Did you know that most land-based tortoises consume an herbivore diet? In fact, I think this is a particularly interesting fact because I like to imagine tortoise traveling on land and munching on every plant they come across. Sort of like ancient lawnmowers with minds of their own. So what do tortoises eat and what to feed them? Let’s read on to find out!
What Do Tortoises Eat in the Wild?
Before I talk about what pet tortoises eat, it can be helpful to gain a better understanding of what wild tortoises consume. Doing so can make it easier to know what to feed a pet. Firstly, Mediterranean tortoises include the Russian tortoise, Hermann’s tortoise, the marginate tortoise, and the Greek or spur-thighed tortoise. In the semi-arid grasslands where Mediterraneans typically live, they eat succulents, weeds, and shrubs. Then we have the tropical or jungle tortoises.
These include the red-footed tortoise, the elongated tortoise, the Burmese mountain tortoise, and the yellow-footed tortoise. These types consume fungi, flowers, grasses, and fruits. Sometimes tropical or jungle tortoises also eat invertebrates and amphibians, but this doesn’t happen very often. Finally, there are tropical or arid tortoises. This group includes the African spurred tortoise, the leopard tortoise, and the Indian star tortoise. The foods tropical or arid tortoises graze on are leaves, cacti, stems, weeds, flowers, and grasses.
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Feed a Pet Tortoise According to Its Species
Now that we have a better idea of what wild tortoises eat, we can move on to what pet tortoises eat. For one thing, feeding a pet tortoise the right foods is vital to helping him be as healthy and happy as he can be. This means feeding him foods that are particular to his species. No matter where they come from, tortoises usually eat similar foods. But keeping a pet on a diet that’s close to what he normally eats in the wild is what’s best for him. For most meals, tortoises will consume vegetables, grasses, leaves, and fungi. While some species are omnivores, others are primarily herbivores. So they do eat some animal matter too.
For instance, a pet Mediterranean tortoise can eat weeds such as dandelion, chicory, and sowthistle, vegetables like peppers and broccoli, and a very occasional treat of fruit such as strawberries, grapes, or melons. On the other hand, pet tropical or jungle tortoises can eat certain leafy green vegetables, some fruit, and some animal materials such as earthworms and canned fish about once per week. Despite the fact that this may seem like a lot of information to devour, pet parents can eventually get into a routine of feeding a pet the right types of foods. Don’t be afraid to ask a veterinarian about what to feed tortoise if necessary.
These Foods Can Be Toxic
While overeating can lead to health problems such as shell growth deformities, there are also many foods that are dangerous for our pets to eat. For example, a tortoise that consumes a diet that’s rich in an excessive amount of sugary fruits or vegetables can suffer from all sorts of ailments such as kidney problems or gout. Pet owners that feed a pet the wrong foods, should contact a veterinarian immediately. While vegetables should make up over 90% of a pet tortoise’s diet, completely avoid spinach, beetroot, and asparagus. But there are some vegetables to severely limit since they’re high in sugar and carbohydrates.
These are sweet potato, chili pepper, zucchini, bell pepper, rhubarb, and potato. Eating too many of these foods can lead to liver failure, obesity, and nutritional deficiency. Other foods to avoid that can be toxic are citrus fruits, daffodils, avocados, bean sprouts, foxgloves, buttercups, morning glories, and various others. Although this may sound a bit scary, being a responsible pet owner can make it easier to ensure our pets don’t have these problems.
Consider Growing Plants for Food
Growing a pet tortoise’s food at home can be safer and healthier. Indeed, this can help pet parents worry less about feeding pets harmful pesticides or chemicals. Another benefit is that fresher fruits and vegetables are more nutritious. In a time frame of 24 hours, vegetables and fruits start to lose their nutrients. Not only this, but those who grow produce locally often pick it when it’s at its peak ripeness. And this is when produce has the highest amount of nutrients. So it can make sense that if we do grow our own gardens and pick our own fruits and vegetables at peak ripeness at home, we’ll have the same results. Plus, try taking a pet tortoise outdoors to take in the sights and scents of a beautiful home garden. But some pet parents would rather not grow a home garden for one reason or another. And this can be okay too. If this happens, try buying organic as much as possible.
How Much To Feed a Tortoise
Depending on the tortoise, many are fed three times a week or every other day. Others need food once a day. It can also be a good idea to feed a pet a few nutritious meals each week and let him graze outside for the rest of the week. Letting a tortoise graze outside regularly means it won’t need set meals as often. And if a pet tortoise is outdoors in a lush yard most days, then it won’t need to be fed as many meals as a tortoise that spends more time indoors. Each time you give a pet tortoise food, be sure to do research to make sure how much to feed and how often.
Tortoises Need Vitamin D and Calcium
A pet tortoise that spends too much time indoors will need vitamin D. Consider giving a pet vitamin D powder in their food. Or place a UV lamp in its enclosure so it can bask and soak up the rays and some vitamin D from the lamp. Another option is to let a pet tortoise bask in the real sun by letting it spend extra time outdoors regularly. This will give a pet a nice way to get plenty of vitamin D so it can be healthier and happier. I think it’s tons of fun to watch my own pets spend time outdoors at least a few times each week.
This gives them a chance to appreciate the warmth and brightness of the sun and they can breathe in some fresh air. Seeing my pets be happier also puts me in a better mood every time I let them outside. And by letting them spend extra time outdoors, I can worry less about their health. I suggest everyone does the same thing for their pets. Additionally, tortoises need calcium to stay healthy and to keep their shells strong. Try including a supplement that contains calcium and vitamin D in a pet’s diet. Remember to avoid supplements that contain phosphorous because this prevents calcium absorption in the tortoise’s body. And no one wants this! While a premium calcium powder is best, “tortoise block” or cuttlebone is also an option.
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Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)
Should I give my tortoise water every day?
Yes! Although tortoises aren’t the most thirsty drinkers, dehydration can lead to various health problems. For this reason, it’s important to give a pet fresh water in a large, shallow bowl every single day.
What do baby tortoises eat?
In general, baby tortoises eat grasses, green vegetables, and fruits. Insects and meat can give them an upset stomach and they can’t digest these foods. To keep them growing in a healthy way, it’s important to include calcium and vitamin supplements in their diets.
What kinds of flowers can tortoises eat?
A few flowers tortoises can eat include dandelions, geraniums, tropical hibiscus, pansies, nasturtium, and more. Planting flowers for a pet tortoise to munch on and lounge under can give him a way to take pleasure in a more natural environment.
Can I feed my tortoise bread?
No, never feed a pet tortoise processed foods such as bread, biscuits, or cakes. Resist every temptation to give a pet tortoise food that seems like a treat but actually isn’t!
All things considered, knowing what to feed tortoise doesn’t have to be so complicated as long as we as pet owners do our homework. Being a responsible pet parent can even be kind of fun where our tortoise friends are concerned. Although these reptiles may be ancient, caring for them never gets old.