Substrate issues - Coco Fiber is too dusty

mike t

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Hi all,

I've had a beautiful Greek Tortoise for 7 years now, and I've been using eco earth coco fiber since I got him. It's great stuff - smells good, looks good, easy for him to burrow into, doesn't irritate him, relatively cheap, etc - but I find that it dries out insanely fast. Early on, I sprayed down his enclosure to ensure it didn't get too dry, but that resulted in an upper respiratory infection, which was quickly remedied by bringing the humidity down. This leaves me with a huge issue though: dust. I can't imagine that it's good for him to be breathing in, and, over time, this stuff gets EVERYWHERE. It is bone dry, and I feel that maybe I'm not using the right substrate for a desert tortoise.

I've looked around the forum, and can't find anyone talking about this issue. What should I do? Are there other substrate mixtures that are more ideal? Or any other solutions you have found?
 

Tom

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You do not have a desert tortoise. They need moderate humidity, even though they can survive dry periods. The RI was most likely caused by cold mixed with the damp. Warm and damp won't do that, and cold and damp usually doesn't do that in Testudo unless they can't warm up enough each day.

Any substrate you use should be kept mildly damp. This keeps dust down and also gives them the needed humidity in our overly dry indoor enclosures. a 3-4 inch layer of fine grade orchid bark will work best.
 

mike t

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You're right - I realized that I misspoke; he's not a desert tortoise. Thanks for the info, I appreciate it. I'll monitor his temps and humidity more closely.

Would you recommend that I mix the fine grade orchid bark with coco coir? Or should I use straight orchid bark? Also, what is the best way of keeping it damp?
 

mike t

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You do not have a desert tortoise. They need moderate humidity, even though they can survive dry periods. The RI was most likely caused by cold mixed with the damp. Warm and damp won't do that, and cold and damp usually doesn't do that in Testudo unless they can't warm up enough each day.

Any substrate you use should be kept mildly damp. This keeps dust down and also gives them the needed humidity in our overly dry indoor enclosures. a 3-4 inch layer of fine grade orchid bark will work best.
Also, would this be good orchid bark? It comes in 4 sizes, and I'm not sure which to pick. None of them specify as "fine grade," so I would assume that the x-small variant is closest? My only concern is that it could be small enough to ingest.
 

Randy Micheals

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Coir is pretty dusty. Yeah I think just by smashing around in the bags a lot of substrates pick up dust. Washing with water in a rubbermaid tub can help take some of this off before you add it.
 

mike t

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Washing with water in a rubbermaid tub can help take some of this off before you add it.
Are you suggesting to wash coir or orchid bark? Because I get my coco coir in the blocks that you have to re-hydrate, so washing wouldn't be the issue.

Also happy birthday!
 

Tom

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Also, would this be good orchid bark? It comes in 4 sizes, and I'm not sure which to pick. None of them specify as "fine grade," so I would assume that the x-small variant is closest? My only concern is that it could be small enough to ingest.
I'm not sure if "New Zealand Pine" is the same as Fir Bark. Maybe a bit of research can confirm or deny?

I'd go with the smallest size. Ingestion isn't an issue.

I wouldn't mix it with anything. I don't know why people do that.
 

jsheffield

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I'm a fan of cyrpress mulch and orchid bark... also recently got some "Reptichip" which is busted up coconut husk.

reptichip.jpg

It's a nice size, easy to clean up, and seems to hold moisture nicely.

Jamie
 

mike t

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I'm not sure if "New Zealand Pine" is the same as Fir Bark. Maybe a bit of research can confirm or deny?

I'd go with the smallest size. Ingestion isn't an issue.

I wouldn't mix it with anything. I don't know why people do that.
Sorry for the late reply, been busy with school and researching my options for substrates.

Thanks. Looked into it, Douglas Fir and "New Zealand Pinus Radiata" are not the same thing. Wouldn't be a good option anyways... Just did the math, and it'd be a whopping $600 if I bought it from that link (5 cubic feet of substrate is 37 gallons, $16/gallon.) I think I might go with Jamie's suggestion of compressed blocks of reptibark - It's far more reasonably priced and seems to be similar quality to fir orchid bark.

My only concern is spot cleaning. With coir, it's easy; when urine soaks into it, it's relatively isolated, and, for poops, it's easy to scoop up the surrounding substrate with it. However, with bark, is there concern for it leaking everywhere and spreading bacteria? On top of that, bark would be harder to scoop than a finer substrate like coir. Could this be an advantage of mixing coir and bark? I have some spare coir blocks anyways.
 

Tom

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Orchid bark also resists bacterial growth, so that won't be an issue. Scooping is no problem with orchid bark. Or you can just pick up the turds with a paper towel or something.
 

mike t

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Orchid bark also resists bacterial growth, so that won't be an issue. Scooping is no problem with orchid bark. Or you can just pick up the turds with a paper towel or something.
Wonderful, good to know. Where do you buy yours? Everywhere I looked was crazy expensive.
 

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Wonderful, good to know. Where do you buy yours? Everywhere I looked was crazy expensive.
Any local garden center should have it. I buy it in 2.0 cu. ft. bags for $12. Home Depot sells it now too. As does OSH, if you have one near you.
 

mike t

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Any local garden center should have it. I buy it in 2.0 cu. ft. bags for $12. Home Depot sells it now too. As does OSH, if you have one near you.
Great, thanks, that's fantastic pricing. I saw you posting about OSH in another post, unfortunately there aren't any nearby me, so I'll check with Home Depot or some garden centers tomorrow. Hate to break quarantine, but his substrate is due for replacement :/ Thanks for the help Tom!
 

mike t

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Any local garden center should have it. I buy it in 2.0 cu. ft. bags for $12. Home Depot sells it now too. As does OSH, if you have one near you.
Was checking Home Depot, is this the right stuff? Looks like they have a delivery option as well, so looks like I can keep my Corona Quarantine
 

Tom

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Was checking Home Depot, is this the right stuff? Looks like they have a delivery option as well, so looks like I can keep my Corona Quarantine
Don't think so. Orchid bark is "fir bark". From what I've seen it comes in smaller bags from HD, but still way cheaper than pet store prices.
 

mike t

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Don't think so. Orchid bark is "fir bark". From what I've seen it comes in smaller bags from HD, but still way cheaper than pet store prices.
Got it. I'll give them a call tomorrow, and if not, I'll look around other shops.
 

mike t

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Hmm, hopefully they have larger quantities in store. ~$75 is pretty steep for my budget right now, since I'm getting other supplies as well (MVB is at the end of its recommended life too... might pick up one those Arcadia UVB kits and a separate heat lamp.) Orchid definitely seems like the best option though, so I'll get those 8qt bags you linked if I can't find another seller.
 

Sa Ga

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Great, thanks, that's fantastic pricing. I saw you posting about OSH in another post, unfortunately there aren't any nearby me, so I'll check with Home Depot or some garden centers tomorrow. Hate to break quarantine, but his substrate is due for replacement :/ Thanks for the help Tom!
Maybe put some in an isolated area and observe him while he's in it for several times. My turtle tried to eat cypress mulch for the first time today, and like any wood, can definitely cause impaction as it expands a bit in the digestive tract.

I use Eco Earth with organic soil (though I'm trying to find a soil that can be guaranteed pet-safe as there can be something composted with it that could hurt ur tort...I've been lucky so far!) I mix it at coir 3:1 soil. The soil helps "weigh down" the coconut coir, and make it stick a lot less to Morla's eyes/eyelids. The coir helps the soil stay moist and keeps it from getting muddy when moistened.
 

mike t

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Maybe put some in an isolated area and observe him while he's in it for several times. My turtle tried to eat cypress mulch for the first time today, and like any wood, can definitely cause impaction as it expands a bit in the digestive tract.

I use Eco Earth with organic soil (though I'm trying to find a soil that can be guaranteed pet-safe as there can be something composted
Good idea. Borris is pretty good about avoiding non-edibles, but he hasn't encountered wood chips yet. My dad does a ton of wood working, do you think some wood scraps would be a good substitute for a test?
 
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