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Is Coco Coir Substrate Good For A Tortoise?

If you are keeping a tortoise, you need to know what sort of substrate you can use for tortoises, and you need to be absolutely sure what’s suitable for them and what isn’t.

Today, we’re going to look at whether coco coir is safe for tortoises, or whether you might need an alternative substrate for them in order to give them the best possible conditions. Thorough research should be done before you add anything to your tortoise’s enclosure. 

Many people do use coco coir for their tortoises and it’s a suitable substrate in most cases, but there are sometimes issues with it, especially if your tortoise is keen to eat it.

However, coco coir is good at absorbing odors, is a natural product, and is easy to monitor and replace when necessary. It doesn’t need misting and it isn’t prone to going moldy, and it’s soft enough for your tortoise to feel comfortable on. 

Before you put coco coir in your tortoise’s enclosure, you should see how your tortoise responds to this kind of substrate by testing it on a small amount, preferably mixed with the substrate it has been raised on.

If the tortoise tries to eat the coco coir, you may want to choose a different substrate that it doesn’t seem as keen to eat. However, many owners do safely and successfully use coco coir in their tortoise habitats. 

Is Coco Safe Good For Tortoises?

On the whole, coco coir is considered a safe substrate for tortoises, even baby tortoises, because it is all natural, safe for them to eat, and loose and easy to dig in.

Mold can be an issue, but it’s less likely than with many other substrates, so you aren’t likely to run into problems with your tortoise getting sick from mold spores.

The biggest risk lies in your tortoise deciding to eat large quantities of coco coir and causing a blockage inside its throat or stomach. 

It is rare, but not unheard, for tortoises to kill themselves by consuming large amounts of coco coir, and this may be a bigger risk with the babies, which are smaller and more vulnerable to blockages.

An adult tortoise is unlikely to eat enough coco coir to risk causing an impaction and will generally be perfectly safe on coco coir.

The substrate isn’t toxic at all; it’s only a problem if the tortoise eats a large enough quantity to stop its body from being able to process it properly. 

It’s also important to note that they can do this with any natural substrate (and sometimes even unnatural ones), so this isn’t a bigger risk with coco coir than with other substrates.

It can happen, but coco coir is generally considered safe to use. It’s safe for the tortoise to burrow in, soft on its skin, non-toxic, and overall, very suitable. 

Is Coco Coir Good For Tortoises? 

Coco coir is generally considered good for tortoises because it offers a whole range of advantages, including being easy to clean, free from dust, and good at maintaining its humidity.

The latter is particularly important for tortoises, which need a damp enclosure – but this has an ongoing risk of causing mold issues.

Fortunately, coco coir does not mold readily, so it’s a great substrate if you want to minimize the risk of mold and keep your tortoise healthy. 

This is because the coco coir will absorb the excess moisture, drawing it out of the air and making it clean and fresh, but still humid enough for your pet.

It is also far less dusty than top soil, another popular tortoise substrate, which reduces the amount of dirt and cleanup needed, and ensures that your tortoise habitat and its surrounding area are kept as clean as possible, minimizing your workload.

A lot of people prefer coco coir to other substrates simply because it is easier to handle. 

Furthermore, coco coir is economical and very easy to clean, and it can be lifted out of the enclosure when necessary without much mess.

It’s readily available and you can compost it safely, and it also looks fantastic in any enclosure because it has such a natural appearance. As a final advantage, it will expand when wet, meaning you don’t need a lot of it to fill an enclosure. 

What Is The Best Coco Coir Substrate For A Tortoise? 

There are lots of options for choosing coco coir, and which one is right for you will depend on what your needs are and what’s available in your local environment.

Some people prefer to buy a coco coir that has been mixed with another substrate such as top soil, while others like to use plain coco coir, so consider experimenting with both before you decide what works best for you.

If you want just coco coir, consider something like the ReptiChip Compressed Coconut Chip Substrate For Reptiles, which contains 100 percent organic coco chips, ready for your tortoise to enjoy. 

Another option is Exo Terra Coconut Husk, which is made up of all natural coconut from sustainable sources, and which is very soft and comfortable for your tortoise to walk on and burrow in.

This comes with great reviews for its quality, and it has been heat treated and triple-washed to make sure it is safe for your reptile to enjoy. It will bump up the humidity beautifully, making sure your tortoise is always comfortable. 

If you want a mix of coco coir and soil, you might want to check out the blend sold by The Tortoise Hut; this is a perfect substrate made up of entirely natural materials. It contains the soil that tortoises love, but enough coco coir to keep the dust levels down. 

Are There Downsides To Coco Coir For A Tortoise? 

There are a few downsides to using coconut coir with your tortoise, including the fact that coco coir needs to be changed relatively frequently, especially if you have a tortoise in a small enclosure.

However, it should be noted that you can sometimes wash and reuse coco coir, which may make it go much further, depending on your setup and whether this is feasible for you – it does need to be properly washed in order to be safe to reuse. 

Another disadvantage of using coco coir is the one mentioned near the start of this article: some tortoises do decide to eat it, and this has led to concerns about how safe it truly is, especially for babies or small tortoises.

To be clear, many people keep their tortoises on coco coir for years without any issues arising, because coco coir is safe to ingest in small quantities and most tortoises will not come to any harm whatsoever.

However, it is possible that your tortoise will decide to eat too much coco coir, and this could cause an impaction that may, in some cases, kill the tortoise. 

Another disadvantage associated with coco coir is that you do need to find a good stockist; the quality can vary from brand to brand.

Some are low quality and may contain other substances, while high quality options will have been sifted and treated thoroughly to ensure they are suitable. 

What Alternatives Are There To Coco Coir For A Tortoise? 

There are many alternative substrates that people use, and some tortoise owners opt for a mix to offer the best possible conditions and some variety.

You may want to use things like soil, mulch or wood chips, hemp, straw pellets, or grass pellets.

All of these will provide your tortoise with a natural surface to walk upon, dig in, and occasionally nibble, and they should all be safe for your pet. 

You should weigh up the pros and cons of the different substrates before choosing; think about things like cost, ease of cleanup, reusability, availability, water retention properties, and more.

This should help you to choose well, and remember that you can mix and match as long as you keep the enclosure clean and hospitable for your pet. 

You should avoid substrates like torn up paper, pine or cedar bark, walnut shells, and sand, as these all pose a variety of dangers and are not suitable for your tortoise to live in.

They may get too wet or too dry, or they might be unsafe if the tortoise chooses to eat them, or they may be sharp enough to cut your pet if it tries to burrow. Stick with the recommended options. 


Using coco coir for tortoise enclosures is definitely a good option, and many tortoise owners opt for this substance over the other available choices because it is cheap, it goes a long way, and tortoises generally love it. It also holds humidity well, doesn’t create a lot of dust, and is easy to clean, making it a great choice on many counts. If you can get coco coir for your tortoise, do so – but consider mixing it with other beddings to make the enclosure more interesting and give your tortoise additional enrichment.