Tortoise Diet

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Tortoise Diet

In the wild, these herbivores species primarily on grasses, shrubs and succulent plants. surprisingly, Leopard tortoises in their natural range prefer Portulacaceae spp. In captivity the ideal situation for these animals to sustain themselves, is to just allow them to graze in a well planted chemically untreated area of your yard. Mine spend most of the year outside in a large pen heavily planted with the Grazing Tortoise Seed Mix For the few months that they are kept indoors, I grow the mix in cat litter boxes.

Opuntia berries

The diet should be at least 70% grasses and hay. Not surprisingly, given its preference for grassland habitats the Sulcata grazes, extensively upon mixed grasses weeds, and flowers. It also favors the fruit and pads of the prickly pear (Opuntia sp.), succulents and thistles. “Meat” foods should never be given to because it can lead to excessive growth, high blood-urea levels, kidney/liver problems, and bladder stones.

In captivity it is a common error to feed too much wet food such as lettuce, tomatoes and fruit when in reality this tortoise requires a coarse, high fiber diet. The sugar content of fruit will also alter the pH of the gut which results in a die off of the normal gut flora. Feeding excessive fruit or soft foods frequently leads to repeated flagellate (a type of parasite) and other gut problems such as colic, most probably as a result of increased gut motility.

Long term ingestion of the chemicals commonly sprayed on produce is a health concern. Choose organic greens when possible or be sure to wash in mild soapy water and rinse well. Remove plastic and metal wrappers so your torts don’t accidentally ingest these.

  • Nutritious chemical free healthy foods are often freely available in your yard or vacant lots.
    Grasses, Clovers, Grape, Mulberry & Fig leaves, Dandelion, Plantain (the weed) , Hibiscus (leaves and flowers), Opuntia, Thistles, Chickweed .This link will help you to be able to identify edible plants:
  • Better of the easily obtainable grocery greens:
    Aim for a high Calcium to Phosphorus ratio and low protein diet. When fed in excess, foods high in Oxalates have been implicated in binding minerals including calcium.
    Moderation and variety is the key.
    Dark Leafy Greens such as: Endive, Watercress,Collard Greens, Kale, Dandelion, Chicory, Escarole, Radicchio, Turnip Greens, Opuntia (smooth or despined)
    Cabbage, Carrots, Carrot Tops, Red Leaf Lettuce, Romaine, Mustard Greens, Alfalfa Hay, Parsley
    ****Rarely**** :
    Swiss Chard, Spinach, Broccoli, Bok choy, Iceberg lettuce, Sweet Potatoes, Sprouts of any kind, Corn, Cucumbers, Beet Greens, Fruit in general.
    Never: Rhubarb, Beans of any kind, dog food, pasta
  • For more information on why foods above are listed as they are, please visit the links below:
    Tortoise Diet
    Nutrient Analyses of Replacment Tortoise Foods
    CTTC – Tortoise Diet Information
  • Pyramiding and Shell problems

Mixing larger portions of things your tort likes in chopped “salads” and slowly cut back on “treat” foods in this mix, is one way to get them adjusted to a better diet. If you tort is healthy and has water available at all times, it wont hurt them to go a couple days w/o food, esp. if it helps them to be hungry enough to appreciate a healthier diet. You might also try putting a bit of squash (or some other foods that they especially like) in the blender and pouring this over the new foods that you’re introducing. This is a good chance to sneak extra Calcium in if needed.

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