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Substrate troubles

Discussion in 'Tortoise Enclosure Substrate' started by DARKFIRE007, Jan 11, 2018.

  1. DARKFIRE007

    DARKFIRE007 Active Member

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    First I own a largely adult male Russian tortoise named Boris

    I am not only new here, but still a fairly new first time reptile owner at only 5 months in. I have muddled my way through fairly well despite conflicting opinions on everything from diet to substrate. I use a dome ceramic fixture UVB basking lamp, a cuttle bone, a nice hide away from the basking area, and I feed leafy greens such as turnips, collards, kale, very rare strawberries and so on. I have good soaking practices and found a sly way to get water in him simply by wetting his greens. Mine refuses to drink from a dish....ever.

    My issue is substrate, when I bought him he came with a bag of forest floor...basically a billion possible splinters. I knew no better and while using it I saw an absolutely horrific story about a very large Sulcata who got a piece in his neck and nearly died. I once again made a mistake, I swapped over to something very inexpensive that lasts a very long time which is red cedar bedding. I have yet to replace it, and after discovering it can be toxic I am scrambling to get another kind. Thankfully he has flourished and made it through hibernation this year after burrowing down despite this stuff.

    Nearly EVERY substrate I see is moisture retention based. I have a desert breed so I don't want to assault him with humidity, lord knows my state is humid enough already. I also have YET to find a substrate people will not bash in some form such as too humid, gut impaction, irritate the eyes, fatal if ingested, and on and on.

    I am in need of a substrate that allows burrowing for hibernation and can sustain eggs since I later plan on getting a female. Although I may use an incubator, the option would be nice. It is just a monster challenge to find a dry type of substrate for a desert breed that isn't dangerous in some way.

    I am seriously about ready to make a few pounds of rubber pellets a tad larger than his mouth and cover it with Timothy hay. Would have the benefit of being reusable, Warmth loss wouldn't be an issue either since he is indoors.

    I am eyeing Aspen as a sole substrate also, but have not decided. any advice from a fellow Russian owner would be helpful. Hopefully I provided enough info.

    Thank's all..
  2. Bambam1989

    Bambam1989 Well-Known Member

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    Glad that you found the forum.
    It sounds like your trying to get as much research as possible. Unfortunately, there is SO much information out there that is outdated or just wrong due to misconceptions about the species.
    I'm going to provide you with the care sheet that this forum recommends and it will answer your question. If you have more questions or would like us to explain something, just ask.
    https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/
    Cowboy_Ken and Eduardo Hernandez like this.
  3. DARKFIRE007

    DARKFIRE007 Active Member

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    Thank you for the reply, that was actually one link I had not already seen. After reading it I guess humidity isn't such a bad thing for them after all. I just wanted a dry substrate because he is a desert breed and my state is already ungodly humid. I am currently looking at Aspen, Sphagum moss, repti bark and so on. Should be a bit easier since it does not HAVE to be dry.
  4. Bambam1989

    Bambam1989 Well-Known Member

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    Orchid bark is a very popular substrate.
    You might also look into coco coir, and coco chips.
  5. baldegale

    baldegale Active Member

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  6. DARKFIRE007

    DARKFIRE007 Active Member

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    All of these suggestions I will look into tonight as I need something immediately. The thoughts are appreciated..
  7. baldegale

    baldegale Active Member

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    all of this stuff is readily available at any petsmart/petco pretty much. the website i suggested though has to be shipped.
  8. DARKFIRE007

    DARKFIRE007 Active Member

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    While tackling a shoot of greens he just shot me a look that either said "you better get up and go get it" or "touch my food, lose a finger" haha
  9. baldegale

    baldegale Active Member

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    hahahaha!! another suggestion thats fairly cheap is a 50/50 mix of play sand and organic top soil with no fertilizer. i think coco coir looks nicer though with cypress mulch
  10. DARKFIRE007

    DARKFIRE007 Active Member

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    Do I have any concerns about where to get or what brand of cypress mulch? I know some batches are riddled with pesticides, bugs and so on.
  11. baldegale

    baldegale Active Member

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    cypress mulch is the one thing id recommend to buy reptile branded because for me at least it was considerably hard to find otherwise so i just stuck to normal coco coir. plus that way you known it’s safe
  12. baldegale

    baldegale Active Member

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    oh wait, nevermind you dont like cypress mulch.. forest floor is cypress mulch. my bad! but those concerns you had ive never really heard of, although they do sound valid. but EVERYONE always recommends one of these: coco coir, coco chips, cypress mulch, orchid bark. pretty much stay away from aspen, pure sand, cedar and all that toxic stuff, and yeah!
  13. DARKFIRE007

    DARKFIRE007 Active Member

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    Well d@!n....I was highly looking at aspen. If I start mixing and so on it will be later on. Right now I am just after a basic one part bedding. I am about to look up the Orchid bark, never heard of it.
  14. baldegale

    baldegale Active Member

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    aspen is extremely dry, molds easily, bad for humidity, and is horrible for respiratory.

    in that case coco coir and orchid bark are your best bet. orchid bark is also called fir bark. coco coir is the most accessible and readily available so your best bet for now. its going to be quite wet initially but itll dry out after a few days and you can mist it if you want
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  15. baldegale

    baldegale Active Member

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    i know aspen looks amazing cause of how cheap it is but its only good for snakes and thats it
  16. Eduardo Hernandez

    Eduardo Hernandez Active Member

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    Russians are not desert species, they live in more grassland areas.
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  17. TechnoCheese

    TechnoCheese Well-Known Member

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    Sand should never be used in any amount for tortoises, because even in small amounts mixed in, it’s a risk for impactions and an eye, skin, and respiratory irritant :)
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  18. Cheryl Hills

    Cheryl Hills Well-Known Member

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    Russian torts are not desert species. What I now use is organic peat moss from Lowe’s. It is cheep and almost the same as coco core. Wet the substrate and mix it all together. It will hold the moister while leaving the top layer dryer. Then you just have to keep adding water. If you keep the tort to dry, it will start pyramiding. Please read our Russian tort section. We have all the up to date info in there. Ask plenty questions, we here will make sure you get the answers. Good luck.
  19. DARKFIRE007

    DARKFIRE007 Active Member

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    Too dry is not an issue as I said before, I soak regularly.
    Too dry is not an issue, as I said earlier I have good soaking practices. The organic peat moss is an interesting and far cheaper option than the repti bark I just swapped to. Stuff is uber expensive at 20 bucks for the appropriate size bag for me.
  20. DARKFIRE007

    DARKFIRE007 Active Member

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    I guess it didn't delete my first line after all...still getting used to posting, bear with me.
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