In this guide, we’d be taking a look at what we feel are the best sulcata Tortoise bedding currently available on the market right now!
Do you know another name for S is African Spurred Tortoise?
Tortoises have witnessed a steady increase in popularity amongst pet owners over the last couple of years and this has led to a direct increase in the number of tortoise owners searching for advice.
We have searched for the different best bedding for sulcata tortoise as well as researched the reputation of each bedding types. Although there is a long list of popular beddings out there, we have decided to leave the majority off our list for various reasons and focus on cypress mulch, coco coir, and high-quality hays.
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We then did some market research of the leading products for each type of bedding and have settled on a total of 5 top products that we feel will serve our readers appetite of the best substrate for sulcata tortoise.
Aside covering each of the product in detail all through the article, we will also be sharing a number of reports and reviews of them that have been left by other independent tortoise owners who either currently are or recently have used the product for their pet tortoise.
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Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding
First up on our list of what we feel is the best sulcata tortoise bedding on the market right now is Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding. It is popularly used in both the reptile and amphibian owning communities that has a number of reviews online left by third-party tortoise owners.
Feel free to read those reviews to get more opinions on the product if you like as getting as many personal experience as possible is always helpful.
Since its release onto the market. Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding has earned for itself an excellent reputation and climb to become the market leading cypress mulch product on the market and it looks like it will maintain that spot for a long time.
Plus, it’s a natural product that is made 100% natural cypress mulch. Additionally, it is one of the highest rated products for sulcata tortoises, it is also very popular with owners of turtles, snakes, lizards, toads, frogs, tarantulas, salamanders, and a number of other animals.
Using it offers your sulcata tortoise a natural forest-like base layer similar to what may be found in the wild.
It’s ability to retain a large amount of moisture while helping to provide some humidity to your tortoise makes it one of the best bedding for sulcata tortoise.
Unlike some of the other cypress mulch products you will find on the market, there is no need to freeze or bake the mulch to kill mites before using it. Zoo Med has a strict production and processing system to prevent mites from taking hold of the mulch before shipping.
There have been multiple online reports that confirm that this is a soft mulch that easily covers the base of their terrarium without issue.
It is easy to see tortoise poop or leftover food on top of the mulch to allow for easy cleaning for you . This makes the job a little bit easier without the need for extra work on your end.
The slightly higher humidity of the mulch is ideal for your sulcata tortoise, especially younger tortoises and easily beats the pellet based beddings out there.
Tortoises seem to love the product with lots of third-party tortoise owners reporting that their tortoise likes digging in it and covering itself in the mulch.
The video below shows a third-party overview of Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding.
Kempf Compressed Coco Fiber
Next on our list of base layers and sulcata tortoise beddings that are suitable for your African Spurred tortoise is Kempf Compressed Coco Fiber. As you may have guessed from the product name, this is a coco coir produce based on coconut fiber.
Originally, the product was designed to be a potting mix or a worm bed starter for gardeners but it quickly rose to popularity amongst tortoise owners. In addition to this, it has also proven very popular with people who own frogs, snakes, and various other animals.
A single brick of Kempf Compressed Coco Fiber can expand out to a total of seventeen gallons making it the ideal baselayer for your tortoise if space is an issue for you. Additionally, coco coir is able to retain a surprisingly large amount of water for its size while also being naturally mildew resistant helping you be able to keep it in your terrarium longer.
Its natural bug repellent abilities depends on your location and the local bug types, it has proven very effective at keeping bugs out of your terrarium.
Triumph Plant Coco Coir Bricks
Next up on our list, we have another coco air based product, Triumph Plant Coco Coir Bricks. Again, this was actually intended to be an alternative for peat moss for gardeners but has since become popular with the amphibian and reptile owning communities.
Triumph Plant Coco Coir Bricks is the perfect product for the eco-friendly Tortoise owners out there. The coconuts used to make it are farmed in a totally ethical and sustainable way that does not cause any environmental damage.
The coco coir offers an odorless base layer for your terrarium that is low in salts and free from all pesticides. It is also very easy to break off the brick with your fingers to top up your terrarium as and when needed.
Although some users might soak the brick before putting the coconut fiber into their terrarium, this can have a direct effect on the immediate humidity for your tortoise so be sure to keep that in mind.
Although there have been some reports of sulcata tortoises eating coco coir in their terrariums. The general oppinion seems to be that provided your tortoise is well hydrated, it will be able to pass the coconut fiber naturally without any issues at all.
Galapagos Cypress Tank Mulch
Next up on our list of sulcata tortoise bedding and substrates is Galapagos Cypress Tank Mulch, as you may have guessed from the name; it is another cypress mulch based product from the famous global brand Galapagos.
Although this is a relatively newer product to the market when compared to the beddings covered above, it is quickly gaining in popularity within both the reptile and amphibian owning communities.
As expected, Galapagos Cypress Tank Mulch has a very high absorbency level that you can also use to your advantage to help control the humidity in your Sulcata Tortoises terrarium.
The texture and shade of this base layer makes it very easy for you to see any of your tortoises leftover food or waste allowing for a quick and easy clean up when required to help keep your tortoises terrarium clean, safe, and healthy.
The mulch is farmed in a totally ethical way on sustainable farms to minimize any possible effect on the local environments while still being able to offer you the highest quality product available that is as cheap as possible.
The farming, production, and packaging process have all been designed to be free from all oils and chemicals to make sure the mulch is perfect for the end user and their pet tortoise. Additionally, before shipping, the mulch is treated to ensure that it is free from any parasites such as mites that can be found in some competing products on the market.
Although there has been a bit of back and forth on if cypress mulch is safe for a sulcata tortoise the community seems to have settled on it being totally safe and one of the best widely available beddings suitable for sulcata tortoises right now.
Plus, there have been some talks on why some sulcata tortoises choose to eat parts of their cypress mulch bedding but the general population seems to be that it is just your tortoise trying out something new and that most tortoises will just grow out of it as they realize it does not taste as good as their main feed.
That said, depending on what you choose to feed your sulcata, it may end up consuming a small amount of the cypress mulch as it eats its food but this is nothing to worry about.
Kaytee Timothy Hay
Spotting the number 5 position is Kaytee Timothy Hay. As you may have guessed from the name, this bedding is based around timothy hay offering another option that you are able to use as a bedding for your tortoise.
Most cicada tortoise owners use the Timothy hay as a hybrid between a bedding and a food substitute pets so be sure to keep the levels of hay in your terrarium topped up if your tortoise does take to eating the hay.
However, some tortoise owners say that they have used hay as a bedding and never seen their [ets eat it ot even bite so it does seem like this comes down to each individual tortoise.
Kaytee Timothy Hay is made up of a blend of first and second cut high western timothy hay. It was primarily designed for use with pets such as guinea pigs, chinchillas, and rabbits but some sulcata tortoise owners have taken to using it as their go-to bedding for their pets.
Although a small factor when using timothy hay as a bedding, the hay is manually checked before shipping to ensure that you are getting a highly nutritious hay that has the ideal stem to lead ratio. If you do have a sulcata tortoise that chooses to eat some of the hay then the low calcium in the hay helps to support urinary health in your tortoise while the hay itself helps to support a healthy digestive system.
Understanding What Kind of Substrate / Bedding Your Tortoise Needs
No doubt, there are a lot of beddings and substrate out there, some are sand, some are wood, some are soil, etc. So to eliminate a lot of them you first have to think of the natural habitat of the Sulcata tortoise.
African Spurred tortoises live in Africa, especially in Nigeria, Chad, and Ethiopia. So Sulcata tortoise will need a substrate that it at least similar to its homeland.
After doing a quick Google search I discovered that as expected the soil in these countries are relatively dry and usually contains some sand in it.
So now that we have a better understanding of what kind of substrate / bedding we need for a Sulcata tortoise, let’s talk about another important thing that you have to take into consideration, microclimates.
The Microclimate of a Substrate / Bedding
The next thing to consider when choosing Sulcata tortoise bedding is the microclimate of an area or what is otherwise known as temperature, humidity.
Those two factors can influence a lot of things in an area, things like the plants that grow the texture of the soil, the microscopic creatures that live in that area, the texture of the soil, etc.
A good example to properly understand the difference is to think about a desert and a tropical rainforest. In the beginning they were both just two pieces of land, but due to the temperature and the humidity, one of them exploded with life, while the other remains mostly uninhabited.
There are two major ways that the microclimate of the substrate can influence your tortoise.
The first one is humidity.
Different types of tortoises live in various climates, that have their own climates. So some tortoises are accustomed to different types of humidity.
The thing about humidity is that it’s not something that your tortoise can get used to. You can’t take a tortoise that lives in a desert and then put it in a place with a high humidity, this will only lead to health problems.
The second major way that the microclimate can affect your tortoise is through the insects and small bugs that live there
Just like all animals those small creatures have certain requirements to grow. And some climates are more favourable for them than others.
In general you don’t want any kind of insect or bug to appear, but from my experience it will happen at some time.
And when it happens you want to make sure that they won’t affect your tortoise at all. Tortoises are used to a lot of bugs, insects, and other microscopic creatures.
But exposing a tortoise that lives in a forest to the microscopic organisms that live in tropical areas can lead to serious health problems.
If you want to get the microclimate right for your tortoise you just have to take a closer look at where it lives, and try to emulate the conditions as well as possible.
In the case of the Sulcata tortoise, it lives in Africa, a place with a dry and hot climate. So they will need a place with a similar microclimate.
Now let’s take a closer look at the humidity level.
The Moisture of a Substrate / Bedding for a Sulcata Tortoise
For a sulcata tortoise bedding you will need to maintain a humidity level around 30% to 50%.
There are a couple of ways in which you can influence the humidity level. But the simplest and best one is to just pulverize some water over the substrate / bedding.
To achieve this, you can use any kind of bottle with a pulverizer. You can even use an empty window cleaning spray bottle, as long as you make sure that you disinfect it completely, you don’t want any of the chemicals in there in the substrate. But the safest thing would be to just buy a new empty bottle with a pulverizer, like this one from Amazon.
To measure the moisture of the substrate you will need a soil humidity meter. Without one it’s impossible to properly know the humidity level of the substrate, so I strongly recommend you to get one.
Generally speaking, you can find them at some online shops and gardening shops. Here is a link to the one that I use: Dr.Meter S10 Soil Moisture Sensor Meter.
I personally really like this model because it doesn’t take up any space, it doesn’t use any kind of electricity, so the tortoise is in no danger, and the best part is that my tortoise doesn’t interact with it at all, so I don’t have to worry about that.
Why the Humidity Level Matters
At first peak humidity might not look important but it really is. But tortoise spend almost their entire life in contact with the substrate, so it will have a very powerful impact.
One of its most important functions is that it helps the tortoise maintain a proper body temperature. In general a substrate that is wet will be a slightly colder than a dry substrate. And since tortoise rely on their surrounding environment to adjust their body temperature, the humidity becomes very important.
Getting the humidity level wrong can ultimately have life-threatening consequences. If the humidity is too high, the tortoise will most likely end up with shell rot in no time. And if the humidity is too low, their skin and shell will also end up suffering because they don’t get the required hydration.
I know these things might look all confusing to new pet owners, but they only happen if you get the humidity completely wrong.
This is why in the beginning I gave you the required humidity between 30% and 50%, instead of saying an exact number like 42%. In the wild Sulcata tortoises don’t experience an exact humidity level, it will wary almost each day, but in general it stays between 30% and 50%. So as long as you keep the humidity somewhere around that area your Sulcata tortoise will be completely fine.
Now let’s move to another important aspect, the depth of the substrate.
The Depth of the Substrate / Bedding for a Sulcata Tortoise
Sulcata tortoise like to dig. They sometimes dig to get underground away from the heat, sometimes they can dig just for the fun of it. So it’s important to make the substrate as deep as possible.
I recommend you make the depth of the substrate around 6 inches ( 15 centimeters ). But ideally that’s not possible for everybody. To make the substrate that deep you will need a lot of space and not everybody has that kind of space at their disposal.
But you should always make sure that the depth of the substrate is at least 2 inches (5 centimeters). This way your Sulcata tortoise will be able to dig if it wants to.
How Often to Should You Change the Sulcata Tortoise Substrate / Bedding
How often you should change the substrate / bedding of a Sulcata tortoise really depends on the specific circumstances: the depth of the substrate, the size of the habitat/terrarium, etc.
So it’s really hard to give you an exact answer, but I will give you some pointers that will help you know when it’s time to change it.
The most important thing you have to ask yourself when you are thinking of changing the bedding is: Is it clean ? If the answer is yes, than you probably don’t.
If the substrate appears to be clean, and there are no bad smells coming out of it, then it’s most probably fine, and it doesn’t need a change.
If you have 2 inches of substrate, then you will usually need to change it after 3 or 4 months. And you will need to change it all.
If the substrate is 6 inches deep, you will probably need to change it after 5 or 6 months. And most probably you won’t even need to change all of it, just the first 3 inches that were on the top.
Those two cases are more common, and are more applicable to people who have only 1 tortoise. If you have more than one then the time will probably be half of what it would have been if you had only one tortoise.
But as I earlier stated, a lot of factors can come into play, If you have an enclosure that is 40 inches wide, you will probably need to change the substrate once a year, even if the depth is only 2 inches.
To ensure you don’t have to change the substrate too often, make sure that you clean the habitat/terrarium as often as possible, ideally you will clean it each time your tortoise finishes eating.
Now let’s take a closer look at a few different types of substrates that you definitely have to avoid if you want your tortoise to be healthy.
Substrates / African Spurred Bedding That You Should Avoid
We feel that any of the sulcata tortoise beddings covered above will serve your African Spurred tortoise well but we would just like to show some other beddings that some people recommend but you should totally avoid.
These beddings are:-
Ideally, you should stay away from any form of substrate for sulcata tortoise that is made out of wood. Tortoises can, and will get stung by splinters.
Complications and issues will also arise if they eat it by mistake, and the wood can cause a lot of life threatening problems while it’s inside the intestines of the tortoise. And there is also a good chance that it will catch fire if exposed to high temperatures, like the ones from the basking area.
Cedar and Pine
Cedar and Pine are much worse than wood, they can be toxic for tortoises. Even if they are not ingested, the simple fact that they are present near the tortoise can have a very bad effect on them.
Sand is often sold in a lot of pet shops as great bedding/substrate for tortoises. This is not the case, even for tortoises that live in desert areas.
Sand on its own is a terrible substrate / bedding for tortoises. However sand can definitely be used in combination with different types of soil, but it’s not good on its own. If you use only sand, your tortoise will end up getting an eye irritation/infection. And if your tortoise ends up swallowing it, which happens a lot more than you might think, it will end up with intestinal problems.
Dusty substrates are also a box of bad idea waiting to happen. The dust from this substrate can easily cause respiratory problems for your Sulcata tortoise.
Fiber substrates are a popular sulcata tortoise bedding, but unfortunately they can become dangerous if they are not well maintained.
Their biggest disadvantage is that they can easily become moldy which can cause health problems for your tortoise.
If the fiber substrate is not kept wet it will become very dusty, which will lead to respiratory problems. There is also the problem that those kind of substrates can easily catch fire if they are exposed to high temperatures, like the ones from a basking area. But fibers can be a good substrate if used with care, and replaced regularly.
Any form of paper is bad, weather is newspapers, old magazines, or paper towels, they are all bad substrates. They don’t provide any kind of benefit for your tortoise, they can get moldy very fast, and they can catch fire in an instant. So stay away from any kind of paper substrate or bedding.
Although rare, we did see a number of people recommending the use of either reptile carpets OR regular carpet as a bedding/base layer for sulcata tortoise.
We would not recommend this as it tends to be harder for your tortoise, present problems with the humidity of your terrarium and does not allow for any form of digging.
We have seen some people recommending other tortoise owners use alfalfa hay as a bedding material for their tortoises. We would not recommend this due to the higher protein content of alfalfa hay when compared to other hays such as timothy hay.
I know I eliminated some of the most common commercially available substrates with this list, but don’t worry there are a lot solutions out there that are very cheap and accessible. They are under the: best sulcata tortoise bedding reviews.
Can I Grow Plants In My Tortoise’s Habitat?
Yes, you can try to grow plants in your tortoise’s habitat, but they won’t last very long. Tortoises tend to eat every plant they can find, so as long as you plant the plants for your tortoise to eat everything should be fine.
Why Do Tortoises Dig Holes?
In the wild tortoise dig holes to search for food, to get underground where the temperature is colder and to make a place to hide from predators.
Pet tortoises dog holes for the same reasons, even if there are no predators around, or anything like that, they just maintain their natural instincts.
Can tortoises eat soil?
When tortoises eat food of the ground they will usually also eat some soil, so it happens pretty often. In general if the soil is not chemically treated, the tortoise should be completely fine after eating small amounts.
The bad substrates that I listed above can be harmful for your tortoise, but this doesn’t mean that every single possible bad thing will happen to your African spurred tortoise if you use them, but for me personally, just knowing there is a real risk of something bad happening to my tortoise makes me want to avoid them.
We hope you choose the best sulcata tortoise bedding today with better alternatives we provide above. Cheers!
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