Feeding Your Mediterranean Tortoise

 What do tortoises eat?

Different species have different diets, but the Mediterranean tortoises, which are most commonly kept in Britain, have a diet which is almost exclusively green plant-based; including leaves, grasses, and flowers.

 How often should I feed my tortoise?

Most young tortoises eat daily; older tortoises can be fed daily or every other day, depending upon each pet’s individual appetite.

 What are some types of plant material I can feed my tortoise?

  • Most (80-90%) of the plant material should be flowers and vegetables, and only 10-20% should be fruits. The ideal diet is adequate in moisture, high-fibre, vitamin and mineral rich, low-fat and low-protein.
  • As a rule, anything green and leafy should make up a large part of the diet. Yellow and orange vegetables should be included, although care with root vegetables as they are high in readily digestible carbohydrates.
  • Avoid fibre-rich, vitamin-deficient vegetables including lettuce and celery; their composition is mainly fibre and water with little vitamins or minerals.
  • Acceptable vegetables include mixed greens, cucumber, parsley, spinach, green beans, peas, cabbage or broccoli
  • Vegetables can be offered cooked or raw (thoroughly wash raw vegetables). Flowers can be home-grown or purchased.
  • Fruit can include apples, pears, bananas (quite addictive and high in phosphorus), grapes, peaches, kiwis, and melons. Fruit that are particularly healthy include figs (which contain calcium), papaya, and raspberries and strawberries. Fruit should be given as a treat as the sweet, wet conditions created by these foods often cause certain gut flora bloom resulting in gut irritation signaled by rather wet droppings often containing undigested food.

 Tortoises fare best when left to graze. Resist the temptation to overfeed. Also if ever in doubt about a feedstuff, ask ‘Would the tortoise be likely to find this in the wild?’

PRINT-OUT SHEET: Safe Plants for tortoises

 Should I offer an animal-based protein food to my tortoise?

No, Mediterranean tortoises are exclusively herbivores – they would only consume meat in the wild on an opportunistic basis. When offered a tortoise will take animal-based protein although an incorrect diet of unnatural items can cause a soft shell, excessive growth and shell deformities (especially in young) and potentially fatal kidney and liver problems.

 Do I need to give my tortoise vitamins?

Many of the plants listed above are high in calcium. The diet should be supplemented with a daily dusting of calcium and a suitable vitamin and mineral supplement (twice weekly) such as Vionate, Nutrobal, or Repcal, plus cuttlefish bone (sharp edges removed) which they will bite at if they need it.

What about water?

Fresh water in a ceramic dish that wont easily tip over should be available at all times. Tortoises will not only drink from the water bowl but will often bathe in it as well (although it is perfectly acceptable to mist the animal with water a few times a week too). Make sure the water stays clean; many tortoises love to defecate in their water bowl as well as drink from it!

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to call the practice.

At Wendover Heights, we provide a wide range of services for tortoises and other reptiles, including consultations, worm egg counts and worming advice and pre-hibernation checks.