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hi again

22 16:05:24

QUESTION: Hi i am Casey i got my Russian tortoise on the 04/01/2010 and i use dirt for the bottom of the tank but i  have noticed that my Russian tortoises nails are growing really shark so would it be ok if i put large fish tank stone/pebbles in the bottom so that he can grind his nails down,please reply soon thank you

ANSWER: A common substrate for Russians is a mix of about 1/2 sand and 1/2 either soil or Bed-A-Beast (coconut coir) or a mix of the two.

You can find more info and great care ideas on this species at

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QUESTION: hi again but i just want to know if it is ok if i
do put the stones/pebbles in with him

ANSWER: OK, the thing is that there are a couple of things in this note that bothered me. Keeping a tortoise in a fish tank and using dirt as a substrate are not great ideas for a long-lived, healthy, happy tortoise. I was hoping that giving you a typical substrate mix and pointing you to a good care site would encourage you to research the cares for this species.

You can use pebbles and rocks, but there is a chance it will try to eat them. A sandier soil will be better drained, and act more like a gentle sandpaper to control much of the nail growth. There is also a question about diet- rapid nail growth can signal a dietary concern.

Good luck, and if you have other questions, you can try the helpful forums at

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QUESTION: hi i was thinking about that thing you said about sand so i may as well get some of that but with website would be the cheapest place to get the sand and dose it haft to be a special tortoise sand

Any 'clean' sand is fine- playbox sand is what most people use.

A common formula is to combine about half and half sand and soil.

For the soil, some use pure coconut coir (Bed-a-Beast and so forth), some combine coir with clean bagged soils, some just use bagged soil.

Using garden dirt is usually not a great idea since it can contain a lot of pests and stuff. But, not all bagged soils are good either. Avoid any soil that smells like anything but clean dirt, and stay away from any soil with white particles in it- vermiculite, fertilizer, etc.- since the tortoise will eat that.


Now, having said all this, I have to admit that my preferred substrate for most indoor tortoises over about a year old is cypress mulch. It is cheap, light, clean, relatively bug free (almost all substrates harbor things like fungus gnats, springtails, and other annoying but harmless insects), and does well for tortoises that need either high or normal levels of humidity.

Lay down about a 2" layer and replace it every 6 months or when it starts to smell 'off'. If your home's humidity is low, you can boost the tortoise's humidity by just pouring some water into the mulch so it makes a shallow 'pool' on the bottom and will raise the humidity as it evaporates up through the mulch.

Another thing I like about cypress is that it is not dirty. The tortoise stays cleaner, the water dish stays cleaner, and the habitat walls stay cleaner.


I seriously suggest you check out It is a free forum dedicated to helping new and experienced keepers with their animals. You can get answers and ideas from a lot of very nice people and you don't have to deal with all of the ads, clicks, etc. I go there a lot but I do not work for them or get any benefit from recommending them.

You can ask them the same question you asked me and see what other options and thoughts they have.