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Tortoise Diet


Fresh water must always be available for your tortoise. There are beliefs that tortoises receive their water content from their food, this is not so, they require a water dish to drink from when they feel the need. Another way to ensure your tortoise is properly hydrated is to give the tortoise a shallow bath with warm water. Tortoises absorb a small amount of water via their tail whilst in the bath, so bathe your tortoise daily, especially during the summer months.


A growing tortoise needs the correct amount of food, water, calcium, UVB, vitamins and minerals in order to produce healthy bones. Calcium is a key ingredient for bone formation. UVB allows the tortoise to manufacture Vitamin D3 naturally but in order for this to happen the tortoise needs calcium to complete the process. The best diet is a varied one, you should never offer the same type of food as the tortoise will be missing out on vital vitamins and minerals. The tortoise eats the same amount as the size of its body, and food should be offered 5 out of 7 days. Vitamin / calcium supplements such as Reptavite or Nutrobal can be sprinkled onto the tortoise’s food a few times a week. If the tortoise is being housed in an enclosure that has natural vegetation then additional feeding should be rarely offered, and when it is, it should only be to add supplements.Other sources of high calcium is cuttlefish bone.

The diet should be appropriate to the breed of the tortoise, as well as the size and the age. As a tortoise owner, you should aim for a slow growth.

For years, captive bred tortoises had always displayed thick, spongy bone formation or pyramid shaped scutes, thick dark keratin layers, spinal deformations and walking difficulties as a result of owners feeding up to two or three times the amount of food the tortoise actually required.

Tortoises are grazers; they thrive when they are allowed to feed naturally on wild growing weeds and flowers. They should be allowed controlled inactivity periods and discouraged from eating 365 days a year. Never offer food which contain high levels of protein (peas, beans, bananas) or have extremely negative calcium to phosphorous balance. Rarely (if ever) offer your tortoise any fruit as this can lead to flagellate proliferation and colic.

The following is a list of wild plants, cultivated plants and salad items which can be used to form the basis of a good natural and balanced diet. When picking these plants be sure to wash them under water as this helps to get rid of any pollution, and prevents the spreading of worms passed by bird droppings.

Basic Recommended Food Items

Dandelions, Trefoils, Honeysuckle, Cats Ears, Vetch, Sow Thistle, Hawk Bits, Hawkweeds, Plantain, Clover, Pansies, Rose Leaves/Petals, Hibiscus, Mallows, Grape Vine Leaves, Agave Plant, Mulberry Leaves, Bindweeds, Opuntia Cacti Pads (Prickly Pear), Romaine Lettuce, Red Leaf Lettuce, Watercress, Escarole, Chicory, Rocket.

The following food should only be given occasionally and NOT as a main part of the diet:

Cabbage, Beet Greens, Kale, Alfalfa Hays, Finely Chopped Carrot.

Poisonous Plant List

Any Ornamental Bulbs, Acokanthera, Aconite (Monks Hood), Amaryllis, Amsinckia, Anemone, Avocado (Leaves), Azalea, Baneberry, Beach Pea, Betal Nut Palm, Bellaonna, Bittersweet, Bird of Paradise, Black Locust, Bleeding Heat, Bloodroot, Bluebonnet, Bottlebrush, Boxwood, Buckeye Horse Chestnut, Buttercup, Caladium, Call Lily, Cardinal Flower, Carolina Jessamine, Casava, Castor Bean, Chalice or Trumpet Vine, Cherry, Cherry Laurel, China Berry Tree, Christmas Berry, Columbine, Christmas Cactus (Euphorbia), Christmas Rose, Common Privet, Crocus, Coral Plant, Croton, Cyclamen, Daffodil, Daphne, Death Camus, Deadly Nightshade, Delphinium, Destroying Angel (Death Cap), Dogwood, Elderberry, Elephant Ear (taro), English Ivy, False Hellebore, Fiddle Neck, Fly Agaric (Amanita Death Cap), Four o’Clock, Foxglove, Gelsemium, Golden Chain, Hemlock, Henbane, Holly, Horse Chestnut, Horsetail Reed, Hyacinth, Hydrangea, Impatiens, Iris, Ivy, Jack-in-the-Puplit, Jasmine, Jatropha, Jerusalemcherry, Jessamine, Jimson Weed (Thorn Apple), Johnson-Grass, Wilted, Lambkill (Sheep Laurel), Lantana Camara, Larkspur, Laurel, Lily of the Valley, Lobelia, Locoweed, Locust, Lupin, Machineel, May Apple, Mescal, Milk Weed, Mistletoe, Moccasin Flower, Monkshood, Moonseed, Morning Glory, Mountain Laurel, Narcissus, Natal Cherry, Nectarine, Nicotine Tree/Bush, Nightshades, Oak, Oleander, Pear Seeds, Plum Seeds, Poinsettia, Poison Hemlock, Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac, Pokewood or Pokeberry, Poppy, Potato (leaves), Privet, Redwood, Rhubarb (leaves), Rhododendron, Rosemary, Russian Thistle, Sage, Salmonberry, Scarlet Pimpernel, Scotch Broom, Senecio, Skunk Cabbage, Snapdragon, Spanish Bayonet, Squirrel Corn, Sudan Grass, Star of Bethlehem, Sundew, Sweetpea, Tansy, Tarweed, Tiger Lily, Toad Flax, Tomato (leaves and plant), Tayon Berry, Tree of Heaven, Trillium, Trumpet Vine, Venus Flytrap, Verbena, Virginia Creeper, Water Hemlock, Wild Parsnip, Wisteria, Yellow Star Thistle, Yew.