substrate

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rainbow.r
Posts: 2
Joined: 01 Jun 2019, 00:04

substrate

Post by rainbow.r » 01 Jun 2019, 00:15

Hi While Im actually new to writing on this or any site for that matter I have read this site continually and it has been a great help to me.
The background is I have two beautiful hermann tortoises both 1 year old. I have them inside on a tortoise table and believe I have most things right apart from the substrate. I have used screened topsoil and no sand as I have read it can be a problem for young tortoises. My question is how do I keep the substrate from becoming hard balls of soil? I screen it regularly myself and put fresh soil in that I also screen and I also finely spray it with water every couple of days. When I put fresh screened soil in they are very active but as it dries with the heat etc. it becomes hard under foot and they dont seem to explore that much. Should I mix this with something else? Any advise would be much appreciated. Thank you.

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Nina
Posts: 758
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: substrate

Post by Nina » 01 Jun 2019, 09:39

Hi Rainbow (sorry, I don't know your name), and welcome to The Tortoise Table! It's great that you've been reading our site, and I'm glad that you contacted us because it's a very good (and somewhat controversial) question that you ask.

There is definitely a minority of tortoise keepers who believe that it is not good to have sand in the mixture that makes up a substrate, because they say that if large quantities are eaten it can cause impaction in the gut of tortoises. This, however, is contrary to the way in which most tortoises live in the wild, where almost all of the Mediterranean species live on extremely sandy soil. Here are a couple of photos; one of a wild tortoise in Spain, and another of a Gopher tortoise next to his burrow in Florida.
[attachment=0]Gopher tort1 Georgia (Copy).jpg[/attachment][attachment=1]Tortoises in Spain 4569 (Copy).JPG[/attachment]

As you can see, the substrate is super sandy. Kleinmanni (Egyptian) tortoises can live on almost pure sand. For Mediterranean tortoises, like Hermanns we recommend using a substrate that most approximates their environment in the wild and so we advise using a mixture of sterilised topsoil and children's playsand. The usual recommendation is to have it mixed 50/50, and I think that most people do that, but personally I like 60% or 70% topsoil mixed with 30% or 40% sand. It's up to you and the preference of your tortoise.

The reason your topsoil might be hardening up into clumps might be that it has a good percentage of clay in it (which many soils do). Adding sand will keep the soil from doing this, and keeps it free draining and prevents it turning to mud if it gets wet. You do need to spray any substrate with water every day or two, as it dries out under the lamps indoors, and this spray will keep it from getting dusty (and that is true if you are only using topsoil on its own as well). What you want is a substrate that is the teeny tiniest bit damp, but not at all wet. Just so that it is not dusty, and if you squeeze a handful of it, then it will clump together a little bit (but definitely does not seem wet).

And in general (and this goes for an all-soil or a mixture substrate), it's a good idea to feed your tortoises on something like a slate or a big flat stone so that not only do their beaks get trimmed when they are eating the food but also it stops the substrate from sticking to the food and getting eaten. Occasionally some substrate will get on the food, but that isn't a problem at all.

I hope this helps. We have lots of people contact us, having heard or read scare stories about the dangers of sand in substrates, but there is no hard evidence that this is really a problem and it does run counter to the substrate that they naturally live on.

Cheers,
Nina
Attachments
Gopher tort1 Georgia (Copy).jpg
Tortoises in Spain 4569 (Copy).JPG

rainbow.r
Posts: 2
Joined: 01 Jun 2019, 00:04

Re: substrate

Post by rainbow.r » 10 Jun 2019, 02:57

Thank you Nina that certainly helps - I will be going out to find play sand and organic topsoil, so grateful that I finally have an answer. I have been screening the soil furiously to try and stop the 'balling' but to no avail - now I will renew all the soil and hopefully that will solve the problem. I find the tortoises absolutely amazing creatures. I also have a four year old tortoise outside = he has a heated area plus a garden with weeds etc that he can venture into. I have only been a tortoise owner since March last year so its all a learning curve for me. Your site is great - I have been on the database and purchased seeds etc and have grown weeds uplifted from clean areas. So thank you so much. Regards Lynn.....

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Nina
Posts: 758
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: substrate

Post by Nina » 10 Jun 2019, 08:50

It sounds like you've created really excellent environments for your tortoises, Lynn! Please don't hesitate to contact us if you ever have any other questions or problems.

Nina

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