What Do Tortoises Eat In The Wild

Tortoises are unique creatures that have been around for centuries. They are found in various habitats, from deserts to forests, and they have adapted to their surroundings. Besides, they are also excellent pets to have. One of the most fascinating aspects of these animals is their diet, which is primarily based on their environment. Tortoises eat various plants, flowers, and even insects in the wild. 

What Do Tortoises Eat In The Wild
What Tortoises Eat In The WIld

Suppose you are going to take care of tortoises; you should consider what these ancient reptiles eat in the wild. You are lucky to find this article since you are one step closer to being a great pet owner. In this article, we will explore the dietary habits of tortoises, looking at the types of food they consume and the importance of providing a balanced diet in captivity. We will also cover the potential health risks associated with an unbalanced diet and how to ensure your pet tortoise gets the nutrition it needs.

What Are Tortoise Food Types?

In the wild, tortoises graze for hours, munching on various plants. To ensure that your pet tortoise gets the nutrition it needs, it is essential to provide them with a varied diet. An ideal diet for a tortoise should be mostly dark, leafy greens and vegetables, with small amounts of fruits, mushrooms, and other plant matter. Let us explain more about what types of food tortoises eat to give you a better understanding.

What Do Tortoises Eat In The Wild
What Are Tortoise Food Types?

Natural Tortoise Diet In The Wild

Most of the time, tortoises eat leaves, grasses, fungi, and vegetables. While certain tortoise species are essentially omnivorous, many others are herbivorous. That implies that they will also eat some animal products. In light of this, let’s examine the most typical natural foods consumed by tortoises in the wild:

  • Grass and Leaves: Tortoises mainly eat various kinds of grasses and leaves. Alfalfa grass, Sowthistle grass, Bermuda grass, Mulberry leaves, and Hibiscus leaves are grasses they eat in the wild.
  • Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals for tortoises. Tortoise loves to consume carrots, kale, cucumber, celery, red cabbage, melons, apples, and pears. 
  • Small animals: Tortoises also consume small animals as a free protein source. Examples of small animals tortoise eats are earthworms, snails, slugs, and carrion.
  • Soils: In the wild, wild tortoises also access various minerals and vitamins. They are known to ingest tiny amounts of soil, which can provide them with essential nutrients such as calcium. 

Commercial Tortoise Diet and Supplements

Tortoises are a type of reptile that can be kept as a pet. Generally speaking, a tortoise’s diet should be high in fiber, low in fat, and provide essential vitamins and minerals. Suppose you want a balanced diet for your pet tortoises; some examples of commercial diets below will surely be loved by them!

1. Mazuri Tortoise Diet

To suit the requirements of omnivorous animals, the Mazuri Tortoise Diet has a moderate amount of protein and calories. It also provides antioxidants, vitamin E, and vitamin A. Tropical and forest tortoises will benefit greatly from this product to strengthen their immune system and eye health.

2. Exo Terra Tortoise Adult

This nutritious micro-pellet diet is made with Gammarus shrimp and fortified with vitamins and minerals. No other food or supplements are needed because Exo Terra Tortoise Adult is supplemented with the right amounts of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.

3. Rep-Cal Tortoise Food

Rep-Cal Tortoise Food is designed to provide complete and balanced nutrition to ensure proper growth and health. This product is recommended by veterinarians and made with natural plant and fruit ingredients. There is no need for additional food or supplements because it is fortified with the right amounts of vitamins and minerals, including calcium and vitamin D3.

How Much Do Tortoises Eat?

On feeding days, tortoises are given one substantial meal. Depending on size, tortoises can consume up to 5% of their body weight in a single meal. Leafy greens, vegetables, and fruit are typically offered to pet tortoises in a meal set roughly the size of their shell. Leafy greens and other vegetables should make up at least 80% of this, with fruit, processed meals, and other protein-rich foods making up the balance.

how much Do tortoises eat
How Much Do Tortoises Eat

As a general rule, juvenile tortoises should be given enough food to cover the entire surface area of their shells, while adult tortoises should have the amount of food they can consume in 15-20 minutes. It is essential to monitor how much your tortoise eats, as overfeeding can lead to obesity.

It might be challenging to track how much food tortoises consume in the environment because they forage continuously throughout the day. Since they are pets, it is simpler to estimate their caloric needs. With two “starve” days built into their diet to help their digestive system catch up to the amount of food they consume, pet tortoises eat five days a week.

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How Do Tortoises Forage and Find Food?

Tortoises use their strong sense of smell to locate food. They have full noses, which help them detect scents from far away. They also have sensitive tongues that can pick up tastes from the food they find. Moreover, tortoises forage for food by wandering around their habitat, searching for food sources. They can also find food in the dark, as their eyes are sensitive to light and can adjust from bright sunlight to complete darkness.

how do tortoises forage and find food
How Do Tortoises Forage and Find Food?

Tortoises must spend much of their day hunting for food because they are slow-moving reptiles. It takes a long time for most of these species to reach a food supply because they can only move at speeds of less than 1 mph. Thankfully, the food they consume rarely moves once it has been found. Interestingly, tortoises also have excellent memories and can remember where they have seen food. This helps them return to the same spots when foraging for food.

These reptiles typically hunt for food within a few hundred feet of their burrow or even closer. They may exit their caves in addition to their quest for food to migrate, escape danger, or look for breeding prospects. Additionally, they will construct new burrows as necessary.

What Do Tortoises Drink?

In the wild, tortoises eat a variety of flowers, fruits, and vegetables because they can also obtain water through their diets. A tortoise should not go without water for a week in low-humidity conditions. Your tortoise may become quite ill if you let them go without water for longer than two days.

what Do tortoises drink
What Do Tortoises Drink?

Besides, a tortoise pet should have daily access to clean drinking water. The optimum place to accomplish this is in a shallow water bowl where your tortoise may enter and exit. To provide your tortoise the chance to drink water, we recommend you give them a bath a few times per week. Tortoises can drink by submerging their mouths in water or by soaking up liquid via a vent in their tails.

What Are the Health Problems of an Unbalanced Tortoise Diet?

Tortoises are some of the most fascinating animals on the planet. They are known for their long life spans and slow and steady pace of life. However, did you know that an unbalanced diet can cause health problems for your tortoises? Let’s break them down into the following points.

What Are the Health Problems of an Unbalanced Tortoise Diet?
What Are the Health Problems of an Unbalanced Tortoise Diet?


Tortoises get fat when they are overfed and don’t get enough exercise. When a tortoise becomes obese, it can suffer from various health problems, including bladder, liver, digestive, and even respiratory problems. An obese tortoise may be more prone to infection and may even develop metabolic bone disease if its diet is not balanced correctly.

To avoid tortoise obesity, it is vital to feed your tortoise a balanced diet of dark leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits. Feed your tortoise in moderation, and make sure its diet contains adequate calcium and phosphorus. Additionally, it is crucial to provide your tortoise with an environment that encourages movement and exercise. Provide your tortoise with an outdoor enclosure with plenty of space to roam and provide enrichment to promote activity.

Calcium Deficiency

Tortoises can get calcium deficiency when their diet is lacking in calcium or when their diet is too high in phosphorus. This occurs because calcium and phosphorus need to be in balance. When calcium is lacking, the body compensates by taking calcium from bones, resulting in a weakened skeletal structure.

When a tortoise has a calcium deficiency, it may show signs such as lethargy, soft shells, weakness, and a softening of the bones. It may also experience paralysis, seizures, and other neurological symptoms. Providing a balanced diet to prevent calcium deficiency in tortoises is essential. The best calcium food for tortoises includes collard greens, kale, and turnip greens.

Vitamin B Deficiency

Tortoises can get vitamin B deficiency if they are not fed a balanced diet with various foods containing adequate amounts of B vitamins. This can happen if they are only provided one type of food, such as lettuce, or overeating one kind of food.

When tortoises get vitamin B deficiency, they may experience weight loss, decreased appetite, lethargy, and poor shell condition. They may also have difficulty walking, and their claws and beaks may become overgrown. To avoid vitamin B deficiency in tortoises, it is vital to feed them various foods, including dark leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, and insects.

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In conclusion, tortoises’ diet in the wild is varied and nutritious. They mainly feed on grasses, vegetables, and fruits but consume insects and carrion. This diet provides them with the essential nutrients to survive and thrive. An unbalanced tortoise diet may lead to health problems, so it is necessary to feed them properly. By understanding the dietary habits of tortoises in the wild, we can better provide them with the nutrition they need to live healthy lives in captivity.

FAQ (Frequently Ask & Questions)

Can you feed wild tortoises?

No. It is not recommended to feed wild tortoises as it can disrupt their natural eating habits and lead to overconsumption of certain foods. Additionally, it is essential to remember that many foods humans eat can harm tortoises. Letting them forage for their own food in their natural environment is best.

However, you can feed wild tortoises in certain conditions, for instance, when they lose their habitat. Make sure you give them the right and balanced diet. Wild tortoises typically eat grasses, leaves, some fruits, and vegetables. In addition, they may also eat insects, slugs, and carrion for additional free protein.

Do wild tortoises eat meat?

No, wild tortoises typically eat a herbivorous diet. They eat a variety of plants, grasses, fruits, and vegetables. Despite being considered vegetarians, tortoises have been observed “opportunistically” consuming carrion, bones, and snail shells for calcium. They may also consume fungi, algae, and small amounts of insects. In essence, herbivores frequently consume small quantities of deceased animals as a free source of protein.

Wild tortoises have a diverse diet consisting mainly of vegetation, though they may occasionally feed on small amounts of animal matter. To ensure that your pet tortoise is healthy and gets all the nutrients it needs, we recommend you provide a varied diet rich in vegetation and supplements.

What can I feed a tortoise?

Tortoises are herbivorous reptiles that require a varied diet to stay healthy and happy. A balanced diet for a captive tortoise should include a variety of fresh vegetables, grasses, and fruits. Here are examples of great diet for your tortoise:

  • Dark Leafy Greens: Dark leafy greens are a staple of a tortoise’s diet and should make up most of their diet. Offer your tortoise dandelion greens, endive, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, escarole, turnip greens, and other dark leafy greens.
  • Vegetables: Vegetables are an essential part of a tortoise’s diet. Offer your tortoise a variety of vegetables, such as squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, and other vegetables.
  • Grasses: Grasses are another essential part of a tortoise’s diet. These are excellent sources of fiber and vitamin B.
  • Fruits: Some tortoises can eat fruits like berries, melon, kiwi, and more. These are good sources of vitamins and minerals.

How do you feed a wild tortoise?

Wild tortoises should be given a variety of leafy greens, such as romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, and turnip greens. They can also be given some fruits, such as apples and melons, and vegetables, like squash and carrots. However, it is not recommended to feed a wild tortoise as they are adapted to their specific natural habitat and diet. It is best to leave them to forage in their natural environment, and it is illegal in some areas to feed wild tortoises.

When your wild tortoise is young, it should be fed every day.  As they age, providing them five or six days a week is safe. You can feed your tortoise one large meal or divide it into two smaller meals. Remove any food at the end of the day and discard any food that starts to look stale before introducing any new food.

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