Types Of Soil For Terrarium

Types Of Soil For Terrarium

Finding the right type of substrate for our turtle, we face many questions. Regardless of who lives with us, whether it is tropical or desert species, it is important to know what we want to find. The considered soils. it’s just information about each type of soil.


Suitable for: desert turtles (sand rather than sand is more commonly used)

Choosing sand as the main soil for our turtle, we must understand that it is used more often for desert species.
Fine sand can be dusty enough to cause irritation of the mucous membranes of the eyes and nasal passages. In addition, fine, dusty sand can cause lung disease after prolonged exposure to the respiratory system. But even for desert species, sand is not an ideal soil. Do not forget that most desert reptiles live in areas with solid clay soil or sandy loam, digging deep holes in them, thereby getting rid of daytime heat or night cold. And dry sand does not hold a hole, dusts and does not keep heat. Good sand is sifted sea, river sand, with uniform, well-polished grain.
It is very important in terrariums with sand to organize the food intake zone correctly. it can be ceramic tile, a large, shallow plate or something else. The main thing is to ensure that sand does not get on food.

Pros: Sand is good in mixtures: earth is clay. Wet sand can be one of the best substrates for the female during egg laying. It is good for wet areas. Good sand allows you to bury while maintaining humidity at the very bottom. Of course, it must be periodically sprayed.

Cons: We feed turtles in terrariums, respectively, there is a chance of swallowing with food. And since sand belongs to indigestible soils, it can create a risk of intestinal blockage, which leads to blockage, and the consequences can be sad. Sand can dust. Which can lead to respiratory diseases. Sand is not very convenient in maintaining hygiene. Feces in the sand can cause bacteria to develop, resulting in an unpleasant odor in the terrarium.

We do not recommend this primer to beginners.


Suitable for: tropical, steppe turtles (recommended by German experts)

The first soil, suitable for both moisture-loving species and desert mothers.

It is rather dense, heavy, well-fitting digging soil when digging in.
We already know that when digging a turtle should receive a response load when digging, maintaining muscle tone and claw shape. The earth tightly covers the turtle when burying. Holds a hole well. Even being dry, the earth retains body moisture well due to its girth.
The earth is closer to natural conditions in many species of turtles. True, it smudges the walls of the terrarium and the shell of the turtle, but this does not harm them.
Earth can be mixed with sand, bark or moss. It will also be a good substrate. If the earth is used as the main soil, it is recommended to put expanded clay of the middle fraction at the very bottom. For Asians, so that the land is close to its range, it is usually very strongly mixed with sand. As a result, the mixture is quite loose. It may well not rot.

Pros: allows you to bury, keeps moisture, absorbs well

Cons: prevents claws from grinding, unaesthetic, dusts, spreads dirt, is not subject to hygienic treatment, does not give up heat


Suitable for: steppe turtles, desert turtles

The main component of natural limestone is limestone, which consists mainly of shells of marine animals and their fragments. A rounded shell rock is considered one of the safest when swallowed (in the case of a healthy turtle and good UV, it even serves as an additional source of calcium), as well as a dense, heavy, well-fitting when digging digging soil. When digging a shell rock, the turtle receives a response load when digging, maintaining muscle tone and claw shape. The shell rock tightly covers the tortoise shell during instillation, thereby helping the shell grow more evenly, the only "drawback" is that it does not hold a hole.
Shell rock is laid in a layer from 10 cm deep, it retains body moisture well due to the girth of the shell.
You can also make a wet zone out of a shell rock using only part of it, optionally in a cuvette.
Coquina refers to "indigestible" soils, so you should first introduce a small amount of it and check to see if the turtle will eat it. If the tortoise has not shown gastronomic affection for the shell rock, they can completely cover the terrarium. This is not to say that shell rock passes easily through the digestive tract. Eating it in large quantities can cause a tortoise in the intestine, and if there are sharp particles, it can injure the digestive tract. It is also necessary to provide a feeding zone, and provide a good platform where the shell rock will not come into contact with food.

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Shell rock is good because it can be used repeatedly. If it is contaminated. rinse, calcine, rinse, and can be reused.

Where to get it and how to process it: Best rounded sea shell. You can use feed for birds, but it must be sieved and sorted out for the presence of sharp particles, but no drainage is necessary. Before laying the shell, you need to calcine, rinse and dry.

Pros: it allows you to bury, looks beautiful, gives up the accumulated heat, allows you to grind your claws, does not dust, is subject to hygienic processing, does not spread dirt, absorbs and crumbles

Cons: does not hold moisture, requires pre-treatment


Suitable for: mountain turtles, steppe turtles in the feeding area

Good soil for the feeding area, where the turtle will be able to grind its claws and not eat enough soil with food. Pebbles should be larger than the head of a turtle.

Pros: allows you to grind claws, looks beautiful until dirty, can be reused after washing, does not dust, does not spread dirt, gives off heat

Cons: it does not allow digging in, does not absorb waste products, does not hold moisture, is easily stained with feces of a turtle


Suitable for: tropical turtles

Bark, like mulch, is an excellent natural material for creating interior soil.
Natural bark has a high ability to absorb water and is suitable for reptiles requiring higher humidity, as well as for creating wet areas in species that do not need high background humidity.
The high content of tannic acid prevents the development of fungi in the terrarium.
The bark is an indigestible substrate, which is why you need to pay attention to size. It is necessary to organize the feeding zone well so that the turtle cannot capture small pieces with food, thereby creating problems with intestinal patency.
The bark cannot be cleaned; therefore, it must often be replaced with a new one as it becomes soiled.
Usually bark or mulch is not used as the main soil. It is good mixed with earth, sand or sandy loam. The bark will help to lighten heavy and dense soil, and create a mixture more attractive to the turtle.

Pros: allows you to bury, aesthetic, keeps humidity

Cons: does not allow to grind claws, absorbs poorly, can be moldy, is not subject to hygienic treatment, requires preliminary processing

Moss, sphagnum

Suitable for: tropical and secondary terrestrial turtles in the wet zone

Moss is simply the perfect complement to any terrarium. It is especially indispensable for wet terrariums. moistened moss remains so for a very long time, which ensures the necessary microclimate in them. It is also good for organizing a wet chamber, for laying separately in a cuvette, and simply giving the terrarium a more natural look.
Mosses are digestible substrates. Even if the turtle eats part of the moss, it will simply be digested and leave with feces, without causing the slightest damage to the beast.
Suitable for terrariums:

  • Moss Sphagnum
  • Icelandic Moss
  • Pleurozium Schreberi (pleurozium schreberi)

If the moss is laid on the rear wall of the terrarium, around the bathing site and in a cold corner, then when spraying these areas of the terrarium become wetter, due to this the turtle can choose the level of humidity that it needs at a certain time. Or it is buried in moist moss, or on dry ground near the front wall or in the basking zone.

Pros: allows you to bury, keeps moisture well, does not dust when wet, aesthetic, does not spread dirt

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Cons: does not allow to grind the claws, dried does not look very good and dusts


Suitable for: steppe, desert, tropical (but it is often necessary to spray) for temporary maintenance until another soil is purchased

Often reptiles are kept on soil from sawdust. This soil is quite cheap, affordable, but not natural. However, it is "digestible", i.e. often sawdust swallowed in a small amount comes out with feces, unlike wood chips. If the sawdust is very dry, then the turtles may have irritation of the mucous membranes of the eyes and nose.
Pressed sawdust is very dusty when scattered. It’s better not to use them.

Pros: allows you to bury, absorbs well, holds moisture, does not spread dirt

Cons: does not allow to grind claws, unaesthetic, dusty, not natural

In principle, such a soil is good for temporary maintenance of a turtle until a natural one is purchased.


Suitable for: steppe turtles for temporary maintenance until another ground is purchased

Usually use pear, beech or alder wood chips. Not everything is clear with wood chips, herpetologists and veterinarians note that turtles often swallow it, as a result of which they have an intestinal blockage, therefore it is not recommended for use. It is possible to use very large chips, but it is better to take bark in this regard.

Pros: allows you to bury, aesthetic, does not dust

Cons: does not allow to grind claws, does not keep humidity, when swallowed, it can lead to blockage of the intestine

Coconut Baby and Chips

Suitable for: tropical turtles (almost never used, as harmful if swallowed)

Coconut substrate. a product of the coconut industry, which is the crushed remains of the fibers of the coconut peel. These are processed, dried and pressed coconut shell remnants, which are organic material.
Coconut can be reused. Unlike other substrates, coconut can be used 3-4 times. To do this, wash the used substrate through a sieve, dry it in the oven, add a little fresh and can be used again.
Coconut substrate is a natural antiseptic and does not contain harmful microorganisms, pathogenic fungi, larvae of pests and bacteria.

Dry coconut substrate is even more dangerous if it enters the stomach! During feeding, the turtle can swallow coconut particles, as to wet products (weeds, vegetables, fruits.) coconut fibers can stick. What can this lead to?
Coconut substrate is very moisture-absorbing. it is able to absorb a volume of liquid that exceeds its own 7-9 times, while greatly increasing in volume!
This means that once in the digestive system, coconut fibers, adhering to food masses and absorbing moisture, will begin to increase in volume, which will cause obstruction or blockage of the intestine. So what is next. the death of the turtle. Coconut fiber is not digested (coconut practically does not rot) and often clogs the intestines, and sometimes it can fill the entire stomach.
If you choose a coconut substrate, as the main soil, provide the correct eating area for the turtle. This can be ceramic tile, a large, not deep container, or any other object on which a coconut substrate cannot come into contact with food. Do not forget that the turtle can scatter food during feeding. Be careful with this primer when keeping turtles.

Pros: allows you to bury, aesthetic, well absorbs, keeps moisture, can be reused, does not contain microorganisms and pests
Dry coconut substrate is quite dusty. This can adversely affect the turtle’s health. Starting with diseases of the respiratory system (rhinitis), allergic reactions and irritation of the mucous membrane.

Cons: a small substrate dusts, if not moistened, does not allow to grind claws, causes intestinal blockage when swallowed


Suitable for: all types (as part of shelter and decoration)

Hay is often used in terrariums as part of the soil and a source of food (as well as fiber). There should not be hard sticks in the hay that could injure the turtle. It is recommended to be used in combination with other primers.
Leaf litter is usually used in wet terrariums as a topsoil. For herbivorous turtles, it is better to use leaves from edible plants, and for predatory and omnivorous. possible from oak, eucalyptus. It goes well with moss and bark. Preparation of leaf litter for terrarium →

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Pros: allows burying, aesthetic

Cons: does not allow to grind claws, dusts, pours, molds being wet, poorly holds moisture


Suitable for: steppe turtles (almost never used, but given as food)

True, there is a possibility that the granules contain a lot of vitamin A and there may be hypervitaminosis.

Pros: allows you to bury, absorbs well

Cons: does not allow to grind claws, unaesthetic, dusty, can grow moldy from moisture, hypervitaminosis is possible when overeating


Suitable for: steppe turtles

What is sandy loam? This is a loose rock, consisting mainly of sand and dust particles with the addition of clay particles. Sandy loam is more plastic than sand, but less than loam. clay loams are called heavy, less clay ones are called light. Also distinguished are coarse sand, fine sand and dusty sandy loam.
In order not to get confused, you can remember this: "sandy loam". means "close to the sand, next to the sand." Why is sandy loaf so good? It is heavy, tight, holds a hole, dusts much less sand due to the adhesion of particles.

How to distinguish sandy loam from sand, loam or clay? To determine whether it is sand or sand, or maybe it is loam or even clay is quite simple. To do this, slightly moisten the soil and try to roll a ball or something like a tourniquet. If it doesn’t work out, then this is sand, which will immediately fall apart, because its composition does not contain or minimized silty, pelitic and clay particles, which are responsible for the cohesion of the rock. When doing the same with loam, the resulting ball, when pressed, turns into a “pancake”, the edges of which crack, and the tourniquet is only halved when folded into a half-ring, an admixture of sand will play its role. If the tourniquet and ring are made of it, and when pressed, the ball turns into a “pancake” without defects, then you have clay in your hands. A ball or a rope rolled out of sandy loam will keep its shape, but with a slight pressure the ball will crumble, it cannot be turned into a “pancake”, just like with a rope, you cannot make half rings.

Where to get it: at the junction of sandstone and loam, often such places can be found in a pine forest under cliffs near lakes and rivers. there the soil outlets are clearly visible and can be selected. Sandy loam is mined in quarries, and it can also be found when digging pits and trenches for the construction of multi-story buildings, in river valleys, etc. You can also search the construction markets.

There are of course difficulties. the most dangerous is food interest, of course. If you separate the "dining room" is not a particular problem, then it will not save from direct eating. From my own experience I want to say that the further the new hazardous soil lies from the feeding zone, the greater the chance that it will not be taken as food. And alas, many turtles do not dig heavy soil.


Suitable for: steppe turtles (used for temporary maintenance)

Pros: does not get dirty, absorbs well

Cons: it doesn’t allow claws to grind off, tearing is possible, turtles can eat it, few are for sale

In our biotope terrariums, where we are trying to create an atmosphere close to nature, there are not enough decomposers, those invertebrates and microorganisms that do the work of destroying and disposing of plant and animal waste. This means that naturally-filled terrariums should be cleaned regularly. This is not only a replacement of soil, but also a replacement of moss, litter, bark, cleaning of any living plants living in terrariums. In order to avoid the appearance of bacteria, ticks and other evil spirits, which can cause damage to the health of the turtle.
So when deciding what your pet will have. with natural, natural ingredients or with more artificial attributes. keep in mind that you will need more time, effort and expense to keep the terrarium clean and controlled!

The author of the article is Julia Kozlova, Julia Voronova and Miladyad