Have you ever wondered whether you can use sphagnum moss for a tortoise enclosure?
This moss is gaining popularity among the keepers of all kinds of reptiles, and it is certainly useful in an enclosure, but is it safe and genuinely helpful, or could it be doing more damage than anticipated?
It’s important to do thorough research before you add anything new to your tortoise’s enclosure, as the wrong environment could be dangerous for your pet.
On the whole, sphagnum moss is considered safe for tortoises and tortoise enclosures, and many reptile stores sell this moss specifically for use with tortoises.
There are a few sources that claim it is unsafe, especially if your tortoise is keen to eat it, but on the whole, it doesn’t seem to cause any problems among reptile owners.
Simply be aware of whether your tortoise is eating it, and make sure it isn’t showing any signs of digestive problems or other health issues as a result.
Sphagnum moss can be handy in a tortoise enclosure because it holds onto humidity and makes it easier to ensure your tortoise is staying damp enough at all times.
Many people use it in tortoise hides to increase water retention and ensure that the reptile’s environment stays moist. Plenty of tortoise owners find that sphagnum moss increases their tortoise’s alertness by making its environment more suitable.
Do Tortoises Like Sphagnum Moss?
Tortoises do generally like sphagnum moss, or at least they like the benefits of having it in their enclosure, because it bumps up the humidity and ensures that it stays high, creating a wet environment that tortoises generally love.
Other substrates that perform a similar function may be just as popular with tortoises, but on the whole, they do seem to like the effect that sphagnum moss has on the enclosure.
Some tortoises also seem to like the moss itself, and enjoy sitting on it, as it is very soft when it is damp.
There are many other substrate choices too, but sphagnum moss is a popular one because it is natural, it can be harvested sustainably, and it’s ideal for humidity retention, which makes it perfect for tortoises.
If you are having trouble keeping the humidity in your tortoise enclosure hide high enough, they will love the addition of sphagnum moss, and this may even make them more alert and engaged. This kind of moss is therefore a popular addition.
Some tortoises also seem to enjoy sphagnum moss as a source of something to nibble on, although they will probably only sample a few bites at a time, and will rarely eat large amounts of the moss.
This can be an enriching activity, as they are able to browse on the moss as they might do in their natural environment, but you don’t want them to eat too much of it.
Is Sphagnum Moss Safe For A Tortoise?
You might be alarmed if you see your tortoise eating sphagnum moss, or just generally unsure about using this material in your tortoise enclosure.
After all, tortoises are precious pets and most people want to choose the best possible bedding for them.
Fortunately, uncolored, organic sphagnum moss is thought to be very safe when used correctly, and you don’t need to worry if your tortoise does nibble at it a bit; this is unlikely to do any harm, and the moss will often pass straight through the digestive system.
There are a few risks associated with sphagnum moss, however, and most of them come down to cleanliness and how you keep the enclosure free from mold spores.
Because it is perpetually damp, there is a risk of the moss developing mold, and this could be dangerous to the tortoise if it is allowed to grow and spread throughout the tank.
This is why it’s important to ensure that the moss is refreshed from time to time, especially if you can see any signs of fungal spores growing in it.
Make sure that you choose a sphagnum moss brand that is designed for reptiles, as some that are used for flower arranging or other purposes may contain chemicals that are unsafe; non-colored, organic sphagnum moss should be chosen where possible.
You may also want to cut up any long strands of the moss, especially if you are raising baby tortoises, so that there is no risk of them getting tangled up.
Is Sphagnum Moss A Good Substrate For A Tortoise?
Sphagnum moss can be a good substrate for a tortoise, and it’s the go-to substrate for raising baby tortoises and youngsters, partly because it is soft and so good at retaining moisture. It’s also odor-absorbing so it will limit any aromas coming from the enclosure.
However, it is quite an expensive option, which is important to note if you are just setting out and you haven’t got your enclosure started yet; it may be a pricey way to set things up.
Many people use sphagnum moss as an addition to other substrates, including topsoil, which is a favorite option for many tortoise keepers; it holds onto moisture, it allows tortoises to dig and burrow, and it has excellent structural integrity.
Mixed with some sphagnum moss and coconut husk, it’s ideal for your tortoise to live on, and should provide an environment that allows them to flourish.
Putting the tortoise on pure sphagnum moss may make it more difficult for it to burrow, and can also be expensive, so it’s wise to use a couple of other substrates that are also suitable.
Many owners simply use sphagnum moss in their tortoise’s hide, rather than in the main enclosure; it can be a great option for bumping up the humidity and ensuring that it stays thoroughly damp in there.
This is a cheaper way to get the same benefits without having to fill your entire container with the moss, so it’s generally a preferable approach.
How Much Sphagnum Moss Should You Put Into A Tortoise Enclosure?
You can put any amount of sphagnum moss in a tortoise enclosure; there is no limit on this moss, except that it is expensive, so you may only want to use small amounts.
It will eventually need replacing, and many owners replace it after 3-6 months, because it sometimes starts to lose its absorbency and texture at this stage. However, you can put any amount in the enclosure, and the tortoise will benefit from its water retention properties.
If you are working on a tight budget, it’s best to use a limited amount of sphagnum moss, and to fill most of the container with topsoil or another suitable substrate, so that you can spread the moss out and save some money.
If you have money to spare, increase the quantity so that your tortoise’s enclosure stays humid for longer, and so it can enjoy this soft moss.
There are no particular recommended quantities, but having a variety of substrates may help with enrichment, increasing the tortoise’s quality of life – as long as you only choose substrates that are safe.
Many people use a higher proportion of sphagnum moss when raising baby tortoises, as these need plenty of consistent humidity, and will benefit from the additional moss, which will make their environment as suitable as it can be.
Adult tortoises are more resilient and do not need as much moss, although they will appreciate it.
What Are The Advantages Of Using Sphagnum Moss In A Tortoise Enclosure?
Sphagnum moss carries a range of advantages, with the most major being that it absorbs and holds on to moisture extremely well, releasing it back into the enclosure gradually to keep the humidity levels high.
It is also easy to wash when you need to clean the enclosure out, and it’s soft and pleasant for the tortoise to walk on.
Additionally, it is thought to be safe for the tortoise to eat in small quantities, so you don’t need to panic if you see your tortoise occasionally nibbling at a bit of the moss.
Some people do make efforts to remove pieces that their tortoises are particularly keen on eating, but there is nothing to suggest that sphagnum moss is dangerous to consume, even if it isn’t a standard part of your tortoise’s diet.
You can also use sphagnum moss if you want to create a wet box or an area that’s suitable for a female to lay her eggs, or just to bump up the humidity in a sleeping spot. Increasing the humidity may help your tortoise to be more energetic, and could improve its overall skin health, as well as its general well-being.
If you are setting up a new enclosure, sphagnum moss is ideal for tortoise habitats, because it holds onto moisture extremely well, and increases the humidity to ensure that your reptile stays damp at all times. This will make your tortoise comfortable and mimic the conditions that it would seek out in the wild, helping it to feel at home. Sphagnum moss is also safe, soft, and easy to clean by washing, so apart from the price, it is probably the best substrate you can choose for your pet.