Substrate for my Marginated?

Post your pictures and any questions here of European tortoises e.g. Ibera Spur Thigh, Ibera Graeca, Marginated, Hermanns, Kleinmanni and we include the Horsfield tortoise. Also, do add pictures of Mediterranean tortoises you have seen in the wild.
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Pete28
Posts: 23
Joined: 14 Oct 2018, 22:33

Substrate for my Marginated?

Post by Pete28 » 19 Nov 2018, 23:13

I'm hoping that this question hasn't been asked a million time but I need some help. I've heard several different answers on what to use. I am leaning towards a mixture of topsoil and play sand. My girl absolutely hates the coconut and the cypress mulch. I'd be grateful for any suggestions.

Thank you,

Pete

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Nina
Posts: 810
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Substrate for my Marginated?

Post by Nina » 20 Nov 2018, 07:43

Hi Pete,

Yes, you are right -- substrate is the source of a lot of debate. We have found that the best substrate is the one nearest to what the tortoises would live on in nature, and this -- for most species (including Marginated torts) -- is a mixture of topsoil and sand. Most people mix it 50/50, and some people have a higher proportion of topsoil to sand, but that is certainly what they live on in the wild.

There are disadvantages to many other substrates (for example wood chips made from pine can give off slightly toxic fumes when they are very warm). All wood chips, straw and straw-like substances present a certain fire risk because if a lamp blows and hot pieces of glass fall on those substrates they can catch fire. Also straw, aubiose, etc. if damp (for example from a tortoise's wee) can get mouldy and the mould spores are not good to breathe in. Coconut fibre and cypress mulch are sometimes used for tortoises who prefer a more humid environment (like Redfoots), but again there is the potential for mould.

When you have a substrate of topsoil and sand there is a slight risk of it getting very dry and dusty, and dust particles getting into the eyes of a tortoise (although this is not common). So we recommend spraying the surface of that substrate lightly every day or two -- or what I do is to pour some water on the substrate and mix it in well every two or three days, with the result being that the substrate is just the tiniest bit damp -- not at all wet -- so that the mixture will just clump together a bit if squeezed in the hand. This also makes the mixture a good texture for tortoises to dig down in (I have Horsfields and they are great diggers). But you certainly don't want the mixture to be at all wet -- just the tiniest bit damp. A soil/sand mix also makes spot cleaning easier as you can see the dark patch from wee and it clumps together so is easily removed. And I would have the substrate as deep as your tortoise table will allow.

I've attached a couple of photos of tortoises in the wild: one of a Gopher tortoise next to its burrow in Florida, and one of a Hermanns tortoise in the wild in Spain. Both are on ground that is very sandy (with the Gopher tortoise having the more sandy soil).

I hope this helps.

Nina
[attachment=0]Tortoises in Spain 4569 (Copy).JPG[/attachment]
[attachment=1]Gopher tort1 Georgia (Copy).jpg[/attachment]
Attachments
Tortoises in Spain 4569 (Copy).JPG
Gopher tort1 Georgia (Copy).jpg

Pete28
Posts: 23
Joined: 14 Oct 2018, 22:33

Re: Substrate for my Marginated?

Post by Pete28 » 20 Nov 2018, 10:46

Thank you so much for such a greatly detailed post. I'll be picking up some top soil and some play sand this afternoon. Once again I can't thank you enough.

Pete

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lin
Posts: 536
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:27

Re: Substrate for my Marginated?

Post by lin » 20 Nov 2018, 15:47

I agree Pete. You cannot beat what nature intended.
If people say their tortoise became ill on sand then its because they did not use the childrens playsand.

Lin

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Nina
Posts: 810
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Substrate for my Marginated?

Post by Nina » 20 Nov 2018, 17:23

Good luck Pete, and if you have time it would be great to see a photo of your set-up with the new substrate in. I do love Marginated tortoises, those adult males with the flares scutes at the rear -- I think they look so elegant. I've attached a photo of some that belong to a friend of mine (I think they are lovely!).

Nina
[attachment=0]TF Bristol 2006 00031 (Small).JPG[/attachment][attachment=1]TF Bristol 2006 00030 (Small).JPG[/attachment]
Attachments
TF Bristol 2006 00031 (Small).JPG
TF Bristol 2006 00030 (Small).JPG

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