cactus pad
Smooth Opuntia

Tortoise Diet


In the wild, these herbivores species primarily on grasses, shrubs and succulent plants...surprisingly, Leopard tortoises in their natural range prefer Portulacaceae spp. In captivity the ideal situation for these animals to sustain themselves, is to just allow them to graze in a well planted chemically untreated area of your yard.  Mine spend most of the year outside in a large pen heavily planted with the Grazing Tortoise Seed Mix  For the few months that they are kept indoors, I grow the mix in cat litter boxes.

cactus fruit
 Opuntia berries 

The diet should be at least 70% grasses and hay.  Not surprisingly, given its preference for grassland habitats the Sulcata grazes, extensively upon mixed grasses weeds, and flowers. It also favors the fruit and pads of the prickly pear (Opuntia sp.), succulents and thistles. "Meat" foods should never be given to  because it can lead to excessive growth, high blood-urea levels, kidney/liver problems, and bladder stones.

 In captivity it is a common error to feed too much wet food such as lettuce, tomatoes and fruit when in reality this tortoise requires a coarse, high fiber diet. The sugar content of fruit will also alter the pH of the gut which results in a die off of the normal gut flora. Feeding excessive fruit or soft foods frequently leads to repeated flagellate (a type of parasite) and other gut problems such as colic, most probably as a result of increased gut motility.

 Long term ingestion of the chemicals commonly sprayed on produce is a health concern. Choose organic greens when possible or be sure to wash in mild soapy water and rinse well. Remove plastic and metal wrappers so your torts don't accidentally ingest these.

Mixing larger portions of things your tort likes in chopped "salads" and slowly cut back on "treat" foods in this mix, is one way to get them adjusted to a better diet. If you tort is healthy and has water available at all times, it wont hurt them to go a couple days w/o food, esp. if it helps them to be hungry enough to appreciate a healthier diet. You might also try putting a bit of squash (or some other foods that they especially like) in the blender and pouring this over the new foods that you're introducing. This is a good chance to sneak extra Calcium in if needed.

Here are some good links: