Tortoise Diet


Fresh water must always be available for your tortoise. There are beliefs that tortoises receive their water content from their food, this is not so, they require a water dish to drink from when they feel the need. Another way to ensure your tortoise is properly hydrated is to give the tortoise a shallow bath with warm water. Tortoises absorb a small amount of water via their tail whilst in the bath, so bathe your tortoise daily, especially during the summer months.


A growing tortoise needs the correct amount of food, water, calcium, UVB/A, vitamins and minerals in order to produce healthy bones. Calcium is a key ingredient for bone formation. UVB/A allows the tortoise to manufacture Vitamin D3 naturally but in order for this to happen the tortoise needs calcium to complete the process. The best diet is a varied one, you should never offer the same type of food every day for a prolonged period of time, as the tortoise will be missing out on vital vitamins and minerals. We recommend feeding the same amount as the size of its body, and food should be offered 5 out of 7 days. Vitamin / calcium supplements such as Reptavite or Nutrobal can be sprinkled onto the tortoise’s food 2-3 times a week. If the tortoise is being housed in an enclosure that has natural vegetation then additional feeding should be rarely offered, and when it is, it should only be to add supplements.Other sources of high calcium is cuttlefish bone.

The diet should be appropriate to the breed of the tortoise. As a tortoise owner, you should aim for a slow growth.

The following is a list of wild plants, cultivated plants and salad items which can be used to form the basis of a good natural and balanced diet. When picking these plants be sure to wash them under water as this helps to get rid of any pollution, and prevents the spreading of worms passed by bird droppings.

Safe to feed on a regular basis

Cat’s Ears, Sow Thistle, Hawk Bits, Hawks-Beard, Plantain (the weed), Pansies, Hibiscus, Musk Mallow, Malope Mallow, Mulberry, Prickly Pear, Lambs lettuce

The following food should only be given in moderation. Only one item from this list should be fed at a time, in conjunction with the safe to feed list:

Watercress, Lettuce (Romaine, Red Leaf, etc), Rocket, Dandelion, Chicory, Clover, Shredded Carrot, Grapevine, Rose Leaves and Petals

**This list is based on searches using The Tortoise Table’s Plant Database app**

For years, captive bred tortoises had always displayed thick, spongy bone formation or pyramid shaped scutes, thick dark keratin layers, spinal deformations and walking difficulties as a result of owners feeding up to two or three times the amount of food the tortoise actually required.

Tortoises are grazers; they thrive when they are allowed to feed naturally on wild growing weeds and flowers. They should be allowed controlled inactivity periods and discouraged from eating 365 days a year. Never offer food which contain high levels of protein (peas, beans, bananas) or have extremely negative calcium to phosphorous balance (Cabbage). Rarely (if ever) offer your tortoise any fruit as this can lead to Colic and other dietary complications.

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