Most people recognize that tortoises are mostly herbivores and mainly need high fiber, low protein, and low fat. However, apart from recognizing that pet tortoises need to feed on plants, mostly, you need to know what foods your unique pets should not eat. Some people admit to feeding their pet tortoises some unconventional foods like bread, but what exactly happens when you do this?
Since your pet tortoise is domesticated, it will most likely eat anything you feed it, including bread. However, it is not advisable to feed bread to a tortoise. Bread, just like most human-consumed food, has added preservatives that can harm tortoises. Bread is also said to make tortoises grow far too rapidly for their shell. Such a growth rate can be fatal. Tortoises benefit the most from slow healthy growth.
Since a tortoise will generally eat whatever you feed it, it is your responsibility as its owner to ensure it eats healthy foods only. Different tortoise species may have different dietary needs; therefore, you must understand what your species of tortoise needs. Keep reading if you want to learn about what else you should avoid feeding your tortoise and what you should feed your special unique pet.
What Foods Are Unsafe for Tortoises?
Tortoises are sensitive animals on the inside even though they have a tough exterior. Because your tortoise is sensitive, several food items can negatively affect them. It would be best if you remained keen on what you feed your pet tortoise to avoid harming them. Bread is one of the unsafe food items you should avoid offering your pet tortoise.
Bread can affect your pet in several ways. Firstly, processed food such as bread can increase your tortoise’s growth rate to an unsafe rate, making it grow too fast for its shell. Secondly, your tortoise might also suffer from pyramiding if it feeds on too much bread. Also, bread can cause kidney damage to your tortoise.
Other foods you should avoiding feeding your tortoise as they can make it grow too rapidly include;
- Cat or dog food
- Other types of animal protein
Apart from avoiding the above food items, please do not feed your tortoise the following food items as they are poisonous.
The list of foods you should avoid feeding your tortoise for various reasons is endless. It would be best for you to consult an expert if you need a comprehensive list. Now that you know some of the foods you should avoid feeding your tortoise, below is a look at what you can feed them.
Tortoises’ Diet in the Wild
In the wild, tortoises eat a wide variety of food because they live in numerous environments. Each environment has a different source of food. The type of food a tortoise eats is highly dependent on the type of tortoise.
Tortoises that mainly feed on stems and leaves include;
- African sulcata tortoises
- Indian star tortoises
- Hermann’s tortoises
- Horsfield’s tortoises
- Tortoises that eat a higher percentage of fruit include;
- Yellow-footed tortoises and
- Red-footed tortoises
Some tortoises even eat insects, which might be a shocking fact, knowing that tortoises are mostly considered herbivores creatures. However, before feeding your pet tortoise insects, you must understand its species and needs. It is advisable to regularly use a tortoise wormer if your pet tortoise spends time exploring the outside since they may occasionally feed on insects.
When it comes to fruits, it is crucial to note that they are like junk food to tortoises. If your pet tortoise can eat fruits, it would be best if you offered them the fruits infrequently and in small amounts.
What Should Pet Tortoises Eat?
One general rule for feeding pet tortoises is that all tortoises require a variety of plants. However, every species has unique plant needs that enable them to live healthy pet lives. Below is a look at what three common tortoise species should eat.
A Sulcata tortoise is one of the famous species of tortoises among pet owners. Sulcata tortoises are used to semi-arid types of environments. Such environments mostly offer grass and weeds. Because of their adaptation, these tortoises should feed on weeds and grass.
Sulcata tortoises need access to enough grazing grass and hay since they are grazers. Grazing grass and hay are actually what your tortoise should eat most of the time since it needs enough fiber. Mostly feed your sulcata tortoise with grass and grass cuttings containing no herbicides or pesticides.
During the summer months, you can get grass and grass cuttings in your yard. As long as the type of grass in your yard is safe, you can feed it to your sulcata tortoise. Hay will come in handy during the winter months. Orchard and Timothy hay are suitable for your tortoise. Do not feed your sulcata predominantly alfalfa hay. Such hay is rich in oxalates and can cause kidney failure or formation within the bladder. Also, avoid giving your tortoise hay that has mold.
Your sulcata will also benefit a lot from eating greens and vegetables 60% of the time. Some of the vegetables you can give your sulcata tortoise include;
- Dandelion greens
Avoid feeding your tortoise a lot of spinach, collard greens, and any other greens that might contain tremendous amounts of oxalates.
You can feed your tortoise fruits 20% of the time. In the wild, sulcata tortoises are not used to feeding on sugary and watery food items such as fruits. Therefore, when feeding fruits to your sulcata tortoise, ensure you do so sparingly. You can offer your tortoise fruits such as strawberries, apples, and pears.
Be careful not to feed your sulcata the wrong food items. Feeding a sulcata the wrong foods can make them grow too rapidly. Such growth can lead to the development of a bumpy and pyramided shell. If you feed your tortoise the wrong food items, it could also develop health problems that could prevent them from living a long healthy life.
Lastly, since sulcata tortoises need a lot of calcium for healthy growth, it would be a good idea to dust your pet’s meals with calcium powder to help them get the calcium they need.
Russian tortoises should eat dark and leafy greens rich in calcium and vitamins most of the time. You can feed your tortoise carrot tops, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, and other recommended options. On top of feeding your tortoise dark, leafy greens, you can feed him or her vegetables. Squash, carrots, and bell peppers are examples of vegetables you can feed your Russian tortoise.
You can feed your Russian tortoise fruits, but only as treats. Fruits should never make up more than 10% of your tortoise’s diet. A Russian tortoise can eat fruits such as apples, bananas, figs, and strawberries. Russian tortoises also need fiber. Therefore, your tortoise will benefit from eating grass and hay. Nonetheless, your tortoise’s readiness to eat such food depends entirely on it.
Russian tortoises also need a lot of calcium. You will help your tortoise a lot if you dust their food with quality calcium supplements. The amount of calcium you give your Russian tortoise will depend on various factors. For instance, young animals require more calcium than already-grown animals. Also, egg-laying females need more calcium.
Since Leopard tortoises have adapted to eating grass and weeds like the sulcata tortoises, feed them with enough grass or hay to provide them with the fiber they need. Timothy hay and orchard hay are suitable for your leopard tortoise.
Supplementing the grass and weeds is necessary. It would help if you feed your leopard tortoise dark, leafy greens rich in vitamins and calcium as supplements. Mustard greens, collard greens, and dandelion greens are examples of dark, leafy greens you can feed your tortoise.
Leopard tortoises can eat flowers such as the dandelion as long as they are herbicide and pesticide-free. Your leopard tortoise can also eat treats such as cilantro, dill, and mint. Remember to dust your tortoise’s food with an appropriate calcium powder to provide them with the much-needed calcium.
Additional Tortoise Food Ideas
Your tortoise, depending on the species, might also enjoy other food items such as;
- Mulberry leaves
- Strawberry leaves
- Blackberry leaves
As much as your tortoise can eat berries, emphasis on leaves is vital because your tortoise should eat greens more than they eat fruits.
Don’t Feed Bread To Your Tortoise
Bread is not a healthy food option for your tortoise. Strive to feed your pet tortoise only healthy food. When choosing the proper diet for your tortoise, you need to consider several things. It would be best if you considered the species of your tortoise. The age of the tortoise also matters. Different species have different dietary needs, and younger tortoises need more calcium as compared to already-grown tortoises.
Even so, the most crucial factor to consider in a pet tortoise’s diet is variety. In the wild, tortoises eat various foods, which makes them happy and grow healthy. When you feed your pet tortoise different healthy food items, you ensure it stays happy and receives all the minerals, nutrients, or vitamins it needs for healthy growth.