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Reptiles/Russian Tortoise Substrate


Hi Jennifer

I am ready to change the bedding of my Russian tortoises. It has been recommended to me to use a mixture of play sand and coconut fiber. I saw that the sand I have has small amounts of silica. I am leery of using it. I have quite a bit of excavating and burrowing substrate by Zoo Med. Would that be ok for them mixed with coconut fiber? I bought it and never was sure enough to try it. Have had the tortoises for years and they are in good health - just have never been confident I am using proper substrate. Thank you, Sarah


Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, I didn't see that I had a pending question. The silica in your play sand won't harm your tortoise. Also the sand from ZooMed would be fine. It is probably a calcium based sand. If your Tortoises have been happy in their previous substrate, I wouldn't feel compelled to change. The most important thing is hygiene. You sounds like a great tortoise owner.

thanks for your question



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Jennifer C Parnell


I can answer questions about health, diet, behavior, housing requirements, common illnesses, and general husbandry of most reptiles. My answers are not a substitute for veterinary care. If I don't feel confident about answering your question, I can generally point you to someone who can answer it, or advise you to seek veterinary help.


My father is a licensed veterinarian for 40+ years. He specialties include venomous American snakes, reptiles, rodents, primates, dogs, cats, goats, geese. I grew up assisting him and have always maintained rescued, injured, or unwanted reptiles. I'm familiar with snakes, most common lizards, turtles, terrapins and tortoises. I'm also familiar with Bearded Dragons and currently have several.

veterinary technician wildlife biology

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