The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Tortoises make great pets that, if cared for properly, can live for a very long time. Before adopting a tortoise, it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into. Everything from where it lives to what it can eat is something worth noting.
Although it might seem like tortoises can eat just about anything due to the fact that they’re omnivores, the truth is there are some things that shouldn’t be included in their diet.
What Fruits Can They Eat?
Tortoises are quite fond of fruits. In fact, it’s some of their favorite treats. However, not all fruits are safe for tortoises to eat. Citrus fruits, for example, are not good for tortoises. Tortoises can eat fruits such as strawberries (which are a favorite), melons, mangos, grapes, pears, and peaches.
When feeding your tortoise cherries or any other type of fruit that has a pit in it, be sure to take the pit out first. Although fruit is a favorite treat among tortoises, you should only feed them fruit in moderation.
This is because fruit naturally contains a lot of sugar in it, which in turn can upset a tortoise’s intestinal flora.
A tortoise should also never be fed avocados or bean sprouts as these are toxic for it.
What Vegetables Can They Eat?
Most of your tortoise’s diet should consist of fresh vegetables. Dark, leafy greens are the best option for tortoises as this is where they get most of their nutrients from. Vegetables such as kale, collard greens, and mustard greens are all ideal foods for a tortoise.
If you want to switch things up a bit for your tortoise, feed it bell peppers, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, and even squash. Tortoises enjoy lettuce, but try and stay away from feeding them iceberg lettuce as this type of lettuce offers little to no nutritional value for a tortoise.
Be sure to remove any produce that your tortoise hasn’t eaten after about four hours as it can begin to attract insects that can be harmful to your tortoise.
What Else Can Tortoises Eat?
Aside from fruits and vegetables, there’s a variety of other things that a tortoise can eat. Wild plants and flowers for example, should also be on the menu for a tortoise.
Dandelion flowers and leaves, clover, sow thistle as well as bramble leaves are all things that a tortoise can eat. If you have these in your garden, be sure to toss them in with the rest of your tortoise’s food.
Tortoises are also quite fond of succulents and prickly pear cacti and they are especially good for them because they are packed with nutrition and hydration.
If you are keeping your tortoise in your garden, be sure that it doesn’t contain flowers or plants that could be harmful for your tortoise. This can include things such as daffodil, morning glory, iris, foxglove, and more.
Tortoises are omnivores, so they can also eat certain kinds of meat on top of fruits and vegetables. You can feed your tortoise small pieces of fish, chicken, earthworms, and other types of protein.
To make sure that your tortoise is getting all the vitamins and minerals that it needs, consider getting a tortoise protein powder that can be added into its diet. Calcium in particular is vital to the diet of a tortoise as this is what helps keep its shell strong.
You can also choose to grow your own tortoise food, which may end up being more cost-effective for you in the long run. When growing your own food, you can also rest assured that none of the food you’re feeding your tortoises contain harmful chemicals or pesticides that could be commonly found in fruits and vegetables purchased at a grocery store.
Most pet stores also sell dried tortoise food that you can buy to mix in with the rest of their regular fruits and vegetables.
You will also want to make sure that you are providing your tortoise with clean water on a regular basis as hydration is vital for keeping your tortoise happy and healthy.
Different Types of Tortoises and Their Diets
There are many different breeds of tortoises, and the diets they follow all vary depending on the breed and where they live. Subtropical and Mediterranean tortoises for example, would typically eat weeds, shrubs, and succulents when in the wild.
These types of turtles are strictly vegetarian and don’t need as much protein in their diet as other types.
Tropical tortoises, on the other hand, are omnivores and are known to eat the occasional rodent every once in a while. This is because in the tropics, there is a wider food source available and therefore turtles have evolved to eat whatever they can find.
Turtles that are from Tropical Arid Grasslands and Dry Forests are almost always herbivores. In fact, some of their favorite food is grass, and they are known for being grazers.
How Often Should You Feed Your Tortoise?
If you’re new to the world of tortoises, you may be unsure of how often you should be feeding your tortoise. For the most part, once or twice a day seems to be the general consensus. However, the amount you feed it depends on a few things.
If your tortoise lives outdoors, it likely feeds on plants nearby, and therefore you don’t need to feed it as often. Indoor tortoises, however, will depend on you solely for their food.
Should My Tortoise Live Indoors or Outdoors?
Unlike turtles, tortoises don’t need to be submerged in water. Because of this, they don’t need to live in a tank and can live outdoors. Whether or not you want them to live outside is up to you.
There are many benefits to having your tortoise live outside. For one, it has a lot more room to roam around. Not only that, but it gets to breathe in fresh air and soak up some much needed UV rays from the sun.
As mentioned earlier, tortoises can also live off of local plants that can be found in your backyard or garden. This is beneficial because your tortoises can become self-sufficient and will eat whenever they are hungry as their food is available to them at all hours of the day.
Many people enjoy keeping tortoises as pets because of their charming demeanor. Tortoises are incredibly docile and aren’t typically aggressive unless you place two males together within close proximity.
Although you can handle them as babies, the bigger the tortoise grows, the less you’ll want to try to handle them. Not only will they be too heavy, but they may snap back and possibly hurt you in the process.
The type of tortoise that you get also depends on the kind of personality that they’ll have. Marginated tortoises are incredibly friendly and love spending time outdoors. They also love to dig, so be sure not to keep them in an area where you don’t want them digging up your yard.
Pancake tortoises are more lively than other types because of how much faster they are. They are on the smaller side, so you may want to keep them indoors to protect them from potential predators.
When putting Pancake tortoises in a tank, be sure that the walls are high enough as this breed of tortoise likes to climb and can potentially escape.
A Leopard tortoise is known as a gentle giant because of how slow but large it is. These types of tortoises can grow to weigh up to 40 lbs and 17 inches long. Because of their size, it’s in their best interest to be kept outside where they will have space to roam freely and comfortably.
A Red-Footed tortoise on the other hand, is incredibly curious and is one of the few breeds of turtles that will eat insects and small mice. They are easy to take care of, which is the reason why a lot of people tend to get these as pets.
Red-Footed tortoises are relatively inexpensive compared to other breeds, going for anywhere between $150 to $400. Because of their flexible diet, feeding them is also much more cost-effective since you can give them just about anything.
The Hermann tortoise is another common breed of tortoise that makes a great pet. They also love the outdoors and love to climb. This is another turtle that should be kept in an enclosure with high walls as they can easily escape.
Hermann tortoises are very gentle and have a great temperament, which makes them great pets, particularly for a household with kids or someone who is a first-time pet owner. These turtles have a long life span, living for up to 75 years.
Greek tortoises are very small and only grow to about 10 inches. They love the sun and should be allowed to spend a decent amount of time outside. Because of how small they are, however, they should be kept in a tank. They are incredibly friendly and docile.