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mulch or topsoil


New Member
Aug 1, 2018
Location (City and/or State)
I currently have a Russian tortoise living in a large, indoor enclosure with a cypress mulch substrate. I was thinking of switching her substrate to topsoil, mainly on the grounds that it would be easier for her to dig into, and perhaps more pleasant on her feet. (Also I could potentially plant things directly in it, rather than in buried planters as I currently have them).

My biggest worry concerns the potential for topsoil to be a medium for fungi and other microorganisms that might be harmful. But then, mulch could be the same.

Any thoughts on the question of topsoil vs. mulch?

Thank you for any and all input.

Michael (and Daphne the tortoise)

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Jan 23, 2008
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
I've used soil for my box turtle babies for a very long time and have never experienced harmful microorganisms. But for tortoises, I much prefer small sized orchid bark (fir bark).

You can plant directly in the substrate, however the tortoise then would be able to tear up the plants. Here, for my enclosures, keeping the plants in pots works better for me.


Well-Known Member
Mar 12, 2018
Location (City and/or State)
Suffolk, United Kingdom
Lots of people in the UK use topsoil without any issues. Personally I’ve found small bugs in it that put me off. I use it in my outdoor enclosure though

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