Tortoises need a meal plan focused on key nutrients, supplemented here and there with some treats. A diet too heavy in treats such as berries and fruit can cause health complications including diarrhea, kidney problems and malnutrition. In moderation, however, berries and fruits are suitable snacks for a hungry tortoise.
General Diet Guidelines
Not all tortoises are created equal: Some are herbivores; others are omnivores. While the herbivore diet is pretty cut and dry -- plants, plants, plants -- omnivorous tortoises will also eat insects, slugs and snails. Tortoises require a diet that is mostly leaves, shoots and grasses, supplemented with calcium. Know your turtle species' dietary preferences -- different tortoises have slightly different dietary needs, depending upon their natural environment. The Sulcata and leopard tortoise diets, for example, should be about 30 percent vegetation such as lettuces and vegetables, and 70 percent dry grasses and hay, to provide appropriate fiber content and avoid gut problems. Russian tortoises, on the other hand, subsist more on weeds, greens and flowers. Before starting your tortoise on any diet, speak to a qualified vet.
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An average tortoise's diet needs to be high in fiber, calcium and minerals, and low in phosphorous, fat and protein. Leafy green plants such as spinach, collard greens and beet greens have all of those qualifications. Other suitable options include nettles, dandelion greens and weeds -- it's not uncommon for some tortoise owners to let their tort freely graze in a garden. If you opt to do this, make sure the garden is free of pesticides and herbicides. In addition to feeding mostly leafy greens and hay, supplement your tort's diet now and again with sweet treats that he'll love.
Make sure that you feed berries that you recognize -- wild berries are too risky -- and that you have cleaned them thoroughly. A good time to feed berries to a tortoise is during a long road trip or on an especially hot day. The moisture in the fruit will help hydrate your tortoise when water is not immediately accessible. Try these:
In addition to berries, other fruits are perfectly fine in small doses. With both berries and other fruits, make sure that you are feeding these in moderation. Avoid citrus fruits, but the meat of these is fine:
In the wild, tortoises are grazers. A good rule of thumb for feeding fruit is to offer it only once or twice a week, and to combine a very small amount of it with whatever you are feeding your tortoise that day. Remove all uneaten food after 20 to 30 minutes; this prevents overeating of fruits and berries, and also eliminates issues of spoilage.
Do Not Feed!
These <ahref="http: www.tortoise.org="" general="" poisonp.html"="" target="_blank"> </ahref="http:>fruits and vegetables have low toxicity levels that are nonetheless high enough to warrant putting them on a do-not-feed list. If you suspect your tortoise has accidentally eaten any of these, call your local veterinarian:
- Castor beans
- Juniper berries
- Sweet peas
- Citrus fruits
Every individual tortoise has unique needs, preferences and digestive ability. Before feeding your pet tortoise anything, make sure you have read up on the particular species you're keeping.