How To Buy The Best Food for Tortoise (Safe & Dangerous Food List)

by Carl Crane | Updated: March 13, 2021

Feeding tortoises in captivity with a proper diet is not always easy to achieve.

The correct nutritional requirements are often unknown, as there is very little published accurate information on tortoises available.

Most tortoise keepers rely on what is published in books or on the Internet and this could, in many cases, be inaccurate.

It is a fact that despite all efforts by tortoise owners to provide a nutritious diet and to replicate what a tortoise eats in its natural habitat, there are still many reports of captive tortoises with nutrition-related problems.

The food tortoises eat plays a major role in their growth, shell hardness, and overall health, so providing the best food for a tortoise is what you should aim for.

Different Foods for Different Tortoise Species

It is important to know the distinct requirements of your species of tortoise, as different species have different dietary demands.

A healthy tortoise diet consists of:

An excess of protein could cause a thickening of the shell. 

This is simply one of the factors which might result in the appearance of ‘pyramids’ (raised scutes). 

An excess amount of protein also puts an additional strain on the kidneys and other organs.

Mediterranean Tortoise Species

Mediterranean species can eat some grass, but they are not grazing species.

Occasionally they will eat animal protein which they would find opportunistically in the natural habitat, but this does not compose part of their normal diet and should not be given.

Grazing Tortoise Species

Grazers eat a mixture of grasses and succulent plants in the wild with grasses making up for most of their diet.

They may eat fruit and animal protein sometimes, but we don’t recommend purposely feeding these to your tortoise.

If you feed large amounts of fruit it may cause critical digestive tract upsets, including very loose feces, and because of the high sugar content, it can disrupt the normal gut flora and encourage the reproduction of parasites.

Rainforest Tortoise Species

In the wild, tropical rainforest species such as Yellow-footed tortoises encounter animal protein and fallen fruits quite frequently, as they are typical characteristics of these types of environments.

You can’t assume to keep these species healthy on a diet of mixed grasses and hays or 100% weeds, so the addition of some fruits and animal protein will give them a more naturally adjusted diet.

Best Tortoise Food with Calcium

As far as tortoises, especially younger tortoises, the calcium level of the food is very significant, both for healthy bone and shell growth, as well as the eggshells of laying females.

Besides feeding your tortoise with dandelions, which are a significant source of calcium, there are also commercial tortoise foods that have a very good calcium to phosphorus ratio.

These foods can’t be part of the staple diet like dog foods, but they can add a bit of variety to the tortoise food list.

They can also come in handy, especially in the winter where some specific greens are harder to come by.

Our Top Pick

Zoo Med Natural Tortoise Food

Crude Protein:  9.0% (min) | Crude Fiber: 26.0% (max) | Moisture: 13.0% (max) | Calcium: 0.9% (min) / 1.3% (max)

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

The Importance of Calcium in Turtle Foods

If you need to provide more calcium for your tortoise for whatever reason, giving them pieces of cuttlebone should do the trick.

You can simply break them up into pieces, making it easier for your tortoise to nibble on them.

If you live in a region where the soil is more chalky, you may also notice that your tortoise will occasionally pick up small pieces of chalk and eat them.

This is nothing to worry about, as this is a representation of your pet’s natural behavior.

Make sure you provide the correct kind of UV lighting so that your tortoise can metabolize the calcium you give him. 

Our Top Pick

Penn Plax E2 Natural Cuttlebones

Omega 3 Fatty Acids | Honey | Vitamin B

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Best Food for Baby Tortoise

Tortoises of all ages and sizes should be provided with a healthy and varied diet.

This becomes more significant when dealing with baby tortoises.

As they go within their stages of fast growth, the need for a balanced diet followed by proper calcium levels and vitamin supplementation is a requirement.

Of course, different species will have their own unique dietary needs, so be sure to accurately research the requirements of the species of tortoise you own.

The more types of food that your tortoise receives correlate directly with the number of varying vitamins and minerals that they will eat.

Calcium and vitamin D3 should be used as supplements at every feeding session for young tortoises, and less often as the reptile reaches adult size.

Our Top Pick

Mazuri Tortoise Diet LS Food

Crude Protein:  12.0% (min) | Crude Fat: 4.0% (min) | Crude Fiber: 22.0% (max) | Moisture: 12.0% (max)

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Best Tortoise Dry Food

While the proper foods are immediately available for them in summer, it can be much harder to find an adequate supply in winter.

So that’s where dry foods can come in handy.

Dry diets are often used as a back-up when fresh food isn’t as easily available.

In the case of African and Mediterranean tortoise species, which are herbivorous in their feeding habits, their diet needs to be based essentially on green foods.

Shop-bought greens may have lower mineral levels, especially in terms of calcium, compared with a dandelion growing in your garden.

You just can’t tell the nutritional value of this type of food by just looking at such plants.

So dry foods can provide the advantage of additional nutritional content by knowing exactly what you are feeding your tortoise with.

Our Top Pick

Mazuri Tortoise Food

Crude Protein:  15.0% (min) | Crude Fat: 3.0% (min) | Crude Fiber: 18.0% (max) | Moisture: 12.0% (max)

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Tortoise dry nutrient content

There are numerous brands of tortoise foods available today and those from reputable brands all have requisite high fiber levels in excess of 20%, as you can verify from reading the nutritional categorization of the product on the packaging.

Some other dry foods are also soft, to make them more appetizing.

They have a much wider range of ingredients compared with cobs

Cobs for tortoises are composed only of dry plant matter, such as hay and dandelion, and can offer a good source of natural fiber.

Softer foods and cobs should be viewed more as a supplement to the regular dry food and simply offer your pet more diversity, in terms of a dry food ingredient in its diet.

Our Top Pick

Nature Zone Melon Flavored Total Bites Soft Moist Food For Tortoise

Crude Protein:  2.0% (min) | Crude Fat: 0.4% (min) | Crude Fiber: 1.2% (max) | Moisture: 88.0% (max)

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Pros

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List of Food Tortoises Can Eat

Most grocery stores have a decent selection of greens that tortoises can eat, ideally with the greens being organic and pesticide-free.

However, not all tortoise keepers have access to “ideal” food, so knowing whats safe for your tortoise will help you develop a good diet for him.

Don’t feed the same type of food day in and day out.

Mix varieties and choose a different green as the basis every few days.

The following list is composed of foods that your tortoise can safely eat:

Food ItemImageNotes
Alfalabest-tortoise-food-alfalaalfala plant not sprouts
Cactus Pad/ Leaf (raw)best-tortoise-food-cactus-padhigh calcium
Cactus Pear (Prickly Pear)best-tortoise-food-cactus-pearhigh calcium
Collard Greensbest-tortoise-food-collard-greenshigh calcium, moderate oxalates
Dandelion Greensbest-tortoise-food-dandelion-greenhigh Calcium, high vitamin A (140 IU/g), moderate oxalates, be cautious of pesticides in wild greens
Endivebest-tortoise-food-endivemoderate oxalates, high calcium
Escarolebest-tortoise-food-escarolehigh Calcium, mix with other greens
Mustard Greensbest-tortoise-food-mustard-greenshigh vitamin C (7%), high vitamin A (53 IU/g), moderate oxalates (1287 ppm), goitrogens
Squash, Acornbest-tortoise-food-squash-acorn
Squash, Butternut (Winter)best-tortoise-food-squash-butternuthigh fiber, high vitamin A (78 IU/g)
Squash, Hubbardbest-tortoise-food-squash-hubardhigh fiber, high vitamin A (54 IU/g)
Squash, Scallopbest-tortoise-food-squash-scallop
Squash, Spaghettibest-tortoise-food-squash-spagghetihigh calcium and fiber
Squash, Summerbest-tortoise-food-squash-summer
Papaya (fresh)best-tortoise-food-papayahigh calcium, high vitamin C (6%)
Turnip Greensbest-tortoise-food-turnip-greenshigh vitamin C (6%), high vitamin A (76 IU/g), moderate oxalates
Flowering Maple best-tortoise-food-Flowering-Mapleedible parts: all
Yarrowbest-tortoise-food-yarrowedible parts: all
Bishop's Goutweed;
Ground Elder
best-tortoise-food-ground-elderedible parts: all
Agavebest-tortoise-food-agaveedible parts: leaves
Hollychockedible parts: all
Lady's Mantlebest-tortoise-food-ladys-mantleedible parts: all
Aloe best-tortoise-food-aloeedible parts: all
Marsh Mallowbest-tortoise-food-marsh-mallowedible parts: all
Horseraddishbest-tortoise-food-agave-horseraddishedible parts: leaves
Cow Parsley edible parts: all
Celeriacbest-tortoise-food-celeriacsedible parts: all
Tall Oat Grassbest-tortoise-food-tall-oatglassedible parts: all
English Daisybest-tortoise-food-english-daisyedible parts: all
Butterfly Bushbest-tortoise-food-Butterfly-Bushedible parts: all
Pot Marigoldedible parts: all
Shepard's Purse best-tortoise-food-Shepard's-purseedible parts: all
Chicory best-tortoise-food-Chicoryedible parts: all
Canadian Thistle;
Californian Thistle;
Creeping Thistle
best-tortoise-food-Creeping-Thistleedible parts: all
Comfrey edible parts: all
Rough Hawksbeard edible parts: all
Artichokebest-tortoise-food-Artichokeedible parts: all
Bermuda Grassedible parts: all
Crested Dogtail edible parts: all
Orchard Grass best-tortoise-food-Orchard-grassedible parts: all
Dahlia edible parts: all
Wild carrot best-tortoise-food-Wildcarrotedible parts: all
Echinacea/Purple Cone Flower edible parts: all
Wild Rosemarybest-tortoise-food-Wild -Rosemaryedible parts: all
Reed Fescue edible parts: all
Meadow Fescue edible parts: all
Chewings Fescue best-tortoise-food-Chewings-fescueedible parts: all
Figbest-tortoise-food-figsedible parts: leaves
Fennelbest-tortoise-food-fennelsedible parts: all
European Wood Strawberry edible parts: all
Yellow Bedstrawbest-tortoise-food-Yellow-bedstrawedible parts: all
Day Lilliesedible parts: all
Hibiscus best-tortoise-food-Hibiscusedible parts: all
Velvet Grassbest-tortoise-food-Velvet-grassedible parts: all
Sweet Potatobest-tortoise-food-Sweet-Potatoedible parts: leaves
White Deadnettleedible parts: all
Purple Deadnettlebest-tortoise-food-Purple-Deadnettleedible parts: all
Henbitbest-tortoise-food-Henbitedible parts: all
Rough Hawkbit best-tortoise-food-Rough-hawkbitedible parts: all
Italian Ryegrass edible parts: all
Perennial Ryegrass best-tortoise-food-Perennial-ryegrassedible parts: all
Birdsfoot Trefoil best-tortoise-food-Birdsfoot-trefoiledible parts: all
Purple Loosestrifebest-tortoise-food-Purple-Loosestrifeedible parts: all
Hollyhock or Mallowbest-tortoise-food-Hollyhock-mallowedible parts: all
Black medick best-tortoise-food-Black-medickedible parts: all
Ice Plantsbest-tortoise-food-ice-plantsedible parts: leaves and flower
Mullberrybest-tortoise-food-mulberryedible parts: leaves
Watercress best-tortoise-food-Watercressedible parts: all
Prickly Pear best-tortoise-food-Prickly-Pearedible parts: all
Oregano best-tortoise-food-oreganoedible parts: all
California Poppy best-tortoise-food-California-Poppyedible parts: all
Petuniabest-tortoise-food-petuniaedible parts: all
Timothy best-tortoise-food-Timothyedible parts: all
English Plantainbest-tortoise-food-English-plantainedible parts: all
Common Plantainbest-tortoise-food-Common-plantainedible parts: all
Hoary Plantain best-tortoise-food-Hoary-plantainedible parts: all
Kentucky Bluegrass best-tortoise-food-Kentucky-bluegrassedible parts: all
Purslane best-tortoise-food-Purslaneedible parts: leaves and stems
Radishbest-tortoise-food-radish-floweredible parts: leaves
Black Currant edible parts: leaves
Wild Rose best-tortoise-food-wild-roseedible parts: all
Domestic Roseedible parts: petals
Blackberrybest-tortoise-food-Blackberryedible parts: leaves and flowers
Raspberry best-tortoise-food-Raspberryedible parts: leaves and flowers
Chiabest-tortoise-food-chiaedible parts: all
Garden Sage best-tortoise-food-Garden-sageedible parts: all
Meadow Sage best-tortoise-food-meadow-sageedible parts: all
Christmas Cactusedible parts: all
Chickweed best-tortoise-food-Chickweededible parts: all
Goat's Beard best-tortoise-food-goats-beardedible parts: all
Alsike Cloverbest-tortoise-food-Alsike-Cloveredible parts: all
Crimson Clover best-tortoise-food-Crimson-Cloveredible parts: all
White Clover best-tortoise-food-white-cloveredible parts: all
Nasturtium best-tortoise-food-Nasturtiumedible parts: all
Nettlebest-tortoise-food-Nettleedible parts: all
Field pansy best-tortoise-food-Field-pansyedible parts: all
Johnny Jump-up best-tortoise-food-Johnny-Jump-upedible parts: all
Grapesbest-tortoise-food-grapesedible parts: leaves
Mullien best-tortoise-food-Mullienedible parts: all
Radicchiobest-turtle-food-radicchio
Kale (raw)best-tortoise-food-kaleHigh vitamin A (89 IU/g), moderate oxalates, goitrogens
Cilantro (Coriander)best-tortoise-food-cilantroHigh vitamin A (40 IU/g), moderate oxalates (50 ppm)
Cabbagebest-tortoise-food-cabbage-green-rawHigh vitamin C (3%), goitrogens

Foods to be Avoided by Tortoise

The following food items should be avoided for a variety of reasons:

Harmful Properties in Tortoise Foods

Tortoise foods can include chemicals that could interfere with a tortoise’s capability to assimilate nutrients from foods.

Although most tortoise foods have some of these properties, a diverse diet can decrease the harmful effects.

Some of the harmful properties found in plants are included below, together with brief information on the effects they could have if ingested. 

Oxalic Acid

This is a naturally occurring element in many plants and imparts a bitter taste in greens such as mustard greens. 

This substance binds minerals, the most important being calcium, and in large amounts can lead to kidney stones and kidney damage.

Phytic Acid

This is found in high concentrations in peas, beans, and cereals. 

This chemical also binds minerals as well as proteins.

Tannins

Although tannins are helpful for the most part, in large amounts they bind protein and interfere with digestion.

Goitrogens

This composite is involved in the development of enlarged thyroid glands that can conflict with the uptake of iodine.

Our Top Pick

Zoo Med Flower Food Topper – Tortoise

High in Fiber | Promotes a Healthy Guy | Stimulates Activity Levels

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Commonly Asked Questions About Tortoise Foods

How Much Should I Feed My Tortoise?

It is best to feed your tortoise once a day with the amount of food it can finish in half an hour.

You will need to try out different amounts of course before finally getting the right portion.

How Long Can Tortoises Go Without Food?

Tortoises can stay for very long periods with no food.

They can go for as long as 2 to three years without eating.

The quality of their health will be questionable though so avoid this.

Do Tortoises Need Feeding Every Day?

Most tortoise species need only be fed five or six times a week.

They do not need to be fed every single day.

Also, avoid overfeeding them.

Can Tortoises Eat Banana?

Bananas can be eaten, in strict moderation.

Can Tortoise Eat Cat Food?

Tortoises should not eat cat food because the nutritional requirements of the cats are very different from a tortoise.

What is the Best Food for Tortoise After Hibernation?

Your tortoise will naturally be seeking juicy foods which contain high levels of water to help rehydrate themselves, with tomatoes and small chunks of cucumber being helpful for this purpose

Conclusion

Your pet tortoise’s diet is as important as its light and heat. It is essential for growth and health.

Knowing what to feed your tortoise can help him live a long and happy life. 

Being that they are not difficult to care for, and can eat almost anything, it doesn’t mean that more thoughtful consideration shouldn’t be taken when feeding them.

Carl, the reptile-obsessed creator of this website, got his first turtle years ago and he made a ton of mistakes along the way. His goal now with TheCritterCove is simple: help others to not make the same mistakes that he did!