The BEST substrate, really the BEST one.

Kapidolo Farms

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The best substrate is not one item, there is some thinking and consideration involved YOU have to do. Just asking what's best and getting a single answer, a correct answer is impossible - because there are many 'bests'.

The constant drive for a single best this or that, substrate is what this post is about, is a false path. There is no single answer. There are many bests. Again there are many bests.

Many substrates work, it's more a pass/fail selection process. It is what will work best for you and the species you have.

Substrates for indoor enclosures that work include actual backyard soil, cypress mulch, fir bark, coco products, packaged 'organic soil', packaged top soil etc. They will all get those small bugs that seem to creep so many of you out, bake it, boil it, stored in sealed black bags in the sun, it does not matter, those little bugs will get in there. Stop worrying about those little bugs, it's okay. Most are springtail, sometime some kinds of fungus nats, little decomposing vegetation flies, isopods (pill bugs) etc. They become a part of the enclosure.

Best, is more based on accessibility than any other factor, can you readily get it? This is not some kind of D&G quest silliness, use what is easy to get. That way you'll more likely keep it turned over (replaced). Part of the replacement criteria is what to do with the soiled substrate. I toss the old substrate into a flower bed.

I use micro fir bark, many brands in different places around the USA. If I lived in the southeast I might go for cypress wood shred's (chips - whatever), but I don't live in the southeast, so the readily available and inexpensive substrate I can get it micro fir bark.

I find fir bark relatively clean (no contaminates), it works well to maintain humidity, it's easy for the tortoises, even the smallest babies, to shimmy into. The particles are too big for baby tortoises to accidentally eat it. Once larger and better able to make there eating parts (mouth, beak, tongue etc.) to eject it out of their mouth, or just swallow it. The small bits of bark will pass, it does not accumulate like sand or gravel bits in the intestines. It does not get muddy, no matter how wet it gets.

I do not turn over 100% all at once, I replace about 1/4 to 1/3 at a time, that way the tortoise has enclosure stability (they know their world based on yesterday). I do this replacement based on how much stuff that is not substrate gets in it. Like feces, spilled food, dead leaves from the live plants etc.

For me micro bark is best. But my best may not work best for you. Do your own factor consideration.
 

Maro2Bear

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Yep. And it’s not all one, but not another. Initially, I used a combo of orchid bark, coco coir & cypress mulch. Maybe even some peat moss too. As my enclosures got larger & larger i transitioned to available & cheap. Our local Lowes garden center had 2 or 3 cubic ft bags for a few bucks - those bags go a long way.
 

TeamZissou

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I had a bad time using cypress mulch over the summer. I used some as substrate for an outdoor enclosure for my ~1 year old Greek tortoise. The rest of the time, he's inside on orchid bark. I only put him outside a handful of times for about an hour to get some natural sun, but once when I checked on him, I saw him eat a couple of small pieces. I then fed him some Miner-All since it has been recommended on TFO as a remedy to substrate eating. I eventually got rid of the cypress and didn't put him outside as much, but a little while later, his weight plateaued for four months. After four months, he somehow pooped a large conglomerate of cypress mulch that was about the size of a AA battery, which is substantial for a 4" tortoise. I am amazed he was able to pass it. After that, he started to gain weight again.

I am lucky he did not get compacted long term and die. I won't be using cypress mulch again.
 

Maro2Bear

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I had a bad time using cypress mulch over the summer. I used some as substrate for an outdoor enclosure for my ~1 year old Greek tortoise. The rest of the time, he's inside on orchid bark. I only put him outside a handful of times for about an hour to get some natural sun, but once when I checked on him, I saw him eat a couple of small pieces. I then fed him some Miner-All since it has been recommended on TFO as a remedy to substrate eating. I eventually got rid of the cypress and didn't put him outside as much, but a little while later, his weight plateaued for four months. After four months, he somehow pooped a large conglomerate of cypress mulch that was about the size of a AA battery, which is substantial for a 4" tortoise. I am amazed he was able to pass it. After that, he started to gain weight again.

I am lucky he did not get compacted long term and die. I won't be using cypress mulch again.

Wonder why it ate the cypress? Seems a bit odd. Glad things worked out though.
 

KarenSoCal

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I am lucky he did not get compacted long term and die. I won't be using cypress mulch again.
I had the same problem with my, at the time, 2 yr old Burmese Star. Thank goodness it didn't progress so seriously as yours did.

I had no experience with indoor substrates, so I started out with cypress mulch. All seemed well until I spotted him eating it. It passed, but soon he ate more.

I quickly switched to orchid bark. He has only eaten a few bites of it as far as I can tell from his soak water, but it seems to pass through with no problem.
 

wellington

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The safest to use is coir and orchid bark from over the years of different substrates being used by mmembersor myself. A lot of the dirts/mulches etc have too much junk in them to safely use.
99% of the time offering the answer coir or orchid bark will always be a good answer.
As for the bugs, a lot of us don't like or want them in our house. The flying ones are usually the biggest problem because they don't stay in the enclosure. A low bake for a couple hours does work to keeping the bugs at bay for a longer period, easily 6 months to a year possibly more, then not baking.
 

dd33

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Around me they turn everything wooden into mulch. There is a place I go to buy stone/gravel that shreds pallets (with nails) into mulch along with pressure treated waste wood. I think it's pretty common in Florida. Why mulch cypress when you can charge someone to dispose of their waste product then sell it back to the next guy?

I get huge bags of orchid/fir bark from an orchid supply wholesaler in Miami.
 
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The best substrate is not one item, there is some thinking and consideration involved YOU have to do. Just asking what's best and getting a single answer, a correct answer is impossible - because there are many 'bests'.

The constant drive for a single best this or that, substrate is what this post is about, is a false path. There is no single answer. There are many bests. Again there are many bests.

Many substrates work, it's more a pass/fail selection process. It is what will work best for you and the species you have.

Substrates for indoor enclosures that work include actual backyard soil, cypress mulch, fir bark, coco products, packaged 'organic soil', packaged top soil etc. They will all get those small bugs that seem to creep so many of you out, bake it, boil it, stored in sealed black bags in the sun, it does not matter, those little bugs will get in there. Stop worrying about those little bugs, it's okay. Most are springtail, sometime some kinds of fungus nats, little decomposing vegetation flies, isopods (pill bugs) etc. They become a part of the enclosure.

Best, is more based on accessibility than any other factor, can you readily get it? This is not some kind of D&G quest silliness, use what is easy to get. That way you'll more likely keep it turned over (replaced). Part of the replacement criteria is what to do with the soiled substrate. I toss the old substrate into a flower bed.

I use micro fir bark, many brands in different places around the USA. If I lived in the southeast I might go for cypress wood shred's (chips - whatever), but I don't live in the southeast, so the readily available and inexpensive substrate I can get it micro fir bark.

I find fir bark relatively clean (no contaminates), it works well to maintain humidity, it's easy for the tortoises, even the smallest babies, to shimmy into. The particles are too big for baby tortoises to accidentally eat it. Once larger and better able to make there eating parts (mouth, beak, tongue etc.) to eject it out of their mouth, or just swallow it. The small bits of bark will pass, it does not accumulate like sand or gravel bits in the intestines. It does not get muddy, no matter how wet it gets.

I do not turn over 100% all at once, I replace about 1/4 to 1/3 at a time, that way the tortoise has enclosure stability (they know their world based on yesterday). I do this replacement based on how much stuff that is not substrate gets in it. Like feces, spilled food, dead leaves from the live plants etc.

For me micro bark is best. But my best may not work best for you. Do your own factor consideration.
Do the bugs ever leave the enclosure or take over? Also have you had bugs?
 

jsheffield

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I use a mix of cypress mulch, orchid bark, and coconut husk fiber... the ratio varies based on availability and price.

I have colonies of earthworms and pillbugs living in all of my enclosures, and they seem to manage the variation as easily as the tortoises do.

Jamie
 

Cathie G

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The safest to use is coir and orchid bark from over the years of different substrates being used by mmembersor myself. A lot of the dirts/mulches etc have too much junk in them to safely use.
99% of the time offering the answer coir or orchid bark will always be a good answer.
As for the bugs, a lot of us don't like or want them in our house. The flying ones are usually the biggest problem because they don't stay in the enclosure. A low bake for a couple hours does work to keeping the bugs at bay for a longer period, easily 6 months to a year possibly more, then not baking.
I like coir and repti bark also. The only way I could find orchid bark was to buy some repti bark ?
 

KarenSoCal

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I have springtails in orchid bark.

I used to have phorid flies, but they started to take over my house. They can live in drains, garbage cans...most any place disgusting. They also laid eggs that turned into small maggots in my skink's enclosure. I quickly got rid of them.
 

Kapidolo Farms

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I have springtails in orchid bark.

I used to have phorid flies, but they started to take over my house. They can live in drains, garbage cans...most any place disgusting. They also laid eggs that turned into small maggots in my skink's enclosure. I quickly got rid of them.
I have found 'mosquito bits' to be effective in stopping these. https://summitchemical.com/products/mosquito-bits/
 

Snoopy’s mom

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I used 9 of those 24 quart bags of repti bark for Snoopyʻs enclosure - thatʻs a lot of bark! He seems to like it pretty well, at least he doesnʻt eat it. I previously used coco coir, but it got so dusty and I hated adding pitchers of water and stirring that stuff up every day.
 

Toddrickfl1

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I've been using Cypress mulch for years. It's easily accessable and works for me.
 

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