The tortoise is not a domestic animal, but is considered as a wild animal which can be held in captivity if one obtains a CITES permit. As such, the land tortoise requires special attention, whether in its habitat or in its diet. It is a fragile species of reptile and very sensitive to diseases, it is thus necessary to make them follow a strict diet to avoid any complication. Here are some basic principles and examples of what you can, or should not, feed a land tortoise if you want it to stay healthy.
What does a land tortoise eat?
Turtles eat plants, grass and fruit. Its food must be rich in fiber and minerals, mainly calcium, and it is essential to provide it with vitamin A and D, but the quantity must be limited to avoid an overdose.
Because of its metabolism, the tortoise does not necessarily have to be fed every day and can be deprived one day a week, if its diet is balanced and well dosed. This reptile eats little, it consumes only 10% of its weight at each meal for a young turtle, and approximately 5% for an adult specimen.
It is important to provide him a food composed of 90% of fresh vegetables and 10% of fresh fruits. It is also necessary a calcium contribution approximately 3 to 4 times higher than the phosphorus contribution. Although fresh food is recommended, there is no harm in giving your turtle dried food. It is always necessary to privilege seasonal elements and why not enrich the water or the food of your small companion with calcium carbonate powder.
Essential elements in its diet
Here are some plants that you should provide your turtle with: dandelions, clover, alfalfa, lamb’s lettuce, bindweed, beet, wild chicory, radish leaves, beet leaves, turnip leaves, violets, daisies, broccoli, nettle leaves or plantain.
From time to time, you can add endive leaves, watercress, curly lettuce, celery, escarole or parsley to nibble on.
Among the fruits and berries, here are those that are appreciated by turtles: kiwi, mango, papaya, strawberries and wild strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, currants, blueberries and pineapples in very small quantities.
The following items should be given occasionally, in small quantities and without the skin to avoid traces of pesticides as much as possible: cucumbers, tomatoes, grated carrots, apples, pears, tomatoes, peaches, zucchini, leeks (white part), melons and bananas.
Foods to avoid
It is absolutely necessary to avoid to your tortoise a too important contribution of phosphorus or certain vitamins. Some foods are also dangerous for your reptile. We find in these foods to be proscribed:
rice, pasta, bread, dairy products, chocolate, cakes and other sweets, meat, fish, shellfish and seafood, peelings, spinach, rape, mushrooms, cauliflower, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, corn, lettuce, peas, lentils, garlic, onions and potatoes.
Some leaves such as oak or hemp are strictly forbidden, so it is advisable to check on a case by case basis before giving a leaf to your tortoise to eat. The same goes for flowers.
It is also necessary to completely proscribe any transformed food conceived for another animal. The food of the ground tortoises differs completely from that of the water tortoises, it is thus necessary not to provide them the same food, that could have serious consequences on your small tortoise.