Tortoises: Discerning Gourmets

Tortoises need experienced hands, especially when it comes to their nutrition because the sensitive turtle stomach can by no means tolerate everything, and it is not without reason that the topic of feeding often causes great confusion. Therefore, find out here how you should optimally feed your turtle.

Vegetarian Menu

As cold-blooded animals, tortoises only need about 1/8 of the amount of food that a mammal consumes. They also don’t think much of meat and are purely vegetarian. They prefer to satisfy their hunger in the great outdoors with lush wild plants, aromatic herbs, and dry grasses that contain plant fibers, minerals, and valuable trace elements.

Consequences of Malnutrition

Similar to guinea pigs and rabbits, small armored animals digest their food mainly in the large intestine and the particularly pronounced appendix. These organs are very sensitive and easily irritated. For this reason, as the owner, you should strictly ensure that your animal roommate always has enough species-appropriate food. The wrong food can lead to intestinal parasite infestation, deficiency symptoms, and various other diseases. Also, you must not overfeed the tortoises under any circumstances, as too rapid growth can lead to fatty degeneration of the heart and liver and various bone structure problems.

The Perfect Nutritional Composition

A balanced, digestible, and healthy food for your darlings should be based on the following criteria: First, you should make sure that the food is relatively low in protein and contains only a few calories. Too high a protein content in combination with high-calorie ingredients can cause your tortoise to grow too quickly. This often results in deformations and deformities, liver and kidney problems, shortness of breath, and acute pneumonia. For these reasons, you should especially not feed your animals fish meal, soy, wheat, corn, sugar, dried fruits, and nuts.

Also, make sure that the meals are low in carbohydrates. What is important, however, is a large amount of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and calcium. These support a healthy and slow growth process. Since the animals will eat as long as they can take in food, you should portion the amount. Solid forage plants that have a high fiber content are particularly recommended. If the food is too soft, it will pass through the intestinal tract much too quickly and the nutrients it contains will be used significantly worse. Low fiber content is also not an advantage with regard to possible parasite contamination of the intestine. Solid food also means that the horn edges of the jaw are sufficiently worn down so that the beak does not unnecessarily hinder the animals from eating.

A good and balanced turtle food is characterized by a protein content below 10%. The fat content must also not exceed 3%. Carbohydrates such as corn starch and sugar may also only be represented in a proportion of less than 5%. The fiber content can be a little more than 20-25%. Above all, it is important to have an appropriate calcium-phosphorus ratio (2: 1).

The Role of the Annual Rhythm in Feeding

When feeding your tortoise you should definitely pay attention to the different annual rhythms. In spring, the animals have to recover from the long winter rest and recharge their batteries enough to mate and later lay their eggs. An extremely rich feed is best suited for this. Towards summer, around the end of June, you should provide your four-legged friends with enough fiber. In autumn it can be a bit more substantial again. Observance of this rhythm is of great importance for the health and vitality of the animals. Overfeeding all-year-round can lead to the fact that your four-legged friend becomes fat. It is not uncommon for liver, heart, and kidney problems to occur. Fasting days are also definitely recommended in summer. In the cold seasons of the year, you mostly have to resort to cultivated plants. These should of course be fed with care and only when the snow cover no longer lets through the green. Endive lettuce, frisee lettuce, radicchio lettuce, and romaine lettuce can be fed safely in the correct quantities. The latter has a very good calcium content, which is beneficial for building bones, among other things. Caution is advised, especially in the area of ​​classic culinary herbs. Cress, parsley, basil, and chives have no place on the diet of the small armored herbivores.

The Dangers of Vitamin Supplements for Tortoises

As you can see, feeding your tortoises properly is not that easy. If you decide to use vitamin preparations from specialist retailers, you have to pay close attention to the correct dosage. Often these contain too high a vitamin A and vitamin D content. This results in severe skin peeling with a high risk of infection. Shell softening due to the excessive vitamin D3 content is also not uncommon in these cases.

The Danger Also Lurks in the Fruit

You shouldn’t consider fruit when feeding your darlings. The high sugar content of the fruit changes the pH value of the intestine and thereby damages the sensitive intestinal flora. In this case, too, it can lead to a higher parasite load as well as diarrhea and poor food utilization. The same applies to tomatoes and peppers, which also have relatively high sugar content.

It’s All About Diversity

With a variety to success! The more balanced your tortoises’ diet, the greater the animal’s wellbeing. If you stick to the advice listed in the article, your armored friend will want for nothing and you will enjoy him for a long time.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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