Food for thought: 5 questions on tortoise food answered

The wild has its tricks to survive the food chain. They feed themselves, look after themselves and their crowd, they fight for sustenance. Tortoises of the wild are slow creatures but have cracked the code to Darwin’s theory of survival. They have a hard shell that allows them to protect themselves and fend off predators and mainly reproduce through mating and laying eggs.

But what about the food?

Tortoise is generally herbivores that survive on plants, shrubs, algae, and fleshy succulents. There might be a slight change in the diet of the forest, desert, and grassland tortoises that requires one food group more than the other to lead a healthy life.

If you are thinking of petting a tortoise, this blog will answer all your food-related questions for the little buddy you want to bring into your home. It’s not a task that will require constant scrutiny.

What do tortoises eat?

The cute paws have their stomach evolved for digesting grasses and herbs, not the food that humans tend to eat at McDonald’s. You cannot share your food with your pet tortoise. The kind of food that the tortoise eats depends on the type of tortoise you have. You might want to remember the species of tortoise you bring home to know the exact food they want/needs.

Here’s a list of food that is safe and healthy for your companion, irrespective of the species.

A lot of Greens: kale, broccoli, Collard greens, Romaine lettuce, green plant leaves, mustard leaves, turnip leaves, cactus pads.

If your breed of tortoise is remarkably tolerant, you can give them a fruit every once in a while: strawberries, de-seeded melons, de-seeded apples.

Do not experiment with the fruits that you give your pet shelly.

What food affects their health?

  • The tortoiseshell is a major weighing factor that has to be strong and dense to accommodate the tortoise. A calcium deficit diet can significantly affect the shell and shape of the tortoise. Its growth pattern grows lumpy and flattened in the characterization of metabolic bone disease.
  • A protein-rich diet can motivate rapid growth and cause the tortoise to reach sexual maturity earlier and with more vigor. But it can also lead to shorter life expectancy due to rapid growth in disproportion to the weight that it can carry.
  • Increased fiber in a tortoise diet can lead to reduced digestibility, which can be good if it’s fed a high protein diet, which can prevent digesting all the protein compounds. But with a balanced diet, you want to encourage good fiber, nutrients like calcium and carbohydrates.

Head over to Greedy Tortoise for detailed analysis of tortoise ailments and its solutions.

How to take care of essential nutrition?

First and foremost, include a calcium-rich diet that promotes healthy skeleton growth and keeps their shell strong. Feeding your tortoise a lot of dark green leaves surely will help in an ample supply of calcium but they also need vitamin D3 for utilizing or accessing the calcium consumed. An excellent way to ensure the necessary supply of D3 is to allow the tortoise outdoors and absorb UV-B exposure under the sun.

  • Protein sources: Eggs (lightly cooked or boiled), Chicken or other poultry, Beef heart, other organ meats, tuna, mackerel, sardine, herring, anchovy (fresh/frozen/packed in water), Shrimp, shellfish, mock krab.
  • Fruits: Papaya, figs, mango, kiwifruit, pomegranate, ‘tropical’ fruits, Pineapple, Melon, all kinds, including horned melon, Strawberry, Cactus fruit, Cherries, Bell peppers, any color, Corn, especially on the cob, squash, pumpkin. Remember that fruits come with seeds that can choke the tortoises. Always de-seed the fruits that you want to feed your precious pet tortoise.

Which tortoise, what food?

  • Mediterranean tortoises: the tortoises are mainly herbivores and consume a lot of leaves, succulent vegetation. Although they might consume berries once in a while, they are not a necessity. Dandelions, plantains, chickweed, sow thistles, leafy greens are more desired.

The Mediterranean tortoises do not consume protein, plant or animal-based, or fruits.

  • Leopard tortoise: the dryland breed of leopard tortoise thrives on fresh and dried grasses, hays, and flowers similar to the ones found in arid areas. The best policy is to let the tortoise out to feed him on the grass hays like buffalo, couch, Dallas grass or meadow hay, orchard hay (avoid prickly, inedible grass). Flowers such as hibiscus, dandelion, petunia, viola are a great addition to their diet.
  • Indian star tortoise: they do not require any fruits in their diet to disturb their digestive tracts. The Indian star tortoise must have a food supply with high fiber leaves and vegetables low in sugars and high in carbohydrates. you can include Hibiscus leaves and flowers, mulberry leaves, lawn grasses and clover, dandelions, rye, collard, and turnip leaves, and protein in some quantity.

What not to give to your tortoise?

There is not a lot on this list that might be fatal to the lives of your shelly babies. But you might want to stay clear of these foods mentioned as they might cause an upset stomach and eating disorders.

  • Proteins: except for select species, protein is a no-no for tortoises of all breeds.
  • Citrus fruits: do not make this mistake. They cause digestive disorders.
  • Fruit seeds: the seeds of apples and cherries are known to be toxic. Always de-seed the fruit you are giving to your little companion.
  • Please refrain from giving your tortoise dairy products, hot peppers, tofu, soybean, fats, sugars, and salts.
  • Beware of toxic flowers like buttercups, daffodils. Also, grasses like juniper, avocado leaves and seeds, nightshade, and so
  • You might want to consult a vet doc for your tortoise. He/she would help you identify the breed if you didn’t know it already, map out optimum diet plan and feeding time, food restrictions, food necessities for you little tortoise. Make sure you visit the vet every month to help get the best health advice and care.


With a beginner’s guide to tortoise food and health, you will be able to look after the daily food requirements of your pet with care and love. Tortoises have a delicate digestive system and carefully balanced organ functioning. Make sure you do not overfeed or underfeed your loved ones: anything in the extreme is dangerous.