Feed the Creep

 Food gives tortoises the energy they need to get around and do tortoise-y stuff, and also the nutritional building blocks they need to grow bigger and stay healthy... it's important to give them what they need.

The care guides provided elsewhere on this site give you the general outline of what the different types of tortoises need in terms of food, but there are a few things worth breaking out a bit more when discussing tortoise diets

Omnivores versus Herbivores

Basically, some tortoises, generally the forest species, are omnivorous, meaning they can eat some of lots of different foods, including animal protein (meat) and some fruits; other tortoises, generally the grassland or desert species, are herbivorous, restricted to eating plant matter, and beyond that, restricted to mostly grasses and greens and the occasional low-starch veggies.

The common element in all of their diets is greens... all of my tortoises start off every day with a handful of greens about the size of their shell. In the winter months (which is most of them, living in New Hampshire) that means mixed greens from the supermarket. I look for an organic mix with lots of variety.

In the warm months I'm able to feed my torts from my lawn and deck much more often. I feed lots of dandelion flowers and greens (on the left, above) and plantago (on the right, above), supplementing with hibiscus (and Rose of Sharon) flowers as my plants produce them.

Mazuri and Gourds
Once or twice a week, I feed all of my tortoises some Mazuri (a tortoise kibble, shown in the middle), the original tortoise formulation, 5m21, which I think of as a supplement to add elements that may be missing from their diet. Similarly, I also feed them all some roughly chopped spaghetti squash (left) or pumpkin (right), including seeds and rind; pumpkin seeds have been shown to help control parasites.

That pretty much does it for the Russians, the grassland tortoises in my creep.

Forest Tortoises: Fruit and Animal Protein
Staples of the forest tortoises' diet that I keep on hand to supplement their diet, beyond what the Russians get are readily available and kept in the freezer to control expenses: a frozen fruit blend with papaya, kiwi, strawberries, mango, and pineapple (left, above), and a product called "Reptilinks" which are like little sausages with Guinea fowl, Chicken, Quail (includes whole bird and some feathers), Ohio raised New Zealand white or California white breed rabbit, and bullfrog inside.

I give the fruit mix a few times a week, and the animal protein once a week. 

I'm not wedded to the above routine, but like to keep all of those things on hand... when the opportunity arises, I'll often grab fresh produce or meat for the forest tortoises (fresh papaya or beet greens or whole shrimp or skin-on salmon are all treats that they love).

Vitamin & Mineral Supplements
When I first started keeping tortoises, I purchased a number of vitamin and mineral supplement powders, but the ingredients lists were offputting, and the powders were expensive.

By talking with other, more knowledgable tortoise keepers, and doing some research online and in my growing tortoise library I was able to find four ingredients that complement each other very nicely, and also fill in the most common gaps in any tortoise's nutritional needs:
  • hibiscus flowers
  • moringa
  • wakame
  • eggshells
You can get these four things in dried form from a health food store (or Amazon), and I use them in one of two ways: rehydrated and tossed with the greens like a dressing, powdered all together (I use a regular blender), and sprinkled over their food a couple of times a week.