So, you’ve just gotten a new pet tortoise; congratulations! Now, you’re ready to learn how to properly care for your new friend—everything from how its habitat should be set up to what it eats and how often. It can be overwhelming to learn everything you need to know about a new pet, so we’re here to simplify things a bit (at least when it comes to tortoises and eating).
When it comes to how often tortoises eat, it actually varies. It partially depends on the age of your tortoise. But it also partially depends on a tortoise’s grazing habits—feeding a pet tortoise is sometimes challenging because, in the wild, tortoises are grazers, so it can make mealtimes complicated.
Here’s a closer look at how often you should feed your tortoise, how much, and more!
How Often Do Tortoises Eat?
How often a tortoise should be fed is actually a big topic of debate amongst tortoise owners. Generally, it seems as if current wisdom holds that babies and younger tortoises should be fed once a day. You can feed adult tortoises daily, alternating days, or even as little as three days a week. But how often you feed an adult tortoise will also depend on it in particular—the type of tortoise it is and how much nutrients it needs to be getting a week—as different sorts of tortoises have varying needs.
You can also encourage the tortoise’s grazing nature by giving your pet a few smaller, nutrient-rich meals every couple of days. This allows it time to graze between meals—just remember to throw out old, yucky bits of vegetation when you find them!
Whether your tortoise has an enclosure outside can also affect how often it should be fed. If you have an outdoor enclosure with safe plants, your pet can do its grazing whenever it is out there, so you would need to feed it fewer meals.
How Much Do Tortoises Eat?
Again, how much you should be feeding your tortoise will vary. This is because, in the wild, there are many types of tortoises that live in places where food is scarce. However, as pets, we often give them much more food than they are used to, making it easier for our pets to overeat, which leads to shell growth problems and other health issues. It can be a fine line balancing enough food with too much.
And even though there are a few rather loose guidelines regarding how much a tortoise should be fed, such as enough food to match their shell size or all a tortoise can eat in a certain time limit, those aren’t necessarily the best ways to figure out how much your pet needs to eat.
Instead, you need to know the growth pattern of your tortoise’s species. For example, Mediterranean tortoise species, like Ibera and Horsfield, should gain slowly and steadily at around 1–3 grams a month. So, if you reach month’s end and find your tortoise hasn’t gained enough or has gained too much, you would adjust how much you’re feeding it.
What Do Tortoises Eat?
Wild tortoises eat a variety of flowers, grass, and weeds, so you should try to replicate this for your pet tortoise as much as possible. Of course, you likely won’t be able to provide as much variety (it’s estimated some wild tortoises eat up to 200 different species of plants each year), but opt for as much as possible. And again, the species of your tortoise will determine what it can safely be fed. For example, while most tortoises are herbivores, a few species are omnivores, so they would require protein occasionally.
If you’re unsure what’s best for your particular tortoise, speak with your veterinarian to develop a list of appropriate foods.
Feeding a pet tortoise is a little complicated, as each tortoise is different. Some species will eat more often than others, and some species will have different dietary needs. How much you feed a tortoise will vary by species as well. Once you know the species of tortoise you have, though, you should have a much simpler time figuring out just what it needs to eat to remain healthy!
Featured Image Credit: candra ardhian, Shutterstock