Tortoises require a balanced diet of plants, fruits and vegetables in order to remain healthy. There are high-quality commercial turtle foods on the market which offer essential vitamins and minerals in pellet form.
Sulcatas and Hermann’s tortoises, two popular species of grazer tortoises, should be offered plenty of dark leafy greens, alfalfa and grasses for optimal fiber intake and nutrition. Other vegetables like kale, romaine lettuce and non-citrus fruits may also be appropriate sources of sustenance.
Tortoises derive their energy primarily from carbohydrates and proteins; although fats provide some sustenance as well.
Tortoises should consume 95% vegetables in their diet. A good starting point would be dark leafy greens like kale, collards, mustard or turnip greens, bok choy, chard, spinach beet leaves and romaine lettuce as an initial intake. Carrots squash zucchini as well as dandelion leaves hibiscus flowers and clover flowers are other excellent additions.
Fresh fruits should be limited as tortoises do not have the digestive capabilities necessary to digest them effectively, although occasional treats such as berries may be given. Desert tortoises (Hermanns, Graeca, Angulate or Marginated) could benefit from high fiber fruits for added fiber and vitamin C content.
Fruits can provide valuable vitamins to tortoises, but they should only make up 5% of their diet. Apple seeds can be toxic while others’ skins could cause constipation issues.
Vitamin D can be found in dark leafy vegetables and various weeds such as broadleaf plantain, sowthistles and clover. As it’s fat soluble vitamin essential for calcium and phosphorus absorption by bones.
Fresh kale, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, parsley and alfalfa hay should comprise at least 50% of a tortoise’s diet. Other foods to include are romaine lettuce, carrots, squash and tomatoes as well as fresh fruit such as kiwis mangoes and bananas.
Tortoises consume many types of herbs in their natural environments, including fennel, thyme and dill. Herbs provide essential nutritional benefits to tortoises.
Herbs that contain calcium can also be helpful; one such herb, Safflower (Anthemis nobilis), has been shown to effectively prevent Chondrodystrophy – a common bone condition among tortoises.
Tortoises require their diet to be free from pesticides, fungicides and herbicides as these chemicals may have adverse effects on chelonians. Furthermore, regular cleaning of their tank to eliminate unwanted bacteria and algae growth should help ensure proper hydration; carrots, squash and bell peppers provide plenty of Vitamin A which is best fed through diet.
Hay is readily available and relatively inexpensive, providing many advantages for tortoises. As a natural bedding material, hay helps absorb urine and feces to maintain cleanliness within an enclosure and decrease odor while providing your tortoise with a comfortable surface for exercise and walking.
Alfalfa grass hay provides fiber to promote tortoise health while mimicking their wild foraging behavior and supporting normal digestion and intestinal health with firm, solid stool indicative of good health.
Grassland tortoises should be brought outdoors during sunny warm days (65 to 70 degrees) for an hour or two each day for at least an hour, to soak in shallow water and receive UVB rays – this stimulates foraging which contributes to their mental and physical well-being.
Cactus pads and fruit are an integral component of tortoise nutrition. Packed full of calcium to keep its shell strong and healthy, as well as energy-packed carbohydrates which give energy for energy supply, they offer plenty of health benefits for this aquatic animal.
Cactus plants also help desert tortoises access water in their native environments, and can act as a water reservoir, which is especially helpful if they have difficulty drinking enough of it themselves.
Before giving a tortoise any cacti, its spines must be removed as these could prick and injure its mouth causing pain when eating cacti; to ensure an enjoyable eating experience with minimal risk for injury it would be wiser to give them spineless varieties such as Opuntia ficus-indica as they won’t need to worry about injuring themselves while munching down.