How Often Do Tortoises Eat? [Weekly Schedule]

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Of course, you do not want your pet tortoise to become overweight. The only way to prevent obesity is to feed the pets a balanced diet, maintaining a strict routine. So, you better ask the right questions, like how much to feed the tortoises. Or how often should they eat?

A baby tortoise requires a balanced diet every day for the first 6 months. Young and adult ones have less appetite. So, they are comfortable with a 5-day-a-week diet schedule with any 2 days of starvation. However, some keepers prefer not to skip meals and feed their pets daily.

How much should you feed the tortoises? What do they eat? Is skipping meals healthy for pets? Find out everything in the following article.

How Often Should You Feed Your Tortoises? A Friendly Schedule

A daily feed is required if you are asking for newly born hatchlings or baby tortoises (up to 6 months). Well, babies are fragile and have low immunity. A sufficient and continuous nutrition supply is necessary for them.

Hence, offer your tortoise hatchlings food every single day for the first 6 months.

Tortoises develop a strong body and immunity system as they reach a juvenile age. Therefore, a 5-day meal schedule will work for them. A diet routine is as follows,


You can skip the meals any 2 days of the week. In fact, tortoises can pull off 2 consecutive days of starvation.

However, many young and adult tortoises may also demand an everyday meal. You can allow the pets to eat daily if the quantity is right.

How Often Do Tortoises Need To Drink?

There is no exact timetable for a drink. The pets will drink whenever they feel thirsty. It is why a shallow water source must be accessible to the tortoises all the time.

However, tortoises have a habit of drinking water when they bathe. Experts suggest soaking the pets twice or thrice a month in lukewarm water to keep them hydrated. The babies need a bath daily for 15 – 20 minutes.

Should You Feed Your Tortoise Every Day?

I know many owners do not agree with the 5-days-a-week feeding routine for tortoises. According to them, these pets, regardless of their age, need food every single day.

Of course, feeding the tortoises daily is nothing wrong if the meal size is right. But there is always a risk of overfeeding the pets. Obesity causes health complications like kidney failure, liver damage, breathing issues, etc.

However, there is a counter logic against this belief. Tortoises are grazing creatures. It means these reptiles are herbivorous and only consume a vegetable or plant-based diet. Therefore, tortoises eat only when hungry, and overeating is not a question.

In short, you can feed your tortoise every day. But the 5-day meal routine is more recommended for the healthier being of the pets.

Can Tortoises Skip A Meal?

Many professionals suggest starving the tortoises for a maximum of 2 days a week. As per their logic, these creatures have a slow digestive system. So it takes them longer to process the existing food.

Skipping a meal or two allows their digestion system to function properly. Such starvation is not unhealthy at all.

But not all the keepers agree with this logic. Though forcing the tortoises to skip meals is not unhealthy, you can not justify starvation. The pets will barely overeat even when there is plenty of food available.

Therefore, making the tortoises starve for 2 days is unnecessary and sounds cruel.

However, in some circumstances, you may have to starve the tortoises intentionally. For example, the creatures must enter the brumation with an empty stomach.

Otherwise, the food may rot and cause gastrointestinal diseases or bloating during hibernation. It is life-threatening and may even kill the tortoises.

How To Tell If Your Tortoise Is Full?

Turtles and tortoises have a name as opportunistic eaters. It means the creatures have a tendency to overeat even when they have a full tummy. As a result, you can not really tell if the pets are full or not.

But wait! Of course, there are some tricks.

See, a hungry tortoise often acts aggressively and desperately. For example, the pet will bite the owners or other tank mates. Also, the hungry tortoise can chew on rocks or substrates just to survive.

If you see no such desperation, your tortoise is not starving. That is for sure.

Moreover, experts suggest that tortoises have less tendency to overeat than turtles. In fact, tortoises in the wild stop eating once they are full.

Well, these reptiles are herbivores, and plants are more than available in the wild. So they do not need to eat more than necessary.

The same instinct and habit persist for the captive tortoises too. Your pet tortoises will lose interest in the food as soon as they have a full tummy.

When Should You Feed Your Tortoises?

I have seen owners feeding their tortoises at night. Well, I strictly discourage such acts.

Tortoises are the most hungry in the early morning and evening. If you feed the pets at some other time, they can refuse to eat at all.

Thus, divide the entire meal quantity in half and offer them to the tortoises twice a day. Or feeding the entire diet at once is also suitable for pets.

If you are busy during the day and evening, install an automatic tortoise feeder in the enclosure. You can program the time and quantity of the meal.

Furthermore, tortoises may have a favorite feasting spot. Offer the pets meals only in those areas. Feeding the tortoises in a separate box is also an excellent idea.

How Much To Feed A Tortoise?

There are several rules available to determine the healthy meal quantity for tortoises. Such as,

1. The Minute Rule

As per this method, you have to allow your tortoise to eat for 15 – 20 minutes. Some owners let their pets feast for 30 minutes also. The belief is that tortoises can fill their stomach within this timeframe.

Well, the minute rule is more popular in turtles than in tortoises. I personally do not like this method as sometimes the leftovers go directly to waste.

2. The Shell Method

See, the meal quantity and appetite for tortoises change with their size and age. For example, while the babies will eat in small portions, the adults need more food to satisfy their hunger. So, how will you determine the quantity?

As per this rule, imagine a bowl about the size of your tortoise’s shell if it were empty. Now, fill the container with grass, leaves, plants, fruits, etc., and your pet’s meal is ready.

3. The Body Weight Technique

Well, not all of us are good with imagination. Right? So, a more practical method is to feed the tortoises a meal not more than 5% of their body weight.

It means if your tortoise weighs 300 grams, prepare a diet of 15 grams. The experts also approve of this meal preparation.

Can You Overfeed Your Tortoise?

Tortoises are grazing creatures and often stop eating once they are full. But then again, they may not say no if you keep offering them food, especially their favorites. As a consequence, the pets end up being overweight.

Well, an obese tortoise may look cute, but the condition is definitely life-threatening. The pets feel threatened as they can not move or retract to the shell. Moreover, obese tortoises are always at risk of heart failure, kidney disease, or liver damage.

Overfeeding can often lead to pyramiding in the tortoises. Pyramiding or deformation of the shell can make the tortoises suffer miserably. Remember, such shell deformation is not reversible, and the pets have to live with their weight for the rest of their life.

Hence, you must not overfeed the tortoises. Following a feeding schedule and strict diet quantity will help you keep the pets fit.

How Long Can Tortoises Go Without Food?

There is no straight-cut answer to this question. Tortoises can go 3 to 6 months without food in winter when they brumate.

But you must prepare your tortoises for a year or more to survive the brumation. For example, you feed the pets healthy, weigh them regularly, and starve them one month prior to the hibernation date.

The fit adult tortoises have enough energy stored to survive 3 – 6 months without food. During this period, the creatures enter a deep sleep and barely come out for a drink.

If you try to starve the same tortoises in summer or spring, the pets may not survive a week. Some lucky tortoises may pull it off to a month, but not more than this. Actually, if the weather is cool and humid, the creatures may go off food for this long.

The tortoises will become skinny and stressed out. They will attempt to escape the enclosure multiple times out of starvation. Even if your tortoises survive starvation, they will live with permanent organ damage.

What Do Tortoises Eat? A Diet Chart

Though tortoises will eat anything you offer them, they are basically herbivorous. It means their diet consists of plant-based items. Yes, some species may prefer protein in their meals. Even in such cases, the protein percentage should not be more than 10 -15%.

Safe Food Chart For Tortoises

Aloe vera
Butter lettuce
Cactus pads
Collard greens
Creeping thistle
Dandelion leaves
Edible flowers
Field bindweed
Hebe Hosta
Green leaf lettuce
Mulberry leaves
Plantain plants
Red clover
Red leaf lettuce
Scotch thistle
Sea holly
Turnip leaves
Turtle vine
Watercress, etc.
Bell pepper
Butternut squash
Radish top
Red cabbage
Sweet potato
Zucchini, etc.
Alfalfa hay
Bermuda grass
Clover grass
Grass hay
Meadow hay
Orchard hay
Oat hay
Rice hay
Rye grass
Timothy hay, etc.
Cactus fruit
Watermelon, etc.

Around 70 – 80% of the tortoise diet includes vegetables, grass, and plants. Fruit is an occasional treat, and it helps boost the tortoise’s appetite. You can also add commercial pellets to the diet. In any case, adding calcium and vitamin supplements to the meals is mandatory.

Access the full diet chart of tortoises from this article.

Before You Go…

The newbies often do not understand what to feed the tortoises or how much to offer. As a result, the tortoises get fat, which affects their daily lifestyle. A little modification in the enclosure and meals can make the tortoises fit again. Go through the link below to get all the tips and tricks.

Is Your Tortoise Getting Fat? [Do These]

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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