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Oyster Shell Substrate Questions

ShirleyTX

Active Member
Joined
Nov 4, 2017
Messages
128
Location (City and/or State)
Canyon Lake TX USA
Hello! I have been lurking on the forum for a long time, but this is my first post. I am getting a 2 year old Egyptian tortoise from Chris at Garden State Tortoise. I want to have the enclosure ready and stable before she arrives. I searched and read a lot of posts; here are some questions for which I couldn't find answers.

1) Do I use the oyster shell right out of the bag? I purchased a bag at a local feed store (the type that is fed to chickens). The fellow said it is ready to feed to chickens and should not need any cleaning or airing out.

2) How deep is your oyster shell substrate? I understand they are not diggers although they may burrow a bit under grassy tufts in the wild to escape the heat.

3) For those of you who mix coco coir into the oyster shells, have you had any trouble with fungus, with insects?

4) How do you keep your oyster shell substrate clean? I can imagine just scooping and discarding shell with poo on it. How can you tell if they pee on it? Does the substrate ever start to smell? Do you use any cleanup crew like springtails or pill bugs? I'm guessing "no" on insects because there wouldn't be enough organic matter in the enclosure.

Thank you everyone! I have wanted a tortoise for a very long time and I am very excited!!!

Shirley
 

leigti

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2013
Messages
7,030
Location (City and/or State)
southeast Washington
Hello, welcome to the forum. I admit I don’t know much about Egyptian tortoises but I’m a little confused by your oyster shell substrate. Are you thinking coconut shell substrate instead? I have chickens so I know what oyster shell is, it seems like that would be a very bad substrate for a tortoise. It is extremely rough, and very drying. Somebody with more experience with this type of tortoise will come along soon. Check out the species specific sections for more information.
 

Yvonne G

Old Timer
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Jan 23, 2008
Messages
83,102
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
Oyster shell is a common medium to use as substrate for Egyptian tortoises. It seems a bit dusty to me, so if it were me, I would rinse it off prior to putting it into the enclosure. I'll leave the rest of your questions for Egyptian tortoise keepers to answer.
 

ShirleyTX

Active Member
Joined
Nov 4, 2017
Messages
128
Location (City and/or State)
Canyon Lake TX USA
Egyptian tortoises are different than most. They are native to the Libyan coastline. Their environment is brutally hot and dry with few pathogens; as such, they have fragile immune systems. A substrate such as oyster shell or a mix including decomposed granite is recommended to preclude any type fungus or mold that organic matter produces.

These substrates also allow moisture to be rigorously controlled. When misting or fogging, moisture cannot be allowed to collect for long periods of time.

In addition to providing good traction for these tiny tortoises, oyster shell is edible as it is largely calcium. (Of course you have chickens so you know this.) Eating it is not encouraged! but it’s not the end of the world.

Most people who post in the Egyptian species-specific forum use oyster shell. So I am hoping that some of these experienced keepers can give me advice about handling it. Thanks!
 

Salspi

Active Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2017
Messages
265
Location (City and/or State)
Chicago
I definitely rinse my oyster shell. You never know what could be in it. Think about how irritating a very dusty room can be to your sinuses. Your tortoise doesn’t need that. There are some real professional Kleinmanni keepers on this site that can answer the other questions better than me. I will follow along and hopefully learn something.
 

jamespc

New Member
Joined
Nov 3, 2018
Messages
14
Location (City and/or State)
Long Beach, CA
I just started Egyptian tortoiseing. However, I did a lot of reading and used a layer of stones, a labor of charcoal, a layer of potting soil, layers of sand, and a layer of oyster shells. The oyster shells are for small birds to use as grit. This is probably not the economical way to go but it is what I found on Amazon and figured would be fine enough for my 6 month Egyptian, Anubis. Now that he is here using the, I can see they may get stinking with his dried poop on them. I think the reasoning behind the oyster shells is that is another source of calcium and they do eat them and pick up the calcium as they pass through their system. However, the sand I bought claims to be made of calcium carbonate so I am not sure tho the oyster shells are an improvement on that. On the one hand, it seems like a good ideal to mimic the natural environment. On the other hand, it seems like we will always have to do the environment one better because we want to outwit the laws of natural selection and keep our specific torts in perfect health for eternity. With my canary, I don't put it out in the rain or expose it to mosquitos or let it forage on the dirt, I pamper it because I want to spoil it and want to live forever. So this is my plan with Anubis as well.
 

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