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I have a South American tortoise (a Redfoot) that lives on sphagnum moss bedding. I have given some thought to switching her to a topsoil-based substrate, but I'm concerned that such a base will retain too much moisture.

Are there reptile-safe plants that I can add to the soil to maintain the right level of moisture as not to grow mold? Alternatively, are there other substrate materials that might make more sense in this environment? I like that the sphagnum moss dries out fairly effectively, but it would be nicer if the soil could retain the moisture and not crumble to bits over time.

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I find EcoEarth (shredded coconut husk) makes a nice substrate. It can be used wet or dry and even in high humidity environments, I've never had any problems with mold. It's not topsoil, but you might find it useful nonetheless. You could also try a mixture of topsoil and coconut husk. This could give you some of the moisture-balancing properties of coconut husk along with some of the texture and other properties of top soil.

I don't find EcoEarth to be terribly exorbitant price-wise. Looks like a three-pack of compressed bricks goes for ~$10 at PetCo. Each brick can be re-hydrated to make 7 or 8L of substrate. Then again, I don't know how big your terrarium is or how deep you want your substrate to be.

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