like a 2 inch deep old Tupperware container and I was worried he'd flip in that and potentially drown since he really splashes around sometimes! )
 

smarch

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jun 24, 2012
Messages
4,061
Location (City and/or State)
Massachusetts
What is the humidity in the enclosure down in the finished basement? 50-70% should be fine for a russian. Some people go higher, and all the ones living outdoors in the south have it significantly higher with no issues. I'm not saying an adult russian NEEDS humidity that high, just that they seem to tolerate it with no problems. In most open enclosure with a heat bulb, humidity is surprisingly low, so adding a little in yours might not be all that bad.

Here is my problem with "soil" or "top soil": What is it? What is it made of? Is it mineral, vegetable, animal? Some combo? Also what did the company who bagged it and put their label on it add to it? Soil sold at most hardware stores has all kind of additives in it. Like bat guano, or chicken manure. Some times they add vermiculite or perlite to make it retain water better. Sometimes they add chemical fertilizers, or fertilizing granules that I don't want my tortoise to have direct access to. Even without the additives, that soil is basically composted yard waste that is all mulched up, mixed up and fermented for a while. What it is made of is going to depend on what yard waste the trucks picked up at that time of year from wherever they made their pick ups. In one bag that I bought there were semi-decomposed Jacaranda leaves. I know these trees, so it was unmistakable. Those are listed as toxic on most websites. What else comes in that bag that I can't ID? Is there oleander? Poison Ivy or oak? Eucalyptus?

I think you get the idea. My point is that it is a big unknown. Now I have not seen any problems that could be attributed to top soil use as an indoor substrate, but the possibility does worry me, where it doesn't worry me with other known substrates.

I sometimes use regular plain old yard dirt and that has worked well. Its the same stuff they are on when they are outside anyway. Yes it usually does have bugs and microbes in it, but that doesn't seem to bother the torts and it doesn't bother me.

We have piles of dirt in our yard so since bugs are ok I'd defiantly use that, knowing its origin and it being free is a plus. I just gotta find out where such and such pile was pushed from so I know where and what it could have been exposed to (not much since its next to the fields we grow and hay for our cows)
 
Top