Changing Substrate from Coconut Bark

Tom D in CT

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Hi all,

I'm new to this forum, and have turned here after finding contradictory suggestions & recommendations everywhere!! I need some straight talk from the experts, please!

We have had a wonderful Russian - Catalina - for 11 years. For the last 6 of those years, she's had nothing but coconut bark as a substrate. She's an indoor-only tort, as we live in Connecticut, and outdoor living is not an option. We have a custom-built terrarium-type enclosure for her, with regulated heat, temp, lighting, etc. She's been great, and has thrived for the entire time that we've had her. We've used the coconut bark because it was explicitly told to us that she needs low humidity, and this coconut bark is a dry, low humidity substrate.

The manufacturer has stopped making coconut bark - and they were the only manufacturer who made it! So unfortunately we have to switch to something else. Because she's been in such a dry, non-humid environment for so long, is there any risk if we switch her to a mix of coconut coir and Repti-bark? Will that mix maintain the same low levels of humidity that she is accustomed to?

We're hypersensitive to the fact that any changes to her environment could impact her negatively...and don't know what to do? Can anyone talk us down from the ledge??? Much appreciated!!

Tom
 

leigti

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I have a Russian tortoise and use a combination of coconut coir and orchid bark in her indoor enclosure. actually Russian tortoises do need some humidity. You add water to the substrate and mix it around with your hands until it is slightly damp but not soggy. The only danger with more humidity in the environment is if the temperatures are cold. this could lead to a respiratory infection. I keep the basking spot at about 95, the warm and in the 80s and let them cool and get to room temperature, usually no lower than 70. if the substrate gets dusty it can irritate the eyes. you can missed the enclosure daily, my tortoise also likes to be misted with the squirt bottle. you have to add water under the heat lamp more often than the rest of the enclosure because it dries out quickly. we love pictures around here so please send us some pictures of your tortoise and her enclosure. :) Welcome to the forum.
 

Tom

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Orchid bark alone will work just fine for you. I've been using it for years. It is my substrate of choice for adult sized russians.

Humidity is not the enemy that some people once thought it was. Moderate humidity for an adult russian is actually a good thing.
 

Tom D in CT

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Thank you, leigti. We've read so much that Russian torts need some humidity. I think our concern is that she's had very, very low humidity for years, and has been fine. And we're concerned that a switch from very low to even "some" humidity could have an impact on her...but maybe we're just being overcautious?
 

Tom

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Thank you, leigti. We've read so much that Russian torts need some humidity. I think our concern is that she's had very, very low humidity for years, and has been fine. And we're concerned that a switch from very low to even "some" humidity could have an impact on her...but maybe we're just being overcautious?

The weather and conditions change frequently and wildly in the areas where these guys are native. They are one of the most adaptable species there is. Don't be afraid you are going to break your tortoise by trying out some minor adjustments to the enclosure and conditions.
 

Tom D in CT

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Thanks Tom! I think I just needed to hear it from other folks. We had a bad experience with a Russian tort before we had Catalina, 11 years ago. That tort died of respiratory problems; it had problems from the moment we brought it home. We - of course - blamed ourselves, and are just being super cautious with this change...but so many folks here have also said an orchid bark mix works well for them, and for their torts. So, that's the way we'll go.

Posting a few pics of Catalina here too. out to play.JPG DSCN0113.JPG
 

motero

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She Is a beautiful tort, Looks like she would benefit from a beak trimming.
 

Tom

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Here is my care sheet for russians. It is likely different than most of what you've read. Tortoise knowledge has advanced a lot in the last few years and a large percentage of people have not kept up.
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/

What not to do:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/

Katie's care sheet for babies:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/thread...or-other-herbivorous-tortoise-species.107734/

Outdoor housing ideas:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/semi-underground-russian-box.98590/
 
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