Baby Tortoise Diet & Feeding Guide For Beginners

Baby Tortoise Diet & Feeding Guide

Have you just bought a baby tortoise? Congratulations and welcome to the club. I know as a loving owner, you will do everything to ensure healthy growth for your pet. Do you know what is more important for a baby tortoise besides a proper habitat? Yes, food.

Each tortoise species has its own preferences when it comes to the diet. Generally, the baby tortoises are herbivorous and eat green leafy vegetables. Food supplements along with natural growing vegetables make the perfect diet for your pet tortoise.

What do baby tortoises eat? How often should you feed them? I know you have more questions like these on your mind. Follow this article to get the complete baby tortoise diet guide for beginners.

What Does A Baby Tortoise Eat?

The baby tortoises have a different appetite than the adult ones. They prefer munching on the leafy vegetables, plant leaves, stems, flowers with occasional fruit treats.

In general, a baby tortoise’s diet can contain the following items,

  1. Safe plant stems, leaves, or flowers
  2. Grasses and hays
  3. Leafy green vegetables
  4. Fruits
  5. Supplements

In each meal for the baby tortoise, you should give priority to the greens. The fruits should be an occasional treat for the babies.

Here is a list of safe plants and weeds for your baby tortoise diet:

  1. Aloe vera
  2. Bindweed
  3. Bramble (Tender leaf, fruits, shoots)
  4. Boston fern
  5. Cactus
  6. Chickweed
  7. Dandelion (Stem, leaf, flower)
  8. Greater plantain
  9. Hebe
  10. Henbit 
  11. Honeysuckle
  12. Milk thistle
  13. Mallows
  14. Pricky sow thistle
  15. Ribgrass plantain
  16. Red clover (Stem, leaf, flower)
  17. Red dead nettle
  18. Smooth sow thistle (Stem, leaf, flower)
  19. Smooth hawks bread (Leaf, flower)
  20. Vetches
  21. White clover (Stem, leaf, flower)
  22. White dead nettle
  23. Young hedge mustard plant

Tortoises are land dwellers and graze on the grasslands. Experts suggest that eating grasses or hays have benefits for the baby tortoises. The grasses can provide the little creatures with nutrition and fiber.

Here are some safe grass options for your baby tortoise:

  1. Ryegrass
  2. Pampas grass
  3. Couch grass
  4. Alfalfa 
  5. Cat grass
  6. Bermuda grass
  7. Oat grass
  8. Wheatgrass
  9. Kentucky bluegrass
  10. Fescue grass
  11. Barley grass
  12. Timothy grass
  13. Fountain grass
  14. Orchardgrass

Selected vegetable list for your baby tortoise:

  1. Kale
  2. Pumpkin
  3. Collard greens
  4. Cucumber
  5. Broccoli
  6. Cabbage
  7. Spinach
  8. Romaine lettuce
  9. Chicory
  10. Endive
  11. Fennel
  12. Arugula 
  13. Turnip greens
  14. Carrot
  15. Radicchio
  16. Cauliflower
  17. Escarole
  18. Squash
  19. Grape leaf
  20. Parsnip 
  21. Sweet potato
  22. Bell pepper
  23. Tomato
  24. Mesclun lettuce
  25. Red leaf lettuce
  26. Oakleaf
  27. Spring mix lettuce
  28. Watercress 

Fruits options for your baby tortoise:

  1. Grape
  2. Pear 
  3. Blackberries
  4. Mulberry
  5. Raspberry
  6. Strawberry
  7. Apple
  8. Melon
  9. Pear
  10. Kiwi
  11. Apricot
  12. Plum
  13. Orange
  14. Banana 

It is better to keep your baby tortoise on natural food items instead of canned ones. In the wild, the species graze around and feed on the weeds, stems, and vegetables. However, make sure any item you purchase for the little tortoise must be pesticide-free and non-toxic. 

Some tortoise owners prefer feeding commercial foods or pellets to baby tortoises. In a sense, it is okay if you do not have an idea about the greens and grasses.

From the above list, which items should you add to your baby tortoise’s diet? It totally depends on the species of the tortoise. Hence, identify the baby before preparing the meal plant for it.

What Can Baby Sulcata Tortoise Eat?

The eating habit of a baby Sulcata tortoise is similar to most other species. The diet consists of greens and vegetables, grasses and hays, and fruits. To cover up the lackings of any minerals or vitamins, you need to add pellets, multivitamins, cuttlebones, or supplements to the meal chart of the baby Sulcata tortoise.

Here is a food chart for a baby Sulcata tortoise:

Safe Grasses For Sulcata TortoiseSafe Weeds For Sulcata TortoiseSafe Green Vegetables For Sulcata TortoiseSafe Fruits For Sulcata Tortoise
Alfalfa Ryegrass Bermuda grass Oat grass Barley grass Wheatgrass Kentucky bluegrass Fescue grass Timothy grass Orchardgrass  Chickweed Dandelion Nettle Clover Milk thistle Mallow Pricky sow thistle Smooth sow thistle Henbit Honeysuckle Greater plantain Ribgrass plantain  Kale Spring mix lettuce Romaine lettuce Red leaf lettuce Arugula Pumpkin Broccoli Grape leaf Oakleaf Mesclun lettuce Radicchio Watercress Endive Chicory Fennel Escarole  Pears Banana Strawberry Apple Melon

Besides these items, you can choose any food from the diet lists given in the previous subsection.

You can include commercial pellets in your baby Sulcata tortoise diet chart. But make sure you are not overfeeding the turtle with cuttlebones or pellets. Adding the supplements twice or thrice a week is enough for these little buddies.

Also, do not add fruits to the everyday meal of the baby Sulcata tortoise. A Fruit treat every once or twice a month will bring a variety in the meals for the tortoise.

Do you know a Sulcata tortoise can live up to 150 years? Providing a balanced diet from the beginning will surely help your baby pet live to its fullest. Check out what other factors affect a baby Sulcata tortoise’s lifespan from this article.

Foods To Avoid Feeding A Baby Tortoise

Baby tortoises are always sensitive. You have to properly plan through their meals so that they get the required nutrition.

The most common mistake here is that many owners do not have any idea about the forbidden food list of the baby tortoises. The myth here is, a tortoise would consume anything.

But that is not the truth. If you feed anything outside the baby tortoise’s comfort zone, the pet will have an upset stomach. In the case of toxic plants, the babies might choke and fall severely ill.

To stay aware, take a quick look at the foods given below and never enlist them in your baby tortoise’s diet:

  • Meat
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Dairy products
  • Candies and sweets
  • Sodium rich foods
  • Bread
  • Celery
  • Junk foods
  • Avocado
  • Juniper
  • Ivy
  • Asparagus fern
  • Iris
  • Calla lily
  • Daffodil
  • Amaryllis
  • Holly
  • Azalea
  • Ficus
  • Buttercup
  • Poinsettia
  • Primrose
  • Boxwood

You can click right here to get a full list of the poisonous plants to baby tortoises.

Do Baby Tortoises Drink Water?

Like all other animals, tortoises also need water to stay alive. But yes, the species do not drink much water.

To keep the bodies hydrated, the baby tortoises drink water from time to time. So, it is a good idea to provide a shallow water bowl in the enclosure. You need to fill the container with clean and fresh water regularly.

Never dig up a deep water source in a baby tortoise enclosure. Unlike turtles, tortoises can not swim.

How Much Food Does A Baby Tortoise Eat?

Determining the quantity of food for the baby tortoise is challenging for beginners. From 0 to 6 months, feed the baby pet a quarter cup of vegetables, grasses, leaves, and weeds. When it turns 6 months, increase the quantity from quarter to half cup. Continue the amount till the baby tortoise gets 12 months old.

Many tortoise owners prefer feeding the hatchlings commercial foods. In that case, offer the baby tortoises food that equals 1-4% of its body weight.

Depending on the species, the baby tortoise may have more hunger. If you find your pet devouring aggressively, provide it a little bit more greens or grasses. But do not overfeed the baby.

Usually, a baby tortoise acts like an eating machine. It is because, in the wild, they spend their time grazing here and there. However, overfeeding your baby tortoise can lead to accelerated growth and shell deformation or pyramiding.

How Often Should You Feed A Baby Tortoise?

The baby tortoises require more food than the adults. Generally, for the first 12 months, you should feed the baby pet once every day. After the 1st year, the feeding schedule will change.

Add vegetables, grasses, leaves, and stems to the diet chart of the baby tortoise. Do not feed it fruits every single day. Otherwise, the baby may have an upset tummy.

Some people think baby tortoises can not eat hard vegetables or fruits. Do not forget the tortoises have sharp jaws. They can easily crush carrots, potatoes, or other veggies and fruits like this.

Baby Tortoise And Supplements

When you are raising your baby tortoises in captivity, ensure that the pets are getting all the nutrition they need. You know, in an indoor habitat, the tortoises do not get the natural UV rays. Instead, the lack of UVA and UVB exposures are fulfilled through artificial lights.

Even with UV light, the baby tortoise can not grow stronger bones and shells if its food lacks minerals. To stay safe, vets suggest feeding the tortoise licensed calcium and vitamin D3 supplements. But the question is how much and how often to offer?

Experts believe the requirement for vitamins and calcium totally depends on the individual tortoise. You can sprinkle the supplement on each meal of the pet or try the thrice-a-week schedule.

Some people prefer leaving a small bowl of calcium powder in the baby tortoise habitat. However, in any situation, do not force your tortoise to eat any supplement.

I have encountered owners who feed their tortoises multi-vitamin. Those supplements, once or twice every week, may help the baby stay fit. But if your diet chart contains enough vegetables and grasses, there is no need for multi-vitamins for your baby tortoise.

My Baby Tortoise Is Not Eating Food: Why?

People often complain that their baby tortoise is refusing to eat. Well, there can be many reasons behind this behavior. The most common one is mental stress and anxiety.

When you bring the baby tortoise home, everything is new to it. The baby may need some time to adjust to its new home and lifestyle. Other reasons for the baby tortoises to refuse food are,

  • Low temperature
  • Dehydration
  • Sickness
  • Low-quality UV light
  • Food out of reach
  • Hibernation

Here are a few tips that may help you bring the lost appetite of your baby tortoise,

  1. Offer the baby a variety of food to find out its preferences. The pet might get bored by eating only one type of food every day.
  2. Make sure the enclosure temperature lies in the comfort zone of the baby tortoise. Generally, the preferred temperature for the tortoise is 68 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Keep a small water source in the enclosure so that the pets can drink water whenever they need it.
  4. The food bowl should not be out of reach of the baby tortoises.
  5. Install a quality UV light that provides both UVA and UVB exposures.
  6. You can try giving the baby tortoises a fruity treat to entice them to eat.

Conclusion

Generally, baby tortoises eat green vegetables, grasses, and fruits. The babies can not digest meat or insects, and it can upset their stomach. To ensure healthy growth, you need to add vitamin and calcium supplements to the baby tortoise’s diet.

Muntaseer Rahman

I have been keeping turtles as a pet for many years now. I’ve fallen in love with these cute pets from the moment I saw them. That’s why I am writing articles to share my turtle keeping knowledge with you.

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