While there are many variations on how to feed turtles and
tortoises depending on the age and species, there are some basic rules that caretakers must observe in order to have healthy
animals. It is amazing, but I find that many people do not even try to find out what the animal needs, but instead drops a
piece of lettuce in front of the animal. How that myth got perpetrated is beyond us, but these little guys take a lot more
care to live out their 100 years.
The basic rule of
thumb is turtles need live food. Tortoises are vegetarians. Now for more detail. Feed what they would find in the wild not
what they would find in the supermarket, i.e., would a turtle find dog food in the wild. No! Would a tortoise find tofu in
the wild? No!
In general, turtles are carnivores. In the wild, they like to hunt and bring
home live food. Worms, snails, roly poly bugs, creepy crawlies all taste delicious to a turtle.
In captivity, we must provide live food for our turtles. Even if you are a vegetarian or are squeamish, you owe it
to this little wild animal to provide healthy food. At the rescue, we do two things: we hunt down snails that have never been
exposed to snail bait or pesticides. If you are not sure, keep the snails in a bucket with a mesh lid and feed them peanut
butter for a few days. If they are not dead they are ok to feed to your turtles.
More practically, we purchase superworms for the adult turtles and mealworms for the babies. We purchase 3000 superworms
at a time, but you can buy containers of them at your local pet store. Feed as many as they can eat per sitting....sometimes
as many as 12 - 15. Then do not feed again for a few days. Turtles also like bananas, strawberries and greens like turnip
green, romaine or dandelion greens.
Never feed your turtle cat food or dog food. It has too much protein and can cause
long term damage.
Water turtles are a different story.
They can only eat under water. While they enjoy some of the above, the best diet is a prepared turtle food like Reptomin.
Feed once every other day. Supplement the diet with live goldfish called feeder fish. They must have these for the calcium
that they provide.
Of course, when they hibernate, turtles
do not eat for three to six months.
Tortoises, by and large, are vegetarians. Most are green eaters (desert
tortoises), but some like fruit (redfoots). Once you know what kind of a tortoise you have, you will be able to determent
what is best.
In the wild, tortoises do not get the fancy
foods we feed them. Regular feeding can cause what we call a pyramided shell - bumpy and un attractive. For that reason, we
recommend feeding every other day or every third day. This will make for an angry but healthier tortoise.
Feed once a day in the morning. Do not feed spoiled food as they can get
maggots and internal worms. Place the food on newspaper so that it can be tossed easily and so that they will not eat dirt
or sand that can cause stones.
We only feed turnips greens,
dandelion greens (from your garden or the store), dark romaine, corn on the cob as a treat and once a month watermelon. The
KISS principle applies with tortoises - keep it simple stupid.
Do not feed fruit to a desert tortoise or sulcata or other desert type tortoises. They are not programmed for it
and it can make then sick and give them diarrhea.
in doubt peruse some web sites. Good ones include tortoise.com (ours), turtlehomes.org and tortoisetrust.org.
Any food questions? Feel free to send them to me at email@example.com