Food For Tortoise


This blog introduces different food for tortoise. Tortoises eat leaves, grasses, fungi, and vegetables for most of their meals. Many species of tortoise are primarily herbivorous, but others are omnivorous.

Food For Tortoise

Turtles are generally omnivores, eating a mixed diet that includes:

  • Commercial turtle food: Turtles like turtle pellets and frozen or freeze-dried fish food. Offer a small amount of food at a time to avoid overfeeding or dirtying the water too much and stop when your turtle stops showing interest in your offerings.
  • Protein: Feed turtles crickets or mealworms or feeder fish on occasion for variety. Turtles love the excitement from a good hunt.
  • Vegetables: Three or four times a week, serve 1 to 2 teaspoons of dark, leafy greens such as kale, collards or mustard greens. Remove any greens they don’t eat within four hours.

Start turtles on about a quarter-cup of fresh food daily and adjust the portion according to how quickly (relatively speaking for a turtle) they eat it.

Shop aquatic turtle food

Feeding your tortoise

Tortoises like a variety of plant-based foods.

Produce: Depending on the species of your tortoise, about 80% of your pet tortoise’s daily diet should be fresh vegetables like kale, dandelions, mustard and collard greens. For fun, toss in a little green or yellow bell pepper, sweet potato, squash or cauliflower. These should all be offered fresh daily.

Fruit: Berries, melon, kiwi, oranges and other fruits should make up 5-10% of a tortoise’s diet. Offer your tortoise fruit every third or fourth feeding.

Other: Tortoises also like Timothy and alfalfa hay and commercial tortoise food, which can be offered at all times.

Vitamins & supplements

Calcium and vitamin A are important for both turtles and tortoises. Dust with a calcium powder 2-3x a week and dust with a reptile multivitamin 2x a month, or as instructed by your pet’s veterinarian.

Turtles may not be as cuddly as cats and dogs, but they make fantastic pets for other reasons: They’re fun to care for, mesmerizing to observe, and they’ve been around since prehistoric times! Best of all, they’re relatively low-maintenance—just as long as you make sure to give them the right foods and environmental conditions and keep their habitats clean.

What a turtle can eat depends on its species, and knowing what to feed your turtle to give it a proper nutritional diet is important. Here is your comprehensive guide to feeding your pet turtle so that it stays healthy, happy, and strong for many years to come.

What Do Pet Turtles Eat?

What you feed your pet turtle will largely depend on what kind of turtle you have. If it’s omnivorous, your pet turtle will eat commercial turtle food pellets, feeder fish, insects, and fruits and vegetables. If it’s herbivorous, your pet turtle can eat only fruits and vegetables.

You likely have a red-eared slider, which is the most common pet turtle in the U.S. “These animals are omnivorous, meaning they eat both animals and plants,” says Simon Starkey, BVSc, PhD, D.ABVP(Avian), Education Veterinarian and Technical Services Manager for PetSmart. Like red-eared sliders, most water or aquatic turtles eat an omnivorous diet. Follow the guidelines below and your turtle will be in great shape.

  • Commercial pelleted food: It’s best to buy food made just for turtles, as this food will float and typically not fall apart as easily as pelleted food designed for other reptiles, Dr. Starkey says. Pellets should make up 25 percent of your turtle’s diet.
  • Feeder fish and/or insects: Feeders like comet goldfish provide a great source of protein, as well as minerals like calcium and phosphorous and certain vitamins, like vitamin A. “As with pellets, these should make up 25 percent of a turtle’s diet,” says Dr. Starkey. Chasing live fish and insects can also provide much-needed exercise and mental stimulation.
  • Fruits and vegetables: Fill up the remainder of your turtle’s daily diet with fresh produce. The best veggies are chopped dark leafy greens such as kale, collard, and mustard greens, Dr. Starkey says. Shredded carrots, squash, and zucchini are great foods that turtles can eat, too. You can also go with edible aquatic vegetation such as water lettuce, water hyacinth, and duckweed. “For fruits, consider shredded apples and melons, as well as chopped berries,” recommends Dr. Starkey. “Supplement fruits and vegetables with reptile calcium and vitamin powders.”

If you have a land turtle, or tortoise, for a pet, they eat a strict herbivore diet. This means that their food should consist of only fruits and vegetables, usually a dietary mix of 20% and 80% respectively.

What Do Baby Turtles Eat?

What turtles can eat largely depends on their age and nutritional requirements. Keep in mind that younger sliders will eat relatively more protein than older animals, says Dr. Starkey. Baby turtles need to eat higher amounts of pellets and/or feeder fish relative to fruits and veggies. 

Where Can I Buy These Foods?

Turtle pellets can be purchased at most large pet stores as well as many online stores, says Dr. Starkey. Feeder fish and crickets should be available for purchase at pet stores too, while fruits and vegetables can be bought at your local grocery store.

Are There Any Specific Brands I Should Buy?

Any brand that is carried by a reputable specialty pet store—and is designed for turtles—will provide the right nutrients, Dr. Starkey says. “Brand is a little less important, because no single food should be the staple diet for aquatic turtles.” They’ll be getting some nutrition from their pellets, but also a lot from feeder fish, insects, vegetables, and fruits.

What nutrients are really essential to my turtle’s health?

An animal’s nutritional needs can be broken down into protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Calcium is an especially crucial part of your turtle’s diet due to the extra needs in its shell, which is mostly bone. “That’s why it’s important to supplement with calcium and mineral powders,” says Dr. Starkey. 

Do turtles eat fish?

In the wild, turtles eat a variety of things including worms, small insects, snails, and fish. Wild turtles are mainly carnivorous when they are young because their bodies require a lot of protein to grow. Plus, growing turtles need the vitamins and nutrients that can be found in feeder fish. As turtles age, their diets change and they begin to eat more plants and other vegetation. Most pet turtles are omnivorous, meaning they enjoy eating both plants and animals, so treating your pet turtle to a small fish snack every now and then is a good idea. Pet turtles, depending on their size and age, enjoy small fish like minnows and comet goldfish. Knowing the age of your pet turtle will help you decide whether or not to feed it fish, as well as how often.

What should I look for on the nutrition labels of pelleted foods?

Look for protein levels between 40-45%, and fat between 6-8%, advises Dr. Starkey. “Semi-moist foods will have a lower percentage of protein and fat due to the higher moisture content of the food,” he says. You should also look for fishmeal to be one of the top three ingredients listed on the label, and for added vitamins and minerals to be called out in the ingredient list, says Dr. Starkey. Sill unsure what to choose? Consult a veterinarian.

How should I feed my turtle?

Maintaining a clean habitat with healthy water is very important, says Dr. Starkey. “Feed your turtles in a separate habitat—possibly a water-filled plastic container or secondary aquarium—as many turtles will defecate while eating, and the food itself can affect water quality.”

How frequently can I expect to buy turtle food?

That varies with the size of your turtle, but generally a package of pelleted food may last 4 to 6 weeks, depending on supplemental feeding and pet size, says Dr. Starkey.

How often do turtles eat?

If your turtle is still juvenile, feed it every day, advises Dr. Starkey. Once it reaches adulthood (around 7 years old), you can feed it every other day—or about 4 to 5 times a week. Stick with around 1 cup of food per day, then increase or decrease that amount depending on how your turtle responds.

Can my turtle eat human food?

Besides fruits and vegetables, you could offer sparing amounts of meat to your turtle, says Dr. Starkey—but there really isn’t any point. “These will not be balanced because they lack the nutrients found in organs like the liver of feeder fish,” he says.

Additionally, your turtle should not be fed dog or cat food. The nutritional content is not appropriate for turtles and will cause long-term harm.

Foods That Tortoise Eat

Tortoises eat leaves, grasses, fungi, and vegetables for most of their meals. Many species of tortoise are primarily herbivorous, but others are omnivorous. That means they will also consume some types of animal matter.

With that in mind, take a look at the most common foods that tortoises eat while living in the wild:

  • Fungi
  • Millipedes
  • Clover
  • Alfalfa grass
  • Sowthistle grass
  • Bermuda grass
  • Mulberry leaves
  • Hibiscus leaves
  • Aloe
  • Barley
  • Hay
  • Grains
  • Earthworms
  • Snails
  • Slugs
  • Carrion
  • Mushrooms
  • Melons
  • Apples
  • Pears

These are some of the typical foods that a tortoise can find in the wild. The range of the tortoise is large and stretches across the world, including some of North America, South America, Asia, parts of Africa, and more. Thus, they have access to a lot of different meals around the globe.

Most interestingly, their diet can include actual meat from dead animals (carrion) as well as a variety of insects. They are opportunistic when eating insects and meat; they do not hunt for these foods. Tortoises greatly prefer plants, fruits, and vegetables to any other foods.

Tortoise food and diet advice

One of the characteristics that sets tortoises apart from turtles is the fact they they feed almost entirely on plant matter. Yet the type of food that tortoises eat varies significantly, being influenced by the environment where they are to be found in the wild.

David Alderton discusses more about food, growing your own, supplements and pellets in our tortoise video above.

Your tortoise’s diet in the wild

In practical terms, tortoises can be divided into two broad groups, and their diet varies accordingly:

These tortoises feed mainly on leaves and stems.

  • Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni)
  • Horsfield’s tortoise (Agrionemys horsfieldii)
  • African Sulcata
  • Leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys [Geochelone] pardalis) and
  • Indian Star (Geochelone Elegans) tortoise.  

They live in dry, arid areas of the world. 

These tortoises have a higher percentage of fruit in their diet:

  • Red-Footed tortoise (Chelonoidis [Geochelone] carbonaria)
  • Yellow Footed tortoise and
  • Elongated tortoises (Indotestudo elongata). 

They tend to come from forested areas. 

It is worth emphasising that pet tortoises generally do not eat grass – although the African Sulcata (Geochelone sulcata) is an exception, being a true grazer.

Your tortoise’s diet forms an essential part of the overall care requirements, that also include heating, lighting and UV requirements. 

Tortoise food list

You can feed your tortoise the following items: 

  • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
  • Sowthistle (Sinchus species)
  • Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
  • Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides)
  • Shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
  • Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis)
  • Hawkbit (Leontodon species)
  • Mallow (Malva species)
  • Hedge mustard (Sisymbrium officinale)
  • Clover (Trifolium species)
  • Vetch (Vicia species)
  • Plaintain (Plantago species)

These foods can generally all be grown from seed. Avoid using shop-bought plants such as coleus as these may contain potentially harmful pesticides.

In addition to this, a little grated carrot can be offered among the green stuff to Mediterranean and Redfoot species. Brussel sprouts can also be eaten, in moderation.

Also remember that variety is the key to feeding tortoises. Food should also include a source of Calcium and Vitamin D3, for healthy bones.

Northampton Reptile Centre provide a range of calcium supplements that can support your tortoise’s diet.

Tortoises eating their greens

Mediterranean Tortoises

A mixed weed-based diet is best for Mediterranean species of tortoise, but you need to be able to identify the plants, and avoid potentially harmful ones such as buttercups (Ranunculus repens).  

Mediterreanean tortoises include:

  • Spur Thighed (Testudo Graeca)
  • Hermanns tortoise (Testudo Hermanni)
  • Marginated Tortoise (Testudo Marginata) and the
  • Horsefield (Testudo Horsefieldi)

Other food advice:

You can buy a number of different vegetables for your tortoise too of course. It is always better, however, to use food that has been grown without the use of chemicals, especially as tortoises are long-lived. 

Try to avoid offering just soft leaves in any case, as these will not encourage any wear on the tortoise’s jaws, and could lead to its so-called ‘beak’ at the front of the mouth becoming overgrown.

Through the winter, several forms of cabbage can be used in moderation on occasions, but avoid lettuce, unless it is one of the red-leaf varieties, as the green forms are of little nutritional value.

Mushrooms make a useful stand-by for various species, including the Red-Footed and Hingebacks (Kinixys species) that eat this type of food in the wild.

Fresh food should always be supplied to tortoises – remove any that is uneaten at the end of the day, before it could become a health hazard.

You should also provide your tortoise with clean, fresh water. A shallow dish is best for this.

What fruit can tortoises eat?

Fruit eating tortoises can eat melon, raspberries, blackberries and grapes. You can also offer sweet desert apple, in sliced small amounts. Mango can also be eaten, although this can be very sticky and attract wasps.

Bananas can be eaten, and cherries, in strict moderation. Always remember to remove the cherry stone beforehand.

These fruits should only be offered in moderation as part of a mixed diet to rainforest species such as the Red footed tortoise and Yellow footed tortoise. Any excess can easily result in diarrhoea.

You should avoid citrus such as oranges and lemons. You should also remember that Mediterranean tortoises should not be fed fruit. 

Food tortoises can’t eat 

Tortoises will usually avoid eating plants that could harm them when free-ranging in a garden, but it is particularly important to avoid offering them harmful plants when you are feeding them indoors.  

This list of toxic food below is by no means comprehensive.

  • Daffodil (narcissus pseudonarcissus)
  • Azalea (Rhododendron species)
  • Foxglove (Digitalis species)
  • Avocado (Persea species)
  • Buttercup (Ranunculus species)
  • Auricula (Primula auricula)
  • Bean sprouts (various)
  • Citrus fruit (Citrus species)
  • Hydrangea (Hydrangea species)
  • Iris (Iris species)
  • Morning glory (Ipomoea species)
  • Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa)

You should remember that:

  • There has been very little specific research carried out into plants that could be toxic to tortoises if they eat them.
  • The general advice in this area is to avoid those that are harmful to mammals.
  • The risk of any related health issues is greatest for tortoises indoors, where they are being supplied with food.
  • In garden surroundings, they will avoid plants that are likely to be poisonous to them. Bulbs of any type, including tulips, as well as foxgloves (Digitalis) feature on this list.
  • You should also avoid giving citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons .
  • You shouldn’t feed Mediterranean and Grazing species fruit.

Your tortoise and strawberries

You should protect any strawberries growing in your garden, as they are a particular favourite of Mediterranean tortoises.

While the occasional piece of strawberry as a treat will do no harm, a tortoise is likely to suffer from diarrhoea if they eat large amounts of this fruit, with its relatively high sugar content.

Tortoises and sweetcorn/maize

It’s not recommended to feed your tortoise sweetcorn or maize.

Grow your own tortoise food

It is now possible to buy special seed mixes for tortoises, which you can grow easily on a windowsill at home, and simply put these containers in your pet’s housing, allowing it to browse as it would normally.

Better still, these containers can be left in place, simply being taken out as required to be watered, and will allow the tortoise to browse whenever it is hungry.

With smaller individuals, do ensure that the sides of the tray are low so that your pet can gain access without difficulty, and is unlikely to topple over in the process.

Growing your own dandelions for your tortoise

A way to guarantee a constant supply of dandelions is to dig up the long root of an existing plant. Cut this into sections about 2.5cm (1in) long, and set these individually in containers; clean, empty yoghurt pots with a hole in the base are ideal.

Position the cut roots so that the upper section of each is just protruding above the surface of the soil. Water them, and then put the pots in a clear plastic bag in a light position for a week or so. Depending on the temperature, they should soon start sprouting. It will then be a matter of taking off the bag, keeping the soil moist, and waiting until the leaves are big enough to pick.

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