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Well, there are conversations on whether to put rocks in the tortoise enclosure or not. While one group finds the stones safe for the pet, others are against it. So, who is correct here? Are rocks really harmful to tortoises?
Rocks are of no harm as long as they act as a hiding spot and climbing area for the tortoises. Besides, the pets rub their beaks and nails against the stones to stop their excessive growth. But if the tortoises eat the rocks, they can suffer from intestine blockage, internal bleeding, impaction, etc.
So, should you add rocks to the tortoise enclosure? Find out your answer below.
Is Rock Good Or Bad For Tortoises?
What harm can the inert rocks cause to tortoises? Why in the world would people say stones are bad for tortoises? Hey! I am here to explain.
See, stones pose no harm as long as they are for climbing purposes. In fact, these big rocks are actually helpful for the tortoises.
Climbing the smooth-edged stones offer the indoor tortoises a wild-adventurous feeling. So they become more active and energetic. Also, walking on those up and down trails can count as a workout session for the tortoises.
Moreover, rock exploring prevents the nail and beak overgrowth of the tortoises. Finally, the stony decoration works as a good hiding place for these pets. In a community habitat, tortoises hide behind rocks to defend themselves from the bully.
So, the rocks are good for tortoises. Right?
Hold on! Do not come to a conclusion, as I am not done yet.
Rocks in the habitat can be proven dangerous as tortoises have a habit of eating stones. I am not lying.
The granules and rock powder tend to choke the pets and cause intestine diseases. Other probable health hazards of eating stones are internal bleeding, intestine rupture, malnutrition, constipation, etc.
After knowing these risks, do you still think rocks are good for tortoises? I can feel your confusion.
Well, we will discuss whether to put stones in the enclosure later in this article. But first, let’s seek out why tortoises eat rocks and the danger of these stoney decorations.
Why Do Tortoises Eat Rocks?
Are you still struggling to accept your tortoise as a rock eater? Well, watch this video for proof.
So, why do tortoises eat rocks? Honestly, no one knows for sure. But there are theories assuming the probable reasons behind this odd behavior of the pets. Such as,
1. It’s A Mistake!
Not all keepers use separate boxes to feed their tortoises. In reality, most of them offer meals at one corner of the habitat, and the pets make no complaints about it.
Well, feeding your tortoise in the enclosure or off the ground is definitely no issue. But you are overlooking some concerns.
For instance, it is possible that your tortoise can bite the substrate instead of food. Likewise, the pet may shallow small pebbles, mistaking them as meals.
2. Is Your Tortoise Well Fed?
It is always recommended to starve your tortoise 2 days a week. But what if you have stretched the starvation period?
Obviously, the pet will be hungry and look for food everywhere. I will not be surprised if the tortoise bites your finger, mistaking a squash vegetable.
Hey! A hungry tortoise can also eat substrates or rocks to fill its stomach. Of course, those stones will not satisfy the pet’s hunger. So, it requires a natural meal immediately.
3. Bored Or Curious?
Well, tortoises have a terrible habit of eating substrates. They do it out of curiosity, boredom, or hunger. The same rule applies to eating rocks too.
You may not know, but tortoises are bright creatures. I have explained the smart nature of these reptiles in my previous write-up.
So, it is possible that the rocks intrigue the tortoises and make them investigate the object. The pets will sniff the stones and take a bite to satisfy their curiosity.
4. A Bad Habit Indeed!
Well, tortoises are also slaves of habits. Sometimes, they require no reasons to munch on the rocks. But the tortoises do it out of their compulsive habits.
I must admit. Such practice can be deadly for the tortoises. If you do not act now, you will struggle to dissolve this habit of your pets.
5. Better Digestion System!
I know it sounds ridiculous. But some experts suggest that stones can actually assist in good digestion in tortoises.
In most animals, large grinding teeth or compartmentalized stomachs are seen to aid in digestion. Unfortunately, both are missing in the tortoises. So, the rocky granules may come in handy to break down the herbivorous elements in the stomach.
Similar behavior is observed in some avian species and crocodiles. For them, munching rocks is natural and helpful for digestion.
But here is the deal. Tortoises need no such assistance. Yes, the stones will definitely help in the breakdown. At the same time, the rocks can cause intestine blockage.
6. Combating Mineral Deficiency
Stones are definitely mineral rich. Hence, the tortoises tend to bite these rocks in an attempt to back up the mineral requirements.
Calcium is a crucial element in the tortoise feed. Lack of this mineral leads to a soft shell, abnormal shell growth, and metabolic bone disease.
Some rocks, for example, quartz, calcite, olivine, mica, feldspar, and amphibole, are rich sources of calcium. Therefore, your pets may munch these stones to overcome the calcium shortage.
But sadly, tortoises can not process the raw minerals. So, all those biting and munching do no good to the pets. Instead, the rock powder may block and bleed the tortoise’s internal system.
Dangers Of Rocks For Tortoises
Well, rocks pose health hazards for tortoises when they tend to eat those. Munching on the stones may cause both internal and external damage.
For example, ingesting rocks can clog the intestine. In many cases, sharp-edged stones may cut the internal organs and make the pets bleed.
Tortoise’s digestive system fails to break down the pebbles. So, the pet always feels full and avoids eating at all. Yes, it is the same as plastic does to sea turtles. Consequently, the tortoises starve, suffer from mineral deficiency, and die sooner than expected.
The rocks may lead to constipation too. In severe cases, surgery is required to eliminate stones from the tortoise’s digestive tract.
Finally, the decorative and climbing rocks can do external harm too. If the stones have a sharp edge, your tortoises will most likely get cut. The untreated wounds may turn into skin or shell rotting.
Can You Stop The Tortoise From Eating Rocks?
Honestly, the only way to end the tortoise’s rock-eating habit is to remove the pebbles. Or you can try adding medium-sized stones that the pets can not bite.
Of course, regularly feeding the tortoises a balanced meal may stop them from munching on rocks out of hunger. Again, place decorations and pet-friendly toys so that the pets do not get bored.
A thick substrate bed will allow the tortoise to burrow and divert their minds. Mazes and easy puzzle games can also keep the pets occupied.
Even with all the precautions, you can not guarantee that the pet will not eat rocks again. So, it is better if you only add safe stones to the habitat.
Generally, limestone, feldspar, calcite, amphibole, diorites, quartz, granite, etc., are considered less harmful for tortoises. On the contrary, galena, cinnabar, stibnite, and arsenopyrite are lethal.
Finally, smooth out the edges of the climbing or decorative stones before placing them in the pen. You will find commercial tortoise-friendly pebbles in the local pet store.
Before You Go
As I mentioned earlier, rocks are good hiding places for turtles and tortoises. But have you ever wondered why these reptiles take shelter behind a rock? The below article will illustrate the psychology of turtles hiding under rocks.